Mount Holly Lodge #14
Free & Accepted Masons
At a special meeting of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of New Jersey held in Trenton on September 08, 1791, there appeared a visitor, one who might justly be called the Father of our Lodge, Joseph Read, Esq. Having moved into New Jersey a little later, we find him becoming a very prominent factor in the Grand Lodge. At the session of November 1803 Brother Davenport of Woodbury Lodge No.11 presented a petition to the Grand Lodge signed by a number of brethren, three of whom were Master Masons well known to this lodge, praying a warrant may be granted to Brother Joseph Read, Master, Charles Ellis, Senior Warden, and Samuel J. Read, Junior Warden, to hold a lodge at Mount Holly in the County of Burlington, which was read. Whereupon it was resolved that the prayer of the petitioners be allowed and that a warrant be granted to hold a Lodge accordingly by the name of Mount Holly Lodge Number 18.
Brothers Joseph Read and Samuel J. Read were made Masons in Trenton Lodge No.5. A careful check of both the early records of Mount Holly Lodge and the Grand Lodge fail to disclose where Charles Ellis, Alexander R. Cox and Mahlon Budd were made Masons.
Joseph Read, Esq., son of Samuel and Dorothy Read, was born in the City of Philadelphia in 1739 and died in Mount Holly, New Jersey in 1814 at the age of 75. He was admitted to the Bar of the Colony of West Jersey about 1767 to practice in all of the Courts of the Colony. He was commissioned by the Crown to the office of Surrogacy Probate Judge about 1768; made Justice of the Peace under the Crown about 1770; later made assistant Chief Justice; represent Northampton Township for many years as Freeholder, was a member of the Provincial Congress and Committee of Safety for Burlington County, June, July and August, 1775; was made Sergeant at Law 1792 (the highest grade in the old English law at that time), and was one of the earliest members of the St. Andrew's Church.
Before the organization of No.18 he had served the Grand Lodge one year as Grand Treasurer, two years as Junior Grand Warden, three years as Senior Grand Warden and four years as Deputy Grand Master. He served as Master of No.18 for nearly three years, resigning November 1807 due to advanced age and ill health.
Samuel J. Read, Esq., son of Joseph and Martha Read was born in Mount Holly, December 14, 1771 and died in Mount Holly, October 02, 1836 at the age of 55. He was buried in the St. Andrew's Burying Ground. He was appointed Attorney at Law 1791; commissioned Captain in New Jersey Militia about 1797; appointed United Assessor First District Internal Revenue about 1798; member State Assembly (Legislature); commissioned Lt. Col. First Regiment State Militia November 1814; Major Commandant and commanded the Burlington Battalion, State troops during part of the War of 1812, being stationed at Billingsport, New Jersey, in defense of the City of Philadelphia; appointed Surrogate of Burlington County in 1800 by Governor Richard Howell; was Justice of the Peace; Surrogate of the County from 1812 to 1813; appointed Clerk of the County 1824 serving until 1834; commissioned Major General commanded First Division New Jersey Militia about 1830 and served as such until his death in 1836. He was a member of the St. Andrew's Church. He represented the State of New Jersey at the ceremonies held in Boston, Massachusetts, at the laying of the corner stone of Bunker Hill Monument, walking with General Lafayette during the procession to the grounds.
He achieved prominence in the Grand Lodge serving four years as Deputy Grand Secretary, six years as Grand Secretary, one year as Junior Grand Warden, four years as Deputy Grand Master and two years as Grand Master, declining to be a candidate for re-election. In his Lodge he was ever faithful, efficient, serving as Master for twelve years.
Later Still, another member of the Read family, Samuel Read, a grandson, of Joseph, was a very prominent Mason both in subordinate and Grand Lodge, and like his Grandfather served as Deputy Grand Master, but not getting to be Grand Master.
In the History of Free Masonry in New Jersey, presented by R. W. David McGregor, Grand Lodge Historian, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the organization of the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of New Jersey, which appears in the Sesqui-Centennial edition, R. W. Bro. McGregor wrote at considerable length about the Reads and the part they played in the early history of our Fraternity in New Jersey.
If there is anything in having an incentive to do good work, then the officers of Mount Holly Lodge might take the following into consideration. James Cushman, one of our early Past Masters, and one of the fifth generation of direct descendants of Robert Cushman, a business manager of the movement that brought the Pilgrims to America in 1620, was appointed the first Grand Lecturer in the Grand Jurisdiction, which office is now known as Grand Instructor. He occupied this office for five years and during that period spent considerable time traveling up and down this Grand Jurisdiction as well as to other Grand Jurisdictions, lecturing and instructing the officers in order to bring the work to some degree of uniformity. He too, was mentioned in the previously referred to History of the Grand Lodge.
Our first lodge officers were installed by R. W. Deputy Grand Master Aaron D. Woodruff, at the house of Griffith Owen in Mount Holly. Present were Joseph Read, Master; Charles Ellis, Senior Warden; Samuel J. Read, Junior Warden; Alexander R. Cox, Senior Deacon, pro-tem; Mahlon Budd, Junior Deacon, pro-tem. Griffith Owen's house stood on the corner of High and Water Streets, on the site now occupied by the New Washington House.
Brother Cox, son of Major Richard and Jane Cox, lived at the corner of Mill and Paxson Streets. In addition to his duties as Secretary of the Lodge, he usually acted as one of the Wardens, pro-tem. We also find him in 1808 as Junior Grand Deacon in the Grand Lodge. Death claimed him September 14, 1809 while not yet quite 30 years of age. He was buried in St. Andrew's Burying Ground. Mahlon Budd, son of Stacy and Sarah Budd, was born August 285, 1765. He was Sheriff of Burlington County from 1807 to 1810. In 1809 he was Junior Grand Deacon in the Grand Lodge. In December 1805, he, as a committee of one, purchased a Bible, which was in the possession of this Lodge for many years, being used during the communication when the 100th anniversary of Mount Holly Lodge No.14 was celebrated on November 16, 1903, which handsome book was the property of the Lodge until it was destroyed in the Temple fire in 1925. He was drowned November 08, 1820 and was buried in the Friends Burying Ground. The first man to be admitted as an Entered Apprentice was John Frazer, who was at once appointed Tyler. The first petitioner was Harding Murrell. The first recorded visiting Brother was Anthony Reckless of Trenton Lodge No.5.
That the Lodge continued meeting for several years at Owens Hotel was evidenced by the minutes of the three meetings mentioning the fact--by the minutes of September 22, 1806 stating that the meeting was held at Griffith Owens, as usual; and by the minutes of January 24, 1808, which was an Emergent from the fact "that the next stated night would be that previous to the Court sitting here, and that our room would be occupied by the attendants thereon." It was not until May 09, 1808, that they met in "Their Hall". At the February meeting of that year it was resolved "that the Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens be a committee to make enquiry and know at what rate per annum a suitable house in the town for the purpose of holding our meetings may be obtained." At the next meeting Brother Matthew McHenry, the Junior Warden, reported that "agreeably to the order of this lodge the committee appointed for the purpose had made enquiry respecting a suitable house for the purpose of holding further meetings of this lodge and that a house opposite the Court House in this town can be had for that purpose at $50.00 per annum." They were directed to "rent it for one year on the best terms they can, but owing to the interference of a person now in possession of said house and his offering a higher rent," they did not take it and were continued with power to act, which power they exercised by renting "The Parsonage House" in Mount Holly for a period of two year at $30.00 per annum, which action was ratified by the lodge and the committee "directed to make such alterations and decorations of the said room as they in this discretion may think proper." This building was probably the parsonage formerly occupied by the Missionary Brainard.
In the early days of the town of Mount Holly, many of the now paved streets were known as alleys. There were few, if any, crossings above Garden Street so that pedestrians had considerable difficulty in moving about the streets after dark. In 1803 an effort was made to improve High Street by Brother Samuel J. Read who was then a member of the township committee.
Since the early days of Masonry many of our Lodges set their meeting nights according to the full moon. It is possible that the conditions of the streets over which they had to travel had much to do with the setting of the time of the meeting for the time of the month when the moon would be the brightest. The Lodge met according to the moon for a number of years and because of this schedule a problem arose regarding the meeting of Octoer 17, 1904. The Worshipful Master stated that some doubt had arisen as to whether the communication called on our Lodge calendar for this evening should be a stated communication, as some calendars state that the moon will be full 23rd inst., while others state it will be full 24th, making a difference of one week in holding the communications. He decided that as authorities differ in the matter he would order this to be a stated communication.
In December 1810, "Brothers S. J. Read, Mahlon Budd and Anthony S. Earl or any two of them, are appointed to attend the sale of a house and lot in Water Street, late the property of Thomas Butcher, and to purchase the same if in their opinion it can be had on suitable terms." The committee did as directed and purchased the property at "the price of $230.00."
From Grand Master Aaron D. Woodruff's report to the Grand Lodge session of November 1812 we take the following: "That in the month of September last he attended by and with the assistance of the Grand Officers did solemnly dedicate for Masonic Purposes, the hall lately erected at Mount Holly by the Brothers of Lodge No.18, agreeably to ancient form and usage, and he takes this opportunity of expressing the very great satisfaction he received on the occasion from the skill, taste and beauty displayed in the formation and decoration of the new hall, as well as from the orderly conduct of the brethren who were present at the ceremony and the entertainment of the day."
The lower part of the Water Street building, which was a two story roughcast one, was rented out as opportunity arose, In 1822, they rented to a Mr. Bonafon for a dancing school. The following year it was rented to the Mount Holly Library for $7.00 per annum; in 1825 to a Thomas Curtis for a schoolroom at $3.00 per quarter, the Lodge reserving certain privileges. Brother George Haywood was granted leave to plant grass seed and pasture in the lot back of the Lodge.
In 1823 we find Caleb Clothier agreeing to furnish the Lodge with candles for the use of the cellar.
At a stated meeting on Monday evening, January 24, 1820, several of the brethren lead by Bro. Ebenezer Tucker, had received from the Grand Master a dispensation to congregate a lodge of Ancient York Masons at Tuckerton, and they having associated with him respectfully solicits their discharge on payment of dues. At the November, 1820 session, the Grand Lodge issued them a warrant, and there were regularly installed, Sixth Month 25, 1821 by Deputy Grand Master Samuel J. Read, and given the number 43.
At a special meeting of No.18, held November 3, 1830, the following startling resolution was offered: "That it is expedient to surrender the Charter of Mount Holly Lodge No.18 to the Grand Lodge provided the Grand Lodge will receive it and permit the Lodge to resume it if applied for at some further period." Brothers Eayre and S.J. Read were appointed a committee to surrender the charter and pay the dues to the Grand Lodge. Thus ended the career of Mount Holly Lodge No.18.
Our Lodge was raised to a newness of life by Worshipful Grand Master Dr. John P. Lewis, April 17, 1849, and assigned no.14.
In June, 1854, permission was granted Brothers Westbrook, Louis Gotta, John Rogers, A.E. Ballard and Elwood Conner to withdraw their certificates for the purpose of instituting a Lodge in Burlington City. This Lodge was given the number 32.
In 1855 a committee of five was appointed "To draw plans, count cost, et., for a new hall." The desire for a new hall seemed to have engendered by feelings and caused two factions in the Lodge which eventually led to the withdrawal of Brothers Jos. B. Oliphant, Alexander Elwell, George C. Brown and Wm. B. Rogers, who with Brothers G.S.G. Harvey of New Orleans, Charles C. Sims of Washington D.C. and Joseph K. Hulme of Bristol, Pa., asked that we recommend them to receive a warrant for a Lodge from the Grand Lodge, which was granted Ninth Month 6, and this was the origin of Central Lodge No.44, which located in the Peter Lynch Building at one time occupied by our late Bro. George D. Worrell, on Mill Street, corner of Pine, thus making two Masonic Lodges in Mount Holly. January 1863, Central Lodge relocated at Vincentown, where it continues to this date.
June 1857, a committee consisting of Brother Samuel Read, Jos. L. Lamb and John F. Alcott was appointed to build a new hall. This committee reported September 20th that they had entered into a contract with Benjamin C. Gaskill for the erection of a three-story frame building with a brick front at a cost of about $2,000.00. During the erection of the new hall, which was on the site of the old one, the Lodge became the tenant of Mount Holly Lodge No.10, I.O.O.F. on High Street above Water. During some repairing, the meeting of November 1875 was held in the Directors' room of the Mount Holly National Bank on Main Street.
The minutes reveal a rather amusing incident in 1872, when no meeting was held in November for the reason that "The W. M. (Milton Hansell) could not get here on account of the epizoot among the horses, and no key could be found to open the pedestal and get charter."
In 1890 steps were taken toward acquiring a more commodious meeting place and the outcome was the purchase of the Bainbridge property, corner of Main and Brainard Streets for the sum of $6,000.00. The Water Street hall was disposed of and a committee composed of Past Master J.W. Ewan, Jos. Luncy, Jos. H. Gaskill, Caleb S. Ridgway, J.W. Bodine and Bros. S.L. Tomlinson, E.F. Burns, R.H. Parsons and Jos. C. Cowgill was given the task of building a Masonic Temple.
The corner-stone was laid July 30, 1891 in the midst of a down pour of rain, the ceremonies being conducted by M.W. Grand Master Thos. W. Tilden and his associated officers of the Grand Lodge. Construction was pushed rapidly and resulted in the erection of the handsome four-story brownstone building many of us remember today. Its cost furnished was in the neighborhood of $40,000.00. The ground floor was leased jointly to the United Stated Government for a post Office and to Craig Moffett for a drug store. The second floor contained rented offices. The third floor consisted of a large banquet hall and kitchen, while the top floor was the lodge room.
The Lodge soon found itself in financial difficulties and the mortgage held by the Burlington County Safe Deposit and Trust Co. was foreclosed. Later the building was sold to the law firm of Kelsey & Killie who had previously purchased the adjoining building on Main Street.
1898 saw another of our brethren, Josiah W. Ewan, being honored by the Masons of New Jersey electing him as their Grand Master for two consecutive terms. It was during his tenure that the Masonic Home near Burlington was dedicated. He was the last Most Worshipful Grand Master elected from this Lodge.
January 28, 1925 the original building owned by Kelsey and Killie was discovered to be on fire. The fire soon spread to the Temple and both buildings were roaring like a furnace under forced draft. Firemen from Mount Holly and neighboring towns worked vigilantly for hours in temperatures 6 ̊ below zero with the ground covered with snow.
The Lodge lost all of its furniture, jewels, paraphernalia, kitchen equipment, crockery, silverware, piano and banquet hall furnishings, and sad to relate, found this protected by only a small insurance policy of about one-fifth the value of personal property destroyed.
Fortunately, our warrant and the original bound volume of our constitution containing the signatures of all members from the beginning of the Lodge in 1803 to date were inside the fireproof safe cabinet and, although somewhat damaged, were not irreparably ruined. The action of the heat shrunk the sheep-skin warrant, text matter and all, so that now a magnifying glass is required to decipher all the wording.
During the days of World War I and for a year or two afterward while Camp Dix was largely populated with soldiers, our Lodge was engaged in performing degree work upon candidates from other jurisdictions. For a considerable amount of initiatory work done for Preston Lodge No.281. of Louisville, Kentucky in 1921 and 1922, that Lodge expressed its appreciation through Captain George E. Kelsch who presented us on behalf of his Lodge with a handsome silver water set consisting of pitcher, tray and cup. This also escaped destruction in the Temple fire, being in the safe at the time.
Many of our own members were in the service with the A.E.F. during World War I, and one lost his life. Bro. Howard M. Karg was killed in action in France, November 05, 1918, just six days before the singing of the Armistice.
Shortly after the Main Street Temple Fire members and friends of the Lodge began to present us with useful gifts. One of the first received was the presentation of the winding stairway now used in the Fellowcraft Degree which was made and presented by Wor. Bro. John C. Dantz. On June 21, 1926 the committee reported the purchase for $6,500.00 of the Bullock property on Garden Street where our Lodge now stands.
The trustees of the Masonic Association, who also constituted the building committee, were as follows: P.M. Willard F. Lippincott; B. Frank Clayberger, Jr.; Clarence H. Polhemus; Francis O. Durand; George M. Sleeper; Wm. J. Haines; John C. Gillam; A. Garfield Brown; and Brothers Wm. T. Conrow; Morris Kl. Perinchief; Walter I. Dill; Charles LaTour; Clifton E. Lord; J. Frank Scattergood and Fred A. Lippincott.
October 22, 1929 found the Garden Street lot free of encumbrances, and a systematic canvass of the Lodge membership determined to raise $20,00.00 and proceed with construction.
Wor. Bro. Caleb S. Ridgeway of Lumberton, the oldest living Past Master of the Lodge at that time, made an unsolicited offer to contribute $10,000.00 if the other members of the Lodge would match it with a like sum. The work of the solicitors soon resulted in additional pledges secured totaling over $11,000.00. June 19, 1930 a tentative plan for the new Temple was presented by J. Fletcher Street of Philadelphia and Beverly and accepted by the building committee. Mr. Street was engaged as the architect.
The corner-stone of the new Masonic Temple in Mount Holly Lodge was laid on Saturday afternoon, October 11, 1930 by M.W. Grand Master Donald J. Sargeant. The first meeting in the new Temple was held December 15, 1930 with Worshipful Master Samuel T. Bakley occupying the East. Bro. William S. Fryer, Jr., was elected and installed Worshipful Master for the ensuing Masonic year the same evening. The cost of the new Temple is broken down as follows: Land $6,500.00; Contract price of Temple $22,056.00; Architect Fee $11,200.00; Extra Work by Contractor $1,630.00; furnishings $6,96.85, for a total cost of $37,782.85. The carpet on the Lodge Room floor was donated by Mount Holly Chapter No.147, O.E.S. at a cost of about $1,000.00 and the lounge room on the first floor was furnished by Mount Holly Forest NO.3, T.C.L.
The first degree work in the new Temple was held January 19, 1931 when the Fellow Craft Degree was conferred on Bros. Roscoe Gale, Harry Goldy and Stanley Stewart.
The beautiful portrait of "George Washington the Mason" hanging over the East was presented by Wor. Bros. A. Garfield Brown and William J. Haines on November 21, 1932 in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the birth of the Father of Our Country.
According to the minutes of March 18, 1935 the lodge room was practically filled to overflowing when about 250 Masons assembled to witness the Master Mason degree by Wor. Bro. Curlis W. Nutt. December 16, 1935. Wor. Bro. Nutt presented the Lodge with the Marshal's Baton now in use. The project of procuring pictures of all of our past masters was conceived by Wor. Bros. Curlis Nutt and A. Garfield Brown, assisted by Wor. Bros. Stockton, Karg and Marriott Haines.
Wor. Bro. Marriott Haines was the first Mason raised in the new Temple to become Worshipful Master. During his term the Sapp property next to the Temple was acquired from the Township at a cost of $500.00 and razed, enhancing the beauty of our property. The fire escape was also installed during 1938 with a substantial portion of the cost being donated by the ladies of the O.E.S.
The beautiful American Flag in the East was presented to the Lodge by Wor. Bro. Harold E. Wright, through R.W. Lewis M. Parker, District Deputy in 1939. The oil painting of Most Worshipful Josiah W. Ewan, P.G.M., which can be seen hanging over the west was painted by Wor. Bro. George A. Lippincott and presented to the Lodge on October 21, 1940.
On September 24, 1943, this Lodge held a celebration to burn the mortgage on this Temple, which honor was granted to Bro. Walter I. Dill who was assisted in the ceremony by M.W.G.M. Leo H. Carpenter. Bro. Dill was elected Treasurer of this Lodge December 03, 1900 and continued to serve as such until he died October 23, 1953 for a span of 53 years less two months in office. No other elected officer in the entire history of Mount Holly Lodge has served so long a period.
On March 19, 1945, a deed of trust was made by Wor. Bro. J. Wilmer Lundy setting up the "Joseph W. and J. Wilmer Lundy Memorial", with the income from the fund to be used in payment of dues of worthy delinquent members, the said fund to become operative upon his death. Wor. Bro. Lundy received his 75-year pin June 28, 1965 by M.W. Walter W. Smith, Grand Master assisted by M.W. William Davies, P.G.M. Wor. Bro. Lundy died December 22, 1966 and was accorded graveside services at the Rancocas Cemetery.
What was probably the largest meeting ever held in this Temple occurred on March 15, 1948 when the Master Mason Degree was exemplified with the assistance of the Scottish Masonic Group of Trenton led by Bro. Allen Harvie, President. There were 275 present and filled the room to the point where the officers had difficulty in carrying out their respective duties.
Several of our brethren have served Grand Lodge in appointed positions down through the years. Wor. Bro. James Cushman, Grand Lecturer; Wor. Bor. John W. Bodine, Grand Sword Bearer; R.W. Herman Bading, District Deputy Grand Master; R.W. John C. Gillam, R.W. A. Garfield Brown, and R.W. Stacy B. Stockton served as Grand Chaplains.
Many pieces of equipment have been added to our present Temple after it's dedication including a stereo system, a Reception Desk, Trophy Case and most recently two show cases. The ladies of the Eastern Star also purchased a new piano for the Lodge Room. The ladies have also been responsible for most of the kitchen equipment.
The ballot box now in use, was presented to our Lodge by Brother Bradford S. Herbert in 1925. It was made by Brother George Leach, a member of Solomon's Lodge No.1, Savannah, Georgia, who has resided in Mount Holly for several years. The piece of tinted glass in the top came from one of the windows of the old St. Barnabas Episcopal Church that stood on Washington Street where Brother Arthur Lord's dental office is now located. It was donated by Mr. Stacy Shinn, father of Thomas Shinn, a former member of this Lodge. The latch was donated by Wor. Brother A. Garfield Brown.
Brother George Mulsbury of Trenton No.5 donated the wood from which our officer's gavels were made. It was a piece of Osage Orange wood over 100 years old, and was sawed out by Mr. William D. Herbert, father of Brother Bradford S. Herbert. The gavels were finished by Brother Andrew Taylor and presented by Brother Herbert.
The cut used to emboss our trestleboards was donated by Ill. Bro. John J. Buswell. It was designed by a member of LaFayette Lodge in Philadelphia, of which his brother Howard Buswell was a Past Master. It consists of a sprig of Holly over a mountain plus the name and number of our Lodge. It literally depicts a mountain of holly. The face of our trestleboard is considered one of the most attractive in the grand jurisdiction, for which we owe Ill. Bro. Buswell a vote of heartfelt thanks.
The lodge is preparing to install a chairlift to assure our physically challenged members access to the second floor lodge room. This lift is made possible by dedicated funds donated by Worshipful Brother Harold B. Johnson, (W.M. - 2000) and his wife Nancy Johnson, Past Worthy Matron (2001), Mount Holly Chapter #147, Order of the Eastern Star of New Jersey.
The Mount Holly Chapter #147, O.E.S., Tall Cedars of Lebanon, Forest #3, Frederick T. Meyer Council #189, Allied Masonic Degrees, and the South Jersey Central International Police Square Club Inc., Chapter #2, and the Yalomed Grotto all hold their meetings in our Mount Holly Lodge.
Past Masters of Mount Holly Lodge who have held Grand Lodge offices since 1987 include: R.W. John G. Brenner, Past Grand Chaplain, R.W. Paul D. Loveland, Jr., Past District Deputy Grand Master and presently a Masonic Charity Foundation Trustee, R.W. John B. Kulik, Past Grand Chaplain, & R.W. Charles W. Gray, Grand Chaplain, 2003-2004.
As we conclude our 200th year we see a resurgence of interest in the fraternity which may, in part, be a result of the tragic events of September 11, 2001. Certainly patriotism and a renewed faith in the merits of a trust in the mercy of the Grand Architect of the Universe are increasing and we give our thanks to him and we pray that this promising trend will continue for the next 200 years and that our Great Fraternity will continue to grow and continue to prosper.