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Caleb Butler Lodge A.F. & A.M.



11 Sculley Road
Ayer, MA 01432 - Map
Meeting Information:
The second Monday of each month between September and June
Contact Information:
Geoffrey Kromer, Masonic Ambassador
In the latter part of the 1850’s, there were several Masons living in Groton and it’s environs who were interested enough in Masonry to want to perfect themselves in the work of the ritual to gain a more thorough knowledge of the laws, customs, history and teachings of the order.

With this idea in mind, they were accustomed to meet at convenient times and places. Finally they became imbued with the desire to form a new lodge and for this purpose met at the home of E. Dana Bancroft on the corner of Williams and Nashua Street, South Groton, now Ayer.

They organized themselves with E. Dana Bancroft as chairman and Arthur Fenner as secretary. They voted the name of the lodge to be “Excelsior”, that the regular communication would be on the first Monday after the full moon in each month. The time of the meetings has since changed to the second Monday of the month where it is at the present time. For officers they elected E. Dana Bancroft as Master, O.N. Wing as Senior Warden, Augustus Dike as Junior Warden, Arthur Fenner as Treasurer and William F. Goulding as Secretary.

They voted that the ten members present be responsible for fifteen dollars for the purpose of obtaining a dispensation from the Grand Lodge to work the degrees in Freemasonry. They then adjourned to meet at the call of the Master.

Evidently the petition was favorably received by the Grand Lodge, for they received a summons from the Master to meet again on March 28. At that time, the dispensation was read, and they proceeded at once with the election of the remaining officers. It was voted that a Committee of Five be elected, to be known as a Ways and Means Committee to obtain enough money by loan or otherwise on the best possible terms to furnish lodge rooms, and to properly expand that money. They then adjourned the regular communication at the lodge rooms.

To help defray the expense of the quarters, they sublet the rooms to Harmony Division No. 98 of the Sons of Temperance. The rental fee was to be $37.50 per quarter and a proportionate share of the cost of maintenance for meetings every Friday. The rooms proved unsatisfactory because of poor ventilation. They were heated by a wood-burning stove which smoked badly because of a defective chimney, and lighted by lamps which burned a kind of oil which was used before the advent of kerosene. Steps were immediately taken to procure new quarters, but because of a lack of vacancies all efforts to do so were in vain. Finally, in August, 1860, the lodge did move to a building occupied by the store of Phelps and Harlow, which stood where Ace Sewing Center is located today.

At the first meeting of the lodge on April 18, 1859, the first application for membership was received from George e. Evans, and after rehearsing the degrees for a month under the coaching of E. Dana Bancroft, they were successfully given to the candidate.

During the first year fifty-one meetings were held and thirteen new members were enrolled.

When the year of working under dispensation was ended, the Lodge received a charter from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, regularly issued by the Grand Master, Winslow Lewis, Jr., and it was constituted and consecrated by Deputy Grand Master, J.H.V. Smith, and the officers were installed by W.D. Coolidge, Junior Grand Warden, on March 26, 1860. The name of the charter was changed to Caleb Butler because it was thought to be more appropriate than the first choice [Caleb Butler, Esq., of Groton, served as Grand Master of Massachusetts 1841-1842, and was a Past Master of St. Paul Lodge of Groton and later, Ayer].

In 1870 St. Paul Lodge of Groton used the rooms of Caleb Butler Lodge on a trial basis, rent free, and in 1872 they moved permanently with the consent of Grand Lodge. The two Lodges have lived together ever since, sharing the expense of quarters proportionately. At the installation banquet in 1874 the following toast was proposed: “To St. Paul Lodge; at once our Sister and Mother lodge. We were nursed into existence by some of her most prominent members.”

In 1872 a calamity struck. The entire north side of Main Street was destroyed by a fire which lasted for two days, April 13th and 14th. The lodge lost everything except the charter and records, which were saved. However, the Irish Benevolent Society came to the rescue by offering to all the fraternal organizations which were burned out the use of its quarters in Cushing’s Grain Store on the south side of the street, rent free. Caleb Butler Lodge availed itself of the offer, but as they had no paraphernalia with which to work degrees, they had to travel to Fitchburg, via the Fitchburg R.R. to use the property of the lodges there whenever occasion required. The townspeople began at once to recoup their losses, and when the Page Brothers elected to build the Page Block, extending from Washington Street to Pleasant Street, the Masonic lodges and the Odd Fellows rented the entire third floor, the Odd Fellows taking the part to the west of the stairway and the Masons to the east, with a banquet hall used in common. This hall was used until 1899, when the North Middlesex Savings Bank built its new building where it stands today. Both lodges of Masons engaged the entire third floor of this new building and have remained there ever since.

The first meeting of the lodge in its new home was held on January 30, 1899. The hall was dedicated jointly by Caleb Butler and St. Paul with appropriate Masonic ceremonies.

Since the dedication, other Masonic bodies have become tenants; Bancroft Chapter, Royal Arch Masons in 1901; Ida McKinley Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star in 1904; Ayer Chapter, Order of DeMolay in 1924; and just this year the Order of Rainbow Girls.

During its existence, Caleb Butler Lodge has had nearly 1900 members sign its bylaws. They have in the course of time scattered to all parts of the world because of the distribution of the U.S. Army. Many, of course, have died, withdrawn from membership, or left the ranks through lack of interest because, living at a distance, they have been unable to keep in touch with the lodge, and have joined other lodges nearer their home.

Concerning more than one hundred years of living much can be said, and it would take a book of many pages to complete the story.

-- This history was taken from the Town of Ayer Centennial Publication, printed in 1971 and presented at the celebration that took place from June 20 – 26 of that year.. It offers an interesting perspective of the history of Caleb Butler Lodge. St. Paul Lodge has since left and moved their quarters to Ashby. Caleb Butler Lodge has also moved, twice, first to the Pleasant Street School where it was quartered for 10 years, and then to its’ present home, a former church on Sculley Road.
Lodge Chartered:
Constituted 1859 Chartered 1860
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