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MUNGO MACKAY 1740-1811

Junior Grand Warden 1793; Senior Grand Warden 1794


From TROWEL, Winter 1988, Page 13:

Sea Captain, Privateer, Merchant, Master Mason, By Dan Berlin Brockman

Few people in Boston today would recognize the name Mungo Mackay, but turn back more than 200 years ago and we learn he was a well known and respected member of the community. His activities in the Masonic movement in Massachusetts were highly regarded, as were his privateering successes, business ventures, and Ids service to the Boston Marine Society. He died in 1811 at the age of 71, a wealthy man with an estate of $110,000. His relatives and descendants were involved in the | musical instrument manufacturing business, the production of glass, and in other industrial activities.

Mungo Mackay was born in the Orkney Islands of Scotland about 1740. According to some written records, he came to America around 1760. By tradition, he came as a cabin boy as early as 1755. Family records indicate his father married twice and lived to nearly 100 years of age. His brother, Alexander, was born in 1747, probably in the Orkneys, and he came to America as early as 1770. Two or three sisters came to America while others went to London.

On Aug. 22, 1763, Mackay married Ruth Coney (1744-1820) at the new North Church in Boston. She was the daughter of Daniel and Sarah Coney and the grand-niece of John Coney who was the silversmith who apprenticed Paul Revere. One of their wedding presents was a pair of silver sauceboats in the Queen Anne style. Marked REVERE, and now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, they were made by Paul Revere, the patriot and Past Grand Master. They are engraved MRM.

Mungo is recorded as attending a meeting of the Lodge of Saint Andrew, Boston, in November 1768. Grand Lodge has no dates of his degrees, but records him as a member of the Lodge of St. Andrew in 1780, and the First Lodge (Saint John's). His brother, Alexander, received his degrees in 1771. Mungo affiliated with St. John's and is recorded as attending a meeting in 1770. His son-in-law, Samuel Wells Hunt (1763-1817), became a member of St. John's Lodge in 1788. Alexander's wife, Ruth DeCoster (1742-1837), was the niece of Isaac DeCoster (1728-?) who assisted in the formation of the Lodge of Saint Andrew in 1756 and was Worshipful Master until 1760.

The Mackay brothers frequently visited Lodge meetings throughout the period leading to the Boston Tea Party on Dec. 16, 1773, the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775, and the American Revolution. Although they were sea captains, they appear in the diary of John Rowe, Grand Master of the St. John's Provincial Grand Lodge 1768-87) on a regular basis. Rowe recorded the development of Freemasonry in Boston.

On the night of the Boston Tea Party at Griffin's Wharf, it has always been assumed that many Masons took part. At the time, Mungo was 33 and his wife was expecting their seventh child. They lived on Water St., near the wharves. Was he among the "Indians" that night? Was Alexander there? The only inkling that Masons may have taken part is found in the records of the Lodge of St. Andrew where the Secretary mentions there was a short meeting because there was other business to attend to. The bottom of the page is marked with a large T. No names are mentioned.

In March of 1776 the Continental Congress authorized privateering. The following September Mungo Mackay and several of his friends from the Boston Marine Society, including James Swan, who was a member of St. John's Lodge, petitioned Boston authorities for permission to outfit a ship. They received bonds for the frigate Boston of 400 tons, 22 guns, and a crew of 210. In November, Alexander Mackay was commissioned a second lieutenant on the American Tartar, a ship with 24 guns and 150 men.

In 1777 Mungo sent three ships to sea as privateers. A year later he financed six ships and in 1779, he was involved with nine ships. One, the Jason, was captained by John Manley (1734-93). He had captained the Hancock, a frigate of the Continental Navy, that had been built in Newburyport and captured by the British 44-gun ship HMS Rainbow in 1777. He had been imprisoned until 1778. Mungo was also associated with Samuel Dunn, Jr., who was born in Providence and served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1800-02. He instituted — at the suggestion of M. W. Josiah Bartlett — the system of District Deputies to reduce the work of the Grand Master, Deputy Grand Master, and Grand Wardens. Dunn was also active in the Boston Marine Society and he and his wife were painted by the famed artist Gilbert Stuart. Until now, no likeness of Mungo Mackay has been found.

In 1780 and 1781 he commissioned several privateers, including the General Mifflin that was captured by the British ship HMS Raleigh. Mungo's wealth increased and his name appears in Paul Revere's account books as a customer for a "pair of silver cans and marking 24 spoons." When the war ended in 1782 he had three ships. He was Master of the Boston Marine Society that year and in 1783, he purchased the property on lower Beacon Hill from Loyalist Richard Lechmere and that of John Rowe on Long Wharf. One of Lechmere's properties was a distillery for manufacture of rum. Mungo was now a merchant with a mansion and a store. In November he was the employer of John Manley and turned over the position of Master of the Boston Marine Society to Hector McNeill, late commander of the Boston. It was a delicate situation for Mungo because Manley and McNeill were feuding over the loss of the Hancock.

Mungo Mackay was one of the original stockholders when the Massachusetts Bank of Boston was chartered. He was elected a fire warden and he bought another store on Long Wharf from Isaiah Doane. In 1785 his wife, Ruth, gave birth to their 13th child, Fanny (1785-1870).

His attendance at Masonic meetings was limited during the war years. He appeared at the death of John Rowe in February 1787, and then began a ten-year span of activity. He arranged Rowe's funeral and attended a memorial at the home of Samuel Dunn. In December of 1788, Mungo's son-in-law, Samuel Wells Hunt, was appointed to a committee to investigate the fees and charges of Grand Lodge. Other committeemen were Paul Revere, Samuel Cabot, Aaron Dexter, and William Scollay. The latter was Deputy Grand Master, 1795-96.

Prior to 1790, Mungo had been Junior Grand Warden of St. John's Provincial Grand Lodge and, in July of 1790, was elected Grand Treasurer. He had been the successful organizer in receiving President and Bro. George Washington to Boston the previous fall.

Mungo and Alexander provided rum and water for the second voyage of the ship Columbia to the northwest in 1790, a cruise that opened trade to that area and to China. Many Masonic merchants shared in the rewards. When the decision was made for the construction of a bridge from Boston's west end to Cambridge in 1792, Mungo was included and elected treasurer of a committee that included Francis Dana, Oliver Wendell, James Sullivan, Henry Jackson, William Wetmore, Harrison Gray Otis, Perez Morton, Samuel Parkman, Charles Bulfinch, Joseph Blake, Henry Prentiss, John Deby, Caleb Davis, John Winthrop, and John Austin. The proprietors were incorporated and received tolls for many years. That bridge spanned the waters where Longfellow Bridge is today.

When the two Grand Lodges (St. John's and Massachusetts Independent) began the movement toward possible merger in March 1791, Mungo Mackay was a member of the committee. A year later, at a meeting in the Bunch of Grapes Tavern, the merger was consummated and Mungo was elected the first Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, 1792-93. In 1794 he served as the second Senior Grand Warden. He assisted in the formation of new Lodges outside of Boston and was involved in the chartering of a Lodge in Salem. In 1793 Mungo and Paul Revere went to Worcester to join Isaiah Thomas in the formation of Morning Star Lodge. Mungo's name appears on the charter of that Lodge.

A letter to George Washington in late 1792 was signed by Mungo, John Cutler, and Josiah Bartlett. Washington's greeting to those Masons of Boston was received several months later. Mungo attended the meeting when Revere was elected Grand Master and in 1798, he met with President John Adams in Adams' Qunicy home. Although the subject was not recorded in detail, there is enough existing information to suggest the meeting was about the Quasi-War with France in which Mungo and his brother, John, lost several ships. In October 1805, Mungo was a pallbearer at the funeral of John Cutler, his friend of many years and the first Grand Master of the Union of the Grand Lodges.

Alexander operated a spirits store on State St. and died in 1801, leaving an estate of about $15,000. His widow Ruth, and son, John, who married Mungo's daughter, Fanny, and their children, Mungo and Jennet, were involved in the manufacture of pianofortes in Boston. John was the financing partner of Alpheus Babcock and Jonas Chickering. John disappeared in 1841 while on voyage to obtain wood for piano cases for the firm of Chickering and Mackay.

On Jan. 27, 1811, Mungo Mackay wrote his last will and testament, making revisions on March 17. He died in his Cambridge St., Boston, home on March 28, at age 71. Most of his children had preceded him in death, some on Carribean Islands where they were agents of their father in the procurement of molasses. Others died at sea. His daughter, Ruth, wife of Samuel Wells Hunt, bore 12 children. Their son, Samuel (1795-1853), was involved in the Boston and Sandwich Glass Co. as clerk and original stockholder. His children carry the Mackay-Hunt line to the present day.

If you enter Old Granary cemetery on Tremont St., Boston, you can find the Mackay family tomb on the wall of the north side. The historic burial ground, laid out in 1660, was originally part of Boston Common. There rests the earthly remains of John Hancock, Samuel Adams, and Robert Treat Paine, three signers of the Declaration of Independence; Paul Revere, whose midnight ride resulted in a new nation; James Otis, whose forceful orations against the Crown produced the warrant protecting undo entrance into homes; Peter Fanueil, who gave his hall to Boston; Jeremy Gridley, third Provincial Grand Master of Masons; the parents of Benjamin Franklin and, among others, that of Mary Goose, wife of Isaac Goose, who is said to have written the nursery rhymes for her grandchildren.

Sources: Mackay-Hunt Family History, by Dan Berwick Brockman; Proceedings of Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. Copyright April 19, 1985, Dan Berwin Brockman.

(Acknowledgement: TROWEL is appreciative to Mr. Brockman for his fine story about an outstanding Massachusetts Master Mason, and thanks him for his patience three years while awaiting the use of the story.)

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