Back in early June, Cindy “Heald” Murch made a very generous donation to the Chester Historical Society. Included in her donation was Amos Heald’s Masonic jewel. Heald’s jewel is hand engraved silver with original silk ribbon.
The Masons have had a presence in Chester since 1797 with the exception of about 30 years. This is a complex history with very few records existing today. The first Lodge in Chester was established in October, 1797 and known as Olive Branch Lodge #11.
Olive Branch #11 was a thriving Lodge until the Anti-Masonic movement of 1826. This movement led to the establishment of the “Anti-Masonic Party” in 1828. It was such a powerful Party that it forced the closing of many Masonic Lodges in this country including Olive Branch #11. Much could be written on this subject alone.
In 1834 Olive Branch Lodge #11 surrendered its Charter and ceased operation. No records of #11 exist today but it is said that these records were hidden in a safe place. As of 2016 they have not been found. It is possible they remain hidden away in an attic in Chester or other area town. As many know I am the Historian at Olive Branch Lodge #64 so I have access to the few extant records of #11.
Amos Heald’s jewel sent me on a journey to see what I could learn about his jewel. At the top front of his jewel it reads: “Amos Heald Initiated October 12, 1796.”
While Amos was living in Chester in 1796, Chester didn’t have a Lodge until 1797. The nearest Lodge to Chester in 1796 was Vermont Lodge #1 in Windsor. Below is a brief history of Vermont Lodge #1.
In 1778 the Legislature of Vermont received a petition from 16 bordering towns in New Hampshire to be admitted into Vermont. One of those towns was Charlestown, New Hampshire. Eight of these towns remained under the control of Vermont until 1782.
Vermont Lodge #1 was formed in 1781 and held its first meeting at Abel Walker’s Inn at Charlestown, November 4, 1781 with John Barrett as Master. In 1787 it was decided that Vermont Lodge #1 meetings should be held in Vermont. As a result, Vermont Lodge #1 moved to Springfield that year. In 1795 Vermont Lodge #1 moved to Windsor. So I conclude Amos Heald’s date of initiation of 1796 had to have taken place in Windsor.
In Masonry, there are three degrees, the third degree, as high as you can go. I am a Third Degree Mason but if I wanted to go higher, I would have two avenues. Those would be either York Rite or Scottish Rite. There are 32 degrees in York Rite and 33 degrees in Scottish Rite. In each degree the candidate will learn more Masonic secrets. Amos’s jewel has symbols that I don’t know so I called Bruce Howard in Rutland who is in the York Rite.
Bruce told me Amos’s jewel is fourth degree York Rite and known as Degree of Mark Master. You’ll notice the reverse of Amos’s jewel reads: “Amos Heald Rec’d the Degree of Mark Master, May 29th, 5815” which on the Masonic calendar represents 1815.
Utilizing records at Olive Branch Lodge #64, I discovered Chester had what was known as “Rising Sun Mark Lodge #10.” This Lodge was formed on June 1, 1814 and ceased May 28, 1817, so it was a short lived Chapter. Heald’s jewel is the only known artifact from that Chapter.
Rising Sun merged with “Washington Royal Arch Chapter #9” also in Chester. Royal Arch was formed June 26, 1816 and lasted 12 years before surrendering its charter. Amos Heald was secretary.
Today we have Olive Branch Lodge #64 of which I am a member. Olive Branch #64 records are mostly complete. I am always searching for Masonic history, especially from Olive Branch #11. If you should find any early documents you don’t understand I would appreciate the opportunity to examine them. All history for this article came from Olive Branch #64 documents.
Don’t forget the Chester Historical Society annual yard sale this Saturday and Sunday, July 9th & 10th at 9 a.m. We have many household items and antiques. Antiques include a large, ornate brass chandelier from the Bellows Falls Opera House, a great pair of Indian snowshoes and a large assortment of Kay Young paintings. Other items: air-conditioner, CD’s, furniture, glass & china and much more.
This week’s old saying was a bumper sticker I saw years ago. “I may be slow but I’m ahead of you.”