Northern Masonic Jurisdiction

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

A New Book! A Sublime Brotherhood

Sublime BrotherhoodIn honor of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's 200th anniversary the Supreme Council has published a new history book called A Sublime Brotherhood: Two Hundred Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. The much anticipated volume is now available for purchase. The 200-page lavishly illustrated work traces the history of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction from 1813 to the present. The book is divided into six chapters to tell the story of the organization, highlighting the people, structures, traditions and objects that help us understand how the NMJ began, where it has been and what it looks like today.

It is a "must-have" volume and a great souvenir of our bicentennial celebration. You can order your copy now online. The price is $33 plus shipping. They are going fast, so don't wait.

Beginning the Next 200 Years

Repro Charter SGCs Actives ResizedIf you read our post yesterday, you know that August 5th, 2013, marked the 200th anniversary of the Scottish Rite Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,  To commemorate that event and to begin the next 200 years, the Supreme Council celebrated in New York City at the Grand Lodge of New York.  Sovereign Grand Commander John William McNaughton welcomed his counterpart from the Southern Jurisdiction, Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald Seale, as well as the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York (see the photo below), and many of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's Actives and Deputies to New York City.  During a short ceremony,Grand Master of NY with Dignitaries Resized Commander Seale presented Commander McNaughton with a reproduction of the 1813 charter (seen in the photo above).  The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library looks forward to continuing to collect material related to the past, present and future of the fraternity.


Happy 200th Anniversary N.M.J.!

5.2 SC001_018DP1DB_webToday marks the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite's Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, in New York City on August 5, 1813, the date of the warrant, or charter, shown above.

In 1813, the Charleston Supreme Council (today’s Supreme Council, Southern Jurisdiction), tasked its Grand Treasurer General, Emanuel De La Motta, to sort out which of the competing Scottish Rite bodies in New York City was legitimate. He ruled in favor of the group headed by Antoine Bideaud — stating that group members were the "legal and lawful founders of the sublime degrees." De La Motta drafted this charter, or warrant, which states that he does "hereby duly and legally form, constitute and establish" Bideaud’s group as the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s first Supreme Council on August 5, 1813. Although signed by De La Motta, the document is in the handwriting of J.J.J. Gourgas, who served De La Motta in a secretarial capacity during the formation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in 1813 and served as the first Grand Secretary General and third Sovereign Grand Commander for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's Supreme Council.

You can learn more about the creation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's first Supreme Council and about the six men that comprised the Council by reading "The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's First Supreme Council" on pages 11-15 of the May 2013 issue of The Northern Light [pdf].

The actual charter itself is currently on view in the exhibition "A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction" here at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts.


Charter/Warrant for the Northern District of the United States of America, 1813.
Issued by Emanuel De La Motta, New York, New York. SC 001.018, Photograph by David Bohl.

Call for Papers - April 2014 Symposium - Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism

UN2000_0131_49DS1The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library announces a call for papers for its symposium, “Perspectives on American Freemasonry and Fraternalism,” to be held on Friday, April 11, 2014, at the Museum in Lexington, Massachusetts.

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is an American history museum founded and supported by Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States. As the repository of one of the largest collections of American Masonic and fraternal objects, books and manuscripts in the United States, the Museum aims to foster new research on American fraternalism and to encourage the use of its scholarly resources.

The symposium seeks to present the newest research on American fraternal groups from the past through the present day. By 1900, over 250 American fraternal groups existed, numbering six million members. The study of their activities and influence in the United States, past and present, offers the potential for new interpretations of American society and culture. Diverse perspectives on this topic are sought; proposals are invited from a broad range of research areas, including history, material and visual culture, anthropology, sociology, literary studies and criticism, gender studies, political science, African American studies, art history, economics, or any combination of disciplines. Perspectives on and interpretations of all time periods are welcome. 

Possible topics include:

• Comparative studies of American fraternalism and European or other international forms of fraternalism

• Prince Hall Freemasonry and other African-American fraternal groups

• Ethnically- and religiously-based fraternal groups

• Fraternal groups for women or teens

• Role of fraternal groups in social movements

• The material culture of Freemasonry and fraternalism

• Anti-Masonry and anti-fraternal movements, issues and groups

• Fraternal symbolism and ritual

• The expression of Freemasonry and fraternalism through art, music, and literature

• Approaches to Freemasonry – from disciplinary, interdisciplinary, or transnational perspectives; the historiography and methodology of the study of American fraternalism

Proposals should be for 30 minute research papers; the day’s schedule will allow for audience questions and feedback.

Proposal Format: Submit an abstract of 400 words or less with a resume or c.v. that is no more than two pages. Be sure to include full contact information (name, address, email, phone, affiliation).

Send proposals to: Aimee E. Newell, Ph.D., Director of Collections, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, by email at anewell[at] or by mail to 33 Marrett Road, Lexington, MA 02421. Deadline for proposals to be received is September 3, 2013.

For more information about the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, see For questions, contact Aimee E. Newell as above, or call 781-457-4144.

Masonic Magic Lantern Slide – Master Mason’s Lodge, 1880-1900, American, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library Collection, UN2000.0131.49.


New to the Collection: A Cerneau Consistory Apron

2011_032DP1DBEven in the context of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library’s collection there is something so tempting about the forbidden. At least, that’s the feeling I had when a prospective donor offered this Masonic apron to us recently. I do have a soft spot for Masonic aprons in general, and then I learned that this one was supposedly worn by a member of the Cerneau Scottish Rite Consistory in Lenox, Massachusetts, during the 1890s. That did it – I was intrigued and immediately agreed that it should be added to our collection.

But, some of you may be wondering who – or what – is Cerneau, while others are grimacing in disgust. For those that don’t know, Joseph Cerneau (1765-1848) was a French Freemason who lived in San Domingo and then Cuba before moving to New York City in 1806. While in Cuba, Cerneau joined a Scottish Rite group and was given the authority of a Deputy Inspector General. This allowed him to confer several degrees on other prospective Scottish Rite members in Cuba, but the jurisdictional restriction does not seem to stopped Cerneau from conferring the degrees once he reached New York. Debate has raged ever since over whether he acted out of confusion or greed (since he would receive a fee from each man who received the degrees).

In 1813, the Scottish Rite Supreme Council in Charleston, South Carolina, sent a member to investigate Cerneau, as well as two additional groups claiming to have jurisdiction in New York. After Cerneau refused the member's request to inspect his records, he was denounced “as an imposter of the first magnitude, and whom we have expelled from Masonic Asylum within our Jurisdiction.” Cerneau was not daunted by the pronouncement and continued to confer degrees.  He oversaw his own Supreme Council until 1827, when he left New York to return to France. Despite Cerneau’s departure from the United States, his name continued to serve as an umbrella term for spurious and irregular Masonic groups, like the one associated with this apron.

Information provided with the apron when it was donated suggests that it was worn by George Washington Ferguson (1865-1936), an ice dealer in Lenox who joined nearby Evening Star Lodge in 1891. At the time, many men who belonged to their local lodge found that they wanted to learn more about Masonic symbolism and philosophy.  Joining additional Masonic groups allowed them to do this, as well as to increase their social circle. The Scottish Rite, with twenty-nine additional degrees, is often called “the University of Freemasonry,” because of the allegorical lessons that its degrees teach. However, in 1891, the nearest recognized Scottish Rite Consistory to Lenox was in Worcester, almost ninety miles away. But, in April 1891, the Cerneau Supreme Council formed Berkshire Consistory No. 56 in Lenox and, according to the information with the apron, Ferguson joined this group. Records of Berkshire Consistory’s founding state that there were thirty-six charter members.

Berkshire Consistory No. 56 continued to meet throughout the 1890s, even hosting the Grand Sovereign Consistory’s “annual rendezvous,” or meeting, in 1895. In response, the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, which had denounced Cerneau and his group back in 1813, established the Onota Lodge of Perfection in nearby Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Relations between the two groups proved to be difficult over the next several years.

Questions remain unanswered about George Ferguson and Berkshire Consistory No. 56. Did he ever switch to the recognized Onota Lodge of Perfection? How long did Berkshire Consistory No. 56 remain functional? Please write a comment below if you know more about the story, or have additional questions.  This year, we celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, saluting its longevity.  This apron is a scarce reminder of the competing Berkshire Consistory No. 56 and its story.

Cerneau Scottish Rite Apron, ca. 1891, American. Gift of Pittsfield Masonic Association, Pittsfield, Massachusetts, 2011.032. Photograph by David Bohl.

The Earliest Record and Minutes of the Scottish Rite’s Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction

Minute_book_NMJ_inside_cover_webIn 2013, the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) celebrates its bicentennial. Among the important treasures in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library is a ledger book that contains the earliest record and minutes of the meetings of the NMJ’s governing body, the Supreme Council, from 1813 until 1851. The inside cover of the ledger book (at left) notes that these are the:

Records [of the] Sovereign Grand Lodge of R[ose Croix] of H-R-D-M. of the 18th; Sovereign Grand Consistory (30th, 31st and 32d degrees) of Sublime and Valiant Princes of the Royal Secret, and of the Grand and Supreme Council of the most Illustrious and Puissant Sovereigns, Grand Inspectors General of the 33d degree, sitting at New York City, State of New York, for the Northern Masonic District and Jurisdiction of the United States of North America, by 40° 42' 40" North Latitude.

As stated above, not only does the book contain records of the "Grand and Supreme Council...for the Northern Masonic District and Jurisdiction," but also contains information related to Masonic bodies in the lineage of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and which pre-date its founding in 1813.

The ledger book was kept by and is in the handwriting of John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865), who served as the NMJ’s first Grand Secretary General and was its third Sovereign Grand Commander, serving from 1832 until 1851. Gourgas is often referred to as the “Conservator of the [Scottish] Rite” not only because he collected and kept safe the important early documents of the Scottish Rite, but because he also revived the Scottish Rite in the 1840s after it had nearly died out completely, owing mostly to an anti-Masonic movement in the late 1820s and 1830s. The bottom half of the page above shows Gourgas's elaborate, armorial book plate and, to the right of the plate, lists "Dates of [Masonic] powers granted me at various times," and begins with July 9, 1806, when Gourgas was initiated into the Grand Chapter of Rose Croix d'H-R-D-M of Kilwinning at New York City.

The earliest records in the ledger book are not minutes of meetings, but consist more of a general overview of the earliest days of the formation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, which appear to have been written by Gourgas at a later date, as a way of preserving the history of the formation of the organization and tracing the organization's Masonic lineage. In addition to recording the formation of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, Gourgas also includes handwritten copies of various patents, excerpts from registers, and other material that provides a foundational background for the Masonic legitimacy of the group that, in 1813, became the “Northern Masonic Jurisdiction and District” (later called the “Northern Masonic Jurisdiction”).

The first recording in Gourgas’s ledger of what could be properly termed “minutes,” are for the June 15, 1844 meeting of the Supreme Council, the beginning of what might be called the revival of the Scottish Rite’s NMJ.

The NMJ’s Supreme Council recognized the importance of publishing these minutes as early as 1872 and the entirety of the ledger was published in 1876. The introduction to the 1876 book reads, in part, “The early Proceedings of the Supreme Council never having been published, and many that were published being out of print, a proposition was made at the session in 1872 to reprint them.” In addition to the Gourgas ledger book, the 1876 publication also includes reprints of the Supreme Council Proceedings from 1851 to 1863, the years directly following Gourgas’s leadership of the NMJ. The volume is also indexed, which makes this an especially useful tool for researchers.

If you are interested in reading this primary source material, you don’t have to leave your house to gain full-text access to these minutes. Because a copy of these published Proceedings is in the collection of the University of Michigan's libraries, one of the contributors to the Google Books project, a fully digitized copy can be accessed online, and downloaded as a PDF.

Here's the citation for the Proceedings published in 1876:

Proceedings of the Supreme Council of Sov. Gr. Inspectors General 33°, for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States: Gourgas Body, 1813-1851; Raymond Body, 1851-1860; Van Rensselaer Body, 1860-1862. (Portland, [ME]: Stephen Berry, printer, 1876)
Call number:
17.9735 .Un58 1781-1862

Photo caption:
Record and Minute Book, 1806-1846
John James Joseph Gourgas
New York, New York
Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, SC 011