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JOSEPH WEBB 1734-1787

  • EA 1756, WM 1766, Lodge of St. Andrew
  • MM 1758, Masters' Lodge
  • Grand Marshal 1769-1771
  • Senior Grand Warden 1771
  • Deputy Grand Master 1771-1775
  • Grand Master, Massachusetts Independent Grand Lodge, 1777-1783, 1785-1787 (Died in office)





From History of Joseph Webb Lodge, 2nd Edition, by J. Waldo Denny, 1901, Page 234:


Having briefly recited the facts concerning the origin and work of Joseph Webb Lodge, we now turn to a consideration of such items as have been attainable in regard to the life of Joseph Webb, in whose honor this Lodge was named. Only those who have knowledge by practical experience in delving into the worn and musty records of past generations can fully appreciate the difficulties of the task which, by the resolution before stated, this Lodge requested its committee to perform.

In this research into the almost perished records, having on them the gray dust of more than a hundred years, we are influenced by no wish to gain honor to ourselves because of noble progenitors ; and, while we rejoice that we can attach the name of Joseph Webb to our Masonic escutcheon, vvc claim no virtue for that attachment other than that we may claim by reason of our own deservings. To give the idea of Bulwer without claiming to use the exact words which he makes Rienzi utter to the people of Rome, we may claim a sanctity in the past because of the chronicles it retains — chronicles of the progress of mankind in civilization, liberty and knowledge. Could Joseph Webb speak to us here and now, could all our ancestors, who look down upon us from the mouldy ages gone, join him in utterance, speaking, their voices would teach us to augment their heritage, improve by their experience, preserve their virtues and avoid their errors. These i are the true uses of the past. If we can find nothing to boast of among Masons save that we bear the honored name of Joseph Webb, adopting the language of Sir Thomas Overburg, we may say of ourselves that we arc like a potato — the only good belonging to us is under ground.

In our researches we have been enabled to reach one conclusion: That a century agone the Webb family was numerous. The name of Joseph Webb often appears in the genealogical records of the early years of the eighteenth century. Without being able to fix the grandparents of our Joseph Webb, or to state definitely whether he sprang from the Webb stock of Salem on the North shore, or of Quincy and Brain-tree on the South shore, we can affirm positively that lie was the son of Joseph and Abigail Webb, and was born in Boston, October 28, 1734. The Webb family was usually prolific. Whatever else the pioneer Webbs may have failed to accomplish, they did not omit an observance of the divine command to " be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth." Joseph Webb, Jr., had fourteen brothers and sisters. Seven of them died in infancy or in early childhood, and probably only two of this large family of fifteen children survived at the time of the death of the junior Joseph Webb. At the age of twenty-five years he married Penelope Phillips, of Marshfield, Mass. The date of the marriage is not known, but it is presumed that it occurred early in November, 1759, as we find that the publication of the bans of intended marriage was of date October 11, 1759, and, as the State law at that period required the publication to be made at least three weeks before the solemnization of marriage, it is presumable that Joseph Webb, Jr., who was a law-abiding citizen, observed the law in that behalf made and provided, and so we may further presume that he consummated his intentions at or about the time permitted by the statutes, which would fix his marriage near the second day of November, 1759.


His Masonic life commenced before his marriage, and thus he started correctly in the path of life; he sought for and received light before he looked for a companion with whom to share the weal and woe, prosperity and adversity, of the earthly pilgrimage. Joseph Webb, Jr., received initiation in the Lodge of St. Andrew in 1756, at the age of twenty-two years. It is very likely that Dr. Warren (Joseph Warren) and Joseph Webb, Jr., were the earliest initiates at the altar of St. Andrew.

In this connection, it is proper to state that until 1733 there was no regularly warranted or chartered Masonic body formed in the Colony of Massachusetts Bay. During that year (July 30, 1733) the Grand Lodge of England established a provincial Grand Lodge in Boston, known as St. John's Grand Lodge, and commissioned Henry Price as Grand Master. Immediately thereafter, Henry Price granted a warrant to St. John's Lodge in Boston.

About twenty years after the establishment of the Provincial Grand Lodge of St. John's, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, over which Lord Aberdour presided as Grand Master, chartered another Masonic body in Boston under the name of the Lodge of St. Andrew.

The date of this action may be disputed. Dr. Mackey says St. Andrew's Lodge was chartered in 1752, and the historical work of Rev. Thaddeus M. Harris, published in 1798, gives the date November 30, 1752. Right Wor'f. Charles Levi Woodbury, in his address before the Massachusetts Grand Lodge at the Centennial Celebration, March 8, 1877, says the event occurred in 1756, four years later. Be that as it may, in 1769 the Lodge of St. Andrew, assisted by three traveling lodges in the British Army (according to Mackey) organized a GRAND LODGE OF ANCIENT MASONS in Massachusetts, and upon the petition of the Grand Lodge of Scotland, the Earl of Dalhousie, Grand Master, commissioned Dr. Joseph Warren provincial Grand Master.

Joseph Webb, Jr., after his initiation in the Lodge of St. Andrew, took membership therein. He did not receive the degree of Master Mason until two years afterwards, to wit, in 1758, taking the obligation in what was known as the Right Worshipful Lodge of Masters in Boston, founded January 2, 1739 (Harris' History, page 166.


This historical sketch touches upon two matters that require explanation; first, under what circumstances were two Grand Lodges established in Boston; and second, under what system of rules and regulations was it proper for Joseph Webb, Jr., to receive membership in a lodge before taking the degree of Master Mason, a custom entirely at variance with present practice. Upon the first point, we explain that two Grand Lodges existed in Great Britain, one called "Ancient," the other "Modern." in 1738 a body of Masons in England seceded from the regular Grand Lodge, for the reason, as was alleged, that the Grand Lodge (as stated by Thory) "had introduced innovations, altering the rituals and suppressing many of the ceremonies which had long been in use." The seceding brethren adopted the name of Ancient York Masons, and soon after declared themselves independent, assuming the appellation, as Mackey says, "to indicate their adhesion to ancient forms." They gave the name of "Modern Masons" to the brethren from whom they seceded, because, as was contended, they had adopted new forms and usages. The seceders established a new Grand Lodge in London. This division continued until 1813, when the two bodies, consequent upon the efforts of the Duke of Kent, Grand Master of the Ancient or York Grand Lodge, united under the title of the United Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of England.

Upon the second point, we explain that in 1756 one degree constituted Free Masonry, upon taking which, membership was granted. Mackey says, in his Encyclopaedia of Free Masonry (page 210): "It is now the opinion of the best scholars that the division of the Masonic system into degrees was the work of the revivalists of the beginning of the 18th century." Again, the same authority says: "In 1717, the whole body of the Fraternity consisted only of Entered Apprentices " ; again, "In the old charges collected by Anderson and approved in 1722, the degree of Fellow Craft is introduced as being a necessary qualification for Grand Master, although the word degree is not used "; again, "Perhaps about 1721, the three degrees were introduced, but the Second and Third were not perfected for many years. Even as late as 1735, the Entered Apprentice degree contained the most prominent form of initiation, and he who was an Apprentice was, for all practical purposes, a Free Mason. It was not until repeated improvements, by the adoption of new ceremonies and regulations, that the degree of Master Mason took the place which it now occupies, having been confined at first to those who had passed the chair."

These subjects cleared up, we may intelligently pursue the thread of our biography of Joseph Webb, Jr.

As before stated, he received, initiation and membership in the Lodge of St. Andrew in 1756, took his degree of Master Mason in 1758, being then twenty-four years of age. He served as Secretary of the Master's Lodge, and served one year as Worshipful Master of the Lodge of St. Andrew during the term of 1765-6.

According to the Free Masons' Monthly Magazine, vol. xv., page 169, edited by that late distinguished Masonic historian, Charles W. Moore, Joseph Webb, now, by the death of his father, become senior, was appointed by Grand Master Joseph Warren in 1771 to be Deputy Grand Master, he being then thirty-seven years of age; he served as Deputy Grand Master to the time of the memorable death of the Grand Master, June 17, 1775. From the address of the M. W. Grand Master, Percival Lowell Everett, to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, in 1877, we gather the information that on the 27th of December, 1776, the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts celebrated the feast of St. John the Evangelist at Free Masons' Hall, R. W. Joseph Webb, Deputy Grand Master, presiding.

Another incident of some interest connected with Deputy Grand Master Webb is the following memorandum from the records of the Grand Lodge, under date of November 1, 1773. For this and other interesting items from Grand Lodge Records and other sources, we are under obligations to R. W. Sereno D. Nickerson, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, who is much interested in historic researches, and who is an intelligent student of genealogical records.

The memorandum referred to indicates that Joseph Webb practised the true Masonic virtue of generosity, though we are not able to state, from any researches made, what kind oi glassware constituted "Masons' glasses," or for what purpose they were used. Let the wisdom of future ages solve the problem.

"At a meeting of the Massachusetts Lodge, at Concert Hall, Nov. 1, 177;->, third night in the quarter,—

"The Deputy Grand Master, Joseph Webb, having presented the Lodge with three Doz. Masons' Glasses, praying their acceptance of the same,

"Voted, the thanks of this Lodge be given the Dep. G'd Master, and a coppy of the same be transmitted to him by the Secretary."

If some of the items from the ancient records of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge seem unimportant, a second thought may induce the belief that no matter of a historical character can be deemed too small to enter into a truthful narrative which is intended to give us an insight into the character and acts of the chief worker of the period depicted. In this connection we may cite the words of Right Worshipful Sereno D. Nickerson in a recent note to the writer in regard to items from ancient Grand Lodge records: "They will be of interest because at this late period even the most trivial matter is worth preserving, and sometimes an apparently unimportant item suggests or develops something of real value. Historians must often content themselves with being regarded as collectors of 'unconsidered trifles.' "


The following items refer to Joseph Webb and contain a brief sketch of his Masonic life :

  • Dec. 27, 1769. Nominated by the Most Worshipful Grand Master (Joseph Warren) and unanimously elected Grand Marshal.
  • Jan. 12, 1770. Acted as Senior Grand Warden pro tem..
  • March 2, 1770. Acted as Senior Grand Warden pro tem.
  • March 2, 1770. Chosen chairman of a committee "to prepare a body of Laws for the regulation of the Grand Lodge."
  • May 13, 1770. Acted as J. G.W. pro tem.
  • June 1, 1770. Acted as S. G. W., chosen a member of a committee "to prepare an estimate of the necessaries for the Grand Lodge." A new committee was chosen "to prepare a Body of By-Laws for the regulation of the Grand Lodge," Joseph Webb being named fifth and last.
  • Aug. 10, 1770. Acted as Deputy Grand Master at the constituting of Massachusetts Lodge.
  • Oct. 14, 1770. Acted as Deputy Grand Master.
  • Dec. 7, 1770. Acted as S. G. W.
  • Dec. 27, 1770. Acted as G. M. Feast of St. John the Evangelist.
  • March 1, 1771. Acted as S. G. W. pro tem. Appointed to that office by the Grand Master.
  • June 7, 1771. Present as S. G. W.
  • Dec. 6, 1771. Present as S. G. W. "The Grand Master then acquainted the Grand Lodge that he appointed Right Worshipful Joseph Webb Deputy Grand Master."
  • Dec. 27, 1771. "The Grand Officers and a number of Brethren met at the Masons' Arms at 11 o'clock a.m., where the Deputy Grand Master was installed in ample form, agreeable to the appointment on the 6th inst, after which they repaired to Concert Mall, where an elegant dinner was provided, and Brethren enjoyed the same in a manner suitable to the festivity of the day."
  • March 6, 1772. Present as D. G. M.
  • May 29, 1772. Present as D. G. M. Chosen a member of a committee "to procure the best music that can be obtained for the festival of St. John the Baptist."
  • June 12, 1772. Present as D.G, M.
  • June 24, 1772. Present as D. G. M. Appointed chairman of a committee to wait upon "our Brother, the Rev. Samuel Fayerweather, with the thanks of this Lodge . . . for his sermon preached this day before the Grand Lodge, . . . and to request him to grant a copy of the same for the press."
  • Sept. 4, 1772. Present as D. G. M.
  • Nov. 6, 1772. Present as D.G. M.
  • Dec. 4, 1772. Present as D.G. M.
  • Dec. 11, 1772. Present as D. G. M.
  • March 8, 1773. Present as D. G. M.
  • May 7, 1773. Present " R't W'p'ful Joseph Webb,"—his name following those of the Grand Officers, and no Deputy Grand Master being mentioned.
  • June 11, 1773. Present as D. G. M., and "proposed that Rules and Orders should be drawn up for the regulation of this Grand Lodge, and motioned a committee be appointed from the several Lodges under this jurisdiction to draw up the same." Two Brethren from each Lodge were appointed, and Brother Webb was added to the committee.
  • June 16, 1773. "Most Worshipful {sic} Joseph Webb, D. G. M., in the chair."
  • Sept. 3, 1773. Present as D. G. M.
  • Oct. 1, 1773. Present as D. G. M.
  • Dec. 3, 1773. Present as D. G. M. ; chosen chairman of a committee to examine the accounts of the Grand Treasurer.
  • Dec. 27, 1773. "A Commission from The Right Hon'ble and Most Worshipful Patrick, Earl of Dumfries, Grand Master of Masons in Scotland, dated 3d day of March A. D. and of Masonry 5772, Appointing the Most Worshipful Joseph Warren, Esqr., Grand Master of Masons for the Continent of America."

"The Brethren then proceeded in Ample Form to Install The Most Worshipful Grand Master."

"Then the Most Worshipful Grand Master, by Virtue of the Authority Granted him in the foregoing Commission, Ordered the G'cl Sec'y to Read a Commission, dated at Boston, N. England 1773, Appointing Joseph Webb, Esqr., Deputy Grand Master under him, the said Joseph Warren, Esqr., G'd Master, who was accordingly Install'd."

"The tables being Furnished, The Brethren (with the Guests) Enjoyed themselves Agreeable to the Festivity of the day. Present, Most Worship. Joseph Warren, Esqr., G'd M'r, Hon'ble William Brattle, Esqr., Rev'd Doc'r Sam'l Mather, Worship!'. Joseph Webb, Esqr., D'ty G'd M'r," and thirty-eight other Brethren."

  • March 4, 1774. Present as D. G. M. "Com'ttee appointed to draw up certain By-Laws (as Voted the eleaventh June last) the Chairman Worshipf'll Bro'r I), (i. Mast'r says the said By-Laws were still under consideration ; Mot'd and Seconded, The Chairman of said Com'ttee be desired to summons the whole Com'ttee upon the By-Laws and make report next Lodge Night."

"Voted un'ly the Thanks of this Grand Lodge be given to Worsh'l Bro'r Webb, Dep'y Grand Mast'r, Bro'r Capt. Sam'l Barrett & Bro. W. Hoskins, lor the use of the Platform, Pillars, and Arch, to this Grand Lodge during their Hold'g this Grand Lodge at Masons' Hall." * June 15, 1774. Only six Brethren present — neither Joseph Warren nor Joseph Webb among them. "Mot'd Seconded and Voted, this Grand Lodge be adjourned to Tuesday Evening Next, 7 o'clock ; by reason of the lew Grand Officers present; Engaged in Consequential Public Business."

  • June 7, 1774. Present as D. G. M.
  • Dec. 2, 1774. Present as D, G. M.
  • Mar. 3, 1775. Present as D. G. M.
  • "Memo. 19th April 1775. Hostillitys Commenc'd between the Troops of G. Britain & America, in Lexington Battle." In consequence of which the town was blockaded and no Lodge held until December, 177(5.
  • Dec. 27, 1776. "At a Grand Lodge held at Free Masons Flail for the Celebration of St. John, the Evangelist, Dec'r 27, 1776, Present— Joseph Webb D. G. M. (the names of 31 other brethren following). All settled & paid, a very Genteel Entertainment." This is the entire record. It may be fairly assumed that the Brethren of '76 sat down to an enjoyable banquet, which was the last assemblage of the kind for some months in consequence of the war.
  • Feb. 14, 1777. Right Worshipful Joseph Webb, D. G. M., presiding. Special meeting "call'd to hear the petition of Seth Deane & others praying for a Charter to erect & hold a Lodge in the Town of Stockbridge, in the County of Berkshire. The petition was referred to Friday evening, 7th March next."

"Voted that the Dep'y G. Master send a Summons to all the Masters & Wardens under this Jurisdiction to assemble here on 7th March in order to consult upon & to elect a Grand Master for this State, in the Room of our late worthy Grand Master WARREN, dec'd."

  • March 7, 1777. Present, Right Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esq., D. G.M. "This Graml Lodge is adjourned until! tomorrow evening."

March 8, 1777. Present, Right Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esq., D. G. M. "On a motion made, Voted, this Grand Lodge proceed to the Choice of a Grand Master to Act in that Capacity 'till Friday June next.

"Voted, that Most Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esq., be Grand Master." Other Grand Officers were chosen. Thus was organized the first Independent Grand Lodge on this Continent. "Motion'd & Seconded that the prayer of the petition of Seth Dean & others be heard and answered, Voted accord'ly."

  • June 24, 1777. Festival of St. John the Baptist celebrated, Most Worshipful Joseph Wrebb, Esq., G. M., presiding. Seventy-one Brethren present.
  • September 5, 1777. Most Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esq., G. M.,presiding. "As a Number of the Grand Officers are absent, Voted, This Grand Lodge be adjournal to the first Friday in October Next, and that the Grand Lodge be Summon'd accordingly." Nevertheless the next Record is —
  • Dec. 4, 1777. Most Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esq., G. M., presiding. Grand Officers "continued untill the first Friday in March next." Voted to celebrate the Feast of St. John the Evangelist,— "that Brother Perez Morton be desired to pronounce an Oration, at the Stone Chaple, that the Subject of his Oration be — Masonary."
  • Jan. 30, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M.,. presiding. Charter granted to Trinity Lodge, of Lancaster.
  • March 7, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding "The few members present Induces the Worship'l Grand Master to adjourn this Grand Lodge to the Next Friday Evening."
  • March 14, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "Voted, That this Grand Lodge be adjournal till called together by the Grand Master."
  • May 1, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "Voted Unanimously that Brother Nath'l Peirce be dismissed as Secretary of this Grand Lodge for a General neglect of duty." Charter granted to United States Lodge, of Danvers.
  • June 5, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. William Chal-oner and others had leave to withdraw their petition for a Charter "on account of its not being supported by sufficient Number of Signers."
  • Sept. 4, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. Charter granted to Dr. William Chaloner and others, under the name of Warren Lodge.
  • Dec. 4, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "Voted The Most Worshipful Jos. Webb, Esqr. be Grand Master for the year Ensuing." Other Grand Officers were chosen.

"The Grand Master desired the Opinion of the Grand Lodge Respecting Celebrating Festival of Saint John the Evangelist. Voted the Celebration of Said Festival be at Free Masons Hall, on Monday, the 28th Instant." . . . The Stewards were instructed to ' agree with Bro. Wait for an Elegant Dinner.' A committee was appointed to request the Rev. Mr. Howard to preach a sermon to the Masons on the occasion."

  • Dec. 18, 1778. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "A petition was presented from the Massach'ts Lodge, Sign'd Wm. Palfrey, Mast'r, James Jackson, Sr. W'd, Edward Gray, Jr. Warden—Setting forth that the Exigency of the times would not admit of their assembling sooner, and praying Said Lodge may retain the Rank they formerly held under this Grand Lodge. Voted the Prayer of Said Petition be Granted. Fro. Colo, Revere, one of the Committee nominated to wait on Mr. Howard, Reports, That the Rev'd Mr. Howard will deliver a Sermon to the Body of Masons, at the Old Brick Meeting (House) on Monday, 28th Dccem'r, and that the Rev'd Messrs. Clark and Laugthrop will also attend.

"Voted, the three Reverend Gentlemen be Invited to dine—also the Rev'd Messrs. White & Parker, on the 28th Instant.

"Voted, The Hon'ble General Gates, and such of his Family who are Masons, be waited upon & Invited to dine at the Feast."

  • Dec. 28, 1778. Present, Most Worshipful Joseph Webb G. M., presiding, Hon'ble Gener'l Gates, Rev'd Mr. Howard, Rev'd Mr. Clarke, Rev'd Mr. Lothrop, Rev'd Mr. Parker, sundry Brethren, "The family of Gen'l Gates . . . & Fifers "—in all about 125 persons.

"The Brethren Marched to the Old Brick Meeting House, where the Rev'd Mr. Howard preached a sermon, Keve'd Messrs. Lothrop & Clarke assisted, after which a Colection was made for the Poor of this Town {amounting to 105 dollars}, then Return'd to the 1 [all, and alter partaking of an Elegant Feast," returned thanks to the preacher and asked for a copy of his sermon for the press — which was granted. March 5, 1779. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding, "The petition from a number of French Bro'rs desirous of holding a Lodge under this Jurisdic'n was read," and a committee appointed "to wait on the French Consul to Enquire whether they are persons of Character." A petition was presented from William Mclvean and others "praying for liberty to hold a Lodge at Ipswage," also "from George Abbot and others desirous of holding a Lodge at Salem." All three petitions were deferred to the adjournment— March 9th.

  • March 9, 1779. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. The three petitions were granted. "Voted, That the Toiler have £1, 4-."
  • April 13, 1779, Joseph Webb, G.M., presiding. The petition of a committee in behalf of Danvers Lodge, praying it might be removed to the town of Beverly, was unanimously granted, "and the said United States Lodge is in future to be held in the said town of Beverly, and all their proceedings there to be firm and valid, to all intents and purposes, as though the Name of Danvers had not been mentioned in their Charter of Erection."
  • April 30, 1779. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. A remonstrance, signed by nine members of United States Lodge, was presented, and the vote authorizing the removal was suspended. The Grand Secretary was directed to send copies of the two petitions to the Master, with instructions "to call his Lodge together immediately and know the minds of the members (consistent with the By-Laws), respecting a Removal of it, and that they transmit to the Grand Lodge a Copy of their proceedings & the result of their determinations, to be further acted upon."
  • May 21, 1779. Joseph Webb, G, M., presiding. Six members of United States Lodge were present. "Having by writing Reported the determination of their Lodge at their Last Meeting ; and answer'd to several pointed Questions made by this Grand Lodge, particularly to the Constitutions, Page 314, they withdrew." It appealing that there were more than five members who were willing to support said Lodge, it was the unanimous opinion of the Grand Lodge, "that no Lodge may be Removed to any other Town, So long as Five Members Continue to Support it. We Therefore Recommend to the Members of Said Lodge they Cultivate Brotherly Love and Friendship — the Cement of Masonary — that the Vulgar may not take the advantage of any little difficulty that {may} arise among Masons, to bring the Craft into disrepute."
  • June 4, 1779. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "Voted, that the Ci. Sec'y write to the Commissary of Prisoners, at Rutland, and know the Rank of Rich'd Speaight & others, who have petitioned this Grand Lodge to use their Influence with the Honorable Council to Grant a parole to go to New York — promising an Exchange of Officers of Like Rank."
  • Sept. 3, 1779. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. Charter granted to Amity Lodge, of Beverly.
  • Oct. 6, 1779. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding, "The petition of John Peirce & others; Praying this Grand Lodge would Grant them a Charter for holding a travilling Lodge, Having Nominated General John Patterson Master, Colo. Benja. Tupper S. W'd and Maj'r Will'm Hull J W'd —Voted, a Charter be Granted them for holding Regular Lodges, Make Masons, Pass and Raise, in this State, or any of the United States of America, where no other Grand Master Presides. But in any other State where there is a Grand Master, Constituted by the Brethren of these United States, they are to Inform him and Receive his Sanction."
  • Dec. 3, 1779. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. Grand Officers chosen, with Brother Webb at the head. "Voted, Worshipfull Brother Webb, Colo. Revere & Cap'n Barrat be a Committee to Wait on Doc'r John Warren Requesting the delivery of the Charter granted by the Grand Lodge of Scotland to our late Deceas'd Grand Master."
  • Dec. 27, 1779. Feast of St. John the Evangelist. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. Sixty-three Brethren present. "The Celebration was Conducted with Dignity, Propriety and Harmony; Such as is to he found and Injoy'd only among Masons."
  • Jan. 25, 1780. Constituting of Friendship Lodge, at Boston, the Grand Master conducting the ceremony and installing the Master. This was the French Lodge to which a Charter was granted March 9, 1779*.
  • March 3, 1780. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "Washington Lodge No.— Laid before this Grand Lodge a Copy of their By-Laws, also a List of Officers & Members of that Travilling Lodge."
  • March 18, 1780. Joseph Webb, G. M, presiding. Charter granted to St. Patrick's Lodge, of Portsmouth, N.H. This identical Charter was presented to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts at its Annual Communication on the 13th of December, 1882.
  • June 2, 1780. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "This Grand Lodge Received a letter from Unity Lodge {of Ipswich} Inclosing One Hundred Pounds for the late Grand Master Doct'r Warren's Children, the Same being Read, whereupon Voted, That the Treasurer write to said Lodge and return them the thanks of the Grand Lodge for the same."
  • Sept. 1,1780. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "The Worshipful] Grand Master laid before the Grand Lodge a letter dated Philadelph'a August 19, 1780, Sign'd William Smith, Grand Sec'y, Inclosing a Printed List of the Lodges in Pensilvani under that Jurisdiction, and Advising that they had in their Grand Lodge thought it Expedient to make choice of a Grand Master General for the Thirteen United American States; That they had Nominated I lis Excellency General George Washington, Requesting the Opinion and Approbation of this Grand Lodge thereon. Voted Circular Letters be wrote to the several Lodges under this jurisdiction, Requesting Attendance of Masters & Wardens at the Next Adjournment for their Opinion, or that they give Instructions to their Proxys on this subject."
  • Sept. 22, 1780. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "Voted a Committee of Five be appointed to write an address to all Masons in the Thirteen United States (under this jurisdiction)— The subject, Masonary." The G. M. was made the chairman. He was also added to a "Committee to write the different Lodges under this jurisdiction, after Receipt of a Letter sent to the Grand Lodge of Pensilva."
  • Dec. 1, 1780. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. " Voted, That the Committee of Seven, Chose last Grand Lodge Meeting to take into consideration the letter from the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Philadelphia, be dissolved, and that this Grand Lodge form themselves into a Committee to act upon said Business, and that The Worshipfull Grand Master be President of the same. . . . Grand Officers for the ensuing year elected & unanimously Chose," Joseph Webb at the head. " Voted, That the Lodges under this Jurisdiction which are not Represented, nor have been notified of the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Philadelphia, Respecting the appointment of a Grand Master General, should be wrote to immediately by the Grand Secretary, and have their answer. . . . Voted, this Grand Lodge be adjourned to the Second Friday in January, 1781, to Receive the Report of the Committee Respecting a Grand Master General over all the Grand Lodges in the Thirteen United North American States."
  • Dec. 27, 1780. "To Celebrate the Festival of the Beloved Saint John the Lvangelist. Present, Joseph Webb, Esqr., His Excellency Governor Hancock, Major Keith, Honorable General Lincoln, Reverend Mr. Parker, Reverend Mr. Eliot," and seventy-five Brethren.
  • Jan. 12, 1781. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. A "Dispensation "was granted to hold a Lodge in Colchester, Conn. "Read a Letter from Trinity Lodge, Dated Sep'r 19, 1780, objecting to the propriety & necessity of a Grand Master General at this time." Brother Morton moved that we now determine and fix upon a time for the Choice of a Grand Master General. After candidly debating the matter, the following Reasons were offered : As this Grand Lodge have not been acquainted with the Opinion of the various Grand Lodges in the United States, Respecting the Choice of a Grand Master General, and the Circumstances of our Public Affairs making it Impossible we should at present obtain their sentiments upon it, Therefore, Voted, that any determination upon the subject cannot, with the Propriety and Justice due to the Craft at large, be made by This Grand Lodge until a General Peace shall happily take place thro' the CONTINENT."
  • March 2, 1781. Joseph Webb, G.M., presiding. "Brother Colo. John Brooks (afterwards Governor) laid before the Grand Lodge a List of the Officers and Members of Washington Lodge for this year." This was an Army Lodge, often attended by Gen, Washington.
  • May 8, 1781. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. Upon the petition of a number of the members, the Charter of Friendship Lodge (composed of Frenchmen) was vacated, and a new Charter granted under the name of Perfect Union Lodge, "with the Rank that the Friendship Lodge before held."
  • May 22, 1781. Joseph Webb, G.M., presiding. Charter granted to St. Paul Lodge, of Litchfield, Conn.
  • June 1, 1781. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding.
  • Sept. 7, 1781. Samuel Barratt, Esq., D. G. M., presiding,
  • Nov. 8, 1781. Samuel Barratt, Esq., D. G. M., presiding. Charter granted for a Lodge in Cornish, Vt.
  • Dec. 7, 1781. Paul Revere, Esq., G. M., pro tem. "Voted, the choice of Grand Officers he referred to the next Quarterly Communication, by Reason of our Worthy and Most Worshipful Grand Master, Joseph Webb, Esqr., absence at present in the Service of the United States."
  • Dec. 21, 1781. Paul Revere presiding. It was voted not to celebrate the Feast of St. John the Evangelist, "On the Principle that the prices demanded are beyond the ability of many Brethren to support, without apparent Injury to their Familys."
  • March 1, 1782. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "A petition from the Master, Wardens & Members of St. Andrew's Lodge being presented to the Grand Lodge — praying that the Grand Lodge would grant them a Charter by the aforesaid name, they retaining their rank of Precedency as heretofore in s'd G'd Lodge. The Grand Lodge taking the same into their serious & deliberate consideration, for reasons set forth in s'd Petition, Unanimously Resolved that the prayer of s'd Petitioners be Granted. . . . Voted,. The Grand Lodge proceed to the Choice of Grand Officers. Unanimously Chose Most W'pfll Joseph Webb, Esqr., G. M.," and other Officers.

There appear to be no records from March, 1782, a space of three months, to the next date, which is —

  • June 7, 1782. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. Voted, to celebrate the feast of St. John on the 24th. "Voted, There be a Committee of three to wait on the Gentlemen Selectmen or the use of Faneuil Hall on s'd day." The committee were Paul Revere, John Warren and John Lowell. "A copy of a letter from the Most Worsp'll J. Webb & the two Grand Wardens to Moses Michael Hays, together with his answer, are fil'd with the G'd Lodge Papers."
  • June 10, 1782. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. Among the Brethren recorded as present is named "W'p'f'll Moses M. Hays, by request of the Most W'p'f'll Master and G'd W'ardens. . . . Voted, that a Committee be appointed to Draught Resolutions explanatory of the Powers & Authority of this Grand Lodge, respecting the Extent and Meaning of its Jurisdiction, and of the exercise of any other Masonic Authorities within its jurisdiction." Bro, Hays bore the title of "Deputy Inspector General for North America " under the Scottish Rite, and the Brethren probably thought it advisable to investigate his "powers and authority," which were new to them.
  • June 24, 1782. Festival of St. John the Baptist at Faneuil Hall, Grand Master Webb presiding. There were present also "the Gentlemen Selectmen, French Consul, kev'd B'r Eliot, Dr. Warren, Town Clerk, W'p'f'll B'r Rowe," and sixty-six other Brethren. After listening to a sermon from Bro. Eliot and a charge from Bro. Warren, "the Brethren returned to Faneuil Hall & enjoyed themselves upon an Elegant Dinner."
  • Sept. 6, 1782. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "Voted, The Petition from B'r John Copp & others to this Grand Lodge for holding a Lodge in the State of New York be granted."
  • Sept. 30, 1782. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. The report of the committee appointed June 10, 1782, was read and referred to the next Lodge evening.
  • Dec.6, 1782. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "A Return was presented from Washington Lodge, Dated West Point, 18th July, 1782, of the choice of their Officers and list of Members." The report of the June committee was again read, defending the organization of the Independent Grand Lodge, "and after mature deliberation thereon, the same was accepted and ordered to be recorded in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge." This is one of the most important and famous documents ever submitted to an American Grand Lodge. " The Grand Lodge proceeded to the choice of Grand Officers for the year ensuing. The Grand Master propos'd Bro. John Warren (brother of Gen, Warren) for his successor; upon which the Grand Lodge proceeded by Ballot to the choice, whereupon he was unan'y elected."
  • Dec. 24, 1782. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. The Grand Master presented a letter from St. Andrew's Lodge. " Mov'd, seconded & Voted, That there be a committee of five to confer with St. Andrew's Lodge at their next meeting upon the subject of their letter on refusing to acknowledge the Independency of this Grand Lodge."
  • Jan. 3, 1783. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding. "A petition from Charles Whitney & others, of Darby, in the State of Connecticut. The Grand Lodge grants them a Charter of Dispensation to hold a Lodge, making Masons, &c, untill a Grand Master be erected in that State." This was King Hiram Lodge, of Derby. "Voted, a committee of seven be appointed to write to the Grand Lodge of Scotland, Informing them the Reasons why the Grand Lodge in Commonwealth Massachusetts assumed to themselves that dignity; the same Committee also to write the Grand Lodge of Philadelphia, Informing them of the assumption of this Grand Lodge. Mov'd, seconded & Voted, unan'y, that the Most Worshipful Grand Master be requested to call a meeting of the Grand Lodge, as soon as may be, for the Installation of the Grand Master Elect."
  • March 7, 1783. Joseph Webb, G. M., presiding.
  • June 6, 1783. Joseph Webb, G.M., presiding. "Voted, that this Grand Lodge celebrate the Feast of St. John ye Baptist, the 24th instant, and that the Most W'pf'l] John Warren, Esq., Grand Master Elect, be then install'd." At each meeting since the election, except this, "Worshipful John Warren, Esq., G. M Elect," has been named among the Brethren present.
  • June 24, 1783. A Grand Lodge was held in Ample Form at Concert Hall, "for the Installment of the Grand Master Elect," Most Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esq., G. M„ presiding, The names of 107 Brethren are given as present, but there the record ends, the two pages following being blank. "An oration was delivered at the stone chapel by Brother Christopher Gore, Esq.," and a "charge" by John Eliot, A. M., both of which were published.
  • Sept. 5, 1783. Grand Master Warren presiding. "Most W'pf'll Joseph Webb, P. G. M.," was present and presented a return from Wooster Lodge, of Connecticut. Charter granted to King Solomon's Lodge of Charlestown.
  • Dec. 4, 1783. Past Grand Master Webb present.
  • Jan. 8, 1784. Past Grand Master Webb present. Special meeting for the constitution of King Solomon's Lodge.
  • June 3, 1784. Past Grand Master Webb present. "Agreeable to our Constitutions the Most W. G. Master (John Warren) nominated W. Jos. Webb, Esqr., P. G. M., to be Grand Master Elect. The Ballots being call'd he was unanimously chose Grand Master for the year ensuing — The Grand Master Elect then proceeded to nomination of his Officers & propos'd the Officers now holding place, to continue in office." The Senior and Junior Grand Wardens were accordingly unanimously elected. It was voted to celebrate the feast of St. John the Baptist, but the record is omitted, the next being':
  • Sept. 2, 1784. "M. Wo. Joseph Webb, Esqr., G. M.," presiding. "On a Petition of St. Andrew's Lodge, No. 1, holding under this Jurisdiction, praying for a renewal of their Charter, with the alteration of the name to 'Rising States' ; Voted, the petition be granted."
  • Dec. 2, 1784. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • Jan. 19, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding. Charter granted to [North Star Lodge, of Manchester, Vt.
  • March 3, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding. "A General Convention of the Lodges of Antient Masons in this State" was authorized, " that the state of Masonry in this Commonwealth {may be} duly considered and the Benefit and Interest of the Craft in general promoted."
  • April 28, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • June 2, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • June 24, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding, and re-elected.
  • July 15, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding. Charter granted to Friendship Lodge, of Williamstown; also to Columbia Lodge, of Norwich, Conn.
  • Sept. 29, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • Dec. 1, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • Dec. 8, 1785. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • March 1, 1786. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • June 2, 1786. Grand Master Webb presiding, and re-elected.
  • June 24, 1786. Grand Master Webb presiding, and installed his officers.
  • Sept.—, 1786. Grand Master Webb presiding. A committee was appointed to draft a book of Constitutions, and the Grand Master was made chairman.
  • Nov. 3, 1786. Grand Master Webb presiding. The Committee on Constitutions reported, and a new committee was appointed to revise their report.
  • Dec. 1, 1786. Grand Master Webb presiding.
  • March 2, 1787. John Lowell, D. G. M., presiding. A committee was appointed to confer with the other Grand Lodge as to a union.
  • April 6, 1787. John Lowell, D. G, M., presiding. The records of the last two meetings give at the head of the list of officers present the title of the Grand Master without his name, indicating his sickness, and perhaps his anticipated death.
  • April 27, 1787. A special Communication was held, it being the day succeeding the death of Grand Master Webb, a report of which will be found hereafter in the account of the death and obsequies of the Grand Master.
  • June 1, 1787. John Lowell, D. G. M., presiding. "A Billet of thanks, from Mrs. Webb to the Grand Lodge, and other Lodges, that gave their attendance at the funeral of her late Husband, was read and ordered to be filed."

This ends our items from the records of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.


It must be remembered that from the earliest hostile movements between the Continental patriots and the troops of King George III. the town of Boston was blockaded and in a state of siege. A very large number of Free Masons, including the great majority of leading members, were more or less actively engaged on the side of the patriots, and there can be no doubt that the Boston Free Masons were important factors in the events of that period, Such men as Joseph Warren, James Otis, and Paul Revere were bright and shining lights in the Masonic diadem, and who that knows the early history of our struggling colonists against the encroachments of the British Crown, does not recognize in those men the great patriotic leaders who fired the hearts of the colonists to resist the tyranny of the "British government".

Joseph Webb, who had grown to man's estate, — had gained position as a merchant in the circles of trade, the first in authority among Free Masons,— wa.s united with Warren, Otis, and Revere and other leaders in the cause, in all measures inaugurated for asserting the right of the colonists to resist taxation unless based upon representation. These men, leaders in the great movement of colonial resistance, were craftsmen who walked uprightly in their several stations before God and man.


The famous Green Dragon Tavern was the locality of Free Masons' Hall, where the feast of St. John the Evangelist was held, as before stated, December 27, 1776. This famous hostelry was situated on the corner formed by Hanover and Union Streets, and was as distinguished for Revolutionary and Masonic headquarters as it w.s for its smoking viands and general good-cheer, which, to our ancient brethren, proved no hindrance to a good life. Tin's Green Dragon Tavern should have proper mention in any attempted effort to rescue the name and fame of Joseph Webb from the musty and almost hidden archives of a hundred years ago. The Grand Lodge assembled at this tavern, and, more than this, it was owned by the Lodge of St. Andrew. Right Wor'f. Charles Levi Woodbury, in the centennial address before alluded to, speaking of the Green Dragon Tavern and the Lodge of St. Andrew, said : "It is recorded in this respectable Lodge that, on the night of the famed destruction of the tea in Boston harbor, they did not hold their regular meeting, in consequence of 'having business with the consignees of the foreign tea.' Here the Chiefs sat in private council when the Lodge was not in session."

There is other evidence than that of the festal assemblies at the Green Dragon, if we may judge from the little bits of history that have come down to us from the early days of the eighteenth century, that our ancient brethren were general lovers of good fellowship ; and we may affirm that even before the Green Dragon Tavern became a place of Masonic resort, when the Craft was called to refreshment, the Royal Exchange, located on what is now State Street, at the southwest corner of Exchange Place, was a hostelry where Masonic brethren often repaired.

We find in the Memorial History of Boston, in a paper prepared by Edwin L. Bynner, Esq., a poetic satire on a Masonic celebration at the Royal Exchange in 1749, which alludes to Luke Vardy, a Masonic brother, probably of St. John's Lodge, formerly of London, who, at the time of the celebration, was the host of the establishment and generously entertained the brethren of the mystic tie:

"Where's honest Luke — that cook from London?
For without Luke the Lodge is undone;
'Twas he who oft dispelled their sadness,
And filled the brethren's hearts with gladness.
For them his ample bowls o'erflowed,
His table groan'd beneath its load;
For them he stretched his utmost art,—
Their honours grateful they impart.
Luke in return is made a brother,
As good and true as any other;
And still, though broke with age and wine,
Preserves the token and the sign."

A Grand Lodge was held at the Green Dragon Tavern Friday evening, March 3, 1775, at which Most Worshipful Joseph Warren presided. It was the last service of that distinguished patriot and brother to the brethren of the Craft, for, upon the 17th of June following he surrendered his life upon the sanguinary field of Bunker Hill.

In the compilation of the History and General Regulations of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts by Rev. Thaddeus Mason Harris, A. M., printed at Worcester by Brother Isaiah Thomas in 1798, we find the following interesting allusion to the death and obsequies of Grand Master Warren:

"By the contest of the eventful 17th of June, on the celebrated heights of Charlestown, the Grand Lodge sustained a heavy loss in the death of Grand Master Warren, who was slain contending for the liberties of his country. Soon after the evacuation of Boston by the British army, March 28th A. L. 5776, and previous to any regular Communication, the brethren, influenced by a pious regard to the merits and memory of the late Grand Master, Joseph Warren, were induced to search for his body, which had been rudely and indiscriminately buried on the field of slaughter. They accordingly repaired to the place, and by direction of a person who was on the ground about the time of his burial, a spot was found where the earth had been rudely turned up. Upon removing the turf and opening the grave, which was on the brow of a hill, and adjacent to a small cluster of sprigs, the remains were found in a mangled condition, but were easily ascertained (by an artificial tooth), and being decently raised, were conveyed to the State House in this metropolis April 8, from whence, by a large and respectable number of brethren, with the late Grand Officers attending in a regular procession, they were carried to the Stone Chapel, where an animated eulogium was delivered by Brother Perez Morton, at their request. The body was then conveyed to the silent vault and sacredly deposited without a sculptured stone to mark the spot ; but as the whole earth is the sepulchre of illustrious men, his fame, his glorious actions, are engraved on the tablet of universal remembrance, and will survive marble monuments or local inscription."

Following the record of the Grand Lodge Communication of March 3 is this memorandum:

"19th April, 1775, hostilities commenced between the troops of G. Britain and America in Lexington battle. In consequence of which the town was blockaded and no Lodge held until December, 1776."

That brief record covers a period which was one of isolation for the port of Boston, and during which the work of the ancient craftsmen was necessarily suspended. Free Masons' Hall at the Green Dragon was closed, the tools and implements of Free Masonry were carefully laid away, and brother was separated from brother,

We find no Masonic record breaking in upon these fifteen months of gloom until December, 1776, when, on the 27th of that month, the Grand Lodge convened and celebrated the feast of St. John the Evangelist at Free Masons' Hall, R. W. Joseph Webb, Deputy Grand Master, presiding, It appears by the record that only thirty-two brethren were present at this feast, and the record happily closes with the remark : "All settled and paid; a very Genteel entertainment."

The death of Joseph Warren left the Grand Lodge without a head. It was generally considered, and this was the view Joseph Webb took of it, that as the Deputy held his appointment from the Grand Master, the power of the former ceased upon the death of the latter. It would seem, however, that Deputy Grand Master Webb was willing to assume authority to the extent of calling the Grand Lodge together. lie therefore sent his summons to all the Masters and Wardens to assemble March 7, 1777, "to consult upon and to elect a Grand Master for this State, in the room of our late Worthy Grand Master Warren, deceased."

It appears from the records of those early clays that there was a variance of opinion among Masons as to the regularity of proceedings after the death of General Warren, and the differences grew to such proportions that on several occasions it was found expedient to vindicate the regularity of the action taken. An able report upon this subject was made in the Grand Lodge December (!, 1782, signed by Perez Morton (a distinguished lawyer, and for some years Attorney General of the State), Paul Revere (the patriot whose midnight ride is famous in prose history and poetry), Dr. John Warren, and James Avery. In Grand Lodge the report was carefully read, considered, and accepted.

We give extracts from this report as follows :

"The Commission from the Grand Lodge of Scotland granted to our late Grand Master, Joseph Warren, Esquire, having died with him, and of course his Deputy, whose appointment was derived from his nomination, being no longer in existence, they saw themselves without a head, and without a single Grand Officer, and of course it was evident that not only the Grand Lodge, but all the particular Lodges under its jurisdiction, must cease to assemble, the Brethren be dispersed, the penniless go unassisted, the Craft languish, and Ancient Masonry be extinct in this part of the world.

"That in consequence of a summons from the former Grand Wardens to the Masters and Wardens of all the regular constituted Lodges, a Grand Communication was held to consult and advise on some means to preserve the intercourse of the Brethren. "That the political Head of this country, having destroyed all connection and correspondence between the subjects of these states and the country from which the Grand Lodge originally derived its commissioned authority ; and the principles of the Craft, inculcating on its professors submission to the commands of the civil authority of the country they reside in ; the Brethren did assume an elective supremacy, and under it chose a Grand Master and Grand Officers, and erected a Grand Lodge with independent powers and prerogatives, to be exercised, however, on principles consistent with and subordinate to the regulations pointed out in the Constitutions of ancient Masonry.

"That the reputation and utility of the Craft, under their jurisdiction, has been most extensively diffused, by the flourishing state of fourteen Lodges constituted by their authority, within a shorter period than that in which three only received Dispensations under the former Grand Lodge.

"That in the history of our Craft we find that in England there are two Grand Lodges, independent of each Other, in Scotland the same, and in Ireland their Grand Lodge and Grand Master are independent either of England or Scotland. It is clear that the authority of some of these Grand Lodges originated in assumption ; or otherwise they would acknowledge the head from whence they derived. " Your committee are therefore of opinion, that the doings of the present Grand Lodge were dictated by principles of the clearest necessity, founded in the highest reason, and warranted by precedents of the most approved authority.

" And they beg leave to recommend the following resolutions to be adopted by the Grand Lodge, and engrafted into its Constitutions:

  • "I. That the Brethren of the Grand Lodge, in assuming the powers and prerogatives of an independent Grand Lodge, acted upon the most laudable motives, and consistently with principles which ought forever to govern Masons, viz : the benefit of the Craft and the good of mankind, and are warranted in their proceedings by the practice of Ancient Masons in all parts of the world.
  • "II. That this Grand Lodge be hereafter known and called by the name of ' The Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Ancient Masons;' and that it is free and independent in its government and official authority of any other Grand Lodge or Grand Master in the universe.
  • "III. That the power and authority of said Grand Lodge be construed to extend throughout the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and to any of the United States, where none other is erected, over such Lodges only as this Grand Lodge has constituted, or shall constitute.
  • "IV. That the Grand Master for the time being be desired to call in all Charters which were held under the jurisdiction of the late Grand Master, Joseph Warren, Esquire, and return the same with an endorsement thereon, expressive of their recognition of the power and authority of this Grand Lodge.
  • "V. That no person or persons ought or can, consistently with the rules of Ancient Masonry, use or exercise the powers or prerogatives of an Ancient Grand Master or Grand Lodge, to wit: to give power to erect Lodges of Ancient Masonry, make Masons, appoint Superior or Grand Officers, receive dues, or do anything which belongs to the powers or prerogatives of an Ancient Grand Lodge, within any part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the rightful and appropriated limits to which the authority of this Grand Lodge forever hereafter extends."

Under this latter provision, Lodges constituted in this jurisdiction by any other authority than that of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Massachusetts are deemed to be illegitimate.


The Massachusetts Grand Lodge assembled on March 7, and then, by adjournment, on March 8, 1777, at which time Joseph Webb, Esq,, was elected Grand Master, it being first resolved to establish the Grand Lodge as Independent. Of the creation of this independent Grand Lodge, R. W. Charles Levi Woodbury declared, in the address from which we have before quoted : "It was no shivering infant, surrounded by foreign nurses, that came puling and screaming into the world. In the dread crater of a war of liberty, amid the throes of social reorganization, she saw the Light and saluted its grand representatives; springing full-grown and armed out of the loins of the Scotch Lodges of this Commonwealth, as Pallas from the brain of Jove, she stood upright, the emblem of the Palingensia of Free Masonry in the new world of liberty, equality, and fraternity."

At this time, when he was called by his brethren to the highest position known in Free Masonry, as he ascended to the Grand Oriental Chair, he took his seat very much as our more ancient pioneers in this new world entered their primitive houses of worship in the wilderness — with their trusty rifles over their shoulders; somewhat like them, he assumed the highest Masonic position with the sword by his side, armed for the contest then waging between the infant colonies and the forces of King George III.

Grand Master Webb was an earnest worker in the Masonic vineyard, gathering from the wide harvest field many rich sheaves. Under his administration the Fraternity increased with as much rapidity as was desirable. Not only in Massachusetts, but in other States (for the jurisdiction of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge was not limited to State lines), warrants and charters were granted to petitioning brothers. During the war, a large number of Army Lodges, so called, were created,— lodges composed of officers and soldiers attached to the Continental army.

We give a list of some of the Lodges chartered by Grand Master Webb for the nine years including 1777-85. Those marked with a ★ are not now in existence, and the status of some of the others is unknown:

1777. Berkshire.★ Stockbridge. Mass.
1778. Trinity.★ Worcester. Mass.
1778. United States.★ Danvers. Mass.
1778. Warren. Machias. Maine.
1779. Unity.★ Ipswich. Mass.
1779. Amity.★ Beverly. Mass.
1779. Essex. Salem. Mass.
1779. Friendship.★ Boston. Mass.
1779. Washington.★ (Army.) ---
1780. St. Patrick's.★ Portsmouth. N. H.
1781. Unknown. Colchester. Conn.
1781. Unknown. Litchfield. Conn.
1781. Unknown. Cornish. Vermont.
1782. Unknown. --- New York.
1782. King Hiram. Darby. Conn.
1785. North Star. Manchester. Vermont.
1785. Friendship. Williamstown. Mass.
1785. Columbia. Norwich. Conn.

Harris' History of 1789 says Lancaster.

Of the Warren Lodge and the three Connecticut Lodges chartered in 1781, the present status is unknown. May 8, 1781, the name of "Friendship Lodge" was changed by vote of Grand Lodge to "Perfect Union."

During the time that Joseph Webb was at the head of the Grand Lodge, he was sometimes absent in the military service. We find upon the Grand Lodge records that Grand Master Webb was "absent" from the State from September 7, 1781, to March 1, 1782, and we also find this memorandum: "December 7, 1781, Grand Master absent in the service of the United States." During this period, as we have before stated, two Grand Lodges existed in this jurisdiction. Of the St. John's Grand Lodge, John Rowe, Esq., was Grand Master from 17(i8. He died in 1787, the same year, as we shall see, that Joseph Webb departed this life. The earlier death of Grand Master Rowe left but one (irand Master, and steps were immediately taken to unite the two Grand Lodges into one jurisdiction. In 17112 this union was consummated [March 19], and all distinctions between Ancient and Modern Free Masons came to a happy end.


We are indebted to Wor'f. Oliver A. Roberts, the historian of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company, of Boston, for valuable information in regard to Col. Webb's connection with that corps.

That Joseph Webb, Jr., was early imbued with the military spirit, is illustrated in the fact that in 1761, at the age of twenty-seven, he became a member of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company; was its second sergeant in 1765, and in 1773, twelve years after taking membership, he was elected ensign of that illustrious military corps. Discipline was well defined in those early days, for we find the record in 1772 that Ensign Joseph Webb was, with some eighty others, placed under a fine of one shilling per diem for non-attendance.

At the time, just previous to the revolution, that General Gage arrived at Long Wharf, armed with 11 is Majesty's commission to superintend military affairs with the idea of keeping the colonists, and particularly the stiff-necked people of Boston, under a proper subjection to royal authority, the Boston Regiment paraded upon King Street to receive the military representative of the Crown with all due honors. It must be remembered that, even after the experience of Lexington, Concord and Bunker 1 nil, the distinguished leaders in resisting British aggression did not advocate a sundering of the ties of loyalty to the British Crown. It was "Down with British tyranny!" "No taxation without representation!" But with the same breath came the cry, "God save King George III!" It took months and years to educate the people up to the point of separation and independence. It was British tyranny, fully exercised, that forced the colonists to a higher plane, until independence became the only hope of a struggling people. When General Gage arrived, this higher plane had not been reached; its best known and strongest advocates were the philosopher Franklin and the noble-hearted Sam Adams. And so the Boston Regiment, made up of the best young men in the leading colony town, with Joseph Webb in its ranks gaining experience to fit him for higher official duties, paraded to receive the uniformed representative of King George III. As General Gage pass.ed up the military line reviewing the troops, it is said that he remarked that he "did not know His Majesty had any troops here," and when told that the troops before him were only militia, he undoubtedly received his first impression of the character of the soldiers he must contend with if instructed to attempt the subjection of the colonists.

Joseph Webb was commissioned Ensign of the Tenth Company in the Boston Regiment, April 17, 1767, and Captain, November 26, 1776. At that time Henry Bromfield was Colonel, being commissioned as such September 7, 1776, and Jabez Hatch was Lieutenant Colonel.

Joseph Webb was promoted and commissioned Major, April 25, 1778, and Lieutenant Colonel of the same regiment, May, 1780. He was commissioned Colonel, August, 1784. Lieutenant Colonel Jabez Hatch succeeded Bromfield as Colonel, and Edward Proctor was Colonel during the Lieutenant Colonelcy of Joseph Webb.

As stated by Right Wor'f, Past Grand Master John T. Heard, at the Massachusetts Grand Lodge Centennial Celebration in 1877, "there was a Lieutenant Webb connected with the famous expedition to Quebec in 1775, and he was taken prisoner by the British." But this lieutenant was not our Joseph Webb.

Exactly what service the Boston Regiment performed during the war of the Revolution is not easily ascertained. It is presumed, however, that the regiment held itself in readiness to be called out upon emergencies. This much we know, that in 1781 the regiment was called out for three months' duty, and, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Webb, performed important service at l'eekskill and probably at West Point on the opposite side of the Hudson as a reinforcement of the American army. At this time the regiment served for a term of nearly six months.


We have already spoken of Joseph Webb as an associate of the eminent men who were the leaders in the great movement for independence. Not, like sturdy old Sam Adams, was he able to stir the popular heart by fiery oratorical appeals, but, in his own good way, by personal influence, wise counsels and earnest work, he accomplished great results in uniting the people upon measures necessary to thwart the efforts of the loyalists in binding the fetters of George III. upon those determined to resist the tyranny of the Crown. In all great crises, success is often achieved through the efforts of energetic working men among the masses. Laboring diligently, early and late, the world little knows under how great a debt it rests to those voiceless agents who stir the undercurrent and give direction to popular movements. The fervid oratory of the statesman may move the multitude even to frenzy, but there its power finds a surcease. Joseph Webb was not an Adams or an Otis, to stir the people with winged words of oratory, but, taking counsel with them and their compeers, he moulded the movements, and, with his sword, performed his duty in the work of achieving Independence as God pointed the way. To illustrate, we recite a fact well known in history : The great multitude of patriotic Bostonians assembled in the Old South Church to be taught by revolutionary orators their duty in resisting the payment of the tax upon tea, and to consider in what manner they could prevent the consignees from landing their cargoes at the south-end wharf. Another body of citizens, some of them brethren of the Lodge of St. Andrew, quietly assembled at the Green Dragon Tavern — probably in Free Masons' Hall — with Joseph Webb as one of their advising number. From that Famous tavern they emerged, and, going to the wharf, determined how to prevent the consignees from landing the tea. They cast the tea into the water of the harbor. While the lovers of order and sticklers for precedents were orating and considering, the deputation from the Green Dragon formed a decoction that made a bitter cup lor King George, a cup of tea that inspired resistance to tyranny as obedience to God and the first duty of man.

As a citizen-soldier, Joseph Webb aided in the achievement of national independence. By the same process of reasoning that made him a patriot, he determined that Free Masonry in America should be free from the authority of a foreign Grand Lodge. Hence, in 1777, we find him at the head of the movement which erected the first Independent Grand Lodge in America, whose right to exist as such was not called in question after the re-establishment of peace upon the basis of national independence in 1783.

Joseph Webb occupied an honorable place in mercantile circles. His place of business as a ship-chandler was at one time at the lower end of Water Street. Here he met the terrible misfortune of fire in 1760. During that year a great conflagration destroyed 349 dwelling houses, stores and shops, leaving 1000 of the inhabitants without a roof to cover their heads. Among the sufferers was Joseph Webb. he recovered from his losses, however, and recommenced business on Long Lane, now known as Federal Street, where also he erected his residence in 1767. By foresight and industry he became wealthy. It is proper to remark here that, during the life of his father, the subject of our sketch signed "Junior" to his name, which was only occasionally used after 1762, the death of his father occurring October 10th of that year. He was buried in Granary burial ground, where his grave may now be seen, marked by a stone, stating his age at death to be 64. His wife, Abigail, the mother of Colonel Joseph Webb, died in 1753, and her grave, marked by a stone, is by the side of her husband. She died at the age of 53 years.

There is nothing to show that Col. Joseph Webb was interred in the Granary ground. We have seen a list of all the burials in the Granary, as compiled by the Boston Cemetery Commissioners within a few years, and neither his name nor that of his wife appears as having a grave or tomb in that burial place.

In 1780 Joseph Webb, Jr., served the town in the capacity now known as Street Commissioner; was Clerk of the Market, 1766 and '67 ; in 1776 was one of a committee of the town to provide inhabitants with firearms; was Fire Warden 1777 to 1783, both inclusive; one of the Committee of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, in 1779; Overseer of the Poor, 1781 to 1784, and served during the Revolution upon committees to fill the quota of Boston. The fact that Joseph Webb was a citizen of wealth, as wealth was then counted, and that his worldly goods were freely bestowed for the benefit of the public treasury, is satisfactorily established by the following ancient notes of hand from the Town Treasurer of Boston:

"No. 6.
BOSTON, June 21, 1780.

"I promise to pay to Joseph Webb Esquire or Order one hundred & fifty Pounds out of the next Tax, with Interest until paid; so much he lends as Part of Two Hundred Thousand Pounds, voted the 9th and 14th Inst, for the sole Purpose of carrying on the war.


David Jeffries,
Town Treasurer. "

"Boston Aug. 21, 1780.

"I promise to pay to Joseph Webb Esq. or discount with some one of the Collectors of Taxes Eight pounds two shillings value received." David Jeffries

£8. 2
Town Treas. "


The subject of our sketch died April 20, 1787.

The Boston Gazette, a newspaper published in Boston, in its issue of Saturday, April 28 of that year, had this brief item relating to the event:

"On Thursday morning, died Joseph Webb Esquire, Grand Master of Ancient Masons for this Commonwealth. I lis funeral will be on Monday next at five o'clock p.m., from his late dwelling-house in Long Lane, when his friends and acquaintances are desired to attend."

In the Massachusetts Centinel of April 28, 1787, we find the following notice:

"Massachusetts Grand Lodge.

"The funeral of the Most Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esquire, late Grand Master of Ancient Masons, will be attended in Ample Form on Monday next.

"The Brethren are therefore requested to assemble at the Rev. Mr. Belknap's Meeting-House precisely at half past four o'clock.

John Lowell, Dtp. Grand Master. Josiah Bartlett, Thomas Edwards, Grand Wardens.

Rev. Mr. Belknap's meeting-house was on the corner ol Berry Street and Long Lane — Berry Street was afterwards known as Channing Street and Long Lane is known as Federal Street. This old meeting-house was famed for being the place where the meeting was held in 1788 to consider the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. The issue of the Boston Gazette of April 30 repeats the notice.

From the Grand Lodge records we quote as follows:

"The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts convened by special summons Friday evening, April 27th, 5787. The R. W. Deputy Grand Master (John Lowell), having informed the Lodge that it had pleased the Supreme Architect of the Universe to call from this transitory life the Most Worshipful Joseph Webb, Esquire, late Grand Master of Ancient Masons, in consequence of which the (irand Lodge came to the following resolutions:

  • "That Brother Bartlett be desired to draft an advertisement proper for the occasion.
  • "That Brothers Revere, Scollay, and Dexter be a committee to regulate the funeral procession.
  • "That Brother Dexter be desired to write a Billet to Grand Modern Lodge of St. Andrews, requesting their attendance.
  • "That Brother Dunkerley be appointed Assistant Grand Marshal.
  • "That the Committee be fully empowered to take all such measures as to them may appear necessary for the due conducting of the funeral, in such honourable manner and decent solemnity as is agreeable to he established customs of Ancient Masons.

"A true record, Geo. Richards, Secretary."

No other notice of the death or burial of (irand Master Webb appears in any Boston newspaper (newspaper men were not as enterprising as at the present day) until May it, 1787, when the following appeared in the Massachusetts Centinel:

"The funeral of Joseph Webb, Esquire, late Colonel of the Boston Regiment and Grand Master of Ancient Masons, was on the 30th ult. The Corps [sic], followed by the mourning relatives and friends, was preceded by a large and respectable number of the Brethren from the different Lodges in town, ornamented with their Jewels and arrayed in all the insignia of Masonry, attended with military musick, and several Officers of the Grand Lodge bearing lighted tapers. Colonel Webb, besides the offices above mentioned, has sustained several important town offices ; and all which he discharged with credit to himself and to the approbation of his fellow citizens. He died in the fifty-third year of his age, sincerely regretted by all who were acquainted with his worth and abilities."

The excerpts given from the two Boston papers are all that we can discover in the public prints concerning the death and burial of Joseph Webb. When we consider the diminutive proportions of the newspapers of a hundred years ago, and that the local news items occupied a very small space, and were considered secondary to information from London and other foreign places, it is not particularly astonishing that a citizen of such note as the subject of our sketch should be borne to his final resting-place with only such brief note as we have herein transcribed. It appears, however, that one friend of Colonel Webb was very much mortified that the Gazette took so little notice of the death and obsequies of so eminent a citizen, and entered complaint to the manager of the newspaper, from which complaint or criticism he derived about as much satisfaction as is usually obtained in our modern times by those who think there is something to improve in a newspaper, and have the courage to say so. It will be observed that the funeral of Grand Master Joseph Webb took place at his residence on Long Lane at five o'clock in the afternoon of an April day, which might be, as time was then reckoned, about half an hour before sunset. His remains undoubtedly found sepulture in some burial place in the town of Boston. Taking into consideration the lateness of the hour for the obsequies and the necessary time taken to form procession and march to the burial place, it is almost certain that the remains of our first Grand Master were placed in some tomb or grave in the burial ground upon the "Common." We have seen the records of all persons buried or entombed there so far as they exist, and there is no record of the interment of our Grand Master. We are satisfied of the fact that, consequent upon changes and infringements made upon space occupied once by the dead, the burial place of the first Grand Master of the Independent Grand Lodge of Massachusetts is unknown. There is no early record of burials upon the Common; such later record of burials as exists has been classified by the Cemetery Commissioners, and no evidence is therein found. We have examined the records, etc., of the King's Chapel burial ground and that at Copp's Hill, and nothing can be found to show that the burial was at either of those places. We are satisfied the burial was in the Common burial ground. Upon that April day, dust was returned to dust, as the sun, which is the glory and beauty of the clay, "cast its setting over the purple sea." How Masonically appropriate such a burial, and how significant is it of the beautiful lesson we are taught in Masonry!

One hundred and fourteen years, so little has been the reverence for the resting-place of the honored and beloved defender of our mystic faith — so little the appreciation for the brave man who led the Boston Regiment in fighting for the Independence of the thirteen American Colonies, — has sufficed to make a blank of the small space of soil needed for It is repose. Ruthless hands have invaded the spot of his burial upon the public grounds of his native town, and it has been obliterated forever:

In vain we seek the grave of Master, just!
Shrouded forever in the fearful dark;
In vain we seek where earth received thy dust,
Alas, we cannot find thy Mark!


The following is the Will of Joseph Webb, published by him as his last Will and Testament, April 8, 1787, not many days before his death.

In the Name of the Ever Blessed Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Ghost:

I, Joseph Webb, of Boston, in the County of Suffolk and Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Esquire, being Sick and Weak, but, thro' the Goodness of God of Sound and disposing mind and memory, and considering that I must shortly Die, do make and ordain this my last Will as follows : That is to say first and principally I commit my precious and immortal Soul, into the hands of God who gave it, relying Solely on his Mercy thro' the merits and Satisfaction of my Eord and Saviour Jesus Christ for the Pardon of all my sins, and gracious Acceptance with him ; my Body I commit to the Earth to be decently Interred at the discretion of my Kxecu-tors herein after named, not doubting but at the general Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the Mighty Power of God; and as for such Worldly Estate as it hath pleased the Lord to bless me with, I will and order that the same be Employed and bestowed in the following manner. That is to say— Imprimis. I will and order that all my just debts and Funeral expenses be well & truly paid by my Executors with all convenient speed after my Decease.

Item — I will and Order that all my Stock and Trade as soon as may be after my Decease, be sold at Publick Auction, to enable my Executors herein after named to pay off my just debts and the Legacies herein after mentioned as soon as Conveniently can be —

Item — I give to the Children of my Sister, late wife of Mr John Edwards deceased. Viz' Thomas Edwards Esqr, Polley Symonds, wife of Mr Jonathan Symonds, Nabby Cushing, wife to ____ Cushing, Lewis Edwards of Petersburg, in Virginia. And Nancy Warring wife of Mr Henry Warring of said Petersburg the sum of Ten pounds each.

Item— I give to Mrs Sarah Webb widow of my late Brother Nehemiah Webb deceased the sum of Ten pounds. I also give to their Children viz: Joseph, Deborah, Sally, Nabby, Daniel, Lydia & Thomas the sum of Ten pounds to be equally divided between them.

Item — I give to my Sister Deborah Smith of Sandwich in the County of Barnstable, Widow, the sum of Ten pounds for the love I bear her.—

Item — I give to my sister Gracy Tobey, wife of Capt Prince Tobey of Sandwich aforesaid, the sum of Ten pounds for the love I bear her.—

Item— I give to my Niece Deborah Webb the sum of Six-pounds in Clothing in Addition to what I have given her among her Sisters and Brothers for her care of me in my sickness.

Item — I give to Hannah Potter the sum of Two pounds out of Friendship.—

Item— I give to the aforenamed Thomas Edwards, Esquire, my Gold Watch.

Item — I give to my Young Man William Baker the sum of Ten pounds for his great care and attention to my Business.—

Item — I give to my Friend Mr Henry Simpson the sum of Ten pounds, out of True Love and Friendship which I ever bore him.—

Item — I give to my beloved wife Penelope, the Income use and Improvement of all the Rest Residue & Remainder of my Estate, both Real, Personal and mixt. . . . Whatsoever and wheresoever the same is shall or may be found for and during the Term of her Natural Life.—

Item— All my Estate Real, Personal & Mixt that shall remain after my said wife's decease, I give devise and bequeath to and among my before named surviving relations to be equally divided between them and holden by them, their heirs and assigns in equal parts forever as Tenants in Common and not as joint Tenants.—

Item — I do hereby Nominate and appoint my said wife Penelope and Mr Samuel Clap to be the Executors of this my last will, hereby revoking making null and void, all former and other Wills by me at any time heretofore made, declaring this and no other to be my last Will and Testament. In Witness whereof I the said Joseph Webb have hereunto set my hand and Seal, the Eighth day of April, in the year of our Lord One Thousand seven hundred and Eighty-seven.

JOS. WEBB, [seal]

Signed sealed published pronounced and declared by the said Joseph Webb the Testator to be his last will and Testament, in the presence of—Saml. Bangs — sworn — Henry Simpson — Isaac Rand, Junr.—sworn.

Suffolk, ss: The aforewritten Will being presented for Probate by the Executors therein named, Samuel Bangs and Isaac Rand Junr made oath that they saw Joseph Webb Esqr deceased acknowledge the above Instrument sign and seal & also heard him publish and declare the same to be his Last Will & Testament and that when he so did he was of sound disposing mind & memory according to these Deponents best discerning and that they together with Henry Simpson now absent set to their hands as Witnesses thereof, in the said Testator's presence.

O. Wendell — J. Probate.

Boston May 3 1788

This is from an attested copy bearing the teste of P. R. Guiney, Register.

The estate left by Joseph Webb, including his residence on Long Lane, with his store and land belonging to the same on the same street, estimated under the depreciation of Continental money consequent upon the war, was in value about twenty-five thousand dollars.

We close our sketch of the life and work of Joseph Webb with the words of R. W. Past Grand Master John T. Heard, at the Centennial Celebration, March 8, 1877 :

"I think, Most Worshipful, that we are fortunate in being able to refer to the record of our Grand Master of the Grand Lodge in 1777 and find a character unspotted; a character deserving the esteem, respect, and honor of our Fraternity."



Grand Masters