R.W. Master, John W. Mix, 1886
Worshipful Brethren of the Association of Past Masters of Southington,

I extend to you one and all an earnest and heartfelt greeting. That God who doeth all things right in his wisdom permits us to again assemble in furtherance of our professed undertakings in the cause of human happiness. We as Past Masters have taught the initiate that intelligence, industry, and integrity are the prime essentials of an acceptable manhood.

I shall esteem the occasion indeed fortunate if we call these essentials to our aid and as teachers of the Craft measure the fruits of our labors for the year now gone and with a proper allowance for the frailties of human experience we can pass to our credit a record of self approval.

It is too often that the balance sheet of our labors when thus rendered places us under the ban of self disapproval when ever the inflicting and extenuating plea of ignorance cannot avail us as against the shafts of our own reproach. He who will, may don the mantle of disguise as against conviction at the hands of others and consign a speculative public to the realms of conjecture and he may foster hope under the disguise of the hour. But the verity of a self conviction stands to the exclusion of all pretensions, and the penalties of self imposed judgments at such a ban precludes all disguise and an honest purpose for the future in satisfaction for the past, can alone prevail. For the success of our gathering on this occasion I ask no better assurance than such a trial of our faith and devotion.

It gives me pleasure to extend to you at this time a hearty welcome to this the 9th annual communication of this association. Upon this occasion we meet many whose faces are familiar and whose voices are annually heard upon this floor in wise counsel, and others who for the first time have been admitted to this association. We grasp the hand in warm greeting to renew our friendships.

We miss others-one whose voice is hushed in death and all that was mortal of him has been laid away in the silent tomb among our "Fraternal Dead". There are times when words are poor vehicles through which to express our sorrow and convey our sympathy. The present is eminently so. The gavel has sounded the craft have assembled and lo! One is missing. Shall we ask who it is? The echo comes from the silent tomb. It is our beloved brother Wm. J. Otis.

The Masonic tools have dropped from his marvelous grasp, the Masonic paraphernalia have been silently laid away. And memorials of all that remains to us of an upright man and honored Mason. His exemplary life tells us he has not left his work unfinished.

Under his hand the rough ashlar has been polished the gauge has ruled the hour, the plumb maintained it's uprightness and the square it's correctness. The records from creations dawn coursing down through ages tell of the ravages of the fell destroyer. There is however a beautiful lesson of deep philosophy breathing a song of sweet consolation amid the desolation of the Dark Angel - it whispers of rest and refreshment in the celestial Lodge above in the ear of the just and upright Mason whose trust rests in God. To him it whispers of a palm of victory and a crown of glory. In the dark and trying hour of departure from earth we doubt not our beloved brother heard the assurance from on high borne on the breath of angels "Come to the land of peace, come where the tempest hath no longer sway. The shadows passeth from the soul away the sounds of weeping cease."

The character of Bro. Otis combined many remarkable traits. As a private member of society he was distinguished for the purity of his morals and his circumspect conduct. The cautious yet earnest simplicity of his manner and disinterested friendship and his sincere devotion to principle, all these virtues combined made him a man honoring the image in which he was created. In his intercourse with his fellow men he was amiable, polite, and kind. He was proud of the order of Free Masonry. As a man he was exemplary in his conduct, gentlemanly in his bearing, hospitable in his family, devoted to the cause of truth and justice. As a citizen he was true to his country and wedded to principle. As a father & husband we leave the tears and mourning of a bereaved family who miss his guidance and feel their loss to speak of his virtues.

The will of God is accomplished. He has gone from the scene of his earthly labors so we trust and believe to a higher and nobler sphere where the weary are at rest.

Standing on the dividing line between the old and a new year, the record of our one completes while that of the other is yet a blank page we have full knowledge of the past; the future we have yet to learn. It was here often and truthfully said that there is no way of judging of the future but by the past and in our anxiety to know what may be in store for us in the future the natural impulse is to take a retrospective view and so far as we can by so doing base our hopes and anticipation as we look forward in the path that is before us. In so doing we may be better prepared to do whatever may devolve upon us and so enlarge our prospects for success. We may also discover what mistakes have been made in the craft where honest efforts and the best laid plans proved abortive and avoid a repetition of them.

There is a matter of interest to those of us who are about to enter upon the duties of presiding over Lodges to which, as a R.W. Association It seems eminently proper that allusion should be made and that is-How to secure attendance.

The Master of a Lodge should be a studious and thoughtful man. Should the energy and zeal of the members of his Lodge begin to slacken and their attendance become more and more reluctant and infrequent he should be able to devise some means to put into operation some place by which he may win them back to their allegiance. The Lodge room should be made next to house the most delightful and attractive place on earth. A pleasant retreat from the cares and dividing influences of every day active business life. Every Mason should regard his Lodge as a perennial fountain to which he may come at all times and have his own moral courage and his confidence in his fellow men increased and strengthened. Does business annoy him or financial disaster threaten he here learns that no man should be regarded for his worldly wealth or honor. Is he discouraged and disheartened by the repeated instances of dishonesty and peculation around him he is here encouraged by the fact that Masonry not only teaches but demands of her thousands of votaries everywhere and by a constant symbol to walk uprightly in their several stations before God and man and act upon the square in all their dealings. From under such teachings a reflective mind comes out strong and self reliant ready to fight life's battles and gain honor in this conflict. As one means to so desirable an end I would suggest that as often as time will permit when the Master makes the usual inquiry if any brother has any thing to say for the good of Masonry, that it be something more than formally done. Insist upon something being said upon the subject of Masonry. If found necessary to go to some brethren before lodge night and tell him you shall call upon him and he must be prepared if only for a five minutes talk-invite others to express either their assent or dissent to what has been said and you would soon be surprised at the readiness with which your call would be answered as well as at the general increase of knowledge upon Masonic subjects.

During one of the years I presided over a lodge there being no work I used to go through with the questions and answers constituting the lectures of the three degrees requesting the first brother on the right or left to answer the first question the next the second and so on around the lodge room. A night set apart for exemplification of the degrees and other modes of schooling the members. I also adopted and social intercourse stimulated and attendance upon lodge meetings made interesting and agreeable, and I venture to say that no time during the history of that lodge have there been so many members thoroughly posted upon the standard work of this state as at the close of that year. Such a course persisted in although it may be against difficulties and opposition at fist cannot fail to bring work and will inaugurate a season of great prosperity. While the simple opening hurrying through with whatever is to be done closing and hurrying to extinguish the light of the lodge room dispensing in the quickest possible time as is often the case will have your minds and hearts as dark as the room you leave behind as far as any good the meeting together has done you and will result in depleted attendance those of interest among the membership and will serve to increase the already large army of non affiliates. So friendship, morality and brotherly love are the chief aims and purpose of Masonry. So correspondingly should that which will best promote and encourage those virtues be regarded by the craft and there is nothing which will stand more to promote these than the cultivation of the social feature of our fraternity.

Masonry is not an open door as many may suppose. The doors of Free Masonry are not like those of a tavern open to all comers.

The Masonic Fraternity is for the few, not the many for the selected for those that possess the qualifications which from time immemorial have been required of candidates. Not for men of blemished reputations or doubtful character. The qualifications are positive not negative. And yet many of the profane appear to think and possibly some Masons that what the world would style an objectionable candidate has a species of right to be made a Mason. No profane has any Masonic right-simply because no one outside of Masonry can have it. Rights in Freemasonry belong to initiates only. We exist for ourselves, we admit none who are not likely to prove homogeneous. We aim to unite perfect ashlars to form a beautiful and compact Temple, to last certainly for time and if possible for eternity also.

Step into a Masonic Temple when a Lodge is open and see. The door is closed and tyled guarded without and guarded within. None may enter except those who have the right. Even the strange Mason must prove himself, must work his way in. The greatest precautions are taken to keep impostors at a distance. A tyler guards with a drawn sword the outer door. Not more careful, not less careful is a hostile enemy to prevent a breach of it's lines as a Masonic Lodge is to keep off eavesdroppers, initiates and impostors.

Is Freemasonry a necessary of life? Cannot a man die happy without it? Yes: but we are free to confess he cannot live so happily. Where is that without itself which ministers in some way not readily explainable to the increase of social enjoyment to the satisfaction of the better convivial tendencies in man to the development of those fraternal feelings which exist in a latent state in most men and are best developed under the benign influences of Masonry. But it is not necessary that all men should share in these indeed to popularize Masonry would be to impair its powers to minister pleasure and profit to the few and ultimately to destroy it altogether. Were the bars to be let down the door of Masonry would be gone its influence destroyed its end at hand. Abolish its secrecy and you abolish its charms.

Are the gates of heaven ajar? Does the first great light in Masonry the Book of the law, the work of God reveal the mysteries of the great hereafter? Can we see through the pearly gates into the New Jerusalem except in a figure? Must not everything which in the truest sense is great and glorious necessarily be veiled from vulgar apprehension? There is danger from this door of Masonry after is has been lawfully opened. It may seem singular perhaps at first sight that there should be any peril from brethren and yet there is , but it has its foundation in a misconception of what Masonry is. Formed by these brethren before they were initiated into the craft. There is a subjective and objective Masonry The former ancient and the only Freemasonry justly so called. And the latter modern and an outgrowth of and sometimes an excrescence on the ancient body. And yet the modern the outgrowth is that which mainly figures in the public prints and mostly claims the admiration of the public eye. The daily papers of the land habitually speak of and laud "High Masons" "Thirty Third Degree Masons" "Templar Mason" "Ninety Fifth and "Ninety Sixth Degree Masons" as though they were Freemasons par excellence, and all other Masons of low degree fragmentary Masons. Apprentices as it were. How far this is from the truth every educated Mason knows, but no profane knows the reality. All he knows is what he reads in the public newspapers. Many of which he finds regularly devoting a column to "News of the Lodges" and in which he reads what often should be unrevealed concerning the workings of the Craft and mainly in the so called and mis called "High Degrees." These he is led to believe form the acme, the summit, the perfection of Masonry.

How shall he attain unto it? He must enter the door of Masonry. He cannot get to the attic until he has been received on the ground floor. But from the beginning he sees the end. We cannot say how many candidates or what proportions of them enter the Lodge room door with view to reaching at the earliest possible moment the Sky parlor. But that some do so is palpable to the ordinary observer and the tendency of Masonry as exhibited in the public prints is to invite the profane to enter Masonry for the sake of speedily becoming "High Degree Masons" full competent to enter some or all of the multitudinous so called Masonic societies which include Mason only and on that account alone are falsely designated Masonic. The sooner this truth is recognized the better it will be for Freemasonry. The sooner it becomes known and acknowledged that Masonry is not only not an open door but it is not simply a door to the so called "Higher Degrees" the better it will be for the highest and best interests of our ancient craft.

The two additional rather then "Higher Degrees" would be more appropriate because if the truth must be told some of the innovations are much more entitled to the prefix lower and is nothing termed Masonic which can really and truly be superior to the Three Degrees.

My pleasant official relations of the last year will now close. My opportunity came at a time perhaps unlike any other in the history of this association. In carrying out the requirements pertaining to this office I can only trust that you may be able to extend the credit of an honest purpose.

To all the members of this association who have so faithfully rendered services at my request in conferring this degree upon Masters Elect of my own Lodge I acknowledge deep and lasting obligations.

In taking my place on the book of this distinguished array of Past Masters I trust that for years to come I may be at least a silent witness to your labors and prosperity and as for may build to a higher and truer life waiting and watching seeing and doing to the spirit of our noble creed may you gather a rich harvest of such blessings as await the faithful.

Fraternally Submitted

John W. Mix
R.W. Master

Southington, Conn
December, 1886