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  • MM 1800, WM 1806-1808, St. John's (Boston)
  • Senior Grand Steward 1803, 1804
  • Senior Grand Deacon 1808
  • Junior Grand Warden 1809
  • Senior Grand Warden, 1810-1812
  • Deputy Grand Master, 1813-1816
  • Grand Master, 1817-1819


1817 1818 1819




From Proceedings, Page 1917-401, Grand Master's Address:

He was the Grand Master of this Grand Lodge in 1817, 1818 and 1819. He was born in Boston in 1777 and graduated from Harvard College in 1795, at eighteen years of age. He became President of the Boston Common Council and occupied many other positions of honor and trust in state and city affairs during his lifetime. He engaged in the shipping and commission business, and had many adventurous experiences there.

He was for a long time engaged in the official service of the Grand Lodge, for he was first the Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge for one year. He then served as Senior Grand Warden for three years, Deputy Grand Master for three years, and finally became the Grand Master, which he occupied for three years. In those days it would seem that Grand Masters had to earn the honors that came to them. During the time that he was Grand Master, you will be interested to note, the cornerstone of the Massachusetts General Hospital was laid by him.

During the last eighteen years of his life he retired to his country place in Middletown, Connecticut, and died there at the age of seventy-five. He was a man who was universally respected and beloved by the entire fraternity and by all who knew him.

TROWEL, 1997

From TROWEL, Fall 1997, Page 24:


Francis J. Oliver: Grand Master, Organizer and Programmer
by R. W. James T. Watson, Jr.

Francis J. Oliver was a descendent of the Huguenot tradition, being a great-grand son of Antoine Oliver, who had fled from France under the persecutions of Louis XIV Although Protestants were granted religious freedom by Henry IV in 1598 with the Edict of Nantes, Louis reversed that act in 1685. Eight of Antoine's 15 children were born in Boston. Francis himself was born there on October 10. 1777. He attended Boston Latin School and entered Harvard, one of the youngest in his class graduating in 1795. He was systematic and methodical in all his endeavors, such as accounts and mathematical lectures. He wrote out his studies in French with great neatness. When the Boston Light Infantry was organized, as recommended by President Adams, Francis was appointed ensign and later, lieutenant. He was offered the captaincy, but declined the offer, as he was going abroad.

Francis entered a partnership for some years called Oliver and Proctor, a shipping and commission business, then chartered a ship that covered ports in France, Portugal, the West Indies and the Spanish Main, among others. Later, he entered a partnership with Cornelius Coolidge, being very prosperous until the War of 1812. He and his partner each manned a boat with armed men, recapturing a brig of theirs which had been taken by a privateer. Although the American privateer had taken the brig legally, the force of public opinion in their favor protected Oliver and Coolidge from punishment for their reprisal.

Francis Oliver was made a Mason in St. John's Lodge and served as Master with great dignity and excellence. He was Junior Grand Warden in 1809. Senior Grand Warden in 1810-12, Deputy Grand Master in 1814-15 and Grand Master in 1817-19.

As Deputy Grand Master for M. W. Benjamin Russell, Oliver served on many of the major committees of Grand Lodge, often as chairman. The Grand Proceedings for 1815-1825 praises his address after having been installed as Grand Master as "learned, eloquent and appropriate" (p. 83).

Another Act of Incorporation was attempted in 1817 and was finally approved on June 16. The by-laws of Grand Lodge were then reviewed, many changes made and made again, meeting after meeting, before finally being published by the vote of Grand Lodge on September 10. 1818. The "By-Laws, Rules and Regulations of the Master, Wardens and Members of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts," consisting of a preamble and six chapters with a total of 61 sections, appears in the Grand Proceedings 1815-1825. pp. 217-238. The acquiring of the act of incorporation and the work involved in preparing the by-laws, rules and regulations to fit those requirements became the crowning achievement of the triennial of M.W. Francis J. Oliver. As well, many of the Lodges chartered during his administration exist to this day.

Francis J. Oliver, in his third year as Grand Master, compiled a report of the state and condition of the Craft, district by district, giving praise when deserved and censure when merited. This report gave to the incoming Grand Master a concise evaluation of Masonry in the jurisdiction.

On December 8, 1819, the incoming Grand Master, Samuel Prescott Phillips Fay, was elected, and Francis Oliver became a trustee of the Grand Charity Fund, filling the office that P. G. M.Josiah Bartlett had held. As his last official duty, Oliver installed his successor in office, December 27, 1819.

Throughout his long and honorable life, Francis J. Oliver was a steadfast Mason, ever ready to support the principles and practices of the order, whether in prosperity or adversity. His accomplishments were many. With his partner, he founded the American Insurance Company, becoming its president for 18 years, and was a prominent member of the Humane Society. He was first a Federalist, then a Whig. He was president of the Common Council in 1824 and 1825. a state representative and held municipal offices. One of the original purchasers of Noddle's Island, he was a founder of East Boston and one of the originators of Mount Auburn Cemetery.

In 1836 Oliver resigned the presidency of the American Insurance Company to become the agent for the English banking house, Morrison and Cryder. Later, he retired to a country seat in Middletown, CT, where he lived and peacefully died, August 21, 1858.

On September 8. 1858. resolutions in Grand Lodge respecting his death spoke of him as one, "who in all relations of life, and more especially as a Master of the oldest Lodge under this jurisdiction, and as a Grand Master of this Grand Lodge was most truly faithful... We also recognize with gratitude the fact, that under his mastership this Grand Lodge was allowed the happiness of laying the cornerstone of the Massachusetts General Hospital, which has done so much to relieve bodily and mental suffering" (Grand Proceedings 1856-1864, pp. 185-186).

The portrait of Francis J. Oliver owned by Grand Lodge is from a small picture made while he was a member of the Boston City Council.



From Proceedings, Page VI-185; also Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XVII, No. 12, November 1858, Page 382:

"Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to his mercy our late Bro Francis J Oliver, the eldest Past Gd. Master of this G. Lodge — it is hereby —

"Resolved: That in this removal of Past Gd. Master Oliver, to the retributions of the other world this G. Lodge regards his loss as that of one, who in all the relations of life, and more especially as a Master of the oldest Lodge under this jurisdiction, and as Gd. Master of this Lodge, and most truly faithful: presiding with a mingled directness and urbanity, most honorable to himself and most useful to the fraternity, who, although in the providence of God, for a long time withdrawn from active service among us, never lost his interest in our welfare.

"We also recognize with gratitude the fact, that under his mastership, this Gd Lodge was allowed the happiness of laying the corner stone of the Mass. General Hospital, which has done so much to relieve bodily & mental suffering. We also desire most deeply to feel, as one of our oldest members after another is taken from us, the necessity of renewed and vigorous work, that we two may be held not unworthy to follow them through similar courses of duty here, to similar rewards hereafter."

From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XVII, No. 11, September 1858, Page 352:

We learn that the R. W. Francis J. Oliver, Esq., formerly of this city, died at Middletown, Con., where he has resided for some years past, on Saturday, the 21st Aug. last, age about 81. Brother Oliver was born in Boston, and was a graduate of Harvard College of the Class of 1795, of which he was the last surviving member. He was initiated into Masonry in St. John's Lodge of this City, of which he was subsequently elected Master. And in 1816, having previously faithfully served the Grand Lodge in a variety of capacities, he was elected Grand Master, which office he held for the full Constitutional term of three years, and the duties of which lie discharged with distinguished ability. Intelligent, courteous, and dignified in his manners, he was an excellent and popular presiding officer. For the last ten or fifteen years he has resided in Connecticut, and not probably taken any active part in Masonic labor, though we understand that on all occasions where the subject of Masonry has been named in his presence, he has manifested a deep interest in its prosperity. There are materials enough in his Masonic life for an interesting, and doubtless valuable memoir, and we trust some competent Brother of the Lodge of which he was a member, will prepare them for publication.


From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XVIII, No. 2, December 1858, Page 40:

THE LATE R.W. FRANCIS J. OLIVER, P. G. M., From a paper read by Dr. Lewis, before the Boston Encampment.

The memory of the just and good should not perish. Of those whose lives were protracted to a ripe old age, and that old age not only unblemished, but polished and adorned by a long career of persistent excellence, the odour should not only "smell to Heaven," but be treasured in our hearts here. One of outnumber, venerable in years, honored and revered through a long life, distinguished for .his persevering attachment to his early vows as a Brother, has passed upward. Let us put on record the sense of our appreciation of his worth. Francis Johonnot Oliver, the great grandson of Antoine Olivier,—an old Huguenot, who came to this country soon after the Revocation ol the Edict of Nantes, — was born in Boston, Oct. 10th, 1777. Antoine, who was the remotest ancestor in this country, —was married in 1711, and had fifteen children, eight born in Boston, and seven in Annapolis Royal, Nova Scotia, where the old gentleman died, and where his tomb-stone now stands. One of his daughters married a Mr. Johonnot, another Mr. Joseph Coolidge, the grandfather of the present Mr. Jos. Coolidge, of Boston.

Our Brother Oliver was fitted for college at the Boston Latin School, and entered Harvard College one of the youngest of his class, and graduated in 1795. He was one of the originators and the first Vice President (Deputy Marshal they now call it) of the Porcellian Club. On leaving college he entered a counting-room, and seems ever to have been extremely systematic and methodical in whatever he was engaged. We accordingly find that his account books, mathematical lectures, French studies, &c, were all written out with the greatest neatness and thoroughness, even when he was a mere lad. He early took a prominent position among the young men, and presided often at their public meetings, several of which, among others, were held for the purpose of Expressing their views about the French war and threatened invasion. When, by the advice of President Adams, the Boston Light Infantry was organized for service, as the French were expected, he was the first Ensign and afterwards Lieut., and was offered the Captaincy, which he was obliged to decline, as he was going abroad.

When he was of age, he went into the shipping and commission business with an elderly gentleman named Proctor, under the firm of Oliver and Proctor. The firm lasted for some years, but finally failed. He then chartered a small ship and went cruising about in search of profit and adventure. His first cargo was a party of French soldiers, to be returned to the French government. Having landed his passengers at Bordeaux, he went to Portugal, the West Indies, the Spanish Main, &c, — was fired into by the fort at Caracas, nearly shipwrecked in the Archipelago, and after various adventures, returned to Boston, with considerable experience, but little money. Having a good name, however, Mr. Cornelius Coolidge sought him in partnership, and they went into business together, making a great deal of money, till the war began in 1812, when they lost as fast. It was at this time, that he and Mr. Coolidge each manned a boat with armed men, went down the harbor and recaptured a brig of theirs, which had been taken by a privateer, near the Light, because the brig had made use of an English license in Portugal; and, therefore, by law, was a fair prey to our privateers. Public opinion, however, was so strong against the men who thus pounced on their own countrymen, just as they had escaped British cruisers and dangers of the seas, that he and Mr. Coolidge did not suffer for their rash act.

He was made a Mason in St. John's Lodge, of which he long continued an active member. He was Master of this Lodge, and presided over it with great dignity and excellence. Perhaps no one has ever exceeded him in these particulars. He was Junior Grand Warden in 1808; Senior Grand Warden in 1809, 1810, 1811; Deputy Grand Master in 1813, 1814, 1815, and Grand Master in 1816, 1817, 1818. Throughout his long and honorable life, he was the steadfast Mason,—one ever ready to support the principles and practices of the Order, whether in its prosperity or adversity.

With Mr. Coolidge, he founded the American Insurance Company, and became its President, in which situation he remained for some eighteen years. He was a prominent member of the Humane Society, and was something of a politician in Boston — first as a Federalist, and then a Whig. He was President of the Common Council in 1824 and 1825; Representative, and held divers other municipal offices. He was also one of the original purchasers of Noddle's Island, and founders of East Boston — one of the originators of Mount Auburn Cemetery, and was ever among the foremost in starting and carrying out plans for the public. Somewhere about 1836, he resigned the Presidency of the American Insurance Company to become the Agent for the English Banking House of Morrison and Cryder; but the hard times coming on, and that house dissolving, he found too late that he had made an unfortunate change. His health became enfeebled at the same time, and, giving up business entirely, he retired to a country seat in Middletown, Ct., where he principally lived for eighteen years, and where he peacefully died Aug. 21st, 1858, regretted by all who knew him. In the quietude of his rural residence, in the satisfactory retrospect of a well-spent life, the close of that life was calm and happy.

"O what a glory doth this world put on
For him that with a fervent heart goes forth
Under the bright and glorious sky, and looks
On duties well performed, and days well spent!
For him the wind, ay, the yellow leaves,
Shall have a voice, and give him eloquent teachings.
He shall so hear the solemn hymn, that Death
Has lifted up for all, that he shall go
To his long resting-place without a tear."


From Original Proceedings, 1858, Page 31:

Francis J. Oliver, died on the 21st of August last, in Middletown, Conn., where he bad principally resided after his removal from Boston. He was born in Boston on the 10th of October, 1777, and was, therefore, nearly eighty-one years old at the lime of his death. He was a graduate of Harvard University of the class of 1795. After leaving college he engaged in commercial pursuits, which, though varied in their results, he conducted with ability and with honor to himself. Early in life he was made a Mason in Saint John's Lodge, in Boston, over which he subsequently presided with dignity and efficiency. In December, 1808, he was elected Junior Grand Warden, which station he occupied one year; and at the close of that term he consecutively served three years as Senior Grand Warden, four years as Deputy Grand Master and three years as Grand Master; closing his long and brilliant official career in December, 1819. Of the term during which he was Deputy Grand Master, the first year was under Grand Master Timothy Bigelow, and the remainder of it under Grand Master Benjamin Russell. During his administration as Grand Master, the act of incorporation in favor of this Grand Lodge was passed by the legislature — June 16, 1817. "Throughout his long and honorable life, he was the steadfast Mason, — one ever ready to support the principles and practices of the Order, whether in its prosperity or adversity."





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