WAREHAM – For an organization supposedly steeped in secrecy and obscurity, the local lodge really has some friendly and welcoming people.
They do not warily survey strangers entering their confines; instead, they welcome them with open arms. Neatly dressed in suit jackets and ties, they are not cold and calculating; alternatively, they are affable and personable.
On Saturday, April 11, on Cranberry Highway in West Wareham, just a stone’s throw from its intersection with Interstate Route 195, the Social Harmony Lodge of Freemasons in Wareham hosted an open house program, offering tours of its facilities and overviews of its structure, traditions and history. On the same day that all lodges in Massachusetts opened their doors to outsiders, the Wareham chapter exhibited the utmost in hospitality and fellowship.
“We are a brotherly organization and we support all our members, emotionally and in other ways,” said Matthew Allen, who holds the esteemed position of “Worshipful Master” with the Social Harmony Lodge. “There is a lot of trust and camaraderie among us and we are a really tight-knit group.”
A Wareham resident, Allen oversees the operations of a lodge that presently boasts 142 members (all men) and boasts a long and productive existence, tracking its roots back to 1823 when it was established in Middleborough. The Social Harmony Lodge moved to Wareham in the 1850s and was located on Main Street for more than a century before moving to its current location in the mid-1960s.
“I joined the lodge in 2009 because I wanted to be involved in Wareham,” Allen said. “We do charity works and we get involved in the local community and I wanted to be part of it.”
The Freemasons are one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world today, tracing its origins to medieval fraternities of stonemasons in Europe more than six centuries ago. The Freemasons claim to have been established as a means of regulating the qualifications of masons and their commercial interactions.
In the United States, founding fathers George Washington and Benjamin Franklin were members, as were scores of prominent individuals in succeeding generations such as Davy Crockett, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harold Houdini, President Gerald Ford and Colonel Harlan Sanders (yes, he of fried chicken fame).
It is often perceived as an organization shrouded with secret handshakes and rituals, admired by many, but feared by others who consider its members bent on world domination. In actuality, the Freemasons enjoy regalia and ceremonial proceedings as much as any other civic organization, but are more focused on supporting local communities through charitable works than they are in controlling national governments.
In Wareham, the Social Harmony Lodge joined recently with the Wareham-New Bedford Lodge of Elks to sponsor a fundraising “Country Hoe-Down.” The Freemasons’ share of the proceeds – nearly $3,000 – will be donated next month to the Shriners Hospital for Children in Boston (the Shriners are closely allied to the Freemasons).