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Masonic history in Beaver County began prior
to Revolutionary times. The Fall 2004 Milestones feature story,
"The History of Crow's Run" and its reference to John
McKee inspired this narrative on the subject of Free Masonry.
The fall feature on Crow's Run written by Joseph H. Thompson, has McKee as the grantee of 800 acres in New Sewickley for his services in the Revolutionary War. It further references McKee as "being one of the Indians" at the Boston Tea Party. The 170 year old tombstone I observed in Oak Grove Cemetery supports the author's implication. It was the work of his own family's hands done by J. W. Thompson. It is alongside the road at the soldiers monument and still in good condition.
The "Indians" or Sons of Liberty dressed as Mohawks at Boston Harbor were the members of St. Andrews Masonic Lodge led by Brother Paul Revere. The "raid" was signaled to begin after a stirring oration by Brother Samuel Adams. One could believe therefore that John McKee was also a Brother (Bro.) of the Craft or at least had Masonic connections during the Revolutionary War and later in Beaver County.
Probably the first Free Mason to be in Beaver County was Bro. William Franklin, son of Bro. Benjamin Franklin, accompanying Conrad Weiser to Logstown in 1748 to claim this area for the British. The first Catholic Mass in Beaver County was celebrated there a year later in 1749.
The earliest Masonic meetings were also held at Legionville acting under Warrant No. 58 granted by The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to a number of officers and men "cantoned" there in the spring of 1793. Then soon after Bro. General Anthony Wayne led them into the Indian Wars. The Warrant is assumed to have been lost at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near Toledo, Ohio, in 1794.
Reference to Wayne, Franklin, Adams and Revere is to establish the proposition that the leaders establishing this nation, state and county were the foremost men in the Masonic Fraternity. In fact, the first Continental Congress was composed largely of Masons, as were all the governors of the first thirteen colonial states Masons or Grand Masters of their respective states. It's no surprise that the recent Disney film "National Treasure" received so much attention. I wonder what Bro. Walt Disney would have thought about its release?
During the Revolution sixteen of Bro. George Washington's twenty Major Generals and all of his Brigadier Generals were Freemasons. While most of the Masons in Congress were in the field fighting along side Washington, three Major Generals, all non-masons, nearly undermined the Revolution with the assistance of the politicians left behind. So faction-ridden and incompetent was this Congress that many of the best patriots doubted the future of independence.
Many of the prominent men in Beaver County's history were Freemasons. The Hon. Matthew Stanley Quay, appointed Secretary of the Commonwealth and the Republican State Committee following his distinctive service in the Civil War as Colonel of the 134 th Regiment of the Pennsylvania Volunteers and later elected State Treasurer and then United States Senator in 1887 was a Mason. Bro. Quay was the first man initiated in St. James Masonic Lodge No. 457 in 1870.
The Hon. Congressman Louis E. Graham sat next to President Dwight D. Eisenhower to witness the "Presidential Proclamation" introduced by Bro. Graham, adding the words "Under God' to the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, two words now so controversial, they can often be heard, shouted out, during public assemblies. Bro. Graham was a Freemason and a Past Master of St. James Lodge.
So ancient and honorable is this Fraternity, that perhaps an explanation of the term "Freemason" would be in order. When the barbarians overran Rome in the third century, Constantinople became the Capital of the new civil, religious and political empire attracting to itself the learning of Rome, Athens, Alexandria and the other countries, thus becoming the world's intellectual camping ground and the foundation of the Eastern Church. A body of master-architects went out over all continental Europe to found and build cathedrals, and in these cathedral cities the educated men gathered to advance the cause of learning.
The people in these cities, while deeply religious, were densely ignorant, and the skilled workmen and artificers loathed to be governed by laws enacted by these people. They obtained by special edict permission to maintain a government among themselves according to the laws of Constantinople, thereby calling themselves "Freemasons." These trades unions or Masonic Lodges sprang up all over Europe; and with the revival of learning, men of other professions were admitted as honorary members and designated as "Accepted." Hence the term "Free and Accepted Masons".
His Grace, Thomas, Duke of Norfolk, Grand Master of the Premier Grand Lodge of England granted the first authority to Warrant Masonic Lodges in America in 1730. It is interesting to note that His Grace, Thomas Howard, was a Roman Catholic.
On the Upper Falls of the Beaver River, Dr. Samuel Adams purchased 400 acres of land which included the site of Geneva College, built a dam across the river and established a gristmill. He and his son Dr. Milo Adams were the first physicians in Beaver County and both Freemasons.
James Lyon was captured by the Delaware Indians near Turtle Creek when he was six and held until the Treaty of Fort McIntosh in 1785. There he later located, served as county sheriff and postmaster. Bro. Lyon was a Freemason.
Reverend Francis Reno was the first Freemason to establish a residence in Rochester and its first known settler. The Reno family is prominent in the early history of Rochester and at least two of Francis' seven sons, John and Charles, were also Freemasons.
Another important member was Bro. Jonathan Mendenhall of Sharon Pottery. His pottery was produced in West Bridgewater and floated down the river to New Orleans by John and Charles Reno along with Bro. Samuel Moore, son-in-law of Francis Reno and others. This trip required nine months to make and only trusted boatmen should be employed.
Samuel McClure during the Civil War was in active service for three years, Company D 100th Regiment "The Roundhead Regiment" was wounded, taken prisoner and held at Libby Prison five months. Later he served as Treasurer, Registrar, and Recorder of Beaver County and was a Freemason.
Stanton Sholes was a Captain of Artillery in the War of 1812, Justice of the Peace in New Sewickley Township and Warrant Master of St. James Lodge, Beaver.
Major Joshua Logan, War of 1812, was a silversmith and Warrant Master of Rochester Lodge No. 229 and the first High Priest of Eureka Chapter No. 167. Beaver County Capitular Masonry (Royal Arch Masons) is a District wide assembly of Master Masons as is Cryptic Masonry (Royal and Select Masters Council No. 54) and the Knights Templar (Beaver Valley Commandery No. 84). All of these require membership in good standing in a local Blue Masonic Lodge.
Ovid Pinney, Martin Fisher, William Leaf, Jemuel Woodruff, John Conway, James W. Doncaster, P. M. Moore and more than space here will permit mention were Freemasons in Beaver County history.
Most Masons share a common thread; they are active in civic, religious and business affairs. There has not been any great movement for civil and religious liberty that has not had the loyal support of the Masonic Fraternity. They are community leaders, policemen, clergymen and lay ministers, judges, sheriffs and commissioners. Masonry binds carpenters, teachers, attorneys, husbands, fathers and sons in an indescribable bond of friendship and brotherly love of all mankind and of each other.
In the early days, Lodges met on or before the full moon, taking advantage of the light, as there were no street lights and travel was by horseback. The trip might involve going several miles up river to cross over. Beaver County contains eight local "Blue Lodges" and represents the 37th Masonic District.
The oldest continuing Lodge is Rochester Lodge No. 229, Constituted in 1848, a year before Rochester Boro was incorporated. The Temple is located in the Fountain Park at 195 South Park Street, Rochester.
Union Lodge No. 259 was Constituted in 1852 and is located in New Brighton at 8th St. and Third Ave.
St. James Lodge No. 457 was Constituted in 1870 by 10 members of Rochester Lodge. The Temple is located off Sharon Road on Market Street in Bridgewater. The original St. James's Lodge No. 133 was Constituted in 1812 as the second Lodge in Beaver County. Its warrant was surrendered to the Grand Lodge in 1837.
Glasgow Lodge No. 485 was Constituted in 1871 and is in its third location now in Shippingport Boro..
Parian Lodge No. 662 was Constituted in 1909 and has relocated from Beaver Falls to New Brighton within the Masonic Temple on 8th Street.
Woodlawn Lodge No. 672 was Constituted in 1913 and is located on Franklin Ave.
Ambridge Lodge No. 701 was Constituted in 1920 and is located on Merchant Street.
Monaca Center Lodge No. 791 was Constituted in 1961 by 58 members of Rochester Lodge. The Temple is located in the former P. &L. E. Railroad Station in Monaca.
The Western Heritage by Kagan, Ozment, Turner.
1888 History of Beaver County.
Masons as Makers of America by Madison C. Peters, 1917.
150th Anniversary of Rochester Lodge by Robert Batto, 1998.
Rochester 1849-1999 by Robert Batto, 1999.