Exhibit reveals area's Masonic connections

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This Master’s chair built by Colonial cabinetmaker and Freemason Benjamin Bucktrout was once used by Unanimity Lodge No. 7 in Edenton.

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By Anna Goodwin McCarthy

Sunday, March 10, 2019

There will be many artifacts on display at the Museum of the Albemarle’s Blue Lodges of the Albemarle exhibit, but perhaps the most riveting item for historians and visitors is a replica of a chair.

What is so significant about this chair is that it is believed that George Washington may have sat in the original when he was a Freemason.

The original Bucktrout Masonic Chair was once the property of the Unanimity #7 lodge in Edenton, and it is now currently located in Colonial Williamsburg, according to Paul Vincent, Museum of the Albemarle collections assistant.

Vincent said Unanimity #7 commissioned a replica of the chair which is kept at the lodge in Edenton. The reproduction of the chair will be on display at the MOA during the Blue Lodges of the Albemarle exhibit from March 16 until the end of 2019.

An Americana curatorial intern in Colonial Williamsburg, Rachel Asbury Cole, will present “A Rare and Dignified Survival: A Closer Look at the Bucktrout Masonic Chair” at the opening of the MOA exhibit.

Along with the reproduction of the Bucktrout Masonic Chair, there will be artifacts from all eight lodges in the first district located in Northeastern North Carolina: Currituck #463, Eureka #317, Gatesville #126, Hall #53, New Lebanon #314, Perquimans #106, Unanimity #7 and Widow’s Son #75.

Charity #5 and American George #17 will also be loaning artifacts from their lodges in the fifth district.

Vincent curated the exhibit and acquired the artifacts from the lodges. As a member of Revolution #552 Masonic Lodge when he lived in Greensboro, N.C., the exhibit is especially meaningful to Vincent. Vincent said he also recently became a member of Widow’s Son #75 Masonic Lodge in Camden, which will be celebrating its 200th Anniversary next year.

Part of what drew Vincent to become a member is the history of the organization.

“I am a historian,” said Vincent. “It ties in with the history of America.”

Vincent said the historical aspect of the organization is reflected in the exhibit’s artifacts which include a leather Masonic apron, a secretary’s bag and ledgers of minutes. More recent artifacts include fundraising posters and t-shirts.

“Freemasonry was essentially carried over from England,” said Vincent.

“Freemasonry is the world’s oldest and largest non-religious, non-political, fraternal and charitable organization,” according to the Grand Lodge of North Carolina’s website at https://www.grandlodge-nc.org/about-freemasonry/freemasonry-today.

While Vincent was interested in the historical aspects of Freemasonry, another motivating factor for becoming a member was the Masonic Lodges’ charitable works in the community.

“The charity work is a focus of the exhibit itself,” said Vincent.

Ben Roberts Jr., district deputy grand master for the first Masonic district, said the lodges in North Carolina support three Masonic charities: the Masonic Home for Children at Oxford, Whitestone (a senior living community) and the North Carolina Masonic and Eastern Star Outreach Program.

In addition to the Masonic charities, Roberts said lodges support local charitable organizations.

“We do a lot to support our local communities,” said Roberts.

There are many examples of the charitable work the Masons have done in the community.

Roberts said the local lodges purchased 200 books from the book fair at an elementary school in Currituck which benefited the school, and they gave the books they purchased to the Masonic Home for Children at Oxford. Roberts said lodges have raised funds for The Benjamin House, and they volunteer at the Food Bank of the Albemarle.

“It makes you feel good that you are helping out in the community,” said Roberts. “Helping out is what we are about.”

Roberts said there are more than 660 Masons in the first district.

“We do not seek out members,” said Roberts. “To be one, ask one.”

Roberts joined the Masons in 2009. His father, Ben Roberts, is a 50-year member of the Masons.

A member of Hall #53 in Shawboro, Roberts said both his father and grandfather were members of the lodge.

“It is a lodge my family has been a member of for years,” said Roberts.

Roberts fondly recalls when he was younger his mother preparing extra fried chicken and chocolate cake on the nights his father would attend meetings.

It is a tradition that continues to this day for members of the lodge in Shawboro to bring a covered dish to the meetings.

“Our lodge has a fellowship meal before the meeting,” said Roberts.

One of the best aspects of being a member is being able to share the experience with his father.

“When I travel to lodges he will ride along with me,” said Roberts. “He is an active member.”

Roberts said he plans to be present at the opening of the exhibit at the MOA.

“We are hoping to have members from the lodges present,” said Roberts.

“We try to do good things in our community,” said Roberts.

For more information about the Blue Lodges of the Albemarle exhibit, visit the Museum of the Albemarle website at https://museumofthealbemarle.com/. The exhibit opening is March 16 at 10 a.m.