Monday, December 31, 2007

Ohio Masons Converge On Marietta For Bicentennial

Dig back in your American Masonic history sources and you'll find the stories about the famed American Union Lodge. First formed in Massachusetts in 1776, American Union Lodge functioned as a military lodge for seven years. The lodge quickly moved to New York, where it was granted permission to meet under the name of Military Union No. 1. General Washington attended at least three of its meetings, but a commonly circulated rumor that general Lafayette became a Mason in AUL is, however, false. Nevertheless, several of Washington's generals did become Masons in American Union: most notably, Otho Williams, Rufus Putnam, and Samuel A. Parsons. And while I'm looking this up, it should be noted that while not "all" of Washington's generals were masons, as is often claimed by anti-Masons and irrationally exuberant brethren alike, out of 74 men who were commissioned as Generals in the U.S. Continental Army between 1775 and 1783, 33 of them were Freemasons – nearly half. (the indefatigable Paul M. Bessel lists them).

The lodge was officially reorganized in 1790 in Marietta, Ohio at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. American Union Lodge No. 1 was the first lodge in the Northwest Territory, and the first lodge of what would become the Grand Lodge of Ohio.

It was the members of this lodge who fleetingly attempted to encourage George Washington to become the General Grand Master for a national Grand Lodge of the United States when the war ended. When washington turned them down, the brief movement for such a nationwide governing body fizzled. York Rite enthusiasts should note that American Union's well-preserved records indicate that it was among the earliest US lodges to regularly confer the Past Master, Mark Master, Most Excellent Master and Royal Arch "steps", beginning in 1792.

Ohio became a state in 1803, and by then there were lodges established in Marietta, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, Worthington, Warren and Zanesville. American Union Lodge became lodge #1 when the Grand Lodge of Ohio was formed in 1808, at a convention in Chillicothe (the capital at that time) on January 4th.

To commemorate the bicentennial of the formation of the GL of Ohio and the premiere status of American Union as Ohio's first Masonic lodge, more than 350 Masons will converge on Marietta this Friday to kick off the year.

The best of wishes to the brethren of American Union Lodge and the GL of Ohio during this auspicious year.

On a personal note, I briefly lived on a farm in rural Marietta many, many moons ago, when dinosaurs ruled the earth and I was but a mere prat of about 5. My only memory of the town was a visit to the riverboat Rhododendron, then used as a floating dinner theater, which I have just discovered was moved to Clinton, Iowa in 1966. No longer floating, but still a theater. So it goes.

1 comment:

Chris said...

It's funny that you mentioned this now as WB Danny Vinson of my lodge (Norwood-Winton-Carthage #576) just did a presentation on the events leading up to the formation of the GL of OH in a table lodge last Friday. Since you are so well-read I am sure you have run across this book, but for others I will mention that his primary source for his paper/talk was a book titled "Frontier Cornerstone" which you can find through Amazon.

Being that this year is the bicentennial for freemasonry in OH, it is a good time to reflect on how we got to where we are. Hopefully I will be able to make it Columbus this summer for the festivities and to check out the various historical exhibits being brought in. I don't have the dates handy.

Finally, any brother that will be in Cincinnati is welcome to come visit us. Check our trestle board on the website at www.nwc576.org.

- Chris Thomas, S.D.