In 1973, the Masonic Hall in Newmarket was a trip back one hundred years to Victorian elegance. For it’s 100th anniversary celebration, the hall had been refurbished just as it was in 1873. Empire sofas and red carpting, a huge kerosene lamp chandelier and original oil for fresco paintings — all to match the same decor the Rising Star Lodge had when they created the hall 100 years prior.
Master Haven Hayes of Barrington and Roy Kent of Newmarket opened the hall and acted as hosts to the New Market Historical Society and the public. They explained Masonry, the symbols painted on the walls and the history of the chapter.
[The following notes are extracts from the Lodge records, and from the published proceedings of the Grand Lodge.]
The first Masonic lodge in Newmarket was formed in 1826 by a group of 25 men with Benjamin Wheatland chosen as Worshipful Master. They held private meetings in the Books building which housed the “Company Store” pf the NMCo..
Today, the Rising Star lodge closed in 2020. The hall was on the top floor of the Kingman building. When the Masons sold the building and consolidated with the Exeter Lodge, they sent Masonic furniture and supplies to the Northwood lodge which had been destroyed in a fire. Those items pertaining to Newmarket history were donated to the Historical Society.
In August 1826, a formal dedication and consecration service was held and officers installed at the Second Meeting House located at Rockingham Junction. Then the meeting house stood at the corner of Ash Swamp Road (near Rockingham Ballroom). After the service they moved down the road to Stimson’s Tavern (now the Rockingham Country Club) and had a banquet for 120 people held outside at Stinson’s pavillion. The Mr. Stinson’s tavern served as a stagecoach stop as the railroad had not yet been built.
The meeting-house, built in 1792, stood in the corner where the Ash Swamp road joins the Exeter road. Here all the town-meetings were held; this location was selected as best accommodating the two villages of the town, Newfields and Lamprey River Village. All annual and special meetings of the Pine Hill School District were convened here at the Meeting House.
For a year and a half Rising Star grew as rapidly, then it began to languish. The printed proceedings of the Grand Lodge say that the last work they did was in 1828, the Lodge records, however, show that degrees were awarded in 1831 and 1832. In 1827 the D. D. G. M. reported: “Visited Rising Star Lodge, No. 47, at Newmarket and had an opportunity to examine their work, which was done in a manner highly creditable to their officers, and was much gratified with the general appearance of their records, work, harmony, and brotherly feeling that existed among the members. Meetings contiuned unrtil after 1830, then they became sporadic. In 1838, after about eight years of inactivity, the Grand Lodge revoked the Rising Star’s charter.
For ten or fifteen years following the chartering of this Lodge, Masonry in this country endured a persecution such as has never been directed against any other society. It required courage, moral and sometimes physical, for a man to admit that he was a Mason. Clergymen were turned out of their pulpits, church members were refused the sacrament, teachers fired, families and communities torn asunder by anti-masonic madness. In September of 1826, William Morgan who was a well known anti-Mason, disappeared from his home in Batavia, New York. His disappearance and presumed murder ignited a powerful movement against the Freemasons. The fraternal society had become very influential in the United States and locally many sucessful Newmarket politicians and businesmen were early members of the society. The anti-masonic crusade following threatened the very existence of the order; and it is noteworthy that neither the Lodge records nor the printed proceedings of the Grand Lodge give any hint locally or nationwide of the cause of this anti-masonic movement.
Many disavowed connection with the Order. That Masonry survived is owing to the faithful who, bowing temporarily before the storm, resumed work in their lodges when the tempest subsided. By the 1840s that storm had run its course, and dormat lodges started to revive themselves throughout the country. Newmarket was no diffierent as they sought to restore their charter in 1847. Those pushing to re-instate the Lodge and who garnared names on petitions were: Benjamin Brooks, Henry C. Weatherby, John Jefferson, Washington Haines, George Kitteredge, William Stickney, Samuel Sinclair and William Smith.
In 1835 the Newmarket Manufacturing Company sold the Brooks Building outright to Benjamen Brooks who was an engineer for the company and actually was in charge of construction. The bottom floor was the company store, the second level was the Brooks’ family living quarters, and the top floor was an open hall which was jointly used by the Odd Fellows and the Pioneer Knights of Pythias. (more on this building at Site #34) When the Lodge regained its charter in 1847 Mr. Brooks invited them to meet in his hall on the top floor. The arrangements proved to be cumbersome, in that storage was an issue. They had specific furniture and regalia which were instrumental to their services, so they sought a more private space which they could use exclusively for themselves.
Dr. Samuel Greene, himself a mason, was a member of the lodge. In 1873 once he built his three story building at the corner of Main and Central Street he offered to finish the top floor and lease the entire floor solely to the Masons for 20 years at $100 per annum. The hall measured 27’x40’ on the third floor of this building. The Masons readily moved the Lodge and remained in this space until they sold the building in 2020.
In 1894 Bradford Kingman bought the building from Dr. Greene, and leased the Mason Lodge Hall to the Masons for a 10-year period for $50 per year, with the option to continue the lease in ten-year increments. Mr. Kingman later sold his interest to his son Bela. Most of the men affiliated with Doctor Greene and this building in the early years were all members of the Rising Star Lodge. Both fathers and sons Dr. Samuel and Walter Greene, Bradford and Bela Kingman were members; as were Dr. John Twombly, and Pharmacist Alvah Place and Dr. George Goggins.
Members of Rising Star Lodge who fought for the Union in the Civil War:
J. WESLEY TOWLE FRANKLIN A. BRACKETT
JOHN J. HANSON ALANSON C. HAINES
WOODBRIDGE W. TUTTLE FREDERICK F. PIKE
CHARLES W. GREENE THOMAS LEES
ALBERT T. SEVERANCE EDWARD RICHARDSON
WOODBRIDGE W. DURELL ANDREW GRAY
CHARLES JENNESS MANLEY P. BARBER
FREDERICK W. NOYES JOHN H. KNIGHT
Members who fought in the Great War:
RA YMOND J. BEAN THURMAN A. PRIEST
JOHN R. DORE (engineer) SAMUEL J. SUTHERLAND, Major
ROBERT G. DURGIN, Lieutenant WILLIAM H. THOMAS, Lieutenant
JOHN F. DURGIN, Lieutenant DAYTON C.WIGGIN, Major
JAMES B. GRIFFIN, Lieutenant HOWARD WILLAND
GEORGE A. PERLE
In 1979 a straight line wind caused major property damage to several buildings in town as it set down on Packers Falls Road and traveled easterly down Elm Street, over Park Hill and down Central Street, thru the millyard and out over the bay. The wind was so strong that it shifted the entire building 13 inches toward the right at the joint of the first and second stories. The building had to be evacuated and it took the Building Movers of Hoosket, NH over a month to right the building to make it structualy stable. The Masons had purchased the building over a decade prior to the damage. Small business disaster loans and insurance covered the cost of repair.
The egg tempura murals remained as vibrant in 2020 as when painted in 1873 by Portland Maine Fresco Painter W.L. Keiler. That artwork remained on the top floor of the “Kingman Building” when it was sold in 2020.
The Masons left the Historical Society with several documents, one was the invoice for the mural work as shown here. Mr. Keiler detailed the work done between September 26th and October 7th 1873. He listed the amount of oil, turpentine, varnish, “shilack”, colors and lead used on the walls of the hall. His total bill was for $413.10 not a paltry sum, as that amounts to $10,200.50 in value for 2022.
Other documents name the Brothers who pledged money and their reputations to ensure that the bill would have been paid. Not one to fritter money away, these old Yankee businessmen well appreciated the Masonic Symbolism so much so that they were willing to pay a hefty sum for it. As anyone who has seen the artwork, they got their money’s worth.
Wallentine L. Keiler was born in 1840 in Copenhagen, Denmark and arrived in Portland Harbor with an occupation as”fresco painter”. In 1861 he enlisted in Company B 8th Maine Infantry during the Civil War, remaining in active service throughout the entire war, discharged in 1865. He returned to Maine and received his citizenship in December 1868. He married Ann Marie Hanson (1847 - 1927) of Portland and the couple had five children, the family later moved to Minneapolis where he died in 1894, having been an invalid since 1891.
(The photographs on this page were taken by New Market Historical Society photographer Sarah Low in October 2012 inside the Main Hall)
“A Mason is a man in good standing in his lodge, not necessarily a perfect ritualist, but one who seeks to better himself and his neighbors. It may not be required for the Master to make one hundred and fifty-six sick calls during his term, as did Worshipful Brother Hodgdon; but if service to the Lodge, to Masonry, and to humanity is the guide, The Masons of Rising Star Lodge # 24 have done their part towards making the community better.”
The framed tribute at the bottom of this page is of Red Schanda who received the Major General John Sullivan Medal in 1982; and in 1987 he received New Hampshire Freemasonary’s highest award, the Jeremy Ladd Cross Medal for service to his Lodge and Freemasonary.