A brief history and explanation of York Rite
The term “York Rite” has been established for well over 150 years, and is generally recognized as consisting of three constituent and indispensable bodies: the Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, the Council of Royal and Select Masters, and the Commandery of Knights Templars.
Together with the Blue Lodge they teach an integrated story of Ancient Craft Masonry by a series of events, biblical and legendary, each body depending upon the two others for its Masonic background, and all three working together in a harmonious program of Masonic education, teaching the ancient Masonic story of the building, destruction, and rebuilding of King Solomon’s Temple. The Ancient York Rite stands on the records of history as the oldest and purest of all Masonic Rites.
“This Craft came into England in the time of good King Athelstan’s reign: he made them both hall and lofty bower of great honor, to recreate him in both day and night, and to worship his God with all his strength. This good lord loved this Craft full well, and proposed to strengthen it in every part, on account of several defects, which he discovered in the Craft. He sent about into all the land, after all the Masons of the Craft to come straight to him, to amend all these defects by good council, if it so happened. He then permitted an assembly to be made of various lords according to rank, dukes, earls, and barons, also knights, squires and many more and the great burgesses of that city, they were all there in their degree; these were there, each one in every way to make laws for the state and these Masons. There they sought by their wisdom how they might govern it; there they found out fifteen articles, and there they made fifteen points.”
Regius Manuscript - circa 1390
Another ancient manuscript informs us: “Ancient Masonry consists of four degrees, the first three of which are those of the Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft and the sublime Degree of Master Mason: and a brother, being well versed in these degrees is eligible to be admitted to the fourth Degree; The Holy Royal Arch.”
The system of Freemasonry known as the York Rite derives its name from a legendary assembly of Masons in York, England in the year 926, long before the formation of the Grand Lodge of England, and possibly the first general assembly of Masons ever held. While some of the bodies and some of the degrees came to us from England, the system, as we know it here, was developed in America and is largely confined to this country.
All the bodies of the York Rite are officially recognized by the Grand Lodge; the degrees are ancient, authentic and recognized everywhere. Progressively taken, they shed light upon the prior degrees and orders and only when you have all of them is the Masonic fabric of the Ancient York Rite complete. The several divisions of the York Rite are made merely for the purpose of convenience and compose an integrated structure. They are not an aggregation of disconnected Masonic dramas but a complete story in part legendary and in part historical.
The founding of Providence Royal Arch Chapter No. 1
There is no means of showing when or where the companions who organized Providence Royal Arch Chapter received the Royal Arch Degree, even if this were essential. The charter of the Chapter was originally given by Washington Chapter No. 6, “Mother,” of New York, September 3, 1793. It took part in establishing the General Grand Chapter, and afterwards in organizing the Grand Chapter of Rhode Island, on March 12, 1798.
From the original charter of Providence Royal Arch Chapter, No. 1
At a Washington Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, held in the city of New York, North America, on the third day of September, A.L. 3793,
WHEREAS, our brother Daniel Stillwell, in behalf of himself and sundry brethren now residing at Providence, in the State of Rhode Island, did on this day present Memorial to this Chapter, praying that they might be invested with sufficient power to form and hold a regular Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in Providence aforesaid; and the prayer of the said Memorial having been granted:
NOW BE IT KNOWN, that by virtue of the power to us regularly committed we have in ample form constituted there our beloved Brethren into a regular Chapter, by the name and stile of “Providence
Chapter No. 1 of Royal Arch Masons, held in Providence, Rhode Island,” and installed the several officers into their respective stations, in the manner we have received it, to wit:
The Most Worshipful Brother Daniel Stilwell, High Priest; the Right Worshipful Brother Thomas William Moore, King; the Right Worshipful Jonathan Donnason, Secretary; the Worshipful Brethren John Warner, Royal Arch Captain; and Jacob Smith, Zerubbabel; and the last four severally by Proxy.”
The founding of Providence Council No. 1
The first meeting of the Companions who afterwards formed Providence Council was held in St. Johns Hall in the Old Market House building (so called at that time) in Providence on March 28, 1818. The records of that meeting read as follows:
“The Royal Arch Masons having from time to time received the degree of Royal Master and wishing to form a Council met with previous notice for the purpose at St. Johns Hall in Providence, March 28, 1818; viz., Companions; Samuel Jackson II, William Wilkinson, John Carlile, Caleb Earle, Philip Peck, Henry Mumford, Israel Amsbury, Asa Bosworth, Samuel Warner, and Moses Richardson, who appointed M.E. Companion Samuel Jackson II as chairman and Companion Moses Richardson as Recorder, and after mature deliberation agreed that it is advisable to establish a Council of Royal Masters and transact business appertaining to said degree until it can be ascertained where or how a regular dispensation can be obtained. The above companions unanimously appointed Companions; William Wilkinson, Samuel Jackson II and Moses Richardson to draft and report the necessary By-Laws for said Council at the next meeting.”