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HENRY PRICE 1697-1780


First Provincial Grand Master; Grand Master of St. John's Grand Lodge, 1733-1737,1740-1743, 1754-1755, 1767-1768


1733 1734 1735 1736 1737

Note that Bro. Price assumed the chair as Grand Master pro tem several times between the terms of subsequent Grand Masters.



From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XX, No. 9, July 1861, Page 266:

Mr. Editor: — You will remember that on our visit to Townsend, in 1857, we were told by Mr. William Wallace, the grandson of Henry Price, that the latter represented the town of Townsend in the General Court of Massachusetts previous to the Revolution. Having recently found leisure to examine the records of that body, I And that Mr. Price was such representative in the year 1764-5. Thus far in my examination of the records, I have not discovered that he served in that capacity during any other year. The town was not represented in the year following and during several years previous to that mentioned. As everything relating to the personal history of the distinguished individual in question is interesting, I have transcribed from.the records that portion of them in which his name is found. As will be observed, he is referred to usually by his military title of Major, which he received, in 1733, when he was made cornet of the Governor's Troop. In 1764, he was sixty-seven years old.

June 9, 1764.

"A petition of James Read, late in the Service of the Province, representing his Sufferings, &c, and praying a Recompence.

"Read and committed to Col. Bagley, Mr. Folger and Major Price, to consider and Report."

January 14, 1765.

"The Committee appointed to consider the Petition of James Reed of Lunenburg reported. Read,and accepted, and Ordered, That the Sum of twelve Pounds be paid out of the Publick Treasury, to Sampson Stoddard, Esq , for the Use of the Petitioner in full."

"Sent up for Concurrence."

January 14, 1765.

"A Petition of Nathaniel Kellog, in behalf of the inhabitants of a New Plantation called Hunt's Town, in County of Hampshire, praying that Part of their Taxes may be removed from them, and an equitable Proportion put upon Chesterfield and Charlemont, for the Reasons mentioned.

"Read (together with the Plan of the Lines of said Hunt's Town taken by Order of Court) and committed to Col. Powell, Mr. Witt, Major Price, Mr. Farnham and Col. Powers, to consider and make Report."

January 21, 1765.

"A Petition of Henry Negus of Dartmouth, shewing, That he purchased of his Brother Jonathan Negus, for the Sum of Nine Pounds fifteen shillings and eight Pence, a certain Lot of Land in Dartmouth aforesaid; bat belore the said Deed was executed the said Jonathan died. He therefore prays the Administrator may be impowered to execute a Deed to him of said Land.

"Read and committed to Mr. Spooner, Mr. Farnham and Major Price, to consider and Report."

January 29, 1765.

"Gamaliel Bradford, Esq., brought down the Petition of John Cummings and others, as entered June 14, 1764, and January 15, 1765, and referred, with the Report of a Committee of both Houses thereon.

  • Passed in Council, viz., In Council, January 27, 1765.
  • Read and non-concurred, and the House adhere to their own vote.
  • Sent up for Concurrence by Major Price, Mr. Foster of Plymouth and Capt. King.

February 1, 1765.

(On the following motion, the yeas and nays were ordered, and among the yeas" is the name of "Henry Price, Esq.")

"On a motion made and seconded, the Question was put, Whether Ike Sum of Forty Pounds be granted and paid out of the public Treasury to the honorable Thomas Hutchinson, Esq., in Consideration of hit faithful Discharge of the important Trust reposed in him as Chief Justice, and for his further Encouragement therein. Resolved in the Affirmative."

It is my intention to carry my inquiries further; to learn whether Mr. Price represented Townsend on any other year than that named, and ascertain whether or not he was a member of the General Court from Boston or Cambridge, in both of which places he appears to have resided.

It will not be out of place to mention here that James Otis, Jr., was a member of the General Court in 1764, and that he was chosen speaker pro tem, of that body, in consequence of the sickness of the speaker; also, that Andrew Belcher was the member from Milton, and was, during the year, elected to the Council lo 611 a vacancy therein. As is well known, Mr. Otis was a Mason and attended meetings of the Grand Lodge for many years with great regularity. It is probable that Andrew Belcher above referred to was the same who was the first Deputy Grand Master under Major Price, the first Grand Master, in America.

J. T. H.


From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XXXII, No. 2, February 1873, Page 33:


Whatever relates, however remotely, to the personal narrative or masonic relations of this distinguished Fast Grand Master of Masons in Massachusetts, — the first of his rank in America, — cannot be otherwise than interesting, not only to the readers of this magazine, but to American brethren and Masonic scholars everywhere. History is the aggregation of facts and the narration of events, whether personal or general. Both are to be sought for, no less in the lives of individuals who have distinguished themselves in the social or less pretentious walks of life, than in the wider sphere of elevated civil position and public duties. Henry Price, as a civilian, statesman or ruler, rose to no distinction above that attainable by any of his fellow-townsmen of equal intelligence, integrity of character and business capacity. But as a Mason — as the head and founder of the first Masonic Grand Lodge on this continent — he rose to an eminence beyond the reach of any other of his brethren, and secured for his memory a fame, and a place in Masonic history, more enduring than marble or the modest tablet that to-day marks his final resting-place.

But his fame does not belong to Massachusetts alone. That he laid the foundation of it here, was one of those fortunate accidents by which men of humble pretensions are often exalted to places of honor and distinction. It was a necessity of the time; and that he successfully availed himself of its advantages proves, if it prove anything, his fidelity to duty and clear appreciation of the beneficent influences of an institution which, from its marvelous adaptation to the needs of a young
and growing country, lie foresaw would, with the blessing of Provi
dence, and under the careful guidance of those to whom its future
should be entrusted, grow up and become an important instrumentality in giving a healthful tone and direction to the normal character of the
 rapidly increasing population of his adopted home. It was not, in
deed, in reserve for him, nor is it in reserve for any of the present
 living, to realize the full fruition of the great work he then began, — one hundred and forty years ago,— at a time when the Province of Massachusetts Bay, although the largest and most prosperous on the continent, was but a feeble Colony, — an infant giant struggling Into life, — when the public mind had not began to realize the existence in their midst of such an association as the Masonic fraternity,—
 when Freemasonry was an enigma, a cabalistic mystery full of fancied bogels, and beyond the grasp of human comprehension.

It was not in reserve for him to witness the magic growth of the little, feeble Grand Lodge, which, in 1733, he organized in one of the upper rooms of a public tavern, in the then comparatively small town of Boston, — to see it spreading itself out from Colony to Colony and from State to State, until its descendants and co-laborers in the vineyard, — now num
bering not less than three-fourths of a million of united brethren, — cover the entire continent! Such a result it was not in reserve for him to witness.

But it is not our present purpose to eulogize the character of Mr.
 Price, nor to enlarge upon his distinguished services as a Mason. The
readers of this magazine require no such gratuitous labor of us. Our
previous volumes furnish all that they can desire to know in this respect. If these volumes be unavailable to any inquirer, then the ad
mirable biography and defence read before the Grand Lodge of Massa
chusetts in 1871, by M. W. Bro. Wm. S. Gardner, and published in the
proceedings of that body, gives all that can be necessary for the full 
information of the most exacting student of Masonic history, and for
 the ample vindication of the shamefully aspersed memory of our honored brother. We should not, indeed, have thought it needful at the
present time to renew the subject at all, or to refer to it in any way in
 our pages, had we not recently accidentally met with the original of an important official document, which, while it confirms and strengthens what the slanderers of our deceased brother have maliciously fastened upon and held up as a fatal break in the chain that connects the acts of his early life with his pretensions as the authorized representative of the parent Grand Lodge of England, will, we are firmly convinced, be most acceptable to all of our readers, and particularly so to those who feel any interest in the truth and integrity of the early annals of the Craft in this country. The document, which we here give, is a letter to the Grand Lodge of England from the "First Lodge in Boston," written in 1736, and less than three years after the organization of the first Grand Lodge in America. It reads as follows:

To the Rt. Honorable and Rt. Worshipfull Grand Master or Deputy G. M. or G. W. of the Grand Lodge of the Free and Accepted Masons In England.

From the Holy Lodge of St. John — held in Boston, New England, the 23d. day of June, A.M. 5736."

Most Worthy and Dear Brethren:

Our great Affection for the whole Fraternity, will not permit Us to Slip this favourable Opportunity, to Give you Sincere Assurances of our due Regards, for all our Most Worthy Brethren,— regularly Met in the Rt. Worshipful Holy Lodge of St. John, under the Protection of the Heavenly Canopy and in Particular, That of England.

Our hearty good Wishes, We forward to You under the Recommendation of our Rt. Worshipfull Brother Mr. Benj. Barons (our present S. G W.) Who's great Meritts has Contributed very much to the flourishing State of Masonry in this great Town. (see note 1 below)

Our Lodge was Constituted by Our Right Worshipfull Grand Master Mr. Henry Price ('Provincial Grand Master) on the 31st day of August of A: D: 1733 (see note 2 below) and is held at the Royall Exchange Tavern in King Street Boston. (see note 3 below) And Meet the 2d and 4th Wednesday in every Month; It is Adorned with the most Eminent Gentlemen of this Place, and kept in it's Primitive Beauty and Purity.

We Should think our Selves thoroughly Happy, if any favorable Opportunity, would offer to Convince all Our Worthy Brethren, of our true Affection for their Person; and for their Interests in these Parts: But in a particular Manner for those of your Rt. Worshipfull Lodge; To Whome We Remain with due Respect Most Worthy and Dear Brethren,

Your Affectionate Bros., and very humble Servants,

Henry Price, GM,
James Gordon, D. G. M. (see note 4 below)

Francis Beteilhe, Sec'y.

  • Note 1: It appears from this that Bro. Barons, who was at the time Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge in Boston, was on the eve of leaving the Province for England, and bad been furnished by the First Lodge with a Recommendation to the parent Grand Lodge at London; and this constituted the immediate occasion, as it furnished the opportunity, for the present letter.
  • Note 2: It has been generally supposed that the "First Lodge" was constituted on the evening of the first organization of the Grand Lodge, that is, on the 30th of July 1733. but it would appear from this that it was not actually "constituted" until the 31st of the following month, though the petition was undoubtedly presented and its prayer granted on the evening of the 30th of July. The error probably originated with the Secretary, or whoever afterwards made up the Records of the Grand Lodge from the loose memoranda which for the first year or two of its existence, constituted its only records.
  • Note 3: Removed from the "Bunch of Grapes" Tavern in 1735.
  • Note 4: We give these signatures as they were originally appended to the manuscript before us; but they were afterwards erased with a pen, when the letter was probably taken Into a new draft, and the present copy placed on the files of the Lodge.

Accompanying the above, and on the third page of the same sheet
of paper, the following list of the then members of the Lodge is
given: A List of the Names of the Free and Accepted Masons who are Members of the Holy Lodge of St. John, Held in Boston In New England:

  • Mr. Henry Price, G. M.
  • His Excelly. Jona. Belcher, Esqr.
  • Andrew Belcher, Esqr.
  • Mr. Chars. Gordon,
  • Mr. Alexa. Trann,
  • Mr. Sam. Pemberton,
  • Benja. Pemberton, Esqr.
  • Henry Hope, Esqr.
  • Capn. James Cerke.
  • Capn. Roger Wellington.
  • Mr. John McNeal.

Brethren made In Boston.

  • Mr. James Gordon, D. G. M.,
  • Mr. Benja. Barons, S. G. W.,
  • Mr. Robert Thomlinson, J. G. W.,
  • Capn. Robert Macklean, W. M.,
  • Mr. Hugh McDaniel, S. W.,
  • Mr. John Osborne, Jun., J. W.,
  • Francis Beteilhe, Secy.
  • Charless Bladwell, Esqr.
  • Doct. Thos. Moffatt.
  • John Overing, Esqr.
  • Mr. Thos. Phillips.
  • Mr. Andrew Hallyburton.
  • Mr. Thos. Oxnard.
  • Capn. Wilton Henton.
  • Capn. Robert McKnight.
  • Capn. Webber Gofton.
  • Capn. Robert Smith.
  • Capn. Willm. Frost.
  • Capn. Robert Boydd.
  • Capn. James Forbes.
  • Capn. Benja. Hallowell.
  • Doct. Robert Gardiner.
  • Mr. Moses Slaitterrsy.
  • Mr. Alexa. Gordon.
  • Mr. Wilton Wesson.
  • Mr. Robt. Kenton.
  • Mr. Robt. Peaseley.
  • Mr. Peter Prescott.
  • Mr. John Baker.
  • Mr. Sam Curwin.
  • Mr. Anto. Davis.
  • Mr. John Smith.
  • Mr. Sam. Wethered.
  • Mr. Hugh Scott.
  • Mr. John Gordon.
  • Mr. Richard Pateshall.
  • Mr. Fran. Johonot.
  • Col. Jno. Morris.
  • Capn. John Fraizier.
  • Capn. James Farrell.
  • Capn. Giles Vandelluse.
  • Capn. John Huggott.
  • Mr. Fred. Hamilton.
  • Mr. Thos. Molony.
  • Mr. Edward Ellis.
  • Mr. Luke Vardy (Master of the Royall Exchange Tavern.)

It will be seen by the date of the above letter, that it was written a 
little less than three years after the organization of the Grand Lodge 
in Boston by Mr. Price, by virtue of his commission as Provincial
 Grand Master for New England, and that it bears hit name as Grand Master, with that of his Deputy and Secretary. The Grand Master of England at this time was the Earl of Loudon, who had just succeeded to the office, having been elected as the successor of Lord Weymouth 
on the 15th of April, 1736. His election could not therefore have been known to the brethren at Boston at the date of the letter; and this may account for its not having been directed to the Grand Master in person. There seems, indeed, to have been very little care taken at this time to keep the brethren in distant colonies informed as to any of the business transactions of the parent body.

What correspondence had previously taken place between Mr. Price and the Masonic authorities in England, it is impossible now to say, there being nothing in the archives of the Grand Lodge at London, or in those of the Grand Lodge of this Commonwealth to show. It is reasonable to presume, however, that, from his known punctuality in 
all his business and Masonic transactions, he had, as required by his commission, kept the parent body properly informed of his proceedings. Had there been any neglect of his duty in this respect, or had he failed at the proper time to notify the Grand Master at London of the organization by him of a Provincial Grand Lodge at Boston, it would be difficult to account for the omission of any reference to it, or apology for 
the neglect, in the letter before us. He was at least a man of common
 prudence, and would not have been guilty of the dangerous indiscretion 
of appearing before his principal in an assumed and unauthorized 
capacity. Sensible men are not guilty of such folly as this, even if impostors. But the slander and its authors have passed into the 
shades, where they may be safely left.

The character of the membership of the "First Lodge in Boston may in some measure be inferred from the unusual number of gentle
men of distinction belonging to it, as indicated by their civil and military titles. The military portion of them probably included persons holding official rank in the foreign regiments stationed in the town, and
others holding like offices in the local militia of the Province. Among
the untitled members we recognize the names of many of the opulent
 and leading merchants in the colony.


From Liberal Freemason, Vol. XII, No. 4, July 1888, Page 103:

The first Provincial Grand Master of Masons in New England was Henry Price of Boston, and the first operative and duly constituted Grand Lodge in America was that of St. John's, which Mr. Price constituted in Boston, July 30, 1733. The first lodge in America instituted by duly constituted authority was constituted in Boston, August 31, 1733, under the title of St. John's Lodge, and exists at is time. Henry Price, by virtue of his commission and by the exercise of his authority thereby granted — the first exercise of such authority in America, may deservedly be called the " Founder of Duly Constituted Masonry in America."

Henry Price came to America in 1723. Originally he was a "Taylor," carrying on his business at the sign of the Brazen Head, on Cornhill, about opposite the present Williams Court. In 1736 he formed a partnership with Francis Beteilhe, the first Secretary of St. John's Lodge, and after 1739 they were denominated "shopkeepers." In 1741, Mr. Price carried on business at the corner of Pond and Newbury Streets, now Bedford and Washington Streets. He was successful in business, and acquired a considerable property. During the years of his residence in Boston he was active in Masonry, and as the records prove, was regarded as the founder of the institution in this section. He also owned a residence or country at at Menotomy in Cambridge, now Arlington. Having purchased property in Townsend, Mass., he moved to that town in 1762 or 1763 and was a Representative to the General Court in 1764 and 1765. He resided in Townsend until his decease, May 20, 1780, having ained the age of 83 years. A familiar and trite expression as summing up his character was inscribed upon his tombstone, viz., "An Honest Man, the Noblest Work of God."

He was buried in Townsend in the old burying-place, about a mile from the centre of the town, and at the head of the grave was placed a slate stone a yard square now fractured and soon to be removed. Beneath that stone have reposed for more than a century the ashes of Henry Price, the first Provincial Grand Master of Masons in New England.

At the Quarterly Communication of the Grand Lodge in Boston September 12, 1877, R. W. Sereno D. Nickerson "stated that the head-stone at the grave of R. W. Henry Price was badly broken and crumbling to dust; and deeming that the spot where the remains rested should be commemorated by a suitable monument erected by this Grand Lodge, moved that a sum not exceeding five hundred dollars" be devoted to that purpose; which motion was adopted by a unanimous vote.

The opportune time having now arrived, the Grand Lodge being entirely free from debt and prosperous, M. W. Henry Endicott has made memorable his Grand Mastership by executing the above vote of the Grand Lodge.

The monument now erected is a great block of Westerly granite, about four feet square, standing upon a projecting granite pedestal of proper height and surmounted by a pyramidal granite top, making a total height of six feet. Upon one side is inscribed: "Henry Price, Founder of Duly Constituted Masonry in America."

The dedication of this monument took place on Thursday, June 21st. The M. W. Grand Master, accompanied by the Grand Officers and Henry Price Lodge of Charlestown, proceeded from Boston on the 9 A. M. train of the Fitchburg Railroad to Townsend Centre. At Ayer Junction the Company was joined by St. Paul and Caleb Butler Lodges of Ayer.

On arrival at Townsend a procession was formed and marched to the burial-ground, where at high 12, with the full and solemn ritual of the order, the monument was dedicated to the memory of Henry Price and in commemoration of the noble work which he began in New England.

On the Tuesday following, the Grand Lodge, with the lodges and brethren generally, assembled at Masonic Temple, Boston, in Sutton Hall, where R. W. Sereno D. Nickerson, Recording Grand Secretary, delivered an historical address. The name of the speaks is a sufficient guarantee that the address was worthy of the attention of the whole fraternity. Subsequently a banquet was served and brief addresses made by distinguished brethren.

Another important feature of these exercises is the issuing by the Grand Lodge of a bronze medal in commemoration of "the important services rendered to the Fraternity by the Father of Masonry in America." On one side of the medal is a likeness of Henry Price, around which are his name and the words "Founder of Duly Constituted Masonry in America." Beneath the likeness is the date of the celebration, "June 26, 1888." On the reverse is a representation of the arms of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, with its motto "Follow Reason," and the date "1733." The medal is suspended by a blue ribbon from the crossbar, bearing Masonic designs. Copies of this medal can be had at the office of the Grand Secretary in the Masonic Temple, Boston.

From Liberal Freemason, Vol. XII, No. 4, July 1888, Page 125:

As indicated in the article "In Memory of Henry Price," the Grand Lodge celebrated St. John's Day in the Masonic Temple, Boston, on Tuesday, June 26th, com-encing at 11 o'clock, a. m., according to a printed order of exercises made up of the items:

  • March or entrance of Grand Officers;
  • Anthem, The Lord is Great;
  • Reading of the Holy Scriptures;
  • Ode, Light, Beautiful Light;
  • Prayer;
  • Still, Still with Thee;
  • Historica1 Address, by R. W. Sereno D. Nickerson;
  • Everlasting Changing Never; and
  • Benediction.

The Music was rendered by the Temple Quartette, but the chief interest was in the Address, which was devoted to the Masonic Life and Times of Henry Price, the "Founder Duly Constituted Masonry in America." A vote was passed to print the Address with Grand Lodge Proceedings, hence we make attempt at giving a synopsis of it. The Orator was given a vote of thanks. A banquet was served to purchasers of tickets, limited necessarily to the Craft, and speeches from Grand Master Endicott, who presided, and other well-known brethren made up a most enjoyable occasion.


From Liberal Freemason, Vol. XII, No. 5, August 1888, Page 129:

In our July number we printed an article "In Memory of Henry Price,'* whose Masonic life surpasses that of other Masons in historic importance to so great an extent that we feel it to be a matter of duty to emphasize the subject in all proper ways, and therefore gratefully add to our stock of knowledge and understanding of him as opportunity offers.

So high has his name and memory been held in the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, that some years ago that venerable body appropriated a sufficient sum of money for the erection of a suitable monument in commemoration thereof, but not until recently has the design been carried to completion.

It could not be possible that an event of supreme importance to Freemasons in America, and especially so to those in Massachusetts, could be concluded without attracting a large 'hare of public interest, and this has been augmented by the activity of the press in giving extended and painstaking eports of the principal and incidental subjects. The Boston Herald was particularly happy in its treatment of the whole "Price" matter, and we avail ourself of its "Sketch of his Life and Masonic Work."


Uf the various Masonic events of the year, it may fairly be said that the most important was the dedication yesterday of a Masonic monument to the memory of Henry Price, who was the first Provincial Grand Master of Masons in North America, by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, F. A. M. This monument has beeS erected in Townsend, Mass., where the last years of his life were spent. Henry Price removed to Townsend about 1763, and died there in 1780. His remains were buried in what is called the'old burying-place,' which is situated on high land, about a mile from the centre of the town. For over a century the place of burial wal marked by an ancient slate stone about three feet square, and which lately became much dilapidated.

Here, in this quiet spot, have rested the remains of the man who, to use his own words, was the 'founder of duly constituted Masonry in America.' But though thus seemingly neglected, the memory of the man was not extinct among men and Masons, but was kept ever fresh and green in the hearts of the brethren. Some years ago the Grand Lodge learned that the headstone originally erected over the grave of Henry Price had become badly cracked, and was in danger of total destruction, and appropriated $500 for the erection of a more suitable monument. For various reasons nothing was done in the matter until this year. Under the charge of the board of directors of the Grand Lodge, a monument has been erected in the new cemetery in Townsend, upon a beautiful lot given for the purpose by the citizens of the town. The remains have been removed from the old cemetery, and deposited in a vault in the foundation of the monument. The whole expense of the erection was borne by the Grand Lodge. The monument stands on a beautiful eminence, commanding a view of the homestead formerly owned by Price, and where he lived many years. The stones which stood at the head and foot of the grave in the ojd cemetery will be cared for by the Grand Lodge, granite bases having been prepared for their reception.

THE MONUMENT is of hammered granite, and was designed and executed by the Smith Granite Company of No. 3 Bromfield Street, Boston, and Westerly, R. I. Though rather plain in design, it is still a very striking and beautiful piece of work; and its simplicity is in thorough keeping with the Masonic character of the man in whose honor it is erected. The base is four feet square by one foot three inches high, and from this springs the shaft, a perfect cube, three feet six inches each way; the whole is surmounted by an apex rising straight three inches, and then coming to a point in the form of a pyramid one foot farther. The total height is six feet. On the face of the shaft, in raised letters, upon a polished surface, is cut this inscription:


Upon the back, also finely polished, the inscription has been cut in sunken letters. It is taken from the ancient stone that has marked the last resting place of the remains of the venerable Mason for over a century, though in an abbreviated form. This inscription reads as follows:



Henry Price was born in London, England, about 1697, and came to New England about 1723. No trace of him can be found in Boston until 1732, when he brought suit against a debtor in the Superior Court of Common Pleas in Boston, being described in the writ as Henry Price of Boston, Taylor. He probably became established in business about 1729. In 1733, Gov. Jonathan Belcher appointed him cornet in his troop of guards, with the rank of major, a from that time he was known as Major Price. His office was that of standard bearer in the Governor's troop, to the members of which special privileges were granted by statute; and to hold such a position in the select body-guard of the Governor of New England, of itself conferred honorable social distinction.

Maj. Price carried on the business of tailoring till 1750, when he retired from business. His shops were located at various times, first at the sign of the Brazen Head on Cornhill, in that part now known as Washington Street, about half way between Water and State Streets, and opposite Williams Court; afterward at the corner of Pond and Newbury Streets, now Bedford and Washington Streets, where he owned a large estate; and finally on State Street, where he purchased a large estate in 1740. In 1737 he married Mary Townsend of Boston, who died in 1751. In 1746 he purchased a large estate at Menotomy fields, in Cambridge, in what is now the town of Arlington. Here his first wife died. In 1752 he married Mary Tilden of Boston. Having retired from business with a competency, he continued to be a resident of Boston, passing the summer season at his country seat at Cambridge. Having rebuilt or greatly enlarged this country house, and increased and improved the grounds, he removed there entirely in 1755, where he lived with his family until the death of his wife and daughter in 1760. The estate was then sold, and he returned to Boston and remained a year or two, removing to Townsend about 1763. He had previously acquired a large estate in that town, principally by an execution on a debt. He represented the town in the Provincial Legislature in 1764 and 1765. In 1771 he married as his third wife Lydia Randall of Townsend, by whom two daughters were born to him, and whose descendants are now living in that part of the State.

He was a strict Episcopalian in religion, and a sympathizer with the colonists in their struggle for liberty, though his age prevented him from taking an active part in the contest. In May, 1780, while splitting rails, he was injured, from the effects of which he died May 20, 1780.


July 30, 1733, ten Masonic brethren were convened at the house of Edward Lutwytch, 'at ye sign of the Bunch of Grapes in King Street,' a tavern situated on what is now the westerly corner of State and Kilby Streets. The brethren there assembled were Andrew Belcher, Thomas Kennelly, John Quann, Henry Hope, Frederick Hamilton, John McNeall, Peter Hall, Matthew Young, John Waddell, and Edward Ellis. A commission was produced at this meeting from Viscount Montague, Grand Master of England, appointing Henry Price Provincial Grand Master of New England, and authorizing him to form a Provincial Grand Lodge, appoint his Deputy Grand Master and Grand Wardens, and to constitute Lodges. A Provincial Grand Lodge was accordingly opened by Grand Master Price, and R. W. Bro. Andrew Belcher was appointed Deputy Grand Master, and W. Bros. Thomas Kennelly and John Quann Grand Wardens.

The first business transacted was to confer the degree upon James Gordon, William Gordon, John Baker, Thomas Molony, Andrew Halliburton, Robert Peaslee, Samuel Pemberton and John Gordon. The original members, with those newly made, then united in a petition to the Provincial Grand Master to be constituted into a regular Lodge. This prayer was granted, and the petitioners were constituted into the first regular Lodge in America.

This petition was stated by the late Past Grand Master, William Sewall Gardner, to have been 'undoubtedly the oldest Masonic document in America.' There can be no doubt of its authenticity. This petition is still preserved among the archives of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. The same authority says: "No man has yet been bold enough to deny that Henry Price organized a Provincial Grand Lodge at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern in Boston, on Monday, July 30, 1733, or that he then and there constituted the first Lodge."

The original commission or deputation to Henry Price is not now in existence so far as is known, but plenty of evidence is at hand to prove conclusively that he was commissioned in 1733 by the Grand Lodge of England, as the first Provincial Grand Master of America. This is proved by his own testimony and that of his contemporaries, and also by the later action of the Grand Lodge of England confirming his commission, and establishing the precedence the Provincial Grand Lodge as 1733, the year in which it was instituted. This precedence is universally acknowledged, and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is recognized as the oldest body in America.

It is supposed that Price was made a Mason prior to his removal to this country in 1723, and that he was personally acquainted with the officers of the Grand Lodge of England. It is also supposed that he returned to England in 1733, — a supposition at is borne out by one of his letters written in 1755, — and that while there he obtained this commission by his personal application. "The Provincial Grand Lodge adopted as a seal a modification of the seal of the Grand Lodge of England, with some features from the seal of Lord Montague, who was Grand Master in 1733, and as such issued the commission, in 1733, to Henry Price."

From the institution of the first Lodge Masonry became very popular in Massachusetts. As is stated in the Grand Lodge records for December, 1733: 'Masonry caused great speculation in these days in New England to the great, the vulgar, and the small.' Jonathan Belcher was at this time Governor of Massachusetts. He had been made a Mason in England in 1704, and from the start gave the new Grand Lodge his countenance and support. His son, Andrew Belcher, then register of probate, was appointed first Deputy Grand Master. In 1734 Price's commission, which had limited his authority to New England, was extended to all North America by John Lindsay, Earl Crawford, then Grand Master of England. In the same year Benjamin Franklin, who had been made a Mason in England, visited Boston, and returned to Philadelphia with authority from Grand Master Price to establish a Lodge in Philadelphia, which was duly constituted that same year. Benjamin Franklin was much interested in Masonry; and it appears that in 1734 he reprinted the Constitutions of the Freemasons, containing the History, Changes, Regulations, etc., of that Most Ancient and R. W. Fraternity for the use of Lodges. In other ways, also, he showed his zeal and devotion to the fraternity. He was the first Grand Master of Pennsylvania under the authority granted to the brethren of that colony by Grand Master Price, and a letter from Franklin to Price, asking that the acts of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge be confirmed, was for many years preserved in Boston, until destroyed by fire.

From the Grand Lodge thus established in Boston sprung lodges in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nova Scotia, Connecticut, Virginia, and West Indies; and thus it became true, that Henry Price was, as he claimed to be, the 'founder of duly constituted Masonry in America.' After three years' service as Grand Master he resigned. He was succeeded by Robert Tomlinson, Thomas Oxnard, Jeremiah Gridley, and John Rowe, all men of character and standing in the community. But Price at various times acted as Grand Master, until the breaking out of the Revolutionary War suspended the meetings of the Grand Lodge. He was intimately connected with all its business, and was relied upon at all times by the brethren for advice and assistance. Under his leadership, and through his faithful and persistent labor, the order rose from a position of comparative insignificance to one of prominence and great respectability in the province. The clergy gave the society their sanction; and the press, even then a power in the community, spoke of it with respect.


A large party started from Boston for Townsend Thursday, June 21, on the 9 A. M. train, via the Fitchburg Railroad. The Grand officers and members of the Grand Lodge in the party were: Henry Endicott of Cambridge, Grand Master; Samuel Wells of Boston, Deputy Grand Master; James M. Gleason of Boston, Senior Grand Warden; Dana J. Flanders of Malden, Junior Grand Warden; John
Carr of Roxbury, Grand Treasurer; Sereno D. Nickerson of Boston, Recording Grand Secretary; Benjamin A. Gould of Cambridge, Corresponding Grand Secrectary; Rev. Fielder Israel of Salem, Grand Chaplain; Charles S. Robertson of Charlestown, Grand Lecturer; George H. Rhodes of Taunton, Grand Marshal; Charles H. Norris of Salem, Senior Grand Deacon; Joseph B. Mason of Boston, Junior Grand Deacon; Charles K. Gifford of Fall River and E. G. Stevens of Cambridge, Junior Grand Stewards; J. H. Upham of Boston and J. F. French of Abington, Grand Pursuivants; Z. L. Bicknell of Weymouth, Grand Standard Bearer; E. B. Holmes of Boston, Grand Sword Bearer; John H. Chester of Boston, Grand Tyler; Past Grand Masters Samuel C. Lawrence of Medford, Chas. C. Dame of Newburyport, and William Parkman of Boston; William Salmon of Lowell, of the Board of Directors; William W. Wheildon of Concord, formerly Corresponding Grand Secretary; E. Dana Bancroft of Ayer, formerly Grand Lecturer. The party were joined
at Charlestown by Henry Price Lodge of Masons, with a full list of

Upon arriving at Ayer Junction, St. Paul and Caleb Butler Lodges of Masons of Ayer were taken up. A special train was run to Townsend, where a procession was formed, and, headed by the Townsend Band, marched to Odd Fellows' Hall, where the Grand Lodge was opened in form. The procession was formed in the fallowing order, and marched directly to the new cemetery, distant about half a mile:

  • Townsend Band
  • Henry Price Lodge of Charlestown
  • St. Paul Lodge, Ayer
  • Caleb Butler Lodge, Ayer
  • Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and visiting brethren.

There were nearly three hundred Masons in the line, the display being much interfered with by the rain, which began to fall just before 12 o'clock. Upon Arriving at the monument the services were opened by a votive hymn, Fame and Time, written for the occasion by Rev. Brother William R. Alger.

The Grand Master said that, by the liberality of citizens of the town, through its proper officers, a deed had been presented to the Grand Lodge, through Wor. Brother Albert L. Fessenden, conveying to that body the plot of land upon which the Grand Lodge has erected a monument to commemorate the services to Masonry of Henry Price. Prayer was offered by Rev. Fielder Israel, Grand Chaplain, followed by the report on the examination of the structure by the proper officers; libation of corn by the Junior Grand Warden, Dana J. Flanders; libation of wine by the Senior Grand Warden, James M. Gleason; libation of oil by the Deputy Grand Master, Samuel Wells of Boston; and invocation by the Grand Chaplain.

The address of dedication was then delivered by the M. W. Grand Master, Henry Endicott. He said the brethren had gathered to bring a tribute of affectionate respect to a man born in a distant country nearly two centuries ago, and, strange to say, lie was neither statesman nor general. Henry Price must be considered as the type of that man who does bravely and simply his nearest duty ; who does it dreaming of no reward other than of adding to the welfare of others and the approval of his own conscience. It is eminently fitting that to him whose untiring devotion brought the order in the province from comparative insignificance into a position of honor and usefulness, the Freemasons of this Commonwealth should erect a lasting memorial. Around the name of Henry Price is entwined much of what is most interesting in our Masonic history, and he is recognized as a worthy predecessor of such men as Joseph Warren, Paul Revere, and others who have rendered still more illustrious the position he filled. This hour is dedicated to thoughts of his simple manliness. Let it strengthen the resolve to hold sacred and pure the principles handed down to us through him and others like him, and thus most truly honor them, and leave to those who come after the message of loyalty to the ideal brotherhood of man. The Grand Secretary, Sereno D. Nickerson, also delivered an interesting historical address. Proclamation was made by the Grand Marshal, the quartet sung Old Hundred, and the Grand Chaplain pronounced the benediction.

The procession was reformed, and marched back to Odd Fellows' Hall, when the Grand Lodge was closed in form. The brethren then repaired to the town hall, where a bountiful collation was served.

It is interesting to note that on Thursday, June 21, 1866, twenty-two years ago to a day, Henry Price Lodge of Charlestown went to Townsend and held services at the grave of Henry Price, then in the old burying-place. An historical address was delivered by L. S. Tarbell of Pepperell, and addresses were made by G. Washington Warren, William W. Wheildon, and Charles R. Train. Of those were present on that occasion four were with the party yesterday. These were the venerable William W. Wheildon of Concord, formerly editor of the Bunker Hill Aurora, Charlestovvn ; N. S. Nesmith of the City Hospilal, Boston; George E. McKay, Superintendent of Faneuil Hall Market, and E. Dana Bancroft of Ayer.


From New England Craftsman, Vol. XX, No. 10, July 1925, Page 350:

By Bro. H. L. Haywood, in The Builder

The most important event in the history of Masonry in New England, and one of the most important in the history of the whole of the American Craft, was the issuance of a Deputation to Henry Price by the Grand Master of England, Lord Viscount Montague, in which Price was authorized to be "Provincial Grand Master of New England and Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging."

There has bean much debate over the date of this instrument. The Beteilhe Manuscript (see Study Club article last month), written between July 27 and August 23, 1737, gave the date as April 13, 1733; this same date was given in the petition for charter of the First Lodge in Boston, July 30, 1733; in the Duke of Beaufort's Deputation to John Rowe in 1768; and in a communication from Grand Secretary French of the Grand Lodge, England, Bro. Melvin M. Johnson believes April 19 to have been correct. But the earliest records of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, written by Pelham, gave it as April 30; so did Ebenezer Swan in the earliest records of the First Lodge of Boston. A number of later writers, such as Drummond, MacCalla, Stillson and Hughan have followed Swan and Pelham; but a careful analysis of the facts preponderate in favor the date as April 13. This point is of little intrinsic importance, nevertheless it has been made the basis for attacks on the validity of Price's Deputation, of which more anon.

Henry Price received his Deputation in person, while visiting the Grand Lodge of England, and paid for it a fee of three guineas. It was signed by Thomas Batton, Deputy Grand Master, and by the Grand Wardens, and is supposed to have carried the seal of Grand Master Montague. No record of the issuance of the Deputation was entered in the minutes of the Grand Lodge of England, but the same thing holds true of other Deputations known to have been issued, as described in this department last month. A deputation for a Provincial Grand Mastership was issued privately by the Grand Master, as one of the prerogatives of his office, and was held to be the personal property of the recipient; for these reasons it frequently happened that no minutes of such a transaction were entered in the Grand Lodge records. Price's Deputation has been printed in full in Johnson's Beginnings of Freemasonry in America, and in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1871, taken from the Beteilhe Manuscript of 1737. Price brought his Deputation with him on his return to Boston in the spring of 1733 and almost immediately laid it before a number of the brethren.

Price was born in London in 1697. The minutes of the Grand Lodge of England show that in 1730 he was a member of Lodge No. 75, meeting at the Rainbow House, in London, and as such was doubtlessly well and favorably known to the brethren of Grand Lodge. He was in Boston in 1723, but later returned to London where, as noted above, he was present at Grand Lodge in 1733. Between April 18 and July 30 of that same year he returned to Boston, where he remained during the whole of a long life.

Records of a suit filed by him in Boston in 1733-4 have him described as "Henry Price of Boston", a tailor by profession, in which calling he could not have stood very high in the social hierarchy of the city; but in 1733 Governor Jonathan Belcher appointed him cornet, or standard bearer, in the Governor's troop of cavalry, with the rank of major, by which title he was always known thereafter: this office, according to the usages of the time, bestowed upon him a certain amount of societal distinction. Price formed a business partnership with Francis Beteihle in 1736, to operate a general store and tailor shop, with Price in charge of the latter. But in three of four years Price severed the connection, purchased a lot of land for £100, erected on it a brick building in which he kept a clothing and dry goods store, and very evidently prospered greatly, for be retired in 1750 in possession of a great amount of real estate.

By religion be was an Episcopalian, against which there was a great deal of prejudice in Boston in those times; but later in life, though without any change in his creed, he also purchased pews in three meeting houses not of his faith, a fact that evidences a life long and sincere interest in religion without the taint of sectarianism.

In 1737 he was married to Mary Townsend. A year after her death in 1751 he married Mary Tilden of Boston. His second wife died in 1759 or 60, and a short time hereafter their daughter, a double bereavement that left Price saddened all his days. In 1771 he married Lydia Randall, from which union two children were born. During all those years Price prospered in business, bought many properties in Boston and suburbs, and for several years had a country home in Cambridge. His home at Menotomy was so large that it was generally described as the "great house." His death occurred in 1780 from an accident while splitting rails, when his axe glanced against his abdomen. From this severe wound he died on the 20th of May at the age of eighty-three, leaving behind him a large estate. All extant evidence go to prove that Henry Price was a man of firm character and fine intelligence, who by his his own diligence built up a fortune considerable in that period, end who was accepted socially and commercially among the leading citizens of the Province.

During the past forty years several attempts have been made, notably by a notorious and violently prejudiced American Masonic writer whose name need not be mentioned, to call into question Price's good faith and even to accuse him of having forged his Deputation; such canards fall utterly to pieces against the undeniable record of his consistent character and his reputation. Had he been such a man as his traducers have undertaken to paint him, it would have been impossible for him to make for himself such a place in Massachusetts during the forty-seven years in which ho was so active in and about Boston.

Neither could such a man have so long remained the actual or virtual head of Freemasonry in New England — virtual, that is, in the sense that he was looked up to as a father in the Masonic Israel. He was appointed to be the first Provincial Grand Master of New England in 1733, and as such was universally accepted: he served continuously as Grand Master from his appointment until 1737; again from July, 1740, to March 6, 1743-4; again from July 12, 1754, to October 1, 1755; and yet again from October 20, 1767, to November 23, 1768. He was charter Worshipful Master of the Masters' Lodge of Boston; charter Worshipful Master of the Second Lodge; and one of the Worshipful Masters of the First Lodge. Even so late as l773, when he was seventy six years of age, he was asked to preside over Grand Lodge in the absence of Grand Master John Rowe. All his Masonic activities were public, known in every detail to the brethren on both sides of the water, and were by all accepted as regular and official; had his Deputation been a forged document, had he assumed leadership unlawfully, the fact would have been discovered very early and made impossible his long and honorable Masonic career.

Henry Price was buried in Townsend, a small Massachusetts town incorporated in 1732, forty-six miles distant from Boston, on the border line of New Hampshire. The original stone placed at the head of his grave, a photograph of which is given herewith, carries an inset here copied just as it stands:

"In Memory of Henry Price, Efq. Was born in London about the Year of our Lord 1697 he Remov'd to Bofton about the Year 1723 Rec. a Deputation Appointing him Grand Mafter of Mafons in New England & in the Year 1733 was Appointed a Cornet in the Governors Troop of Guards With the Rank of Major. By his Diligence & Industry in Bufinefs he acquired the means of a Comfortable Living with which he remov'd to Townfend in the latter Part of his life. He quitted Mortality the 20th of May A. D. 1780 Leaving a Widow ami two Young Daughters. With a Numerous Company of Friends and Acquaintances to Mourn his Departure Who have that Ground of hope Concerning his Prefent Lot Which Refults from his undifsembled Regard to his Maker & extenfive Benevolence to his Fellow Creatures Manifefted in Life by a behaviour Confident With his Character as a Mafon and his Nature as a Man. An honeft Man the Nobleft Work of God."

Those who lone called into question the genuineness of Price's original Deputation and who have sought otherwise to discredit him and his Masonic career before the bar of history have made much capita] out of three facts; first, that no record was made of the Deputation in the Minutes of the Grand Lodge of England; second, that In a letter to the Grand Lodge of England under date of January 27, 1768, and while referring to his own Deputations (Price received a second Deputation, as will be later explained, in which his powers were extended) he spelled Montague as "Montacute"; third, he mentioned in a letter to the Grand Secretary of England in 1768 his second Deputation as having been of the year 1735, when it should have been 1734. Reasons for the absence of any Grand Lodge record of his Deputation have already been given. As to his misspelling of the name of the Grand Master who issued his first Deputation that is easily explained by the fact that the name was spelled "Montacute" in Entick's edition of the Constitutions, widely used by American Masons as an official book. The error in the date is really of no consequence al all. Thirty-four years bad lapsed since 1734, so that when he wrote the letter Price was seventy-one years of age and forty-six miles from his books, papers, and documents. Any other man under the same circumstances might have made a similar slip. Also it is worthy of note that a petition which accompanied Price's letter spells the name of Lord Montague correctly and accurately and gives the date of Price's second Deputation at 1734. The latter facts would indicate that the errors in Price's own letters were mere oversight.

One will find all these facts, and many others equally germane, set forth at great length and in a manner very interesting to read by William Sewall Gardner in an address delivered before tbe Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, of which he was then Grand Master, December 27, 1871, printed in full in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1871. page 284.

Gardner's estimate of the man, along with a summary of his arguments for the authenticity of Price's first Deputation is embodied in the last pages of his address, in three paragraph worthy to be quoted:

It would seem, however, from the evidence now produced, that no one could reasonably doubt that the officers and members of the Grand Lodge at London were fully informed of the proceedings of Henry Price, in Boston, who publicly claimed to be the authorized delegate and representative of that Grand Body here; that from 1733, down to the war of the Revolution, they were as familiar with his doings as with those of their Provincial Grand Masters in the several districts of England. It cannot even be argued with any degree of plausibility, that they, or the Craft in general, could be ignorant of his pretensions, acts and doings. If they had knowledge of his claim to a Deputation from England, as Provincial Grand Master, or if it is apparent that they ought reasonably to have known it, the conclusion is irresistible that Price held the Commission and office, which he publicly professed to have, under which he openly acted, and which were notoriously throughout America ascribed to him. From all the Grand Officers at London, as well as from all the Members of the Fraternity, from 1733 to 1780, there was universal, undoubted belief in Henry Price, as. the legitimate founder, under lawful authority, of Masonry in America. Not a doubt, suspicion, or insinuation were breathed against him. He was entirely, unconditionally, absolutely confided in, upon both sides of the Atlantic. During all the years of his Masonic life he enjoyed the fullest confidence of the Grand Lodge at London. It would seem to be too late now to originate doubt and suspicion, against a man of pure character, unsullied name, and spotless reputation, after the lapse of one hundred and thirty eight years (Written in 1871), unless the clearest evidence and undeniable proofs of the charges made are adduced. Suspicion and suspicious circumstances are not sufficient to weigh down his more than eighty years of life, characterized by honesty, integrity and Christian virtue.

In reviewing the life of Henry Price, we cannot escape the impression that the Ancient Society of Free and Accepted Masons, through his persistent labor, emerged from a position of comparative insignificance to one of prominence and great respectability in the Province. When he opened the Provincial Grand Lodge at Boston, in July, 1733, the Brethren whom he called around him, with the exception of Andrew Belcher, occupied humble places in life, and were not calculated to extend the influence of the Society, nor to make proselytes from among the best men of Boston. But Henry Price set his standard high. He was ambitious that the institution should be known by the good character of its members, and that it should be represented by able and respectable officers. He retained the office of Provincial Grand Master only so long as it was necessary to carry out his cherished scheme. All of his successors were gentlemen of the highest respectability and character, while those who had become members of the Lodges gave to the Society a position which commanded the respect of all classes of men. The reverend clergy gave to it their sanction, and aided by the sacred rites of their office, in their churches, the public demonstrations which from time to time occurred. The press spoke in terms of respect of "that ancient Society, whose benevolent constitutions do honor to mankind," and of the distinction conferred upon those called to preside as Grand Master over its proceedings. Thus the institution won its way to favor in public estimation. When Price installed his successors, each one with more ceremony and pomp than that of the preceding one, he saw that the honor which he claimed, of being the "Father of Masonry in America," was not an empty honor, but one which in his day was worthy of pride, and which he well hoped might be ascribed to him in history.

He had been successful beyond his fondest anticipations. Wealth, political and social distinction, the high authorities in the Province, the teachers of Christian virtue and the leaders in the two great parties of loyalty and liberty, had bowed before the altar of Freemasonry erected by him. Thus he had accomplished all that he dared to dream of in the early days of his labor.


From New England Craftsman, Vol. XXXII, No. 8, April 1937, Page 148:

Written for the Masonic Craftsman

A sentence spoken during the Bi-ccntenary observances at Boston in June 1933, if well advised, is important. It seems to shed new light on the early life of Henry Price, founder of regular Craft Masonry in the western hemisphere.

Right Worshipful F. W. Fell Clark, Provincial Grand Master of Argyle and the Isles, and substitute Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, brought fraternal greetings. He said (as reported) in part:—

"At that church in Chigwell your founder must have attended, because he was at school at the Chigwell grammar school, so that has some connection with this country." (Proc. G. L. Mass., 1933, p. 166)

If his meaning was that the founder of Craft Masonry in North America was educated at Cliigwell in the 18th century, as well as the founder of Pennsylvania in the 17th, Cliigwell grammar school surely "has some connection with this country."

Describing the Joseph Warren medal for distinguished Masonic service, as the "laurel wreath of achievement," Grand Master Curtis Chipman bestowed it upon Brother Fell Clark later on. Presumably for the good he had done, rather than as a response to his remark above quoted. Until this that has escaped noticed.

The interest in Henry Price, as a personality, revived eighty years ago, since when a Mason, to be considered Bright, has needed awareness of him. Conformably Masonic writers have sought to discover the facts in respect to him. With such industry, the impression for some time has been, that further effort would be useless; as futile as a wish (in Robert Louis Stevenson's phrase) to "be the architect of the irrevocable past."

To go a-gleaning where Massachusetts Grand Masters Heard, Gardner, Sereno Nickerson and Melvin Johnson have gathered may be unwise. Only the pertinacious attempt to reopen adjudicated causes! Vet, more information about Henry Price is desirable. To continue inquiry can do no harm. Certain items in the records, formerly slurred or omitted as too technical, when reviewed, may be suggestive. Those even who regard Freemasonry as an ideographic presentation of aboriginal thought, incline to believe that English-speaking Freemasonry aims to promote the welfare of mankind.

Price, the man and Mason, was taken on trust largely up to the time when, led by Brother John T. Heard, the Massachusetts brethren rediscovered him. They visited Townsend, Mass., the home of his old age; viewed his then neglected grave; interviewed and fostered his grandson living nearby, a recluse. They rescued his portrait and restored it. His Chair is now in the Temple in Boston, with the broken gravestone, when at last a dignified monument took its place. At Charlestown in June 1859, Henry Price Lodge was constituted with precedence from 1858. WorshipfuU George Washington Warren delivered at his installation a laudatory address. "Brother David Pulsifer in behalf of himself and Brother A. A. Prescott, presented a parchment copy of the will of R. W. Henry Price, the first Grand Master" on December 29, 1863 and Grand Lodge accepted it with thanks. Like many another relic it was destroyed in the Winthrop House Fire, April 1864. Under Grand Master Endicott the Henry Price medal was authorized, "and is now the visible evidence of distinguished service and is proudly worn by a select company." (Chipman.)

In 1871 Judge William Sewall Gardner gave theGrand Lodge the result of his investigations. Thereafter none could say: "Of our first Grand Master we are wholly ignorant." But still the certainties of his Masonic career contrast with biographical indeterminisms.

When from a desire for knowledge, and not for rhetorical effort, one might ask: "Who was Henrn Price?": it is said he was born in London 'about 1697 he came to Boston, N. E. 'about 1723 when about 26 years of age,' returned to London, was a member of Lodge 75 meeting at the Rainbow Coffee House in York Buildings, constituted July 17, 1730. (Q. A. C., vol. X.) And when he again came to Boston he bor( with him the Warrant of the Grand Master of England, dated April 13, 1733, nominating him Provincial Grand Master for New England; and organized under it July 30, 1733, appointing as his Deputy, Andrew Belcher, son of Governor Jonathan Belcher, who commissioned him, with the rank of Major, Cornet of his Troop of Horse Guards. The next year his authority ras extended over "His Majesty's Dominions in North America." He held office until he resigned in 1737; afterwards serving from 1740 to 1743; July 1754 to October 1755; and from October 1767 to November 1768. retired in favor of John Rowe. And meanwhile he was sometime Master of the First, or St. John's Lodge, the Second Lodge, and of the Masters' Lodge.

At one stage it was contradictorily averred: "No 'race of him can be found in Boston until 1732 . . . He opened a store and commenced business under his own name ... It is extremely doubtful if he was for himself before 1729 . . . He was established in business as early u 1730 or '31" According to Heard, using 1857 Bostonese for the English term drapers and tailoro, he firm of Price & Beteilhe "were Shopkeepers, probably in the Dry Goods trade." At the Brazen Head in Cornhill 'very nearly opposite Williams Court, answering to 96 Washington St." (Drake. Boyle.) At that address Benjamin Franklin, at home again from a Boston visit, twice wrote to Grand Master Price. Francis Beteilhe was secretary, and Price master of the St. John's Lodge when a letter of credence dated June 23, 1736, was given to Barons, senior warden, prior to his departure to England. When did the partnership end? On Betelhe's death? Gardner has Price "alone 1739" and "after a while in 1741 alone at the corner of Pond & Newbury Sts. (Bedford & Washington)." Johnson bridges the difficulty by having them partners from 173(5 to 1741. Certainly Price was a tailor, being so designated in an action he brought the Inferior Court of Common Pleas in the year 1733/4.

At a meeting of the Selectmen of Boston. April 18, 1744. "Mr. Henry Price appeared and informed them that he was about to build a House in King St. & Desired the Selectmen would be present to run the Line between his land and said Street." On October 17, the Selectmen "Voted that Mr. Henry Price have liberty to Set up a Sign Post before his Ho. in King St." And February 29. 1745, "Voted that Messrs. Aaron Boardman, Tin Plate-worker & Henry Price, Tailor, be accepted as further security for Mr. John Stanifords Collecting the Tax for the year 1745." (Boston Rec.)

Public and private finances were in a parlous state for a great part of the 18th century. The circulating medium was both insufficient and unreliable. A Silver Bank and a Land Bank were proposed remedially. The promoters of both asked the Assembly for a charter. (Mass. Hist. Soc. Proc. 43.428)

The Land Bank of 1740 was popular at first. Its friends had control of the House of Assembly for some years. But it was in the end suppressed under the 'Bubble Act of 1720' passed by Parliament when Henry Price was a boy in London. The Land Bank is called an "extraordinary folly" and an "unfortunate financial experiment" bv Andrew McFarlnnd Davis. His paper entitled Alphabetical List of Partners in the Land Bank of 1740 is in volume 50 of the N. E. H. Book Gen. Reg., for 1896. As Davis said: "It may seem to be a matter of comparatively little interest who we directly interested in this attempt to issue currency based on real estate." Till we find the name of Henry Price in the Lists of Subscribers. (Mass. Arch. 102. 44 & 46.) Then things have a new aspect, in my opinion. Because his connection with the enterprise (perhaps slight) eventually must have diverted him from the King Street business. As he retired in 1750. to devote attention to the care of his large holding of real estate.

Major Price was thrice married. His first wife was Mary Townsend, daughter of Peter and Mary (Gilbert) Townsend, born January 26, 1719. (Boston Recs.) The marriage intentions were published July 18, 1737. And though her uncle James, her guardian since May, forbad the banns, Gardner thought because her people were Congregationalists and Price a Church of England man, they married in the autumn. A daughter was born October 18. 1738, named Mary. (Boston Births. 1700-51, p. 247.)

From over the King Street store, where according to custom he had lived with his family, he removed to West Cambridge, then called Menotomy, hut now the Town of Arlington. There his was the 'great House!' He proposed on April 21. 1751 that the Feast of St. John should be celebrated there. Brother Charles Pelham, who first appears in the capacity of Grand Secretary in the record of June 24. wrote of the Festival being held elsewhere in Cambridge: "Brother Price's House at Menotomy being Incumbered by sickness." Gardner's comment: "It is probable that the sickness referred to was that of his wife Mary, and that about that time she died." is the sole clue to the actual date.

Henry Price, 'gentleman,' owned half a pew at Trinity Church, Boston. His marriage intentions with Mary Tilden were published April 29, 1752; the rector, Reverend William Hooper, married them on May 25th. The history of Arlington (p. 286) gives the date of her death July 26, 1759. aged 48. And Boule's Journal affords this entry: "Oct. 8. 1760 – Died at Cambridge in the twentieth year of her age Miss Polly Price, only daughter of Major Henry Price — to be buried from the dwelling-house of William Blair Townsend in Boston." Her cousin's helpfulness to the bereaved father sketches the general sympathy that was shown him.

Just over a month later the house-of-his-monrnful-memories was sold. Presently he went to live in Townsend. Mass., having acquired property there. In the Meeting-House pew no. 31 was his. The Town for the first time in twenty years wished representation in the Provincial Assembly, and Major Price was chosen to be their member in 1764 and 1765. In Revolutionary doing's he was conservative, not Loyalist. He presided over Grand Lodge in December 1773. John Bowe being absent at the time of the Tea Party excitement.

A copy of the Declaration of Independance was sent to each town in Massachusetts, by order of the Council, to be read from the pulpit and entered in the town book. The question whether the Council and House of Representatives ought to frame a government came before Townsend town meeting October 15. 177,. and referred to Lieut. Jas Lock, Samuel Manning and Major Henry Price, as a committee. Their report was adopted; being in substance as follows:

". . . it is the opinion of this town, that although government is essential to the happiness and well being of a people, and the powers of forming states is in them, and that government ought to be set up in this state as soon as possible with safety and propriety, we cannot now give our consent that the present house form a constitution for these reasons: (viz.)

That the representation act made by the late house much enlarged the privilege of many maritime towns, giving the mercantile part of the state, where the court is held, a material, dangerous advantage over the country towns, the landed part; and 'we therefore judge it is of consequence that representation be reduced nearly to the former mode before government is set up." (Hist. Townsend, p. 185)

Major Price on September 6, 1771, made an antenuptial settlement on Lydia Randall of Townsend. She was the young widow of John Abbott and had a minor son John. Rev. Samuel Dix of Trinity Church officiated at the wedding September 17th. They had daughters named Mary and Rebecca, who married respectively, William Wallis (Wallace) of Pepperill and George Farrar of Townsend.

The Major met with an accident May 14, 1780, while chopping wood on his farm; the next day he made his will, and died May 20th, aged 83. His estate was a sizeable one. Ten years after it was bankrupt, due to the aftermath to the Revolutionary war.

A knowledge of his appearance is secured in his portrait. Some portraits have been proved to be spurious. As for example an alleged likeness of the first Grand Secretary Pelham, which was a long time exhibited in the anteroom to Corinthian Hall, of the Boston Masonic Temple, and turned out to be a mezzotint by Pelham, of his oil-portrait of Cotton Mather, with-doctor-of-divinity! a work which, while considered his best in that medium, in no way resembled the artist it was thought to portray. One which is genuine replaces it. The portrait of our first grand master, in the West of Corinthian Hall, arrests the attention of its beholders, and is known to be authentic; "a veritable portrait" as Brother Johnson assured the Grand Lodge in 1914. In The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America (1921) he summarizes ably the facts found in the Massachusetts Proceedings and elsewhere, with references.

Dipping into the abundant literature covering 18th centurv life in London is no dry-as-dust use of time.

Events jut out; the great storm in the winter of 1703; the South Sea Bubble, the distress after it burst; the rejoicings on the accession of George I, to go no further. It is entertaining to learn that two Hogarth prints give the portrait of Dr. Desaguliers. who with Anderson wrote the Ritual after the revival in 1717; to mark that Lord Chesterfield made a Mason of Francis III, Duke of Lorraine, at the Hague; that John Huske, whom Price made at Boston, frequented the coffee-houses in pre-American Revolutionary days with other New Englanders; to read that the triple murderess, Sarah Malcolm, was painted in her cell at Newgate, a few short weeks before Price obtained his Warrant at Viscount Montague's hands.

It is possible in fancy, with Harben's Dictionary of London for a guide, to roam the streets and alleys of the ancient City, seeking to determine in which Rainbow coffeehouse Lodge No. 75 met in 1730-31: the one in Fleet Street, between the Temple Gates? or that in St. Michael's Alley, Cornhill, between Birchin Lane and Fleece Passage, among "the houses destroved or damaged by the Fire which began in Change Alley on Friday, March 25, 1748?" Ah, it was the Rainbow in York Buildings; But where were they? Bv the river in Westminster on the site of Old York House? the York Buildings where operas were performed before Drury Lane theatre was built? Or those in George Street where Forrest, the lawyer lived?

Questions like these, propounded to a correspondent in London, (an expert record agent in good standing at the S. P. O.) elicited the following letter. Prefaced by conjecture (that a man strong minded enough to become founder of Freemasonry in America had some precedency before emigration) it reads:

"I find that a Henry Price was admitted to the Freedom of the Company of Merchant Taylors by Patrimony on 1st July 1719. He was the son of John dec? (I wish they had said where he lived.) This means that he was not younger than 21 on that data & might be easily 22.

I think this is your man, and I am going to try a prove it." You, Dear Brother Moorhouse, will not fail to observe that these musings close, as thev opened. I in harmony with all Speculative Masons:
As I am, most desirous of more light on Henry Price.

Fraternally yours.

Philip T. Nickerson, P. M.
To the Editor of The Craftsman, Boston.
March 8th, 1937.


From New England Craftsman, Vol. XLI, No. 8, August, 1946, Page 224:


Wilmington, Del. August 5, 1946.
Alfred H. Moorhouse, Editor,
The New England Craftsman

Dear Brother Moorhouse:

When Henry Price, the founder of regular Craft Masonry in North America was given memorial honors at the Bicentenary Celebration at Boston in 1933, Grand Ledges all over the world sent representative brethren with fraternal good wishes. The address of the Substitute Grand Master of Scotland. Right Worshipful Bro. Fell-Clark, seemed to shed light on Henry Price's boyhood. For he said in part:

"At that church in Chigwell your founder must have attended, because he was at school at Chigwell grammar school, so that has some connection with this country." (Proceedings Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1933. p. 166.)

But his words passed unnoticed, you will recall, until they were quoted by the present writer in the article "Henry Price Up To Date." which was published in The Craftsman of April 1937. And then Bro. Fell-Clark wrote that his short talk at Boston had been misunderstood, as his allusion was "to William Penn, and not to the founder of any Masonic body."

As Wor. Bro. J. Hugo Tatsch had said in his Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies: "Price was one of the pillars of the Craft in Colonial Times, and as such is entitled to all the reverence and honor we can bestow on his memory;" in the summer of 1937 we discussed his book and The Craftsman article cited above. Specially its closing paragraph, which made known the discovery (by an expert record agent in good standing at the Public Record Office. London): "that a Henry Price was admitted to the Freedom of the Company of Merchant Taylors by Patrimony on the 1st July 1719. He was the son of John dec." And we agreed that Bro. Lionel Vibert's opinion be had.

Accordingly a copy of The Craftsman article was sent to him, and a letter inviting his attention; soliciting observations upon these queries: 1. As to my correspondent's discovery? 2. Since "York Buildings was a general name for the streets and houses erected on the site of York House," does it not appear desirable to find the definite position of the Rainbow among "the 66 coffee-houses and taverns in the neighborhood of Charing Cross." (F. G. Hilton-Price, "Middlesex & Herts. Notes & Queries" 1897 (vol. iii, pp. 196-9)? 3. Was it the "popular resort, described sometimes as 'at Charing Cross.' and at others as 'near St. Martin's Church.' known as the 'Rainbow Coffeehouse in Lancaster Court.' which ran from the centre of the south side of the church, in a southwestward direction to the Strand." (The Story of Charing Cross &c by J. Holden Macmichael, London: 1906 (Chatto & Windus). p. 163)? 4. And Henry Price being "son of John dec." is there a clue to his parentage in Pepys' mention of Jack Price, who was possibly his father's apprentice?

From the rooms of Quatuor Coronati Lodge, London No. 2076, of which he was secretary very many years, came Brother Vibert's reply as follows:

20 Oct. 1937.
Mr. P. T. Nickerson
Boston, Mass.

Dear Sir and Brother:

The meeting place of original No. 75 is given in the 1730 List, which is the official list attached to the first Minute Bcok of G.L., as Rainbow Coffee House in York Buildings. This settles the question. The other Rainbow on Cornhill was only used by one Lodge in 1754 for a short time; a Lodge long since extinct. This list is also the authority for stating that Henry Price was a member of this Lodge. Except for the identity of the name there is no other evidence. But it is orobably a fairlv safe assumption to make. No other Henry Price occurs in the Lists.

Simpson in his article on London Taverns that were associated with masonry, AQC XX., has no reference ro the Rainbow at Charing Cross or York Buildings. I imagine that he had failed to identify the site. In any case only this one Lodge met there. It went over to the Gun. close by, in 1739, according to Lane. Unless there were two Rainbows in the immediate vicinity of one another, the one you mention in Lancaster Court must needs be this one.

I am uncertain where you get the information that Henry was the son of John dec. To identify him with the Jack Price mentioned by Pepys. sixty years or so earlier would seem to be rather hazardous.

The discovery that a Henry Price was admitted to the Freedom of the Merchant Tailors in 1719 is interesting, but once more there is nothing beyond the identity of the names to justify us in claiming that this was your Henry. But the Merchant Tailors records might give the father's name. You of course realize that St. Martins Church (St. Martins in the Fields, to give it its full title,) is just across the way from Charing Cross and Lancaster Court could be described an "at" either. I'm afraid all this is not particularly helpful but it's the best I can do.

With all good wishes;

yours fraternally,
Lionel Vibert

Thus it appears that, by going beyond Lane and Simpson with persistent curiosity, the meeting-place of Henry Price'a Lodge No. 75, the Rainbow Coffee House York Buildings has been fixed 'at Charing Cross, in Lancaster Court, near St. Martin's Church.' {See "R. Horwood's Plan of the Cities of London & Westminster 1799." Macmichael. Op. cit., p. 163 no: 5.}

Henry Price, a tailor, came to New England in 1723. Ere that when age twenty-one or twenty-two in 1719 he could have been made Free of the Merchant Taylors by Patrimony without incongruity. For the City Companies were "nurseries of charities and seminaries of good citizens." And, be it observed though founded earlier, in 1503 the Merchant Taylors had been reincorporated by Henry VII as "The Master & Wsrdens of the Merchant Taylors & Fraternity of St. John (the Baptist)."

Gatherings of Freemasons like the Assembly and Feast of St. John soon after Revival had outgrown the London Taverns, and as late as 1775 were held in the Halls of the City Companies. The first of fourteen occasions at Merchant Taylors is on Monday June 24th, 1723. At the fifth meeting there in 1732 Anthony Browne. Viscount Montague, was installed Grand Master. He made Henry Price Provincial Grand Master of New England a year later.

Before it was convenient to further consult Brothers Vibert and Tatsch. those excellent exponents of courtesy and fraternal kindness, they had entered the Lodge celestial. Then came the War. and personal bereavement. Now olden things are again recurring to mind. Recently someone brought out that: "Major Price led a Party of the Governor's Troop of Guards detached thither for that purpose" attended Governor Francis Bernard from Wrentham to Boston, where he arrived August 2d. 1760. (Boston Weekly Newsletter," Aug. 7, 1760).

Few facts should emerge when London Registers or other records are thorough!y examined. A record of marriage at Stephen's Walbrook, London, Sept. 1731 of "Henry Price, of St. Bartholomew the Exchange, London, bachelor & Catherine Butler of Greenwich, Kent, by Pvt. Lic." should be scrutinized; it may explain why uncle James Townsend objected to Price's first Boston marriage. That search will demand acumen and patience; a younger man ought to undertake it. Good fortune attend you in it!

Fraternally and faithfully yours,
Philip T. Nickerson.


From TROWEL, Fall 1996, Page 2:


M.W. HENRY PRICE Remembered

On May 26th. 1996, in Townsend, MA, Most Worshipful Arthur Eugene Johnson and Officers of the Grand Lodge, met with the Worshipful Masters and members of the Lodges of the Fitchburg 13th Masonic District to renew a tradition of celebrating the life of the Founder of Masonry in the United States - M. W. Henry Price.

Price, who was born in England, had come to the Colonies to start a new life. He was a tailor and also owned a great deal of land in several areas of Massachusetts, including Townsend where he spent the last days of his life. In 1733 he approached Lord Montague who was Grand Master of the newly formed Grand Lodge of England for permission to open a Lodge In the Colonies. He received a Warrant empowering him to do so and naming him as Provincial Grand Master of Masons in the New England Area (Later changed to North America). Price died in Townsend at the age of 83 from an accident sustained while chopping wood. He was buried at the Old Community Cemetery and later moved to the present location. In 1888.the Grand Lodge placed a monument at the grave site to commemorate his life.

In years past it was the custom of Masons to gather at his grave on the Sunday nearest the date of his death to pay honors to this distinguished citizen and Mason. This year's date fell on the Memorial Day weekend and coincided with the traditional Memorial Day celebration and parade in Townsend. A large contingent of Masons led by M. W. Arthur Johnson joined with the Civic and Veterans' organizations to parade to the Hillside Cemetery to honor our deceased veterans. After the traditional ceremonies the Masons gathered at the grave of M. W. Bro. Price and held a short memorial service under the direction of M.W. Bro. Johnson culminating with the placement of a basket of Lilacs at the grave site.

Prior to the parade, the Grand Lodge Officers and guests were served a brunch at the Fitchburg Masonic Building by the officers and members of Charles W. Moore Lodge of Fitchburg. The Henry Price Memorial Committee was chaired by Wor. Ken Johnson, a Past Master of Charles W, Moore Lodge, under the direction of R. W. Alvin LaRoche Jr., District Deputy of the Fitchburg 13th Masonic District.

Transportation was provided by Wor. Robert Beaulac of Wilder Lodge, Leominster. Leading the Masonic contingent in the parade was a color guard from Aleppo Temple A. A. O. N. M. S. under the direction of Wor. Raphael Quinones of St. Paul Lodge, Ayer. The date for next year's memorial service will be May 25th, 1997.


From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XVI, No. 4, March 1857, Page 129:

The precise date of the first introduction of Freemasonry into America is not known. The earliest authentic record we have of its existence among us bears date 1733, though it was probably known and cultivated in several of the Colonies at a much earlier period. That there are no records in our archives of an earlier date than the year named, is fully accounted for by the circumstance that prior to the year 1717, Lodges were not required to keep records of their proceedings; nor were there then any Grand Lodges, or other governing body, to which, as under the present organization of the Institution, they were immediately responsible. Being without a supreme head, they were, under the restrictions of certain general usages and landmarks, independent associations, holding their meetings whenever and wherever the occasion required,and dissolving them again when the business of their assembling had been completed. The occasion made the Lodge; arid it was composed, not as now, of particular Brethren, permanently associated for the purpose; but of such as might happen to be at the moment in the vicinity, and whose presence could readily be commanded. Hence there was no necessity for records. The business was, necessarily, mainly confined to initiations. If certificates were required, the presiding officer gave them; and that was the only record made that the meeting had ever been held. Of course there were some exceptions to this general practice. Lodges in certain localities, were more permanently organized, and " general assemblies" were annually held. Of these some record was usually made. But it was not until the beginning of the last century, that the Fraternity were brought under any systematic and permanent form of government. In the year 1717, a new and better order of things was inaugurated by our English Brethren. A Grand Lodge was then organized on a fixed and permanent basis, and provision made for the future government of subordinate Lodges; which were thereafter to be formed and held only in certain localities and according to prescribed regulations. From this time records were kept, and the means of authenticating the existence and progress of the Institution, in this and all other civilized portions of the world, are certain and available.

We have said that the earliest record of Masonry in this country is dated in the year 1733. This is a Commission, or "Deputation," as it was then called, appointing the distinguished Brother whose name stands at the head of this article, " Provincial Grand Master for New England." It was granted by Lord Montacute, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, on the application of the appointee, "in behalf of himself and several other Brethren" then residing in New England. We have not the means at hand to determine who, or how many, these " other Brethren" were; but the terms of the Commission leave no room to doubt that Masonry was previously cultivated, at least in the New England Colonies, and that it had then attained to sufficient numerical importance to require a governing head. The logical inference in the case is strengthened by the tradition, that the Brethren of that day had previously been accustomed to meet at private houses, or other convenient places, for the practice of the rites of their Order, under the loose usage, and in the manner already described. But u. new regulation having recently been enacted by competent authority, which deprived them of that privilege, their only alternative was to apply to the Grand Lodge at London for the necessary Warrants for their Lodges (which would be attended with great delay and expense), or for the appointment of an officer clothed with sufficient authority to meet the rapidly increasing demands of the Order in the Colonies. The latter course was adopted, and the result was the reception of the following Commission, which we take pleasure in laying before our readers as the first document of the kind ever received in this country, and now for the first time put in print:—

Montacute (Seal) G. M.

To all and every Our Right Worshipful and loving Brethren now residing or who may hereafter reside in New England:

The Right Honorable and Right Worshipful Anthony, Lord Viscount Montacute, Grand Master of the Free and Accepted Masons of England:

Sendeth Greeting,—

Whereas, application has been made unto us by Our Worshipful and well beloved Brother, Mr. Henry Price, in Behalf of himself and Several other Brethren now Residing in New England aforesaid, Free and Accepted Masons, that we would be pleased to nominate and appoint a Provincial Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons in New England aforesaid:

Now know Ye— That we have Nominated, ordained, constituted and appointed, and do by these Presents, Nominate, ordain, constitute and appoint, our said Worshipfull and well beloved Brother, Mr. Henry Price, Provincial Grand Master of New England aforesaid, and Dominions and Territories thereunto belonging, with full Power and Authority to nominate and appoint his Deputy Grand Master, and Grand Wardens; And we do also hereby Impower the said Mr. Henry Price, for us and in our place and stead to Constitute the Brethren (Free and Accepted Masons) now residing or who shall hereafter reside in those parts, into one or more regular Lodge or Lodges, as he shall think fit, and as Occasion shall require; He the said Mr. Henry Price, taking special care that all and every member of any Lodge or Lodges, so to be Constituted, have been or shall be made regular Masons; And that they do cause all and every the Regulations contained in the printed book of Constitutions (Except so far as they have been altered by the Grand Lodge at their Quarterly meetings) to be kept and Observed, and also all such other rules and instructions as shall from time to time be transmitted to him by us, (or by Thomas Batson, Esq., our Deputy Grand Master, or the Grand Master or his Deputy for the time being); And that he the said Mr. Henry Price, — or his Deputy, do send to us or our Deputy Grand Master and to the Grand Master of England or his Deputy for the time being Annually ; An Account in writing of the number of Lodges so Constituted, with the names of the several members of Each Particular Lodge, together with such other matters and things as he or they shall think fit to be Communicated for the prosperity of the Craft.

And lastly, we will and Require that our said Provincial Grand Master of New England, do Annually cause the Brethren to keep the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, and Dine together on that Day or (in case any Accident should happen to prevent their Dining together on that day) on any other day near that time, as he shall judge most fit, as is done here ; and that at all Quarterly communications, be do recommend a General Charity to be Establish'd for the Relief of Poor Brethren in those parts.

Given nnder our hands and seal of office at London, the thirtieth day of April, 1733, and of Masonry, 5733.

By the Grand Master's Command.
Tho. Batson, D. G. M.
G. Roger, S. G. W.
J. Smythe, J. G. W.

Although this Commission was dated at London, on the 30th April, it was not probably received in this country earlier than the middle of the following July; from seventy to eighty days being at that time about an average passage between the two Continents. It would seem, therefore, that no time was lost in carrying the purposes of it into operation; for on the 30th July — just three months from the day of its date—the new Grand Master assembled the Brethren then residing in Boston, at the Bunch of Grapes Tavern," in King street, (corner of State and Kilby street,) and causing his "Deputation" to be read, he appointed and installed the R. W. Andrew Belcher, Dep. Grand Master; R. W. Thos. Kennelly, S. G. W.; and R. W. John Quann, J. G. W.; and thus formed and constituted the first Grand Lodge of Freemasons ever opened on the American Continent. Neither a Secretary nor Treasurer was appointed at this meeting, nor for some time after. Their duties seem to have been performed by the Grand Master. And such seems also to have been the case at the organization of the Grand Lodge of England; for it does not appear from any account of the early proceedings of that body, which has fallen under our notice, that any regular Secretary was appointed until 1722-3, when the office was filled by Wm. Cowper, Esq., (the poet); and it was not until 1738 that the office of Treasurer was created, as a distinct appointment, —the duties having previously been performed by the Secretary. In that year, says the record, " Brother Revis, Grand Secretary, declined accepting the office of Treasurer, as he judged the holding both was incompatible with each other." It is very probable that Mr. Price, in making up his new Grand Lodge, may have appointed, temporarily, some minor officers of convenience, but their names are not given in the record.

The first business that came before the new Grand Lodge, was a Petition for a Lodge in Boston. It was presented on the same evening of the organization of the new body, — so anxious were this Brethren to begin at once the practice of their Masonic rites, in a legal and authorized manner, — and for which authority they had probably been patiently waiting for some months. The Petition was signed by eighteen Master Masons, and as it is the first document of the kind ever presented to an American Grand Lodge, and has never before been printed, we lay it before our readers as appropriate in this connection :—

To Rt. W. Brother Mr. Henry Price, Deputed Provincial Grand Matter of the Free and Accepted Masons of New England:

The Humble Petition of the following subscribers, in behalf of themselves and the Wor. and Ancient Brotherhood belonging to the Society of Free and Accepted Masons now Residing in New England:

Sheweth — That your Petitioners are very sensible of the Honour done to us here, by your said Deputation, and forasmuch as We are a sufficient number of Brethren, regularly made, and are now desirous of Enjoying each other, for Our Harmony, together, and Union, as well as Our Brethren that may at any time arrive here, or such as may be made Brothers hereafter, that is to say, in due Manner and Form. Therefore, We Request, as well in Our own Name and Names as in the Name and Names of all other Brethren it may Concern, That you will please to give the necessary Orders to all our Brethren within your Limits to give their due Attendance and Assistance in their several and Respective Capacities, towards Constituting a Regular Lodge this Evening, at the sign of the Bunch of Grapes, in King street, known by the name of the House of Mr. Edward Lutwych, or at any other place or places as Our said Right Worshipful Grand Master shall think proper, to be then and there held and Constituted, according to the Ancient Custom of Masons, and such Lodge to be held on every second and fourth Wednesday in each Month, for the Common Good of us and Brethren. Your Compliance herein, We doubt not, will Redound to the Honour of the Craft, and Encourage many worthy Gentlemen to become Brethren and Fellows of this Right Worshipful and Ancient society, and your Brethren and Petitioners shall ever Pray.

  • James Gordon.
  • John Waddell.
  • Edmd. Ellis.
  • Wm. Gordon.
  • John Baker.
  • Thos. Moloney.
  • Andw. Halliburton.
  • Robt. Peasley.
  • Saml. Pemberton.
  • John Gordon.
  • Andrew Belcher.
  • Henry Hope.
  • Thos. Kennelly.
  • John Quann.
  • Fred. Hamilton.
  • John McNeil.
  • Peter Hall.
  • Matw. Young.

Dated at Boston, in New England, July 30th, 1733, 5733.

This Petition having been read in open Grand Lodge, "the prayer thereof was promptly granted, and the new Grand Master forthwith proceeded — or in the words of the record — "did then and there, in the most solemn manner, according to ancient rite and custom, and the form prescribed in our Book of Constitutions, constitute us (the petitioners^ into a regular Lodge, in manner and form. Upon which we immediately proceeded, by our said Grand Master's order, to choose a Master, and unanimously chose our Wor. Brother Henry Hope, Esq., Master of this our new constituted Lodge, who then nominated and appointed our Wor. Brethren Mr. Frederick Hamilton and Mr. James Gordon, his Wardens; to which all the Brethren unanimously concurred, paying the usual respects to our said R. W. Grand Master, who caused them be duly examined, and being found well qualified, approved and confirmed them in their several stations, by Investing them with the Implements of their office, giving each his particular Charge, and admonishing the Brethren of the Lodge to due obedience and submission according to the Printed Book of Constitutions, Charges and Regulations, &c." And thus was the first regular Lodge in America constituted — July 30, 1733, — and, in the words of the record— " Thus was Masonry founded in New England."

The new Lodge was known and designated as the "First Lodge in Boston," up to the union of the two Grand Lodges of Massachusetts, in 1792; when it took the name and title of "St. John's Lodge," which it still worthily bears, — rejoicing in the vigor of youth, the honor of age, and the experience of nearly a century and a half. It is the oldest subordinate Lodge on the Western Continent It does not appear that any written Charter or Warrant was issued to the petitioners, nor did they ask for such a document in their petition. Warrants for holding Lodges were at that day almost a novelty even in Europe, and entirely so in this country. The regulation requiring them, as a condition-precedent to the holding of a Lodge, was then but of about seventeen years standing, and had not become the universal practice of the Brotherhood even on the European Continent.

The petitioners, therefore, most of whom had probably been made Masons under the old regulation, simply asked, in the language of the Commission of their new Grand Master, to be "constituted a regular Lodge" - deeming, and with sufficient reason too, such a constitution by the Grand Master, and in the presence of the Grand Lodge duly assembled, ample authority for all the purposes contemplated by their organization. Nor was there, under the circumstances,—working as they were, under the eye and frequently in the immediate presence of the Grand Lodge,—any absolute necessity for written evidence of their legality, — and such only is the purpose of a Charter or Warrant After the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1792, this Lodge took out a Charter from the present Grand Lodge of the State, under the name and style of St. John's Lodge, but retaining its original rank and precedence.

We have dwelt with some particularity upon the establishment of this Lodge, because it was the first official act of our distinguished first Grand Master. During the four years of his presidency, he established three other Lodges, two of which were in distant Provinces. The first Warrant he issued, was for a Lodge in Philadelphia, called in the records "The First Lodge in Pennsylvania." The authority for it was granted to his intimate personal friend and Brother, Benj. Franklin, who was its first Master. The Warrant bears date June 24, 1734. On the same day and year, he also granted a Warrant for "The Holy Lodge of St. John," at Portsmouth, in New Hampshire; and on the 27th December, 1735, he issued his Warrant for the establishment of "The First Lodge in South Carolina," at Charleston. Two of these Lodges were out of New England, and therefore beyond the original jurisdiction of the Grand Master; and in explanation of this, it is proper here to state, that early in the year 1734, he had received authority from the Grand Lodge of England, to establish Masonry in all North America; or, in other terms, he had been appointed Prov. Grand Master for the whole Continent; as were also his two immediate successors, Robert Tomlinson, in 1736, and Thos. Oxnard, in 1742.

"Nothing further remarkable happened" during the first year of Mr. Price's administration; "only," says the record, "the Celebration of the anniversary of St. John the Evangelist, after the manner of Masons, when our Rt. Wor. Bro. Mr. Jas. Gordon, was chosen Master of the Lodge." "The Lodge" here referred to, was the "First Lodge." And it is worthy of notice in this connection, that the celebration of the two great festivals of Masonry (June 24 and Dec. 27,) was never neglected by oar Brethren at that early period of our history. They made it a matter of duty, as well as of pleasure, to come together on both festivals. And though the practice has not been wholly abandoned since, by the Grand Lodge of this State, the festivals hare lost much of their original attractiveness.

To this entry is added the quaint remark — "Masonry caused great speculation in these Days in New England to the great Vulgar and small." And we apprehend the family is not yet wholly extinct! But however this may be, our Brother continued actively engaged in tho discharge of his official duties, and in establishing the Institution on a firm and proper basis in the Colonies, until 1737, when he resigned, and the R. W. Robert Tomlinson was commissioned by the Earl of Loudon, then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England, as his successor. But he did not cease his active Masonic labors, nor withdraw the support of his counsel and influence from his Brethren. These were ever at their command, as were also his personal services, whenever they were required by, or could be used for, the promotion of the interests of the Institution. And hence we find him on several occasions, in later years, temporarily occupying the Chair and discharging the duties of Grand Master, with all the zeal and fidelity and intelligence that characterized his earliest connection with the Grand Lodge. Nor were his labors confined to that body.

In or about the year 1738, — doubtless mainly through the active instrumentality of Mr. Price,—a body, called a [Masters' Lodge," was organized in Boston, to meet monthly. Its officers consisted of a Master, two Wardens, two Stewards, a Secretary and Tyler, — the Sen. Steward was also the Treasurer. The work of the Lodge was exclusively restricted to the conferring of the Master's degree, on Brethren who had received the two preceding degrees in some one of the other Lodges then existing in the Colony, and whose work was confined to the first and second degrees. (The earliest regulation of the mother Grand Lodge of England, on this subject, reads as follows—"Apprentices must be admitted Fellow Crafts and Masters only here (in Grand Lodge,) unless by a Dispensation from the Grand Master." But this rule being attended with many inconsistencies, it was ordained Nov. 22, 1726, that "the Master of a Lodge, with his Wardens, and a competent number of the Lodge assembled in due form, can make Masters and Fellows at discretion." The Masters' Lodge seems to have been in the nature of a compromise between the old and new practice.) The rule that governed the admission of candidates for the Master's degree, is so pregnant with good sense and so conformable to correct Masonic usage, that we transcribe it for the information, — eo wish we could say, for the government, of those to whom the control of our Lodges is committed at the present time. It is in the following words— "No Brother to be raised Master, unless he goes through the Fellow-Craft's work to the approbation of this Lodge, and such examination to be performed on the Lodge-night before such candidate is to be balloted for and raised — always reserving an unanimous vote of the Lodge to the contrary. And such candidate to pay forty shillings into the hands of the Sen. Steward." Under such a regulation, the efficiency of our Lodges, if not the number of our members, might be improved, even at this day; and we are quite certain that our new initiates would not appreciate the value of the degrees any the less on account of the increased difficulty in obtaining them.

But to return to the Lodge. Brother Price was its first Master, and continued to occupy the Chair and perform the laborious duties of that office, until 1744, when he resigned; and it is worthy of note, as showing his constant activity and devotion to its interests, that during the whole time of his presidency, he was but once absent from his post of duty. On that occasion some members assembled as usual, but did not open the Lodge. The record of the evening reads as follows— "No meeting this night, our Rt. W. M. and several of the members being out of Town on extraordinary business." He was succeeded as Master by Bro. Robt. Jenkins, who had previously filled the chair of the Sen. Warden. Still we find our Brother present at nearly every meeting of the Lodge, and frequently acting as Master pro tem, until 1749, when he was again elected to the office, and held it until the "next time of choosing," when he was succeeded by Bro. Chas. Brockwell. (The Master, u was the ancient custom, and still is in England, appointed his own Wardens and other officers.) In 1760, he was elected Treasurer of the Lodge, — being the first election of such an officer; the duty having, previously, been performed by the Sen. Steward. He held this office three years, when he resigned, and was soon after (July 1754) called to resume the office of Grand Master, in consequence of the death of the M. W. Thos. Oxnard. He did not, however, relinquish any of his interest in the Masters' Lodge, and we accordingly find him present at every meeting during the whole time he was exercising the duties of Grand Master; and at the very first meeting after the vacancy in Grand Lodge had been filled by the appointment of the M. W. Jeremy Gridley, to the Grand Mastership, he was for the third time (1755) elected Master. He held the office, however, but for a few meetings, when he resigned in favor of Bro. Richard Gridley (afterwards D. G. M.); but at the expiration of Bro. Gridley's term of service, he was for the fourth time elected to the Chair, and served for several years. When it is considered that this was eminently a working Lodge, nothing need be added to the facts here given, to show the untiring devotion of our Brother to the interests of Masonry, at this its earliest, and therefore weakest, period of- existence on this Continent. But if anything further be needed for this purpose, it can be only necessary to say, that he was also a member of the "First Lodge," and gave to it his active services and co-operation. In 1766, on the death of the M. W. Jeremy Gridley, he was again called to the Chair of the Grand Lodge, which he occupied until a successor was appointed in 1768. From this time forward to the beginning of the agitations preceding the revolution, we find his name recorded in Grand Lodge at nearly every communication, and almost always as filling some responsible position. During the war, the meetings of the Grand Lodge were temporarily suspended, and our Brother removed from the city. His name appears for the last time, in the records of that body, in 1774.

We have but little space for the personal history of Mr. Price, even if the materials for an extended notice were at our command. He was born in London, about the year 1697, and came to America about 1723, and settled in Boston, where he opened a store and commenced business, it is believed, at first under his own name, though in 1744 he was the junior partner of the firm of Beteilhe & Price; and was probably in the Dry Goods trade. That he was successful in business, is presumable from the fact, that he was able to support a "country house" at Menotomy, W. Cambridge), where he resided during the Summer, living in town in the Winter season. He seems to have had some taste for the military profession, and was appointed in 1733, Cornet in the Governor's Guards, with the rank of Major, — a fact of some interest as indicating his social position in the community; for it is not to be supposed that an appointment of so much "aristocratic dignity," (as at that day military rank in the "Governor's Troop" was esteemed to be), would have been conferred upon him, had his social relations not been of a corresponding grade. About the year 1774, he relinquished business in the city and retired to his farm in Townsend ; which place he afterwards represented in the General Court. He died there on the 20th May, 17S0, and his remains were deposited in the public burial ground of the town. His tomb-stone bears the following inscription :—

"In Memory of
Was born in London about the year of our Lord 1697.
He removed to Boston about the year 1723;
Received a Deputation
Appointing him Grand Matter of Masons in New England;
and in the year 1733 was appointed a
Cornet in the Governor's Troop of Guards,
with the rank of Major.
By his diligence and industry in business,
He acquired the means of a comfortable living,
With which he removed to Townsend
In the latter part of his life.
He quitted Mortality the 20th of May, A. D. 1780,
Leaving a widow and two young daughters,
With a numerous company of friends and acquaintances
to mourn his departure,
Who have that ground of hope concerning his present lot
which results from his undissembled regard to his Maker and extensive benevolence to his
Fellow Creatures, manifested in life
by a behaviour consistent with his character as a
And his nature as a Man.

Mr. Price was probably twice married; but of his first marriage we are wholly ignorant. It does not appear, however, that he left any children, the issue of that connection. His second wife was the widow Lydia Abbot, of Townsend, whom he seems to have married late in life; probably after leaving Boston, in 1774. As the fruit of this marriage, he had the two "young daughters" referred to in the above inscription. Their names were Mary and Rebecca; one of whom married a Mr. Wallace, of Townsend; a son of whom, namely, Mr. William Wallace, is still living and resides at that place. Mrs. Abbot, at the time of her marriage with Mr. Price, had two children by her former .husband. These composed his whole family at his decease. He left a Will, by which, after providing for the payment of his just debts and making suitable provision for his widow, he distributed the remainder of his property in about equal proportions among the four surviving children, The executors of the Will were Brother Samuel Dana, (afterwards Judge Dana,) of Groton, and Mr. Jonathan Wallace, of Townsend. As indicating, in some sense, the Christian faith and reliance of our Brother on Divine Providence, we give the preamble of the Will,—being the only portion of it that would be of interest to the reader:—

In the name of God. Amen.

"I, Henry Price, of Townsend, in the County of Middlesex and State of Massachusetts Bay, in New England, Esq. Being weak in body, but of sound and perfect memory, do make this my last Will and testimony, that is to say : Principally and first of all, I recommend my soul unto the hands of God that gave it and my body to the earth, to be buried in a Christian-like and decent manner, at the discretion of my executors, and as touching such worldly estate wherewith it has pleased God to bless me in this life with all, I give, devise and dispose of the same in manner and form following."

An original Portrait of our Brother, taken when he was about forty years of age, or about the time he was first appointed Grand Master, has recently been found in the possession of one of his descendants, by whom it has been presented to the Grand Lodge; and having been repaired and richly and tastefully embellished, now adorns the hall usually occupied by that body. It is a valuable acquisition, and will doubtless be carefully preserved, and transmitted to many future generations, to perpetuate the memory of this "fine old English gentleman," — the Father of Freemasonry in America.



Visit to Henry Price's Grave, September 1857

Gardner's 1871 Price Address

Grand Masters