The Pride of the Fraternity

The Pride of the Fraternity

MASONIC HISTORY

The Pride of the Fraternity

“A distressed, worthy brother and his widow must be comforted and guarded so long as the obligation, which makes us Masons, is cherished and remembered.”

Photo: Masonic Home of Utica

M.W. James Ten Eyck, Grand Master, bellowed those eloquent words on June 7, 1892, during the Grand Lodge of New York’s Annual Communication, and went on to regard the new Masonic Home of Utica as “the Pride of the Fraternity.”

Nearly 181 years ago, the Grand Lodge of the State of New York began the illustrious and monumental project of erecting a home for ailing Masons, their widows, and orphans. In 1842, a building fund was started, with a $1 subscription, and paid at the time by Grand Tiler Greenfield Pote, after the project had been commented on by Grand Secretary James Herring. This dream finally became a reality a year later, on June 8, 1843, when 100 Masons signed a petition for the purpose of founding the asylum.

Committees were formed and, by 1851, a recommendation was made to purchase property in Utica because it was located in the “center of the state,” and would be most central for New York Masons. The site was to be placed on “Utica driving park,” which had been used for State Fairs, and sprawled across 230 acres.

Several audacious fundraisers were launched, specifically in 1887, led by the Ladies Masonic Fair Association. The event held in New York City netted $76,000 and helped contribute to the estimated $175,000 needed to begin building the site. Grand Lodge added a $3 per capita assessment in 1889 to help meet the financial needs for the Masonic Home.

On May 21, 1891, the cornerstone, which was hewn of Quincy granite and weighed 1,750 pounds, was laid by M.W. John W. Vrooman, Grand Master, who wielded a magnificent silver trowel during the compelling ceremonies, as brass bands afterward serenaded throngs of spectators, including 6,734 Masons.

Renaissance architecture was chosen for the design, and the material used consisted of quarry-faced stone, with trimmings of brownstone, and Philadelphia front brick for the upper stories. The woodwork was of oak, ash, and white pine. The main center building was for the administrative offices, while the wings were devoted to rooms for patients. The basement contained two large swimming pools, playrooms for children, and dormitories for the workers. The first story had offices, and staterooms, and the second story provided additional dormitories for resident staff, and children. The third floor offered lavish offices and common rooms, and the fourth story was used as an infirmary, subdivided into five rooms for men, women, boys, girls, and nurses.

The City of Utica graciously contributed $30,000 toward the project, and the cost of the home upon completion was roughly $182,000.

On October 5, 1892, the Masonic Home was dedicated by M.W. Ten Eyck and the site officially was opened. “The doors of the home [have] swung wide with true Masonic hospitality to the Brethren of the Craft and their widows, who have needed a friendly and kindly environment in which to wait for life’s sunset, and to the orphans, who in youth needed the protection of affection and incentive for high living and true citizenship,” exclaimed Ten Eyck. “[May] God grant never to close as long as the human heart beats in sympathy with our Brothers’ woes.” Upwards of 8,524 Masons, donning the white lambskin, proudly marched six miles for a grand parade from Bagg’s Hotel to the new Masonic Home. Dignitaries were on horseback, others in carriages, and George Washington’s Bible illuminated the large procession.

On October 5, 1892, the Masonic Home was dedicated by M.W. Ten Eyck and the site officially was opened. “The doors of the home [have] swung wide with true Masonic hospitality to the Brethren of the Craft and their widows, who have needed a friendly and kindly environment in which to wait for life’s sunset, and to the orphans, who in youth needed the protection of affection and incentive for high living and true citizenship,” exclaimed Ten Eyck. “[May] God grant never to close as long as the human heart beats in sympathy with our Brothers’ woes.” Upwards of 8,524 Masons, donning the white lambskin, proudly marched six miles for a grand parade from Bagg’s Hotel to the new Masonic Home. Dignitaries were on horseback, others in carriages, and George Washington’s Bible illuminated the large procession.

The following year, M.W. Jesse B. Anthony, Past Grand Master, was installed as Superintendent, and the first Mason to be received as a resident was Brother James Borden of Greenwich Lodge 467.

During its early years, the Masonic Home offered large rooms that accommodated from two to six people each. The area also featured impressive reading rooms, a billiard hall, a smoking and lounging room, a sun parlor, and an on-site hospital. The site also included a school for kindergarten through fifth grade, and offered a playground and other amenities for children.

From 1892 to 1911, the site cared for 191 children, 892 adults, and operated with a staff of seventy. Rising hour was 6:30 a.m., and lights out was 10 p.m.

Today, the Masonic Home is named the Masonic Care Community, and is a first-class facility that serves 500 people on a majestic 400-acre campus. The mission continues to “support, nurture, and educate” those in need. The center does this by “providing exceptional care and services with compassion and pride guided by the Masonic Principles of brotherly love, relief, truth, and integrity.”

Interesting Facts: 

  • The site at one time bolstered an impressive farm: 104 cows, seventy-five pigs, sixty sheep, and plenty of chickens.
  • At least twenty-three boys who grew up at the Masonic Home valiantly served their country during World War I. Three were wounded in battle.
  • During the early 1920s, the cost of maintenance averaged $200,000 annually.
  • The Masonic Home once used more than 3,000 tons of coal a year.
  • Fifty barrels of flour were once used per month.
  • Upwards of 25,000 visitors came every year.

Sources: 

Lang, O., History of Freemasonry in the State of New York, Grand Lodge of New York, 1922.

Greene, N., History of the Mohawk Valley: Gateway to the West 1614-1925, New York State Masonic Home at Utica, 1925.

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, 1892.

The Illustrated American, June 13, 1891.

The Masonic Home, The Trustees of the Masonic Home and Asylum Fund, 1911.

By W. Bro. Kyle A. Williams

Bro. Williams, a collector of New York Masonic history, is Worshipful Master of Wallkill Lodge 627 in Walden, New York, where he also is lodge Historian.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

A Stinging Reminder of the Virtue of Industry

A Stinging Reminder of the Virtue of Industry

MASONIC LIFE

A Stinging Reminder of the Virtue of Industry

Cultures around the world and across eons have recognized the sacred nature of the honeybee. To the Cherokee, the bee represents the reward of patience, and its sting is the penalty for greed. The Celts and the Greeks alike believed bees had supernatural powers and that they could travel between worlds. The Bible mentions honey numerous times, always relating to purity or plenty. In Freemasonry, the Beehive represents the work of the Master Mason and the industry of our lodges, as it inculcates team work and dedication as means toward shared security and prosperity.

A recent incident, as I was being installed as Senior Warden of Sigma Council Princes of Jerusalem at the Valley of Schenectady, drew my attention to the industrious nature of the bee and its important message to the brothers of our great fraternity.

Photo: “Valley of Schenectady installation group photo “

 

It was a warm evening, and Beukendaal Lodge 915’s building was buzzing with brothers and their families who gathered to celebrate the installation. Ill. David E. Barnes lined up the officers according to their line and rank. We walked out and stood at one end of the lodge as the proceedings began. I kept seeing something fluttering around the light above my head, but I ignored it, preoccupied with the importance of this moment to me and my brothers.

I wanted to be a great officer and make my fellow Sublime Princes proud, but my day job all too often makes it hard for me to be as involved as I’d like. In fact, I was exhausted, and my mind drifted back to my long day at work. Suddenly something landed on the back of my neck. I reached back and grabbed it. Ouch! I got stung by a honeybee! I was stunned for a moment, my hand throbbed in pain. I looked at the sting and thought man, what an incredibly bad time to get stung! I was glad I’m not allergic. I turned to the brother to my right and joked about it, saying I hope it wasn’t some sort of omen.

As the evening progressed, I continued to think about the sting. My friend, Paul Meher, Jr., 32° and Deputy Master of Sigma Lodge of Perfection, joked that maybe it followed me home from my work as a pest control service manager. The more I think about it, the more I believe it was a message from the Great Architect reminding me how Freemasons should be industrious, never sitting down while those around us are in need, especially when it is in our power to do so without injury to ourselves.

 

We must be as loyal as the worker bee is to the hive and its queen. We must impart our knowledge to the Entered Apprentice. If our individual lodges and our great fraternity are to thrive, we must perform our respective and many parts. Whether it be as small as checking on absent brothers, assisting an elder brother climb the stairs, helping to cover lodge expenses, volunteering to clean after an event, or serving as an officer, all labors contribute to a healthy hive for generations to come.

Photo: Bee hive at Masters Lodge 5 in Albany NY

Written by Bro. Russell W. Dickson

Bro. Dickson is the Senior Deacon in St. Patrick’s Lodge 4 and is at labor in Collabergh-Radium 859, both in New York. He is a Royal Arch Mason in Hiram Union Chapter 53, and is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason at the Valley of Schenectady, where he serves as Senior Warden of Sigma Council Princes of Jerusalem. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in journalism from the State University of New York at Albany, and has been a freelance journalist for more than twenty-five years. His work has been published internationally, in multiple languages, by both online and print news outlets.

Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial

Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial

MASONIC HISTORY

FRIEND TO FRIEND MASONIC MEMORIAL

MEET BRO. Ronald F. “Ron” Tunison. The developer of the Friend to Friend Memorial

Outside of Independence Day, the first week of July brings another anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, the bloodiest single battle of the American Civil War. (Antietam was the deadliest one-day battle in American history). Masons often point to the “Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial” to highlight the strong commitment Masonic brothers have to each other.

Photo: “Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial”

The idea of the memorial was the brainchild of Brother Sheldon Munn, a Brother of Lafayette Lodge No 194 in Pennsylvania and Licensed Battlefield Tour guide and his friend Dr John Schwartz of Good Samaritan Lodge No 336. With over 1,000 memorials on the battlefield, but none about the strong bonds of brotherhood and friendship. They convinced the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to work with the National Park Service to jointly develop a memorial at Gettysburg to the Freemasons of the Union and the Confederacy that their unique bonds of friendship which enabled them to remain a brotherhood undivided even as they fought in a divided nation, faithfully supporting their respective governments.

Note: The memorial depicts Union Army Captain Henry H. Bingham assisting the severely wounded Confederate Brigadier General Lewis Armistead after Pickett’s Charge.

A public/private development of such a memorial had never been done. The cemetery Annex was an area the Park Service had long wanted to develop but had not been able to get funding. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania agreed to help with the general development of the Annex, and the Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial. The final location was one that was recommended by Jose Aguilar Cisneros, the Superintendent of the Gettysburg National Military Park. The general idea was to show the friendship between Confederate General Lewis Addison Armistead and Union General Winfield Scott Hancock. Since the two had been friends since childhood, but they did not meet on the battlefield, it was suggested that the documented incident of Captain Henry Bingham providing comfort to a dying Armistead shortly after Pickett’s Charge on July 3, 1861, by the park’s historian, Kathleen Harrison.

Bro. Maynard Edwards, 32°, KCCH, details the history behind the “Friend to Friend Memorial.”

The concept was approved at the National Park Service in Washington and noted historical artist Bro. Ron Tunison was selected to develop the monument. At that time, Tunison lived in the Catskills of New York. Tunison was intrigued by the concepts of the fraternity and joined his local lodge, Mountain Lodge No 529 in Windham, New York The Sculpture was cast in the Tallix Foundry, then in Beacon, New York — now part of the Urban Art Projects in Rock Tavern, New York. Sadly, Bro. Tunison passed away in October 2013 at the age of 66.

Photo: Ronald F. “Ron” Tunison, 1946-2013

Besides Friend to Friend Masonic Memorial, Bro. Tunison was an internationally acclaimed sculptor of nine heroic bronze monuments: “General W. Crawford,” near Little Round Top on the Gettysburg, Pennsylvania National Battlefield, the bas-relief “Delaware State Memorial” on Tanneytown Road, and “The Gettysburg Civil War Women’s Memorial” at Evergreen Cemetery. On the Antietam Maryland National Battlefield is Tunison’s “Irish Brigade Monument.” “The Bivouac.” is at the entrance to the Civil War Soldier’s Museum at Pamplin Historical Park near Petersburg, Virginia. “The Delaware Continentals” heroic size bronze monument of three advancing Revolutionary War soldiers stands atop a twenty-five-foot granite pedestal in front of Legislative Hall at Dover, Delaware. At Ringgold Gap in Atlanta, Georgia is Ron’s life-size General Patrick Cleburne statue.
Written by: Bro. Harry Williams Bro. Williams was raised in 1993 and is a member of three symbolic lodges in New York – Geneva-Ark No. 33, Warren No. 32, and Adonai No. 718. He helped to consolidate the Columbia, Dutchess and Greene-Ulster District into the Majestic Mid-Hudson District and bring about a new, revitalized district.
Samuel Lloyd Kinsey

Rites, Rituals, and the Universal Journey to Manhood

Rites, Rituals, and the Universal Journey to Manhood

MASONIC EDUCATION

Rites, Rituals, and the Universal Journey to Manhood

The following is the first of a two-part essay. Part II will discuss Native Americans and Indigenous Australians.

Ancient civilizations around the world had intricate rites of passage and initiations to propel their males from boyhood to adulthood. These emphasized transformation, mentorship, and the sacred. Freemasonry, a modern fraternity, with roots in the seventeenth century, echoes these ancient practices with its own initiation rituals. They appear to be connected across time, highlighting the universal and enduring human need for structured pathways to mark the transition to manhood, which some argue is absent from today’s social constructs.

There are four core themes from four civilizations we can examine.

Separation, Transition, and Incorporation

Ancient Greece and the Eleusinian Mysteries

(circa 1600 BCE to the 4th century CE)

The Eleusinian Mysteries were among ancient Greece’s most significant and secretive spiritual traditions. Centered in the town of Eleusis, these were much more than rituals; they comprised a cornerstone of spiritual life, deeply rooted in the myths of the gods. Rich with themes of death, rebirth, and the life cycle, they provided the framework for initiation rites that promised profound spiritual renewal and insights.

The scale of the Eleusinian Mysteries and their impact on ancient Greece were immense. It is estimated that, at any given time, thousands of initiates were part of this sacred tradition, encompassing a wide cross-section of society. From the humble farmer to the most esteemed philosopher, participants were drawn to Eleusis by the promise of encountering the divine and gaining knowledge that was believed to hold the power to transform their lives. Given the mysteries’ long span, from approximately 1600 BCE to the 4th century CE, it is likely that a significant portion of the Greek populace, spanning generations, had either some awareness of, or direct involvement, in these rites. Despite the mysteries’ secrecy, the general reverence for and curiosity about the mysteries permeated the culture, contributing to their central role in the spiritual and social fabric of the time.

Similar to modern Freemasonry, the Eleusinian Mysteries functioned as an ancient secret society, where initiation marked a pivotal transition in an individual’s life. Both traditions share a graded structure of initiation, imparting knowledge in stages, coupled with a strict code of secrecy regarding their inner workings and wisdom. This framework reveals a timeless human fascination with secretive societies that promise not just deeper knowledge and community, but a connection to something beyond the ordinary—a connection that elevates the individual and collective experience of the sacred.

The Eleusinian Mysteries’ broad appeal and the sheer number of participants reflect the innate human need for rituals that mark life’s transitions. These ancient rites provided a structured pathway to spiritual growth, echoing the human journey through life, death, and rebirth. The mysteries’ lasting influence and the widespread awareness among the ancient Greeks of their existence reflect the deep-seated desire for connection to the divine and the cosmos, a desire that continues to find expression in modern traditions like Freemasonry.

Initiating in Sacred Spaces

Ancient Egypt

(circa 3100 BCE to the 4th century CE)

In Ancient Egypt, sacred spaces for initiation rites were integral to the cultural and spiritual life of the society. These spaces, often majestic temples, were far more than architectural achievements; they were central to Egyptian spiritual practices, providing a venue for significant transformational processes. The Egyptians believed that for an initiation rite to be fully effective, it needed to be held in a space that was both physically and spiritually separate from everyday life.

The need for these sacred spaces arose from the Egyptians’ deep connections to their deities and the afterlife. Temples were viewed as earthly residences of the gods, serving as gateways between the human and divine realms—where heaven and earth intersected. This perception made temples the perfect settings for initiation rites aimed at elevating individuals from mundane existence to a heightened spiritual awareness. These rites typically featured ceremonies symbolizing death and rebirth, reflecting the journey of the soul through the afterlife, a core concept in their theology.

The initiation rites were crucial not only for preparing initiates for their roles in society, but also for their spiritual journeys after death. This dual focus on the temporal and the eternal highlighted the critical role of sacred spaces in these rites. Temples provided a controlled environment where metaphysical energies and divine presence were palpable, aiding the transformative experience of the initiate.

The practice of utilizing sacred spaces for initiation rites dates to the very beginning of Egyptian civilization, around 3100 BCE with the First Dynasty. Over the millennia, these practices evolved, but always maintained the importance of sacred spaces in achieving spiritual transformation.

Drawing a parallel to this, Masonic lodges today are considered sacred retreats where initiations and rituals of gradual revelation are conducted. These lodges are deliberately arranged with symbols and tools that reflect Masonic teachings, creating an atmosphere that supports the initiate’s symbolic death and rebirth. The practice of conducting rites in secret or in consecrated spaces is not just a nod to tradition, but is a recognition of the need for environments that are removed from the concerns and employments of the world, enhancing the depth and impact of the transformative processes.

Freemasonry, like the ancient Egyptian practices, operates in these consecrated spaces to maintain a level of confidentiality and sanctity. This secrecy is not just for tradition, but serves to deepen the bond among members and enhance the personal and communal experience of the spiritual and moral lessons imparted during the rites. The use of such spaces reflects a universal understanding of the importance of special environments in facilitating profound personal and community transformations, echoing through centuries of human spiritual practice.

Written By Bro. Christopher Ramcharran.

Bro. Ramcharran is the Junior Warden of Cornucopia Lodge 563 in Queens, New York.

Jason Short
An Apprentice’s Twenty-year Journey to the Sublime Degree

An Apprentice’s Twenty-year Journey to the Sublime Degree

MASONIC LIFE

AN APPRENTICE’S TWENTY-YEAR JOURNEY

TO THE SUBLIME DEGREE

I am often asked what happened during the twenty years between my being made an Entered Apprentice and being raised a Master Mason. A more interesting story is why I joined and what brought me back. It was as simple as one brother reaching out to another.

It was a brisk October evening in 2002. I nervously put on my Sears & Roebuck suit and kissed my wife goodbye. She told me she was proud of me as I closed the door to our little Verplank apartment and drove off. A little while later, I parked in front of this beautiful old building. It was Collabergh-Radium Lodge 859. I barely knew a soul inside and wondered what was going to happen within, as I looked at the Square and Compasses on its façade. I walked up the front steps as a cool wind bristled through the trees and a few leaves spiraled down the sidewalk. I opened the door and entered and was immediately greeted by warm smiling faces that put my mind at ease. Then I was seated in the room adjoining the lodge room, was prepared in the manner of an Entered Apprentice, and was about to go forward as all brethren who have gone this way before.

But I never thought it would take twenty years to complete my journey from Entered Apprentice to Master Mason.

I grew up hearing about the legacy of Freemasonry in my family history. My mother is a very proud Eastern Star, as was my grandmother. I was told my grandfather was a Mason, although he never spoke about it (maybe because I was too young to join before he died). Then there was Uncle Walter, who also was a Mason. I often heard stories about what a good man he was.
He was in a “secret society” of great men, I was told. I often wondered what kind of magical things these men were up to in their lodges. My grandparents owned a beautiful old Victorian home in Bedford Hills, New York, where I’d spent a lot of time growing up. My grandfather was a structural engineer retired from the New York Central Railroad. I loved to explore my grandparents’ property.

My favorite place was their attic with all the magical items within. One day, something caught my eye. A beam of light shining through a pane of wavy glass in the attic window illuminating a wood box in the corner. It was like something out of The Chronicles of Narnia. I walked over and blew the dust off the lid, revealing a Square and Compasses. When I opened it, I found my great grandfather’s constable badge, some arrow heads, a hat, a white apron, a Masonic Bible, and an old poster. Across the top was written “The Steps of Freemasonry.” I was awestruck! What were the degrees listed on this poster? Who were these great people? I had to join them one day. Years later, while studying at the University at Albany, the Craft called to me again. I spent some time studying famous Freemasons, like George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and other Founding Fathers.

I graduated UAlbany in 1999; married my beautiful girlfriend, Hana; and we had our son, William. I admired my father-in-law, he was a Freemason in the Czech Republic, so I decided to give it a try. I printed out a petition, mailed it, and waited for a response. A short time later I completed my first degree.

After my initiation, I entered the dining room and was warmly received by my new brothers. They gave me a Bible, which they all signed, and my apron. The Three Tenets of Freemasonry, they explained, are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. It would take me twenty years to fully understand this. Soon after receiving the degree, the realities of life began to hit hard. I was a first-time father and a husband eager to make my way in the world. My wife couldn’t work because she didn’t have a Green Card, and my son was a toddler. They were dependent on me for everything. I had to do something drastic to improve our situation, so we moved upstate to Johnstown in hope of a better life. I took a job to have a steady income between writing gigs, and the years rolled on.

I thought about Freemasonry often. The impact of leaving the brotherhood weighed heavy on my mind. I longed to return, but didn’t know how, didn’t know whom to ask, didn’t know how they would respond to me. My life was good, and I wasn’t working so many hours anymore. My son is now grown. I put him and my wife through college. They are both very successful now. Something was missing though.

It appears the Great Architect wasn’t done with me, as fate and circumstance intervened in 2021.
Why did I come back after twenty years? Because of one brother reaching out to another. Bro. Paul Meher is a member at St Patrick’s Lodge 4. Serendipitously, our kids were dating and that led to us meeting. He invited my family to dine with his, and the rest is history.

We began to talk. I told him my situation and he convinced me to give Freemasonry another shot. It was then that I met the greatest bunch of guys I’ve ever known, and they all worked together to bring me into the fold.

The brothers at St. Patrick’s Lodge in Johnstown helped me restart the journey that I had begun so long ago one cold autumn night in 2002 in the hopes becoming a better man. They taught me that through service I can build meaningful relationships both within and without the lodge with my Masonic brothers. They passed me to the Degree of Fellow Craft, and raised me to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason after twenty years! It has been an incredible journey so far, with the brothers of my lodge and the area concordant bodies, and it has only just begun. In the words of my friend and brother, Ill. Peter J Samiec, “Freemasonry is a wonderful experience. Enjoy the journey!” And I have and will continue to do so.

By Bro. Russell W. Dickson

Bro. Dickson is the Senior Deacon in St. Patrick’s Lodge 4 and remains at labor in Collabergh-Radium 859, both in New York. He is a Royal Arch Mason in Hiram Union Chapter 53, and is a 32° Scottish Rite Mason at the Valley of Schenectady, where he serves as Senior Warden of Sigma Council Princes of Jerusalem. He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in journalism from the State University of New York at Albany, and has been a freelance journalist for more than twenty-five years. His work has been published internationally, in multiple languages, by both online and print news outlets.

Jason Short