The First Fifty Years of Prospect Lodge, A.F. & A.M.

An address delivered by Rt. Wor. Stanley B. Vandersall at the Fiftieth Anniversary
of the Constitution of the Lodge on Monday, April 14, 1941

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What Shakespeare calls “the noiseless and inaudible foot of time” is with us
tonight. Fifty years have passed since a company of faithful, warm-hearted and
exultant Masons gathered together for the constitution of Prospect Lodge. The
evening of their celebration was January 12, 1891, but that momentous occasion
did not come into being without much preliminary effort and activity. There had
passed nearly a full year under dispensation and months even ahead of that for
informal meetings, investigation and securing the consent of other lodges.

In preparing these early historical details, the present writer has had access to a
small book which bears the title, Records of Meeting for the Formation of a
Masonic Lodge at Roslindale, the official secretarial record, and, what is most
important, and excellent historical address delivered at the twenty-fifth
anniversary of Prospect Lodge, and held in printed form in the secretary’s
records. From these sources it becomes evident that the first date mentioned in
these annals is the day after Christmas, 1889. From then events moved rapidly,
with sufficient progress made to provide for the institution of the Lodge by
dispensation of the Grand Lodge on March 8, 1890, and its organization under
this dispensation two days later, March 10, 1890.

In those days, which now seem so distant, Benjamin Harrison was the President
of the United States; William McKinley was a member of Congress, and soon to
be governor of Ohio. The interests of the United States were almost entirely
internal. The turning point; the Spanish American War, which made our
country a world power, was still a number of years in the future. Pioneering in
the Mid-west was a stirring reality. A number of western territories had not yet
come to the status of statehood, the western railroads were still in the process of
preliminary expansion, and the exploits of Indian fighters were still a matter of
conversation and current record.

Hereabouts, however, there was no particular pioneering. The churches were
well established and education had been fostered through many, many years.
Masonry, particularly in the jurisdiction of Massachusetts, was in a strong
position and had many pages of glorious history behind it. Was it not natural,
then, that the brethren of the craft living in Roslindale, and somewhat detached
from the larger city nearby, should nourish a common desire to have a new
Lodge of Masons near to their homes? Eliot Lodge was flourishing in Jamaica
Plain, but that was a considerable distance away. First one, then another
proposed that there be an attempt to establish a new and local Lodge in
Roslindale.

Was it then, under the influence of good-will at Christmas time, that the
following letter was sent to known craftsmen in the district?

“Brother: It is desired to form a Lodge of F. and A. M. in Roslindale, that in
harmony with ancient usages we may meet and know each other. Please be at
the Knights of Honor Hall, Washington Street, Roslindale, Monday, December 30,
1889, at 8 p.m., to sign the request for a charter and arrange for meetings, etc.
May you be fervent and zealous, and if you know a brother in the vicinity, with
cautious freedom ask him to come with you. I am yours fraternally, (signed)
Harrison Dunham.”

At this first meeting, held December 30, 1889; Wor. Bro. Henry W. Bowen was
chosen chairman and Bro. Dunham secretary. It was voted unanimously that all
present sign a petition to the Grand Lodge for dispensation to hold a Lodge in
Roslindale. With what emotion the ten persons present must have signed the
petition! Eleven others added their names later. What were the thoughts in the
mind of Bro. Harrison Dunham when he moved that the Lodge be called Prospect
Lodge? Did he have in mind that this was to be a Lodge of vision, of looking
forward, of claiming points of vantage in coming years?

Among the important matters for early consideration was the one which had to
do with a hall in which the Lodge should meet. These sentences, from the
minutes of the meeting held January 25, 1890, are interesting and enlightening:

“After some consideration about hiring a hall for meetings, on motion of Brother
William Glover, it was voted to examine Association Hall on South Street, and all
the brethren present proceeded to said hall. On examination of Association Hall,
on motion of Bro. William H. Glover, it was voted to hire the hall for the ensuing
year, and to choose a committee to arrange said hiring. Bros. Bowen, William H.
Glover and Dunham were duly chosen said committee, to report at the next
meeting.”

Then from the meeting of February 1, - one week later, -

“The committee appointed at the last meeting reported that the hall could be
had, all furnished, for $200.00 per year. The report was by vote accepted. After
informal talk about the arrangements for the Lodge and examination of the hall,
the meeting adjourned.”

Thus were important and far-reaching decisions handled in those distant days.
An account from the West Roxbury Gazette contained these further words:

“Association Hall has been repainted, frescoed and will be known hereafter as
Masonic Hall….Bro. Coron presented the lodge with a gavel and Baton; Bro.
Bleiler, a trowel; Bro. Hudson, a square; Bro. Glover, compasses and Tyler’s
sword and belt; Bro. Dunham, a desk and bible; and William F. Spear of Eliot
Lodge gave the implements of the first degree.”
Thus it came about that all of these activities worked together for good. If there
were obstacles, they do not appear in the record. Twenty-nine lodges signed
their approval of granting the dispensation. The Grand Lodge did its part and on
March 10, with Wor. Bro. H. W. Bowen in the chair, the dispensation signed by
the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, signed by Most Wor. Samuel Wells, Grand
Master, and attested by Rt. Wor. Sereno D. Nickerson, Recording Grand
Secretary, was read and the Lodge was ready to be opened.

The organization was as follows: Wor. Bro. Henry W. Bowen, Master; Bro. A. M.
Innis, Senior Warden; Bro. W. H. Glover, Junior Warden; Bro. George Jepson,
Treasurer; Bro. Harrison Dunham, Secretary; Bro. Theodore Glover, Chaplain;
Bro. George Bleiler, Jr., Marshal, Bro. W. H. Bowdlear, Senior Deacon; Bro.
Daniel Dewar, Junior Deacon; Bro. George S. West, Senior Steward; Bro. B. F.
Coron, Junior Steward; Bro. M. H. Fossett, Inside Sentinel; Bro. W. R. Hudson,
Tyler. Nineteen of the petitioners were enrolled as charter members. Thus the
Lodge began its year of dispensation.

The night of January 12, 1891, which marked the constitution of the Lodge with
all the new and ancient form, was an outstanding occasion. The Most Wor.
Grand Master, Samuel Wells, was present, with a large suite of officers. The
Grand Secretary read the charter. The Grand Master installed Wor. Bro. Bowen
as Master, and delivered to him the charter of the lodge.

After the first twenty-five years, the report was given that there had been
initiated, passed and raised in the lodge 322 persons; admitted from other
lodges, 52. There had been demitted, 26; 37 had died; and 14 had been
dropped. The membership stood, at that halfway point, at 315. The activities of
the Lodge in the second twenty-five years have been such that the statistical
figures are now as follows: From the beginning there have been initiated,
passed and raised, 1100; admitted from other lodges , 108; demitted, 189; died
235; and 221 had been dropped. The present membership is 538. In common
with other Lodges, Prospect saw a rapid increase in its members in the years
following the World War. Its peak of membership was reached in 1930 when
799 were reported by the secretary. In rise and decline in membership, Prospect
has been fairly typical of other Massachusetts Lodges.

We turn again to pay our respect to those early brethren who were out Mason
forebears in Prospect Lodge. Eight of the charter members were alive at the end
of the first twenty-five years. All have passed to their reward now, the last being
Bro. George Bleiler, Jr., who dies on February 13, 1935. There is not opportunity
to extol them all, but two or three should be mentioned. Wor. Daniel Dewar was
Master in 1897 and 1898. Later he served as treasurer of the Lodge for twenty
years, - from 1904 to 1924, - and was the proud recipient of the Henry Price
Medal in November 1925. Allen M. Innis was Master in 1892 and 1893; with
remarkable Masonic loyalty Bro. Innis maintained his activities through all the
years until shortly before his death on February 13, 1932. His service for
Prospect Lodge during more that forty years has no rival. Even in his later years
he was not only in attendance at practically every meeting, but he was nearly
always called upon by the Master to fill some station of importance. His ritual
work suffered not with advancing years. In November 1925 he received the
Henry Price Medal, and he also wore with distinction a Veteran’s Medal. The
name of Allen Innis is still fragrant, even among the younger men of the Lodge.

The occasion of greatest sentimental moment, in the estimate of this writer, was
the meeting held in March 1932. A few weeks before, Wor. Bro. Innis had
passed away and was buried with Masonic dignity. Most of the living Past
Masters served as officers in the funeral communication. At this March meeting,
the Presiding Master asked the brethren to rise in grateful tribute to their
departed friend and brother. The one remaining charter member of the Lodge
was present – George Bleiler, Jr. At his own request and at the direction of the
Master he was conducted by the Marshal to the altar. There he bowed and
prayed to God in thankfulness for the friends of the past, of whom he was now
the sole survivor. Thus was transmitted from past to present the symbolic spirit
of Prospect Lodge.

Outstanding in the history of the past twenty-five years was that great occasion
when the lodge realized a long-standing ambition – the building and occupancy
of a Masonic Temple in Roslindale. Two previous homes had been temporarily
used – Association Hall on South Street and Masonic Hall on Poplar Street. This
beautiful and effective temple was dedicated on April 24, 1922. By that time a
second lodge had been organized – West Roxbury Lodge – and by the joint
efforts of the two Lodges and their members, the Masonic Building Association
was formed. The records of the dedication service show that more than four
hundred brethren were present and enjoyed the festivities. The following
quotation from the minutes is timely:

“The Marshal presented Rt. Wor. Bro. Dobson, Grand Marshal of the Grand
Lodge, who announced that the Grand Master, officers and members of the
Grand Lodge were in an adjoining apartment and ready to dedicate the new
apartments. Wor. Bro. Crysler appointed as a committee to escort the Grand
Master and his suite to the lodge room with Wor. Bro. Innis as chairman
accompanied by Past Masters of Prospect Lodge and Wor. Bro. Spear, Bro. J. M.
Crysler, Wor Bros. McClellan, Jillson, Macy, Beckford, and Bro. Lewis S. Breed.

“Following the introduction of Most Worshipful Arthur D. Prince, Grand Master of
Masons in Massachusetts by Wor. Bro. Innis, Wor. Bro. Crysler in a very pleasing
and appropriate manner welcomed the distinguished guest and his suite. The
Grand Officers assumed the various stations in the lodge and proceeded with the
dedication ceremony which was done in such an impressive manner that it will
long be remembered by the brethren present. At the conclusion of the
ceremony the Grand Master addressed the brethren and complimented them on
their achievements.”


A second outstanding event in recent years was the celebration connected with
the 500th Regular Communication of the Lodge held on January 13, 1936. The
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Claud L. Allen, was present with a suite of
distinguished Masons. The presiding Master, Wor. Sheridan J. Thorup took
charge of the sealing of a chest containing various items of interest in connection
with the occasion; that chest to be opened on the 1000th Communication of
Prospect Lodge.

Prospect Lodge has enjoyed through the five decades of its history a splendid
standing in the community. It has maintained a friendly relationship to the
churches and has always encouraged its members to enjoy the benefits of
church fellowship. It has been conspicuous for its benevolent spirit and its
participation in many worthy causes, - social, civic, educational and religious. In
the World War 1917 – 1918, it contributed loyal support in every possible way.
In Masonic matters it has had a place of prominence in the district of which it is
a part and in the Grand Lodge. Many times its members and officers have
received the confidence of the Grand Lodge and other Masonic bodies by being
appointed to positions of trust and honor. Its first fifty years have set standards
in the conduct, ability and spirit of the brethren of the Lodge. It has sought to
do well its part in the general Masonic life and tradition, removing not the
ancient landmarks which the fathers have set. If these standards can remain,
the future is secure.

May God grant that the coming years may see an increase in what is most
important as Prospect Lodge indeed points the way to better things!