I have always thought that my interest in Freemasonry came from my interest in DeMolay that was triggered by my love of history. And my love of history was triggered by the rich Revolutionary War history of the town in which I was born and grew up in, Lexington, Massachusetts. It was here that Paul Revere galloped into town with the message “The British are coming, the British are coming.” And it was here that the first battle of our war for independence was fought on April 19, 1775.
April 19th is a holiday in Middlesex County, Massachusetts. It’s Patriots Day and every year on that date Lexington does a recreation of Paul Revere’s ride and the battle on the Lexington Green in the morning followed by a huge two-hour parade in the afternoon.
When I was five years old my father died. My mother took on three jobs to support my two sisters and me. It was the 50s and you didn’t take welfare then even though it was available. By day she was secretary for the First Parish Church, our church, which sat on the Southwest corner of the Green. By night she was Secretary and Recorder for the town Planning Board Sessions. And on the weekends she was tourist guide at the Buckman Tavern. The Buckman Tavern was there on the Northeast corner of the Green in 1775. Here The Minutemen gathered in response to the call because British soldiers were marching into the countryside. I can remember as a boy of about 8 sitting on the steps to the Buckman Tavern and listening through the screen door to my mother recounting the tale of Paul Revere’s ride and the ensuing battle to groups of tourists.
“Listen my children and you shall hear,
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere”
Much later at my public installation as Master of Paul Revere Lodge AF & AM, having been so installed by The Colonial Degree Team in full regalia, I would introduce my mother and remind her and all assembled of her days at the Buckman Tavern. But that is getting ahead of this story.
On the Northwest corner of the Lexington Green sat the Masonic Temple and in that Temple met Battle Green Chapter, Order of DeMolay. My best friend Ron invited me to become a DeMolay in the late 50s. He was later to tell me that he sat in homeroom behind a very nice girl he thought I should ask out. This year that girl and I celebrated our 43rd wedding anniversary.
Battle Green DeMolay was a very active Chapter. Most meetings one could count forty or more members present. We had a basketball team and a bowling team. I was a bowler. We sold ice cream at the Patriots Day parade but our main fund raiser was the production and sale of a town wide community events calendar, listing all the important dates for all the groups in town – social, religious, governmental, fraternal, educational and specialty organizations like The Women’s club and garden clubs. Armed with a hefty bank account we did much, such as special dinners, BBQs and trips. The highlight of our social season was the annual DeMolay/Rainbow Sweetheart’s dance. It was to that dance that I escorted my future wife on our second date.
When I was senior Councilor in the West we once again entered the state ritual competition at the State Conclave. Previously we had been able to garner some honorable mentions and a third place finish. Some years we didn’t enter at all. This particular year was the largest participation ever recorded and after a semi final and a final competition we came home with first place. That gave Battle Green Chapter a tremendous amount of statewide prestige especially among the Rainbow girls who flocked from all over to our many social events.
The work that went into that state wide ritual competition, the camaraderie that it produced and the pride and enthusiasm that it generated among us were things I never forgot. It influenced me years later when I became Worshipful Master at Plymouth Lodge and then Paul Revere Lodge, for the themes of my tenures in the East was always “Let’s Celebrate Our Masonry.” I was always thinking of ways to put on some big bash by bringing together large numbers of Masons in some special exemplification of our heritage and our philosophy. But that was much later.
The next term I became Master Councilor and it became my turn to lead the Chapter from the East. Once again that experience was to have a profound effect on my future choices in Freemasonry.
Soon I was off to school earning a BA in government & history and blazing new trails, leaving my fraternal childhood as nothing more than a memory. What followed was marriage, a child, and many years of overwork and bad choices. When I finally got my head screwed back on right, the first thing I did was petition a Masonic Lodge.
I was raised in historic Plymouth Lodge also steeped in American History where I cut my teeth working my way up the chairs. I was installed as Master in a public installation by 5 Past Master Councilors of Battle Green DeMolay who were also all Past Masters of Simon W. Robinson Lodge of Lexington, MA. Needless to say they were old friends also.
When I became Senior Warden I affiliated with Paul Revere Lodge in Brockton where I actually lived. Almost immediately I joined the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team which performed the second and third sections of the Third Degree in colonial costume while adding a patriotic message at the conclusion. And then upon assuming the East in Plymouth I also took the chair of Senior Deacon at Paul Revere. I can remember doing First Degree ritual as Master in Plymouth on a Monday night and then on the very next night, Tuesday, doing the middle chamber lecture at Paul Revere on the second degree. That spring in the East at Plymouth Lodge I invited the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team to perform. I also invited everybody else in the world I could think of including a large contingent from Rhode Island. We had 5 District Deputies present that night and such a packed house I had to hire a policeman to direct traffic out front. We did celebrate our Masonry that night including a well-attended dinner.
The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team was formed in 1975/76 to celebrate our country’s bicentennial. It was such a huge success that the team continued to perform anywhere a Lodge would invite them and is still working to this day. We marched into Lodge to the beat of our drummer in the dress of the 1700s with tri-cornered hats and conducted ourselves in the Lodge room like a precision military drill team. After raising the candidates, giving the Third Degree lecture of the Emblems and a Charge our Historian would take the floor. He first would give a message about our flag. The team used the Betsey Ross American flag. Then he would describe the hardships that colonial Masons endured. After that he would have each member of the team rise and identify who they were as each one of us took the name of a famous Revolutionary War Mason.
When I joined the team it had already been functioning for 17 years and all the “good” or most recognizable names had already been taken, like George Washington, Ben Franklin, Israel Putnam, Paul Revere, John Hancock, Benedict Arnold etc. I ask the director if I could choose my own team name and he gave his assent. I thought back to my days in Lexington to the battle of April 19, 1775. I wondered if any of the 70 odd Minute Men who stood against the British that day were Masons. There was no Masonic Lodge in Lexington at that time. So I wrote to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, the Grand Lodge library and asked them that question. Back came a letter that listed 26 Masons who fought the British in that battle on April 19, 1775. From those 26 names I chose one whom I would represent.
I chose William Munroe who was stationed on an all night watch on the Lexington Green the night of April 18, 1775. He was a sergeant in the Lexington Minute Men and proprietor of the only other tavern in town, the Munroe Tavern. It was William Munroe who received Paul Revere into the town of Lexington on the wee hours of the morning of April 19, 1775 with his message, “The British are coming.” It was William Munroe who helped Paul Revere rouse Hancock and Adams who were sleeping overnight in Lexington and tell them they best get out of town. And it was William Munroe who sent out the alarm to the rest of the Lexington Minutemen and to units from all the surrounding towns. Most units outside Lexington did not arrive until the British had already marched onto Concord and “fired the shot heard around the world.” But they were ready for them on the return trip where the British took heavy losses.
Later William Munroe would form Lexington’s first Masonic Lodge and I went into the Grand Lodge Library and read the minutes of 1791 when one William Munroe was escorted to the East with his petition for a Charter. And he was received by the Grand Master who was pleased to shake his hand — Most Worshipful Paul Revere. Hiram Lodge met for 40 years in especially constructed back rooms of Munroe Tavern until it moved to the neighboring town of Arlington.
Munroe Tavern still stands today a stones throw away from The Scottish Rite National Heritage Museum where you can visit a lighted display and a historical recounting of the Battle of April 19, 1775 called “Lexington Alarmed.”
I performed the Charge for The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team and utilized many different charges but the one I liked the best and used the most we called “The Canadian Charge.” It went by many other names, so much so that my correspondence with Ian Donald about it caused him to research the charge and write a paper on it called “A Charge By Any Other Name Is Still A Charge” and which can be read on www.phoenixmasonry.com
I was installed as Master of Paul Revere Lodge in a public installation by the members of the Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team in full costume. The soloist sang “God Bless The USA” and I recited 4 stanzas of Longfellow’s poem, “The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere.” As I have said I introduced my family and honored my mother by telling the story of her third job at The Buckman Tavern. And the Historian did also take the floor and give his usual talk followed by team members introducing the Colonial Mason they represented.
One day I got a call from the oldest member of my church. She was in her 90s and was selling her home to go into assisted living. The house had been in her family for generations but neither she nor her sister who was now in a nursing home had ever married. So the old homestead was on the market and a group of church members had just helped her pack up what she could take with her and sell or discard what she couldn’t. Down in her basement was found a Masonic diploma dating from 1840 and she did not recognize the name of the person and she asked if I would like it.
When I picked it up I noticed it was issued from a Lodge in Connecticut so I felt it should be returned to them. Later that week I phoned the Grand Lodge of Connecticut and got the contact information for the Secretary of that Lodge. And before you know it I had a bus full of Lodge members and the District Deputy rolling down the highway to make a visit to Putnam Lodge in CT and officially return this man’s Masonic diploma to the Lodge. We had a dinner and a nice presentation and before we all left I informed Putnam Lodge about our Colonial Degree Team. Six months later we were back with the whole team performing before the Junior Past Grand Master, three District Deputies and a packed house.
Right from the start as Master of Paul Revere Lodge I set out to take the Colonial Degree Team to Lexington. So I called the Secretary of Simon W. Robinson Lodge who was the Master Councilor when I was Senior Councilor and we won the state DeMolay ritual competition. He got with the Master and after much discussion and preparation we scheduled a gala event for the nearest Communication to
April 19th. The Paul Revere Colonial Degree Team was to perform followed by a tri Table Lodge, the Frank W. Thompson Lodge , the District Deputy’s Lodge, of neighboring Bedford, MA being invited in on the festivities. No one I knew had ever heard of a tri Table Lodge but all three Lodges shared in the ritual of that occasion. We marched into the Lodge to the beat of our drummer before a packed house. We performed the degree after which William Munroe gave “The Canadian Charge” and the Historian delivered his patriotic message. Then one by one we introduced ourselves with the name of the Revolutionary War Mason that we each represented. I was very proud to announce that I represented Lexington’s William Munroe. Afterward we presented the Master of Simon W. Robinson Lodge an engraved Paul Revere Bowl commemorating the occasion. We started on a Saturday afternoon at 4:00 PM with the Colonial Degree Team and we finished the Table Lodge at 11:00 PM. We had the usual 7 course meal with 7 toasts and much merriment and brotherly love and affection. Over 100 Masons gathered that day for what was truly a memorial Celebration of the Craft.
I had published a special Lodge notice for that month with a colored front to back page of the American Patriot Rebels picking off the British as they marched back to Boston from Concord. In it were extra stories of Paul Revere and April 19th.
And so I can truly say that for me everything comes back to Lexington.