Snow’s Block | Former King Hiram’s Lodge | Former Roman Catholic mission.
Before the Church of St. Peter the Apostle was created, Catholics worshiped in this Federal-style building, known as Snow’s Block. Paradoxically enough, given the deep and longstanding divide between Catholicism and Freemasonry, 119 Bradford Street was constructed in 1797 as the first permanent home of King Hiram’s Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. It was established in 1795 under a charter signed by Paul Revere (yes, that Paul Revere), who was then grand master of Massachusetts. A shipwright, John Young (1766-1828), was the first master of the Provincetown lodge, which voted on 5 September 1796 “to meet everry Mondy in everry month,” with the proviso: “If it is a Storm, the next fair night.”
The lodge also resolved at that time to “build a house for our youse & for a school house — to be built by the brothers and in that line brother Donham [Abner Dunham] is to draw up a few lines how to proceed.” Allen Hinkley (1769-1861), a carpenter who would one day become master of the lodge, was chosen to construct the two-story building. The lumber, of course, had to be imported. It arrived on 21 March 1797 from Searsport, Me., and was carried on members’ backs from the harbor to the building site.
Left: Allen Hinkley, a carpenter, was in charge of building King Hiram’s Lodge at 119 Bradford. Center: His master mason diploma. Right: The Masonic compass and square from an 18th-century apron. Courtesy of King Hiram’s Lodge.
There was a meeting room upstairs and two schoolrooms downstairs. James Theriault, the author of Every First Monday: A History of King Hiram’s Lodge, Provincetown, and Its Members, 1795-1995, explained that the separate classrooms served boys and girls. “The fisherman who earned the least amount of money fishing the previous year had to teach the boys the following year. Boys were taught how to mend nets, rig trawls, splice ropes, etc., while the girls learned cooking and other domestic arts.”
The membership roll for 1797, or Anno Lucis 5797, a Masonic ceremonial calendar dating from the supposed year of creation. Courtesy of King Hiram’s Lodge.
These were not easy years for the Masonic lodge or its members, most of whose fortunes were tied to the sea. The Embargo Act of 1807, the Non-Intercourse Act of 1809, and the War of 1812 strangled the port of Provincetown. Worse was to come. In 1826, one William Morgan disappeared in upstate New York as he prepared to publish an anti-Masonic exposé from an insider’s perspective. He was widely presumed to have been abducted and murdered by Masons. The Morgan affair caused a national sensation and fueled what were already considerable popular suspicions about the organization. Lodges everywhere, including here, had to curtail meetings and activities severely.
Not long after emerging from under that dark cloud, King Hiram’s Lodge began meeting publicly again in 1845 in Marine Hall, 94 Bradford Street, and sold 119 Bradford.
In 1852, acting on a petition from Provincetown’s Irish residents, the Most Rev. John Bernard Fitzpatrick, Bishop of Boston, sent the Rev. Joseph M. Finotti (1817-1879) on a mission here. Father Finotti, a native of Ferrara, Italy, and a Jesuit priest, arrived in the United States in 1845. Seven years later, he left the Society of Jesus and moved to Boston — not yet erected an archdiocese — where he served at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross.
In A History of St. Peter’s Church, Provincetown, 1874-1949, 119 Bradford Street is identified as the “first church.” A close inspection will show that it has two front doors, presumably for boys and girls. Collection of David W. Dunlap.
When Father Finotti arrived at the Cape end, he found there were about 70 Catholics in Provincetown, according Church of St. Peter the Apostle, Provincetown, Massachusetts: The First Hundred Years, 1874-1974. “He heard confessions the night he arrived,” the parish history stated, “and on August 27th celebrated the first Catholic Mass in Provincetown in a home on Franklin Street that belonged to either Thomas Welsh or Dennis Cahill. He baptized five children on this first trip.” (They were William Powers, Alice Kehoe, John Hearn, and Mary Jane Carr and her twin sister, Roseanne.)
“Father Finotti came to Provincetown three or four times a year, caring for his small flock, watching it grow. He began to dream and plan for a permanent church and parish. On his December 1853 – January 1854 visit, he bought a building known as Snow’s Block … [which] had previously been the Wesleyan Academy and for a time been used by the high school and called the Seminary. Father Finotti saw this Snow’s Block as the answer to his difficulties. The priest could live in the basement and the upstairs was to be used for Mass and Sunday school.”
“The original floor boards are still visible on the second floor and show the indentations of the legs of the benches or ‘pews’ where the meetings, classroom, or later the church services were held,” Kathleen (Joseph) Meads told me in 2014.
The mission at 119 Bradford Street was next served by the Rev. James A. Healy from Boston. Of the 19 children he baptized in August 1861 — exactly a decade after the first Catholic baptisms in town — nine were of Portuguese lineage. By 1868, Catholics here were served by the Rev. Cornelius O’Connor, pastor of Harwich. In Provincetown, Father O’Connor purchased and laid out the cemetery on Alden Street, the centennial history stated. “With the tremendous Portuguese immigration, Snow’s Block at 119 Bradford was becoming too small and Father O’Connor began to dream of a new church.” Services were moved temporarily in 1871 to Adams Hall, at Commercial and Central Streets.
An undated photo shows Snow’s Block in bunting. There is one front door and a central window on the second floor. Courtesy of Kathleen (Joseph) Meads.
Charles B. Snow purchased the building in 1887, which may have been when it acquired the name “Snow’s Block.” The Snow family owned the property until 1920, when it was sold to Antone J. and Margaret Roderick. The Rodericks sold it in 1946 to John I. Shaw and his wife, Mary G. Shaw, who only owned it two years before selling it in 1948 to Anthony Edward Joseph (1924-2018) and his wife, Alice (O’Grady) Joseph (1925-2004).
Now, here’s a story.
Alice was born and raised in Marlborough, to Charles Francis O’Grady (1890-1961) and Kathleen C. O’Grady (1898-1931). She earned a bachelor’s degree in social work at Emmanuel College in Boston, a Catholic liberal arts school for women (it is now coeducational), and worked in a factory in Quincy during World War II. She arrived in Provincetown in 1947, having been rejected in her bid to work with hospitalized alcoholics because the administrators believe she was too naïve and inexperienced. Here’s what she told her granddaughter, Courtney Hurst, in 2004:
“I headed to Provincetown to get a job at what I thought was the toughest bar in town [the Old Colony Tap]. … The war had just ended, we had won, and there was a spirit of joy and optimism everywhere you turned. … Provincetown was a wonderful place to be. … I had heard it was a wild town full of artists and fishermen, and neither group was noted for their morality. … I was bound to have the best summer of my life. We felt like everything had to be done in that one summer to make up for the war years. We would dance all night. We were working hard and playing hard.”
A late afternoon view of 119 Bradford in 2009. Photo by David W. Dunlap.
On her first night in town, at the Old Colony, Alice O’Grady met Anthony. He was a Provincetown native, the son of Antone Joseph, a trap fisherman who was naturalized in 1960, and Louise (Perry) Joseph (1902-1967). Anthony’s mother had been brought here in her infancy from São Miguel in the Azores. Upon graduating from Provincetown High School in 1942, in the depths of World War II, Anthony enlisted in the Army. He was in the Battle of the Bulge, Germany’s last great counteroffensive, in the winter of 1944-1945. Though the Americans ultimately prevailed, it proved to be one of the deadliest battles in this nation’s history. What happened after he met Alice is told by his obituary:
“He proposed to her that summer in a dory in Provincetown Harbor and together they built a life in their home at 119 Bradford Street where he lived until his death. Anthony was a fisherman which, as Provincetown people know, is not a job but a way of life. He fished the East Coast from Maryland to Maine during his lifetime and knew every working detail of most of the working draggers in Provincetown. His friend, the late Alfred Silva, who built models of the Provincetown fishing fleet, would often discuss details of each of the boats with Anthony while he was constructing his models.”
For a time, Joseph skippered his own boat, the 50-foot-long Alice J, built in 1937. But by his own account to his granddaughter, “I have fished on close to every boat in the fleet, doing everything from dragging to scalloping.” One of the boats on which he fondly remembered shipping out was the legendary Sea Fox, captained by Manuel Zora.
Alice (O’Grady) Joseph was the librarian during a renovation of the Public Library that required the stacks to be stored at Town Hall, where this was taken, probably in 1977. Courtesy of the Provincetown History Preservation Project (Page 5274).
If anything, Alice Joseph cut an even higher profile in town. Appointed assistant librarian of the Provincetown Public Library in 1966, she soon succeeded Natalie Parker as the town librarian, a post she held until 1982. In that role, in 1977, she presided over an ambitious renovation of the old library at 330 Commercial Street, costing $250,000 (about $1 million today). The work was substantial enough that the stacks had to be moved temporarily into the auditorium of Town Hall. She started a children’s story hour and began a series of oral histories. The Alice Joseph Memorial Reading Corner was dedicated in the new Provincetown Public Library in 2006.
In 1975, Rep. Gerry E. Studds cosponsored a bill in Congress to extend to 200 miles the area off the United States coast limited to American fishing boats. Alice Joseph served as Provincetown’s representative to the New England Fishery Management Council, charged by the federal government in 1976 with conserving and managing fishery resources from three to 200 miles off the coasts of Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. “I applied for grants that allowed me to travel to the meetings, which were all over the New England states,” she recalled. “I thought it was important for the fishermen to know what was going on during these meetings and debates, so I went to them and recorded what happened.”
Left: Alice Joseph, depicted in the 2004 Provincetown Portuguese Festival booklet. Center: The front door of 119 Bradford, as seen in 2016. The top decal is for the V.F.W. The motto under the American flag decal says, “Freedom Isn’t Free.” Right: Anthony E. Joseph, depicted in his obituary. Center photograph by David W. Dunlap.
Their first child, Kathleen Joseph (now Kathleen Meads), was born at the home of Anthony’s parents, 6 Winslow Street, but the two other siblings — Maureen Joseph (now Maureen Hurst) and Anthony Charles “Tony” Joseph (1952-2017) — were both born at 119 Bradford. Tony took to the sea. “He often referred to himself as the son of a son of a son of a fisherman,” his obituary stated. Rear Adm. Donald B. MacMillan would regale Tony, his newspaper delivery boy, with tales of Arctic adventure. As a young man, Tony earned a bachelor of science degree in marine navigation at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy in Buzzards Bay. He explored the Amazon River, sailed as far north as Baffin Island and as far south as the Straits of Magellan, and served in the merchant marine supporting Operation Desert Storm. Meanwhile, his father plotted Tony’s many voyages on an atlas kept here at 119 Bradford Street. And the Joseph seagoing legacy continued yet another generation in the person of Kathleen’s son Jeremy Meads.
Anthony Joseph put it succinctly when he told his granddaughter in 2004 that he missed the sea every day of his life. “This land stuff is for the birds,” he said.
¶ Last updated on 20 August 2018.
Kathleen (Joseph) Meads wrote on 25 February 2014: My father, Anthony E. Joseph, age 89, still resides in the home at 119 Bradford Street. My mother, Alice Joseph, was librarian for Provincetown for many years. A corner of the upstairs children’s reading room is dedicated to her memory in the new library. My mother birthed two of her children in our home. I was born in my grandmother’s (Antone and Louise Joseph) home at 6 Winslow Street. Both of my parents were very proud of their home at 119 Bradford Street.
It is included in their records that it was, indeed, built by the Masons as their first Masonic lodge. In that building an academy was also conducted on a seasonal basis by the Masons to school the young men of Provincetown in the honing of their maritime skills including navigation, the way of ropes and sails, and other skills that would be needed on the high seas. I believe my father may still have a program with that school’s name imprinted on it. An interesting aspect of this academy (for young men only) was that the Masons would employ a fisherman who had fallen on hard times to teach the children that season as a way of giving him work when times were hard. This is the legacy we were told as children.
You have mentioned that the house was the first Catholic church in Provincetown and my parents were both very proud of that fact as well. The original floor boards are still visible on the second floor and show the indentations of the legs of the benches or “pews” where the meetings, classroom, or later the church services were held.
I do think it is of importance to note that the history of fishing in Provincetown continues through the generations to have deep roots in the history of 119 Bradford Street. My father is one of the last surviving fishermen of the Provincetown fishing dragger fleet of the mid-20th century, having fished all his life out of Provincetown. His son, Anthony C. Joseph, born in that house, attended Mass Maritime Academy and sailed the oceans of the world and served in the merchant fleet during Desert Storm. Jeremy Meads, grandson of Alice and Anthony Joseph, is an officer in the United States Merchant Marine licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard for all oceans and tonnage. He works for Chevron.
I have one very old picture of the house with men hanging flags from the windows, a practice my father still enjoys doing every Fourth of July and Portuguese Festival.