A Short History of the Harmonic Lodge No. 356 E.C.

A Short History of the Harmonic Lodge No. 356 E.C.

Wor. Bro. John D.M. Woods, PDSGW

Worshipful Master

1961 to 1962; 1962 to 1963;

1969 to 1970; 1974 to 1975

 

The first trace of Freemasonry in the Virgin Islands pointed toward England. In 1756 the Grand Lodge of England founded a lodge on St.Croix called ‘St.Georges Lodge’. It was registered as No.224 in the Grand Lodge Register but was changed to  No.216 about ten years later.

 

In 1776 Bro. Christian Ewald on behalf of the Brethren on St.Croix made an appearance through his mother Lodge, ‘Zorabel To The North Star’ in Copenhagen, to found a Daughter Lodge named ‘To The Holy Cross’. Ewald was named as the Master and had to declare under oath that he would fulfil his obligations, particularly to the Scottish Grand Lodge in Copenhagen. The work was most likely done in German, as was the custom at that time in Denmark. The founding of ‘To The Holy Cross’ had a devastating effect on the English Lodge ‘St.Georges’ because on April 29th 1780, King Christian VII signed a prescript to the leaders of Freemasons, directing them that never and nowhere in any Danish land or possession should they recognize a foreign Prince of Royal Blood as Grand Master, or give any such authority or influence over the Order. This prescript was enlarged in another Royal document of November 2nd, 1792.

The prescript gave Bro. Ewald the opportunity to refuse the English Lodge ‘St.Georges No.216’ the right to work. He tried however, in vain, to secure a charter for them from Denmark. ‘St.Georges’ worked in the dark for a few years but officially struck its columns around 1785. It remained on the rolls until 1814 when it was erased.


On December 3rd, 1785 another Danish Lodge ‘St.Thomas To Unity’ was founded on the island of St.Thomas. The founding of this lodge, the departure of Bro. Ewald to Denmark and the loss of St.Thomas members, who joined the new lodge, caused ‘To The Holy Cross’ to gradually decline and cease to work in 1787. ‘St.Thomas To Unity’ also ceased to work in 1810 because of lack of interest. It was revived in 1823 but ceased to work in 1835 and nothing more was heard about it.

In the year 1877 another lodge ‘Eureka 605’ was founded in Christianstead, St.Croix, under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. It is interesting that one of the founders, Bro. Alex Henderson, Police Clerk and Church Warden, visited several lodges in Copenhagen. He was initiated in ‘Union Lodge No.2’ under the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1866. ‘Eureka’ ceased to work in 1900.

In 1795 an English Lodge was founded on St.Thomas. Why this was done no one knows. Because of the two prescripts issued in 1780 and again in 1792, this lodge was unable to initiate, pass or raise anyone and ceased to exist in 1805.

The Masons living on St.Thomas at the time of the union of the two Grand Lodges in England were a mixture of native and foreign-born. They were Jews, Gentiles, merchants, shopkeepers, clerks, seamen, civil servants and planters. Those who had been made in lodges to the East and South of St.Thomas, under the jurisdiction of one of the English Grand Lodges, could not attend or affiliate with the Danish lodges because of their racial and religious restrictions. The Danish lodges would not allow either Jews or free-coloreds to join. Even if they had been able to visit or join, they would have found it difficult to follow the ceremonies, which were in either Danish, German or French.

The union of the two Grand Lodges of England gave the English speaking masons on St.Thomas the hope that they might at last receive a charter which would last and be more permanent than all the others. In the year 1818, several meetings were held in the homes of the various brethren and finally it was agreed to apply to England for a charter. Why did the petitioners apply for a charter from the Grand Lodge of England with a prescript in place? There can be no doubt they consulted with Commandant Peter VonScholten on the prescript and were assured by him that there would be no trouble.
On April 12th, 1819, the Brethren petitioned Commandant VonScholten for permission to establish a Freemason’s Lodge on St.Thomas. The following letter, translated by Wor. Bro. Dr Knud Hansen, was handwritten in Danish.

‘To Herr James Miller, Robert Harrison and M.D’Azevedo:
I beg to inform you that the Government has no objection whatsoever to the establishing of a Freemason’s Lodge as stated in your petition, and further wishes you all good luck that you may be enabled to fulfil your charitable purposes.
VonScholten
Government of St.Thomas, 16th April 1819’

It is worthwhile to note that the above permission, “to the establishing of a Freemason’s Lodge” was given six months after the date of Harmonic Lodge’s charter. The charter members of Harmonic were mostly merchants and some represented mercantile firms in England. It was decided that one of these firms could deliver the request for the charter. It is not known which firm was chosen or who represented it. There is however no doubt that the firm used by the St.Thomas Brethren was known by the firm owned by Rt. Wor. Bro. Isaac Lindo, Past Senior Grand Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England. The petition was delivered to the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge by Rt. Wor. Bro. Lindo.

On December 10th, 1818 the Grand Secretary forwarded to Rt. Wor. Bro. Lindo the ‘Warrant of Constitution For The Petitioning Brethren In The Island Of St.Thomas’ together with a book of Constitutions. On December 11th 1818, Rt. Wor. Bro. Isaac Lindo gave the ‘Warrant of Constitution’ to the firm who represented the founders and the constitution was sent by the next mail to St.Thomas.

Rt. Wor. Bro. Isaac Lindo was born on Barbados about 1784. We do not have any information on when he left Barbados but we do know that he was the first Grand Junior Warden of the United Grand Lodge of England. Probably being from the Caribbean gave him a special interest in the petition from the Brethren of St.Thomas. After a devastating set back in business, he left England around 1820 and we don’t know anything about him until 1830 when he came to St.Thomas. His name appeared on the rolls of Harmonic on February 21st 1835. The members were so awed by the membership of such an illustrious Mason they elected him Master and he was installed on March 29th 1835. Rt. Wor. Bro. Isaac Lindo passed away on August 15th 1841, and is buried in the Jewish Cemetery across from the Western Cemetery. The returns of March 27th, 1836 listed his age as ’52 years’.

No one knows the first meeting place of Harmonic Lodge, but we do know that they met in private homes and taverns. The notes by some of the Lodge’s historians record the first meeting place as Apollo Miller’s Tavern on June 24th, 1819. An article taken from Dr. Neville Hall’s Apollo Miller, Freedman: His Life and Times states that Apollo Miller did not move to St.Thomas until 1821. A letter dated 1901 from Bro. Julius Wolff, at one time Secretary of Harmonic, to Wor. Bro. John Lightbourn, states that his father told him ‘the meetings as a rule were held in private residences’. Bro. Aaron Wolff, father of Bro. Julius, joined Harmonic in 1828. Therefore it is safe to conclude that from 1819 to 1852, with the exception of five to six years when we met in Apollo Miller’s Tavern, Harmonic Lodge met in private residences.

After looking at over two thousand entries from the Recorder of Deeds Office, I offer the following: The first Master was James Miller and his residence was at 9A Dronningens Gade on the Main Street. He was succeeded by Samuel Hoheb whose residence was at 6b Wimmelskafts Gade on Back Street. The next master was Isaac Lindo who lived at 29 Dronningens Gade near the now Royal Dane Mall entrance. At this time we find Harmonic Lodge meeting in Apollo Miller’s Tavern. Later we have an eyewitness statement that he attended Rt. Wor. Bro., Isaac Lindo’s private school and as punishment ‘he would confine us in the room into which the Lodge furniture was stored’. Isaac Lindo’s private school was in the building at 81AB Kronprindsens Gade near the Market Square. The buildings referred to in Bro. Wolff’s letter as one of the meeting places were 15 Borger Gade and 1BA Nordsidevej on Frenchman Hill. Both houses were owned by Bro. Abraham Simmons who was not a charter member but joined later.

In 1846 there was a lot of discomfort in the Lodge, due to disagreement among the Brethren, lack of attendance and the blackballing of two candidates, Isaac Sasso and William Gomez. As a result, on February 12th 1846, the Wor. Master Daniel Pretto suspended all work. Years later on August 4th 1851, fourteen Brethren met at Bro. Walloe’s home with Wor. Bro. Daniel Pretto and decided to open an entered apprentices Lodge. The only business was the election of officers. No one will ever be able to figure out why Wor. Bro. Pretto was re-elected. Three years later, Harmonic Lodge again ceased work in February or May of 1854, due mainly to lack of attendance, and again, the blackballing of two candidates. There was so much trouble that the members asked to be put under the District Grand Lodge of Trinidad. This worked for only a short time and the Brethren were again placed under the Grand Lodge of England. Another re-organizational meeting was held on January 10th , 1857 at the home of Judah Cappe at 22 Commandant Gade and once again the Brethren elected Wor. Bro. Pretto as Master. What is very odd about the whole affair is on both occasions, 1851 and 1857, Wor. Bro. Pretto obligated and invested himself.

In 1857 when the Lodge re-opened, they rented a building at 1A Kongens Gade owned by a Mr. Lundt, who later sold it to the French Lodge ‘Les Coeurs Sinceres’, In 1859 the Lodge rented the building at 18 Kongens Gade (now the Lt. Governor’s Office) for $65 a month. In 1873 the Lodge again moved when the owner sold the property. This time they went back to 1A Kongens Gade. The Brethren were tired of moving from one place to the other and bought 10 Wimmelskafts Gade in 1874. They fixed it up and consecrated it as their Temple on July 2nd, 1874. Harmonic has met there ever since.

On July 7th 1881, James Warner was elected Master and as was the custom at that time should have been installed. Due to the absence of the necessary Past Masters, he was not installed until August 4th, 1881. Two young members, Bro. D’Azevedo and Bro. Phillips, who were admitted some years before by special dispensation because of their age, objected to the installation. Bro. Phillips accused the Master of being in the Chair unlawfully, and also accused Wor. Bro. Sasso, who had installed the Master, of fraud. This was done in open Lodge. Bro. Phillips was asked by the Master to retract his accusation and he refused. On September 19th, 1881 he was formally charged with conduct unbecoming a member and received his hearing at the October 5th, 1881 meeting. Sensing the temper of the Lodge and thinking he would face ‘exclusion’, Bro. Phillips recanted and apologized. His shame and embarrassment so convinced the Brethren that they forgave him and elected him Master the following year. Bro. D’Azevedo was charged on October 12th, 1881 and refused to admit guilt or to apologize. A motion was passed immediately for ‘exclusion’. He tried unsuccessfully to gain admission to the meetings of the Lodge but was refused. He did however eventually succeed in getting Wor. Bro. Warner before a Police Court and Warner was fined $20.00 plus $12.50 in Court costs. Bro. D’Azevedo found very little help from the Grand Lodge whose decision was ‘indefinite exclusion’.

On October 3rd, 1888 John N. Lightbourn was initiated at Harmonic. In those days whenever work was done, the members from ‘Les Coeurs Sinceres’ No.141 always visited and vice versa. On the night of Lightbourn’s initiation several visitors from the French Lodge were present. On the evening of October 16th, 1888 similar work was being done at the French Lodge and Bro. Lightbourn attended. Much to his surprise he was denied admission. After many discussions between the Masters of the two Lodges, Wor. Master Toledano, at the request of the membership, severed fraternal relations with ‘Les Coeurs Sinceres’. Wor. Bro. Warner, who had moved to Barbados, was in St.Thomas on vacation and brought the two Masters together. The motion was rescinded in 1891. Shortly afterwards ‘Les Coeurs Sinceres’ struck her columns and passed out of existence.

From 1899 to 1906 the Harmonic Lodge suffered greatly from non-attendance. There were hardly any initiations and on several occasions visitors were called upon to occupy the Chairs. During this time, at one meeting there were only the Master, two Past Masters and four visitors. At a meeting in 1904 with five members present, Wor. Bro. Barentzen was elected with three votes and the same five members were present. He had eleven initiations, which was more than in the previous seven years. This had to please Wor. Bro. Barentzen for previously in 1894 he was illegally installed as Master and was removed on the last day of his term. But that is another story.

The Great Fire of 1831 probably destroyed most of the Harmonic Lodge records dating back to 1818. The 1916 hurricane destroyed some and termites got in their licks. At the time of the 1916 hurricane, Harmonic had on its rolls as a tyler and/or serving brother, Sam Dunbavin, a carpenter by trade. The Lodge suffered great damage and Bro. Sam went to work immediately, restoring the roof. After 1917 when the U.S. Navy occupied the Virgin Islands, several enlisted men that were Masons, came to the rescue and put in the ceiling in the Temple and the banquet hall. One of the Craftsmen was Bro. William S. McGrath, brother-in-law of Wor. Bro. Desir M. Monsanto.

From the date of the transfer until the Navy left the Virgin Islands in the 1930s, many Navy men who were masons affiliated and many joined Harmonic Lodge. It was a great loss to Harmonic when the Brethren had to leave. In 1932, Harmonic was presented with a Bible from the Marine Brethren of the Military Lodge at Cherry Point, North Carolina. This bible was stolen shortly before the fire of 1980.

On February 1st, 1928 an emergency meeting was held at Harmonic Lodge to confer honorary membership to Bro. Col. Charles A. Lindberg. At 11:15 a.m., Bro. Lindberg was escorted to the Lodge by Past Masters Wor. Bro. John N. Lightbourn, Wor . Bro. Dr. Knud Knud-Hansen, and Bro. W.O. Simmons. The Master addressed the distinguished guest, presented him with the speech and a souvenir which was a silver trowel with a gold handle, suitably inscribed. Bro. Lindberg thanked the Brethren.

Charles A. Lindbergh was a Mason. He visited St. Thomas with the “Spirit of St. Louis” when returning to the United States after his Latin America Goodwill tour through Central America to Panama, then surveyed the rout up the chain of islands back to Miami for Pan American. He landed at Mosquito Bay on January 31, 1928, and spent several days here. The “Spirit of St. Louis: hangs in the Smithsonian Museum in Washington. The flags of all the countries he visited are painted on the engine cowl. The U.S. Virgin Islands flag is among them. Lindbergh was made an h honorary member of Harmonic Lodge on on February 1, 1928 and is captured in this photo. From Left: Zenda Paiewonsky, Engle L. Simmons, PM, Charles A. Lindbergh, unknown, Dr. Knud Hansen, PM, Morris F. DeCastro PM and Bro. Carl A. Anduze.

During the 1930s Harmonic prospered and the excellent work continued. Outstanding Masters were Wor. Bro. Jacob Robles, Wor. Bro. Orville Kean, Wor. Bro. Edwin L.M. Monsanto, Wor. Bro. Dr. Knud-Hansen, and Wor. Bro. Morris DeCastro.

In the 1940s the world was again engaged in a World War. The United States Navy returned and once again Harmonic was filled with visitors and requests for membership. These were not happy times, however, the toasts (to the casualties of war) in the Banquet Hall were loud and clear.
In 1950 there appeared to be some confusion over the returns to the Grand Lodge of England. The Treasurer decided to give up the position after serving for twenty-three years. The new Treasurer whether from laxness or lack of knowledge as to the procedures, failed to make the necessary remittances. Wor. Bro. Nat Wells stated that there was a threat of ‘Erasure’ from the Grand Lodge of England, and when he was elected in 1950 he asked Bro. Bill Bailey to be his Treasurer. The Brethren elected Bro. Bailey and between those 2 brothers our records were straightened out and the necessary monies sent to England.
During the 1960s the Grand Lodge of Michigan visited every year on a Caribbean cruise. It was Wor. Bro. Nat Well’s idea that we do our three degrees for them and ask if they would do the same. For six years we did our work and they did theirs. I (editor’s note: John D.M. Woods, PDSGW) was honored by the Grand Master of Michigan for “exceptional service to the Craft”, During these years we celebrated our one hundred and fiftieth anniversary which is described in another article in this booklet.

The 1970s were very productive for Harmonic Lodge. Quite a few new members were made and this generated a lot of interest in the Craft in general and Harmonic in particular. Although there were over one hundred meetings, there was nothing earth-shattering.

1980 started with a BANG! For over a year vandals had been breaking into the Lodge and ransacking it. All of our valuables were stolen, including the Bible, and seventy-six place settings of silver, which had been given to the Lodge by the Paiewonsky family in memory of their father, Isaac Paiewonsky. On January 3rd, 1980 through the carelessness of a burglar, our building was set on fire. Wor. Bro. Albert George had just come out of the Chair and being a contractor he was pressed into service and work to rebuild commenced immediately. The Lodge met in the Banquet Hall (downstairs) for some months and moved into the partially completed Temple to consecrate ‘St.Ursula’s Lodge No.8952 on August 18th, 1980.

The money to re-build came from all over, Masons and non-Masons, and the building was finally finished in January of 1981. Worthwhile mentioning is that Wor. Bro. Albert George never sent us a bill and we always had to ask what we owed. I won’t mention how long it took him to get paid. Bro. J. Sternberg rebuilt the pedestal area, the two columns by the door and several old chairs.

During Wor. Bro. Gerald Raasch’s terms in office, the Lodge was broken into again. He then decided to block off all windows and doors that were easy to reach. Iron doors were made for the two entrances and grill-work was put on some of the windows.

In 1989, Harmonic Lodge No.356 E.C. was placed under the jurisdiction of the District Grand Lodge of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. Just a few months later in September, we were devastated by Hurricane Hugo which did quite a bit of damage to the property. Unlike the fire of 1980 when we only had $25,000 of insurance, this time we had sufficient funds to restore the Temple and Banquet Hall. Wor. Bro. Leroy Marchena did a superb job and today we can safely say we have one of the most beautiful Temples in the Caribbean. The beautiful columns donated by Wor. Bro. Levette Ruan were finally put in place and the work on the Temple and Banquet Hall were completed by November, 1992. This was just in time for the installation ceremony and meeting of the District Grand Lodge of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean. The restoration work did not actually take three years because we did not receive the insurance money until the middle of 1992. At the District Grand Lodge meeting in November, Wor. Bro. Rhys S. Hodge was installed as ADGM. In 1993 he was awarded PAGDC.

On August 2nd,1871 the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of England issued a Charter to the Companions living on St.Thomas in the name of ‘Zetland Chapter No.356’. The first recorded meeting was on February 14th, 1872. The First Principal was E.C. Daniel Pretto who had been exalted in ‘Albion Chapter No. 236’ in Barbados and had just passed through the Chairs. At the December meeting, due to the illness of E.C. Pretto, E.C. Bull officiated and proceeded with the election of officers. Because of the continued illness of E.C. Pretto, the installation could not be held. Less than a month later, E.C. Pretto died, and since he was the only First Principal on the island there could not be any installation. Grand Chapter requested ‘Mount Lebanon No.492’ on Antigua to install E.C. Bull into the First Chair and this was done on March 3rd, 1874. In July of the same year, E.C. Bull installed the other Principals and Officers. Trough the efforts of Excellent Companions W.R. Bull, Thomas Donastorg and A.I. Sasso, they were able to keep the Chapter alive. There wasn’t much interest from the beginning and with the death of E.C. Bull in 1878, Thomas Donastorg in 1884 and A.I. Sasso in 1900, the Zetland Chapter ceased to work in 1900. In 1918 thanks to the servicemen stationed here, who were Royal Arch Masons, together with old members of Zetland, the Chapter was re-activated. All of the credit for this must go to E.C. Dr. Knud Hansen and E.C. John N. Lightbourn. Although in the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s some meetings were cancelled, Zetland Chapter today is very strong. This is mainly through the efforts of Excellent Companions Macon Berryman, Anath Jackson and Albert Commissiong. No one, however, has done more for the Chapter in its one hundred and twenty-two years than Companion Harvey Henne.

For a short time there was a Mark Master Lodge attached to Harmonic, ‘Albert Edward Lodge No.347’. Very little interest was shown in this Lodge and in 1899, just fourteen years later, it ceased to operate. There was also a Lodge of Instruction attached to Harmonic in 1889. Because of lack of interest it lasted only a very short time.

In 1966, Bro. Ralph O’Neal and Bro. Cyril Romney from Tortola were made at Harmonic. Early in 1975 we were visited by two Brethren from Tortola who were made in England and were living on the island. At the end of the meeting I (editors note: Wor. Bro. John D.M. Woods) spoke to them about starting a Lodge in Tortola. In 1980, with sufficient Masons on Tortola, they asked Harmonic to be their sponsor. This was approved on St.George’s night and they immediately sent their application for the Charter to England. A short time after, their Charter Master died and not having an English Past Master on the island, they decided to ask someone from Harmonic to be their Charter Master. If an English Lodge had not been that close, I’m sure that a dispensation would have been granted to install Wor. Bro. Gray or Wor. Bro. Roy. I, however was recommended as Master and was installed on the evening of the Lodge’s consecration, August 18th, 1980. The story of will be told someday by Wor. Bro. Gilbert Bodley.

In 1985 Masons living on Anguilla discussed with Wor. Bro. Raasch the possibility of Harmonic sponsoring their request for a Charter. We were very happy to do this and on November 8th, 1985 a large group of Masons from Harmonic, headed by our Wor. Master Cyril Harrigan, attended the consecration of ‘Unity Lodge No.9166 E.C.’. The consecration was performed by Rt. Wor. Bro. Dr. Cooper, District Grand Master of the District Grand Lodge of Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

No history of ‘Caribbean Light Lodge No.101’ can be written without mentioning the name of Alberic Lightbourn who made most of the Charter Members in his Lodge ‘Obreros Del Progresso’ in Fajardo and Wor. Bro. Robert DeFreitas, both members of Harmonic.

We at Harmonic would like to believe that through our sponsorship, the Grand Orient of France issued a Charter to Lodge ‘Les Coeurs Sinceres No.141’. France however would have issued the Charter without our sponsorship as St.Thomas did not have Grand Jurisdictional Control.

The early history of Harmonic Lodge No.356 E.C. is very interesting

and was beautifully recorded in a handwritten book

by Wor. Bro. John N. Lightbourn in 1918.

He thought of the idea just after his first term as Master in 1892,

and over the next twenty-six years he wrote to everyone

who was ever connected with the Lodge,

to secure whatever pieces of information

from the library of the Grand Lodge of England.

As Harmonic approaches its one hundred and seventy-fifth anniversar,

it is as strong as it was in the nineteenth century, the twentieth century

and we hope it will carry this strength

through the twenty-first century.

The information for this article came from “A Contribution To The History Of Freemasonry In The Danish West Indies”   by Bro. John Rasmussen;  A Century of Harmonic 356 E.C. by Wor. Bro. John N. Lightbourn, and the minutes of Harmonic Lodge.