Printed Souvenirs of Lafayette's Tour of the United States
The Memorable Engagement

Imposing Upon Masons, the Grand Army of the Republic, and Odd Fellows in 1898

A2022_202_001DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's blog started sixteen years ago this month, with a post about Masonic impostors. Nearly every May since then, we have returned to the topic of Masonic impostors. This year, we are doing it once again.

Although we often write about Masonic impostors, Masons were not the only fraternal group that found themselves imposed upon by people pretending to be members in order to elicit charity. Because fraternal organizations supported their members who were in need, they also became targets of either con men or those in desperate situations, who would pretend to be members and impose upon a fraternity’s inclination to be charitable.

The circular pictured here was issued in 1898 by John W. Laflin, the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin. The notice was likely sent to local Masonic lodges throughout the state and warns of a potential impostor – E.L. Martin, a.k.a. David C. Morgan – who claimed to be a Mason from Missouri, and may have made his way from South Dakota to Wisconsin. Laflin also notes that, in addition to pretending to be a Mason, Martin was also pretending to be a member of the Grand Army of the Republic and the Odd Fellows. In all three cases, Martin apparently presented himself to these three fraternal organizations for charity under false pretenses.

Notices like these were intended to warn others to be aware that they might encounter someone claiming to be a member and imposing upon a lodge’s charity. Because of this, names, lodge affiliations, and a physical description were often key to providing useful, identifiable information. While no photograph accompanies the notice, Laflin paints a vivid portrait of the Martin:

About sixty years of age, about six feet in height, slightly stooped, iron-gray beard, wart on inside corner left eye, eyes blood-shot and bulge slightly, smooth talker. Some teeth are gone causing lips to be slightly sunken.

If you want to learn more about Masonic impostors, including an answer to the question why would someone impersonate a Freemason?, be sure to check out our previous posts on Masonic imposters.


Imposter announcement from Grand Secretary John W. Laflin, 1898 June 3. Museum purchase, A2022/202/001.


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