History of Oriental Lodge

Worshipful1 Paul M. Chase
[Entered in the Abstract of Proceedings of The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts for 1966 (209–211)]2

Oriental Lodge first came into being by virtue of a special dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Masons of Massachusetts dated July 16, 1866.

The following Edgartown men presented the petition for this dispensation to the Grand Lodge: John Pierce, Grafton N. Collins, James Madison Coombs, Jr., Charles M. Teller, John O. Norton, Josiah C. Pease, Tristram R. Holley, William S. Lewis, Joseph W. Donaldson, Frederick J. Foreman, Enoch C. Cornell, Jeremiah Pease, S. W. Crosby, Thomas M. Peakes, Shubal H. Norton, Leroy S. Lewis, Ichabod Norton, David J. Chadwick, Samuel H. Andrews and C. W. Pease.

These men were recommended as Master Masons in good standing by the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Martha's Vineyard Lodge of Tisbury, and the petition was countersigned and approved by the District Deputy Grand Master of the Seventh Masonic District.

This dispensation, according to the phrasing of the times, authorized and empowered our trusty and well beloved brethren to form and open a lodge after the manner of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons and therein to admit and make Freemasons according to the ancient custom and not otherwise.

This dispensation was to continue in full force until the regular quarterly communication of Grand Lodge to be held in the City of Boston in the month of June in the year 1867.

The Most Worshipful Charles C. Dame, Grand Master, appointed Brother John Pierce to be the first Master of Oriental Lodge.

John Pierce was a doctor and a man of high standing in the community. He held several offices in the Massachusetts medical society and was for eight years in charge of the Marine Hospital on Martha's Vineyard. He was an active member and officer in the Edgartown Methodist Church, a man well qualified to be the first Master of Oriental Lodge.

In this same dispensation Brother Grafton N. Collins was appointed the first Senior Warden of Oriental Lodge. Brother Collins was a former sea-captain and was once master of the whale ship Walter Scott. History tells us he was short of stature and stout, a wealthy man and a power in the community. The Junior Warden appointed by this dispensation was Brother James Madison Coombs, Jr. Brother Coombs was Editor and Proprietor of the Vineyard Gazette, the Island newspaper.

The first lodge room of Oriental Lodge was over the store of a Mr. Frederick E. Terrill on North Water Street. The hall was dedicated on July 8, 1867, and the officers of Oriental were installed on that same date by the Grand Master and other members of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. The following members of Grand Lodge were present for the purpose of installing the officers of Oriental Lodge:

M.W. Charles C. Dame  
  Grand Master
R.W. Charles W. Moore  
  Deputy Grand Master
R.W. John McClellan  
  Senior Grand Warden
R.W. Edward Stearns  
  Junior Grand Warden
Wor. William D. Stratton  
  Grand Marshall
Wor. Bro. Rev. J. W. Dadman  
  Grand Chaplain
Wor. Eben V. Gay  
  Grand Tyler


Members of Martha's Vineyard Lodge of Tisbury were present by invitation.

The following account of the ceremonies is from the pages of the Vineyard Gazette of July 12, 1867:

“After the dedication of the hall, the members of the several lodges, decorated with the badges of the order, formed a procession and marched to the Methodist Meeting House. A large crowd of people stood outside the building patiently awaiting the arrival of the procession.

“When at last the wished-for time arrived a rush was made for seats and the house was filled in a very few minutes.

“The Grand Chaplain opened the exercises with an appropriate prayer after which a song was sung by the Fraternity to the tune of Auld Lang Syne.”

The following officers were installed by the Grand Master in due form.

  John Pierce
Senior Warden  
  Grafton N. Collins
Junior Warden  
  James M. Coombs, Jr.
  S. W. Crosby
  William S. Lewis
  Jerimiah Pease and Joseph W. Donaldson
  T. R. Holley and Thomas M. Peakes
  Enoch C. Cornell

The members of the several lodges by invitation of Oriental Lodge then marched to the Town Hall to partake, in company of many invited ladies and other friends, of a splendid collation. After satisfying the inner man (and woman too) several speeches were made.

The Vineyard Gazette of that day concludes with the following paragraph:

“It was a day long to be remembered by the people of our usually quiet village and which will tend to make them regard Masonry with increased respect and esteem.”

This then was the beginning of Oriental Lodge. Since that day, [as of this writing in 1966,] fifty-four men have followed in the footsteps of John Pierce as Master of Oriental Lodge: lawyers, farmers, bankers, carpenters, clerks, workmen, judges, sea-captains, men of all walks of life.

All have followed the tenets of their profession as Masons in their own way and this lodge has grown from the room over Mr. Terrill's store to the beautiful lodge room we meet in today.

And now one hundred years later we are grateful for the vision of those twenty masons who signed that original petition and hope that the people of our town will continue to regard Masonry as the Gazette of a century ago reported: “with increased respect and esteem.”


1. Subsequently Right Worshipful Paul M. Chase.

2. There is an earlier draft history in the file for Oriental-Martha's Vineyard Lodge in the Library at Grand Lodge, together with a letter of July 21 1971 from Whitfield W. Johnson to Robert P. Beach alluding to a “delicate situation” in connection with it. This draft was prepared by “the old secretary” but was felt to be inadequate in various ways, so a new one was written to be read in the lodge.

“However, the old gentleman's feelings were very badly hurt and he wanted me to take his history and bring it up to Grand Lodge to be printed in the Grand Lodge proceedings…. In all fairness I think the enclosed copy should go in the Oriental Lodge file, but with a warning that this is not the official history as published in the proceedings and that the facts should be carefully rechecked before too much reliance is placed on it. According to the Master I am sure that they are going to want to include this history in the lodge's records, and I guess this is their business.”

It is the present document that was officially accepted and published in the proceedings.

Created on ... May 01, 2008