St. John's Lodge, Portsmouth, New Hampshire

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Coordinates: 43°04′35″N 70°45′15″W / 43.07639°N 70.75417°W / 43.07639; -70.75417

Current meeting hall of St. John's Lodge

St. John's Lodge in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, United States, is the first Masonic lodge in New Hampshire[1] and was one of two founding lodges of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire.[2] It was founded either in 1734[3] or in 1736[4] and claims to be the oldest continuously operating Masonic lodge in the Americas,[5] a title also claimed by Solomon's Lodge in Savannah, Georgia, which was founded in 1734.[6][7]


In 1735, six freemasons, who claimed to be of the "Holy and exquisite Lodge of St. John," applied to the Grand Master of the Society of Free and Accepted Masons in Boston to be authorized as a lodge. In their application, dated to both February 5, 1736 and June 25, 1735, they claimed that they had a constitution formed, and it was believed that the petition was granted soon after.[8] According to the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire, "Robert Tomlinson, by virtue of a deputation from the Earl of Loundon, Grand Master of Masons in England, did. in the year 1736, erect and constitute a regular lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, by the name of St. John's Lodge."[9] Although the exact date of when the lodge was established is unknown, it is certain that it existed since 1736.[4]

They would be the only lodge in New Hampshire until March 20, 1762, when the Grand Lodge of St. John's allowed for Portsmouth to have a second lodge, St. Patrick's, which was not acted upon until March 30, 1763. When St. Patrick's Lodge discontinued in 1790, its remaining members merged with the St. John's Lodge.[10]

In 1789, representatives of five lodges, including St John's, gathered at Portsmouth and resolved, "That there be a Grand Lodge established in the State of New Hampshire, upon principles consistent with and subordinate to the General Regulations and Ancient Constitutions of Free- masonry."[9] Soon after, the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire was formed and was finalized on April 8, 1790. Until that time, St. John's was under the Massachusetts Grand Lodge and applied for a transfer to the New Hampshire lodge on April 28, 1790. During the meetings determining the foundation of the New Hampshire Grand Lodge, only a representative from St John's Lodge was present at each.[11]

Prominent members[edit]

Prominent members have included:

In addition twelve members of the lodge have been mayor of Portsmouth.[15]


St John’s Lodge regularly supports charities and community events such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts, and Toys for Tots, along with several academic acholarships.[16] The lodge also manages and sponsors the annual Out of Hibernation 5K road race which takes place every April in Portsmouth, on a Saturday. Proceeds from this road race are donated to various charities such as the Wounded Warrior Project and the Seacoast Family Food Pantry.[17]


  1. ^ page 6, History of Masonry in North America from 1730 to 1800 by Henry Whittemore, republished by Kessinger Publishing, 2003, ISBN 0-7661-5438-6, ISBN 978-0-7661-5438-4
  2. ^ The William Pitt Tavern, from the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire's webpage
  3. ^ "Freemasonry was introduced into New Hampshire, in June 1734, by the constitution of St. John's lodge at Portsmouth" Entry for New Hampshire, page 599, Albert G Mackey, Encyclopedia of Freemasonry
  4. ^ a b Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies, by J. Hugo Tatsch Republished by Kessinger Publishing, 1995, ISBN 1-56459-595-1 p. 193
  5. ^ St. John's lodge home page
  6. ^ America's Oldest Continuously Operating Masonic Lodge" Home Page of Solomon's Lodge
  7. ^ Mark Talbert, "American Freemasons", New York University Press, p.34,[need quotation to verify]
  8. ^ Hughan, William and Stillson, Henry. History of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, New York: The Fraternity publishing company, 1890. p. 230
  9. ^ a b Hughan and Stillson 1890. p. 231
  10. ^ Hughan and Stillson 1890. pp. 227–228, 231
  11. ^ Hughan and Stillson 1890 p. 232
  12. ^ Anti-masonry Frequently Asked Questions
  13. ^ George Washington's Generals & Freemasonry, Paul Bessel
  14. ^ In Portsmouth was old "St. John's Lodge No. 1" of Free Masons. The leading men of the town were members of that sturdy body, and the young physician of rural Nottingham wished to learn the mysteries of Freemasonry. He received the first and second degrees March 3, 1774 (in company with Maj. Andrew McClary, who was killed by a cannon ball at Bunker Hill). A Sturdy Oak of New England Life, The Granite Monthly, October 1903, Volume XXXV - Number 4 - Page 182, by Gilbert Patten Brown
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p A Synoptic history of St. John's lodge
  16. ^ "St John's Lodge FAQ". Retrieved 26 March 2012. 
  17. ^ Silverman, Daniel. "Out of Hibernation 5K". Retrieved 26 March 2012.