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New Jersey in Freemasonry History

Freemasonry has a very rich history in the United States. New Jersey, being one of the original 13 colonies, has it's place in that history. Please read along to share in that history.

  • The first Freemason to come live in America was one John Skene. Born in Aberdeen, Scotland and raised to Master Mason at Aberdeen Lodge No. 1 in Scotland. When Brother Skene settled in the New World in 1682, he bought a plantation named "Peachfield" in Burlington, N.J. (then in what was called West Jersey Provice). He died in 1690 and was buried somewhere on the plantation. A grave marker was placed on the plantation and dedicated by the Grand Lodge in 1984.
  • The Premier Grand Lodge of England (PGLE) was established in 1717. Freemasonry became the rage with the arostocracy. Thus began the terms "operative " (actual working with stone) and "speculative" (using the stone working tools as metaphors for life lessons) took hold. However, the visiting stoneworkers who belonged to the Grand Lodges of Scotland and Ireland found going to PGLE meetings difficult, as they saw the lodges in London were straying from the "proper order" of the traditions. Therefore, these men created the Ancient Grand Lodge of England (AGLE) in 1754. Niether Grand Lodge would recognize the other, causing amost a century of bitterness between them. This is when the term "Ancients" (ALGE) and "Moderns" (PGLE) were created.
  • The first of the rival Grand Lodges of England to show an official presence in the colonies was the Premier Grand Lodge of England of 1717. The first is now known as the "Coxe" Provincial Grand Lodge for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania which lasted 2 years. Named after Daniel Coxe who was appointed Grand Master by the Duke of Norfolk in 1730. There is no record that he ever chartered a Lodge in his 2 years. Daniel Coxe died in 1739 and was buried in the chancel of St Mary's Church in Burlington, NJ. In 1958, the NJ Grand Lodge commissioned The Daniel Coxe Medal, an award given by the Grand Master to NJ State Masons who show great dedication to the Craft.
  • The Second Grand Master was appointed in 1732. Jonathan Belcher became the second Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania (thus ending the "Coxe" Grand Lodge). He served as Governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire from 1730 to 1741, Then becoming Governor of New Jersey from 1747 until 1757. He also assisted with the founding of the College of New Jersey, Which is now known as Princton University. He was born in London, England and is said to have been raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in 1704 making him one of the few Masons that can be traced back before the Grand Lodges existed.
  • Freemasonry in New Jersey was a confusing affair. With the inclusion of the Ancients (AGLE), Lodges were popping up under different Provincial Grand Lodge Charters. A few examples concern the birth of St John's Lodge No. 1 in Newark, NJ. It was granted it's charter in 1761 from the Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York. (Ancients) Which was supposed to still be part of the tri state Grand Lodge. The "Moderns" Provincial Grand Lodge of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania also began chartering Lodges within New Jersey as well. St John's Lodge No. 1 went dark during the Revoluntionary War, lending it's regalia to American Union Lodge No. 1 (a military Lodge attached to the Morristown Continental Regiment). However, there were also military lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland as well.
  • As the Revolutionary War approched, the PGLE was losing favor as the AGLE was growing in prominence. the "Moderns" were decidedly loyal to Britan where the Ancients in the Colonies were filled with Patriots. However, dispite the bitterness on the battlefield, this did not extend to Masonic obligations. A perfect example is the fate of the charter of Lodge No. 3 of Philadelphia. Through the City of Philadelphia changing hands from Continental to British control, the charter of that lodge changed hands and was formed into a new Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (via Grand Lodge of Ireland), it was renamed Lodge Unity No. 18 then, attached to the 17th British Regiment of Foot. the original charter was lost in the Battle of Princeton. It was then replaced by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, which fell into Continental hands at the Battle of Stony Point, NY in 1779. The Charter was returned to the 17th Regiment with the following note:
  • "Brethren: When the ambition of monarchs or jarring interest of contending states, call forth their subjects to war, as Masons we are disarmed of that resentment which stimulates to undistinguished desolation; and however our political sentiments may impel us in the public dispute, we are still Brethren, and (our professional duty apart) ought to promote the happiness and advance the weal of each other. Accept therefore, at the hands of a Brother, the Constitution of the Lodge Unity No. 18, to be held in the 17th British Regiment which your late misfortunes have put in my power to restore to you." General Samuel H. Parsons, Continental Army 1779

     

  • Lodges that followed both the Moderns and the Ancients continued on in the United States for some time. Many Grand Lodges (except South Carolina) were foggy upon the differences. This continued until 1813, when the two Grand Lodges of England merged to create the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE). Making the differences moot.
  • After the Revoluntionary War, Many Provincial Grand Lodges continued. The Ancient Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was closed on September 25, 1786 as 13 Lodges voted for Independance from the Mother Lodge in England with no votes in opposition. The next day, The same Lodges met to form the present Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (which still held sway in Southern New Jersey), with the same officers. This marks the first official declaration of Grand Lodge independance from either of the two Mother Lodges in England.
  • On December 18, 1786, many New Jersey Masons met at Whitehall Tavern in New Brunswick, NJ and formed the The Most Honorable Ancient Grand Lodge of New Jersey F&AM, naming David Brearly as Grand Master. New Jersey holds the distinction of being the only Grand Lodge ever created by individual Masons and not by Lodges.
  • The Last of the original colonies to create an independant Grand Lodge was Deleware. The Grand Lodge of Deleware F&AM was created in 1806 breaking away from both Pennsylvania and Maryland.
  • Monmouth Lodge No. 172 was established and awarded it's charter in 1897. The first Lodge building is unknown, lost to time. A rented space used for many years was lost to a fire in early 1938. Funds were aquired and the cornerstone was laid for a new Lodge building, completed in 1939 located at 14 East Garfield Avenue in the Atlantic Highlands, NJ. That building has been our home ever since.
  • In 1997, Monmouth Lodge celebrated it's 100th year in active Freemasonry.
  • Monmouth Lodge shares a rich history with all NJ Lodges. However, we as many lodges do, feel our greatest history happens every day within our community known as the NJ Bayshore Region. Through the years Monmouth Lodge as soared in the success and felt the pain when times were not so good here in our little patch of New Jersey. We look forward to the new history we will be a part of as every day unfolds.