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James A. Wetmore, Grand Master, 1904

Brother Wetmore was born at Bath, Steuben County, New York, November 10, 1863. At the age of seven years he was taken by his parents to Iowa, but after a sojourn there of a few years they returned with him to their former home in the Empire State, which thereafter became the home of the subject of this sketch. His early education was obtained in the public schools of Iowa and of New York, supplemented by private instruction in modern languages and certain of the arts. Completing his academic education at the age of eighteen, he began the study of law in his father's office, and was inducted regularly into a knowledge of those things which the student of law must know. Brother Wetmore had unusual advantages in this particular, for his father was one of the leading practitioners at the bar of Western New York.

Brother Wetmore realizing the value to be derived from knowledge of an art in which so many men have found the best opportunities of life, made himself so proficient as a writer of shorthand that he was appointed stenographic reporter of the county court of his county.

His ability was recognized by those with whom he came in contact, and before he had attained his majority many excellent openings for future success were presented to him. He was induced to relinquish his position as court reporter to accept a commercial position with a firm of importers of cattle, horses, and nursery stock, and a year or two later, acting for a prominent New York State banker, successfully executed a most difficult commission in Europe in purchasing and shipping 100 head of selected cattle to this country. After a year in this business he resigned and engaged in law and newspaper reporting and opened an office for general stenographic work. Among other important duties in which he was engaged during this period was that of reporting the testimony in an investigation into the subject of child labor in factories, conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the State of New York.

In 1885 he was appointed to a clerkship in the Treasury Department and came to Washington to live. Here he resumed his legal studies in the law department of Georgetown University and was graduated in 1806 with the degree of LL. By and upon his admission to the bar of the District of Columbia was promoted to be chief of the law and records division in the office of the Supervising Architect of the Treasury Department, which important position he still holds.

For a number of years prior to his appointment to his present position he was a clerk in the office of the chief clerk of the Treasury Department, and because of his knowledge of the work of that office, in its relation to the department, he was designated by the Secretary of the Treasury to act as chief clerk in the absence of that official, and so served during a large part of the years 1893, 1894, 1895, and 1896, a responsibility rarely, if ever before, placed upon a person holding an appointment of a lesser grade than that of chief of a division in the Secretary's office. Brother Wetmore began his career in Masonry in Evening Star Lodge, No. 44, at Hornellsville, New York, in which he was initiated as an Entered Apprentice on August 28, 1888, and at the request of that lodge he received the degrees of Fellow Craft and Master Mason in Benjamin B. French Lodge, No. 15, of this jurisdiction. He affiliated with the latter lodge on March 17, 1890. He served Benjamin B. French Lodge as Senior Steward, Senior Deacon, and Senior Warden, and in December, 1893, was elected Master, and served one year. He was elected Junior Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge in 1895, and served in all but two of the offices in the line of that body, being finally elected Grand Master and serving in that exalted office for the year ending December 27, 1904. He received the several degrees of Capitular Masonry in Columbia Royal Arch Chapter, No. 1, and was an officer in the line of that Chapter, when he resigned his position to help organize Capitol Royal Arch Chapter, No. 11, of which he is a charter member, and of which he became King at the granting of its charter. He served as High Priest during the year 1899.

Brother Wetmore is also a member of Adoniram Council, No. 2, Royal and Select Masters, having dimitted from Washington Council, No. 1, in which he received the cryptic degrees; is a Past President of the Convention of Anointed High Priests of the District of Columbia; was knighted in Columbia Commandery, No. 2, K. T., of which he is a member, on May 3, 1895; received the fourteenth degree of the Scottish Rite, and is a member of Mithras Lodge of Perfection, No. 1, and is a member of Almas Temple of the Ancient Arabic Order, Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

He is one of the Trustees of the Grand Lodge and among his important committee assignments may be mentioned his service on the Jurisprudence Committee of the Grand Lodge since 1905 and his Chairmanship of the Committee on By-laws of the Grand Chapter.

In Masonry, as in everything else, Brother Wetmore has shown marked ability, and his promotion to the greatest honor conferred by the Craft was comparatively rapid. The confidence reposed in him by his brethren was well deserved, for he always proved, as they believed he would, careful, conservative, and conscientious in the performance of every duty. When convinced of the righteousness of any course he essayed, nothing could move him to abandon it Firmness and fortitude are conspicuous traits in his character. Fond of books, his addresses in public and among the Craft gave evidence of much reading and broad culture. Modest and pleasing in demeanor, ever affable and courteous in manner, he is deservedly popular in a large circle of brethren and friends. In all the relations of life, in the domestic circle, in the outer world as well as in Masonry, devotion to duty has characterized the career of our Brother. This has doubtless been the keynote of his success.

AHGP District of Columbia

Source: History of the Grand Lodge and Freemasonry in the District of Columbia, compiled by W. Brother Kenton N. Harper, 1911.

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