As Freemasons, we work to respect and preserve the ancient tradition of the generations that came before us. As Americans, we look to those brave men who fought for independence and formed a new nation in the pursuit of life, liberty, and happiness. That many of those men were part of our fraternity and committed themselves to the same principles, learned from the same teachings, and followed the same rituals as we do today is a point of pride for many.
While many founding fathers were ardent Freemasons, few influenced its formation in the United States as Most Worshipful Brother Paul Revere. Known best for his famous Midnight Ride, when he alerted his compatriots to the British approach at the onset of the American Revolution, he was also a savvy businessman, veteran, and craftsman. He was a Freemason for most of his life, even serving as the second Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts. In 1797 during a speech made to fellow Freemasons, Revere described his tenure as Grand Master as his “greatest happiness.”
On January 1, 1735, Apollos Rivoire and Deborah Hitchborn welcomed their son Paul Revere into the world. The child was their 3rd of 12 and would become the eldest surviving son. Apollos was from France and immigrated to Boston when he was 13 and became an apprentice to silversmith John Coney. Deborah’s family owned a shipping wharf in the city and had been settled for some time.
Before Paul could become his father’s apprentice and learn the craft of silversmithing, his parents sent him to school so he could learn to read and write. When he was 13, his father took him on as an apprentice and introduced him to the exciting life of being a skilled tradesman in the city of Boston. The family worked with people up and down Boston’s economic ladder, building connections and relationships vital to Revere’s prosperity and revolutionary efforts.
When Apollos died in 1754, Paul was still too young to assume control of the family’s silver shop, even though he had become a skilled silversmith in his own right. In need of income, the young Revere enlisted in the provincial army in 1756 during the French and Indian War. He spent that summer stationed at Fort William Henry near Lake George, New York but returned home not long after to take his post as head of the family business.
The Master Mason
His return to Boston marked the start of an eventful few years for the young master silversmith. The next year, on August 4, 1757, he married Sarah Orne, and they raised 8 children together. Meanwhile, he worked tirelessly on his trade, crafting items such as bowls, candlesticks, and tea sets, many of which are on display in museums across New England and beyond today. Notably, Revere’s shop cast the first church bell in Boston.
It was during this period that Paul was introduced to Freemasonry. We’re fortunate that records have been kept of much of his time in the craft, so we know he became a Mason in 1760 when he was 25. He joined St. Andrew’s Lodge in Boston, a new lodge chartered in 1756 by the Grand Lodge of Scotland. It’s clear that the teachings, brotherhood, and rituals appealed greatly to the young Revere, as he served as a lodge officer and maintained an active Masonic membership for nearly 40 years. For most of that time, Brother Revere held at least one Masonic office in his local lodge or the Massachusetts Grand Lodge.
One of his more influential moments in the craft came years later when, in 1792, Revere facilitated a merger between the two Grand Lodges in Boston, representing Ancient and Modern Freemasonry. Additionally, he served a three-year term as the second Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, chartering 23 lodges.
During the 1760s, tensions between the British and the colonial Americans increased. The fallout of the French and Indian War was taking a toll on the American economy, which was stressed further when the Stamp Act of 1765 was passed. Revere had to expand his services and trade to make ends meet, crafting surgical instruments, selling spectacles, taking up dentistry, and copper engraving.
Protests and riots broke out over economic conditions in the colonies, ultimately giving rise to the Sons of Liberty in 1765. Revere joined the militia and produced engravings to share political themes with the public on behalf of The Sons of Liberty. His most famous from this period was an image of The Boston Massacre in March 1770. That same year, Brother Revere purchased the famous “Paul Revere House” in the North End of Boston. Today, the house stands as a museum where visitors can learn about its namesake, his family, and many business ventures. Three years later, following the death of his first wife, Sarah, Revere married Rachel Walker.
In the lead-up to the American Revolution, Paul played a pivotal role on behalf of the revolutionaries in several ways. First, thanks to his position as a businessman, he formed relationships with people in all corners of society. He used his influence to connect them and build support for the revolution among citizens across social or economic statuses.
Furthermore, in 1773, Revere and 50 other patriots participated in the Boston Tea Party, a protest against British taxation on the colonies. He also served as a longtime courier for Boston’s Committee of Safety for years, journeying back and forth between Boston, New York, and Philadelphia to report on the growing political tension in the north. Revere also notably began an intelligence agency out of his favorite tavern, the Green Dragon. He and 30 other “mechanics” met to gather and share information on the latest movement by the British military.
The American Revolution
“One if by land, and two if by sea.” Few phrases in American history are as famous as Brother Joseph Warren’s instruction to Paul Revere on April 18, 1775. The plan was to place lanterns in Boston’s Old North Church steeple to alert of the British approach. When the lanterns were lit, Revere completed his notorious Midnight Ride to Lexington, alerting John Hancock and Samuel Adams of impending War.
Thanks to the plan, the Minutemen prepared and arrived for the Battle of Lexington and Concord, the first of the American Revolution. Fittingly, as the War began, Revere used his expertise as an industrialist to build a powder mill to supply colonial arms. He was also made a lieutenant colonel in the Massachusetts State Train of Artillery and charged with the defense of Castle Island in Boston Harbor. He used his extensive engineering skills to improve the fort’s armaments and fortifications.
Sadly, fellow Freemason and Revere’s close friend Joseph Warren was killed during the battle of Bunker Hill. The story tells that Brother Warren was buried in an unmarked grave and that a year later, after the British army left Boston, Revere was able to recover his body from the battlefield and bury him properly.
Brother Revere’s time in the military during and after the Revolutionary War was largely uneventful. In 1778 he served in an expedition to capture the British base at Newport, Rhode Island, a mission that ultimately led to the Battle of Rhode Island. The following year, he was promoted to field artillery commander in 1779 and was charged with leading an expedition to territory that ultimately became Maine.
Following the war, Revere returned to doing what he did best: building businesses. He established a rolling mill to manufacture sheet copper, which went on to produce the sheathing for the U.S.S. Constitution and the dome of the Massachusetts State House.
He finally retired in 1811 when he was 76 and had passed away on May 10, 1818. Having lived a long and active life in his community, he was a popular local figure and is remembered fondly for his patriotism and contributions to industrializing the United States.
Want to read about historical Masons? Read our articles on Thomas Smith Webb, Voltaire, and Walter Leslie Wilmshurst!