Dispatches from Maine

Just another person of little note writing about ordinary things. That I reside in Maine is icing on the cake.

21 November 2006

History of the Grand Lecturer in Maine

Having just completed reading the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Maine, Volume 1" I have learned a lot about the early history of the Grand Lecturer. It is an odd story with more convolutions than I would have imagined. My sense of the story, previous to this research, was that after the anti-Masonic period, some time in the late 1840s, the Grand Lodge realized most lodges had been idled for so long that they no longer knew the ritual. To rectify this the Grand Lodge created the post and sent the Grand Lecturer to renew knowledge of Masonic ritual. My goodness, how wrong can one person be! The story is so much more interesting than that.

It all began back in January of 1826, when Bros. Fox, Fessenden and Greenleaf (GM, DGM, and PGM) suggested the appointment of a Grand Lecturer to ensure a uniformity of the work. After several months of searching they selected Bro. Samuel Kidder, who was appointed by M.W. Bro. Charles Fox as the first Grand Lecturer.

He lasts barely one year in this new position. In January 1827, R.W. Bro. James L. Child (office unknown) submits a resolution asking the then-powerful District Deputy Grand Masters to look into a plan for ensuring uniformity of the work. The motion includes the statement "That the subordinate Lodges under this jurisdiction be directed to receive no further instructions from any Grand Lecturer..." It makes me wonder what on earth happened to trigger that reaction.

The District Deputy Grand Masters do meet at the lodge in Hallowell to discuss the matter, and in January 1828 they suggest the appointment of not one, but three Grand Lecturers. There is no record of the appointment of these three Brothers, but the Grand Lodge does record their traveling expenses in the financial report of 1829:
  • Amount paid Bro. Darling's bill for lecturing $166.47
  • Amount paid Bro. Wadsworth's bill for lecturing $171.11
  • Amount paid Bro. Miller's bill for lecturing $87.36
There are no further bills and no other mentions regarding the position of Grand Lecturer for many years.

The "History of Portland Lodge No. 1" reports that a Brother Benjamin Gleason was present in August of 1842 to demonstrate the proper mode of working based on Webb's Monitor. He is apparently so well regarded that they history of the lodge calls him "our well-beloved Brother Gleason".

The Grand Lodge of Maine struggles terribly during the anti-Masonic period with Lodges closing around the State and little meaningful activity at a Grand Lodge level. Finally, the Brethren of United Lodge awaken from the long slumber and form a Committee with Portland Lodge and Ancient Land-Mark to host a Masonic State Convention in Portland during October of 1843. Among the results of this Convention are a collection of motions for the next Grand Lodge meeting. One of which is, you guessed it, a motion to appoint one or more Grand Lecturers! This Committee is staffed by Bros. Joseph M. Gerrish (Past Grand Treasurer), Eleazer Wyer (DDGM of the 1st District), and A.H. Putney (Senior Grand Warden).

At the adjourned Annual Communication in June of 1844, the Comittee reports back that a Grand Lecturer should be appointed with the lodges paying for his time and the Grand Lodge paying for his travel. A selection Committee is created consisting of Bros. Joseph M. Gerrish, A.H. Putney, John C. Humphrey[s] (Grand Marshal), George L. Darling (unknown office) and Thomas S. Bowles (Master of Solar Lodge and President of the 1843 Masonic State Convention).

The committee meets and evetually selects Bro. John Miller of Warren. This reported at the January 1845 Grand Lodge session, where Bro. Miller is accordingly appointed by the Grand Master. Bro. Miller accepted the post and requested the power to appoint assistants to visit lodges when he could not. The Grand Lodge agreed and created the post of "Sub Grand Lecturer," you heard it right. Bro. Miller submits his first set of expenses in July of 1845, which are sent to a Committee to be assessed and paid. In less than a year, in June of 1846, he is not reappointed to his post and the positions of Grand Lecturer and Sub Grand Lecturer are allowed to lapse. It is worth noting that Bro. Miller is not fully repayed until well after his position has already been allowed to lapse.

In a period of twenty years there have been five Grand Lecturers with none holding the job for more than a eighteen months. Actually, the position itself did not manage to survive for more than that amount of time: 1826 Samuel Kidder, 1828 Bros. Darling, Wadsworth and Miller, 1845-1846 Bro. John Miller of Warren.

What happens next? You'll have to wait to find out. Heck I have to wait until I finish processing Proceedings Volume 2.

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