GMSoley

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JOHN SOLEY 1765-1851

JohnSoley1927.jpg

Junior Grand Warden 1804-1805
Senior Grand Warden 1806-1807
Deputy Grand Master 1809-1810
Grand Secretary 1811-1818
Grand Master, 1827-1829


TERM

1827 1828 1829

NOTES

OBITUARY

From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. X, No. 9, July 1851, Page 222:

Charlestown, Mass., June 4, 1851.

It becomes our painful duty to record the death of this venerable and excellent Brother. He died at the residence of his son-in-law in Bristol, R. L, on the 6th of April last, and was buried at Charlestown, on the 9th. His age was 83. He had been an active Mason for more than half a century, having been initiated in King Solomon's Lodge soon after he had attained to his majority; of whibh he was subsequently elected Master. In 1794, he dedicated, in Masonic form, the first monument erected on Bunker-Hill, and in 1845, performed a similar service on the occasion of placing the marble model of that monument within the present obelisk.

He was for many years Grand Secretary, and subsequently Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Through his whole life he was a devoted, active and and exemplary Mason, He was a Brother of the old school,- a safe counsellor, and prompt and energetic in the discharge of a1l his duties. His integrity and firmness were indomitable, under the most trying circumstances. We have never known a more reliable Brother, or one more generally respected and beloved.

His funeral was a private one. Indeed, but few of his Brethren knew of his death until it was announced in the papers. They would otherwise have been pleased to pay that respect to his remains which is erninently due to his memory.

From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. X, No. 9, July 1851, Page 285:

At a recent meeting of King Solomon's Lodge, the W. M. announced the death of Rt. W. Br. John Soley, accompanied by a very deserved tribute to his memory and worth. A committee was then appointed to draft some sentiment expressive of the feelings of the Lodge, in the loss sustained. The following is the Report, which, after being read, the Lodge

"Voted, That it be placed on record, a copy sent to the family of the deceased, and, as Br. Soley was formerly Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, that a copy be sent to the Grand Lodge."

Attest, Caleb Rand, Sec'y, K. S. Lodge.

Our Rt. W. Br., John Soley, having been, in the fullness of time, gathered to the land of his fathers, we sincerely mourn his loss, for our love for "the good old man" was passing strong.

We regret not so much the loss of one who remained with us until the purposes of nature had been accomplished, as the departure of the good anrl just.

In Br. Soley's character, while living, we recognized that happy blendirg of benevolence and firmness, which constitutes the truly good; and in whose life Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice, rvere displayed in nature's most genial form.

Through ail his manhood in life a most sincere and zealous Mason. - adhering to the Institution in sunshine and in storm, he was the same firm friend.

And now that in a ripe old age he has laid down the gavel, and ceased his labors, let us hope that his spirit may dwell with its Master in the Grand Lodge of the spirit world; and may we who remain to continue his work on earth, remember and imitate only his virtues.

Signed,
John Gregory,
C. B. Rogers,
G. H. Marden,
Committee.

BIOGRAPHY

FROM MOORE'S FREEMASON'S MONTHLY, 1859

From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XVIII, No. 9, July 1859:

The twelfth Grand Master of Massachusetts after the Union in 1792, was the late venerable and esteemed John Soley, Esq., of Charlestown. His grandfather's name was John, who, it is said, was a "captain of a ship in the London trade," and who married Dorcas Coffin of the Nantucket family of Coffins, as early as in 1720. His eldest son John, born in Charlestown, Mass., on the 10th of June, 1721, was united in marriage to Hannah Cary, of Charlestown, on the 11th of October, 1759, by Rev. Thomas Prentice. Their fourth child was the subject of this notice, who was born in Charlestown, February 1st, 1765, and was married in 1805 to Rebecca Tyng Henley. Bro. Soley united as a church member with the first church in Charlestown, July 9, 1815, and deceased April 6th, 1851, in Bristol, R. I., at the residence of his son-in-law, William Bradford DeWolf, Esq. His remains were deposited in the Henley tomb in the old burying-ground in Charlestown. In early life he formed a partnership with Mr. Daniel Russell, son or nephew of Thomas Russell, Esq., and they transacted a general mercantile business on Long Wharf, Boston, under the name of Russell and Soley. The result of this connexion was not favorable, and in a few years it was dissolved. Subsequently Bro. Soley became the Treasurer of the old Charles River Bridge Corporation, a Justice of the Peace, a Director of the Massachusetts State Prison, and was otherwise engaged in employments beneficial to the public and honorable to himself.

Bro. Soley's father removed from Charlestown to Boston between the years 1766 and 1775, and was residing in Boston during the battle of Bunker Hill and conflagration of Charlestown. Both he and his mother owned dwellings in the latter town, which were then destroyed by the fire. He afterwards removed to Billerica, where he died about the year 1801.

Our late Grand Master was a useful member of King Solomon's Lodge, where he was initiated January 11, 1791, and in whose prosperity he ever took a lively interest. He was passed and raised February 8, 1791; admitted to membership Dec. 10, 1793; elected Master Aug. 12, 1794, and also in 1795 and 1796. He served as Senior Warden in 1808.

On the 2d Dec, 1794, he dedicated the first monument on Bunker Hill, which was erected by King Solomon's Lodge. And half a century later, June 24th, 1845, he assisted in placing within the obelisk on that eminence, a marble model of the original monument.

On the 14th of Feb., 1797, he presented to his Lodge an elegant set of brass candlesticks, which have been in use on the three pedestals at every meeting of the Lodge up to the present time.

The official connexion of Bro. Soley with the Grand Lodge continued, with a short intermission, from 1S04 to the time of his death, — a period of nearly half a century. He was Junior Grand Warden in 1804 and 1805; Senior Grand Warden in 1806 and 1807; Recording Grand Secretary from December, 1811, to December, 1820; and Grand Master in 1827, 1828 and 1829. He was one of the earliest friends to the establishment of a Charity Fund, and was chairman of the first committee of the Grand Lodge in 1809, to whom the subject was referred. To the forecast of his intelligence and to his active benevolence is our institution largely indebted for the ample means for charitable relief which it now possesses. During the long term of nine years in which he discharged the arduous duties of Secretary of the Grand Lodge, he was prompt, exact and faithful, as the numerous pages of our records, indited by his hand, abundantly testify. And as might be supposed in one whose previous Masonic career had been distinguished by so much that was good and honorable, in his Grand Mastership, existing in the earlier years of the persecution of our Order, he was firm, prudent, self-sacrificing, and at all times ready to uphold and defend the reputation and honor of the fraternity.

FROM PROCEEDINGS, 1916

From Proceedings, Page 1916-226:

John Soley was the son of John and Hannah (Carey) Soley and his antecedents may be traced back for centuries to the Solleys of England. His grandfather's name was John, who it is said, was captain of a ship in the London trade and who married Doreas Coffin of the Nantucket family of Coffin about 1720. His eldest son, John, born in Charlestown June 10, 1721, was married to Hannah Carey of Charlestown October 11, 1759, by the Reverend Thomas Prentice. They had a family of seven children, the fourth being John, the subject of this sketch. He was born in Charlestown February 1, 1765. He received his education in the district schools and early in life displayed the possession of great natural abilities. On November 28, 1804 he was married to Rebecca Tyng Henley of Charlestown and to them a family of five children was born.

Brother Soley united as a church member with the First Church (Congregational) in Charlestown, July 9, 1815. In early life he formed a partnership with Mr. Daniel Russell, son or nephew of Thomas Russell, of Charlestown, and they transacted a general mercantile business on Long Wharf, Boston, under the name of Russell and Soley. The result was not favorable and in a few years the partnership dissolved. Mention is also made in Hunt's American Merchants of the firm of Soley and Stearns, but this firm also dissolved in 1800. Charlestown (called the Mother of Boston) was at that period of time an active shipping center and more than a thousand vessels a year carried the manufactures and merchandise of the city, and these cargoes added largely to make a substantial return to its merchants. Brother Soley was known as a wealthy merchant.

As a prominent man, he was naturally chosen to hold political office and even when a young man was made a justice of the peace. He held the office of councillor and was a judge of the lower court. He was treasurer of the old Charles River Bridge Corporation and a director of the Massachusetts State Prison. He was elected to the State Legislature and served during the years 1813 and 1814. He retained the office of justice of the peace for many years and at the late date of 1838, the Charlestown city directory contains his name as one of the two justices of the city.

At this time he lived on Main Street, Charlestown. His father's house was in Soley Lane, and the assessor's books quaintly record the facts - "At the upper end (Soley's Lane) from Soley's Gate to Gill's Fence, is nine feet and ten inches" and in Chambers' Lane, "From Mr. Soley's to the Widow Sprague's, is sixteen feet." Brother Soley's father removed from Charlestown to Boston between the years 1766 and 1775 and was residing in Boston during the Battle of Bunker Hill and conflagration of Charlestown when these buildings were destroyed by the fire. Brother Soley's father afterward removed to Billerica, Mass., where he died about the year 1801.

At the age of twenty-six, Brother Soley was initiated in King Solomon's Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, on January 11, 1791, Passed and Raised, February 8, 1791, and admitted to membership December 10, 1793, and the next year (1794) was elected Worshipful Master. He held this office for three years (1794, 1795, and 1796), greatly endearing himself to his Lodge and the Craft. He also served as Senior Warden in 1808. He was elected an Honorary Member in December, 1806. He was one of the committee appointed by the Lodges to secure land in Russell's Pasture for the purpose of erecting thereon a monument to Major General Joseph Warren, Most Worshipful Grand Master of Massachusetts, and his companions who fell in the Battle of Bunker Hill. The mission was successfully accomplished and a monument erected where the present monument stands. This Masonic monument is the first soldier's monument erected in the United States, and was dedicated by R.W. John Soley, Master of the Lodge, December 2, 1794.

"Nations in all ages have endeavored to perpetuate the brilliant actions of their heroes, thereby to inspire the living with a spirit of emulation and to discharge the obligations they owe to those deeds of valor by which their rights are secured." (Quotation from address)

A large marble model of the original monument is enclosed in the shaft of the present Bunker Hill monument. Brother Soley was present at the dedication of the "new" monument, and was one of the committee, June 24, 1845. He was then eighty years of age. During the exercises the chief marshal announced that a wreath of flowers had been sent to the pavilion by a fair daughter of one of the fraternity, with the request that it might be presented to the "Most Worthy". He then handed it to Reverend Brother Case, who, turning to R.W. Brother Soley addressed him in an appropriate and feeling manner, closing as follows:

"Brother Soley, on your venerable head, already blossomed for the tomb, I place this wreath, emblematic of that immortal wreath of Masonic virtues which already surrounds it, and which shall bloom in fadeless lustre in the Grand Lodge Supreme, where Faith shall be lost in sight, and Hope shall end in fruition."

The greater part of Brother Soley's life was spent in the service of Masonry. On February 14, 1797 he presented to his Lodge an elegant set of brass candlesticks, which were in use of the three pedestals at every meeting of the Lodge for very many years. He was admitted a member of St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter, March 23, 1795 and elected to office of King October 21, 1796. His name appears in the Charter which was granted February 14, 1800. In the years 1803 and 1804 he was elected to the Grand Lodge, serving as Junior Grand Warden, in 1805 and 1806 as Senior Grand Warden and as Grand Secretary from 1811 to 1818 inclusive. He was Most Worshipful Grand Master in 1826, 1827, 1828 being the twelfth Grand Master of Massachusetts after the Union of 1792.

He was one of the earliest friends to the establishment of a Charity Fund and was Chairman of the first Committee of the Grand Lodge, in 1809, to whom the subject was referred. To the forecast of his intelligence and to his active benevolence is our institution largely indebted for its charitable foundations. During the long term of nine years, in which he discharged the arduous duties of Secretary of the Grand Lodge, he was prompt, exact, and faithful, as the numerous pages of the Records, indited by his hand, abundantly testify. He was firm, prudent, self-sacrificing, and at all times ready to uphold and defend the reputation and honor of the Fraternity. He died April 6, 1851, aged eighty-six years, in Bristol, R. I., at the residence of his son-in-law William Bradford De Wolf. His remains were deposited in the Henley tomb in the old burying-ground in Charlestown.

FROM NEW ENGLAND CRAFTSMAN, 1921

From New England Craftsman, Vol. XVI, No. 10, July 1921, Page 270:

R.W. Bro. John Soley was born in Charlestown, Mass., February 1st, 1765. He was initiated in King Solomon's Lodge, Charlestown, January 11th, 1791, and admitted to membership Dec. 10th, 1793. He was elected master August 12th, 1794.

On the 2nd of December, 1799, he dedicated the first monument on Bunker Hill. which was erected by King Solomon's Lodge. Bro. Soley delivered an address, after which nine minute guns were discharged. Then the lodge returned to the hall and listened to the performance of a solemn dirge, and the delivery of an eulogy on General Warren by R.W. Bro. Josiah Bartlett. On June 24, 1845, he assisted in placing a marble model of this monument within the large monument erected on Bunker Hill.

He was Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1804 and 1805. He was Senior Grand Warden in 1806 and 1807; Recording Grand Secretary from December, 1811, to December, 1820; Grand Master in 1827-28-29, being the twelfth Grand Master since the union of the two Grand Lodges in 1792. He was one of the earliest friends of the establishment of the Grand Charity Fund, and chairman of the first committee to whom the subject was referred.

Bro. Soley was firm, prudent and sacrificing, and his integrity and firmness were indomitable under the most trying circumstances. No brother was more reliable or more generally loved and respected. In his life, temperance, fortitude, prudence and justice were displayed in nature's most generous form, and at all times he was ready to uphold and defend the reputation and honor of the fraternity. On the occasion of the Masonic ceremonies at Bunker Hi1l in August, 1840, a wreath was sent to the pavilion by a fair daughter of a member Pf the fraternity, with the request that it might be presented to the "most worthy." This was announced to the chief marshal, who handed it to the Rev. Bro. Case, who, turning to Brother Soley, addressed him as follows:

"Most Worthy Past Grand Master Soley, in the interesting exercises of this day, you have taken a very important part. Full of deep interest is the occasion to yourself, and to your younger brethren. Fifty-one years since, at the dedication of the first monument, you addressed the then living members of your lodge. They have passed away, but you are now permitted to speak to another generation on the same great principles which were then your theme.

"A precious relic of the past, you are endeared to our hearts as an upright man, and true Freemason; we regard you as a link connecting the last century to the present, a representative of King Solomon's Lodge, as it was, and King Solomon's Lodge as it is. A friend and associate, of the friends and associates of the lamented Warren, and as such we delight to honor you. This wreath, formed by beauty's fingers, should adorn the brow of him whose principles give protection to innocence, and strength and encouragement to virtue. It is meet that you should wear this crown; true, it is a chaplet of perishable flowers, but our fraternity recognizes a symbolic language.

"Bro. Soley, on your venerable head, already blossoming for the tomb, I place this wreath, emblematical of that immortal wreath of Masonic virtue which already surrounds it, and which shall bloom in fadeless lustre in the Grand Lodge Supreme, where Faith shall be lost in sight, and Hope shall end in fruition."

His connection with the Grand Lodge continued (with short intermission) from 1804 until death, a period of nearly half a century.

Bro. Soley died April 6th, 1851, and was buried in Charlestown.

FROM 150TH ANNIVERSARY OF JOSEPH WARREN-SOLEY LODGE, 2006

From Proceedings, Page 2006-153, 150th Anniversary of Joseph Warren-Soley Lodge:

John Soley was born in Charlestown February 1, 1765, making him 24 years younger than Joseph Warren. He attended the district schools, and, while a youth, displayed both intelligence and a good level of common sense. Charlestown was at the time an active shipping center. More than a thousand ships a year entered and left the port producing a good living for local merchants. John Soley took up merchandising and became quite a prosperous and respected merchant.

He was initiated into King Solomon's Lodge on January 11, 1791 and elected Worshipful Master in 1794. He held office for three years (1794, 1795 and 1796) and greatly endeared himself to the Lodge and the Craft. He was appointed to the committee to obtain land in Russell's pasture and erect a monument to Major General and Most Worshipful Joseph Warren and his companions who fell during the battle of Bunker Hill. The monument was dedicated on December 2, 1794 by Wor. John Soley, Master of the lodge.

"Nations in all ages have endeavored to perpetuate the brilliant actions of their heroes, thereby to inspire the living with a spirit of emulation and to discharge the obligations they owe to those deeds of valor by which their rights are secured."

John was a prominent and charitable man and was greatly esteemed. The public offices he held included Justice of the Peace, councilor and judge of the lower court. He was treasurer of the old Charles River Bridge Corporation and a director of the Massachusetts State Prison. He was elected and served in the State Legislature during the years 1813 and 1814.

Wor. Bro. Soley was elected an Honorary Member of his lodge in December, 1806. He served as Senior Warden in 1808. He was admitted a member of St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter March 23, 1795 and elected as King, October 21, 1796.

He was active as an officer in the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts:

  • Junior Grand Warden, 1803, 1804
  • Senior Grand Warden, 1805, 1806
  • Grand Secretary, 1811-1818
  • Most Worshipful Grand Master, 1826, 1827, 1828

He was the 12th Grand Master to serve after the union in 1792. He died April 6, 1851, at the age of 86, in Bristol, R.I. at the home of his son-in-law.

It is interesting to note the relation of the two men whose ages differed by 24 years and that the lodge bearing John Soley's name was instituted 23 years after the one bearing Joseph Warren's name.

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Grand Masters