John P. French's Masonic Powder Horn
In a Portrait Studio, Worn with Pride: Prince Hall Freemasonry, Order of Eastern Star, and Real Photo Postcards in the Early Twentieth Century

A Photograph of Royal Arch Mason Marcus L. Young Taken by George N. Burley

Marcus L. Young, ca. 1871. George Newton Burley (1847-1919), Taylorville, Illinois. Gift in Memory of Jacques Noel Jacobsen, 2008.038.62.

Around 1870 a young photographer, George Newton Burley, took this portrait of a fellow resident of Taylorville, Illinois. An inscription inked on the bottom edge of the image names the subject of the portrait, M. L. Young. The richly decorated sash and apron, and the badge suspended from the collar of his coat, document Young’s involvement in Royal Arch Freemasonry.

Born in Kentucky, Young (ca. 1824-1890) likely moved to Illinois as a teenager. In 1865 a state census taker noted that Young engaged in the trade of harness and saddle making and lived in Taylorville with his family. Where and when Young first became a Freemason is not known. It is possible that he belonged to the Masonic lodge in Taylorville, Mound Lodge No. 122. His brother, Asbury A. Young (ca. 1829-1894), received his degrees at Mound Lodge No. 122 in 1852, the same year that the lodge received its charter.  In late 1866 or early 1867, M. L. Young took the Royal Arch degree at Taylorville Chapter No. 102. There, as noted in the Grand Chapter’s Proceedings, he joined 25 members of the new chapter. Royal Arch Masons in the area had established the chapter the previous year. Starting in 1867, Young filled the office of Tyler at the chapter.  In this role, he would have been charged with guarding the door during meetings. He may have received payment for undertaking this duty. The Grand Chapter’s Proceedings note that Young held this position in 1868, 1869, and 1870. It is possible that he served in this position after 1870. Starting in 1871 the Grand Chapter stopped publishing the names of all chapter officers in its Proceedings, so information about Young's roles at the chapter after that time is harder to come by.

In this portrait taken by George Burley, Young appears to wear the jewel of a High Priest—the presiding officer of a Royal Arch Chapter. The Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Illinois did not record Young as holding this office in its Proceedings from 1867 through 1890.  However, in 1871, the High Priest and Secretary of Taylorville Chapter were, unusually, not recorded in the Grand Chapter’s Proceedings. It is possible that Young served as presiding officer of his chapter during that year.

If Young had filled that role, he may have wanted to commemorate this achievement with a portrait. George N. Burley (also spelled Burleigh, 1847-1919), born in Rosedale, Illinois, established himself as a photographer in Taylorville around 1870. When seeking to have his portrait taken Young selected Burley for the job. The image that Burley took has endured to the present day, capturing Young in his Royal Arch regalia.        



Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois…1852 (Peoria, Illinois: T. J. Pickett, 1852), 1852.

Proceedings of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the State of Illinois, 1867-1871 (Springfield, Illinois: Harman G. Reynolds and Chicago, Illinois: Horton & Leonard), 1867-1871.   

Richard E. Hart, Springfield, Illinois' Nineteenth Century Photographers (1845-1900) (Spring Creek Series, 2014 Edition), 69-86.


Many thanks to Jodi Lloyd of the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Stephanie Martin  of Lincoln Library, Springfield, Illinois.


Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)