Independent Order of Good Templars

Temperance & Women's Suffrage

A2005_001_014_webFounded in 1852, with a Grand Lodge of North America organized in 1855, the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT) was a total abstinence temperance organization. From its inception, the group accepted men and women equally as members. Women frequently held elected office within the organization. The temperance movement in the United States in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries - with much of its leadership and organization comprised of women - was also aligned with the women's suffrage movement, which led to the ratification of the 19th Amendment one hundred years ago this month.

Shown here is a recently digitized IOGT membership certificate from the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection. Issued in 1867, the certificate states that Helen Peck was admitted as a member of Temp Star Lodge, No. 146, of Hyde Park, Pennsylvania in 1866. 

This certificate is part of the Women and Freemasonry & Fraternalism collection at the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website.

There are now over 800 items in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. Be sure to visit and check them all out!


Membership certificate issued by Temp Star Lodge, No. 146, to Helen Peck, 1867. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts. FR 007.

Rare Temperance Letter Provides Insights into the Lives of Women

Research into this unsigned letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot (1851-1942) in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library provides an intimate look into the life of this nineteenth-century reformer and sheds light into the personal motives that led many American women to champion the crusade against alcohol. In the letter, which may be read in full by clicking the image below, Elliot, the Grand Worthy Secretary for the Grand Lodge Massachusetts of the Independent Order of Good Templars, offers her support and praise to an anonymous female Temperance reformer whose relative suffered from alcoholism.

Temperance letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot, August 3, 1876


"I wish I could fly to you – if only for a moment—to tell you how deeply I sympathize with you and how I would gladly lighten your burden of sorrow if I could. It seems cruel that one who has saved so many as you have and caused so much happiness should be permitted to see one so dear to her suffer from temptation. If you succeed in this same period in saving him what a glorious triumph it will be, I have for him feelings of the tenderest sympathy and trust that the prospect now looks brighter, knowing as I do your fidelity and devotion I feel confident that the victory will be yours. You have my earnest prayers that this may be the result; that he who is so kind and generous and capable of accomplishing so much good in the world may yet conquer his appetite."

While more research needs to be conducted to verify the identity of Elliot’s female recipient, readers may conclude from Elliot’s letter that she was most likely a leader or potential leader in the Temperance movement, a charismatic speaker and advocate of the cause who inspired both men and women alike through her lectures throughout the state of Massachusetts.

In addition to being an advocate for Temperance reform, Mary E. Elliot was a passionate supporter of the Grand Army of the Republic, a Civil War veterans association. In 1878, Elliot helped form an auxiliary relief corps to Willard C. Kinsley Post, No. 139, G.A.R., in Somerville, Massachusetts, and for fifty years, served as the Secretary for the Department of Massachusetts Women’s Relief Corps, the state’s auxiliary to the G.A.R.  Elliot also served as a regular contributor to the military department of the Boston Globe for nearly 20 years, where she wrote extensively upon the efforts of women to support the Relief Corps.

Do you have any information regarding the history of this document or the people behind its creation? Or would you like to learn more about the Temperance movement in America? Feel free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.


Temperance letter attributed to Mary E. Elliot to unknown recipient, August 3, 1876. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 300.010.


Anonymous. 1901. Charles Darwin Elliot, Mary Elvira Elliot, from the Massachusetts Edition of the American Series of Popular Biographies. [Boston?]: [publisher not identified]. Accessed: 25 March 2019.

Cambridge Chronicle. 1879. “Temperance Reminiscences. Some Recollections of Twenty Years.” August 23, 1879. Accessed: 25 March 2019.

Daily Boston Globe. 1942. “Mary E. Elliot is Dead at 91.” November 8, 1942.

Digital Public Library of America. n.d. “Women and the Temperance Movement.” Accessed 25 March 2019.

Howe, Julia Ward, ed. “Mary Elvira Elliot” In Representative Women of New England, 305-307. Boston: New England Historical Publishing Company. Accessed: 25 March 2019.

IOGT International. n.d. “The History.” Accessed 25 March 2019.

Library of Congress. n.d. “The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies.” Accessed 25 March 2019.

National Woman’s Relief Corps. n.d. “Women’s Relief Corps.” Accessed 25 March 2019.

Woman's Relief Corps (U.S.), Department of Massachusetts. 1895. History of the Department of Massachusetts, Woman’s Relief Corps, Auxiliary to the Grand Army of the Republic. Boston: E. B. Stillings & Co. Accessed 25 March 2019.

A Violation of Our Principles: Political Discussion within Walls of the Lodge

One of the central rules adopted by many fraternal societies is the prohibition of political discussion within the walls of the lodge. Freemasonry adheres to this prohibition, as does the International Organisation of Good Templars (IOGT), the fraternity highlighted in this letter from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.


Utica Oct 27th 1871

E. S. Hughes Esq.
Dear Bro.

It having come to my knowledge that Bro. Lewis H. Babcock the Democratic candidate for Dist. Attorney has been visiting the several Lodges of our order in the county for the purpose of soliciting the votes of Temperance men. I deem it my duty to caution Lodges against allowing themselves to be drawn into any political controversy as Lodges.

At the same time, I would state the facts as they are in relation to the candidates for district atty for the information of such voters of our order as are unacquainted with them. Lewis H. Babcock, the Democratic nominee, and Capt. D. C. Stoddard, the Republican nominee, are both members of Utica Central Lodge, No. 240, and have been for 3 or 4 years. During that time, Bro. Babcock has repeatedly violated his obligation

[Page 2]

and has been disciplined therefor. It is only since his nomination that he has returned to the Lodge. Bro. Stoddard has maintained his standing from the first and is known as a consistent and persistent Temperance Man. Good Templars should consider these facts and judge accordingly.

This circular is not intended to be read in Lodge but is for the information of members outside the Lodge room.

Fraternally Yours,

C. D. Rose
County Chief Templar

Letter from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27.

​The IOGT, a temperance society which still exists today, was begun by a “few printer boys” or apprentices in Utica, New York, during the winter of 1850-1851. Research into this letter reveals that the author was most likely Corydon D. Rose of Utica. Rose worked as a printer, and Federal Census records for 1870 reveal that he worked for the Temperance Patriot, the official newspaper of the Grand Lodge of the Order of Good Templars of the State of New York, and may have served as an editor. While Rose cautions his recipient, E. S. Hughes, about political discussion taking place within the walls of the lodge, amusingly, he holds no such reservation about such discussions taking place “outside of the Lodge room” and proceeds to provide “the facts” regarding the candidates’ temperance reputation.

As for who won the district attorney’s race of 1871, Henry Cookingham reports in his History of Oneida County that Rose’s choice, David C. Stoddard, a Temperance man and a Freemason, would go on to carry Oneida county by a majority of 845 votes over Lewis H. Babcock, who was also a Freemason.


Letter and envelope from C. D. Rose to E. S. Hughes, 1871 November 27. Museum Purchase. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, FR 430.002.

References (2011). U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995: Boyd’s Business Directory of Utica, Rome, Sherburne, Norwich, and Intermediate Villages, 1871-72. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016. (2009). 1870 United States Federal Census. Provo, Utah, USA: Operations Inc. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Chase, Simeon B. (1876). “Section 74.” In A Digest of the Laws, Decisions, Rules and Usages of the Independent Order of Good Templars with a Brief Treatise on Parliamentary Practice. (pp. 236). Philadelphia: Garrigues Brothers.

Cookinham, Henry J.(1912). History of Oneida County, New York: from 1700 to the Present Time. (Vol. 1) Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company.

Durant, Samuel (1878). History of Oneida County, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers. Philadelphia, PA: Everts and Fariss.

Grand Lodge of New York (1875). “Charges of a Free Mason: Charge VI: 2.” In Constitution and Statutes, Rules of Order and Code of Procedure of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York. New York: Thomas Holman.

Heinmiller, Gary L. (2010). “Craft Masonry in Oneida County, New York.” Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District Historical Society. Accessed: 25 February 2016.

Stevens, Albert C. (1907). Independent Order of Good Templars. In Cyclopædia of Fraternities. (pp. 404 - 406). New York: E. B. Treat and Company.

Wager, Daniel Elbridge (1896). “David Curtis Stoddard.” In Our County and Its People: A Descriptive Work on Oneida County, New York. (pp. 74 – 77). [Boston, MA]: Boston History Company.

Independent Order of Good Templars in Oswego County, New York

A2012_44_1c_DS_web versionThe year 2012 has brought many new acquistions to the Archives and one notable collection was a group of seven ledgers from Bowens Corners Lodge, No. 67, Oswego County, New York of the Independent Order of Good Templars. These ledgers date from 1902-1908.

The ledger minutes from Bowens Corners were written during one peak of the Temperance Movement within the United States and the height of membership in the Independent Order of Good Templars. In 1907, the Independent Order of Good Templars had 350,000 members nationwide. It was an organization that had split off from the International Order of Good Templars. However, the factions came together in 1852 and formed the Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Good Templars of the State of New York. It was a fraternal order that accepted both men and women as well as African Americans (in northern states), had ritual degrees, and promoted the total abstinence from alcohol.  For further information about early temperance groups see these previous posts.

One of the ledgers contains a printed copy of the Good Templars' Constitution. Article II, Section I, of this Constitution is the pledge which reads: "No member shall make, buy, sell, use, furnish, or cause to be furnished to others as a beverage, any Spirituous or Malt Liquors, Wine or Cider; and every member shall discountenance, in all proper ways, the manufacture, sale and use thereof." Each man or woman had a membership certificate that gave them clearance into the order. Nellie Dumars had been an officer of the Bowens Corners Lodge and signed her name to this certificate (below) in 1904.

Bowens Corners Lodge minutes from another ledger reveal that certain members, Seth Johnson (b. 1879) of Granby and Earl Worden (b.1882) of Volney had "broken their pledge on April 12, 1902 and admitted their guilt." At a meeting in May 16, 1902 members decided to table this issue while they A2012_44_1_DS_IOGT certificate_web versionconsulted Article VII of their Constitution which deals with offenses and trials. If Johnson and Worden drank alcohol then they were to be expelled and restored to the order only with a restoration ceremony in open lodge within four weeks of the admission of guilt. Later that summer according to the minutes, on June 6, 1902, Johnson and Worden were in fact expelled from the Bowens Corners Lodge. One can speculate, perhaps, how difficult these two men found it to stop drinking.

Suggested Further Reading:

Bernard, Joel Charles.  From Theodicy to Ideology:  the Origins of the American Temperance Movement. Ann Arbor, MI:  UMI Dissertation, 1983.

Fahey, David M. "How the Good Templars Began:  Fraternal Temperance in New York State", Social History of Alcohol Review, Nos. 38-39 (1999), p. 17-27.

Fahey, David M.  Temperance and Racisim:  John Bull, Johnny Reb, and the Good Templars. Lexington, KY:  University Press of Kentucky, 1996.


Collection of Independent Order of Good Templars Ledgers, Bowens Corners, Oswego County, New York, 1902-1908. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, A2012/44/1a-g.




Happy New Year!

95_061_5DS1 RESIZED I imagine that, over the next few days, many of our readers will be tipping a glass to the arrival of 2011 – a glass filled with some kind of alcoholic beverage – just as I will. When I set out to write this blog post, I started with a search of the National Heritage Museum collections database, looking for objects associated with New Year’s Day. I ended up settling on this photograph, in part because I enjoyed the irony: we think that the woman was a member of the Independent Order of Good Templars (IOGT), a temperance organization that believed in total abstinence and no license (to sell alcohol).

Unfortunately, we do not know her name, but her IOGT membership was important enough to her that she chose to be photographed – rather formally – in her fraternal collar. On the back of the photo, someone, possibly the sitter, has written “Happy New Year” and signed it with initials. 95_061_5DS2 DETAIL

The IOGT formed in 1850, branching off from the Knights of Jericho, an all-male temperance group in Utica, New York. The Good Templars decided to admit women because it was thought that they would “increase the power of this order for good.” The group grew steadily. By 1907, they numbered 350,000 members in the United States and were also active in Europe, Asia, Africa and Australia. To learn more about earlier temperance groups, see these previous posts.

So, allow me to be the first to wish a happy new year to all of our subscribers and readers, whether you prefer to toast with champagne or soda water. We look forward to many more blog posts, as well as your comments, in 2011.

A programming note…

Starting next week (January 2011), we will post once each week on Tuesdays. If you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to our blog.  Just click on the link at top left – it’s easy! And, don’t hesitate to make a comment or ask a question. We love to hear from you!

Reference: Albert Stevens, The Cyclopedia of Fraternities, New York: E.B. Treat and Company, 1907.

Unidentified Woman, 1880-1890, American, National Heritage Museum collection, gift of Jacques Noel Jacobsen Jr., 95.061.5.