Henry Price
By: Michael S. Kaulback
Bro. Kaulback is a Past Master and
current Treasurer of Charles W. Moore
Lodge, Fitchburg, MA. He is a graduate of
Fitchburg State College and is serving the
Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library of the
Grand Lodge of Massachusetts as its Library
Technician.
Denslow's 10,000 Famous Freemasons,
states Henry Price is sometimes referred to
as "The Father of Freemasonry in America."
Masonic records from the 1700's are not
always "well-kept" but Bro. Price's activi-
ties are clearly documented in this STB.
--Editor
In the year 1733 a tailor from Boston,
Henry Price by name, received a warrant
from the newly formed Grand Lodge of Eng-
land appointing him as "Provincial Grand
Master of New England and Dominions and
Territories thereunto belonging." This autho-
rized him to constitute all brethren then resid-
ing in New England into one or more Regular
Lodges. This deputation was signed by the
then Grand Master of Masons in England--
Lord Viscount Montague.
Who was Henry Price and how did he
come to America? How and when did be
become a Mason? In the next few pages we
will be introduced to Price, to Boston at that
time period and to Freemasonry and the first
chartered Lodge to open in the Western hemi-
sphere. Let's start with Henry Price.
Henry Price was born in or around the city
of London in 1697. He was there apprenticed
as a Tailor for he was "admitted to the Free-
dom of the Company of Merchant Tailors by
Patrimony on the I st of July 1719." In 1723 he
arrived in the Port city of Boston, where he
entered the Tailor's trade. In 1730 he opened
his own shop on what is now Washington
Street between State and Water Streets. He
remained there until 1740 where, after a fire,
he moved to the corner of Bedford and Wash-
ington Streets. In 1744 he opened a second
shop on State Street. Price had entered a new
phase of his life, that of being a shopkeeper.
Price was so successful at his trade that in
1750, six years after opening his shop on
State Street, he retired and so far as can be
ascertained never again engaged in any occu-
pation. He entered the world of Real Estate
and had holdings in Boston, Hull, Cam-
bridge, Woburn, Concord, Sherborne and
Townsend in Massachusetts, as well as some
holdings in Rhode Island, New Hampshire
and Connecticut.
The city of Boston at that time was small
by today's standards only having around
16,000 citizens. It was a city of commerce
and industry where ships from all over the
world made port. Boston was a great center of
commerce where people from all over New
England came to trade. So successful a busi-
nessman could hardly have escaped notice
and in fact in 1733 Price was made a cornet
in the Governor's Guards with the rank of
Major by Governor Belcher. In 1764-65 he
was a member of the legislature where he met
Samuel Adams. He also met John Hancock
and Thomas Cushing.
Price had married a 17 year old girl named
Mary Townsend who had one child, a girl
named Mary, who was the apple of Price's
eye. Unfortunately his wife died and in the
year 1752 he married for the second time to
Mary Tilden. Death struck a double blow to
Price because in 1759 his wife died and in
1760 his daughter Mary died. In 1771 he met
and married for the third time. Price at this
time was 75 years old and Lydia Randall, his
third wife was a young widow with one son.
Together they had two daughters, Mary and
Rebecca, a remarkable feat for a man of
Price's age.
Price became a Mason in England before he
left to come to Boston in 1723. Exactly what
Lodge he joined is not known although he
probably joined one of the four Lodges that in
1717 formed the Grand Lodge of England. He
is recorded in the year 1730 as a member of
Lodge #75 meeting at the old Rainbow Tavern
in London. Price's name is number fifty three
on the list in the minute book at the Grand
Lodge of England. The Lodge is still in exis-
tence and is now called Britannic Lodge #33
meeting at the Grand Lodge building on Great
Queen Street in London. Price was active in
Masonry from the day he joined and made
many Masonic friends on both sides of the
Atlantic.
In the year 1733 Price was in London on a
business trip. While in London he made
application to the Grand Master of Masons in
England, Lord Viscount Montague, for a
Deputation as "Provincial Grand Master of
New England and Dominions and Territories
thereunto belonging." This was not the first
deputation issued to an American by the
Grand Lodge of England. On June 5, 1730, a
deputation was issued to Daniel Coxe of New
Jersey by the Duke of Norfolk who was then
Grand Master. Coxe was named as a Provin-
cial Grand Master of New Jersey, New York,
and Pennsylvania. Unfortunately there is no
evidence that he ever exercised this commis-
sion. Although there were operating Lodges
in those states none were added to the rolls of
the Grand Lodge of England under Coxe's
name. Coxe did not receive his deputation
until January of 1731 when he was recorded
as attending the Quarterly Communication of
the Grand Lodge held at the Devil Tavern
within the Temple Bar. It is here that Coxe is
referred to as "Provincial Grand Master of
North America." It would seem that this dep-
utation expired on June 24, 1732 and men-
tion is made of Coxe thereafter.
Price returned to America and on Monday
July 30, 1733 met with several brethren at the
Bunch of Grapes Tavern on King Street (now
State Street) in Boston. He read his depu-
tion and organized the Grand Lodge of Mass-
achusetts. He appointed Andrew Belcher
Deputy Grand Master and Thomas Kennel
and John Quan as Grand Wardens. The first
order of business was to make eight candi-
dates Freemasons. The second act of business
was to receive and act on the petition of eigh-
teen brethren, all Free and Accepted Mason
who wished to be formed into a regular
Masonic Lodge. The petition was granted and
in accordance with all the ancient customs,;
provided for in the book of constitution
Price constituted the first regular (chartered)
Lodge in North America.
It might be interesting to visualize this
scene. R. W. Price sitting in the East, on his
left sits the Deputy Grand Master, and in the
South and West the Grand Wardens in the
stations. The petitioners and their chosen offi-
cers in the center of the assembly. In due and
ancient order those officers are presented and
invested with the implements of the office
they will hold. To each Price gives a solemn
charge and then greets the Lodge as a whole
admonishing them to uphold the book of
Constitutions and Regulations written by
Anderson in 1723. It would have been inter-
esting to have been there, the first meeting
a regular and duly constituted Lodge und
the English Grand Lodge, and the first meet-
ing of the Provincial Grand Lodge of New
England.
In the years that followed, Price carried o
his duties as Grand Master. In 1734 Benjamin
Franklin, visiting Boston, met Price and
requested his authorization to open Lodges
Pennsylvania through the Grand Lodge
England. In 1735 Grand Master Price issued
dispensations for Lodges in Portsmouth,
New Hampshire also Annapolis and Halifax,
Nova Scotia.
R. W. Price served as Grand Master for
three years, and in 1736 the records show
that he "resigned." The question arises--
Who did he resign to? The only logical
answer would be the Grand Master of Eng-
land who issued the original deputation. On
June 24, 1736, at the Feast of St. John, the
brethren of Massachusetts decided to petition
England to appoint Robert Tomlinson as
Grand Master. His commission arrived in
Boston on April 20, 1737 and he was
installed by Price. Fate had not finished with
Price however, for in 1740 R. W. Tomlinson
died and the office reverted to the Immediate
Past Grand Master--Price. He held office for
four years until a commission appointing
Thomas Oxnard as Grand Master came from
England.
Unfortunately Oxnard died in 1754 and
again Price was asked to fill the office. In
1755 Jeremy Gridley was appointed as
Provincial Grand Master. Gridley served the
Grand Lodge for ten years dying in office.
Once again the Grand Lodge turned to Henry
Price who served as acting Grand Master
until installing John Rowe in January of
1766. This marked the end of Price's officer-
ship, but not the end of his career in
Masonry. Price attended 13 quarterly Com-
munications after 1766, traveling 46 miles
each time to do so. The last Communication
he attended was January 28, 1774 which was
also the last held before the siege of Boston
caused all meetings to be suspended.
It would seem that dotage never overtook
Price for at 75 years old he had married a
widow and had two daughters. He had
moved to Townsend, Massachusetts near
the New Hampshire border where he owned
several hundred acres of land. He operated a
farm, mill shops, and wood lots. He played
an active roll in town government and in
1764 was elected to represent Townsend in
the state Legislature. While chopping wood
in May of 1780 Price met his end when the
ax slipped and gave a mortal wound. Price
was 83 years old.
Price was buried in Townsend and in 1888
the body was moved to its present location
within the same cemetery. M. W. Henry
Endicott, Grand Master of Massachusetts
and Governor of the state, dedicated a marble
monument at his gravesite. The original
gravestone was removed and is now on the
third floor of the Grand Lodge building on
Boylston and Tremont Streets in Boston.
Price's life is aptly summed up in the last
sentence on his marker--"An Honest Man,
the Noblest Work of God."