Volume LIVNovember 2007Number 4

A Monumental Memorial

Bro. Elbridge McFarland
Mrs. George C. McFarland speaks very highly of her deceased father-in-law, Bro. Elbridge McFarland, Fritz Lodge No. 420, Conshohocken. Her praise and admiration have extended to a permanent memorial at the Masonic Temple in honor of Bro. Elbridge.

"He was a fine gentleman," she said. "He loved being a Mason and gave a great deal of his life serving the fraternity. He certainly followed through on Masonic values."

Her impressions are all secondhand since Bro. Elbridge passed away in 1918, years before she married George McFarland, Bro. Elbridge's son. This speaks monuments of Bro. Elbridge's character.

Bro. Elbridge served as Worshipful Master of Fritz Lodge No. 420. He worked as a very successful businessman and banker. He took over his father's woolen manufacturing business in Gulf Mills, now known as Gulph Mills, and served as president of the First National Bank of Conshohocken. According to his obituary, he was, "one of those exceedingly conscientious men whose innate ability, untiring perseverance and soundly conservative judgment, assured success from the start."

Bro. Elbridge was very thoughtful of the people of Gulf Mills, especially at the time when the Philadelphia and Western Railway was seeking a right of way through the McFarland property to establish a new rail line from Norristown to 69th Street, West Philadelphia. Bro. Elbridge anticipated that the McFarland Mills would eventually close and, when negotiating the right of way, he insisted that a station be added to the site in perpetuity for the workers and villagers to have transportation. This was done and today, there remains a busy commuter service there because of the foresightedness of Bro. Elbridge.

Mrs. McFarland has studied genealogy as a life-long hobby. Through research of the family, she discovered the McFarlands intermarried with the Todd family, whose most famous member is Mary Todd, wife of Abraham Lincoln. She is currently organizing the family's history for the benefit of her grandchildren.

Knowing the rich history of Freemasonry, she visited the Masonic Temple in Philadelphia.

"I loved it. It's a fabulous place," she said. "It's part of our heritage. It is just as important today as when the Temple was built. It represents everything the Masonic order stands for. I've always had great admiration for it."

Mrs. McFarland was so moved, it stirred her to purchase a naming opportunity in honor of Bro. Elbridge at the Masonic Temple. She wanted to select something that would have been at the Temple when Bro. Elbridge was alive, so she chose a fountain outside Renaissance Hall. A plaque will be added to the fountain at a ceremony in which Mrs. McFarland, her son and three grandchildren will be in attendance.

"He was such a wonderful person and I wanted to leave a memorial for him that was meaningful for his life," she said. "I'm just thrilled and I hope [Bro. Elbridge] is thinking, 'Gosh, I have a pretty nice memorial.'"

Mrs. McFarland recently gave another gift to Fritz Lodge No. 308 (Fritz Lodge No. 420 merged with Fort Washington Lodge No. 308): Bro. Elbridge's Past Master Jewels, the sterling silver emblem engraved with his name and given to him for his service as Worshipful Master. They have it on display in their lodge with other Past Master Jewels.

Beyond her love of history, Mrs. McFarland and her husband, George, traveled the world, exploring the seven continents and the oceans in between.

Among her favorite memories: a fabulous safari in Kenya, exploring the Holy Land, building a penguin snowman aboard an Antarctic cruise, observing the puzzling statues on the glorious Easter Island, being a passenger on the first cruise ship allowed in China in 1978 and seeing the Great Wall of China, attending a Russian opera in Moscow, viewing the beautiful glaciers in Chile and experiencing the union of love and religion found at the great Taj Mahal.

Her husband passed away 17 years ago, but Mrs. McFarland continues to travel, making friends in all corners of the world. When she finds herself at home, she enjoys attending church and belongs to several historical groups: the Welcome Society, a group named in memory of those who came to America aboard the Welcome ship with William Penn that collects and preserves historical data relative to the settlement of Pennsylvania; the Daughters of the American Revolution; and the Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America.

Mrs. McFarland is encouraging her grandchildren to learn about the history of their family and the Masonic order. A good place for them to start is the Masonic Temple, where they can see a little piece of their family forever memorialized.

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