Digital Collections Highlight: Check Signed by President Garfield and Albert Hawkins

Hawkins check frontThe G. Edward Elwell, Jr., Autograph Collection contains around one hundred documents collected by G. Edward Elwell, Jr., 33°, a member of Caldwell Consistory (Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania), a professional printer and Scottish Rite Mason. In 1898, the 12-year-old Elwell wrote a letter to Admiral George Dewey (1837–1917), a hero of the Spanish-American War. Dewey’s reply became the first signed document in Elwell's collection. The items in the collection span nearly 500 years of history (1489-1960), and each contains the signature of a well-known figure from American and European history.

One of the items that has always caught my eye is this check, dated June 30, 1881. President James A. Garfield (1831-1881) signed this check, which was issued to Albert Hawkins, the White House's coachman, two days before the President was shot. The sixty-dollar check was Hawkins' monthly salary. After the death of President Garfield, his widow, Lucretia Garfield, gave the check to the historian Edward Everett Hale, who notes the history of the check on the reverse.

Hawkins check backThere is little doubt that Elwell collected this item because of its association with President Garfield, but today, we can see that it helps tell a more complete story, that of Albert Hawkins, a Black man who served as the White House's coachman under six U.S. presidents. The White House Historical Association, in writing about Hawkins, states that “Albert Hawkins was a coachman who began his service under Ulysses S. Grant. By the 1880s, he was among the most celebrated of Washington’s African American community…”

You can see a high-res image of this check at our Digital Collections website.

Caption:
Check issued to Albert Hawkins, 1881 June 30. Gift of Caldwell Consistory, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, A74/002/043.


A Portrait of Samuel Larison, Freemason and Winemaker

2008_038_17DS1 Samuel Larison
Samuel Larison, 1860-1869. California. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.17.

Around 1853 the subject of this photograph, Samuel Larison (also spelled Larrison), drawn by the promise of the Gold Rush, emigrated to California. Larison mined for a few years and “met with more or less success.” Eventually he left prospecting and purchased land to farm. He settled with his family near the town of Cloverdale in Sonoma County, California. There he became a pioneer winemaker, a cooper for the new wine industry, and a charter member of the town’s Masonic lodge. 

In the 1870s Samuel Larison (1821-1899) advertised multiple times as a cooper, declaring, “Wine-Growers, Attention! Cooperage of all kinds on hand and made to order….” A note in the local paper detailed that he used white oak from neighboring Lake County to make wine-pipes (specialized wine barrels) that held 150 gallons (about 750 modern bottles of wine). Starting in 1868, he cultivated grapes, with 18 acres planted with Zinfandel, Burgundy, and other varieties by 1883. Ten years later one observer drew attention to his product, noting that on a visit to the Cloverdale Winery “a load of Burgundy grapes grown by Samuel Larison…were the best we ever saw.”

Larison had first become a Mason as a young man in Ohio. He was a member of Yuba Lodge No. 39 in Marysville from 1856 to 1857. Later he was one of the charter members of Curtis Lodge No. 140 in Cloverdale, founded soon after he settled in town. The lodge received its charter in 1860; that same year Larison served as the lodge’s Tyler. Decades later, his obituary recalled that Larison was “an ardent admirer of masonry and for fifty years was a member of that order.”

This photograph shows Larison wearing the regalia of a Royal Arch Mason sometime in the 1860s. His obituary stated that he was a “chapter mason,” or member of a Royal Arch Chapter. When Larison first became a Royal Arch Mason or which chapter he belonged to is not known. Though many details about Larison’s Masonic career remain to be uncovered, this portrait of Larison in his apron suggests the pride he felt in his association with the group.

Many years after this photograph was taken, Larison continued to demonstrate his devotion to Freemasonry. In 1895 he was the oldest living member of the lodge and attended an installation of lodge officers. The local paper recorded of Larison that on this occasion, even though he did not travel into to town often, “his fraternal love for Masonry was to[o] overpowering to resist this opportunity to meet again with his brothers.”

If you'd like to more photographic portraits in the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection, visit our online collections database or take a look at our flickr albums of cabinet cards and daguerreotypes.

 

Many thanks to Thomas Krummell, Assistant Grand Secretary/Recorder, Grand York Rite of California, for his help in researching Samuel Larison's Masonic activities in California.

References:

Tom Gregory, History of Sonoma County, California with Biographical Sketches (Los Angeles, CA: Historic Record Company, 1911), 668, 671.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, CA: Frank Eastman, Printer, 1857), 175.

Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of California (San Francisco, CA: Frank Eastman, Printer, 1860), 476.

“Wine-Growers, Attention!,” Sonoma Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) December 14, 1872, 7.

"Samuel Larrison of Cloverdale…," Los Angeles Daily Herald (Los Angeles, CA) July 9, 1874, 2.

“Cloverdale,” Press Democrat (Santa Rosa, CA) September 19, 1883, 2.

“Local Items," Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) September 24, 1892, 3.

“Samuel Larrison, a charter member…,” Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) December 28, 1895, 3.

“Samuel Larrison Passes Away,” Cloverdale Reveille (Cloverdale, CA) May 27, 1899, 3.


A Glowing Lineage: Brilliant Cut Glass

2019_044a-bDI6editedCreamer and Sugar Bowl with Masonic Symbols, 1876-1917, USA. Gift of Vikki Sturdivant, 2019.044a-b.

The sugar bowl and creamer pictured here are among the more recent gifts to the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection. The owner of this charming cut glass set displayed it in his home for many years. At the center of either side of each piece is a symbol used in Freemasonry, a six-pointed star, surrounded by rays.

An intriguing discovery during the cataloging process suggested that this set may possess a notable lineage, likely hailing from the era of glass manufacturing referred to by collectors as the American Brilliant Period. Glass formulas of this era, which lasted from about 1876 to 1917, typically included manganese as a clarifying agent. This element causes them to luminesce a light green shade under black light. We couldn't resist trying this test, and were rewarded with the mesmerizing results you see below. Combined with what we know about who owned them, we believe it is likely that these table wares were a product of this fascinating time.

In the late 1800s several factors converged to change the glass industry: large deposits of high-grade silica were discovered in the US, and around the same time, electric-powered machinery and assembly-line methods were ramping up production in American factories and allowing manufacturers to turn out increasingly sophisticated goods. Along with all this, surging prosperity led to a growing consumer demand for fancy table wares. Cutting shops multiplied, and American companies' designs soon garnered awards and fame at the 1889 Paris Exposition and 1893 World's Columbian Exposition. 

2019_044a-bDI5Glowing green under a black light.

The cut glass pieces of this period are characterized by intricate patterns and the ability to catch and reflect light particularly well. They were made of a type of glass with a high proportion of lead oxide. This ingredient effectively softened the glass, enabling it to be cut without shattering. Their manufacturing process started with the creation of thick “blanks” in the shape of the desired form. After being marked with a design, they underwent several stages of cutting and polishing on wheels of metal, wood, and stone. You can read more about the process, and see examples from this period—which ended abruptly when lead was needed for military purposes in World War I—at this website. Curious parties can delve into further examples of American cut glass here

The manufacturer of our creamer and sugar bowl is not known. Many glass makers did not mark their products, or used paper labels which wore off over time. Cut glass from the late 1800s and early 1900s was comparatively durable and was popular in its day. These two qualities have contributed to the survival of cut glass objects in family collections. If you have any cut glass objects decorated with Masonic symbols, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. 

References:

John C. Roesel. "American Brilliant Cut Glass, 1876-1917." American Cut Glass Association website, accessed May 29, 2021, at https://cutglass.org/AboutCutGlass.htm

"Black Light Testing." The House of Brilliant Glass website, accessed May 29, 2021, at https://www.brilliantglass.com/black-light-testing/


Attention blog email subscribers - please read

Please read this if you receive notifications about our blog posts via email.

We will soon be switching over from our current service (Feedburner) to Mailchimp for delivering emails to those who subscribe to our blog this way. You do not have to do anything, but we wanted to give you a heads up since the emails will be arriving from a different source and will look slightly different.

Questions about this? Email us at info[at]srmml.org. And, as always, thanks for reading!

 


Charleston’s Best Friend: A Freemason Provides an Intimate Look into the Development of the American Railway System

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection of correspondence from Moses Holbrook (1783-1844) to John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865) provides researchers with a wealth of insight into early nineteenth-century American Freemasonry, as well as an intimate look at daily life in Charleston, South Carolina, as seen through Holbrook's eyes. During the 1820s and 1830s, Holbrook, the Southern Jurisdiction's fourth Sovereign Grand Commander, corresponded with the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s John James Joseph Gourgas. Gourgas served as the NMJ's Grand Secretary General from its founding in 1813 until 1832, and then as Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832 until 1851. Holbrook served as Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council from 1826 until 1844. Holbrook’s letters touch upon a variety of subjects, from outbreaks of yellow fever to the political victory of Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) in the Presidential election of 1828. However, one passage in particular stands out for its contribution to our understanding of transportation history: a passage in Holbrook’s January 1, 1831, letter to Gourgas regarding Charleston’s Best Friend, the first American-built passenger steam locomotive. Holbrook writes,

A2019_178_0060aDS1Letter from Moses Holbrook to John James Joseph Gourgas, 1831 January 1.

 

The only subject of public attention that occupies us at present is the Rail Road and “Charleston’s Best Friend” (the name given to a little locomotive engine of six horse power that has been built for an experiment and put upon the small portion – about five miles or a little over – of the Rail Road which has been completed for the purpose of trial.) The “Best Friend” when on the trial by the Rail Road Company’s Committee to ascertain whether the machinery - &c - answered the contract which Mr. Miller the inventor had entered into. The “Best Friend” dragged after it near ten tons besides itself and the wood and water necessary – at the rate of about 15 miles an hour with perfect ease and safety. Several pleasure cars are now attached to it and it runs at stated periods of the day to carry passengers only – and Bachelors, Maids, Matrons & Madams all are anxious to make trial of a ride at the speed of about 20 miles an hour. I tried it the other day and went the five miles and back again in thirty minutes and this time included the turning about taking in water &c. 

I remain respectfully your friend and well wisher,

M. Holbrook

Built at the West Point Foundry in New York in 1830, Charleston’s Best Friend was hailed by the Charleston Courier as an experience that “annihilate[ed] time and space,” a technological achievement that demonstrated the potential of steam powered rail travel. Until this time, travel had been limited by road conditions, the weather, and river navigability. After the short, but great, success of Charleston’s Best Friend, which was destroyed by operator error six months after its maiden voyage, six new locomotives were constructed for the Southern Railway System, including the Phoenix, which was constructed from the remains of Charleston’s Best Friend.  Its short life had completely revolutionized America’s transportation system, and towns across the country shifted their sights from building canals to building railroads.

As for Sovereign Grand Commander Holbrook, ravaged by several illnesses, worn thin by the incessant battles with Anti-masonry and the “lukewarmness” of those within the Fraternity, William L. Fox in Lodge of the Double-Headed Eagle reported Holbrook longed to leave Charleston and relinquish his responsibilities as Sovereign Grand Commander. When the United States Government offered settlers to Florida 160 acres of free land on condition they defend it against the Seminoles, Holbrook applied for and received a plot of land under the auspices of the Armed Occupation Act on April 16, 1843, and settled in St. Lucie, Florida. Remembered as a recluse by the settlers, Holbrook lived in his one room, palm-thatched cabin stuffed with hundreds of books brought from Charleston, and served as the settlement’s only doctor. His “many misfortunes over the years” had robbed him of his “once brilliant intellect,” another settler William Henry Peck (1830-1892) remarked in one of his articles for the Florida Star regarding the Indian River settlement. His only solace was his books and a flute “on which he became a virtuoso.”

Best FriendCharleston's Best Friend: An image from Popular Science Monthly.

On September 11, 1844, Moses Holbrook died and was buried near his cabin on the bluff overlooking the Indian River. He was 61 years old.

 


Captions

Letter from Moses Holbrook to John James Joseph Gourgas, 1831 January 1. Records and Correspondence of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 300.002.


"When among Unionists these limbs were of course lost in the service of the Union": A Masonic Impostor During the American Civil War

Masonic impostor 1864 webLong-time readers of our blog know that every May we return to the topic of our very first blog post: Masonic impostors. This year we highlight a document from our Digital Collections website, an American Civil War era circular letter warning other Masons of an itinerant Masonic impostor.

Olympia Lodge No. 1, a Masonic lodge in what was then Washington Territory - statehood would not come until 1889 - issued this letter warning other lodges to be wary of a man named "O. H. Treat, Tweed, or Treed," who had claimed to be a Mason and asked for financial help from the lodge.

Written by Elwood Evans, the Master of Olympia Lodge No. 1, this letter describes the appearance of "Treat" and his story claiming to be a Mason in need of assistance. The story is one that, Evans admits, upon first hearing, engenders sympathy:

He is about 6 feet in height, sallow complexion, dark hair, light blueish grey eyes, supposed to be about 32 years old, and uses two crutches to travel with. His sallow, sickly appearance, and the use of crutches, invite a sympathy, as would the first hearing of his story about his hip-disease, disease of the spine, rheumatism, kidney disease, gravel, and finally a deep-seated pulmonary affection. He said his father was blind from infancy; that his poor mother, lately made a widow, is but recently afflicted by her other son having lost a leg and right arm in the present war. When among Unionists these limbs were of course lost in the service of the Union; but if the crowd be of different sympathies, then the "story is changed." Before I could learn where such mishap occurred, he desired my views, as he said it was not politic to say which side his brother fought upon, as that would commit him.

However, as Evans described his attempt to determine whether "Treat" was indeed a Freemason, he encountered many red flags and conflicting statements. For instance, Evans noted that while "Treat" seemed very familiar with the various parts of known ritual exposures, he could not name the lodge he belonged to, despite claiming to have been a Mason for six years.

Are elements of the story told by the man known as Treat/Tweed/Treed true? Were any of those names his real name or were they all aliases? Was he a mere con artist or a man with a hard life seeking assistance on false pretenses during a time before government- and company-based insurance was commonplace? We may not find answers to these questions, but this document reminds us that even during times of conflict - perhaps especially during times of conflict - both Masons and those falsely claiming to be Masons sought aid from local lodges.

Want to read more about Masonic impostors? Be sure to check out all of our previous posts on the topic.

Caption:

Letter from Worshipful Master Elwood Evans of Olympia Lodge, No. 1, 1864. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts. MA 630.003. Museum purchase.


A Hawaiian Journey

78_56_1DI1In 1850, William Fessenden Allen (1831-1906), arrived in Honolulu, Hawaii. Eighteen years old, he had traveled aboard the Eliza Warwick on a 130-day journey from Boston. He had journeyed to Hawaii with his family, when his father, Elisha Hunt Allen (1804-1883), a lawyer, and congressman from Massachusetts, began his term as United States Consul to Hawaii under President Millard Fillmore (1800-1874). Elisha Allen’s U.S. Consul term concluded with the end of Fillmore’s presidency in 1853, but the family, including William, stayed in Hawaii. They later became citizens of the Kingdom of Hawaii.

Allen worked in bookkeeping for C.L. Richards & Co., a ship chandler,  before following in his father’s footsteps to work in civil service. He served as the Collector General of Customs for the Kingdom of Hawaii, and in a variety of other government roles for King Kamehameha V (1830-1872) and King Kalakaua (1836-1891). After the overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1893, Allen served on the Advisory Council of the Provisional Government of Hawaii and then as the Executive Council of the Republic of Hawaii.

Allen joined Hawaiian Lodge No. 21 in 1859 and served as master of the lodge in 1865. In 1870 Hawaiian Lodge No. 21 presented this Past Master's jewel to him. Marks on the arc spanning the compass legs and on the inside of the compass show that the jewel is incomplete. It is most likely missing the square and sun visible on this example.

The shape of Allen's Past Master's jewel resembles many made in the United States around the same time. The decoration of the jewel in black enamel, combined with bright gold, shares features with a style of jewelry that became popular with Hawaiian consumers in the late 1800s. This style of jewelry, now called Hawaiian heirloom, emulated the black enameled mourning jewelry of the time that bore black letters and designs.

The heirloom style first crafted in Hawaii the early 1860s usually included a decoration in the shape of a floral scroll or filigree design accompanied with black enamel old English script lettering on a bright gold band or bracelet. The style purportedly grew in popularity on the Hawaiian Islands in the 1800s after Honolulu jeweler, Christian Eckart (1831-1875), crafted the “Hoomanao Mau” or “Lasting Remembrance” bracelet in 1862 for Lydia Paki (1838-1917), later known as Queen Lili’uokalani. The Queen wore the bracelet, adorned with Hawaiian text and symbols of Hawaiian royalty, throughout her lifetime. The unidentified craftsmen who made Allen's Past Master's jewel may have taken his inspiration from the locally popular Hawaiian heirloom style or from the fashionable mourning jewelry worn during the Victorian era. William Fessenden Allen  Hawaiian Lodge No. 21

An active Freemason throughout his life, Allen took part in the dedication of the newly built Masonic Temple in Honolulu in 1893 and continued to participate in the organization until his death in 1906. His Past Master's jewel is evidence of his involvement in Masonry in his adopted nation of Hawaii.

Do you have any items related to Freemasonry in Hawaii? Have you seen a Past Master's jewel like this?  Leave us a comment below.

Captions

Past Master Jewel for William Fessenden Allen, 1870. Honolulu, Hawaii. Gift of Mrs. Merrill Griswold, 78.56.1.

William Fessenden Allen, Past Master, 1865. Courtesy of Hawaiian Lodge, Honolulu, Hawaii.

References

Ronn Ronck,  "A Jeweled Detective Story: What happened to Lili'uokalani's bracelets?" Honolulu Advertiser (Honolulu, Hawaii), April 4, 1993.

Phillip Rickard, Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry: A Lasting Remembrance (Honolulu, HI: Hawaiian Heirloom Jewelry Press, 1993).

Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge of California, 1858-1859 (California: Grand Lodge of California, 1859).

 

 


Celebrate Patriots' Day With Our New Online Exhibition

Lexington Alarm letter exhibition imagePatriots' Day, a holiday well-known in Massachusetts and celebrated in other U.S. states as well, commemorates the Battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, 1775. This year's holiday marks the 246th anniversary of the events that signaled the beginning of the American Revolution.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library invites you to explore our new online exhibition, “'To all the Friends of American Liberty': The 1775 Lexington Alarm Letter” now available on the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. This exhibition takes a close look at an original copy of the Lexington Alarm letter that is in the Museum & Library's collection. Written on April 20, 1775, the letter's urgent news that war had broken out brings today's viewers to the beginning of the American Revolution.

The Museum's copy of the letter, written in the late morning of April 20, 1775, is one of several created by colonists to inform distant communities and colonies about the Battle of Lexington and the outbreak of war with England.

Interested in more online exhibitions? You can check out all of the Library & Archives online exhibitions here. Also be sure to check out the seven online exhibitions that are available at the Museum's online exhibitions website.


Overseas Lodge No. 40

2001_029S1cropped betterIn 1919, in Coblenz, Germany, a group of American military officers serving during World War I, formed the Masonic Club of the Third American Army. Members of the club eventually founded Overseas Lodge No. 40 in Rhode Island.  The club was open to Masons and members of welfare organizations who were wives, daughters, sisters or widows of Masons. Along with regular meetings, the club organized social activities and gatherings, as well as memorial programs for those who died in service. The meetings were held at the German Masonic Temple, the local high school and a German officers club in Coblenz.

A number of Rhode Island Masons had organized the club. They sought to establish a Masonic lodge in Germany and on March 15, 1919, the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island granted dispensation to the group to form Overseas Lodge No. 1. This decree allowed the lodge to “elect, initiate, pass and raise candidates without the usual formalities and requirements of chartered Lodges, provided that such candidates shall be selected only from citizens of the United States serving in the army or navy of the United States, or in any organizations associated with said army or navy.” Between April and July of 1919, the group impressively held eighty meetings and raised 517 candidates. The lodge operated in Germany alongside the Masonic Club until July 31, 1919, when the last American soldiers returned home to the United States.  

The first meeting of the lodge in the United States was held in Freemasons Hall in Providence, Rhode Island, on January 13, 1920. In May of 1920 the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island granted a charter to the lodge, named Overseas Lodge, No. 40, F. & A.M. Members conducted Masonic meetings wearing the uniforms they wore while in service. The photograph above shows officers of the lodge in Cranston, Rhode Island, in 1923. Masonic guests from other lodges in Canada and Britain are also pictured.

This token (at right) is from Overseas Lodge No. 40 and belonged to John A. Marshall (1877-1966). Described as a “devoted and ardent Mason” by his nephew, Marshall belonged to Strafford Lodge No. 29 in Dover, New Hampshire. It is still unknown if Marshall was a member of Overseas Lodge No. 40 or if the token was a gift from a fellow Mason. One side of the token shows Masonic symbols. On the other side is the emblem of the Overseas Lodge which includes an "A" at the center of a circle,  the insignia of the Third United States Army (the United States Army Central). Both sides token overseas lodge

Overseas Lodge No. 40 is still active today in Rhode Island and is open to military veterans or active duty members. They hold an annual meeting and reunion on Armistice Day. It is the only military lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island.

In writing about the formation of the club and Overseas lodge at its close in Germany in 1919, District Deputy Grand Master Lieutenant Colonel Winfield S. Solomon (1876-1954), Past Master of Morning Star Lodge No. 13 in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, stated: “These officers and men alike had experienced in practice the meaning of that spirit of brotherhood and equality which we had been taught at home. Through this experience the great truths of Masonry for which our fraternity stands were brought home to us as never before.”

Visit our previous blog posts to learn more about other military lodges. Do you have any items related to Overseas Lodge No. 40? Let us know in the comments below.

Captions: 

Officers of Overseas Lodge No. 40, 1923. Cranston, Rhode Island. Museum Purchase, 2001.029.

Overseas Lodge No. 40 Token, 1919-1966. United States. Gift of the Supreme Council, 33º, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, U.S.A. from Mr. Clarence Hayfield, SC79.2.

References:

History and Roster of the Masonic Club of the Third American Army and Rhode Island Overseas Lodge (Providence, RI: Press of E. L. Freeman Company, 1919).

Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, 1919 (Providence, Rhode Island: Grand Lodge, 1919) 32-35.  


Pollie and James Henry Thomas and the Household of Ruth

Pollie Thomas postcard
Pollie Thomas, 1908-1914, Benjamin Ami Blakemore (1846-1932), Staunton, Virginia. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, A2018/053/005.

Pencil inscriptions on the back of these two photographs in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives identify that they portray Pollie Thomas (1888-1976) (at left) and her husband, James Henry Thomas (1869-1929) (at left, below). The Thomases lived in Staunton, Virginia. A copy of the "By-laws and Rules of Order Rose of Sharon Household of Ruth," published in 1915, signed "Sister Pollie Thomas," shows that Pollie Thomas belonged to this organization. A further inscription on the back of her portrait notes that she held the office of “Worthy Recorder,” or secretary, of the group.

Membership in the Household of Ruth was open to wives, daughters, and other relations of men who belonged to the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. Based in England, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows granted a charter to a group of Black men who wished to form a lodge in New York in 1843. In the United States, the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows was an African American organization.

Established in the United States in 1858, the Household of Ruth was a women’s auxiliary associated with the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. The organization granted degrees to both men and women. The group that Pollie Thomas belonged to, Rose of Sharon, No. 79, received its warrant in 1876. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Staunton, King Hiram No. 1463, where Pollie’s husband was likely a member, received its charter a few years before, in 1871. When he died in 1929, James Henry Thomas’s obituary noted that the Odd Fellows, the Household of Ruth, and the Lilly of the Valley Lodge of Elks, No. 171 conducted portions of his funeral service.

More examples of archival material related to African American fraternal groups in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives can be viewed here, on our digital collections site.

References:

"Thomas Funeral," The News Leader (Staunton, VA), 7/13/1929, 2.

Charles H. Brooks, The Official History and Manual of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America (Philadelphia, PA: Odd Fellows Print Journal, 1902), 115, 141.

 

Henry Thomas postcard
James Henry Thomas, 1907-1929, J.A. Haack, Washington, D.C. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, A2018/053/007.