The Tea Party Party

A Traveling Man’s Report Volume II

By: John P. Keel
Sandoval Lodge No. 76

John P. Keel

Fraternal greetings and Happy New Year to all of our brethren reading this. I am excited to write this article since the latest in this series covers a recent trip to Boston, Massachusetts for the 250th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party and all of the events of that weekend both within as well as external to the masonic bodies there. The Tea Party was a significant event in American History and for a bit of backstory, I included an excerpt from WB Robert Huke, Communications & Development Director for the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts:

Original Green Dragon Tavern Sign
Original Green Dragon Tavern Sign

“The Boston Tea Party was a political protest organized and executed by the Sons of Liberty. The Sons of Liberty, as well as Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Boston Caucus, often met in the basement of the Green Dragon Tavern on Union Street (then known as Green Dragon Lane) in the North End. The Boston Tea Party was planned at the Green Dragon Tavern. Daniel Webster, the statesman and U.S. Secretary of State, claimed it was “the Headquarters of the Revolution”.

The Green Dragon Tavern was purchased by the Freemasons of The Lodge of Saint Andrew in 1764. Among the Sons of Liberty’s notable members who belonged to The Lodge of Saint Andrew were John Hancock, Paul Revere, and Joseph Warren. When the Boston Tea Party occurred, Warren was Grand Master of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge. Revere served as Grand Master between 1795 and 1797.

On December 16, 1773, The Lodge of Saint Andrew was scheduled to meet. The Lodge’s Secretary made a notation in their records that reads:

Lodge Closed (on account of the few Members present) untill tomorrow Evening.

Green Dragon Tavern
Green Dragon Tavern

In Howard Giles Unger’s 2011 book, American Tempest: How the Boston Tea Party Sparked a Revolution, he identified 21 Freemasons who participated, or who were believed to have participated, in the Boston Tea Party. Hancock and Warren are generally acknowledged as not having participated; however, the Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum have designated them as “Architects of the Boston Tea Party” as part of their Grave Marker Commemoration program.”

By the time the Boston Tea Party happened in 1773, Freemasonry in Massachusetts was well established. As a matter of fact, the Grand Lodge and oldest lodges had already been around for decades. Among these masons were many of the men who would be instrumental in the events leading up to and throughout the American Revolution. I plan to give a much more in-depth presentation on this at Masonicon this year so, stay tuned for more Brothers.

For the Tea Party weekend, there were lots of events going on and unfortunately, I was unable to attend everything but, I managed to use my time wisely. On Friday, I was able to tour the Grand Lodge with Bro. Kristopher J. Crosse who shared the story of his Masonic journey with me as we walked. The Grand Lodge building itself is a huge building and for decades was the tallest building in Boston after its final reconstruction in 1899. The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts started as St. John’s Grand Lodge in 1733 and the members met at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern initially, the original sign of which is still in the possession of St. John’s Lodge. The Grand Lodge got its own home when the first official Grand Lodge building was built in 1830. It was rebuilt again twice in 1867 and 1899 after fires destroyed the buildings. The current structure houses many lodges and has some of the most exquisite lodge rooms I’ve ever seen.

Prince Hall Gravesite
Prince Hall Gravesite

After the tour of the Grand Lodge, I went to Copps Hill Burial Ground to pay my respects to Most Worshipful Prince Hall, the founder of Prince Hall Masonry. There is a beautiful memorial placed at his gravesite. From the burial ground, I went down the street to Old North Church, where the famed lanterns were hung at MW Paul Revere’s orders, warning the minutemen that the redcoats were coming by sea.

In the evening on Friday, the Masons and Sons of the American Revolution teamed up for a Tavern Tour which was a wonderful way to get to meet many of the brethren from around Massachusetts and beyond. Some Masons even came from the UK to participate in the festivities of the weekend. I was welcomed by many Brothers and quickly became friends with some Brothers from the Wampatuck Masons in Southern Massachusetts who became my pub buddies as we enjoyed the fellowship at the historic taverns on the tour. After the first couple taverns, I had to break away from the group to attend the installation of officers for St. Johns Lodge.

MW George Hamilton with WB Mark Davis
MW George Hamilton with WB Mark Davis

Many of our Brothers from around the country were in attendance at St. John’s Lodge for the installation of officers. It was a real treat to see the ritual work as the oldest lodge in the Western Hemisphere opened for business and went to recess to receive the Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, Most Worshipful George Hamilton. I found it fascinating that the Grand Master is received in an English style procession of the Grand Lodge Officers, flanked on both sides by the officers of the lodge. It made for a brilliant show and was fun to observe. I was fascinated to hear that the installation of Officers was the 290th in the lodge’s history and that they will be celebrating their 300th anniversary in 2033. I hope to go back and attend that incredibly historic occasion. For the installation, the loge even brings out the original carved wooden bunch of grapes that hung outside the tavern of the same name.

With Sons of Liberty Brothers and Wampatuck Masons
With Sons of Liberty Brothers and Wampatuck Masons

After the installation ceremony, I went back to catch up with the Wampatuck Masons who had made it to the famed Green Dragon tavern where many of our forefathers and fellow Masons had planned the Tea Party and events subsequent. The carved wooden Green Dragon from the original sign is still in the possession of the Grand Lodge and was on display throughout the weekend.

The next morning and for most of Saturday, the Grand Lodge hosted presentations from historians who have become subject matter experts on the events of 1773 and the revolution. I was intrigued to be able to speak with Dr. James Fichter, who has taught at Harvard and Cambridge Universities. When I asked about the Masons involved in the Tea Party and noted the lack of damage to the boats or the crew, he said that it was reasonable to assume that the only reason the mob stayed under control as they did, was because they were mostly Masons and would have kept the other non-masons in line throughout the event. The men there that night were there to make a political statement and not to be ruffians.

Inside Old South Meeting House
Inside Old South Meeting House

The evening of Saturday was the highlight of the weekend and involved an estimated 2000+ Masons meeting at the Grand Lodge before marching down to the Old South Meeting House, in aprons specially designed for the historic event. At the Old South Meeting House, where Samuel Adams spoke out against the taxes being levied against the colonists and the problem of the tea on board the ships in the harbor, we met an estimated 8000+ additional people who eagerly awaited the rolling rally to the harbor. Though we couldn’t hear it outside the Old South Meeting House, reenactors recited the speech given by Samuel Adams on the night of 1773 which preceded the march to the harbor. Afterwards, the whole crowd of 10,000+ people marched down to the harbor chanting phrases that would have been heard 250 years before. The air was cold but electrified with the pride of everyone there participating in such a historical celebration.

The Destruction of the Tea
The Destruction of the Tea

As we reached the harbor, the crowd quickly filled in all the space available, so many of us had to watch the dignitary speeches and reenactment on large screens which had been put out for the event. The Mayor of Boston, the Governor of Massachusetts, the Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts and even a representative from the British Consulate all gave speeches to commemorate the event, with the latter even jokingly threatening to invoice the City of Boston for the tea destroyed in 1773. With the speeches over, the reenactment commenced, with over 2000 pounds of tea being dumped into the harbor from the ships. One amazing fact is that the tea dumped was sent from numerous countries around the world and from states all across the US as well as from every Mason Lodge in Massachusetts. Even the Rainbow Girls gave each of us a bit of tea to dump in the harbor! It was a lot of fun and I got to spend a wonderful evening with our Brethren.

MW George Hamilton with Grand Officers and newly installed officers of St. John's Lodge
MW George Hamilton with Grand Officers and newly installed officers of St. John’s Lodge

On Sunday, the morning events started with an Ecumenical Service hosted at the Grand Lodge by the Grand Master and the Grand Chaplain. It was a beautiful service, with a Brother Rabbi and the Grand Chaplain sharing stories from the sacred texts relating to the actions of our forefathers which still ring true today. We must do what’s right for our families and our communities even if it may not be the popular choice. Keep in mind that the destruction of the tea in Boston was not popular initially, even among Brethren such as Ben Franklin and George Washington.

After the service, we all went to breakfast and enjoyed fellowship with the Grand Lodge Officers, the Sons of the American Revolution and even a direct descendant of MW Paul Revere. I enjoyed the chance to speak with more brethren and even learned about some of the traditions held in Massachusetts Freemasonry.

On Monday, my flight out of Boston was cancelled due to a severe storm and I wasn’t able to get another flight until Thursday so, I was provided some additional opportunities to tour Boston and hang out with some Brethren. This led to attending Lodge with Azure Lodge in Walpole, Massachusetts where I had a great time! This Lodge had many Brothers in attendance and welcomed me with open arms. On this night in particular, the District Deputy Grand Master, Right Worshipful Thomas McClintock was making an official visit and invited me to be his guest. I soon learned that the District Lodges receive their DDGMs much like the Grand Master was received in St. John’s Lodge so, I was a part of the procession and was called upon to announce the DDGM. I was thrown under the bus and it was fantastic! The business meeting for the lodge involved many of the Military Veteran members of Azure Lodge being awarded with a medal from the Grand Master commemorating their military service. After the meeting, we had dinner and fellowship to cap off the amazing evening. 

With the Brethren of Azure Lodge
With the Brethren of Azure Lodge

This trip was an unforgettable experience and I would not have been able to do it without our fraternity. I met so many brothers and had a wonderful time experiencing the anniversary of one of the most significant events in our Country’s history. Fellowship, travel and history all rolled into one trip? Why would I not go as a Traveling Man? Thank you for reading Brothers and keep an eye out for more. 

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