Milford lodge sees mew Masonic museum as tool to educate, recruit younger members
By NANCY BEAN FOSTER Union Leader Correspondent
MILFORD — Since 1797, the Masons' Benevolent Lodge No. 7 has been part of the town's landscape, and a new museum is being established to display some of the many artifacts collected in the past 200 years.
According to Artie Dunham, historian for the lodge, there are hundreds of artifacts from both the Milford Masons and their recently incorporated brothers from Francestown that deserve to see the light of day. From two large tablets that honor the Masons who served in both World Wars, to a crystal platter celebrating Guy Blodgett, who lived to be the oldest Mason in history, there's plenty of history hiding in the attic of the Masonic Temple on Mont Vernon Street.
The Masons, a fraternal organization that Dunham said dates back to the building of King Solomon's temple in 960 A.D., first came to New England from the United Kingdom in 1717. From there, the society spread, and in 1789, New Hampshire's first "grand lodge" was established.
Today, the state's grand lodge shares the building with Lodge No. 7 in Milford, using space on the second floor to maintain the records of the Masons around the state. There is no national lodge, said Dunham. Instead, each state is responsible for organizing and establishing lodges.
"We're a 'disoriented' organization," said Dunham. "We have no central government."
But the Masons is also an aging organization, Dunham said, and efforts are afoot to bring in younger people to keep the fraternity from disappearing from communities. That's why Dunham decided to create the museum in Milford.
"We want to open our doors to the public and let them see that we're not a secret society, we're a society with secrets," he said. "The museum will allow new members to know where we came from."
On Oct. 19 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Masonic Temples throughout the state and in Massachusetts will host open houses to welcome in the public.
"We want to open our doors, clear out the cobwebs, and welcome people in," said Dunham.
It's his goal to have the museum in Milford completed by then.
"We're going to have cases full of memorabilia and stuff hanging on every wall," he said. "I plan to change the exhibits once a year or so to keep it fresh, but this room will be full."