Arti­cle Index

Found­ing of Exeter Council

by John J. Adams, PSD

3rdDegree color logoThe honor to write the his­tory of Exeter Coun­cil, Knights of Colum­bus, espe­cially by the lone sur­vivor of the tri­umvi­rate whose hum­ble efforts brought it into being fifty years ago is a rather pleas­ant task, despite the sense of nos­tal­gia such a chal­lenge presents. Even the hal­lowed mem­o­ries that this assign­ment recalls are some­what dulled and the accom­plish­ments of more recent mem­bers seem less spec­tac­u­lar as we scan the pages of the Con­sti­tu­tional Roll, con­tain­ing the names of those ini­ti­ated into the coun­cil since it was founded and, with eyes dimmed with irre­press­ible tears, soberly reflect upon the names and the num­ber of our Brother Knights who have answered the final sum­mons. And while such con­tem­pla­tion must nec­es­sar­ily stim­u­late a pro­found sense of loss, yet the achieve­ments that have been attained by their suc­ces­sors evokes a feel­ing of jus­ti­fi­able pride. It is, then, in such a mood that we shall endeavor to com­pile a brief his­tory of this coun­cil whose for­tunes and mis­for­tunes, through the years, with their hap­pi­ness and joy, their sor­row and dis­ap­point­ments have touched so deeply some of us who have borne the bur­den of those long and event­ful years.

The time: a cold win­try night in Feb­ru­ary 1920. The place: the office of the Post­mas­ter, (then on Water Street). Those present: the late Thos. A. Smith, the late Tim­o­thy J. Shin­nick and the writer. For sev­eral years efforts had occa­sion­ally been made to arrange a meet­ing between those three mem­bers of the K of C liv­ing in Exeter; for the pur­pose of insti­tut­ing a local coun­cil of the National Order. The sen­ti­ments of the two older mem­bers, how­ever, were that the town would not be too friendly to such a pro­posal. This feel­ing, it was sub­se­quently learned, was moti­vated not so much be any lack of admi­ra­tion for the Knights of Colum­bus, of which each had long been a loyal mem­ber, but from the fact that both held state·offices in another fra­ter­nal orga­ni­za­tion and that each, like­wise, was an active offi­cer in its local court. Even­tu­ally, how­ever, the con­vic­tion of enthu­si­asm of youth prevailed.

A meet­ing was planned to be held in the Postmaster’s office. The night was very cold and bleak. There were few cit­i­zens abroad as we trod the dis­tance between the West End and the cen­ter of the town over icy side­walks, as the sound of crunch­ing snow echoed and re-​echoed with each foot­fall. Quickly fol­low­ing the meet­ing, a com­mu­ni­ca­tion was dis­patched to State Deputy, the late F. Clyde Keefe of Dover, request­ing infor­ma­tion con­cern­ing the for­ma­tion of a local coun­cil. (Inci­den­tally, the orig­i­nal list of prospec­tive mem­bers pre­pared at the meet­ing, and the State Deputy’s let­ter have been pre­served and shall be placed in the archives of Exeter Coun­cil as mem­o­ra­bilia of its early days).

S. D. Keefe sug­gested that an announce­ment from the altar be read, urg­ing the men inter­ested in form­ing a coun­cil to meet in the Smith Hall the fol­low­ing Wednes­day evening. A rep­re­sen­ta­tive group attended: S. D. Keefe and D.D. John S. Dolan of Portsmouth were intro­duced and spoke at length, each empha­siz­ing his belief that a thriv­ing coun­cil was pos­si­ble in Exeter. The State Deputy fur­ther elab­o­rated upon the ori­gin of the National Order, gave a resume of its his­tory since 1882, and espe­cially of the out­stand­ing work accom­plished dur­ing and fol­low­ing the recently ter­mi­nated World War I.

Par­tic­u­lar stress was placed upon its ideals — Char­ity, Unity, Fra­ter­nity and Patri­o­tism and, of the objec­tives of the soci­ety i.e., a body of hon­or­able, rep­re­sen­ta­tive Catholic men devoted to love of God and coun­try. Appli­ca­tions for mem­ber­ship were dis­trib­uted and, with the pass­ing of a few weeks, sev­eral infor­mal meet­ings had been held at which the incom­ing appli­ca­tions were processed and accepted. The ear­lier exem­pli­fi­ca­tions were con­ducted by the degree team from Portsmouth Coun­cil and, it should be noted, that the excel­lence of the rit­u­al­is­tic per­for­mance, the enthu­si­asm of the mem­bers attend­ing, espe­cially from Portsmouth and Dover Coun­cils, con­tributed in large mea­sure to the future suc­cess of the new council.

At the com­ple­tion of our ini­tial Sec­ond Degree, a most impor­tant meet­ing was called in order that the can­di­dates might select the dis­trict deputy of their choice to con­fer the Major Degree, sched­uled to be held in Red Men’s Hall, Sun­day after­noon, August 15, 1920. In spite of the tor­rid heat, the hall was well filled in the early after­noon by Knights from sur­round­ing coun­cils who had come to give a hearty wel­come to the new mem­bers and, by their pres­ence, hearten and encour­age those mem­bers who had labored so dili­gently to orga­nize the new council.