Have you ever watched a Masonic Lodge slowly die? It does most things right, has good programs, no dissension yet it ceases to grow. One by one its members die off, or move away or just stop coming. Meetings that were once 30 members dwindle to 20 and then to 10, and then to 5. Still the Lodge holds on refusing to succumb to its own funeral. Finally the meetings are attended by 1, one solitary Mason comes to Lodge. And then there were none.
Paul Dean Lodge in Easton, MA had a similar journey. But instead of just closing the doors and relinquishing the charter this Lodge merged with Paul Revere Lodge in Brockton, MA and became a Masonic organ donor.
The donation was made to the Bangor Maine Masonic Temple which was gutted in a horrible fire. All the Masonic furniture in Paul Dean’s Lodge room was shipped down East. And then the grandeur that once adorned the halls of Easton, MA now put new life into the Body at Bangor, ME. And so the cycle of life in the Craft continues.
Before that happy ending could become a reality much struggle and many obstacles would be placed before the Brothers of Bangor. The fire swept the Bangor Masonic Temple in January of 2004. For five years Bangor Masons made attempts to purchase property and rebuild. But deals fell through and situations changed and in 2009 they were still homeless. Just when they thought that a new home was beyond their reach, the Bangor Theological Seminary came up for sale.
RW Guy Chapman tells the story in an article he wrote for The Maine Mason titled “The Bangor Maine Masons Before and After.”
“……….on April 17, 2009, the former Bangor Theological Seminary came onto the market. Richard Trott negotiated a price of $550,000 subject to the approval of the board of directors of the Bangor Masonic Foundation. The sale was completed on June 29, 2009.”
“The actual origin of the Bangor Theological Seminary is somewhat obscure. Its birth involves the efforts of the Reverend John Sawyer, who was one of Maine’s first journeying evangelists.2 Rev. Sawyer lived to be 103 years old and his grave is located in a cemetery west of the town of Garland, ME. The Seminary was chartered on February 25, 1814.”
“The present Chapel was completed in 1859, with the cornerstone being laid on June 10, 1858 and the building dedicated on July 27, 1859. The present Gym was built in 1895. The two buildings were connected in 1986 by the Ruth Rice Hutchins Center.”
- The Chapel
- The Gymnasium
- The Hutchins Center – the connecter
Chapman explains how they will be used:
“The chapel will become the lodge hall. The dining room and kitchen will continue to function in the same fashion and be available for the use of non-profit groups as well as the Masonic Fraternity. The large classroom over the kitchen and the adjacent office will become a second lodge hall and DeMolay room. The basement classroom where the childcare is located will continue in its same capacity. The classrooms above the church that are no longer rented by the Penobscot Theater Group will become the Learning Center. One of the two rooms off the lodge hall will be a Masonic library and museum. The other one will be a preparation room and storage for the two Blue Lodges. The rest of the building will be used as storage for the equipment and regalia of the other Masonic bodies.”
“There is some cosmetic work to be done as well as a few repairs to the exterior of the building to make it perfect. The biggest job will be the renovation of the chapel to a lodge hall and the installation of the 32 Learning Center. We also have to install a new electrical entrance. While it was in the possession of the Seminary the buildings received excellent care, which will make our endeavors a lot easier.”
“The land area consists of 3 acres and has 94 existing parking spaces, with a possibility of increasing it to 144 spaces. We hope to see them used frequently by various Masonic and related bodies.”
Brother Fred Kenyon of Paul Dean Lodge, now Paul Revere Lodge, Brother and dear friend watched his Lodge die. But even in that time of sorrow and mourning he joined in the effort to see that other Lodges lived and prospered. From that time when all hope seemed lost there came a rebirth and a Grand reopening which of course had a Grand ceremony to go with it.
So Fred and four other Brothers from Massachusetts took the trek “down east” as they say in New England to witness a new beginning on a new day.
All that hurt and despair that had been lumped around Kenyon’s heart now burst forth into enthusiasm and joy! When I received his story in E-Mail the emotional feeling of what this meant to one who has seen a Lodge die jumped out of the pages at me. I knew right then and there that I would not paraphrase or rewrite or embellish what was before my eyes for I could never generate the true meaning of what Masonry has meant to this person in my words. So I will just pass on Fred Kenyon’s story and his daughter Lynne’s remarks to you in their words. And what you will witness this day is a daughter’s love for her father and a father’s love for the Craft.
Fred’s words are in black type and Lynne’s words are in red.
The Bangor ME. Masonic building sustained a tragic Fire on Jan 24 2004.
Everything was lost except for the Guest book which a Brother happen to have at home. Paul Dean lodge A.F.A.M. of North Easton, MA at about that same time was in the process of merging with Paul Revere lodge in Brockton, MA and Paul Deans members rather than put all their furniture and other regalia in Storage voted unanimously to donate it to Bangor, ME. The lodges in Bangor are: Virtue #10 and Andrew #83
~Friday April 30, 2010~ arrived in Bangor at 2:45P at the riverside Inn and got settled. A suggestion was made that we find the new Lodge quarters just to be sure of its whereabouts and headed off! Found it No Problem, there were a couple of cars in the lot and a back door was open. Once inside we (the 5 men from MA. John F Kenyon, Fred Gladstone, Marty Messenger, Allen Gilman, and Jerry Nourdling) found a young woman Vacuuming the rugs etc. She called Brother Eric Yachanin Past Master for us. He welcomed us and lead us to the new lodge room where the donated furniture from Paul Dean Lodge(North Easton,MA)was.
I asked Eric at that time if knew R.W. Guy Chapman… I was asked by our mutual Friend Rufus Cox to give him a Hat and Coin from Paul Revere Lodge( I had brought up a bunch to pass out) He answered stating that he not only knew him but that he was on the premises. He took out his cell phone and called him, explained who was there… and upon hanging up told us that he would be right over. After introductions were made, R.W. Chapman offered to bring us on a tour of the new facility. The place is so big without a tour guide you can get lost! During the tour he asked us what our plans were for Supper(in Maine they have Supper not Dinner), We of course had none having just arrived but we had planned to find a place. R.W. Chapman picked up his cell phone and made a quick call… “Hello Bob? yes the guys from MA are here…” after a momentary conversation on the phone he told us that the Grand Master Robert Landry had already arrived in the city for the ceremonies to happen the next day, he left a message for him and continued with the tour. After about 15 min. R.W. Guys cell rang it was the Grand Master saying he would like to take us all to Supper! We met back at the Lodge Facilities at 7P The Grand Master Robert Landry and his entourage arrived just after us… included with him was his Wife and R.W. Guy Chapman plus the WGM of the Eastern star Susan Hawes and her Husband and an old friend of ours George Copeland sr. as well. We were taken to the Muddy Rudder in Brewer ME. in total there were 14 of us. I sat across from the Grand Master we all had a great time. * My dad says every time he tells it that he had a wonderful time at dinner with Bob Landry and that he is more down to earth than even my Dad is, very likeable guy and wonderful host! as they sat there at dinner Dad asked GM.Bob “wow been in Bangor only about 4 hours and already had the grand tour of the new facilities now dinner with THE Grand Master too how are you ever gonna top this? and Bob said “TOMORROW!” ;^)~
Everyone in our group was up early had some Breakfast and planned to leave somewhat early to hopefully get a good parking space. We arrived at the new lodge quarters at almost 10am they saw this Brother standing kind of directing traffic into the lot and stopped in front of him about to ask where is a good place to park… his only question was “are you the guys from MA? With a nod the Brother pointed to a piece of prime real-estate for parking reserved just for them right near the door… what service!
They signed in and received aprons and were seated
Dad told me that one guy in their party had forgotten his apron and sat down without it by mistake but that this was semi public ceremony and casual so casual and laid back that he had no problem getting up and walking out to get one and coming back…
The Grand master opened the Lodge at 10am and performed the Dedication ceremony where 2 proclamations were read 1 from the Mayor of Bangor Frank Farrington stating that today is Maine Masonic day in Bangor and 1 from the Governor of Maine John Baldacci that stated today is Maine Masonic day in the entire state. He then told the 200+ people in attendance that there was some unfinished Business to take care of before they called recess to go outside and have the laying of the cornerstone ceremony. The Grand Master instructed the Grand secretary to call “the roll of the workmen” he began:
- John F. Kenyon
- Alan Gilman
- Jerry Nourdling
- Fred Gladstone
- Bob Smith
- Charles Woodman
- Marty Messenger
- George W. Copeland
George is the oldest living past Grand patron of the Eastern Star
He instructed the Grand Marshall to “escort these Brothers to the East facing the West” The Grand Master then told the 200+ people in attendance that these Gentlemen donated all of the furniture we see here in the lodge room. We received a standing Ovation.
Let me tell you Fred… every time every single time I have heard My Dad tell this and he gets to this part? From about the roll of the workmen part, he literally cries… it was just so overwhelming to him to have such a wonderful thing happen he cries, in fact he cried reading his notes back to me today when he got to this part that should say it all on impressions…
Brother George Copeland sr. then made a presentation of a ballot box that had come from St. Andrew lodge in New York when Paul Dean Lodge first received the furnishings, and had been overlooked when the furnishings and other regalia was donated to Bangor ME. This is the same furniture that I believe was given to a Masonic Lodge possibly the one in NY by the brother of John Wilkes Booth… yes THAT John Wilkes Booth!
After the presentation was done the Grand Master gave us “Grand Honors.” As My Dad says NO ONE gets that NO ONE and instructed the Grand Marshall to seat our Brothers “Anywhere in the Lodge we wished to be seated” of course we all went back to our own seats. When he got to me( I was first going up so last to be seated) after a hand shake he put his arm around my shoulder and told the members(200+) present that this Brother(my Dad)is a 50 year member of a lodge right here in Maine! In which I said Mt. Bigelow lodge #202 in Stratton, ME. and I received a standing Ovation for that. Wow huh?
The Grand Master then called a recess and all went outside for the ceremony of laying the cornerstone after which everyone was invited to the brand new banquet hall for a scrumptious luncheon…
From birth to life to death to rebirth the cycle of Masonic life goes on with the help of those who are Masonic Organ Donors.
The Bangor Maine Masons – Before & After, by RW Guy Chapman, The Maine Mason.