Taunton, MA with presentation to "King David Lodge, June 12, 5873 (Masonic calendar for 1873), retailer's mark of Pollard & Leighton, Boston circa 1870, weight 5.78 Troy ounces, length 8 inches, excellent condition.
What is Freemasonry? The short answer is that it’s a group of good men who choose to come together with the goal of becoming better human beings and providing assistance when needed for each other and for the community at large. To be a Mason, one must believe in a supreme being, but it is a God of your own choosing, and none of your brethren will pass judgment on you for the nature of this choice. Indeed, the namesake (some would say related) King David Lodge of New York and later Providence, Rhode Island listed the famous Jewish American silversmith Meyer Myers among its members in the 1760’s and onward. The Masons were noted for inclusivity and tolerance long before these became common virtues in society at large.
But what about the women? Are they locked out of the Masonic hall, or worse yet relegated to the kitchen and not allowed to show their faces at meetings? This could not be farther from the truth. As recounted in Emery’s “History of Taunton”, “an elegant set of solid silver jewels” was presented to the officers of the lodge by Sarah King and Mrs. Curtis Guild, daughters of the last surviving Charter Member, Samuel Crocker (see photo number four) at a meeting in 1846. Indeed this very compasses, as one may read in the “Historical Sketch and Centennial Anniversary of King David Lodge” (p. 101) was presented to the officers by Miss Sarah E. Cox, the daughter of Past Master William Cox, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the Lodge’s charter in 1798. And though “a bountiful collation” was served following the ceremony, there is no mention of the Lodge ladies having cooked this feast!
While it is interesting to know when and why an object came into being, it is equally important to know how it has fared, through the ages. Why is this compasses now part of our collection, rather than the treasured property of the King David Lodge? The answer lies within Masonic tradition, which states that retiring Grand Masters who are deemed worthy should take with them the Master’s Jewels, “as the servant is worthy of his hire, so is the Past Master worthy of his jewel” (ibid, p. 107).
However, this compasses was Lodge property, and placing it back in the public domain was a business transaction which required a capital outlay. As one may read in their minutes, the King David Lodge’s Brother Godfrey was fortunate to own a wood lot, and on March 5th 1890 they resolved to sell the logging rights in order to finance this purchase. Notes from the next meeting show that “having attended to the duties assigned [us] … we have sold the wood in the Godfrey lot for the sum of thirteen hundred seventy five dollars cash”. And thus “we have bought the necessary jewels as directed and have turned over the balance of the money left from purchase to the treasury of the Lodge”. Sadly, the trail goes a bit cold from there. We do know that William Wilcox was Grand Master in 1873, and believe that the gift of Sarah Cox would have been returned to him. Exactly how this object passed from his hands into ours is a mystery which you, dear reader, may have the pleasure of contemplating while holding this compass in your own hands…