Tradition states that Freemasonry in Rhode Island began as early as the Seventeenth Century but the first Lodge known to exist was Saint John's at Newport, warranted December 27, 1749, by Saint John's Provincial Grand Lodge of Boston, Mass. A second Warrant was issued May 14, 1753, because for some reason Caleb Phillips, the Master, witheld its Charter from the Lodge. Authorized only to confer the First and Second Degrees the new Lodge took no account of the restriction and on being questioned made out so strong a case that a Charter conferring the additional powers was granted to it.
On June 27, 1791, the day of the celebration of the Feast of Saint John the Baptist, representatives of Saint John's Lodge, Newport, and King David's Lodge of the same place, met in the State House and organized a Grand Lodge. Moses Seixas presided and installed the officers who had been elected. A service as afterwards held at Trinity Chureh and a collection of eleven pounds, nine shillings and four pence was given to purchase wood for the poor in the coming winter.
Washington Chapter of New York chartered Providence Royal Arch Chapter on September 3, 1793. this Body was among the Chapters which on March 12, 1798, met and organized a Grand Chapter of Rhode Island, which later helped to organize the General Grand Chapter and continued a member of it antil the Civil War of 1861-5. After some years ' interval it again sent representatives in 1897.
Companion Jeremy L. Cross chartered a Council in 1819 at Providence which had been established by a meeting of Royal Masters on March 28, 1818. During the Morgan excitement meetings were not held and the Council lay dormant until 1841. On October 30, 1860, a Grand Council was organized.
The first Knights Templar Body in Rhode Island was Saint John's Encampment at Providence, formed on August 23, 1802, at Masons Hall in the Board of Trade Building. It was founded by Sir Thomas Smith Webb who remained in office from 1802 until 1815. A Convention held on May 6, 1805, opened a Grand Encampment for Massschusetts and Rhode Island, which is claimed by the Massachusetts authorities to have been the first Grand Encampment in the United States. Pennsylvania, however, ataches this distinction to the Grand Encampment opened in Philadelphia in 1797, but it is thought probable that the ritual used by that Body was different from that in use in the Massachusetts Encampment.
The Charters of Solomon's Lodge of Perfection and Rhode Island Consistory, both issued in 1849, were destroyed by fire and new ones were issued on September 17, 1896, by the Supreme Council, Northen Masonic Jurisdiction, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite. On December 14, 1849, were established, also at Providence, Rhode Island Council of princes of Jerusalem and Rhode Island Chapter of Rose Croix. On the same day the Van Rensselaer lodge of Perfection was chartered at Newport.
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