The below remarks were given at the 200th Anniversary of Temple Lodge No. 9 by Lodge Secretary, Worshipful Brother Jeffrey W. Hague, PGMars.:
Temple Lodge No. 9 A.F. & A.M. 200th Anniversary
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master, Worshipful Master, Brothers, Ladies. Good evening. It is my honor to be able to address everyone on this historic, and once in a lifetime, occasion. Contrary to what my kids say, that I am older than dirt, I was not at the first meeting of this lodge. Nor was I at the 100th anniversary.
However, we are grateful that our brethren before us kept records of the lodge which gives us insight to what life was like so long ago. I am especially thankful to SGW Fred W. Ireland (1950) and PGM M. Haswell Pierce (1955) for the research they did back in 1965 and to PM Bill Downing for his notes and records.
As we all know Masonry was an integral part of the founding of this country, 9 out of the 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons. Throughout our history the Masonic order has played an important part in the development of our country.
However, what we would like to focus on is the part that Masonry played right here in our own small part of the country, Milford, Delaware.
Let’s go back to colonial Milford in the first part of the nineteenth century. The town had just been incorporated in 1807. Past Master and Past Grand Master Joseph Oliver laid out many of the streets. The Revolutionary War is still very fresh on the minds of many, having just concluded with the signing of the Treaty of Paris only 25 years or so ago. Even more recently, we defeated the British yet again in the war of 1812, with the signing of The Peace Treaty in February of 1815. America is just beginning to flex its’ muscle and awaits the expansion that will make it great.
Try to imagine life in Milford at that time. No trains stop at the station, no electricity, telephones, especially cell phones. Candles displace the gloom of the night. The lumbering ox cart is commonplace and the coming of the local stage was perhaps the most exciting part of the day.
What we would call primitive and difficult was a way of life and people knew what they wanted and were anxious to work for it.
The seeds of Masonry were well planted in the hearts and minds of the good people of Milford and began to grow in earnest beginning in 1814, when plans began to be formulated for the establishment of a Masonic lodge.
In 1806, a charter had been granted to form a lodge in the neighboring town of Laurel, known as Hope No. 4. It is to the brethren of this lodge that we are indebted to for sponsoring a lodge in Milford. A petition from the following brothers; William Brinkle, Jr., John W. Redden, John Oliver and Benjamin Hudson, all of whom it is believed were members of Hope No. 4, was submitted to the Grand Lodge of Delaware, itself only chartered in June of 1806, asking that a charter be granted for a lodge in Milford.
On January 16, 1815, Grand Lodge granted a charter for a Masonic Lodge to be located in Milford, Delaware, to be known as Temple Lodge No. 9. It was further authorized that James Derickson, Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Delaware and the Worshipful Master of Hope Lodge No. 4 in Laurel to institute the new lodge.
On March 15, 1815, the first regular meeting of Temple Lodge was held. The following officers were installed by the Junior Grand Warden, James Derickson:
Worshipful Master Jesse Green
Senior Warden John Mitchel
Junior Warden James Millechop
At this first meeting several members of Hope No. 4, having received a regular discharge, were admitted to membership in the new lodge. While the location of the first meeting is open to speculation, it is generally agreed that it was held at the old “Milford Academy”, on NW 2nd street. It is also quite possible that the meeting was held in a room that was rented to Hope No. 4.
At this point it is necessary to say a few things about our first WM Jesse Green. As we all know he was a very active mason in both Maryland and Delaware. In 1790 he moved for a short time to the Concord area. After returning to Maryland he soon became convinced that opportunities were greater in Delaware than in Maryland. After returning to the Concord area he amassed a considerable fortune in the mercantile and shipping business. The Grand Lodge of Maryland granted a charter for a lodge in Georgetown, Delaware and he was named its first WM. This lodge failed but was soon revived as Hope Lodge No. 4 in Laurelton, Delaware, with, guess who, Jesse Green as the WM. The Grand Lodge was formed in 1806 with Gunning Bedford as the first GM and Jesse Green as DGM. After serving his prescribed three years 1809-1811 we find him in the news again helping organize a regiment of troops from Delaware and Maryland which served at the bombardment of Lewes as well as other engagements of the war of 1812.
For the next year meetings were held in this same room and there is a record of the new lodge emulating the traditions of Masonry by loaning a set of jewels to the Masons of Denton, Maryland. There is no reason given for the loan. At this time the record also reflects that the Secretary was instructed to have made a desk, and the Tiler was to make six boxes. Probably to sit on. Later that year benches were authorized.
As we may well be aware, not all was peace and harmony. We find that is was not uncommon for charges to be brought against a brother for unmasonic conduct. These charges resulted in reprimands, suspensions, trials and sometimes removal. It appears that our brethren of old took their Masonry seriously.
In 1817, there is reference to the appointment of a committee for the purpose of arranging for the purchase of a lodge room. Interest centered on a brick building that was being built by Brother Daniel Godwin, at the corner of N. Walnut and NW Front Street. However, nothing came of the committee and meetings continued to be held at the Milford Academy. As early as 1824, interest was shown in purchasing the Academy property form Louder Layton, who apparently held the mortgage on the property, but again nothing transpired.
One memorable event happened in 1825, when Temple Lodge was asked to attend Grand Lodge and participate in a reception to honor Brother The Marquis de Lafayette. Even though well on in years, he rejoiced in his return to the country he had served so well in his youth.
Early records also show that our brothers did not neglect to practice charity. On one occasion the daughter of a deceased brother was sent to school at lodge expense. Also, a coffin was built, a grave dug and a headstone erected for a departed brother, George Walton, Esq.
The inscription read:
Sacred to the memory of George Walton, Esq.
Who departed this life
This stone was erected by the Brothers of Temple Lodge No. 9
As a mark of their affection and respect for their Past Senior Warden.
He was an affectionate husband and an agreeable Companion. A firm and steadfast friend. He was a bright and shining light and the loss of this example will be long and deeply lamented by every friend of humanity.
“Though poor he was with kings he trod. Though great he humbly knelt to God. Ah! When shall we restore again
The broken links of friendship chain”
The stone may still be seen in the Old Methodist cemetery on North Street.
1825 was a busy year for the lodge. Among other activities the lodge agreed to sponsor a lodge at Frederica, Delaware. That charter to Endeavor No. 17, was granted the following year.
It seems that much of our early history revolves around the old “Milford Academy”. Not only was it used as a lodge room is was also operated as a school under the authority of the lodge.
The first floor was built by Elias Shockley in 1810, with later additions. In 1832 title and interest was transferred to Peter F. Causey, Treasurer of Temple Lodge. The lodge continued to operate it as a school, as well as holding meetings there, until it was transferred to the United School Districts of Kent County in 1846.
The records indicate that widows of members were permitted to send their children to the Academy, free of charge.
It is also apparent from the records that the lodge enjoyed a very amicable relationship with the several churches in the area. On many occasions the lodge would use their facilities and enjoyed stirring sermons from the various ministers.
In 1839, one Samuel Paisley petitioned the lodge to have a pulpit built in the Academy for the use of the seafaring man and the passing stranger. A committee was appointed to construct the pulpit and to examine the credentials of anyone wishing to preach there. Remember that during this time, and right on up through the 1920’s when the shipyards began to go out of business when the last of the giant white oaks were gone, Milford as a shipbuilding center and the crossroads for Kent and Sussex counties.
Around 1845, Brother Daniel Godwin proposed to build a new building of two stories at the corner of Walnut and NW Front Streets. After some negotiation, he agreed to add another story for the use of the lodge, in return for the sum of $600.00 for a 99 year lease, free from tax or repairs. The lease was executed in 1846, and by December the brothers were ready to dedicate their new quarters.
By this time two brothers, very predominant in Milford, Joseph G. Oliver and James P. Lofland had held the office of Grand Master of Masons in Delaware for a total of 5 years. 1834 and 1835 for brother Oliver and 1839-1841 for brother Lofland.
Grand Lodge was notified and asked that an invitation be run in the state newspapers inviting all Masons to attend. On the Sunday preceding the dedication the Lodge met at the new Temple and proceeded as a body to the Episcopal Church to worship and give thanks for their new quarters.
Earlier a committee had been appointed to erect a marble slab on the East end of the building with the inscription “MASONIC HALL A.D. 1846 A.L. 5846”. The slab remained there on what is now Lou’s Bootery until it was defaced, on purpose, when the lodge moved.
In 1857, the records indicate that major changes were needed to the lodge and a committee was appointed to do those things “necessary for the comfort and prosperity of the Lodge”. This included paint, varnish, curtains, papering and cleaning which cost $118.18.
As the Civil war rolled around, the records of the lodge become somewhat spotty. There is a lack of information concerning the activities of the lodge during this war. This perhaps was due to the fact that Milford was a border community and the issues were too inflammable to be dealt with. One note is found however, where Jackson Lodge of Delaware City requested assistance in restoring their lodge which had been devastated by war.
In 1867, Daniel Godwin sold the building in which the lodge resided to Andrew P. Cooper, which terminated the lease. However, arrangements were made with the new owner to rent the room for five years, with a possible extension to ten years. Brother Godwin returned the $600.00 put up by the lodge and this was invested in bonds.
1869 finds the first mention of interest in purchasing a new lodge building. Several committees were appointed at different times over the years but nothing was nothing really happened until 1904. At that time the committee was instructed to purchase the “Heather property”, located at what is now the NE corner of Walnut and Park Streets. However, no move was made as plans to rent the first floor for a post office did not materialize.
The official grand visitation of Grand Master Charles H. Maull, an Uncle of Past Grand Master H. Edward Maull of Lewes, in 1904 is worthy to note due to the brothers that attended.
WM Randolph Graham
SW S. W. Townsend
JW Paris T. Carlisle
Treasurer John C. Truitt
Secretary James Welsch
SD Williard F. Deputy
JD George E. Johnson
Tiler E.T. White
Brothers: George Burton, Homer M. Lewis, Louis B. Graves, Mark L. Davis, R. Davis Grier, J.W. Sheldrake, Wm. G. Powers, W.B. Dodd, D.D. Topping, J.S. Clark, C.D. Abbott, W.L. Johnson, George H. Baynum, Wm. G. Sammons, W.E. Lank, G. Layton Grier, John W. Welsch, Dan Hirsch, James B. Smith, George H. Hall, Peter F. Causey, H.C. Capehart, S.M. Reynolds, W.B. Flemming, S.J. Abbott, Frank L. Grier, Wm. G. Abbott, George W. Marshall
In 1907 the building was sold, at a nice profit. This same year the lodge purchased the “Carlisle” property on NW Front street for $5000.00.
1908 was a big year for the lodge. They moved into the newly renovated third floor of the Carlisle building. The lodge room was dedicated by GM Thomas Day and his staff. John Wanamaker of Philadelphia had been employed to do the decorations and install the carpeting in such a way as to make it a real showcase. However, seeing how the person sent to do the job, while being an outstanding member of the craft and more than competent, was real interested in York Rite Masonry. Thus the color scheme was red. But, it was so well done no changes were made in the nearly 50 years of use.
The purchase of the building and the cost of the renovations had put a real strain on the Treasury. With the help of the ladies a bazaar was staged in the building to raise funds. One outstanding feature of the event was the opportunity for the public to see the “masonic goat”. A real live goat was obtained from Isaac Orkin and for a small sum, could be seen in the preparation room on the third floor. Needless to say this was the source of much merriment.
The three officer chairs, jewels and a little organ were brought from the Godwin building for use in the new lodge room. They are real treasures and were used with great reverence. They were again moved when the lodge purchased the Caulk building.
The new lodge seemed to become a center of community life after a while. The Masonic Club, the Red Cross, the New Century Club and other organizations needing a meeting place were sheltered under it’s roof.
With the approach of our 100th anniversary plans were made beginning early in 1914. While the actual date is January 16th, the brothers chose January 26th as the date for the celebration. The brothers gathered in the lodge beginning at 3:00 pm with WM Charles J. Holzmueller in the East, and S.C. Evans at the organ, which had been presented by brother Davis Grier. There was singing by a Philadelphia quartet, the minutes of the first meeting were read. Dr. R.Y. Watson talked of personal recollections of masonry. Greetings were read from other lodges and remarks by Reverends W.R. Mowbray and T.C. Davis were given. The Secretary read the names of the deceased members and a skit called “something doin” was presented by George H. Hall and G. Layton Grier.
The excitement of getting settled in the new lodge had barely subsided when the nation became involved in the “Great War”. People adjusted to a new radically different way of life and many of the craft were on the move. With the need for additional degree work and sometime emergency degrees in order to meet schedules, a heavy work load was placed on the officers. 1918 saw the WM of Temple Lodge conduct 34 master mason degrees and conduct 9 funerals.
Many brothers were called to serve. Three deserve special mention. Major Wm. E. Lank and Major James W. Cannon. After service they returned to Milford and became associated with the National Guard and were prominent in any military function taking place. The third brother to be mentioned was Lt. Paris T. Carlisle, the last of the four men to bear the name. He gave his life and to perpetuate his memory, the fire company is named in his honor.
The new building proved to be quite a financial load and rentals were made whenever possible. The Caulk Club, active for several years made some changes to the first floor, including installation of a hard wood floor for dancing, the furnishing of a card room and other comforts. The Diamond State Telephone Company and Prudential Insurance Company occupied the second floor for many years.
The Second World War again saw a lodge member achieve prominence. Brother Admiral J. Lockwood Pratt won the esteem of the nation for his deeds at sea.
The years progressed in peace and harmony, with several years where activity was scarce. However, we soon see interest in remodeling the lodge. Several ideas were brought forth, committees were appointed and then disbanded, but there was the feel of change in the air. After an engineer was retained to perform a survey of the building and reported, unofficially, that 2 things were to be done, install a fire escape immediately and move out. When taken in context to the fact that the Carlisle building was constructed as a residence and not made for 100 people occupying the third floor one can see the efficacy of the recommendation.
The late 1940’s and early 1950’s saw several plans developed for a new meeting place or new building. Prominent among the plans was the idea to build a three story building near the hospital, with the first two floors being used a medical center with the lodge room on the third. This plan, as well as several others fell by the wayside.
October of 1958 was the beginning of the events that culminated in our being in our present building. It was in this month that a group of brothers decided that the “Caulk” building would suit the needs of the lodge. The building went to auction and these brothers purchased it and turned around and offered it to the lodge for the purchase price. WM Charles O. Gleason immediately appointed committee to survey the property and report back. On October 30, 1958, a special communication was called for the purpose of hearing this report. It was then voted unanimously to purchase the property. Fifty members were present.
As the building had been vacant for several years vandalism had taken its toll. The financial burden of the renovations were such that the lodge could not afford to own two buildings at once. An offer from Dr. Harold Halperin was received to purchase the Carlisle building. This was accepted and the sale was formalized on February 24, 1959. There was a provision that allowed the lodge to rent the third floor until such time as the new one was ready.
With the brothers giving their time generously, contracts were made and work under the direction of local architect Calvin Clendaniel was completed. Funds were obtained from the sale of the Carlisle building, the sale of bonds to the members and from the reserves of the lodge.
On July 14, 1960, the first communication was held in the new lodge room after being consecrated by MW James B. Kilvington. Sitting in the East was WM Henry Kuratle, Jr. The building was dedicated on September 13, 1960, by MW. James B. Kilvington and the Grand Staff. Sitting the east for this memorable day was WM Chester C. Coffin.
As we all know, the following years saw the first both the first and second floors renovated numerous times and used as rentals.
In 1963 the lodge decided to incorporate and the Masonic Hall Corporation of Milford, came into being.
In looking the past 200 years we see that Temple Lodge No. 9 has played an integral part in the history not only of Milford and the surrounding community, but of the entire state of Delaware. Brothers from our lodge have been Governor one four occasions, there have been 11 Grand Masters. It is noteworthy to point out that PGM George B. Hynson (1917 GM and 1910 WM) is the author of the poem “Our Delaware”, which is the state song.
Our latest PGM Bill Wadkins served in that capacity in 1999. There have also been numerous other elected and appointed Grand Lodge officers over the years.
It is with great pride that we celebrate the 200th Anniversary of our lodge, Temple Lodge No. 9.
Jeff Hague, PM