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November 2013

An Addition to the Collection: Mark Medal from Connecticut

Ezra Bennet medal 2013_054_1DP1DBWhen it rains it pours!  As noted in recent and past posts, we’ve got a soft spot for the personalized badges that some Masons commissioned for themselves in the first decades of the 1800s.  We are excited to have just added a wonderful Connecticut example to our collection at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library.

This silver medal belonged to Ezra Bennet (also spelled Bennitt and Bennett).  Born in 1776 or 8, Bennett appears to have been a life-long resident of Weston, Connecticut.  There he married Esther Godfrey (dates unknown) in 1796.  Counted in the 1810, 1820 and 1830 census, Bennet was probably a farmer.  He died in 1831 and was buried in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  Records at the Grand Lodge of Connecticut note him as raised at Ark Lodge No. 39 of Redding (now in Danbury) in 1802.  A local history names Ezra Bennet as a member of Lynch Chapter No. 8 and Heron Mark Lodge, along with his brother, Platt (b. 1770) and William Bennitt (dates unknown), likely another relation. 

First established in 1801, Lynch Chapter No. 8 and Heron Mark Lodge met in Weston and Redding until 1828.  Although located in Connecticut, where Royal Arch Masons first organized a Grand Chapter in 1798, Lynch Chapter No. 8, received its charter from the Grand Chapter of New York.  Interestingly, this charter is not named in the proceedings of the Grand Chapter of New York.  Joseph Wheeler, however, notes the source of Lynch Chapter No. 8’s charter in his history of Royal Arch Freemasonry in Connecticut.  Masons in New York founded numerous Mark Lodges—one scholar estimated over 80 through 1809—many warranted by the Grand Chapter of New York.  A great number of these New York Mark Lodges were independent—not affiliated with a Royal Arch Chapter.  Connecticut brethren also founded Mark Lodges—some scholars believe the one formed in 1783 at Middletown, Connecticut, was the first in the United States—but only a few.  Unlike their colleagues in New York, the Grand Chapter of Connecticut did not charter or administer independent Mark Lodges.  A few years after its founding, Lynch Chapter found a home with the Grand Chapter of Connecticut, when that group admitted the chapter “into full fellowship and unity.”

The original members of Lynch Chapter No. 8 named their group after a member, Francis Lynch (dates unknown).  In the same spirit, members gave the name of another locally-influential citizen, William Heron (1742-1819), to their Mark Lodge.  In addition to serving as the first Master of Ark Lodge in Redding, Heron was active in local and state government and holds the intriguing distinction of having likely been a spy for both sides during the American Revolution. 

Ezra Bennet mark side 2013_054_1DP2DBUnfortunately, we don’t know too much about Erza Bennet.  This medal, however, may give us a glimpse of what he valued.  Mark medals come in many shapes. The most popular ones were shields, hearts, circles and keystones.  Bennet’s medal was crafted in an uncommon teardrop shape that probably represented a plumb bob—the weight at the end of a plumb line.  In Freemasonry, a plumb or plumb rule, a tool that helps the user assess verticality, is a symbol of uprightness, rectitude or truth.  A level, which also incorporated a plumb bob, represented equality.  On one side of the this medal, the engraver cut Bennet’s name in a flowing banner decorated by stylized flowers and vines, similar in style to the engraving Peter Rushton Maverick (1755-1811) executed on the medal he made for Frederick Phile.  On the other side of the Bennet medal the engraver pictured four symbols, an all-seeing eye, a sun, a crescent moon and a heart, all within the mnemonic HTWSSTKS. Placed inside the mnemonic, together these symbols formed the mark Bennett chose for himself.  This mark likely recalled some of the lessons he learned in the lodge.  Ritualist (and fellow Connecticut resident) Jeremy Cross (1783-1860) included an illustration featuring those symbols, along with a comet and stars, in his handbook for Freemasons, The True Masonic Chart and Hieroglyphic Monitor. With the illustration, first published in 1819, Cross noted this interpretation of the symbols for his readers:  “…although our thoughts, words and actions, may be hidden from the eyes of men, yet that All-Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon, and Stars obey, and under whose watchful care even Comets perform their stupendous revolutions, pervades the inmost recesses of the human Heart, and will reward us according to our merits.”

If you have any insights or questions about this recent addition to the collection, please leave us a comment.

Photo credit:

Mark Medal, 1801-1828. Probably Connecticut, Museum Purchase, 2013.054.1. Photos by David Bohl.


Case, James R., “William Heron,” The Case Collection of Masonic Notables (Fulton, Missouri: Missouri Lodge of Research, 1984).

Cross, Jeremy L., The True Masonic Chart and Hieroglyphic Monitor… (New Haven, Connecticut:  Amos Doolittle, 1820).  Reprinted by the Texas Lodge of Research, 1984.

Hurd, D. Hamilton, History of Fairfield County, Connecticut (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: J. W. Lewis and Co., 1881).

Jack, Harold W., Mark Lodges of New England (Boston, Massachusetts:  The Massachusetts Chapter of Research, 1976).

Wheeler, Joseph K., Records of Capitular Masonry in the State of Connecticut (Hartford, Connecticut:  Press of Wiley, Waterman and Eaton, 1875)

Now Available: Book of Wisdom Compiled by Jean Doszedardski

Doszedardski Book CoverCompiled by Freemason Jean Doszedardski (b. 1770) during the early 1800s, the “Book of Wisdom” contains “statutes and general regulations” for Lodge le Choix des Hommes, located in Jacmel, San Domingo.  Now translated from the original French, the book provides an entrée into the lodges of the West Indies during the late 1700s and early 1800s.  In addition to details about how the lodge pursued its routine business, the end of the book includes a history of the development of Scottish Rite Freemasonry as it traveled from France to the West Indies and, eventually, to the United States.

The original manuscript is part of a collection of documents compiled by Doszedardski, now in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Kamel Oussayef, 33°, completed the translation over several years as a volunteer at the Museum & Library.  Director of Collections Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., provided an introduction and historical notes for the text.

Book of Wisdom: Freemasonry through the Veil of an Ancient French Manuscript is available now for $34.95 plus shipping from the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, at https://shop.scottishritenmj.org/.

New to the Collection: An Odd Fellows Minute Book from Civil War Era

IOOF Minute Book_web version_2The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library recently acquired an Odd Fellows minute book, from Hopewell Lodge No. 504, dating from 1854 through 1880.  It offers clues as to how the Civil War affected this fraternal organization. 

The decades preceding and after the Civil War were times of enormous growth for the Odd Fellows.  However, during the Civil War, Odd Fellow membership decreased as men put on their military uniforms and set out to serve the Union or the Confederacy.  

According to Stillson's Official History of Odd Fellowship..., in 1861, there was a proposal to form a Grand Lodge of IOOF of the Southern Confederacy.  However, a division of the fraternal order never officially occurred. The representatives from the Southern states just did not attend the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge of the United States which was held in Baltimore in 1861.  They were absent again from the 1862 and 1863 sessions in Baltimore and from the session in Boston in 1864.  In 1865, at the close of the Civil War, the Northern and Southern representatives of the Odd Fellows met in Baltimore to formally reunite this organization and members from all but two Southern states were present.  The Odd Fellows were the first fraternal organization to reunite.

Many Odd Fellows lodges went dark, or became inactive, during the war.  Hopewell Lodge No. 504, meeting in West Middletown and Claysville,  and located in Washington county, in western Pennsylvania, is a good example of this. During 1854-1858, the Hopewell Lodge No. 504 accepted applications for many members each meeting and held initiations. 

Then there is are large gap in the minutes for this lodge from May 17, 1862 to  April 22,1872.  This spanned the time of the Civil War (1861-1865) and the beginning of the Reconstruction Era (1863-1877).  According to Boyd Crumrine's History of Washington County, Pennsylvania:  With Biographical Sketches of Many of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, men from this area of Pennsylvania signed up with the Union army immediately and their participation was greater than any other county in the state or in the Union.  The governor held a special state meeting emphasizing that Pennsylvania was particularly vulnerable having a border on the Mason-Dixon line.  Perhaps this explains the high participation rates from Washington County and Pennsylvania in general. 

On April 22, 1872, the minutes resumed and there was "a Petition for the Restoration of the Charter of Hopewell Lodge No. 504" (pictured above).  This suggests that the lodge had gone dark during the Civil War. According to the minutes there was a joint meeting between the Grand Lodge of IOOF and Hopewell Lodge No. 504 during which the petition to restore the charter was accepted and the lodge reopened.  The lodge elected new officers including Thomas A. Bartilson (1816-1906) as Noble Grand.   Other officers included:  P. A. McReath (Vice Grand), Thomas Irvin (Secretary), Allison DeFrance (Financial Secretary), and David McCune (Treasurer).   


Independent Order of Odd Fellows Minute Book, 1854-1880.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A2013/25/1.

For Further Reading:

Halleran, Michael A. The Better Angels of Our Nature. Tuscaloosa:  University of Alabama Press, 2010.

Skocpol, Theda, Ariane Liazos, and Marshall Ganz.  What a Mighty  Power We Can Be:  African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality.  Princeton:  Princeton University Press, 2006.

Stillson, Henry Leonard.  The Official History of Odd Fellowship:  The Three-Link Fraternity.  Boston:  The Fraternity Publishing Company, 1914.




Independent Order of Odd Fellows Encampment

2010_024_3DP1DBAt the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we aspire to collect and interpret objects associated with all of the fraternal groups that have ever met in the United States – Masonic and non-Masonic alike.  Millions of Americans have joined one or more groups since the 1700s and many men and women belonged to more than one.  During the late 1800s and early 1900s one of the most popular fraternal groups in America was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows.  Originally founded in England in 1745, the American branch was organized in Baltimore in 1819.  By 1907, the group numbered almost one million members in this country (see this previous post for more information).

Recently, we acquired the daguerreotype at left, showing an unidentified member of the Odd Fellows.  In the photograph, he proudly wears his collar and apron.  While we unfortunately do not know who this man is or who took the photo, his apron is detailed enough, with a tent, sun, moon and wreath, to tell us that he received the Odd Fellows Encampment degrees.  The Encampment degrees originated in 1827 and were conferred on members after they received the initial three degrees.  The Encampment degrees are called Patriarchal, Golden Rule and Royal Purple. 87_50_1DI1

In addition to the daguerreotype, we are fortunate to have an example of an Encampment apron in our collection, seen here at right.  The dark silk apron has gold bullion fringe and painted emblems of a tent and wreath with an all-seeing eye on the flap.  While the daguerreotype dates to the 1840s or 1850s, this apron was probably made a bit later – in the 1870s or 1880s.

Unidentified Man, 1840-1860, United States.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase through the generosity of Helen G. Deffenbaugh in memory of George S. Deffenbaugh, 2010.024.3.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Encampment Apron, ca. 1880, United States.  Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, gift of Paul Fisher, 87.50.1.

Lecture: A Civil War Cause Celebre - The Union's First Martyr and a Confederate Flag, 11/9

Ellsworth Envelope_croppedJoin us on Saturday, November 9, at 2 PM for the last lecture in our two-year series marking the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. Robert Weible, Chief Curator of the New York State Museum and New York State Historian will explore a key event at the beginning of the war between the states, the death of Union officer Elmer Ellsworth. Weible's talk, entitled 'Not that this is Going to Be Real War': The Civil War, the Marshall House Flag, and Elmer Ellsworth's Martrydom, will trace the meaning of this gripping event for contemporaries on both sides of the Mason-Dixson line.

Ellsworth was killed by a seccessionist Virginian in a face-to-face confrontation over whether an outsized Confederate national flag would continue to fly over the city of Alexandria. Supporters of both the Northern and the Southern causes saw trenchant symbolism in this event, which was framed as a martyrdom in Northern newspapers and popular magazines. Weible will also speak on the story of the massive, 14- by 24-foot flag itself, now held by the New York State Military Museum and exhibited at the New York State Museum in conjunction with its current Civil War exhibition. The talk is free, thanks to the generous support of the Ruby W. Linn and LaVonn P. Linn Foundation

On April 12, 1861, Confederate artillery opened fire on Fort Sumter, located in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina. The fort was occupied by Federal troops, asserting Union presence and authority in South Carolina, which was one of the first seven states to have seceeded from the Union. Decades of growing strife between northern and southern states now erupted in civil war. Only a few weeks later, Union troops streamed into Northern Virginia, among them Colonel Elmer Ellsworth and his 11th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, known as the First Fire Zouaves.

MarshallHouseEllsworth met his fate just after his twenty-fourth birthday in the Virginian city of Alexandria, at the Marshall House Hotel. This building had a particularly long flagpole, and on it flew the Confederate colors - which could be seen from the White House in Washington, D.C. Ellsworth took a small party of soldiers on a mission to cut down the offending flag. The Marshall House innkeeper, James Jackson, was not about to let the extremely large "stars and bars" seccessionist flag be destroyed. The dramatic confrontation that ensued resulted in Ellsworth's death at Jackson's hand. The first Union officer killed in the war between the states became a martyr for the federal cause and an arch-villain in Confederate eyes. Newspapers and popular magazines on both sides of the Mason-Dixon line proclaimed to their readers the significance of the Marshall House flag and the death of Ellsworth.

Robert Weible is a well-known public historian and former president of the National Council for Public History who has held key positions in Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and New York. He is familiar to many in the Boston area as the first historian at Lowell National Historical Park. He has also served as Director of Public History for the State Museum of Pennsylvania, Acting Director of the Pennsylvania State Archives, and Chief of the Division of History for the Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission. Educators and scholars will know him as a former grants director for Teaching American History and National Endowment for the Humanities.

For further information, contact the Museum at (781) 861-6559. www.monh.org.

Image credits:

E.E. Ellsworth, late colonel of N.Y Fire Zouaves, c. 1861. E. & H.T. Anthony, New York. LC-DIG-ppmsca-08357. Library of Congress.

[Alexandria, Va. The Marshall House, King and Pitt Streets], [Between 1860 and 1865]. LC-B8171-2294. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.





Frederick Dalcho's Scottish Rite Rituals from 1801

5.10 SC155_R231DP1DBSome of the earliest and most important Scottish Rite rituals in existence are in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. A number of them are currently on view in Secret Scripts: Masonic and Fraternal Ritual Books in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives in the library's reading room.

The earliest ritual on view is Frederick Dalcho's 1801 version of the 4th degree (Secret Master). Dalcho (1770-1836), a medical doctor who later became an Episcopal minister, was the first Lieutenant Grand Commander of the Charleston Supreme Council (today's Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction), and served as its second Sovereign Grand Commander from 1816 until 1822. The Charleston Supreme Council was founded in 1801, but the degrees of the Lodge of Perfection (4-14) had been worked in Charleston since the founding of the Sublime Grand Lodge of Perfection in  1783. Upon its founding, the Charleston Supreme Council began bringing together groups and individual degrees that would eventually become the system of Scottish Rite degrees (4-32, as well as the 33rd) that we know today.

Dalcho's 1801 version of the 4th degree is the closest we can get today to the first degree that a candidate would have encountered upon his entrance into the Scottish Rite during its earliest days. Scottish Rite degrees today are theatrical stage productions, an innovation that did not occur until the late nineteenth century. The ritual degrees of the Scottish Rite for most of the 1800s occurred in rectangular lodge rooms, just like the Craft degrees. In the early days of the Scottish Rite, many of the degrees were merely "communicated" to the candidate, which is to say that they were read and explained to him. If the degree were "conferred, that is, fully acted out by the candidate and members of the lodge, the conferral would have taken place in the same type of room - or possibly exactly the same room - as those of the Craft degrees, complete with props and costumes. (See this previous post to get a sense of what the lodge room for the 4th degree would have looked like in 1867.)

Also on view in Secret Scripts is a 33rd degree ritual, written ca. 1801 in Dalcho's hand. It is, in the words of Arturo de Hoyos, "the earliest thirty-third degree ritual directly traceable to the Scottish Rite." Unlike the 4th degree, the Dalcho 33rd degree ritual contains many corrections and additions, demonstrating that, from its beginnings, Scottish Rite rituals have been evolving and changing.

Be sure to check out our previous posts about other rituals that are also on view in Secret Scripts through February 1, 2014.


4th degree (Secret Master) Scottish Rite Ritual, 1801. Frederick Dalcho, Charleston, South Carolina. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, SC 155-R231. Photograph by David Bohl.