By Michael Jarzabek
This was read at the reception of Michael Jarzabek as Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts. In addition to my reception it was the 200th Anniversary of the Hampden Lodge charter under which Brigham Lodge currently operates.
The birth of our nation is tied to the history of Freemasonry and Freemasons in Springfield.
The genesis of this might have been when Henry Knox traveled through the area on his legendary journey.
Some time after delivering the cannons to Dorchester Heights Knox gave General Washington a recommendation to establish an Arsenal at Springfield for the Continental Army which would later come to be known as the Springfield Armory.
In 1787, a group of thousands of Revolutionary War veterans led by Freemason Daniel Shays, attacked the Armory. “Shays was a farmhand from Massachusetts when the Revolution broke out; he joined the Continental Army , saw action at the Battles of Lexington and Concord , Bunker Hill and Saratoga, and was eventually wounded in action. In 1780, he resigned from the army unpaid and went home to find himself in court for nonpayment of debts. He soon realized that he was not alone in his inability to pay his debts and began organizing for debt relief.”
While their rebellion may have failed in it’s intended consequence it was still successful in other ways. It showed the architects of our system of government the dangers of a weak federal government.
With this knowledge they organized a Constitutional Convention that year that would replace the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution. It even caused George Washington to come out of retirement to serve as the first President of our United States.
During the first few years the Armory produced very little in the ways of weaponry. It was more of a storage facility. In 1795, however, the Springfield Armory produced the first US Government musket.
Our specific history begins in 1815 when Colonel Roswell Lee was hired as
Superintendent of the Armory. He was tasked with making the dream of interchangeable parts a reality.
Col. Lee brought practices to the armory which were the spark that ignited the second industrial revolution. He centralized authority, developed accounting methods to track time, materials, and payroll, and most importantly brought a level of discipline to the process of weapons manufacture that was unheard of.
Lee achieved his task, however, when in 1819, Thomas Blanchard invented the repeating lathe which was the first tool to allow the consistent mass production of interchangeable parts.
These and other innovations developed at the Armory enabled an improved method of manufacture in various unrelated industries such as clock making and textiles.
The Springfield Armory was the birthplace of mass production and served as a “Forge for Innovation” for our young nation for over 150 years.
But this isn’t why we speak of Col. Lee today. We are here today because in addition to all of his other contributions Brother Roswell Lee, who served as Master of Day Spring Lodge No. 30 in Hampden, Connecticut in 1813 and 1814 was responsible for formally bringing Freemasonry to Springfield.
Mechanics or skilled tradesman weren’t welcome to participate in the social life of the City of Springfield. They weren’t allowed to attend church or send their children to school. There also wasn’t much room for advancement within society. Roswell Lee, who was previous to being hired at the Armory was employed as a mechanic at the shop of Eli Whitney, set out to change that.
He developed a series of initiatives that would make the good men that he employed better.
He reached out to the District Deputy Grand Master for the North Central 7, Rev Brother Titus Strong, who helped him establish an Episcopalian church on the Armory grounds.
He also opened a school on the grounds where not only were children taught but the workers were allowed to attend part-time as well.
Furthermore, he created a system of internal career ladders where skilled mechanics could be promoted to shop foreman, inspector, Assistant Master Armorer, and Master Armorer. Not only that but the Master Armorer would stand in for the the Superintendent when he was absent.
Additionally, he ran an outplacement service for former employees where they could bring their talents to other employers not only in the weapon manufacturing business but many other kinds of manufacturing where their skills were in high demand.
Most importantly, on September 9, 1816, he led a group of twenty-five brethren in petitioning Grand Lodge at the Quarterly Communication for a charter.
201 years ago today, on March 10, 1817, that petition was granted. Our charter was signed by Most Worshipful Francis J. Oliver on March 11, 1817, making today the 365th or last day of our 200th year.
Of the 14 names on the charter at least 11 are associated with the Armory.
He Roswell Lee created an upward mobility that was unheard of at the time. He created opportunity for these “mechanics” to be accepted as useful members of civil society, and that they did.
Freemasonry was a vital part of that mobility and Daniel Reynolds was one of those “mechanics”.
He came to Springfield in 1821 to become a blacksmith’s apprentice. He was soon after employed at the Armory where he climbed the aforementioned ladder to the position of government inspector.
In 1825, he petitioned Hampden Lodge and was accepted. In 1852, he was elected as the thirteenth Master of the Lodge. He served again in this capacity in 1854. In 1857, he was appointed District Deputy Grand Master of District 9 by Most Worshipful John T. Heard. He was the fourth Hampden Lodge brother to become DDGM. He served in this position for four years.
In 1863, he became the first permanent member of the Charter when he was elected Junior Grand Warden in Most Worshipful William Parkman’s first year. In the next hundred and fifty four years of the charter he would be followed by sixteen men in the position of DDGM, two of which went on to become Deputy Grand Masters and three of which became Junior Grand Wardens.
Two of those men are with us today. One is Right Worshipful John J. Papianou who is currently our DDGM in the 28th District. The other is the honoree of today’s festivities, Right Worshipful Michael J. Jarzabek who served as DDGM in 2014-2015 and is currently serving as our Junior Grand Warden. Both of these men would be considered “mechanics” by profession and are indeed indebted in no small part to Col. Roswell Lee for the opportunity they have to serve the Grand Lodge.
We can only hope that on this the 200th Anniversary of the charter that he petitioned for that he is looking down with pride.
Today Brigham Lodge operating under the Hampden charter is truly a living representation of Masonic Virtue, “One sacred band, or society of friends and brothers, among whom no contention should ever exist but that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work, and best agree.”
I’d like to propose a toast to Col. Roswell Lee and the Lodge that he created. May it continue as the transformative force that it has been in the life of the men of the Pioneer Valley for another 200 years.
 Zinn, Howard (2005). A People’s History of the United States. New York: HarperCollins. ISBN 978-0-06-083865-2 . OCLC 61265580 .