On behalf of the officers and members of Monticello Lodge #532 of Free & Accepted Masons, let me welcome each of you here today as we gather to pay respects to some early pioneers of Freemasonry and of the Sullivan County Community.
I will leave to others the historical specifics. Several speakers will share some interesting facts about the lives of John P. and Samuel F. Jones and the times in which they lived. The Joneses did not come here to build Freemasonry. They saw the wilderness as an opportunity. Basically, they came here to make money. But once they were here, as men and as Freemasons, it wasn't long before they began holding Masonic discourse.
Freemasonry is believed to be the oldest frternity in existence. It is non-partisan, non-sectarian, and dedicated to both improving men's characters and building community. It uses the symbols of stone-cutting to teach us to perfect our lives, like perfectly cut stones, and, figuratively speaking, mortar to cement our relationships. It promotes honesty and integrity in private and public life, in a time in which those traits are becoming rare.
Our Lodge has taken upon itself the commitment of seeing to it that the memorial stones of the Jones family are restored to a condition befitting the parents of a community. Because these men were Master Masons, as we are also, it is part of our Masonic obligation. At the same time, since these folks literally laid the groundwork for this entire County, it is equally the obligation of non-Masons to see that the memorials are properly tended.
As a philanthropic organization, branches of Freemasonry support many worthy causes. The Scottish Rite, for example, is a major funding source for research on the causes and treatment of schizophrenia. There is also the Masonic Home in Utica, for the elderly, which houses a medical research laboratory on the nature of illnesses of human blood. We have a camp for young people, to which local lodges send needy youngsters who could not afford to go otherwise. Masons believe in the universal brotherhood of humanity.
Two hundred years ago, in the ear in which the Jones brothers lived, Freemasonry was structured much as we know it today. In local lodges, like in our current Monticello Lodge #532, members met in fellowship and discussed issues of concern. Some famous Masonic patriots include General George Washington, Dr. Benjamin Franklin (who was Grand Master of Pennsylvania), Patrick Henry, and others. It is said that the Boston TEa Party was organized by the members of a particular Masonic Lodge. The effects of Masonry on the formation of our country were tangible as well as spiritual.
We are gathered here today to pay our respects to the founders of our community, the men who brought Masonry to Sullivan County. We also express appreciation to members of our modern community -- men and women of all parties, classes and denominations -- who have volunteered their time to keep this cemetery from returning to its natural state. But, as you can see, much still needs to be done.
Without further ado, permit me to introduce our Master of Ceremonies for this morning's program, Brother Thomas Rue. Brother Rue is secretary of Monticello Lodge and also chairs our Lodge History Committee. Professionally, he is a psychotherapist with the Sullivan County Division of Social & Community Mental Hygiene Services, of which we have a healthy represenation this morning, including some of our honored recipients of certificates.
Welcome all, and warm greetings.