Order of Eastern Star

Does the Order of Eastern Star exist in Lexington today?

A2008_13_1_OES_LexingtonThe Library & Archives recently acquired a collection of material from the Lexington Chapter, No. 183, Order of Eastern Star (MA 051) donated by John M. Murray, Jr. The donor's parents, Florence M. Murray and John M. Murray, Sr., were active in the organization in the 1940s and the 1950s at the local and state level.

Much of this new acquisition consists of meeting notices of Lexington Chapter No. 183 and quite a bit of material about the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, Order of Eastern Star (OES).  The meeting notices span the time period 1938 through 1975.   On the left you can view an example of one these notices from  January 1950.  From 1949-1950, Florence M. Murray was Worthy Matron (or president) of the chapter and her husband John M. Murray, Sr. was Worthy Patron.                                  

Other material in the new acqusition includes the Diamond Jubilee Program of the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, Order of the Eastern Star.  By 1951, Order of the Eastern Star had been active for 75 years in Massachusetts (1876-1951).  You can see the cover of this program on the right.            A2008_13_1_OES_GrandChapterMA

The Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, Order of Eastern Star is alive and well with chapters existing in many communities.  In searching the Grand Chapter's chart of existing chapters, however, I did not find Lexington Chapter, No. 183.  Noting its absence, I wondered: does the Order of Eastern Star exist in Lexington today? 

Lexington Chapter No. 183 was constituted (chartered) in 1922.   Following the close of World War I, there was an increased interest in fraternal organizations.  In 1922, there were 12 new chapters instituted and 10 new chapters constituted in Massachusetts. This was the largest number of new chapters organized in one year in the Grand Chapter's history. 

The Lexington Chapter was active for 82 years – until 2004 – when it merged with Mount Carmel Chapter No. 230, in North Reading.

Among the meeting notices, programs, and calendars in the gift we received were a group of photographs.  One photograph in particular stands out in the collection, and can be seen here.  What ceremony are they performing?  What significance does it have? I was curious to know.

A2008_13_1_OES_Lexington_Chapter_heart From further inquiry, I discovered that this is not a photo of a Lexington Chapter ceremony, but instead a ceremony that took place at a Grand Chapter of Massachusetts meeting of Order of Eastern Star.  It was a public ceremony, not a private ritual ceremony.

According to Dianna M. Gillard, of the Grand Chapter of Massachusetts, the photo shows Eastern Star women standing in the formation of a heart – the emblem of the year of this ceremony – with the OES symbol inside.   The watchwords that year were “Loving Kindness...Thoughtful Understanding.”  The public ceremony shown in the photo is a Confirmation of the Deputies for the Flor-del-es year 1958-1959, held in Worcester Memorial Auditorium. Florence Waldron was Worthy Grand Matron and Ernest Pearson was Worthy Grand Patron.

 


Order of the Eastern Star and Order of Amaranth: What is their relationship?

A95_015_easternstar2_scan_web The Order of Amaranth and Order of the Eastern Star have an intertwined history.  Early twentieth-century minute books of Order of Amaranth, donated by Barbara Lott in 2007, illuminate this relationship.

The postcard (MM 015) on the left depicts the symbol for the Order of Eastern Star, a symbol that is used in ritual as a teaching tool.  The five-pointed star represents Biblical characters.  Adah is the first point and is representative of Jephthah's daughter.  Adah's point is blue.  Ruth, who was a widow and gleaned the fields of Boaz is the secont point.  Ruth's point is yellow.  Esther, the wife, is the third point and was Ahasuerus' queen.  Her color is white.  Martha, the sister is the fourth point and represents the sister of Lazarus.  Her color is dark green.  Electa, the mother, is the fifth point on the star.  Though Electa does not appear in the Bible, her story is based on the Book of St. John.  Her color is red.  Each point to the star has emblems associated with it, which relate to the Biblical stories.

The Order of Amaranth was first organized in 1873 in New York, New York.  It was intended to be a higher degree in the Order of the Eastern Star.  Amaranth was to be a third degree, and Eastern Star and Queen of the South were to be the first and second degrees.  However, Order of the Eastern Star rejected this plan (conceived by James B. Taylor), and the Order of Amaranth became an independent order in 1895 in Brooklyn, New York.

At first, Amaranth members had to be members of Eastern Star. In 1904, in chartering Jessemine Court, No. 6 of New London, Connecticut, the minute book reads, "The undersigned, either the wives, widows, mothers, sisters, or daughters of Master Masons or affiliation with Master Masons in good standing and in possession of the degree of the Eastern Star..." This requirement that Amaranth members first be Eastern Star members continued from 1873 until 1921.

In 1921, by mutual agreement, the requirement that Amaranth members belong to the Eastern Star ceased.  They are now completely separate organizations.  Early evidence of this can be found in the minutes of 1931, in chartering the Charity Court No. 17 of Windsor Locks, Connecticut, in which the Grand Royal Patron, Fred C. Tilden, remarked that "the Order of the Amaranth was no part of the Eastern Star though working in Harmony with that Order."                         

Macoystheamaranth_scan_webThe illustration of the star seen here is the frontispiece from Robert Macoy's The Amaranth (Independent): A Royal and Exalted Degree in the Rite of Adoption with Appropriate Ceremonies [Call number: 81 .A488 M171 1897]. The illustration depicts the badge for Order of Amaranth members.  The symbol is similar to the OES symbol seen above, but has an Amaranthine wreath at the center of the star. A wreath made of amaranth was used to crown a new candidate when the Amaranth degree was conferred on a new candidate. The amaranth was chosen for its symbolic nature - the Greek root of the word means "never-fading."

Macoy, Robert. The Amaranth (Independent): A Royal and Exalted Degree in the Rite of Adoption with Appropriate Ceremonies. New York: Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co., 1897.
Call number: 81 .A488 M171 1897