Candlelight Degree

By Michael Jarzabek

In July of 2013 Michael Jarzabek was invited to contribute the following article to Living Stones Magazine.


Candlelight Degree


Brigham Lodge is situated in Ludlow, Massachusetts, an idyllic small town next to a big city. Through this small town, like many in New England, runs a slow ambling river. 


As industrious men are apt to do, some harnessed the power of nature to work for them. Several men came to Ludlow and built mills near the river. A few of these men, who happened to be Brothers, petitioned their Grand Lodge for dispensation to start a new Lodge. Their petition being granted, in 1892, Brigham Lodge was born.


Twenty-five years later, the mills and the Lodge were thriving. Both benefitted from an influx of Scottish immigrants. Machinists and carpenters joined the farmers and businessmen that already composed the Lodge giving it a blue-collar membership that continues today.


If one reads the minutes of Brigham Lodge from 1917 they will find it a reflection of the world as a whole. Votes were taken to hire only union printers to produce the calendar. Votes were also taken to remit the $3 dues of any man called to serve under the “Colours of the Republic”.  These, however, are not the stories I wish to tell today. 


The story I tell today is not in the minutes. Its transmission must have been verbal. It must have been passed down from old Past Masters’ tongues to young Masters ears and lodged in the faithful repository of faithful breasts. In 1967, at the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Lodge, Worshipful Brother Earl N. Shepard gave an address on Brigham Lodge’s history. A booklet was produced of this address called “The First Step”. As far as I know this is the only written form of our tale. 


According to the address, shortly after its inception, Brigham Lodge leased a building from the local mill association. Although the Lodge shared the building with several civic and religious groups the second floor was for their use exclusively. 


In 1917, the mill association needed the land on which this building sat. The association, likely ran by Lodge members, made Brigham an offer. If the Lodge would move the building to a new location, on property donated by the mills, they could have the building. The Lodge accepted the offer and got to work. 


A building association was formed and tasked with moving the Lodge. The lodge hall was taken off itsfoundation and using the technology of the time, most likely wooden rollers and teams of horses, moved to a new home less than a block away.


Although we all know that in the years previous to “our” initiation into the Craft mistakes were never made, our ambitious Brethren ran into a problem.  The move took longer than expected. On the night of a scheduled degree the Lodge still was not in place on its new foundation. In fact, the Lodge sat in the middle of the street on rollers. Our Brethren, being the crafty group of Scots that they were, didn’t let that stop them. They hiked up their kilts, took a slug of whisky from their sporran and came up with a plan. They decided to confer the degree, in the building resting on rolling logs, in the middle of the street, by candlelight. What a sight it must have been to see the Brothers in their fine dress, armed with candles against the dark, climbing planks from the street through the front door to hold a degree.


We would do well to remember this tale. Next time we meet a challenge we should hike up our kilts, take a slug from our sporrans and walk the plank, candles in hand.