AN OLD IDEA RENEWED
by Coe Tug Morgan
Very Worshipful Coe Tug Morgan, is a Past Deputy of the
Grand Master, Past Master and Secretary of Daylight Lodge
No 232, and member of Walter F Meier Lodge of Research
No. 281, F&AM of Washington. He is also a member of Zia
Daylight Lodge No. 77 and Valley Daylight Lodge No. 79,
AF&AM of New Mexico and General Secretary of the Conference of North American Daylight Lodges.
Historical references suggest that Medieval
Masonic Guilds often met on Saturday for such
business as proving their apprentices. Logic
would tell us that, just as the first walls were
erected on the north side in order to keep the
building area shaded for less time, so would the
meeting be during the day because few except the
nobility and clergy could afford the luxury of
candles or lamp oil.
It was when the Masonic craft became an urban, upper and middle-class speculative fraternity and meetings moved into the tavern that
evening meetings started. While some English
lodges often do meet early in the afternoon for
the purpose of degree work, it might be said that
since the 17th century, the Junior Warden
generally has not really called the "Craft from
labor to refreshment..." at High Twelve.
But not always and in North America lodges
meeting only during the daytime have been a
small but recorded fact since the United States
became a nation. A history of St. Paul Lodge
A.F. & A.M. in Ayer, Massachusetts, once a
daytime lodge, suggests that the Revolutionary
War, a Tory prisoner, a girl and romance may
have had a hand in its formation. And some sixty years later the Civil War's "Field and Sea
Lodges," brought forth another. These lodges are
examples of the Masonic Craft adapting to the
needs of its' members.
As a rural lodge, St. Paul chose not to follow
the usual custom of meeting by the light of the
moon, but rather to meet by the light of day,
which may not have been as unique as it now
seems for D. Burleigh Smalley, Jr., when Grand
Secretary of Vermont reported that, ". . . in connection with providing a facsimile of an original
charter (lost by fire) for Seventy-Six Lodge No.
14 in Swanton, Vermont we came across mention
of meetings held regularly in 1828 at 2 and 3 pm.
Apparently, at least some of the lodges may have
met during the daytime hours. .."
That other lodges may or may not have met
during the day does not detract from the fact that
St. Paul Lodge had a long history of daylight
meetings and though time, fire and handling have
not been kind to many early lodge records, a
lodge history published early in this century
found enough remaining to attach a bit of
historical romance to its beginning.
When news of Paul Revere's ride and the events
at Concord and Lexington reached the Ayer area
northwest of Concord, the local militia immediately left to aid their brothers in arms and
the home guard duties were taken up by their
wives disguised in men's attire. They captured
Captain Leonard Whiting of Hollis, New Hampshire, a well known Tory who was carrying correspondence from British commanders in Canada
to the British Governor General in Boston,
He was taken to Groton, Mass., a town four
or five miles away where he was held prisoner in
the home of Oliver Prescott, brother of the leader
of the local militia. It must have been a fairly easy
confinement and it grew into a lasting friendship.
A friendship which would later find the jailer's
son, Oliver Prescott, Jr. marrying Captain
Whiting's daughter Nancy.
Twenty years later on January 26, 1797, St.
Paul Lodge received its charter from the patriot
who carried the alarm from the Old North
Church in Boston, Grand Master Paul Revere.
The first Senior Warden was Oliver Prescott, Jr.
and lodge records, etc., led 19th century
historians to surmise that if ex-prisoner Whiting
was not himself responsible for the inception of
the lodge, his influence was most likely felt. Years
later Grand Master John Abbott, a Past Master
of St. Paul Lodge laid the cornerstone for the
Bunker Hill Monument.
Nearly seven decades later, St. Cecile Lodge
No. 568 in New York City, the first of the "entertainer's daytime lodges" was chartered. (St.
Cecile Lodge No. 568 still meets on the 1st and
4th Tuesdays at 1:00 pm in New York City on the
same days and hours as it has for over 124 years.)
During the "War Between the States," several
Grand Lodges chartered "Field and Sea Lodges,"
many in regimental bands. Many of those band
members after their enlistments returned to New
York City to work in orchestras and entertainment and they found they could not continue
their Masonry because of their night professions.
St. Cecile's own printed history tells how some
of them drifted together during the day to a
restaurant operated by a former musician. They
discussed their mutual problem and led by
Frederick Widdows, several brothers met with
RW Robert Holmes, the New York Deputy Grand
Master and explained their idea of a daytime
lodge. He promised his support.
In no time at all, as required by New York
Masonic law, twelve Masons signed a formal request for a lodge to be ". . . held in the daytime
between the hours of 12 noon and 8 o'clock in
the evening." Kane Lodge No. 454 on January
10, 1865 agreed to the request, other lodges
quickly followed and a short fifteen days later a
dispensation was granted by RW Brother Holmes.
Being mostly musicians, several different
names relating to the trade were suggested such
as "Harmony," "Melody" and of course
"Daylight," but in the end St. Cecile was chosen.
The French form of the patron saint of music and
musicians was selected over the more commonly
used Latin "St. Cecilia," in recognition of the
aid given by the Deputy Grand Master and whose
wife, Mrs. Cecile Robin Holmes was French born.
During the next half century St. Cecile Lodge
No. 568 was the inspiration for many other
daytime lodges across North America as touring
performers carried the message about New York's
unique "Entertainer's Lodge," to their brethren
in other cities. By the 1920's almost every major
town in the country played by a vaudeville troupe
could claim a daylight lodge. From Boston to San
Francisco, from Washington, D.C. to Vancouver,
B.C., Canada and in between, stage artists, musicians and theatre employees with a few others like
newspaper and Western Union night workers
gathered together to form daylight lodges.
Masons who really went to "refreshment at High
Twelve," and then came the "talkies.. ."
Vaudeville died, theatre orchestras vanished
and then the great depression killed what was left
and so daytime lodges began to struggle and fade.
For a brief time in the 1950's several were started
in metropolitan areas with large manufacturing
plants and lots of night workers, but they were
by far the exception. The original daylight lodges
often changed into evening lodges or consolidated and vanished into Masonic history. It
seemed that by the 1970's only in the very largest
cities could daylight lodges continue, the idea was
now obsolete. But was it?
Retirees! Yes! Retirees! Many don't want to
drive at night. Retirees moved to the "sun belt."
They found other members of the Craft and
formed High Twelve Luncheon Clubs and then
they asked "why not have a lodge meeting during the day?" So in retirement communities in
states like California, New Mexico, Texas,
Arizona and Virginia daylight lodges began to
sprout until today there are over one hundred
such lodges in North America. Some of the older
lodges seeing the success of their younger sister
lodges, have reached out to the same community, the retired Mason, for new members. Lodges
have even changed from night to day meetings,
a reversal of a trend of fifty years. And it isn't
just in North America that this trend is noted,
for there are well over one hundred daylight
lodges in the Australian grand lodges. A Conference of North American Daylight Lodges has
been formed, and two international meetings
have been held in Vancouver, British Columbia
and Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 1989-90 two
Grand Lodges, Delaware and New Mexico have
Grand Masters who are Past Masters of daylight
These lodges are not large, most rely on affiliated membership in one form or another and
frequently change officers because of age, health,
death or a brother moving away, but they all
possess a unique fellowship. Because they often
began as a breakfast or luncheon gathering, most
continue to have a real festiveboard so that when
the Junior Warden calls the craft "from labor to
refreshment," most likely it is "High Twelve" and
the Junior Warden and Stewards have duties to
perform in more than a symbolic manner.
In modern daylight masonry, the Medieval
Mason would undoubtedly feel right at home
thinking that these lodges really meet at the proper time.