Thursday, August 26, 2010


 I have added a new contemporary drawing of the Green Dragon Tavern to the page on the masons in pre-Revolution Boston and added a cutout of William Price's 1769 map of Boston to the posting about Dr Church's home since it gives a more precise rendering of just where the home was located.

Dr Church the Mason

    Masonic records in Boston do not contain the precise date on which Dr Church became a Mason, except to record that he probably became a member of the "Second Lodge" sometime prior to December 21,1762, which would mean he became a member sometime in his mid to late twenties. That he was an active member of St John's Lodge there is little question since the records, scant as they are, mention his attendance at various meetings and on various committees. What is of interest, is that he was a member of St John's Lodge, and not St Andrew's Lodge ( the North End Lodge) who had Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, John Hancock, and William Molineaux amongst its members.

    On  June 22, 1772, Church spearheaded a petition addressed  to John Rowe, as Grandmaster, for permission for him and seventeen other lodge brothers to form a new masonic lodge to be called "The Rising Sun Lodge" to be convened the first Wednesday of every month and as necessary, with meetings to be held at The British Coffee House on King Street. Further, the petition requests that Church be appointed the Right Worshipful Master of the Rising Sun Lodge for the rest of 1772 and for the following year. Church also requested permission to appoint two Wardens and other officers of the Lodge.

   The British Coffee House was a favorite haunt of army and navy officers, customs officials, and their friends and allies, to include John Mein, John Fleeming's printer partner.

   John Rowe's diary reflects that Dr Church had dinner with him the following night to discuss this petition. Subsequently, the petition was granted on August 10th, 1772 and The Rising Sun Lodge became another active Masonic Lodge in Boston. The Rising Sun is a common Masonic Symbol and, to this day, there are lodges in the United States who are called "Rising Sun."

  At the same time, Church resigned from his position as the Junior Warden of St John's Lodge. The Junior Warden is the third ranking position in a Lodge and is responsible for for the supervision of the lodge while at meals or in recess.  I believe that this was an elected position in that Lodge. (Researching the masons in Boston during this period is a most confusing and irritating endeavor.)

   Following is a list of the petitioners who formed the Rising Sun Lodge:
   Benjamin Church Jr.                                                       Nathl Balch
   John Fleeming                                                                Nath Abraham
   Jacob McDaniel                                                              Benja Loring
   Geo Spooner                                                                  Jos Russell
   Matthew Hutchins                                                            William Gooch                                  
   Ebenr Bridgham                                                              William Charles Hy Reijnsdorf
   William Jones                                                                  Ben Jackson
   Saml Lloyd                                                                      Jno Gray
   Robt Williams                                                                  Sam Barrett

  John Fleeming, (sometimes spelled Fleming) was married to Church's sister Alice and was the man to whom Church was trying to smuggle the ciphered letter that led to his downfall. Fleeming was a native of Scotland and was in partnership with John Mein, his fellow Scot,  the printer who was the scourge of the Whigs. Fleeming's importance as a printer and a partner of Mein has often been overlooked by historians and he had a prominence far beyond that of being married to Church's sister. He certainly was well known to all Bostonians; and I will devote some effort to Fleeming in later posts. For the purposes of this post, it should be noted that he was apparently very close to his brother-in-law and later was appointed a warden of Rising Sun Lodge by him.

    I have tentatively identified the following other members of the Rising Sun Lodge, but, in some cases, confirmation of this identity is not possible. Efforts at identification, however, continue.

    Ebeneezer Bridgham was a merchant, factor of crockery ware, and a firm Loyalist. He left Boston with the British in March 1776, and never returned. He was subsequently banished from the state and his property confiscated.

   Matthew Hutchins was a native Londoner, a clerk in a merchant's office, who left with the British in 1776.

   Samuel Lloyd was a clerk in the customs office and also left with the British in 1776.

   Benjamin Loring - the Lorings were a very prominent Loyalist family but I have not been able to precisely identify this Benjamin Loring. Joshua Loring, Jr had a twin brother named Benjamin who graduated from Harvard in 1772. It's unlikely that this is that Benjamin Loring.

   Joseph Russell could be the brother of Ezekiel Russell, the printer who published "The Censor", a weekly publication designed to defend the actions of the government. Ezekiel apprenticed under his brother Joseph, also a printer.

   George Spooner was a Boston merchant who left with the British in 1776; he returned in 1784.

   Of significance is the fact that Edward Church (Church's younger brother) also a very active Mason, and a prominent Whig in his own right, was not a signer of the petition and apparently continued to be a lodge member at St John's.

   Except for a couple of passing mentions in the records of St John's Lodge there are no records of the Rising Sun Lodge to be found.

 It should also be noted that the Rising Sun Lodge decided to hold its meetings at the British Coffee House, which some historians have characterized as the preferred tavern for Torys and British Officers. However, I think that it's more complicated than that and I will provide either a page or a posting on the taverns in Boston at this time in a later post or page. The British Coffee House was located on King Street ( later State Street) at the end of The Long Wharf.