Thursday, September 20, 2012

Was Your Ancestor A Mason?



Juniper Hall, Shrewsbury, Massachusetts

Juniper Hall was built by Matthew John Whitall, who manufactured carpets in nearby Worcester. He was a 33rd degree Mason.   His home was built in 1912 on 100 acres of land on top of Meetinghouse Hill, the highest point in Shrewsbury.  Calvin Coolidge visited in 1922 the year Mr. Whitall died.  In 1927 the home was deeded to the Masons of Massachusetts.  Mrs. Whitall wished it to be used for a hospital.  It was used as a Masonic home from 1928 until 1975.  The estate was bought by the town in 1976 and the building was razed. The property is now Prospect Park.


My great grandfather, Joseph Elmer Allen, died at the Shrewsbury Masonic Hospital in 1932.  I wrote to the current Massachusetts Masonic Hospital, which is located in Charlton, for his records.  They sent me a copy of his admittance card, which was about the size of a 5”x7” card.  It stated that he was a 7th degree Mason and was admitted on 4 March 1932.  He died on 12 March 1932 at 10:40 PM.  It was a very short record because he was there such a short time.  He was a member of the Joseph Webb Lodge in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The Shrewsbury, Massachusetts Masonic Hospital

Recently my mother showed me on line some photos of the old Masonic home, and I was very impressed with the former residence.  It must have been a wonderful home for the retired and sick Masons.  The postcards I saw on line of Juniper Hall were beautiful, and I’m sure it was still beautiful in 1932.  Perhaps by 1975 it was quite run down, because the town of Shrewsbury tore it down so quickly after acquiring the property.


The Allen Family Plot at the Spring Street Cemetery in Essex, Massachusetts
The top of the large letter A is marked with Masonic symbols, as are
the individual stones of the Allen men who were also members.


Frank Gilman Allen was the brother of my great grandfather, Joseph Elmer Allen



If your ancestors or family members were members of a Masonic lodge, the first clue might be a masonic symbol on a gravestone. The records of the Massachusetts Masons are online at the New England Historic Genealogical Society at www.americanancestors.org   There you will find what lodge your ancestor belonged to, and when they were admitted as members.  You can write to the lodge for more information.   In Massachusetts there is also a Scottish Rite masonic library at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, and you can see if there are any records on your family members.  www.nationalheritagemuseum.org  The museum often has genealogy classes, too.


For more information:

Massachusetts Mason Membership Cards are available for searching at the New England Historic Genealogical Society website www.americanancestors.org and at this link at Ancestry.com http://search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=5061

The History of Prospect Park http://www.prospectfriends.org/History.html

This webpage has photos of the Shrewsbury Masonic Home in its heyday in an article in the Shrewsbury Lantern for a talk by the Shrewsbury Historical Society about Juniper Hall, the Masonic Home and Prospect Park http://shrewsbury.net/?p=2053

An article from Community Advocate, “Shrewsbury Property Rich in History” by Sue Wambolt, contributing writer, dated 8 August 2012, http://www.communityadvocate.com/2012/08/08/shrewsbury-property-rich-in-history/

The Genealogy of Matthew John Whittall http://www.my-family-research.info/?page_id=228

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Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

8 comments:

  1. i enjoyed this article and loved the pictures. The hospital and grounds were beautiful. My grandfather was a mason. I looked into writing to the Florida lodge my grandfather belonged to only to discover it longer existed.

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    1. Kathryn - even if the local Lodge is not longer in existence, their Grand Lodge (i.e., the Florida Grand Lodge) should have the records transferred to them. Here's the link - just write to them c/o "Archivist" with your questions: http://www.glflamason.org/

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  2. My great grandfather was a mason, i found out in a round about way. There were many articles in their local newspaper about the order of the eastern stars that mentioned his wife. I wrote to them to find out who her sponsor was. Once I had the information (that it was her husband) I emailed his mason chapter and they emailed me his registration card.

    The wife was more involved in the OES than he was with the Masons. I would love to find more information, but will probably have to wait to get back to west virginia.

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  3. This is great, thank you. I have several Masons in the family, most notable Mortimer Lawrence of Denver, who was a founding member of the first lodge there, and came up with it's name, "El Jebel", meaning, "the mountains". This was a very interesting look at New England sources, and that is very appreciated! ~ Jen

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  4. Often fathers or grandfathers may have been Masons as well, in the Old Country - so do check there as well once you find which place they originated from. I've had wonderful luck with Archivists of Grand Lodges in Ireland and other places. I write first (rather than email), using the most interesting stamps I can find on the envelope, and later, always snail-mail a Thank You card!

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  5. I have reason to believe that one of my Brick Wall Jonathan Seavey's sons, Lyman Seavey, was a founding member of the Lodge in Whitefield, NH. Hope to get up there to verify. The Lodge has been defunk for many years.

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  6. @ Pam Schaffner - As a result of your query to the Grand Lodge of NH, you will shortly be receiving information on the Masonic history of Brother Lyman V. Seavey. I found this posting in doing a little further research on him for you!

    Thomas A. Ladd, Secretary
    North Star Lodge No. 8
    Free & Accepted Masons
    Lancaster, NH

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  7. I was told my ancestors' records would still exist in the Lodge in Richfield Springs, NY. His grave stone with a Masonic symbol on top was one of my first family history clues. I didn't get a reply to my letter several years ago - I suppose I should try again.

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