"To preserve the reputation of the Fraternity unsullied must be your constant care."


Monday, February 28, 2011

Freemasons To Vanish From Batavia, NY — Again

When William Morgan was carried off from a Batavia, New York jail cell in 1826, allegedly at the hands of overzealous Batavia Masons, the incident set off the most prolonged and virulent anti-Masonic period in U.S. history. It took nearly twenty years for the fraternity to recover, especially in upstate New York.

Now, the Freemasons are vanishing from Batavia once more. The brethren of Batavia Lodge No. 475 are leaving town when the lease on their 1908 temple runs out in August. The building was sold 15 years ago to a local businessman, and the lodge has leased the lodge room area ever since. They will now merge with Olive Branch Lodge No. 39 in nearby Le Roy. Batavia Lodge No. 475 was chartered April 9, 1859.

According to Thomas A. Knight in The Strange Disappearance of William Morgan (1932, McCoy), Morgan received the Royal Arch degrees in Western Star No. 33 in Le Roy, New York, and later confessed that he had never been regularly initiated into Fremasonry.

So it seems the monument to Morgan in the local cemetery will be the lasting image of Freemasonry left in Batavia after all.

Lost Symbols of Saint Louis

From the website of St Louis Missouri Lodge No. 1. Sounds like a terrific idea:

The Brethren of Saint Louis Missouri Lodge #1 invite you to join them on June 11, 2011, in their journey of discovery to find "The Lost Symbols of Saint Louis", a digital scavenger hunt through the events and places linked to Freemasonry in Saint Louis. You will have the opportunity to explore Saint Louis to find the names of places and streets whose meanings have been all but lost; the wonder of buildings and Temples that have been raised by Brothers and for Brothers; and the remembrance of those at rest in the cemeteries and mausoleums.

See details here.

Author Douglas Wood at Colorado's Enlightement Lodge No. 198 on 3/19/2011

Douglas Wood, Past Master of Virginia's Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22, will be speaking at Enlightenment Lodge No. 198 in Colorado Springs, CO on March 19th.

WBro. Wood is the author of Into Masonic Light. His presentation will center on Hermeticism, Rosicrucianism and Masonic symbolism.

The presentation will be for Masons only, and lodge will open on the EA degree at 3PM. A formal dinner, discussion and book signing will follow.

Reservations are required. Contact Brother Scott Casey at scottcasey @ gmail.com no later than March 16th.

Enlightenment Lodge No. 198 meets at 1150 Panorama Drive, Colorado Springs.

2012 Olympic Mascot=Zionists=Evil Freemasons

The Iranian Olympic Committee has joined other Islamic nations in protesting the official logo of the 2012 Olympic Games in London as being racist, "Zionist," and linked to Freemasonry.

Apparently Tehran's other more pressing problems are all wrapped up.

Iran's Olympic Committee head Bahram Afsharzadeh claims the logo for the London Olympics that is supposed to be a geometric representation of the year 2012 actually conceals the word "Zion," which is itself an Islamic code word for "that Middle Eastern country that has Joooz living all over it."


Quoth Bahram on the Iranian Students News Agency website,
"This is the first time that this has happened in the history of Olympic [sic]. Zionists have exercised influence in Britain, and according to our information, the summer games logo has been designed by a Zionist organization linked to freemasons," he said.

I'm guessing that "all seeing eye" on the mascot was the dead giveaway.

In a letter to the International Olympic Committee president Jacques Rogge quoted on the UK Telegraph site, Bahram wrote: "The use of the word Zion by the designer of Olympics logo ....in the emblem of the Olympic Games 2012 is a very revolting act."

© Photo © 2007-2010 The London Organising Committee of the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games Limited

March is Dummies Month

Pardon a shameless bit of capitalistic promotion, but it's one that ultimately helps you. The good folks at Wiley Publishing have had a regular program every year at this time, and March is officially "Dummies Month" . Buy any Dummies book or audio set and get a $5 rebate (up to two per family).

Here are the pesky details: buy any Dummies book, E-book or audio set with a purchase price of $6.99 or more, on any subject (not just ours) between March 1st - March 31st, 2011, and get $5 smackers delivered to your majestic manse's mailbox direct from the publisher. Or if you are sartorially challenged, you can forego the five clams and get a Dummies 20th anniversary T-Shirt instead.

Now obviously Alice and I would like you to take this opportunity to plunk down your hard-earned pelf and procure our books: Freemasons For Dummies, The Templar Code For Dummies, and Conspiracy Theories & Secret Societies For Dummies. Think of it as an economic stimulus package. We do have a poodle to support, after all. But there are more than 1,300 Dummies titles out there, and we would certainly understand if you already own ours.

You can download a pdf of the rebate form here.

Friday, February 25, 2011

The Illuminuti

From an episode of "American Dad." Steve discovers the truth about George Washigton Carver and the secretive Illuminuti.

"If only there was a place where you could make any outrageous claim you want with absolutely no proof, and millions of people would accept it as fact."

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Albuquerque on April 2nd

I will be in Albuquerque, New Mexico on April 2nd for three events.

10:00 a.m.—New Mexico Lodge of Research

The event will kick off the distribution of a customized copy of Freemasons for Dummies to all new EAs in New Mexico. (Breakfast will be available at 9:00 a.m.) Guests are welcome. Sandia Mountain Lodge building, behind the Grand Lodge, 1638 University Boulevard N.E., Albuquerque.

1:00-4:00 p.m.—Workshop: Masonic Research 101

A workshop on the basics of Masonic research and publication, including individual discussion of attendees’ own research interests. Open to both Masons and non-Masons. $25, payable to The Lodge of Research of New Mexico. Limited to 25 participants. To reserve a seat, please e-mail kdavis@nmmasons.org. Please bring work in progress. Sponsored by the New Mexico Lodge of Research.
Temple Lodge No. 6, 3801 Osuna Road N.E., Albuquerque.

7:00 p.m.—Festive Board

I will speak on “The Future of American Freemasonry.” Three-course dinner, with the Ceremony of the Seven Toasts. Ladies and other guests are welcome. Black tie (tuxedo), dinner dress for ladies. $35, including tax and tip, payable to Bro. Jay Williams. Seating is limited. To reserve seats, please e-mail kdavis@nmmasons.org.
Sponsored by the New Mexico 2nd Circle of The Masonic Society.
Chama River Brewing Company, 4939 Pan American N.E., Albuquerque.

My trip is sponsored by the Grand Lodge of New Mexico, MWB Gary M. Deck, Grand Master; the New Mexico Lodge of Research, WB Stephen Balke, Worshipful Master.

For further information on any of these events, contact WB Kenneth W. Davis, kdavis@nmmasons.org.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

2011 Newby-Avery Dinner, Knights Templar of Indiana

At podium, SK Duane Vaught, GCT, Grand Generalissimo of the Grand Encampment, PGC and MWPGM, begins the ceremony to elevate four Hoosier Sir Knights to the rank and honor of Knight Commander of the Temple for outstanding service to Templary, Freemasonry, or mankind. The honored knights, standing with their ladies, are, from left, Virgil Humphrey, Carson Smith, REGC James L. Dove, and MW Kenneth Willis, Grand Master of Masons of Indiana. Seated is the evening’s master of ceremonies, SK George Ingles, KCT, PGC and Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Indiana, and his lady. [Photo by SK Charles Combi, from the Indiana supplement to the Knights Templar Magazine, March 2011]

I'm still catching up on some stories from last month that fell between the stacks of stuff that clutter my desk like largish cluttering things.

Each year in January, the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar in Indiana celebrates the Newby-Avery Banquet, to raise money for the permanent fund of the Grand Commandery, and to honor Sir Knights who have labored for the benefit of the Order. This past January 8th, the 113th annual banquet was held, with representatives of Indiana's Templars, as well as visiting officers of the Grand Encampment of the USA.

The event is named for the two Indiana Sir Knights who have served as Most Eminent Grand Masters of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States, Sir Knight Leonidas Perry Newby (1922-25), and Sir Knight Willard Meredith Avery (1976-79). Sir Knight Avery is still very much alive and turned 104 this month.

The Newby-Avery Fellowship and Chair is a way for Commanderies, Sir Knights, or Ladies of deceased Sir Knights to support the future financial viability of the Grand Commandery of Indiana. Contributions to the Permanent Fund of the Grand Commandery of $250.00 or more receive the designation of a Newby-Avery Fellow, or if donated by a Commandery, a Newby-Avery Chair. All monies are put into the permanent fund and only interest may be withdrawn.

A certificate and a lapel pin or plaque is awarded for the initial $250.00 contribution. Fellows and Chairs are also invited to the annual Newby-Avery Banquet. This year, the Newby-Avery contributions totaled $5,000, including eight new Fellows, and one Newby-Avery Chair sponsored by Kokomo Commandery No. 36.

It is at this banquet that the Grand Encampment of the US bestows a distinguished honor on individual Knights. On behalf of the Grand Encampment, Sir Knight Duane L. Vaught, Right Eminent Grand Generalissimo (and Past Grand Master of Indiana F&AM) presented the honor and title of Knight Commander of the Temple to MW Grand Master Ken E. Willis Jr. (photo), Right Eminent Grand Commander James Dove, Sir Knight Virgil Humphrey and Sir Knight Carson Smith.

Knight Commander of the Temple (abbreviated KCT) is the second highest decoration of the Grand Encampment, and was adopted in the 1991-1994 Triennium.

When conferred, it is explained that it does not mean that your work is done, but that it also stands for the work you are expected to do in future for the Knights Templar, as well.

My friend and Brother Carson (above) has been an enthusiastic supporter of the Knights Templar ever since joining the fraternity. In four years, he has personally signed the petitions of more than 100 Knights Templar in the state of Indiana, and holds life memberships in six Indiana commanderies (and three blue lodges, as well). He is a Past Eminent Commander of Raper Commandery No. 1. Carson travels anywhere he is asked to assist in conferring the orders, participates in drill teams, and is a founding member of Levent Preceptory, Indiana's medieval recreation Templar degree team. I can think of no more tireless worker for Templary anywhere.

Sir Knight David Goodwin, Right Eminent Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, was also on hand to present a $40,000 grant to Indiana University on behalf of the Knights Templar Eye Foundation.

If you are an Indiana Templar and interested in supporting the Grand Commandery by becoming a Newby-Avery Fellow, or by your Commandery sponsoring a Chair, send your contribution payable to the Grand Commandery of Indiana, to Grand Recorder Lawrence V. Kaminsky, P.O. Box 1690, Highland, Indiana 46322-1690.

Road Trip: Grand Lodge of Minnesota Membership Seminar 2/26

This Saturday I'll be heading north and speaking at the Grand Lodge of Minnesota's 2nd Annual Membership Seminar, at the St. Paul Masonic Center, located at 200 East Plato Boulevard. Also speaking will be Jeffrey Sowder, a Past Potentate and Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kansas.

Registration opens at 9:00 a.m., and sessions will run from 10:00 - 4:00 p.m. at the St. Paul Masonic Center. The cost is $10.00 and includes lunch.

I'm looking forward to seeing Minnesota brethren again!

New York's Garibaldi Lodge EA Degree on May 6th

On May 6th, 2011, New York City's renowned Garibaldi Lodge No. 542 will confer the Entered Apprentice degree. What makes that unusual is that Garibaldi does its degree work in Italian, and like ten so-called "red lodges" in Louisiana, the lodge works ritual that is startlingly different from the Preston-Webb ritual worked by most grand lodge jurisdictions in the U.S. For lack of a better description, it is a ritual derived from what became Scottish Rite craft degrees that are rarely seen here. They are more physical, and more alchemical in nature.

The lodge meets in the Grand Lodge Room (third and fourth floors) of the Grand Lodge of New York, 71 West 23rd St., near the corner of Sixth Avenue, in Manhattan. Reservations are required, and depending on the crowd, it's not uncommon for the 1,200 seats in the lodge room to be filled. Yeah, it's that special. Bring your own regalia, your dues card, and dress in appropriate business attire.

See the lodge website here.

For a more detailed description of attending this degree, see Jay Hochberg's entry from 2009 at the Magpie Mason.

Rhode Island brethren take note: WBro. Carmine DePetrillo at Harmony Lodge No. 9 in Cranston is organizing a bus trip for interested brethren.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Knoxville, Tennessee Masonic Temple's 95th Year

Nice article on the WBIR-TV website today about the downtown Knoxville, TN Masonic Temple, home to Oriental Lodge No. 453. See "Masonic Temple celebrates 95 years in old McGhee home"

[The Masons] paid $25,000 for the house and lot, according to J.C. Wolfenbarger. He's been a member of the Masons for a long time, since 1949. He says the Masonic Temple Association Incorporated moved into the historic home back in October of 1916. He still remembers his first meeting at the temple. He says they served a good meal that night. "Frog legs, mashed potatoes, biscuits and gravy."

It seems the old house has always been a place for social gatherings. "In 1877 president Rutherford B. Hayes visited Knoxville on his famous trip through the south to try to reunite the country and heal the wounds of the Civil War," McClung Collection Director Steve Cotham says. "They had this huge party at Colonel McGhee's house, so the president and first lady were entertained in the house. They had this big garden party with paper lanterns lighting up the yard, it was really quite a to do."

It was one of the finest homes in Knoxville, built in 1872 for a young and rich Charles McClung McGhee and his family.

"It was an Italianate two story house designed by Joseph F. Bowman who was one of the rising young architects in the city. So, you have this man who is building a lot of wealth, picking a very young architect from Knoxville to do the designs of the house," Cotham says.

A leading figure in the development of railroads, McGhee spent a lot of time in New York, but Knoxville was his primary residence until he died in his home in 1907.

"What's interesting to me about that building is that the original building is still intact under the building that was built on top of it," Cotham says.

When the Masonic Temple Association bought the home, they added a third floor and large assembly hall, which interestingly enough was built by A.B. Bowman, the younger brother of the home's original designer.

Oriental Lodge has a Facebook page here.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Washington's Birthday at Mt. Vernon Shows Off Masonic Apron

Mount Vernon Celebrates George Washington's Birthday: MyFoxDC.com

Regular Grand Lodge of Monaco Constituted On Saturday

The new Grande Loge Nationale Régulière de la Principauté de Monaco was constituted on Saturday, February 19, 2011. The new Grand Master of Monaco is Jean Pierre Pastor, Consul of Monaco in Cuba.

The grand lodge was formed from lodges already at work in the country of the United Grand Lodge of England and the United Grand Lodges of Germany. MWBro. Glen Cook, Past Grand Master of Utah F&AM, reports that the event was conducted on the 1st degree and in English, by MW Pro Grand Master Peter Lowndes of the United Grand Lodge of England, with the immediate Past Grand Master of Grande Loge Nationale Française, Jean-Charles Foellner, and a Grand Master from Germany sitting as the installing Grand Wardens. Brethren from 35 foreign delegations across Europe and Africa were invited to the ceremony.

More than 700 attended the evening gala. The new grand lodge is believed to have approximately 200 members, in a nation of about 30,000 people.

The political fallout over scandals involving embattled GLNF Grand Master François Stifani weren't far from the Monaco events. Stifani was notably absent from the ceremony, and grand lodge representatives from Luxembourg, Switzerland and Belgium stayed away, presumably to protest his attendance. One blogger is reporting that Stifani was actually barred from entering the ceremony, and that PGM Foellner was apparently a last minute substitution.

Masonic Cigar Clubs

Brethren in New York have formed the Masonic Cigar Club of New York City, and meet monthly at various cigar stores and other locations in the city. It is open to all Freemasons and their friends. The only requirement is that attendees bring something for the collation, and purchase a cigar from the hosting establishment.

Contact Brother Mark Martinez at cigars@onthelevelent.com and be sure to join their Facebook page here.

Brethren across the state line also have their own Masonic Cigar Club of New Jersey. They normally meet at JR Cigars (the "world's largest cigar store!") located at 301 Route 10 East in Whippany, NJ.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Conference of Grand Masters Going On This Week

The majority of Grand Masters from the "mainstream" Masonic jurisdictions across North America are off in Denver today through Tuesday for the annual Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America.

Hence the name.

Grand Secretaries also generally attend, and have their own sessions. This year's agenda can be seen here.

In the meantime, nobody do anything wrong while they're gone.

Next year's conference will be in Atlanta February 19-21, 2012.

It's International Pipe Smoker's Day

Today is International Pipe Smoker's Day. Raise your pipe in celebration!

I am enjoying a massive Past Master's freehand pipe, custom made many years ago by Brother Tim West. I had the honor of meeting Tim when I visited University Lodge #631 in Columbus, Ohio back in June 2008, and was pleasantly surprised to discover he is a Mason. Today, Tim is the owner of J. H. Lowe & Co., which supplies pipe parts and supplies for custom pipe makers and repairmen.

My tobacco is a custom blend by Dunhill from a dwindling stock that is getting low enough for me to worry. Until the early 2000's, I could still get my custom mixture from Dunhill in Chicago, then New York. That stopped when they went out of the pipe tobacco business. Dunhill has just started to reissue its tinned tobacco in the U.S. in the last year, but I don't hold out hope for the custom mixtures ever again. *sigh*

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Central London Masonic Centre Selling To Scientologists

The Central London Masonic Centre is up for sale, and its resident Masonic bodies may be moving as early as this summer to new locations. (This is the second largest Masonic lodge venue in the city of London, and is NOT Freemasons' Hall in Great Queen Street.) The Centre has been a Masonic facility since the 1970s, but was originally built in 1782 as the Middlesex Sessions Court House in the area of London known as Clerkenwell.

Until 1900, the Sessions House was the largest courthouse in England, and grim justice was dished out severely. Nearby Cold Bath Fields prison and Clerkenwell's 1614 House of Detention were infamous for their brutality, and other convicted criminals were sent off to Australia and America from its courtrooms. (Alice and I got to tour the subterranean Victorian-era vaults of the House of Detention several years ago. It was a suitably horrible place to rot out one's sentence in its heyday.) The Sessions House ceased its grim business in the 1920s.

In the 1970s, a corporation of Masonic lodges purchased the historic Sessions House and remodeled it extensively to create seven lodge rooms, plus offices, conference rooms, bars and dining facilities. It is home to 179 lodges, 56 Royal Arch Chapters, 3 Mark Masters' lodges, and 2 Knight Templar Preceptories.

In recent years, the costs of maintaining the historic property have skyrocketed, and numerous complaints have been raised over catering restrictions and costs of a staff of nearly 60.

It now appears that the building is being sold to the Church of Scientology as a new London Celebrity Centre.

No official word on the new location for the existing Masonic bodies, apart from the rumor that it is a "new development."

Ancient Skull Cups Found in England

Researchers from London's National History Museum Department of Paleontology are the reporting the discovery of the earliest Ice Age cups made from human skulls. Silvia Bello, Simon Parfitt and Chris Stringer have discovered three skull cups in England that are roughly 14,700 years old, at Gough's Cave in Somerset.

From an article on Reuters today, "Ancient Britons ate dead and made skulls into cups" by Madeleine Cowley:

The researchers said the cups may have been used as containers or for some ritualistic purpose.

"It's impossible to know how the skull-cups were used back then, but in recent examples they may hold blood, wine or food during rituals," said Chris Stringer, who helped excavate one of the skull-cups in 1987.

At about 14,700 years old, the skull-cups from Gough's Cave are the oldest directly dated examples in the world, the researchers said.

They said the circumstances behind the deaths of the Cro-Magnons (European early modern humans), whose bones they discovered, can only be guessed at.


The use of skulls as drinking vessels has been well-documented in historical accounts and recent ethnographic studies, the researchers explained in their study.

Ancient Greek historian Herodotus portrayed the Scythians as people who drank from the skulls of their enemies and similar practices have been recorded among Vikings, Australian Aborigines and in tantric Buddhist rituals.

A precise cast of one of the skull-cups, complete with cut marks, will go on display in the Natural History Museum in London from March 1 for three months.

Perhaps the most famous skull goblet in history belonged to George Gordon, Lord Byron, which he immortalized in his 1808 poem, Lines Inscribed Upon a Cup Formed from a Skull:

Start not - nor deem my spirit fled;
In me behold the only skull
From which, unlike a living head,
Whatever flows is never dull.

I lived, I loved, I quaffed, like thee:
I died: let earth my bones resign;
Fill up - thou canst not injure me;
The worm hath fouler lips than thine.

Better to hold the sparkling grape,
Than nurse the earth-worm's slimy brood;
And circle in the goblet's shape
The drink of gods, than reptile's food.

Where once my wit, perchance, hath shone,
In aid of others' let me shine;
And when, alas! our brains are gone,
What nobler substitute than wine?

Quaff while thou canst: another race,
When thou and thine, like me, are sped,
May rescue thee from earth's embrace,
And rhyme and revel with the dead.

Why not? since through life's little day
Our heads such sad effects produce;
Redeemed from worms and wasting clay,
This chance is theirs, to be of use.

The legend was that the young Byron ransacked the graves of his ancestors on the family estate, Newstead Abbey, and had a drinking cup made of one of their skulls. Byron himself told a slightly different version:

The gardener in digging discovered a skull that had probably belonged to some jolly friar or monk of the Abbey about the time it was demonasteried. Observing it to be of giant size and in a perfect state of preservation, a strange fancy seized me of having it set and mounted as a drinking cup. I accordingly sent it to town, and it returned to me with a very high polish and of a mottled colour like tortoiseshell.

(See Drinking Vessels of Bygone Days by G. J. Monson-Fitzjohn. London: H. Jenkins Ltd. 1927.)

Channeling My Inner Homer

WBro. Nathan Brindle has pointed out an error in my most recent editorial in Issue No. 11 of the Journal of the Masonic Society ("Lessons From My Watch"), in which I depicted the Hebrew word "hod" as דוֹה. It turns out I failed to remember to typeset it properly (or "backwards" as I prefer to think of it), which would be more correctly, הוֹד.

This of course means that instead of spelling "hod," it does, in fact, spell, "DOH!"

I will gratefully remember to wish him many happy returns of the Chaka Khan season next winter.

North Carolina's St. John’s Lodge Makes Archives Available

St. John’s Lodge No. 3 of New Bern, North Carolina has made its historic archival material dating back to 1772 available to researchers and historians. The collection will be stored at Tyron Palace in New Bern, part of the Office of Archives and History, an agency of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources.

From an announcement by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources:

During its long history, members of St. John’s Masonic Lodge in New Bern have included three governors of the State of North Carolina, four chief justices of the State Supreme Court and six members of the U.S. Congress, as well as more than 20 members of the colonial government, 70 members of the North Carolina legislature, and many civic and business leaders.

Previously the history of St. John’s was only available in Gertrude S. Carraway’s two-volume compilation, Years of Light, first published in 1944 and appended in 1974. Now Tryon Palace and St. John’s Lodge have collaborated to make the original documents available, by appointment, to researchers who want to further explore this fascinating facet of New Bern and North Carolina history.
David Creech (right), Past Master, St. John’s Masonic Lodge of New Bern; John Green (left), Jr. Stewart, St. John’s Masonic Lodge of New Bern.
Photo from the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources

The documents include original minute books dating to 1772, as well as lodge business records, old Bibles, letters, petitions for membership and other records dating back to the lodge’s earliest years.

The collection also contains several artifacts, including a silver plate and three coins that were placed in the 1801 cornerstone of the St. John’s Temple building. The plate and coins were stolen by Union soldiers during the Civil War occupation but were returned to St. John’s in 1876 by a lodge of the same name — St. John’s, in Providence, R.I. Another important artifact is a copper template used to print elaborate membership certificates for lodge members, which members carried with them on their travels to prove their Masonic affiliation. A number of the letters in the lodge records bear testament to the social value of lodge membership in the 19th century, as brothers in far-off places, having lost their certificates, would write to the lodge for a replacement in order to help them gain assistance or employment. The copper template also was stolen during the Union occupation of New Bern but was returned in the 1990s by a lodge in New York.

In addition to regular lodge business, these records also help tell the story of one of the most important buildings in New Bern — the St. John’s Lodge/Scottish Rite Temple on Hancock Street. For some time prior to the destruction of Tryon Palace by fire in 1798, St. John’s Lodge meetings were held at the Palace, as well as special meetings of the Grand Lodge like the 1792 grand master initiation of William R. Davie (later governor of North Carolina). After the Palace burned, New Bern was left without a large gathering place and St. John’s without a permanent home. Almost immediately plans were begun for the construction of a grand new building. In 1801 the cornerstone for the new St. John’s Masonic Temple building was placed and by 1805, the bottom half theater portion was complete and leased out for theatrical productions. When the Masonic Theater finally closed in the 1970s, it was among the oldest continuously-operated theaters in the United States. It has more recently been restored and is currently in use.

For more information on the St. John’s Lodge archive, contact Kyna Herzinger at 252-639-3537.

St. John's Lodge, No. 3, AF& AM has one of the oldest Masonic lodge halls still in use in the US, and was chartered January 10, 1772. Its theatre is believed to be the oldest operating in the United States, and was opened in 1804.

Read the story of St. John’s Lodge No. 3 by William L. Dill here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

More Sad News From Arkansas

The Grand Lodge of Arkansas has voted to officially revoke the charter of Sebastian Lodge No. 706 in Fort Smith. Word comes that, out of more than 400 Masons in attendance, only about 50 voted, with about 30 voting to revoke, and 20 opposed. No discussion was permitted about the subject, and the vote was conducted by hand ballot. Reportedly, paper ballots were prohibited this year.

This sad episode began last March after Sebastian Lodge posted an edict by the Grand Master of Arkansas prohibiting Masons in that jurisdiction from purchasing Arkansas state license plates, because proceeds from the plates would benefit a charitable program of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Jurisdiction of Arkansas, F.&A.M.

Arkansas remains one of ten states in the U.S. where the mainstream and Prince Hall grand lodges do not recognize each other.

According to the former Secretary of Sebastian Lodge who was expelled earlier this year, "the Grand Lodge now demands that the officers hand over a blank check for all intangible assets of over $58,000 and all tangible property. Members are denied any demit letters until this action is complete. If this isn't done, all 100 members will be expelled according to the District Deputy Grand Master per communication from the new Grand Secretary and Grand Master. . . [Such action was ruled] illegal in another case where the Grand Lodge did this three years ago in eastern Arkansas." The case in question concerned Nettleton Lodge No. 657, near Jonesboro, Arkansas. In that case, the lodge's secretary, Darrell Pickney, filed suit against the Grand Lodge. The courts ruled that the property of Nettleton Lodge belonged to its members, and that the Grand Lodge of Arkansas had no right to confiscate it.

Meanwhile, the website of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas remains dark after almost a year.

"Lost" Washington's Lafayette Apron To be Displayed at Mt. Vernon

A French-made silk Masonic apron was famously presented to George Washington by General Marie-Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, the Marquis de Lafayette in 1784 at Mount Vernon. It is believed to have been worn by Washington at the cornerstone ceremony for the U.S. Capitol building in 1793. And then it went missing. Sort of.

It turns out the apron has been hiding in plain sight on the wall of Mt. Nebo Lodge No. 91 in Shepherdstown, West Virginia, ever since the early 1800s.

From "Masonic apron worn by George Washington found in Shepherdstown" by Richard Belisle at herald-mail.com:

Thomas Hammond, who married Mildred Washington, George Washington's niece, bought the apron from Martha Washington's estate for $6. The couple moved to Charles Town, W.Va., in 1810, and Hammond joined the local lodge.

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George Alwin, Mt. Nebo master, said Hammond gave the apron to the lodge before he died in 1820.

When Mt. Nebo celebrates its 200th anniversary on Dec. 11, the apron will be on public display in the lodge meeting room all day, Alwin said.

"It was never a secret that we've had the apron all these years," he said.

Like many of the nation's Founding Fathers, Washington was a member of the free masons, and the aprons were worn by members during various rituals and public events.

Lodge members, through their own research in recent years, had come to believe that Washington wore their apron when he laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol in 1793, six years before his death.

"We read through 200 years of minutes," said Ed Calhoun, a former Mt. Nebo master.

Alwin said the early lodge minutes were lost during the Civil War. Mount Vernon historians have always known about a second French-made apron that was given to Washington. The Watson-Cassoul Apron is named for the two men who gave it to the general — Elkanah Watson, a fellow Mason, and M. Cassoul, his French business partner.

Mount Vernon curator Susan P. Schoelwer said it was that apron, not Mt. Nebo's, that Washington wore at the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the U.S. Capitol.

In 1812, Washington's nephew Lawrence Lewis, donated it to the Alexandria-Washington Masonic Lodge No. 22.

Schoelwer said Mount Vernon researchers determined that the Mt. Nebo apron was worn at the cornerstone ceremony for the Washington Monument in 1848.

It also showed up at cornerstone ceremonies in 1850 in Richmond attended by President Zachary Taylor and in 1866 in Maryland attended by President Andrew Johnson.

In 2009, Mt. Nebo Lodge members contacted Mark Tabbert, curator of the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, for help in authenticating their apron.

"They wanted me to look at it to verify their stories," said Tabbert, who supported Mount Vernon's version of its provenance.

"It's quite likely that Washington received it when Lafayette returned to the United States in 1784," he said. "Mount Vernon knew about the lost apron, and they're pretty convinced this is the second one owned by Washington."

On Monday, the Mt. Nebo Masons will be at Mount Vernon for the ceremony officially unveiling their apron. It will be on display there for three months, after which, Alwin said, "We're taking it back."

Hopefully, the brethren of Mt. Nebo Lodge will have a copy made and see that the original is placed in a more secure, climate controlled environment.

Photo from "Masonic apron worn by George Washington found in Shepherdstown" by Richard Belisle at herald-mail.com

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Raper Commandery No. 1 Levant Preceptory In Templar Documentary

The Sir Knights of Indianapolis Raper Commandery No. 1's medieval period degree group, Levant Preceptory, are featured in a new documentary to air on Canadian television, "Templars Last Stand." Levant's knights were interviewed and then shown performing a special public ceremony written by Sir Knight James Dillman commemorating the night before the arrest of the medieval order in France in 1307.

The filmmakers from Nova Scotia's Arcadia Entertainment traveled to Jerusalem, Rome, Syria, England and Indianapolis, and staged battle scenes in Morocco in this quite lavish and well-produced show. It explores new archeological discoveries of Templar remains in the Holy Land, and the recent release of long-lost Vatican documents that reveal the Templars were secretly exonerated of heresy by Pope Clement V. The program is expected to air in the United States on the National Geographic Channel later in the year.

On-camera interviews included Sir Knights John Bridegroom, Jim Dillman, Al Martinez, Gary Messer and Chris Hodapp. Scenes featured the 7th floor Commandery Asylum at Indiana Freemasons' Hall, as well as the gothic Tyler's Room of the Indianapolis Scottish Rite Cathedral.

Levant Preceptory was formed in 2008 as an informal Knight Templar degree team within Indianapolis' Raper Commandery No. 1, specifically to confer the Order of the Temple in chainmaille, steel helmets, broadswords and other medieval period accouterments. Levant's knights have performed around Indiana, in Illinois, and are hoping to travel to Detroit later in 2011. Participation is warmly welcomed from any Indiana Knights Templar.

(Images courtesy Arcadia Entertainment)

How Boston Rockers Grew Up and Became Freemasons

There's a terrific article in the Boston Phoenix today about "How the Boston rock scene grew up, got real jobs, and became — Freemasons?" by Eugenia Williamson. Featuring the brethren of Boston's Amicable Lodge, like J. R. Roach, former drummer for Sam Black Church, who toured with KISS, Ted Nugent, Motörhead, Black Sabbath, and Dio.

"I think a lot of people's misconception of the fraternity is that it's a bunch of stodgy old men," says Master Mason J.R. Roach. Roach, 41, is a big dude with black hair and a couple of tattoos that he keeps covered up. . .

Roach is at the vanguard of the Masonic resurgence. Membership — like that of all fraternal orders — declined after the salad days of the 1960s. But something changed in the mid-2000s: young men became interested in the Masons once more. Gen-Xers settled down and needed a night away from the wife and kids, and Gen-Yers rebelled against navel-gazing, Baby Boomer parents.

Or maybe they read Dan Brown's 2003 thriller, The Da Vinci Code, or saw Nicolas Cage's star turn in the 2004 film National Treasure. Both narratives placed Masons at the heart of international conspiracies upon which hinged nothing less than the fate of the world.

Or maybe it was the exposure. Lead by Massachusetts lodges, the Masons began to open the doors of their temples of the public and offer guided tours of their facilities. Whatever the reason, the number of men who joined the Masons began to increase dramatically. And with it, the number of young creatives.

Nick Batzell, a 25-year-old sculptor's apprentice, got interested in Masonry when he saw a picture of Czech printmaker Alphonse Mucha in full Masonic regalia. "I studied Romanesque and Gothic architecture in [art] school," Batzell says. "William Hogarth was a Mason, and Paul Revere — he was the most famous silversmith, ever."

Roach spent 18 years on the road as a musician. "Record labels, promoters, club owners — sometimes you meet the sweetest people in the world and sometimes not so much," he says. "I really wish, with all the traveling I did, that I had been a Mason." Now, as a professional Mason, Roach spends his days in the headquarters of the Supreme Council, 33rd Degree, of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite.

Several of these brethren were also featured in a Boston Herald article back in 2008. Nicely done, brothers.

A Gathering Storm In Arkansas

Why are so many Arkansas brethren trying to slide tales of suspensions, charter revocations, lodge asset confiscation and worse through my mail slot with increasing frequency over the last few months? It's coming on an almost daily basis now. The Masonicleaks website has aired some of these anonymously, but there's growing distress and disgust bubbling over from longstanding Arkansas Masons.

Every grand lodge has the right to solve its internal arguments as it sees fit, and grand masters certainly have the right to exercise the powers granted by their own jurisdictions' constitutions. But every day I am sent truly heart wrenching messages from Masons in that state. Some mention threats of lawsuits. Some want to leave the state and affiliate elsewhere. Some are just plain giving up and walking away. They are excited young men, and old established members, alike.

That is a tragedy.

The GL of Arkansas F&AM website has been dark since last summer, with no electronic contact available, no email, no phone numbers, no addresses, and effectively no public face of the fraternity in the state. The Internet has made it impossible for any group to keep scandals, fights, strong-arm tactics and hurt feelings secret anymore. It's only a matter of time before stories from within Arkansas Freemasonry start hitting the public media. Reporters love allegations of racism, censorship and financial shenanigans, and it draws them like flies to the swine barn at the county fair. That won't be good for the Grand Lodge, the Grand Master, Arkansas Masonry, or the fraternity as a whole. Masons need to start whispering good counsel, because the gathering storm will blow wreckage on us all. And the good Masons of Arkansas will ultimately be the ones who will suffer.

I got curious, because brethren keep throwing statistics around—one message I received said GL of Arkansas membership is down 84% since 1990. The earliest trustworthy figures on membership I can track down for Arkansas, according to the MSA, are from 2002, showing 20,791. In 2009, they reported 15,027.

UPDATE 2/21 from Brent Morris:

"I agree you entirely about checking numbers. Why throw around bogus
statistics when you can just check the facts. Based on their annual
Proceedings, here are several years' data on the GL of Arkansas. I wish I
had a more compete database."



     - Lodges - Inits -  Total
1970 - 375 - 1,034 - 51,323
1975 - 367 - 1,079 - 49,249
1980 - 361 - 876 - 47,628
1985 - 350 - 627 - 42,635
1990 - 342
1995 - 330 - 375 - 26,688

Help: Estate Giving For Lodges

I'm not in the habit of asking for free professional advice, and especially not from attorneys. But I'll make an exception in this case, because I am certain somebody, somewhere has boilerplate wording for this kind of thing just sitting in their drawer gathering dust, right next to the slip-and-fall questionnaires and the mesothelioma class action forms.

I keep saying that lodges and temple buildings don't ask to be remembered in members' estate planning anymore. They used to. But as the appendant bodies and retirement homes took an ever widening bite out of Masonic charitable giving, and since fraternal institutions, for the most part, do not qualify as full-fledged tax exempt 501(c)3 charities, the blue lodges have suffered from financial neglect. Lodges rely on dues alone, for the most part, or on the largesse of brethren who passed away years ago.

One organization I belong to has a substantial fund that has not had a single contribution to it for over three decades.

So the free advice I'm asking for is legalistic boilerplate phraseology to put in newsletters, brochures and appeal letters for brethren to include in their wills in order to leave cash, insurance, retirement proceeds, property or other estate gifts to their local lodge.*

Or perhaps a lodge or grand lodge has already created a planned giving set of guidelines. If so, please pass it along, either as a comment to this entry, or to me at hodapp@aol.com


*Obviously, each state is different, and lodges may have aspects that are 501(c)3 eligible, so any such advice would include the admonition to actually speak to your lawyer.
I am a non-attorney spokesman.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Indiana Grand Lodge Library & Museum Work Day Sunday 2/20

There will be a work day in the Grand Lodge of Indiana Library and Museum on Sunday, February 20th from 9:00 A.M. to 12:00 P.M.. on the 5th floor of Indiana Freemasons' Hall, located at 525 N. Illinois Street in Indianapolis.

Coffee and doughnuts on the second floor at 8:30. Mmmm. Doughnuts.

We will continue unpacking boxes and determining what goes up to the 6th floor and what needs to be put on shelves, along with getting the shelved books in their proper order. The last few work days like this have put a major dent in the unpacking, and we appreciate everyone who has turned out to help in this massive project.

The hope is that this Sunday will be the last of the book unpacking and archival sorting sessions. Once we have the floor cleared, we can next move to unpacking, sorting, cataloguing, photographing and finally displaying artifacts. The Grand Master would like very much for us to be open for the Annual Communication in May, so that is our goal.

Please feel free to join us.

California Symposium & Masonic Society Dinner 6/25

Each year, the Grand Lodge of California F&AM and the California Masonic Foundation sponsor the Annual California Masonic Symposium. This event, open to both Masons and the public, addresses a topic of historical and philosophical relevance to Freemasonry in an academic setting.

The 2011 California Masonic Symposium, "Morgan Affair: The kidnapping that changed American Masonry," will be held June 25 at the Pasadena Scottish Rite Masonic Center.

Attend the 2011 Symposium for a discussion of the fact and fiction surrounding the Morgan Affair, the public outcry that nearly wiped out Masonry in this country, and why Freemasonry in the United States would never thereafter be the same.

Henry Wilson Coil Lecturer Mark A. Tabbert, director of collections at the George Washington Masonic Memorial, will discuss the impact on American lodges. His keynote presentation will detail how Freemasonry changed following the Morgan Affair, including new lodge practices designed to regain public trust and guard against infiltration.

The 11th California Masonic Symposium will be held June 25 at the Pasadena Scottish Rite. More information about presenters and registration will be available in the coming weeks.

Registration is free. For questions, contact Kim Hegg, program coordinator, at 415/292-9111 or khegg@freemason.org.

An archive of past papers presented at the Symposium in 2010 is available here.


Following the Annual California Masonic Symposium on the Morgan Affair please join the Masonic Society's California Second Circle for a wonderful meal and fascinating presentation. Their speaker will be Adam Kendall and perhaps one or two more as the event gets nearer.

5:30pm - 8:30pm

The Barkley Restaurant
1400 Huntington Drive
South Pasadena

Price: $25 includes meal and gratuity with a choice of 5 entrees including beef, chicken, fish, pork and vegetarian options. No Host Bar available. Seating limited to 35 - make... your reservation early as this event will sell out. Contact Simon McIlroy for reservations or more info through either Facebook or at simon.mcilroy@gmail.com.

Adam Kendall, P.M. of the Henry W. Coil Library and Museum of Freemasonry at the Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of California will present his paper: "Klad in White Hoods and Aprons: Freemasonry, Fraternalism and the Ku Klux Klan in California, 1921-1928."

This essay, which formally debuted at the 2009 International Conference on Masonic History in Edinburgh, details the conflict that arose when the revived Ku Klux Klan dominated the American landscape in the 1910s and 1920s and recruited amongst other fraternal orders, especially Freemasonry, in the United States. It offered itself as a truly American organization—the greatest of all fraternities—and appealed to the fears and nativist patriotism endemic in pre and post WWI America. Based on primary sources found within the archive of the Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of California, the essay gives a personalized view of a little-known chapter in California history and illustrates the commitment the Grand Lodge of California had in refusing to accept the Klan’s overarching and, ultimately, corrupt influence. Furthermore, what is also explored is the compulsion people have to join groups that uplift their normal sense of identity—especially in an era struggling to define just what it meant to be an American.

This essay will also be published in the forthcoming edition of the Journal for the Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism. http://www.equinoxpub.com/JRFF

A 1914-1918 prequel to the events described in the essay will be presented at the May 2011 International Conference on Masonic History in Alexandria, Virginia

Adam Kendall is a Past Master of Phoenix Lodge No. 144 in San Francisco, a founding member of Academia Lodge No. 847 in Oakland, and an employee of the Grand Lodge for nine years. For the Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum as its Collections Manager, he is in charge of the care, inventory, and interpretation of the items contained within the vast archives. He has also written and curated the exhibits featured within the museum and online: www.masonicheritage.org

In addition to his long-standing work with Masonic-oriented educational committees, research societies and museums, he is a frequent international lecturer on the history, symbology and material culture of the Craft--lately concentrating on American and Californian fraternal themes that have had a wide social impact during the early 20th century. He is also published in several venerable Masonic journals, namely The Philalethes, Ars Quatuor Coronati, Journal for the Research into Freemasonry and Fraternalism; and Ahiman: A Review of Masonic Culture and Tradition. Several other upcoming works will be published within and without the fraternity during 2011-12.

WEOFM.ORG: "Origins of Royal Arch Masonry" by Yasha Beresiner

The sixth video presentation from the Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry is up and running, presented on Vimeo in Flash format.

This week's program is Origins and Development of Royal Arch Masonry by Yasha Beresiner

The previous presentation was "The Foundation of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717" by WBro. Christopher Powell.

The Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry 2011 Lecture Series is a free presentation by the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM, beginning January 1, 2011 and running through December 31, 2011. At the conclusion of each presentation you will usually have an opportunity to join with the speakers in a live conversation on Facebook at the "Worldwide Exemplification of Freemasonry 2011 Lecture Series" page.

Next week's program will be "Why “Ancients & Moderns?" by Trevor Stewart. It will posted on Saturday evening, 2/26.

I have been asked to present on March 26th on the subject of "The Evolution of the Ritual."

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

New Idaho Lodge of Research Magazine

The cover of the latest edition of the new and improved quarterly magazine for the Idaho Lodge of Research No. 1965, edited by Bro. Daniel Gardiner.

"Yeah, we kicked it up a notch, and yes, that's Socrates gettin' ready to lay the beatdown on DeCartes. I think he needs a "mom" tattoo..."

The lodge has adopted the motto:
To Learn, Read
To Know, Write
To Master, Teach

For information, contact the lodge at IdahoLoR1965@gmail.com

Pennsylvania DeMolay Blog

My friend Seth Anthony and the Pennsylvania DeMolay have been running a blog for quite a while that focuses on working with youth groups, usually with a Masonic twist. They also discuss some history of the Templars, Masonic History, and general knowledge items. Seth is a tireless worker for DeMolay, Rainbow and Job's Daughters in Pennsylvania, and is one of those tireless brethren who seem to pop up everywhere.

That's Seth with me at the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Pennsylvania's Division Commander's Seminar, on the Patton Campus of the Masonic Village in Elizabethtown, PA, earlier this month.

Check out Pennsylvania DeMolay News and Views.

In his capacity working for DeMolay in Pennsylvania, Seth has designed a limited edition DeMolay fez as a fund raiser, spreading his fuzzy fez fetish to another generation. And drop in and visit his Virtual Museum of Fezology.

Monday, February 14, 2011

QCC Lodge No. 2076 Announces New Members

Congratulations to Alain Bernheim, Dr. James W. P. Campbell, Arturo de Hoyos, Trevor McKeown, Andreas Rizopoulos, Dr. Andreas Onnefors, Christopher Powell, Brian Price and Mark Tabbert on their election last November as full members of London's Quatuor Coronati Lodge No. 2076. It was announced in the QCC newsletter awaiting me in my stack of mail when I got back from Masonic Week last night.

The lodge was established in 1884 as a lodge of research and publishes its annual transactions as Ars Quatuor Coronatorum. Anyone may join the Correspondence Circle and receive AQC.

Sunday, February 20th: International Pipe Smoker's Day.

Roger VanGorden and I freezing ourselves on the patio in Alexandria, VA
last week, for the sake of reveling in the Brotherhood of the Briar.

"A pipe is the fountain of contemplation, the source of pleasure, the companion of the wise; and the man who smokes, thinks like a philosopher and acts like a Samaritan."
-Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton

This coming Sunday, February 20th, is International Pipe Smoker's Day. Raise your pipe in celebration!

According to the IPSD Website,

of pipe-smokers that is bound together by a shared love for pipe-smoking, mutual respect, and goodwill • We envision a society that respects the informed choice and adult use of smoking tobacco • We envision a world where governments act in good faith and integrity, and have the political will and personal courage to express their values appropriately through legislative means • This means that as a group we are united and strong in our beliefs, have understanding, patience, wisdom, enjoy the philosophical aspect of pipe-smoking, and seek to promote pipe-smoking as part of a lifestyle that can be thoroughly enjoyable to adults through the responsible use of tobacco.

To foster links across the globe in honor of friendship, benevolence, and tranquility; and to celebrate the fraternity of pipe-smokers across all borders.

On this day we will take a breather and celebrate the noble art of pipe-smoking and the noble spirit which pervades the brother/sisterhood of the briar. We will put into practice the time-honored and ancestral traditions of raising our pipes in toast to each other in the evening in unison and, thus, share a bowl together.

Today’s hectic environment almost dictates that we run on full efficiency, have total involvement in our work, our families and in every aspect of what we do to survive and achieve in a world set at high speed.• With ever-changing values it is the intent that The International Pipe-Smoking Day will allow us, the Brothers and Sisters of the Briar to step back and appreciate our rich historical value. • For pipe-smokers and pipe-smoking everywhere the day will be emblematic of our shared values, history, traditions, and aspirations.

For those of you who have long admired the art of the pipe, but didn't know where to start when it comes to partaking of the joys of the leaf and briar, The Art of Manliness website features a Pipe Smoking Primer, written by Jason Mills.

The 1979 Surgeon General's Report on Smoking and Health (Table 7, Section 13, page 17, or page 637 in pdf form) shows that, in one study (H. A. Kahn), pipe smokers of 1-4 bowls a day actually have a lower mortality rate than non-smokers. Table 8 of a second study (E.C. Hammond), shows pipe smokers who smoke more than 9 bowls a day, again, had a lower mortality rate than non-smokers.

That's because a pipe keeps us calm and free from hysterics. In fact, messing with a pipe allows the experienced puffer to avoid answering a direct question for as long as 45 minutes.

"The pipe draws wisdom from the lips of the philosopher, and shuts up the mouth of the foolish; it generates a style of conversation, contemplative, thoughtful, benevolent, and unaffected..."
-William Makepeace Thackeray, from The Social Pipe

Article in the Phylaxis Magazine

Many thanks to Brother Ralph McNeal and Brother John B. Williams, Editor of the Phylaxis Magazine, for inviting me to expand my article "Freemasonry's African Image Problem" which appears in the 4th Quarter 2010 issue (Vol. 37, No. 3).

The Phylaxis Society was established as an international research organization that concentrates on the history of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Membership is open to any Freemason whose grand lodge is recognized by the Conference of Prince Hall Grand Masters, or recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England. Their quarterly magazine has been published since 1974.