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

Welcome * Blog * Books * Calendar * Chris Hodapp * Alice Von Kannon * Photos * Contact

Monday, January 15, 2018

New Book: "Heritage Endures"

Saturday, January 13th, 2018 was officially Founders' Day for the Grand Lodge of Indiana, kicking off our Bicentennial year. Thank you to all who braved the snow and ice from Friday night's shifting weather patterns and made it. I had a double honor for this event. I was asked to speak to the 800+ members at the Scottish Rite Cathedral that morning, and my new book was officially released. 

Heritage Endures: Perspectives On 200 Years of Indiana Freemasonry is finally real, it's in print, and is available—but only in limited quantities right at the moment. The printer didn't fulfill the whole order we placed back in November, and by the end of the day, the Grand Lodge only had about 40 copies left.

Because of that shortfall, the Grand Secretary's office isn't widely pushing sales just yet until we can get another delivery. And because we didn't have a physical book in hand until Friday evening, we haven't opened up mail or online orders yet. As soon as all of that gets solved, I'll shamelessly plug it with my usual brazen tubthumping behavior. The cover price if you buy it in person from me or at the office in Indianapolis is $25, and I'll know shipping costs in the next few days once the Post Office reopens. 

Just so you know, it will not be available on Amazon, as it is a Grand Lodge publication. 

Grand photographer Steve Kroman snapped me looking "emphatic" 
(although I'll swear I look more like I was singing "Glücklich ist, wer vergisst" 
from Die Fledermaus than anything else).

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Secret Societies, Lapel Pins and Tacos

So tonight, Alice and I are absent-mindedly monitoring a truly silly TV series on the Science Channel about Nikola Tesla and his experiments at wirelessly transmitting electricity. Naturally, they have chosen to tart it up as a multi-part series postulating that  TESLA WAS MURDERED OVER A DEATH RAY!!! And they keep promising to get around to talking about supposedly newly declassified FBI investigation documents looking into his death in 1943 and the files stolen from his safe before police arrived. We keep an eye on these programs just because a while back, we wrote Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies For Dummies. As a result of that, we still get the occasional call from producers over the damndest topics, like Tesla for instance. We had zero to do with this one, but it follows the standard  "Episode 4: Still Nothing To Show You, But Did We Mention The Death Ray Again?" format, complete with the handheld footage of three guys exclaiming "OMIGOD!" over nothing. What one producer described to me as "the woo-woo factor."

Anyway, a commercial popped up that reminded me of something. Seven years ago, I was traveling in Ohio and posted a photo and blog entry. It was of a light fixture at the doors to a Taco Bell that clearly portrayed a square and compass (photo above), which obviously demonstrated "More proof we Masons rule the world." 

So, imagine my surprise when Taco Bell's new TV campaign portrays a secret society, called the "Belluminati." 

I'm obviously way too late discovering this, as they are already sold out of the tie-in hats, hoodies, tee-shirts, and yes, lapel pins. 

Can't be a secret society without lapel pins. 

Freemasonry can't escape being linked to the Illuminati in the public perception, no matter what. But I'm just more than a little depressed that, instead of the 20th century image we once had as something to be aspired to, then as sinister in the 1980s, then vanishing into obscurity for two decades, then resurrected by Dan Brown and his imitators as something spooky, today we've just become the punchline to a taco commercial.

My old post might have been the inspiration for this ad campaign, even if only accidentally. Or maybe it wasn't. But oh, how I wish I had thought up their description of the reason for their lapel pin:

"Forged in secrecy, this pin allows members to exchange silent nods of acknowledgement without actually having to spend energy nodding."

Friday, January 12, 2018

January 12, 1818: "A New Constellation in the Firmament of Masonry"

Today's post is one for my home team here in Indiana. We kick off a big party here as of this morning: the Bicentennial celebration of the Grand Lodge of Indiana F&AM.

Two hundred years ago today on a cold, wintery Monday, Freemasons representing nine widely scattered and isolated Masonic lodges assembled at the prospering river town of Madison, Indiana. There that week, legendarily in a second floor room of what we know today as Schofield House, they exchanged their original Ohio and Kentucky charters for new ones, and officially organized and constituted the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Indiana.

To the English mind in the mid-18th century, the word “Indiana” was touched with romance and the echoes of a faraway Utopia. Like India, it was a fanciful product of bungled Latin for the farthermost eastern shore of the Orient that might be reached by sailing far enough west. Clever land speculators latched on to it as the perfect word for a rich wilderness that beckoned, as they’d done with other land deals, like “Transylvania” in Kentucky, or “Vandalia” in West Virginia and Illinois. It even came into vogue as a woman’s name, and novelists like Fanny Burney and George Sand christened their wild, beautiful heroines as Indiana. 
Out here in the West, we were batted around between the French, the English, and even Spain for a bit. And the Indians, of course. Indiana had clung to the far northwestern end of Virginia under the English. Then we were declared part of the Northwest Territory after 1787. By 1800, Ohio was split off from us and became its own state to our east.  But the Indiana Territory was still a rough, rugged, unsettled and dangerous place to be out on the edge of Western civilization. 

After the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, impatient potential settlers who had been stopped all along the Appalachian Mountains by the British troops and England's territorial claims began hotfooting it toward the West and the Indiana Territory. The Indians here soon had enough of white encroachment. Led by the legendary chief Tecumseh and his brother, 'The Prophet,' they weren't going to give up northwest Indiana without a putting up a significant fight, culminating at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. But with their final defeat, the settlers began to arrive in greater numbers. 

And so did Freemasonry.

After the end of what we Americans think of as the 'War of 1812' (really 1811-1815), white immigrants finally felt it was safe to settle in the Wabash Valley. 

By the summer of 1816, the lands along the Wabash River and many miles to its east had been surveyed and officially put up for sale from a land agent in Vincennes. The other major land sales office was at the Falls of the Ohio in Jeffersonville, across from Louisville, and it was doing a booming business as well, partially because Indiana offered even cheaper land prices than Ohio. So a huge flood of pioneers roared into Indiana. Fifty settlers’ wagons were recorded crossing the Muskingum River at Zanesville, Ohio on a single November day in 1816, all bound westward for Indiana. It was estimated that 42,000 people came to Indiana just in 1816 alone. Population rose enough between 1814-1816 to enable the Indiana Territory to officially become its own state on December 11, 1816.

In more than a few early towns and settlements at the time, the formal or informal establishment of a Masonic lodge often predated the arrival of the organization of a local church. Settlers were usually self-educated, and a Bible was their most commonly available reading material. Without a church, these isolated people received their religious and moral training, understanding, and reinforcement almost entirely from interpreting the family Bible on their own, discussing its various passages among their own family members or with the rare neighbor. Yet, any church coming into the area frequently brought with it disagreements over denomination differences. A Masonic lodge forming was a uniquely civilizing force on the edges of the frontier, unlike any other. If a settler was recognized as a man of honor and trust, and was made a Freemason, men of all classes, all political persuasions, and all religious denominations surrounded him, without descending into arguments. The lodge taught the basic tools of organizing and administering a democratic body, preparing members for civic responsibility, whether they knew it or not. And despite the altruistic, nonsectarian philosophy of lodge meetings, Masonic degrees were nonetheless centered around Old Testament themes—albeit filtered through its Enlightenment-era lens. Early frontier Masons could be forgiven for coming to regard their lodge meetings almost as a combination village meeting and a non-denominational religious service all its own.

And so, Masons from the nine lodges already at work in the new State of Indiana assembled in “Freemasons’ Hall” at Madison that Monday, January 12, 1818 and spent four days at labor. There were fourteen official representatives in all, eventually with thirteen visitors. They had come through the wilderness on horseback or by river, from as far as Vincennes, 150 miles away, and Brookville, 96 miles. 

By evening candle-lighting, they formally agreed to "proceed immediately to organize a Grand Lodge for the State of Indiana."  

The organizational meeting continued for four days. Alexander A. Meek, of Madison, presided over the organization of the new Grand Lodge. On Tuesday January 13th, they elected officers with Alexander Buckner, of Charlestown elected as the first Grand Master. Then they came forward and gave up their original charters, requesting new ones under the new authority, and adopted Webb's Illustrations of Masonry as their official ritualistic work. 

On the 14th, the attorneys in the group drafted their constitution and by-laws, and Buckner ordered the preparation of the new charters. Remembering the old Masonic admonition, at 4 PM, the twenty-seven brethren processed down the muddy streets of Madison, clad in their aprons, and assembled in divine worship at the nearby log-built Methodist church to ask the blessings of the Great Architect of the Universe on the work of their hands. 

On January 15th, they issued a formal address to the other existing grand lodges requesting recognition, and beginning life with five chartered lodges: Vincennes Lodge No.1; Madison's Union Lodge No. 2; Charlestown's Blazing Star Lodge No. 3; Lawrenceburg Lodge No. 4; and Corydon's Pisgah Lodge No. 5.

To the surprise of the assembled brethren, a sixth lodge already at work in Indiana did not give up its original heritage that week. Melchizidek Lodge’s large, colorful, and bombastic representative, Colonel Marston G. Clark of Salem, held out for reasons known only to himself, refusing just yet to officially turn in his lodge’s existing Kentucky charter in exchange for a new Indiana one. That lodge would close, and it would be 1822 before Salem Lodge No. 21 would be chartered.

Three more U.D. lodges were granted Indiana dispensations at that January meeting: Rising Sun Lodge, Vevay's Switzerland Lodge, and Brookville's Harmony Lodge.

The Grand Lodge of Kentucky was the first jurisdiction to extend formal, written, fraternal recognition of Indiana that September, declaring us to be "a new constellation in the firmament of Masonry."

Indiana began life with 176 known Freemasons associated with the lodges across the new state. The Grand Lodge recorded 37 'additions' by the end of its first year of labors, for a total of 214 members in its nine lodges. It was an auspicious beginning for what would eventually become the fifth largest grand lodge in the United States.

And so it is that Indiana officially enters its third century of Masonic labors and celebrations today.

Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Freemasons

A bill was just signed into law by President Trump aboard Air Force One while he was visiting Atlanta, Georgia on Monday. A week before the national holiday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Donald Trump signed into law the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historical Park Act of 2017. Alveda King, the niece of the slain civil rights leader, joined the President for the mostly private signing ceremony. It didn't get much press notice, didn't make the nightly news, and at first glance, it might be hard to see the connection to Freemasonry. 

Yet, it's actually central to this new Act.

The Auburn Avenue Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Atlanta, Georgia

The bill was sponsored by Rep. John Lewis, (D-GA). What this new law signed by President Trump does is to establish the area around Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthplace in Atlanta to officially become a national historical park, making it the first such park in Georgia. (It's currently just designated as a national historic site, and this changes its status and importance within the National Park Service system.) The site is established "to preserve, protect, and interpret for the benefit, inspiration, and education of present and future generations, the places where Martin Luther King, Jr. was born, where he lived, worked, and worshiped, and where he is buried, while ensuring connections are made to his life and legacy." It already includes King's birthplace, the church where he was baptized, and his burial place. But the legislation also slightly enlarges the existing designated area in order to also specifically include Atlanta's Auburn Avenue Prince Hall Masonic Temple. 

After the end of our Civil War in 1865, Freemasonry among African Americans began to spread from the Northern states into the South, where it had previously been a damned dangerous thing to openly attempt. The twists and turns of segregated Freemasonry in America are complex, and the story does not lend itself to simple explanations. Freemasonry was far from the only lofty-sounding organization that talked about equality while strictly enforcing a color barrier. Countless other fraternal groups had their own parallel black and white counterparts that operated without any acknowledgement between each other.  When slavery was abolished, the practices of "separate but equal' institutions sprouted and flourished, and by 1896, Plessy v. Ferguson carved them into stone for another half century.

After the war, three black lodges were soon organized in Georgia in 1866, forming into an F&AM grand lodge by 1870. Because the National Compact era was going through its own internal and external pangs and schisms, a second AF&AM grand lodge was formed in 1874, with both finally merging in 1888. Both groups could trace their origins back to Prince Hall's English chartered African Lodge No. 459 in Boston. Today, that merged body is the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Georgia, F&AM.

In 1871, Atlanta's first lodge of African Americans was chartered, St. James Lodge No. 4 (F&AM), with Frances J. Peck as its Worshipful Master. Peck was also the pastor of Atlanta's Big Bethal African Methodist Episcopal Church at the time, the oldest predominately African American congregation in metropolitan Atlanta. The church became a center of the black community there, as well as a gathering place for social action. The strong connection between Big Bethal and St. James Lodge also made Freemasonry among Atlanta's black population a vital part of that community, binding faith and fraternalism, and creating a strong atmosphere for leadership at every level within the then still deeply segregated society. 

John Wesley Dobbs and Rev. Emory Searcy dedicating a local cornerstone in about 1956

Starting in 1937, the Prince Hall Masonic Temple and the attached Tabor Building at 332-34 Auburn Avenue were built. The main Renaissance Revival-style building was designed by architects Charles Hopson and Ross Howard at the behest of then Grand Master, John Wesley Dobbs. Atlanta at that time was home to about 90,000 African Americans, and Dobbs was instrumental as a local political leader and organizer. He had been elected as the 10th Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia in 1932. Dobbs would serve as Grand Master in Georgia for 29 years, 1932-1961, and was widely known in Atlanta simply as "The Grand" and the unofficial "Mayor of Auburn Avenue." 

At the time, Auburn Avenue was a prosperous commercial district in Atlanta. If you have any question just how popular fraternalism was in the black community in the 20th century, consider that by 1945, along with the Masons and the Odd Fellows (who had their own enormous theater and auditorium building), there were twenty-five other fraternal groups also located on Auburn Avenue.

Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a Mason during his lifetime, but both his father and his grandfather were Prince Hall Masons. Interviews from 1968 indicate that Grand Master X. L. Neal of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia had arranged for Dr. King to become a Freemason upon his return to Atlanta that year. King's assassination in Memphis on April 4th of 1968 had abruptly prevented that event from happening. 

But that was not the end of the question about King's association with Freemasonry. Not by a long shot.

Dr. Martin Luther King speaking at the Prince Hall Masonic Temple in Columbus, Georgia, 
circa 1959. Behind him sits Grand Master John Wesley Dobbs. 

Starting in 2000, a rumor snowballed into a controversy, widely claiming that sometime between 1999 and 2000, then Grand Master Benjamin Barksdale of the MWPHGL of Georgia made Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Mason "at sight" posthumously. As word spread of it, the Masonic world went berserk. Shrieks over the violation of "Landmarks" went out around the internet and in Masonic magazines, and there was a great gnashing of teeth. 

A decade after the alleged incident, the website for the MWPHGL of Georgia said the following about it:
“There is one local Masonic legend that claims that Dr. King, Jr. was good friends with Grand Master X.L. Neal, both of whom came out of Morehouse College. The legend claims that Grand Master Neal had promised to make Dr. King a Mason when he came back from the Sanitation Strike in Memphis; but as fate would have it, Dr. King never made it back from Memphis. However, in 1999, Grand Master Benjamin Barksdale gave him a posthumous honor by declaring him a member of the Craft and presenting it to his widow, Coretta Scott King, at a Morehouse celebration for our Civil Rights icon.”
At the time this allegedly happened, it was one of those explosive topics guaranteed to start a good old fashioned flame war in the early days of online Masonic discussion groups. Masons all over the world went collectively hysterical, and railed that no grand master could constitutionally confer the degrees of Masonry on a dead man. Conflicting definitions of making Masons "at sight" got trotted out and endlessly flogged over jurisdictional differences, along with the usual sagely chin wagging and general air bending. Most wound up dejectedly admitting that grand masters will do whatever they intend to do, like it or not, and if their own members of their grand lodge don't fix problems left in their wake, all the carping in the world isn't going to change anything. Nevertheless, there remain today a few lists of "Famous Freemasons" floating around that include King as a Mason without explanation. 

And yet, no one who was actually there that day finally stepped forward to definitively say whether or not the action really even took place.

Finally in 2012, in Vol. 39, No. 1 of the Phylaxis Magazine (p. 16), Brother Burrell D. Parmer of the PHGL of Texas researched this contentious and thorny event, and actually decided to go straight to the source. Brother Parmer actually asked PGM Barksdale what happened. 

The event in question occurred  at King's alma mater, Morehouse College. On April 1st, 2000, 'Millennium Sunday,' Dr. Lawrence Carter officially founded the 'Gandhi King Ikeda Hassan Institute for Ethics and Reconciliation.' That Sunday was the 40th anniversary of the Atlanta Civil Rights Movement and the inaugural celebration of the 'Season of Nonviolence' in 1960. Among the dignitaries assembled there that day were then Grand Master Barksdale, Mrs. Coretta Scott King, and Martin Luther King III, along with members of the Gandhi family

Prince Hall Masons had a longstanding connection to the site at Morehouse College, and they had dedicated the cornerstone in 1992 for the Martin Luther King, Jr. International Chapel on the Morehouse campus where the event in 2000 took place. The gathering on Millennium Sunday was for the unveiling of a large bronze plaque that contains the entire text of King's famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” An estimated 1,000 people attended that day, including 200 PHA Masons dressed n full regalia. It was when GM Barksdale stepped to the podium and spoke that the confusion came about. 

Parmer's article explains, in part:
As the event occurred over a decade ago, PGM Barksdale cannot recollect the date or year, but remembers that he did not make Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. a Mason, neither “at Sight” nor provide him with honorary membership posthumously. “Dr. King is not a Mason; you cannot make a dead person a Freemason,” said PGM Barksdale.

To the reference that GM Dr. X.L. Neal stated that he will make Dr. King a Prince Hall Mason “at Sight” when he returned from Memphis:

“The above is true. I was Grand Senior Warden when GM Neal made the statement which was in the presence of the Grand Lodge membership in Augusta, GA,” said PGM Barksdale. “Again Dr. King was never a Prince Hall Mason; however, with the permission of Mrs. Coretta Scott King, I was given permission to name a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Scholarship to assist a worthy young man to attend Morehouse College.”

[Past Master Douglas Evans, Past Grand Historian of Georgia] remembers some details about that day.
“I was in the audience as a young five-year-old Mason when (an) honor was read by PGM Barksdale in the company of Mrs. King and King III along with other Grand Lodge officers while on stage inside the King Chapel, and I, as many others, thought that they were making Dr. King a ‘Mason at Sight,’” said PM Evans. “I do not think that PGM Barksdale may have made it clear that a dead person could not be made a Mason.”

“I believe that during the ceremony as Mrs. King was on the stage was when PGM Barksdale and the Masons announced that it was “honoring Dr. King’s death posthumously.” None of us really knew what this meant since it wasn’t previously disclosed to us before the event,” said PM Evans. “We heard it all at the same time. I took it as something you might honor the governor or someone with, but the word posthumously made many feel as if Dr. King was being given the honor of being a Mason. I tend to believe that this was not the intent of PGM Barksdale but maybe the wording of the statement was not filtered or edited enough.”

According to PM Evans there was neither a proclamation nor similar communications that would have informed the Craft that such an honor of membership for Dr. King would be bestowed.

“I’ll be the first to echo PGM Barksdale’s statement that he did not make Dr. King a Mason. He couldn’t if he tried; it’s unmasonic,” said PM Evans. “I will offer that the language used at that ceremony may have been misleading.”
“During my historical tours in Atlanta, I offer that Dr. King is NOT a Mason, but an Alpha (a Greek college fraternity). If he had lived longer we believe that he would have joined since his father (Daddy King) and grandfather were all preachers and Prince Hall Masons,” said PM Evans. “We think Dr. King would have joined W. C. Thomas Lodge No. 112 since it is thought that this is where Daddy King was Raised, and due to GM Neal belonging to the same Lodge and knowing Dr. King from Morehouse College.”
In any case, the real reason for the expansion of the historical site in this new legislation Trump signed is because Atlanta's Prince Hall Temple was where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) established its initial headquarters on Auburn Avenue in Atlanta in 1957. That historic civil rights organization was co-founded by Dr. King, who also served as its first president until his murder in 1968. The SCLC became one of the most prominent non-violent groups in the country, and was instrumental in the growing efforts to finally end racial segregation in the U.S., starting in the late 1950s.

The cooperation between Prince Hall Masons, their temples. and civil rights groups was not at all unusual. These landmark buildings frequently were also home to offices of black professionals like lawyers, doctors, dentists, and accountants, along with other businesses and organizations vital to their segregated communities. Birmingham, Alabama's historic Colored Masonic Temple, for example, was built by the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama between 1922-24. That temple became the headquarters of the NAACP in Alabama and housed the legal teams during the time of the Freedom Riders in the 1960s. It was declared by the National Parks Service in 2016 as part of the History Birmingham Civil Rights District, a wide area of that city that encompasses many significant buildings in the same general area. 

Trump also signed two other related bills into law on Monday. The African American Civil Rights Network Act of 2017 instructs the National Park Service to link together various historical sites related to the civil rights movement, making it easier to trace the development, growth and success of the fight against racial segregation. He also signed the 400 Years of African-American History Commission Act to commemorate the arrival of the first Africans in the English colonies at Point Comfort, Virginia. in 1619.

I would be remiss if I didn't add as a footnote to this post that the Grand Lodge of Georgia F&AM at their annual meeting in October 2017 tabled without action yet another attempt at recognition of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Georgia, in spite of now PGM Gary Leazer's efforts and the encouragement of several others. I've lost track at this point of how many times the Prince Hall Masons have been turned down or ignored in Georgia. Alabama, on the other hand, passed joint recognition with their Prince Hall counterparts on November 14, 2017. Counting Georgia, there remain eight U.S. states that continue to deny Prince Hall recognition. 

A visual aid may be helpful to understanding this.

There is one last bit of confusion over Martin Luther King and Freemasonry. His final speech before his assassination on April 4th of 1968, his stirring "I've Been To The Mountaintop" address, was given in Memphis, Tennessee at the Church of God in Christ headquarters. That landmark building is known as "Mason Temple," but it was not then, and never has been, a Masonic temple. It was purpose built as a church and enormous auditorium complex in 1945, and is actually named for Bishop C. H. Mason of Memphis, the church's founder. 

Saturday, January 06, 2018

Special Masonic Exhibits Come To Indiana

The Bible of Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 upon which young George Washington took his three Masonic obligations between 1752-3.

It may be an abuse of history to suppose that any one group of men could be enough of an influence to alter the course of the past. History has a taste of inevitability. But as Americans we were once commonly taught that the mere presence of a singular group of men, Washington and Adams, Jefferson and Franklin, Otis and Hancock, steered a nation toward Man’s first experiment in liberty and self–governance, preserving that experiment from the sort of bloodbath that marked the revolution in France. And yet, were it not for such significant men, and countless others, this country would have unquestionably had a very different destiny.

Most Freemasons are aware that the Holy Bible upon which George Washington took the first oath of office as President of the United States was borrowed at the last minute from New York’s St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in 1789. But very few realize that there is another Masonic Volume of Sacred Law that our most celebrated American Brother was first associated with Masonically, almost forty years before he became President.

When he was just twenty years old, George Washington was initiated on the evening of November 4th, 1752 into the newly established “Lodge of Fredericksburgh” in Virginia. That night, he placed his hand upon the lodge’s 1688 edition of the King James Bible and took the obligation of an Entered Apprentice. He would receive his Fellow Craft and Master Mason degrees over the next nine months upon that same Bible, raised at last to the Sublime Degree on August 4th, 1753. This extraordinary artifact has been preserved by Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, and survives to this day.

The Indiana Territory was once a part of Virginia’s westernmost boundaries, and all but one of our own early lodges received charters or dispensations from Kentucky lodges that first began life as part of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Now, as part of the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of Indiana, our Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana will display George Washington’s rarely seen Masonic Bible for a very limited time. From now through February 22nd, through the gracious permission and cooperation of our Virginia brethren of Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, it can be viewed by both Masons and the general public. 

Fredericksburg's Secretary Mike Moses, Worshipful Master Dan Goodwin, and Senior Warden Jamie Snyder delivering the Washington Bible to MLMI Director, PGM Michael Brumback this morning.

We are deeply grateful for their generous loan to mark this special occasion. Their lodge has not widely permitted this fragile book to leave their premise before, which is what makes this such a unique opportunity for us. It stays inside of a plexiglass display case when it is on the road, but Fredericksburg Lodge is now actively seeking donations to properly conserve its delicate binding and pages. Consequently, they have just created new guidelines for requesting it HERE. Three Past Masters or officers of their lodge transport it, and it must be hand-carried. Since it does not have a TSA-safe traveling case, that means it must stay within comfortable driving range of Virginia. While it is residing in Indiana, it will be supervised during the day or locked safely in our fireproof vault.

That said, George Washington's Lodge Bible is not the only special exhibit in Indiana this year...

For a Hoosier, a walk along the Wabash Heritage Trail, from an isolated frontier fort to an historic battlefield where Kentuckians and Hoosiers fell side by side, encompasses the whole of our settler past, a tiny strip of territory where a group of remarkable men secured what would be a new state. 

For any historian with a romantic bone in his body, its hard not to personalize the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 11, 1811 in terms of the ongoing grudge match between the legendary figure of Native American warrior chief Tecumseh, versus the Indiana Territorial governor, General William Henry Harrison. Tecumseh was away at the time, attempting to organize more warriors to join his cause of uniting the Indian tribes to turn back white settlement. Tippecanoe was a win for Harrison, and the chief blamed his brother, Tenskwatawa, who was called “The Prophet,” for the loss, banishing him for life. Weeks after the battle, Tecumseh returned to ride through the ashes of Prophet’s Town and swore to meet Harrison again in battle. They did indeed meet again, at the Battle of the Thames in Upper Canada in 1813, where the great chief finally fell. Harrison went on to become President.

But for Masonic historians, Tippecanoe is seen through another lens, that being the number of Freemasons present and among the fallen. Considering that Vincennes Lodge had only been raising Indiana Territory Masons for two years, it’s an impressive number of brave men, but there’s a reason for it. Many of the officers and men who died were Kentuckians, members of the parent lodges that gave birth to the lodge at Vincennes. In their joint fight for the Territory of Indiana, the ties of Masonic brotherhood between them are carved for all time on the lists of the dead at the memorial raised on the Tippecanoe Battlefield. It’s now a part of the Wabash Heritage Trail, thirteen historic miles through and around Lafayette, running appropriately from Fort Ouiatenon to the battlefield of Tippecanoe. It’s something every Hoosier should see, not only for its incredible natural beauty, but for the historic markers that give three-dimensions to our history.

For Freemasons, key events were unfolding in Vincennes Lodge a week before members left for the battle. Easily the most significant Masonic episode to occur in the Indiana Territory during the pre-Grand Lodge period was the visit of the Virginia-born Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky, Colonel Joseph Hamilton “Jo” Daveiss, to the lodge at Vincennes, then Kentucky’s Vincennes Lodge No. 15. Daveiss was on his way with troops to the upper Wabash country to face The Prophet and his warriors. On three evenings—September 18, 19 and 21 of 1811—the Grand Master met with his brethren at Vincennes, conferred all three degrees, and raised one Brother in particular.

Many new friendships were forged in that week, and old ones were strengthened by the knowledge of the coming conflict with the Indians. One of these friendships was between Jo Daveiss and Colonel Isaac White, another Virginian, now a Hoosier. The men were of an age, and thought much alike. White was college-educated, and he’d been in charge of the salt works at Saline River, sent by the Governor, salt being a necessary commodity for food preservation, and at that time in short supply. He had been a captain in the Knox County militia, later raised to a colonel, and was a popular man in Vincennes, handsome and with a winning manner. He had originally volunteered to go with Governor Harrison, but the Governor said he had plenty of men when he left to head north, and hoped a battle wouldn’t be necessary on that account. And so, at Vincennes Lodge, White volunteered into the Kentucky Dragoons led by Daveiss, instead. He was one of a dozen officers who fought officially in the battle as privates for this reason, which has often led to a baffling confusion of proper military titles by writers in later years.

On that night in September, Daveiss and White knew they were going into battle together. The two men had formed a deep friendship, and so they exchanged swords. According to an 1889 memorial written by Jo Daveiss’ grandson, it was White’s sword he would carry into battle. In his book Goodly Heritage, Dwight Smith relates the story of Judge Levi Todd of Indianapolis, a Past Master of Montgomery Lodge No. 23 at Mt. Sterling, Kentucky, who came to have Daveiss’ sword and belt in his possession. This was around 1860, and he’d once been a law student of Daveiss’ in his Lexington law office. The sword was given to him by Daveiss’ widow, and he presented it to Grand Lodge of Kentucky. 

It is this treasured artifact that the Grand Lodge of Indiana has been graciously loaned by the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge of Kentucky to display at the Masonic Library and Museum in Indianapolis for our Bicentennial year. 

In addition to this special artifact, our Museum is also in possession of Jo Daveiss' unique York Rite-influenced Lodge apron from that same week. It is regularly a part of our constantly rotating collection.

An amazing number of men fighting in General Harrison’s army at Tippecanoe were, or later became, prominent Freemasons, especially considering that the first organized lodge in Indiana had only been chartered two years before. Members of Vincennes Lodge 15 in the fight included William Prince, member of the Territorial Assembly, and Parmenas Backes, later sheriff of Knox County. Others in the battle who went on to found the Grand Lodge of Indiana included: Major Waller Taylor, Territorial judge and Indiana’s first U.S. Senator; General Washington Johnston and Benjamin Beckes of Vincennes; Joseph Bartholomew, later of Charlestown; John Tipton and Davis Floyd, later of Corydon; and Marston G. Clark, who settled at Salem.

Jo Daveiss went on to lead a courageous strike against the Indians at Tippecanoe where he fell, wounded in the chest, and Isaac White died not far from him. The bodies of the Kentucky Grand Master and the newest Master Mason in the Indiana Territory were laid in the earth side by side, their battle cloaks wrapped around them. Thomas Randolph, who had constituted Vincennes Lodge 15, and Colonel Abraham Owen of Kentucky’s Solomon Lodge 5 from whom the lodge received their first charter were among those to fall on the field of battle at Tippecanoe. Other men died that day, Kentuckians and Hoosiers, but the story of Daveiss and White struck a deep chord at the time, a note of unity of the two states, and of courage. And of Masons. Few know it today, but Indiana might just as easily become a Spanish territory under the traitorous plotting of Vice President Aaron Burr, whom Daveiss had battled in a Kentucky courtroom five years before. Men like him and others who were among Kentucky and Indiana’s first Masons kept Indiana safe, and free, and a part of America.

A Masonic marker erected by the Grand Lodge of Indiana in 1966 stands today near the Tippecanoe Battleground Monument. Indiana’s Freemasons first proposed a tall, columnar monument in the 1830s with contributions from Kentucky brethren, as well. However, when so little money was raised for the project, it finally vanished from further consideration after the 1850s. The present obelisk was erected in 1908. In 1929, a much smaller stone marker was also erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution at the base of the large stone outcropping along Burnett's Creek known as “Prophet’s Rock,” where The Prophet chanted and sang to encourage his warriors during the fight, assuring them the white man’s bullets would not pass through their bodies.

The Fredericksburg Bible and the Daveiss Sword are just some of several very special exhibits that will be displayed throughout the Bicentennial year of 2018 that tells the story of Freemasonry at the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana. Both of these artifacts are on display now, and can be seen at both Founders' Day on January 13th and through the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons of North America in Indianapolis next month. 
The Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana is located in Indiana Freemasons Hall at 525 North Illinois Street in downtown Indianapolis.

But always remember that Masonic history is never isolated to just a handful of members or “important” lodges. Every single lodge, large and small, new or old, has a past with stories to tell. Take this opportunity of the Grand Lodge’s 200th anniversary to pour through your own lodge’s archives to discover the hidden nuggets of lore that will help bring the past alive for all of us.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

UGLE Responds To News Organizations On Anti-Masonic Police Smears

The following notice has just appeared on the Freemasonry Today website of the United Grand Lodge of England in response to the New Year's furore generated by the press, alleging Masonic police officers have blocked reforms within the Police Federation of England and Wales. (See my earlier posts HERE and HERE.) This non-story was first whipped up in The Guardian, but other news sources soon picked up the scent, and it quickly went worldwide (thus making The Guardian story the story itself).

The UGLE letter from CEO Dr. David Staples can be seen online HERE, but I duplicate it below in its entirety. 

The question now is, how many - if any - of these very same news sources will bother to report this response? Anyone taking bets? Not that it matters. Once the smear is in the headlines, it bores into the collective minds of the public at large, perpetuating the anti-Masonic myth on into the future. 

And that was the intention all along.


Dear Editor

I write in response to your articles Freemasons are blocking reform, says police chair and Why the secret handshake between police and Freemasons should worry us in The Guardian on 1st and 2nd January.

The articles show a complete and disappointing misrepresentation of Freemasonry. Furthermore, we understand, having spoken to the outgoing Chairman of the Police Federation, that recent media coverage does not accurately reflect his views.

We are quietly proud that, throughout history, when people have suffered discrimination both in public and social life, Freemasonry has welcomed them into our Lodges as equals. It is a shame that Freemasons are now quite openly discriminated against and that too many of our members, therefore, feel the need to keep their membership to themselves.

The idea that reform within the Police Federation or anywhere else is being actively thwarted by an organised body of Freemasons is laughable and suggests an unbelievable element of will and influence from an organisation which is non-political, non-religious, values integrity and upholds the law.

In 2001 and again in 2007 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Freemasonry was not a secret or unlawful organisation.

There is absolutely no reason why police officers, or anyone from any other walk of life, should not be a Freemason and we highlight our shared organisational values of integrity and service to the community.

Dr David Staples
Chief Executive Officer
United Grand Lodge of England