Saturday, September 18, 2021

‘My Masonic research speech’

I had a great day last Saturday: attended the research lodge in the morning and AMD at night, with an intermission at a cigar store that happens to be popular with the brethren. At both Masonic meetings, which fortunately took place in the same room, I dusted off my stock speech on the direction Masonic research lodges should take, with an emphasis on places to find information, whether online or in a building somewhere.

I’ve written and talked about it here and there for many years. Thanks to Mark Tabbert, I gave it more focus at some point. He and I were in a hospitality suite at a Masonic Week long ago chatting about the plight of research lodges when he pointed out how their labors could be simplified by zeroing in on local subject matter. For example, New Jersey Lodge of Masonic Research and Education 1786 would explore history and biography of the fraternity in that state. It sounds simple and obvious, but somehow that’s not what typically happens in research lodges. Too often, the few who endeavor to write papers are drawn to subjects that either are too broad (e.g., the medieval Knights Templar), are irrelevant (Templars again), or otherwise are beyond the writers’ abilities.

So write about local Masonic history. It’s in your backyard. Grand lodge archives, lodge records, historical societies, libraries, church records, the occasional graveyard, museums, and other local resources exist for you.

To illustrate the point, I pitched numerous names of lodges and Masons from the embryonic period of New Jersey Freemasonry of the last four decades of the eighteenth century that would be ideal for storytelling. I figure a man who was a Freemason during this period most likely had to be “a somebody” in society—a real pezzonovante in government or commerce or religion, etc.

Take the Ogden family. The secretary of St. John’s Lodge in Newark during the 1760s was Lewis Ogden. The brother who made possible George Washington’s St. John’s Day festivities at Morristown in 1779 by getting the lodge’s paraphernalia from Newark to the military lodge there was Moses Ogden.

Ogden is a very prominent name in the state’s history, practically right up to the present day. The first New Jersey Ogdens, the Puritans who settled there in the 1600s, were stone masons. There’s a great story there!

The other speaker at the research lodge that morning was Bro. Erich, a candidate for a doctorate in history who also is our QCCC local secretary. He discussed similar aspects of Masonic learning; because he went first, I had to trim a lot of what I usually would have said.

Between the two meetings, Bro. Byron brought me to a favorite smoke shop. Mane Street Cigars in Woodbridge is a great place to socialize and smoke, and apparently it’s very popular with Masons. We could have opened a lodge! Even without so many of us being on the Square, it is an extremely friendly place. Everyone who enters receives greetings from all, and they themselves make a point of saying hello to everyone. Very cool.

Because man cannot live by pipes alone, I chose a La Gloria Serie R Maduro—my first cigar in a really long time—and it was heavenly. One of those smokes you savor all the way up to the head. This was a No. 5, about a Toro shape.

I’ll wrap up this unusually long edition of The Magpie Mason with a reminder that I will present this Masonic research talk again on October 28 at The American Lodge of Research in Manhattan. This time, I’ll have a list of suitable New York Masonic topics to suggest for research. Seven o’clock in the French Doric Room.

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