Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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February 21, 2013

Andover Stories: Town of Joiners, part I

This is the first of a two-part story.

French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville traveled to America in 1835, publishing his observations in the text “Democracy in America.” Key to this volume was the way in which Americans recognized the distinctiveness of their voluntary tradition. Tocqueville argued that a society’s propensity for individualism could have either positive or negative consequences.

In America, efforts in this regard became the country’s strength: “Through associating, the coming together of people for mutual purpose, both public and private, Americans are able to overcome selfish desires, thus making both a self-conscious and active political society and a vibrant civil society functioning independently from the state.”

German sociologist Max Weber in 1911 described the United States as “the association-land par excellence.” In 1944, Arthur M. Schlesinger coined the phrase “a nation of joiners” to refer to the phenomenon.

Andover is certainly no exception to this trend. And nowhere have ties been stronger or more influential than within the grand halls of its fraternal organizations. A study of lodges in town shows that members are drawn together by three things: their belief in a Supreme Being, their bond of brotherhood and their policies of charitable acts. Other organizations come together by sharing a similar culture, like interests or similar occupations. All groups, however, are joined by their commitment to service in their home community.

Andover’s town directory of 1893 lists the following active lodges: St. Mathew’s Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons, the Grand Army of the Republic, W.F. Bartlett Relief Corps, Royal Arcanum, the Indian Ridge Council, the Andover Grange (Patrons of Husbandry), Andover Wheelman, and the Ancient Order of United Workmen.

By 1897 additional organizations surfaced: the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Sons of Veterans, and the United Order of Pilgrim Fathers. The Knights of Columbus was organized in 1905. Following these were the Carpenter’s Union, the Knights of Pythias (1913), and the Independent Order of Good Templars. Coming late to the game were the Lions Club in 1930 and the Andover Lodge of Elks, formed in 1961.

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