BY ROBERT A. GREENFIELD
We learn from Falmouth tradition, as well as from the archives of Grand Lodge that it was in the heart of a few outstanding men consisting of a Doctor and a few Sea Captains to build a Masonic Lodge here in Falmouth. These men petitioned M.W. Paul Revere to constitute a Masonic Lodge in the small town of Falmouth. However, it was MW Josiah Bartlett who finally granted Marine Lodge its Charter on March 13, 1798.
Marine Lodge is the twenty-fifth oldest lodge in the State of Massachusetts and the third oldest on Cape Cod (King Hiram’s Lodge in Provincetown and Adams Lodge in Wellfleet being the oldest on the Cape.) The first meeting of Marine Lodge was held on March 26, 1798 in the home of Stephen Swift, who was probably the only member of the Craft to be chosen Senior Steward in his own living room. A granite monument, which sits on the grassy knoll in front of the Gus Canty Recreation Center, was erected to the memory of the first meeting place. On the monument is a brass plaque stating that the first meeting site sat 200 hundred feet to the east of the marker. The place is now the site of Falmouth Inn, across the street from the Dairy Queen.
A sickness in the Swift family made it necessary to move the meeting place to the home of Samuel Shiverick, where it remained until 1801. The Falmouth Post Office now occupies the site of his home. The construction of the first Lodge building was a joint venture between the members of Marine Lodge and the Town of Falmouth. Shares in the building were sold; fifty Marine Lodge members bought eighty shares. In 1801, the Falmouth School Board agreed to share in the cost of the building with the Masonic Society. Worshipful Elijah Swift, the second Master of Marine Lodge, received the contract to build the structure. Bro. Timothy Crocker received the money from the subscribers and cosigned the contract on their behalf, with Worshipful Swift. The Lodge occupied the upper floor and Falmouth School District used the lower floor.
The period between 1801 to 1820 were the first years of darkness for Marine Lodge, largely due to the fact that most of the members were seamen and, therefore, not in town often. Our Charter was returned in 1820 and there is no record of meetings held until 1824. In 1832 or 1833, the Charter, jewels, and working tools of Marine Lodge were returned to the Grand Lodge and remained there until 1857.
In 1857, some of the older members of Marine Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge to have the Charter restored. After it was returned, meetings were held in Albert Nye’s home, which is now known as Mostly Hall. The members were unable to meet in the original Lodge building as it had passed into private hands. At that first meeting, with the District Deputy Grand Master present, three applications were accepted. With dispensation having been given, the Lodge proceeded to confer all three degrees on the three candidates. In addition, the Lodge elected and installed the new officers.
After moving from Bro. Nye’s home, Marine Lodge met over the Falmouth Coal Company’s office. In 1862, Marine Lodge bought the original Lodge building from the International Order of Odd Fellows, bringing us home at last.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Marine Lodge experienced resurgence in membership, as did Masonry nationally. Many believe that the agonies of the Civil War played a part in this resurgence causing men to reestablish their Masonic ties.
Since the establishment of Camp Edwards and Otis Air Force Base, Marine Lodge has conferred degrees to many military men stationed away from home as a courtesy to other Lodges. Many servicemen joined Marine Lodge and an untold many others visited regularly. This spirit of brotherhood continues today.
In 1935, construction of the present lodge building was started and MW Claude L. Allen, who returned a year later to dedicate the new building, laid a cornerstone.
In 1987, Worshipful E. Joel Peterson, and a committee of fellow Marine Lodge members, developed a plan to promote Masonic Awareness. The purpose was two fold: to inform the general public of the Masonic heritage that existed in Falmouth and to inform potential candidates of the procedures to become a member of this or any well-governed lodge. They sponsored a Pre-Candidate breakfast, which explained the workings of Freemasonry. This breakfast produced 22 candidates for 1988 and has become the model and foundation for Masonic Awareness in Massachusetts.
The Lodge hall provides facilities for the meetings of the Order of Eastern Star as well as other groups that have had the need to use the building for various meetings throughout the years. We have two commercial tenants also that have helped to make it financially possible for us to remain on Main Street. Physically, the Lodge continues to occupy the same site as the original building that was lovingly constructed in 1801 and reconstructed in 1935-1936. In 1990, the building was greatly enhanced by the addition of air conditioning in the Lodge room. In 1991, new vinyl siding and new thermal windows added to the beauty of the building.
Many Masters have given much of themselves and their time in effort to keep the building beautiful and in good repair. Worshipful George H. Peters brought us new lighting; others brought us heating, ventilation, and a dining room. In 1972, Worshipful Kenneth C. Smith did a renovation of the inside of the building. In 1988, Worshipful Willard A. Plummer gave our building a new face-lift. Each of the other Past Masters have provided his own unique contribution in providing us with wisdom, strength, and beauty.
In 1923, the 125th anniversary of Marine Lodge, we boasted 186 members; in 1948, the 150th anniversary, we had grown to 268 members; in 1973, the 175th anniversary, we had expanded to 416 members. Today, we remain essentially at the same number, with 419 members. About half of our members reside in the Falmouth and the surrounding area; the others are dispersed over the face of the earth.
By 1992, Marine Lodge has had eleven District Deputy Grand Masters of which four are still living: RW Frederick F. Jones, RW Howard R. Delano, RW E. Joel Peterson and RW Sidney Bearon. We have thirty-four living Past Masters, most of whom are still living in the Falmouth area and attend Lodge meetings regularly.
December 27th 1992, Marine Lodge saw the advancement of one of our own members elevated to the position of Grand Master, Most Worshipful David W. Lovering. During his term of office, March 8, 1994 we saw the recognition of Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Masons.
In 1996 RW E. Joel Peterson was elected to office of Grand Senior Warden for the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts.
In 1997 another one of our members, R.W. Peter R. Smith, was elected Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge.
In 2006, another member of the Lodge, RW Arne Grepstad, was installed as District Deputy Grand Master and Worshipful Michael Bailow was installed as a Grand Steward.
We cannot forget the Master who received us into the Craft and the Brethren who have spent many long hours instructing us during our arduous undertaking of learning what it takes to become a good Mason. Let us not forget, but be ever mindful, that all of us, no matter to what plateau we ascend; we are all but workers in the temple, in our own way.
So mote it be.