Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Massachusetts

Chapter History

The earliest record of a meeting of St. Andrew's Chapter, of Boston, is August 12, 1769. Stephen Bruce acted as Secretary. On August 18, 1769, it is recorded that another meeting was held, and the names of ten members are listed as present. A candidate was voted to "be made a Royal Arch Mason," and the body is termed "Lodge of Royal Arch Masons." The third recorded meeting is that of August 28, 1769, at which the degrees of Excellent, Super-Excellent, Royal Arch and Knight Templar were conferred. The meetings thereafter are recorded, "At a Royal Arch Lodge." The Mark Mason Lodge is first mentioned in the records of October 23, 1792, and it is recorded that the degree was conferred on Stephen Howard, of Newburyport, July 25, 1793. On November 28, 1793, the Mark Degree was made one of the degrees of the Chapter, for which an additional fee was charged. The "Knight Templar" degree had been conferred frequently, and usually those taking the other degrees, from 1769 to this time, although it never appears to have been a requisite to membership. Many members never received the "Knight Templar," and it was often recorded as an "Honorary Degree." The words "Royal Chapter" were first used in the headings of the records of the meeting of July 26, 1792, and were revised to "Royal Arch Chapter" in the record of January 20, 1794. However, the Chapter at Newburyport (now King Cyrus Chapter) form their earliest records, June 28, 1790, and consistently thereafter, record themselves, "At a meeting of the Royal Chapter of St., John of Jerusalem, commonly called the Royal Arch Lodge of Royal and Super Excellent Masons. "The Knight Templar" was conferred for the last time in St. Andrew's Chapter upon Robert Newman, on November 5, 1794.

Following personal correspondence between Benjamin Hurd, Jr., of St. Andrew's and Dudley A. Tyng, of Newburyport (King Cyrus) Chapter, a committee was appointed by the Boston Royal Arch Chapter, December 19, 1794, to confer with the Newburyport Chapter. The Chapter at Newburyport had previously, at their meeting of October 13, 1794, appointed a committee to confer "with the Royal Arch in Boston." During 1795 and 1796 the uniformity of work between the Chapters was accomplished. The last degree that was brought to completion was the Most Excellent, which is first recorded as given in Newburyport on January 1, 1797, and at the same convocation, having completed the reconciliation of the degrees, they at once took up the matter of a Grand Chapter. This vote, which is the first record of the beginning of the formation of our grand Chapter, is recorded as follows: "January 1, 1797. Voted to chuse a committee to draft instructions necessary to send by them who shall be chosen as delegates to the Grand Chapter."

August 2, 1797, St. Andrew's Chapter records the presence as a visitor, and specifically recorded as his first visit, Thomas Smith Webb, of Temple Chapter, of Albany, N.Y. (This Chapter had been formed earlier in the year, with Thomas Smith Webb as it's first presiding officer.) September 11, 1797, it is recorded in St. Andrew's that a vote was passed, "That the High Priest be requested to write to Br. Webb on the subject of a union of the Chapters."

October 23, 1797, St. Andrew's R.A. Chapter records the following: "Voted: That the M.E. Benjamin Hurd, Jr., H.P.; M.E. John Soley, King, and Companion William Woart, Secretary, be and they thereby are appointed a committee to confer with the respective committees from Temple Chapter, Albany, and the Newburyport Chapter, and any other committee that may be appointed, on the subject of forming a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, and to enter into any measures that to them may appear expedient for the carrying the same into effect."

October 24, 1797, there representatives from the three Chapters met in Masons Hall, Boston, and voted to form a Grand Royal Arch Chapter and to issue to the Chapters within the states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, and Vermont, a circular letter asking them to appoint delegates to attend a meeting in Hartford, Conn., on January 24, 1798, "Investing them with full power and authority in conjunction with the other delegates to form and open a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, and to establish a Constitution for the government and regulation of all Chapters that now are, or may be hereafter, erected within the said States."

On January 24, 1798, in response to that circular letter, delegates from St. Andrew's Chapter, Boston; King Cyrus Chapter, Newburyport; Providence Chapter, Providence, R.I.; Solomon Chapter, Derby, Conn.; Franklin Chapter, Norwich, Conn.; Franklin Chapter, New Haven, Conn.; Hudson Chapter, Hudson, N.Y., met in Hartford, Conn. The meeting continued four days, during which time delegates arrived from Temple Chapter, Albany, N.Y., and Horeb Chapter, Whitestown, N.Y. The Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Northern States of America was instituted, the officers elected and installed, an a constitution was adopted creating "Deputy Grand Royal Arch Chapters in the different States and specifying when they were to meet and choose their own officers and adopt rules for their own government." This provision that these Deputy Grand Chapters should meet and severally elect, by ballot, their own officers as follows: Massachusetts, Tuesday following second Monday of March next. Rhode Island, Tuesday following second Monday of March next. New York, second Tuesday of March next. Connecticut, third Wednesday of May next.

At the meeting of "The Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Northern States of America," at Providence, January 9-10,1799, a revised Constitution was presented, and Article II, Sect. I, says "The several Deputy Grand Chapters of the States before mentioned shall in future be styled State Grand Chapters."

This revised Constitution, presented in the closing hours of the meeting on the second day, begins as follows: "There shall be a General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons," etc. There is no record that any action was taken on this new Constitution at any time and, in 1806, another Constitution forming a General grand Chapter was adopted. This last Constitution was ratified and became the basis of the Grand Chapter of Today.

The earliest known record of the conferring of the Royal Arch Degree on this continent is found in the records of Fredericksburg Lodge, of Fredericksburg, Va., under the date of December 22, 1753. This degree was there and elsewhere at various times worked in a Blue Lodge. In one State a grand Chapter was formed by and under the control of grand Lodge as an adjunct or agent, but to this time no record has been produced of any regularly organized and independent Capitular Body, either subordinate or Grand, in the United States of as early a date as that of the Royal Arch Lodge (now St. Andrew's Chapter) of Boston, of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Northern States of America constituted at Hartford, Conn., and which in it's Constitution created the State Grand Chapters which, when organized and functioning, superseded the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the Northern States.

Source: Royal Arch Handbook of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Massachusetts, December 1983.

Past Grand High Priests



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