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  • Senior Grand Warden, 1841-1843
  • Grand Treasurer 1849-1861
  • Grand High Priest, 1844-1845



From Proceedings, 1869, VII-390ff:

"The Committee to whom was referred the death of the R. W. Thomas Tolman, member of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, respectfully beg leave to report:

The Hon. Thomas Tolman was born at Stoughton, Mass. February, 20. 1791, and died in Boston June 20, 1869, aged 78 years, 4 months. He was a lineal descendant in the sixth generation of Thomas Tolman, who born in England 1608-9 came to this country with the early settlers of Dorchester, and his [name] is appended to the Church Covenant of 1636, and also recorded as a Freeman May 13, 1640. The estate he acquired in Stoughton is nearly all in the possession of one of his descendants.

He took his degree at Brown University in 1811. when at Commencement he delivered a "Poem on Social Intercourse" : he also received the degree of A. M. from H. U. in 1822. Having studied Law he was admitted to practice and commenced at Canton in 1815, from whence he removed to a wider field in Boston in 1837. He represented Canton in the Legislature of this Commonwealth 7 years and Boston after his removal 5 years, He was Chairman of the Committee on "Contested Elections," in the years 1845, 6, and 7, and made several valuable reports, Under Gov. Briggs administration he was one of his Councillors in 1849, and 50. Brother Tolman was married to Elizabeth C. daughter of Col. Jacob Stearns of this city April 30, 1846, by the Rev. Ephraim Peabody, D. D. Though he entered the matrimonial vineyard at the eleventh hour, yet he received his penny. He was a happy man. His wife was a very amiable and pleasing woman, and of a domestic character. Her death transpired Nov. 26. 1866. at the age of 58. She left but one child, Miss Elizabeth S. Tolman, who was born April 5, 1851. Such is a brief summary of his public life.

His Masonic character stands high on the roll of the Craftsmen. He was initiated in Rising Star Lodge of Stoughton, of which he was elected Master several years. (NOTE: There is no indication that Brother Tolman ever served as Master of this lodge.) He was H. P. of Mount Zion, R. A. Chapter in Stoughton in 1823. G.H.P. of the G.R.A. Chapter of Mass. 1844, and 1848, and was Deputy G.H.P. in 1841, '42, '43 and '44, July 4. 1825, as District Deputy G. M. (4th District) he was deputed to lay the corner stone of the Court house in Dedham, on which was afterwards erected a beautiful granite edifice of the Doric Order. He delivered an address on the occasion, neat and appropriate and spoken of in high terms by those who witnessed the ceremonies. He was elected S. G. Warden of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts three times, and in 1849, he succeeded the late lamented R.W. John J. Loring as Grand Treasurer, an office to which he was annually chosen until December 1861. thirteen years. His fidelity and correctness in that important station need no comment,

Two eventful incidents in his Masonic history ought not to be omitted. He was in that vast concourse of the Fraternity when on the 17th of June 1825, the Corner Stone of the Bunker Hill monument was squared, levelled and plumbed by the M.W. Grand Master, the Hon. John Abbot, Gen. Lafayette, and Daniel Webster. The sky was auspicious, the spectacle sublime, and to those august ceremonies of that day, the eloquence of Webster gave a finish and splendor never surpassed, if ever equalled upon an occasion of this kind. He was also one of the 6000 Freemasons of Boston and its vicinity, who on the 31st day of December, 1831, nearly 40 years ago. signed that eloquent Declaration, exhibiting the nature and principles of our Institution, and protesting against the calumnies and prosecution of our enemies. He lived to see their unhallowed efforts vanish into oblivion, and Freemasonry emerge from the ordeal more vigorous and flourishing than ever.

Our deceased Brother was a man of fine literary taste and of extensive reading. He thought highly of our beautiful lectures and believed in the great antiquity of Freemasonry. He thought that a true and well informed Mason who cultivated his mind and carried into practice abroad what he was taught in theory at our meetings in the Lodge, was indeed a fair model of a man. He was never idle; he loved occupation. In his early life he compiled a Greek grammar for his own use. He wrote a history of his native town, Canton and Sharon, and it is to be lamented that he did not revise and publish it. Such works are becoming exceedingly precious, and the N. E. Historic Genealogical Society into which he was admitted April 1. 1863. has now in its library more than three hundred volumes of town histories. In his profession he was a well-read sound lawyer and excellent counsellor, ever ready to be a peacemaker among men too prone to go to law and waste their property in idle litigation.

In a word Brother Tolman always looking upon the bright side of human life, was an agreeable and cheerful companion, exemplary in all the relations of life, kind in his feelings and with the courteousness of a gentleman belonging to the old school. It was a fixed maxim to owe no man, and among the members of our Fraternity no one set a higher value on the moral teachings of the Square and Level.

He lived to a good old age, though some months before his death he began to fail, and he felt the truth of that striking oriental figure, "The grasshopper shall become a burden". He told his friends he was anxious to set his house in order; and he did. After a confinement of a few weeks, in which he was not a severe sufferer, he quietly went away, Passing through nature / To eternity! He has joined the silent assembly of our departed Grand Masters who were his cotemporaries, John Soley, John Abbot, Augustus Peabody, Paul Dean. Edward A. Raymond, Simon W. Robinson, and last of all, a member of the Grand Lodge, our worthy and enthusiastic Brother, Thomas Power, the lover of Poetry and Music, who has left us some sweet memories of his genius—wreaths of evergreen which he wove around the pillar of our temple. He was buried in Stoughton, where Rising Star Lodge, over which he once presided, dropped the sprig of Acacia into his grave.

Resolved, that in the death of our lamented Brother R. W. Thomas Tolman, we have lost a member of the Grand Lodge, who has sustained high offices in the same, as also in other Fraternities of our Order, and by his virtues, integrity, talents, and courteous, friendly demeanor has endeared his memory to all our Brethren and especially to this Grand Lodge.

Resolved, that during a long life, extending to a good old age, more than fifty years of which he was a Mason, always active and much of the time in high office, Brother Tolman has left a character honorable to Masonry and much respected in the community. As an evidence that your Committee is not too partial to his worth, they would refer to a happy epitome of the character of this excellent man in the Boston Transcript, June 22. 1869. He was one of the most gentle and amiable of men. universally beloved and esteemed wherever he was known.



From Moore's Freemason's Monthly, Vol. XXVIII, No. 10, August 1869, Page 293:

SKETCH OF HON. THOMAS TOLMAN, communicated by Rt. Wor. John H. Sheppard.

Deep in the grave, whene'er a Brother dies
We drop the Acacia at his obsequies;
A leaf — a sprig — yet this fraternal token,
When dust to dust — the Golden Bowl is broken —
Midst hallow'd rites around his lowly bed,
Portends the Resurrection of the Dead:
And tears on earth, like dew of Hermon given,
Reflect through Hope the light which shines from Heaven.

In preparing a brief memoir of our late R. W. Brother, Thomas Tolman, who died in Boston June 20, 1869, many interesting events of other days associated with his life are brought to mind. He was initiated into the mysteries of Freemasonry nearly fifty years ago. The earlier part of his affiliation was a period of trial when our ancient Institution was most unjustly assailed by innumerable enemies and the labors and work of the craft were suspended for several years, until the tempest had passed away. It was in the Egyptian darkness of that time, when the winds and waves of calumny and persecution were roaring around our Masonic Temple and beating against its walls; when political aspirants in public meetings, newspapers and pamphlets were maligning the moral character of every member of the Fraternity; and when even a Legislature of this Commonwealth forgot its dignity and went into the arena among the combatants; it was then, that six thousand Masons of Boston and vicinity — men of good standing in society, and many of them ornaments of the land — published a "Declaration," expressing their loyalty to government and setting forth the principles and benevolent objects of one of the most ancient and noble associations ever formed by man.

The Declaration was drawn by R. W. Brother Charles W. Moore. It came from the heart of an injured Fraternity; it presented a firm and resolute phalanx against the enemy; and we have reason to believe that it opened the eyes of a great majority of our fellow citizens, who were friends to innocence and respected justice. Brother Tolman was one of the thousands, who signed the eloquent Manifesto and he lived to a good old age to exemplify its truth and teach the world that a true Mason could not be a bad man nor an enemy to his country. He lived to see Freemasonry emerging from this ordeal and becoming more powerful and prosperous than ever.

One deceased brother was born at Stoughton, in Massachusetts, February 20th, 1791, and at the time of his death was above seventy-eight years old. In tracing his descent for six generations we find that his ancestor, Thomas Tolman, was born in England in 1608-9, and came to this country with some of the first settlers in Dorchester. A copious genealogy of the family, wherein this early emigrant and his numerous descendants are described was prepared by Mr. William B. Trask and published in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Vol. XIV., page 247. The subject of this brief memoir wars the son of Samuel, son of Johnson, son of Samuel, son of Thomas, whose father as just stated came from England.

The following extract from the Register will evince that Thomas, the founder of this family in New England, was a prudent, thrifty mau, and appreciated in society. The term of address Goodman id applied to him ; at that period of our colonial history the tide Goodman to the husband and Goody to the wife were marks of courtesy and respect lu virtuous persons of advanced life. Mr. Trask observes,—

"There is a tradition in the family that he came to Dorchester, Mass., with the first settlers, in the ship ' Mary and John ' in 1630, and tha,t lie owned hind extending from the seaside to Dedham line. He was the owner of lands, also, in what is now Canton, Stoughton, and Sharon. The first mention of him, on the Dorchester Town Records, is under date of Oct. 31, 1639, as follows: It is ordered that Goodman Tolman's house be appointed for the receiving any goods that shall be brought in whereof the owner is not known. His name is appended to the Church Covenant made in 1636; freeman May 13, 1610. He located near 'Pine Neck,' now 'Port Norfolk', his house having stood within one hundred feet of Pine Neck Creek, on the west side, and on the north side within about two hundred feet, the creek forming an elbow shape. In 1852, the Old Colony Railroad Corporation removed the most of the cellar once belonging to the house. The land remaining is in possession of one of the branches of the family. The house in which his son Thomas afterwards lived, between what is now Ashmont and Washington streets, was probably built by him. Some of his descendants now own and residt on land that belonged to him. It has remained ever since in the family."

Thomas Tolman was educated at Brown University, where he was graduated in 1811; and it may here be remarked an Honorary A. M. was conferred on him by Harvard University in 1822. Of his rank or attainments as a student at college we have no means of knowing ; but that the acquisitions he then made were solid and durable, there can be no doubt, for with his intimate friends he often spoke of the classics and of various branches of knowledge in his academical career with fondness and frequent reference. There is reason to believe he was a sound scholar, and from his boyhood thorough in whatever he undertook. I find, however, in a late account of the Commencement, that when he took his degree in 1811 he delivered a "Poem on Social Intercourse."

On leaving college he went to Georgetown, then a flourishing seaport in South Carolina, and the shire-town of the county, and having selected the profession of the law, he entered the office of Mr. Mitchell, and under his tuition pursued his legal studies, until admitted at Charleston to practice in the Courts of that State. In the mean time he was engaged as an editor of a newspaper, for the means of defraying his expenses. We are not informed whether he ever practised law in Carolina; but he opened an office in Canton, near his native town, in 1815, where he was successful, and for some time had a full range of business in that and the neighboring villages. In 1837 he removed to Boston, and there continued his professional pursuit to the last of his days; although for several years he seldom attended courts and principally devoted himself to chamber-counsel and drawing of legal instruments, wills and trust estates; in the drafting of which he excelled. He also for several years, as an associate with our lamented Brother Augustus Peabody, held the office of Justice of the Jail-delivery for the County of Suffolk. Mr. Tolman was naturally diffident and was reluctant to put on the armor of an advocate, which is sometimes made of brass with the visor down! but he was a safe counsellor, and among litigants was a ready peacemaker.

He was married at Boston April 30, 1846, to Miss Elizabeth Call, daughter of the late Col. Jacob Stearns, of this city, by the Rev. Ephraim Peabody, D.D. His wife died Nov. 26, 1866, set. 67, leaving only one child, a daughter, Elizabeth S., who was born April 25, 1851. Though he entered into the conjugal state at the eleventh hour, he found himself a much happier man; for he was tenderly attached to his partner, who was a most amiable woman. After her death his health seemed to decline; he felt, as it were, alone in his old age, and that solitude then may be too solitary ; yet he seemed to linger upon the outskirts of the unseen world nearly three years.

His initiation in the Rising Star Lodge of Stoughton, of which for several years he was Master, took place 23d of March, 1820. Editor Note: as far as I can tell, he never served as Master.

He was also chosen H. Priest of Mount Zion R. A. Chapter of Stoughton in 1823 and was G.H.P. of the G R.A. Chapter of Massachusetts in 1844 and 1848, of which he was Deputy G.H.P. in 1841, *42, '43 and '44.

July 4, 1825, as District Deputy Grand Master he was deputed to lay the corner stone of the Court House at Dedham; on which was afterwards erected a beautiful granite edifice of the Doric order. He delivered an address on the occasion, neat and appropriate, and spoken of in high terms by those who witnessed the ceremonies.

He was elected Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts three times, in 1841, '42, and '43; and in 1848 he succeeded the late lamented R. W. John J. Loring as Grand Treasurer, au office to which he was annually chosen until December 1861, thirteen years.

Though the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, when convened, sits as the supreme tribunal and legislature of all lodges under its jurisdiction, and adjudicates upon all matters touching the ancient landmarks and usages, yet it is not restricted in its functions to mere quarterly communications. One of its most agreeable duties is the constitution of new lodges and installation of officers, under a charter. In the performance of those sacred ceremonies, the Grand Master with his associate officers, when this duty is not devolved upon his Deputy, makes an excursion into^ the country to the locality of the Lodge. On such an hilarious occasion we not only enjoyed a pleasant tour, but on our arrival at the spot were met by a committee and ushered into a lodge room where numerous brethren were assembled and a bevy of the beauty and elegance of the place brightened the scene; and when the solemnities of the evening were over, there was' an adjournment to the festive hall, where the refreshment of Corn, Wine, and Oil, after labor, was often followed by the wit and eloquence of some of our best speakers. Our departed brother enjoyed such official excursions and often spoke of them as amongst the sweetest reminiscences of his life. It was on our first appearance in the splendid regalia procured in England under, I think, the able administrations of our beloved Grand Masters, Winslow Lewis and John T. Heard, we made some of these masonic excursions into the country; and disguise it as some may under a leveling system, human nature likes distinction of honor and office and its appropriate costume. The occasion too of such visits was of an ennobling kind ; for there is something sublime in the living picture of a well-governed lodge, with its several stations of officers, and surrounding ranks of brethren, associated as it is with the memory of the Temple of Jerusalem; and when, on such peculiar occasions, the wives and daughters and sisters of Masons add beauty, delicacy, and refinement to the convivial scene, there is a splendor in the masonic hall, of which the ideal picture is long retained when we muse "in the sere and yellow leaf," on the visions of other days.

Among the official duties of the Grand Lodge is laying the cornerstone of Monuments, Churches, and other public edifices, when requested by those interested in their erection. Several ceremonies of this kind were performed when Brother Tolman was Grand Treasurer ; but no one so splendid and imposing as that of the Bunker Hill Monument, long before that period and when he was a young Mason. It was amidst a vast assembly of brethren from all parts of the country this corner-stone was laid and consecrated in due and ancient form. Forty-four years have now passed and that majestic obelisk is casting its melancholy shade over another generation, since the bright and beautiful day in which the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, surrounded by a vast gathering of the brotherhood consecrated that stone to immortality. It was on the 17th day of June, 1825. The Hon. John Abbot, recently a senator of the Massachusetts Legislature, was then Grand Master of Masons in this Commonwealth. Lafayette was then living, and he took an important part in the august ceremony, and also Daniel Webster, who, elevated in a recess from the sun, in an unparalleled address rung with a voice of eloquence through an immense audience of 20,000 persons sitting around him in concentric circles. This great orator was then in the ascendant of his fame. On the top and sides of that mount, where in 1775 the first battle, which was prognostic of the future glory of our country, was fought, an immense multitude of spectators had gathered beneath the blue heavens on that brilliant day to celebrate the event. It was a magnificent spectacle. It was said ten thousand Brethren were present, for our Grand Master, Joseph Warren, who died at Bunker Hill, was a Mason dear to memory. Alas! in calling up the splendid scenes and distinguished men of that anniversary, how few are now living. How many honored brethren have since gone! — of bur Grand Masters, John Soley, John Abbot, Augustus Peabody, Paul Dean, Edward A. Raymond, Simon W. Robinson, and many excellent members, have departed and our worthy and respected Brother Tolman has just joined the silent assembly of his companions.

Nor in calling over the roll of the missing, should one distinguished brother be forgotten, though then residing in Maine — the late learned and eloquent Brother Simon Greenleaf, LL.D. — Professor of the Law School in Cambridge; for he was not only a skillful craftsman, but a writer on Masonry, who had investigated its ancient history. He was a firm believer in the great antiquity of its origin, and that many of the Fathers of the Church were Masons.

Brother Tolman was a member of the Legislature ten years. In 1849 and 1850 he was chosen a State Councillor for Suffolk under the administration of Gov. Geo. N. Briggs. He was also a member of the New England Historic Genealogical Society of this city, having been elected April 1, 1863. The writer of this article was intimate with our deceased brother for several years; three of which we occupied an office together in the practice of law. He was a man of great equanimity and gentleness, a congenial companion and of extensive reading, and he remembered what he read. In all his dealings and business he was strictly upright and conscientious; ever ready to do an act of kindness and cautious in speaking of the failings of others. It was with him a fixed principal to owe no man; and in whatever concerned his domestic or personal economy he was methodical and neat to a nicety.

It has often been remarked that the taste and disposition change with the autumnal approaches of Old Age ; and that even melancholy and moroseness are then too often seen in the wrinkles of conversation.

Nearly two thousand years ago, the great Roman Satyrist spoke thus sadly of the ills and sorrows of longevity : —

Difficilis, querulus, laudator temporis acti
Se puero, censor castigatorque minorum."

Difficult to please, querulous, extolling the times when he was a boy and censorious and rebukeful towards those of a younger class.

This may be true in many cases — perhaps too often ; but not always. Br. Tolman was an exception. Life sometimes, like good wine mellows with age. He was a man easy to please, invariably cheerful, and satisfied with the dispensations of Divine Providence. He habitually looked upon the bright side of the world; for in the complexion of his mind he. was an Optimist; and at no period of his life, did his genial and smiling face exhibit a falling off to the dolorous lamentations or croaking fears of a Pessimist. His faith was firm that our Heavenly Father will order all things for the good of his children who look up to Him, both here and hereafter.

His constitution, naturally tender and delicate, began to fail toward the decline of life : there was a nervous sensibility, especially in sudden changes of weather, to which he was always subject, perhaps in part from never having cultivated his muscular powers in his youth. This rendered him feeble in frame and timid in exposure. Indeed, he was a living barometer, which rose and fell with the atmosphere, and could anticipate an east wind long before its humid influences were felt around us.

But it seemed to be his body, not his mind, that suffered. The time, however, at last drew near, when he found there were trials which mortality seldom escaped and must sooner or later feel. Slowly and surely he began to realize the solemn predictions so early taught in our mystic allegories. In the day when the keepers of the house shall tremble, and the strong men shall bow themselves, and the grinders cease, because they are few, and those that look out of the windows be darkened. Because man goeth to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets. But, we must remember that this dismal picture of the decaying body, not of the eternal mind, were drawn by a sacred writer long before Life and Immortality were brought to Light. It was from brighter and more glorious views of an Hereafter, that some brave old Christian wrote:

"And thou shaft walk in pure white light With kings and priests abroad; And thou shaft summer high in bliss, Upon the hills of God." The last sufferings of our brother were not long nor severe. His remains were conveyed to Stoughton ; after funeral services were performed at St. Stephen's Church in this city, at which a number ol brethren and several members of the Grand Lodge were present; and in Stoughton the brethren of Rising Star Lodge convened at the station house, went in procession to the grave and there paid the last honors, in due and masonic solemnity to his memory, as they dropped the sprig of Acacia in his grave.

The obituary notice of him in the Boston Transcript, June 22d, 1869, was a happy epitome of the virtues and character of this excellent man. "He was one of the most gentle and amiable of men: universally beloved and esteemed wherever he was known."

Distinguished Brothers