This year, 2023, marks the 200th Anniversary of James Buchanan serving as Worshipful Master of Lodge 43. As we look to celebrate his year as Worshipful Master in 1823, let us reflect on James Buchanan’s illustrious Masonic record…
James Buchanan Masonic Record
Having completed my legal studies at the young age of 18 it wasn’t long before I acquired great distinction among my legal peers as an attorney and a prominent member of the Lancaster community.
Included among the many notable Lancastrians and colleagues I had befriended were two gentlemen I knew and admired to be of the finest moral character. I also became aware of their affiliation with the Lancaster Masonic Fraternity.
Those gentlemen, John Reynolds, editor of the Lancaster newspaper, also the father of General John Reynolds who was later to be among the first fatally wounded casualties of the first day of battle at Gettysburg; and Molton C.
Rodgers, an esteemed member of the Bar who later went on to serve in many capacities in State Government.
In 1816 John Reynolds was serving as Worshipful Master of Lodge 43. Molton Rodgers had previously served as Worshipful Master of Lodge 43 in 1814. Their outstanding moral character and qualities were admirable, and I felt they were consistent with what I perceived as qualities I endeavored to possess in myself. Knowing of their Masonic affiliation, it aroused my interest, and they became my two primary resources for Masonic information as I made inquiries about the Masonic Fraternity.
At the age of 23, having satisfied myself with the proper knowledge regarding the Masonic Fraternity, and possessing a desire to become a fraternal member, I petitioned Lodge 43 to become a member of Lancaster’s prestigious Lodge 43 in November of 1816. I was profoundly honored to have John Reynolds and Molton Rodgers sign my petition as my recommenders.
My petition having been accepted, I was elected and initiated into the first of 3 degrees in Freemasonry and Lodge 43 on December 11, 1816, by the outgoing Worshipful Master, John Reynolds. One month later I received the 2nd and 3rd degrees in Freemasonry and became a Master Mason on January 24, 1817, by the newly installed Worshipful Master George H. Whitaker. A proud moment indeed, and a privilege to now be part of this outstanding fraternal brotherhood.
I immediately endeavored to become an active member of Lodge 43 and was accepted to progress in the various officer positions to continue by Masonic knowledge and involvement in the leadership roles of the Lodge. I was elected to Junior Warden in December 1820, Senior Warden in December 1821, and on December 23, 1822, I was elected as Worshipful Master of Lodge 43.
This honor marked that I became the 30th person to serve as a Worshipful Master of Lodge 43, and later when I was to become the 15th President of the United States, I became only the 7th President who also had the distinction of being a Freemason.
My particular installation to Worshipful Master was someone unique in that I had to request a several-month postponement due to my congressional duties in Washington, which understandably took precedence over my Masonic duties. My installation to Worshipful Master was therefore delayed from January 1823 until March 12, 1823. Years later the Lodge was to honor me further with a Life Membership.
Upon completion of my year as Worshipful Master of Lodge 43, Pennsylvania Grand Lodge appointed me to the newly adopted District Deputy System by naming me as the first District Deputy Grand Master for the counties of Lancaster, Lebanon, and York on December 23, 1823. This was an important new role, and one that I had helped define along with my Fraternal Brothers, John Reynolds and Molton Rodgers over the course of several years of interaction with Grand Lodge.
My masonic involvements continued Into York Rite Masonry when on May 20, 1826, I was exalted to the Sublime Degree of a Royal Arch Mason by Chapter 43 in Lancaster.
I was very proud to deliver a formal address at the Masonic Dedicatory Service in Washington DC on February 22, 1860, when the statue of George Washington was erected at Washington Circle.
A Mason for 51 years, I lived to witness the close of the Civil War, would die at Wheatland, on June 1, 1868, I was to be buried at Woodward Cemetery in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I was buried with full Masonic honors by the lodge I had so faithfully served. Lodge 43 brothers were privileged to serve as my Masonic Pall Bearers for my funeral service.
An excerpt from the Lancaster newspaper in 1868 describes the honor and respect my masonic brothers bestowed upon me at my funeral. It reads…
So Mote It Be!
Nathaniel Gilchrist, P.M.