By Kate Tobiasson, Contributing Writer
Westborough – Many of America’s founding fathers were Freemasons – George Washington, Ben Franklin, Paul Revere, John Hancock were all members of the fraternity. Over one-third of the men who signed the U.S. Constitution were Freemasons, and yet the purpose of the fraternity remains opaque to many Americans.
“It is known as one of the oldest fraternities in the world,” said Ed Newton III, lifelong Westborough resident and Freemason. “It started with very humble beginnings, during the generation of Sir Isaac Newton. When stone masons were graduating throughout the steps of their craft, it was all done with a handshake – no words or language were needed to communicate. During this era, it was very hard to travel from country to country; arriving in a foreign land often resulted in death. The only exception was the stonemasons, because they were needed throughout Europe.
“The early enlightenment guys, like Sir Isaac Newton, wanted to create a society that believed in God and religion, but also promoted free thinking- in an era when that wasn’t really encouraged. They looked back at the original masons, and how they had communicated through these handshakes, and decided to utilize this same method of communication to determine fraternity through just a simple handshake.”
Freethinkers and educated men, the Freemasons of the world found their way to Westborough in its original founding. Most of these men were members of lodges in neighboring towns, until they decided to form their own branch of the fraternity in Westborough in 1866. The Forbes, Hutchinson, Harrington and Brigham families, all influential members of the town, were among those who founded Silom Lodge in Westborough.
Throughout the past 152 years, the Freemasons have been significant donors to local charities, while balancing the importance of promoting religious and enlightened discourse.
“Most of our charity is based through the Angel Fund,” Newton explained. “It is an organization in masonry who works with schools in the area to set up kids who need supplies – backpacks, pencils, coats, tutors or tuition for summer camp… The Angel Fund helps to support kids in any way that they need.”
Siloam Lodge has made significant contributions to the Boy Scouts, Fine Arts Council and Westborough schools, and have also sponsored a number of chip events in town to help with child identification. Since their founding, the fraternity quietly supported the town through gestures big and small – helping elderly members of the community when they were sick, donating to the Red Cross throughout the Great War, and offering the building for use of air raids and collaboratively investing significantly in Defense Bonds during WWII. Many members of the lodge served in the Armed Forces throughout the last 150 years, and were honored for their sacrifice.
Newton noted that today, members of the lodge join to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Newton currently is in charge of the religious aspects of meetings. From 2017-2018, he served as master of the lodge.
“This is a personal group. For me, joining this group was about self-discovery,” he said. “I wanted to learn more about charity and ethics, to become the best version of myself.”