District Deputies, a Look from 1948
by Michael L. Castroll
There seems to be an aura concerning this particular year. The boys had come home, and there were some big doings in the political arena. The “Dixiecrats” blew apart the Democratic National Convention, as MW and President Harry S Truman thwarted his opposition of Brother and Senator Strom Thurmond, and Ambassador, former Vice President, and Brother Henry A. Wallace.
The Chicago Tribune banner headline announced the victory of the Republican candidate, New York Governor and Brother Thomas E. Dewey. “Dewey Defeats Truman,” said the Trib. Only “Give ‘em Hell” Harry found something different after the smoke had cleared.
The Cold War was getting frigid. Berlin was being shut off from the world, and George Marshall had a plan. Most American-made automobiles ranged anywhere from $2800 to $4200. A brand new Rolls-Royce could be purchased for a mere $18,000. A mere 2.8% of all American marriages ended in divorce. Devotion to God, on the other hand, was expressed with a 79% participation with one’s chosen religion. Good take home pay was $120 a week. In the midst of all of that, the great Babe Ruth died in New York’s French’s Hospital.
Probably the greatest loss to Connecticut Masonry, recorded in the 1948 proceedings was that of MW Winthrop Buck, called to the Celestial Lodge on November 7, 1947. The passing of MW Buck left a void in the Grand Secretary’s office. He had commanded that office for nearly 20 years.
MW Earle K. Haling came out of mothballs to become our sixteenth Grand Secretary. He produced an in-depth history of The District Deputy System in Connecticut.
Brother Haling’s history becomes a “who’s who” of Connecticut Masonry’s past, beginning at the first attempt at formation of our Grand Lodge on April 29, 1783. A convention of delegates from the twelve existing lodges appointed Brother Jonathan Heart to be, effectively, the first Grand Lecturer. His appointment had no title. Brother Heart was serving as secretary of Connecticut’s premier military lodge, American Union Lodge. By the time Pierpont Edwards was finally chosen as our first Grand Master, Brother Heart had little time before Brother and President Washington sent him out to quell an Indian uprising at Fort Recovery in 1791, where he was killed in action.
The next attempt to correct various lodges’ ritual work occurred in 1795 with a resolution for the Grand Master or his delegate to establish a “uniformity in working.” This was without much result until 1818 and the appointment of the first Grand Lecturer, Jeremy Ladd Cross. After five years, the post was abolished and attempts to create Masonic districts were regularly defeated.
Soon after, survival superseded uniformity in importance until the Morgan excitement subsided. Then concern as to the proper working of the ritual was assigned to the first four Grand Lodge officers, until the first Grand Lecturer in forty years, WB Chauncey M. Hatch, was appointed. He held the office for eleven years until 1874.
In 1878, Grand Master Edward Rowe appointed a proxy for each county, and submitted a proposal for District Deputy Grand Masters, which was defeated. In 1881, the office of District Deputy Grand Master did pass, with appointment of one to each county in the state, excepting that Windham and Tolland were combined to one Masonic district..
Celebrating our centennial in 1889, the title was shortened to District Deputy. The number of districts remained at seven until 1904, when disproportion of lodges per district determined nine districts to be more suitable; several lodges moved to newly drawn districts. Policy maintained that each district have one District Deputy. Deputy Custodians were also appointed in some subsequent years until abolished in 1940.
This format lasted for about 50 years, then some districts were divided in a directional mode: north, south, etc. Then, disproportionate growth made the need apparent to split some districts even more, so A, B, C, and recently even D (in one case) became essential.
In 1921, the District Deputy was made a permanent voting member of the Grand Lodge. He was given a “partner,” an Associate Grand Chaplain.
When there were fewer clerics to allow that tradition, the office of Associate Grand Marshal was introduced. The Right Worshipful District Deputy would have an AGM, if the need precipitated it. When the Second World War was over, the babies started booming. 1948 saw a pinnacle of membership growth. The devastation of the Viet Nam era laid waste and destroyed much that had been gained in the post-World War II era.
As the disproportion of lodges among districts grew and consolidation of lodges increased, difficulties developed keeping up with constitutional requirements. In 2006, lodges assigned to districts, and the number of districts specified by statute, was abolished. Now, there is only the requirement that there be districts.
The Grand Master may assign lodges to districts as he determines best. toward this end, in 2011-2012, MW James T. McWain created sub-districts of no more than five lodges each so as to equalize the workload of the District Deputies.
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There has been much debate over the final composition of the nine districts. When the dust settled, the Grand Master had a means determining who would represent him to the constituent lodges. That was in 1904. Whether you are of the belief that the railroad lines dictated how the nine districts were set up, as has been the prevailing thought, the fact is they have remained generally unchanged for over 100 years.
Why these nine districts have remained so stable for the last 108 years is a matter of debate. When they were created, they succeeded districting by county (with Tolland and Windham Counties assembled as one district, making a total of seven districts). It seems that for several decades before the districting of 1904, it often took nearly a decade for an appointee to the Grand Lodge line to reach the Grand East. The new redistricting alignment, apparently did not change that sucession period significantly.