Good Templar Place.

Bibulous Provincetown has a memorial to temperance in its very midst, though most modern townsfolk may not realize as much. Good Templar Place, which doubles as the Sixth Town Landing, undoubtedly takes its name from the Independent Order of Good Templars, one of America’s most widespread fraternal organizations in the late 19th century, and a pioneer among such groups in admitting both women and African-Americans (at least in Northern lodges) to full membership. “In a remarkable amalgam the Templars brought together characteristics associated with other and now better-known organizations as diverse as the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, Alcoholics Anonymous, the Freemasons, the YMCA and YWCA, the Society of Friends, the Methodists, and that medieval crusading order of warrior monks called the Knights Templar, which inspired the Good Templars’ name,” David M. Fahey wrote in Temperance and Racism: John Bull, Johnny Reb, and the Good Templars (1996).

Provincetown’s chapter, known as the Fairbanks Lodge or Lodge No. 12, typically met at Marine Hall, 94 Bradford Street. I’m not sure why this particular public way to the beach, only 11 to 15 feet wide, was named for the Good Templars, but it may have had to do with the influence of the Paine family — nearby landowners who were quite involved in the Fairbanks Lodge. Capt. Lysander N. Paine (1831-1918) served as the Worthy Chief Templar of the lodge, for example, and his wife, Rebecca S. Paine (1836-1887), was the Worthy Scribe. Some 19th-century deeds refer to this as Good Templar Street, but it was hardly ever that.

The drunk’s progress, as depicted in this detail of an 1868 membership certificate from the Independent Order of Good Templars, begins at the six o’clock position, with “First Drink — Social,” and proceeds clockwise. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Fahey wrote that the Good Templars reached their peak membership in America in 1868, at which time Luther Nickerson headed the Fairbanks Lodge as the Worthy Chief Templar, or “W.C.T.” Nickerson was a fish dealer with Stephen T. Nickerson in the firm of S. T. & L. Nickerson. He lived at what was then denominated 37 Commercial Street, and is now 52 Commercial Street. The temperance-minded Templars marched in the Fourth of July parade of 1870 just behind the Masons and Odd Fellows, and ahead of the public school teachers, grammar and high school students, and “citizens generally,” according to The Barnstable Patriot. Though Good Templars seem to have vanished from Earth as completely as the Knights Templar did before them, they are in fact still around. (And, no, they’re not at the Temple of the Sun in the Canyon of the Crescent Moon.) IOGT, now based in Stockholm, aims to help people “live up to their fullest potential, and free from harm caused by alcohol and other drugs.”

Back in Provincetown, a study of the Sixth Town Landing in 2018 concluded that it was “very uninviting.” It recommended installing new paving that would be attractive to pedestrians and strong enough to support vehicles, grading the boat-launch area “to correct a dangerous drop-off,” and building a public kayak rack.¹

¶ Last updated on 8 January 2019.

Sixth Town Landing on the Town Map.

¹ Provincetown Harbor Management Plan, Amendment 2018, Page 29 [Page 34 of the PDF].

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