By Right Worshipful Brother Paul C. Smith
Grand Education Officer and Founding Master & Secretary, General Court Lodge No. 1784
General Court Lodge is a New Hampshire Lodge that is unique among Masonic Lodges in the United States.
First, what is the General Court? In 1784 when New Hampshire adopted its current constitution, the title of the legislative branch was styled the “General Court,” consisting of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. The history of the General Court, however, goes back to the 1680s when we had a provincial legislature.
Due to the nature of our legislature, it being essentially a volunteer body, its membership has included many men of distinction over the last few hundred years. When such men are present, it is likely you will find Freemasons among their ranks. This is no less true in New Hampshire’s General Court.
In 2006, Masons who served in both the House, Senate, and the staff gathered for dinner to discuss the formation of a special (Affinity) Lodge where they could meet during the busy legislative session. The term “Affinity Lodge” is not widely used in the United States. Masons with a similar occupation have formed Affinity Lodges: i.e., a firefighter’s or policemen’s lodge. In the UK there is even a lodge for members of Parliament! So too was the impetus for the forming of General Court Lodge.
The Lodge would meet from January through June of each year (during the legislative session), be a special lodge (meaning we could not make Masons), and serve as a true lodge of fellowship for Masons who were members of the House, Senate, or staff of the General Court. We were granted an initial five-year charter at the semi-annual communication of the Grand Lodge of New Hampshire in November 2006 and our officers were installed in December.
At the concluding meeting in June 2007 of the first year, we held the annual meeting in Representatives Hall in the State House: the oldest continually used legislative chamber in the United States. Most Worshipful Brother Robert Hatfield was received along with many Grand Lodge officers and visitors from as far away as Florida. There were over 80 Masons present for the event.
In 2009, General Court Lodge held a Table Lodge at the Concord Temple which attracted over 60 Masons, including members of General Court Lodge and former Congressman Charles Bass.
2011 saw our fifth year as a lodge and with it the petitioning of a permanent charter. Our June meeting saw the Lodge meeting in the State Senate chamber at the State House, with the reception of Most Worshipful Brother Paul Leary and many other visiting Brethren. In November 2011, our permanent charter was granted by vote of the Brethren assembled in Grand Lodge.
As the years have passed, some lodges around the country have met in legislative chambers, but it is still believed ours is the only one to have met in both chambers. We are still the only legislative lodge in the United States and are proud of that heritage.