Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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April 21, 2011

Andover Stories: Masonic Lodge nearly 200 years old

Formation efforts to establish a Masonic Lodge in Andover began in 1818. At the time, the initial effort was thwarted by members of Good Samaritan Lodge in North Reading who did not want another lodge that close to them. Following some "salesmanship" by the Andoverites, the charter of St. Matthew's Lodge was granted on Dec. 11, 1822.

Meetings were held at Widow Mary Parker's House (Tavern) in what is now North Andover, and David Rice was the charter master. In 1826, permission was granted to relocate the lodge to the South Parish section of Andover and members erected a hall on the present site of the Bank of America building on Main Street.

For the first five years of its existence, the Lodge flourished with a goodly number of new members but by the end of the 1820s the anti-Masonic movement was sweeping across the country. This movement resulted from the actions of certain individuals in Batavia, N.Y.

William Morgan, a man of ill repute and questionable background, gained access to a Masonic Lodge in that town and was part of a group trying to establish a new Royal Arch Chapter. There were objections and his name was withdrawn from the petition but he attempted to join the new higher Masonic body. His application was rejected and, following a threat to publish a book containing "all the secrets of Freemasonry," he was jailed along with the potential publisher. The two were soon released. William Morgan, however, was seized by Freemasons and carried off. He was never seen again. Although there were never any positive findings, the Masons were accused of killing him, causing a public sentiment that spread across the countryside.

A separate political party was founded solely upon this wave of sentiment. Many of the Masonic Lodges in the nation were forced to close and surrender their charter.

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