By Ed Pierce
Every day drivers traveling on River Road in Windham pass by a large brick building not realizing the history and tradition associated with the structure. To be precise, 964 River Road has been the home of the Presumpscot Lodge 70, the local gathering spot for Freemasons in the area since it was constructed and dedicated in 1970.
The history of the Windham Masonic Lodge dates back 156 years and as Maine celebrated its bicentennial this year, masonry joined in the observance as it can trace its roots in Maine back to 1820 as well. Often misunderstood as a “secret society,” masonry is an international fraternity that Benjamin Franklin, a mason himself, once said “had no secrets.”
to Jim Ross, Presumpscot Lodge secretary, Windham’s Masonic history coincides
with the rise of the community of Windham.
The Presumpscot Lodge at 964 River Road has
has been the local gathering spot for Freemasons
since it was first constructed and dedicated in
1970. A ceremony on Saturday will observe
the 50th anniversary of the building in Windham.
PHOTO BY ED PIERCE
“Organized in 1864, the first Lodge Master was John R. Rollins, and the first Lodge building was located at Windham Hill,” Ross said. “The lodge takes its name after the Presumpscot River when that river played a prominent part in the town’s early formation.”
Ross said that in 1887 the original Masonic building was dismantled and reconstructed by John R. Rollins, a local carpenter and businessman, at a location near what is now the Vacuum Doctor building at 725 Roosevelt Trail in Windham.
“The Lodge remained at that location until 1970 when its new Lodge building at its current location at 964 River Road was constructed,” he said.
In 2009 the Presumpscot Lodge was consolidated with Standish Lodge of Masons, who were in a very old building requiring needed repairs which were cost prohibitive to that membership.
“The Windham Masons happily accepted their neighbors at the Windham location and a new Lodge was essentially born while maintaining the name of Presumpscot,” Ross said.
Masonry in Maine dates back even further. In 1762, the Provincial Grand Lodge of the Grand Lodge of England (now the United Grand Lodge of England) issued a charter to form a Lodge in Falmouth, which eventually became Portland, at the request of several Masons living in the area.
In 1819, the people of Maine voted to withdraw from Massachusetts and form a separate state. There were 31 Maine Lodges at the time, active and thriving, who then met in convention and voted to follow suit and form their own Grand Lodge when the separation took place, Ross said.
“When Maine joined the Union as the 23rd state on March 15, 1820 and the Grand Lodge of Maine came into being on June 1 following,” he said. “It was consecrated by the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire on June 24, 1820 with William King, the first (and serving) Governor of Maine installed into the office of Grand Master.”
Windham’s Presumpscot Lodge’s membership in 2020 stands at 233 and its organizational structure consists of a Lodge Master who is the presiding head of the Lodge, a Senior Warden and Junior Warden who are the second and third officers respectively in charge along with a Secretary and a Treasurer. All five officers are elected by the membership at its annual meeting in December every year and hold one-year terms.
Remaining lodge officers include two Deacons, two Stewards, a Chaplain, a Marshal, and a Tyler (also known as a sentinel) and are appointed by the Lodge Master, Ross said.
Helping to celebrate the lodge building’s 50th anniversary and rededication Saturday will be the Lodge Master, Mark G. Rosenhek of Raymond.
“I like being a part of a borderless, international fraternity whose members are accepting of varied opinions and beliefs,” Rosenhek said. “I find Masonry’s association with Colonial America and our member Founding Fathers, meaningful. As the Worshipful Master of Presumpscot Lodge, I most enjoy sharing our ritual with, and welcoming new members into our Fraternity.”
Ross said that Windham’s Masonic Lodge is made up of men who share similar values for their own well-being, and for the overall health and welfare of the inhabitants of their community.
“Masons contribute time and resources to charity. They participate in many outreach programs designed to better their community,” Ross said. “Many of these endeavors are performed on an individual level while the Lodge may organize to support a chosen endeavor in town that is important to its members”
He said that when a man asks to join a Masonic Lodge, he enters into an opportunity for personal development, character building, and the acquisition of leadership capacities.
“Through his Masonic journey and his association which his brethren provide, a Mason learns the skill and finds the understanding with which he can enhance his community and strengthen his family,” Ross said.
Former Maine Sate Representative Tom Tyler, a lifelong resident of Windham, said being a Mason has been a meaningful part of his life and he enjoys the camaraderie he finds at the lodge.
“For me becoming a mason was to join a fraternity of men who had a common bond of responsibility and dedication to charity,” Tyler said. “Everyone knows of the Shriners, a part of Masonry, however what I found was so much more. As we say to men interested in joining the Masons you will be ‘Not just a Man, A Mason.’ For me it is the fellowship, working with men from all walks of life for common goals,” Tyler said.
Ross said that while the moral philosophy of Freemasonry is founded upon religious principles, it is neither a religion nor a substitute for one.
“It does not solicit membership but welcomes men who have good morals and who profess a belief in a Supreme Being,” he said. “Any man sincerely desirous of serving humanity needs only to ask a member in order to receive a petition for membership.” <