Block Island, Rhode Island

By W:. Ronald J. Seifried, DSA

Over the course of the history of Freemasonry, brothers had the ability to travel to Masonic lodges other than their home lodge to share in fellowship with other recognized lodges. It is possible for several brothers from one lodge to travel as a group to other lodges for degrees, table lodges or special communications. Several brothers of Jephtha Lodge No. 494 not only travelled to another Masonic lodge, but to another Masonic district in a different state.

Block Island, Rhode Island
Jephtha and Atlantic Lodge members, 1922

 
On June 2, 1922 Right Worshipful Ambrose W. Rose, District Deputy Grand Master of the Suffolk Masonic District and Past Master of Jephtha (1919), led a delegation of 12 Past Masters, 22 Brothers, a son of a Past Master who was waiting to be of age to join the lodge, and a goat on a trip by sea to Block Island, Rhode Island.  The occasion was to meet with Worshipful Lester Littlefield, Master of Atlantic Lodge No. 31 and nephew to Brother Rose for a special travelling lodge.

It was through the kindness of Worshipful Emmett B. Hawkins (1895-98; 1909-10) that a delegation of over 35 Huntingtonians had the opportunity of going on this trip. It was Hawkins, also affectionately known as “Cappy” to his brothers, said, according to contemporary accounts, “Well boys, I will take the old Isaac Sherwood and the whole lodge can travel on her.”

So, with “Cappy” at the wheel and Brother Henry A. Murphy in charge of the commissary, with some assistance from Worshipful Russel Young (1917), the sendoff party started off at Archer’s Dock in Huntington Harbor at 8AM on a Friday morning, with Jack Cushing blowing the fire whistle to start the long trip. 

By the time the ship of Masons reached the Huntington lighthouse, a small rowboat was coming up behind the Isaac Sherwood with a man in the bow giving a distress sign that only fellow Masons would recognize. The twin engines in the Isaac Sherwood were stopped and silence crept aboard the ship, a silence so deafening one could hear a pin drop. A line was shot across the little rowboat which carried dedicated Brother “Uncle” Sam Horn, late for the early morning departure strictly called by “Cappy.” Big Ernest Carlsson and Elbert Fleet assisted the unpunctual Uncle Sam aboard the Isaac Sherwood and the party continued its long-distance trip. While travelling on Long Island Sound, Worshipful Murphy called out, “Dinner is now being served!”  Cappy later stated he “never saw such a well-trained gang of men in all the years he had travelled the water.” The crew and brothers were fed a hearty feast, including fruit, pies, cake, sardines, and anything else that might have been in ship’s cupboards. After dinner and coffee, the card tables were rearranged for a night of gambling. It was at this moment it was realized the unnamed committee forgot to bring any prizes, leading the brothers to play for actual peanuts.

The strong headwind and tide the Isaac Sherwood faced on this cool Friday evening, Cappy decided to anchor in Gardiner’s Bay for the night and expected to weigh anchor at sunrise on Saturday. The sun failed to be seen through the thick fog the following morning and Brother Clarence Cutting remarked “It had not been seen since yesterday.” Because of the thick fog, the party did not set sail for Plum Island until 7:30AM and were unable to find the eastern island for over five hours.

Eureka Hotel, Block Island

The Isaac Sherwood finally reached the Block Island dock by 1:45 PM, with Worshipful Lester Littlefield and his landing crew patiently awaiting the arrival of the visiting brothers from Jephtha Lodge. Littlefield yelled out at the approaching ship that he just received a telegram from Right Worshipful Douglass Conklin, Past Master of Jephtha (1886-87; 1899), that the new District Deputy was on board. The excited brothers from Atlantic Lodge gathered on the dock to shake hands with the new District Deputy affectionately nicknamed “Rosie.”

A list of several brothers with a case of “sea sickness blues” was recorded in the archives of Jephtha, with the caveat that “nothing is against a man being seasick.” As the brothers from Huntington disembarked the Isaac Sherwood, some of the early settlers of Block Island were gathering outside to witness the visiting Masonic brothers.

The Master Mason Degree was conferred in full form at Atlantic Lodge No. 31, Block Island, Rhode Island by Jephtha Lodge No. 494, Huntington, New York. After the degree work was completed, both lodges retired to the banquet room of the Eureka Hotel, where proprietor Ollie Rose prepared an elaborate feast.

At the conclusion of the banquet, “Cappy” Hawkins initiated all the members of Atlantic Lodge into the Order of the Turtles and gave the Block Island lodge the power to confer the order at any time during his absence. The drinking fraternity traces its origins to an English pub in 1943, loosely organized by a group of fighter pilots complete with an initiation ceremony, grip and passwords. The discovery of the Order of the Turtles in 1922 predates the “official” start of the fraternity by 21 years, an interesting revelation that will need further research.

The Jephtha brothers departed from Block Island at 9AM on Sunday morning and arrived at Huntington Harbor at 6AM on Monday morning. Everyone was happy and ready for the next trip to Block Island, which there would be many, except for Brother Tang, who said he would rather “fill up the holes here on dry land than to fill up in Long Island Sound.” Senior Warden Kurt J. Galow and Junior Master of Ceremonies Louis Sammis were the men before the mast and nightwatchmen, ensuring that everyone was made comfortable during their watch.

The infamous, yet unnamed goat, of which Jephtha was so proud as their travelling mascot, was presented to the brothers of Atlantic Lodge, which received the high honor as the only goat on Block Island in 1922. The lack of DNA evidence cannot confirm if this goat were a direct descendent to one of the many goats Brother George W. Dowling rode, as reported in an 1886 edition of the Long Islander.

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