Posts by John Coelho

Charleston’s Best Friend: A Freemason Provides an Intimate Look into the Development of the American Railway System

The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library's collection of correspondence from Moses Holbrook (1783-1844) to John James Joseph Gourgas (1777-1865) provides researchers with a wealth of insight into early nineteenth-century American Freemasonry, as well as an intimate look at daily life in Charleston, South Carolina, as seen through Holbrook's eyes. During the 1820s and 1830s, Holbrook, the Southern Jurisdiction's fourth Sovereign Grand Commander, corresponded with the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s John James Joseph Gourgas. Gourgas served as the NMJ's Grand Secretary General from its founding in 1813 until 1832, and then as Sovereign Grand Commander from 1832 until 1851. Holbrook served as Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council from 1826 until 1844. Holbrook’s letters touch upon a variety of subjects, from outbreaks of yellow fever to the political victory of Andrew Jackson (1767-1845) in the Presidential election of 1828. However, one passage in particular stands out for its contribution to our understanding of transportation history: a passage in Holbrook’s January 1, 1831, letter to Gourgas regarding Charleston’s Best Friend, the first American-built passenger steam locomotive. Holbrook writes,

A2019_178_0060aDS1Letter from Moses Holbrook to John James Joseph Gourgas, 1831 January 1.

 

The only subject of public attention that occupies us at present is the Rail Road and “Charleston’s Best Friend” (the name given to a little locomotive engine of six horse power that has been built for an experiment and put upon the small portion – about five miles or a little over – of the Rail Road which has been completed for the purpose of trial.) The “Best Friend” when on the trial by the Rail Road Company’s Committee to ascertain whether the machinery - &c - answered the contract which Mr. Miller the inventor had entered into. The “Best Friend” dragged after it near ten tons besides itself and the wood and water necessary – at the rate of about 15 miles an hour with perfect ease and safety. Several pleasure cars are now attached to it and it runs at stated periods of the day to carry passengers only – and Bachelors, Maids, Matrons & Madams all are anxious to make trial of a ride at the speed of about 20 miles an hour. I tried it the other day and went the five miles and back again in thirty minutes and this time included the turning about taking in water &c. 

I remain respectfully your friend and well wisher,

M. Holbrook

Built at the West Point Foundry in New York in 1830, Charleston’s Best Friend was hailed by the Charleston Courier as an experience that “annihilate[ed] time and space,” a technological achievement that demonstrated the potential of steam powered rail travel. Until this time, travel had been limited by road conditions, the weather, and river navigability. After the short, but great, success of Charleston’s Best Friend, which was destroyed by operator error six months after its maiden voyage, six new locomotives were constructed for the Southern Railway System, including the Phoenix, which was constructed from the remains of Charleston’s Best Friend.  Its short life had completely revolutionized America’s transportation system, and towns across the country shifted their sights from building canals to building railroads.

As for Sovereign Grand Commander Holbrook, ravaged by several illnesses, worn thin by the incessant battles with Anti-masonry and the “lukewarmness” of those within the Fraternity, William L. Fox in Lodge of the Double-Headed Eagle reported Holbrook longed to leave Charleston and relinquish his responsibilities as Sovereign Grand Commander. When the United States Government offered settlers to Florida 160 acres of free land on condition they defend it against the Seminoles, Holbrook applied for and received a plot of land under the auspices of the Armed Occupation Act on April 16, 1843, and settled in St. Lucie, Florida. Remembered as a recluse by the settlers, Holbrook lived in his one room, palm-thatched cabin stuffed with hundreds of books brought from Charleston, and served as the settlement’s only doctor. His “many misfortunes over the years” had robbed him of his “once brilliant intellect,” another settler William Henry Peck (1830-1892) remarked in one of his articles for the Florida Star regarding the Indian River settlement. His only solace was his books and a flute “on which he became a virtuoso.”

Best FriendCharleston's Best Friend: An image from Popular Science Monthly.

On September 11, 1844, Moses Holbrook died and was buried near his cabin on the bluff overlooking the Indian River. He was 61 years old.

 


Captions

Letter from Moses Holbrook to John James Joseph Gourgas, 1831 January 1. Records and Correspondence of the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 300.002.


A Supreme Council, and a Nation, Mourns the Death of a President

In commemoration of President Abraham Lincoln's life and the impact that his assassination in April 1865 had upon the nation and the fraternity, the staff of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library wish to present this highlight from the collection, Supreme Council member Benjamin Dean's hand-written preamble and resolutions regarding the death of President Lincoln. This document demonstrates how, as Freemasons, one of the fraternity’s governing bodies, the Supreme Council, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, expressed not only their sorrow for the President's death, but how the Lincoln assassination was an affront to what Freemasonry embodied.  

A2019_097_003DS1Handwritten preamble and resolution of Benjamin Dean, 1865 May 17.
 

In the Supreme Council of Sovereign Inspectors General 33º for the Northern Jurisdiction of the United States,

May 17, 1865.

Since the last annual meeting of this Supreme Council the nation has been deprived of its chief magistrate by the hand of an assassin.

It is peculiarly fit + proper that a body assembled from all the States of our Jurisdiction, and representing so largely our numerous + influencial [sic] brotherhood, a brotherhood whose ancient charges inculcate among its first duties – “to be peaceable citizens + cheerfully to conform to the laws of the country in which we reside – to avoid being concerned in plots and conspiracies against government + cheerfully to submit to the decisions of the Supreme Legislature; it is fit + proper that such an assemblage – true to its teachings – should give some expression to the family of our deceased + honored President, of our sympathy with their misfortunes, + pray for the restoration of peace to their troubled minds.

Therefore, resolved – that we deplore the untimely end of our late honored President Abraham Lincoln – cut off by horrid violence – in the midst of the high dignities imposed upon him by this people.

Resolved – that we sympathize with the nation + with his distressed family in their unparallelled [sic] affliction.

Resolved, that this expression of our sympathy be spread upon our records, + a copy thereof be sent by our Secretary General to the family of our deceased President.

Unanimously passed by the Supreme Council, Dean’s measure was only one of many tributes paid by Freemasons to the martyred President throughout the summer of 1865. And although the President was not a Freemason, in an interview in October 1860 with the American poet and Freemason Rob Morris, presidential candidate Lincoln intimated his “great respect” for the fraternity, and it was widely speculated and reported that Lincoln had only “postpone[d] his application for the honors of Masonry” until after his second term as President and the great burden of office had passed.


Captions

Handwritten preamble and resolution of Benjamin Dean, 1865 May 17. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 300.002.

References

“A Conversation with Mr. Lincoln.” Voice of Masonry and Tidings from the Craft 3, no. 6 (June 1865): 248.

 


Brothers Helping Brothers to Stand on their Feet: The Story of Masonic Employment Bureaus

Many readers know of the Scottish Rite’s mission to be a fraternity that fulfills its Masonic obligation to care for its members. Many documents in the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library illustrate this theme like this 1911 letter from the Masonic Employment Bureau of Seattle, which highlights the Fraternity’s efforts to provide meaningful employment to their unemployed Brethren. 


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Letter from the Masonic Employment Bureau to Washington Lodge, No. 3, 1911 July 18.

 

Seattle, Wash. July 18, 1911.

Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Washington Lodge # 3 F. & A. M.

Worshipful Sir and Brethern [sic]:—

The several Masonic Lodges of F. & A.M. in Seattle have organized, and are now operating a Masonic Employment Bureau.

The object of the Bureau is to secure employment for worthy Master Masons of local Lodges, or sojourning brethern [sic]. You will no doubt agree that this is a step in the right direction, but, as many more of our brethern are coming to Seattle than can be supplied with positions here we are appealing to the Masonic Lodges of the State to aid us to secure positions in their respective Cities and Towns, where labor is in demand.

The Bureau can furnish first-class, capable men in all lines of work, and shall certainly be pleased to have your fraternal co-operation. If you know of any positions now open, or any that you may hereafter hear of, a letter to the Secretary-Superintendent will get results.

With best wishes to your Lodge, I remain

Fraternally yours,

C. H. Steffen
Sec’y.—Supt.


The first Masonic employment bureau in the United States was created in the city of St. Louis in 1895 by a group of Freemasons who desired to see “worthy members of the Fraternity” find employment. The St. Louis bureau had a long and storied existence, which may have ended sometime in the mid- to late-1970s. It helped numerous Freemasons find employment during its existence, and in 1917, the Proceedings for the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star of for the state of Wisconsin reported that the St. Louis bureau had expanded its mission to include their members, as well as “their dependent ones.”

New Age  1931

Classified ads for Masons seeking work
The New Age Magazine, 1931 September

More importantly, the St. Louis Bureau inspired Freemasons to follow its example, and similar Masonic employment bureaus sprung up throughout the country. Builder Magazine reported that in 1924 alone, thirty Masonic Employment Bureaus existed, including the bureau in Seattle. The magazine also reported that as of 1922, twelve of these bureaus had found 16,578 individuals employment.

Do you have any information regarding the history of Masonic Employment Bureaus? Please free to contact us or to comment about this topic in the comments section below.

 

 

 

 


Captions

Letter from the Masonic Employment Bureau to Washington Lodge, No. 3, 1911 July 18. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 630.004.


A Freemason Strives for Reconciliation as a Supreme Council Splinters

While much attention has been given to Edward A. Raymond, Killian H. Van Rensselaer, and their roles in the Schism of 1860, this document from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library brings attention to a lesser-known figure: William Blackstone Hubbard, 33°, a Freemason from Ohio, who had served as the Grand Master of Ohio and for a year (May 1861 to May 1862) as the Sovereign Grand Commander Elect of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction.

A2019_158_059DS1List of officers, members, and Sovereign Grand Inspectors Generals, 1862 February 5.

 

As readers may know, Edward A. Raymond’s tenure as Sovereign Grand Commander abruptly ended on August 24, 1860, when Raymond, accompanied by Grand Treasurer General Simon W. Robinson, abruptly closed the Supreme Council’s special meeting sine die, or with no appointed date for resumption. The ensuing chaos led to the formation of three competing Supreme Councils: the newly-formed Raymond Council; the Van Rensselaer Council led by Lieutenant Sovereign Grand Commander Van Rensselaer; and the Cerneau-inspired Atwood Council.

For nearly ten months, from August 25, 1860, through May 14, 1861, the Raymond and Van Rensselaer Supreme Councils traded barbs as both Councils claimed to be the legitimate governing body of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. And while the maneuverings of both Supreme Councils are too complicated to outline fully in this online forum, the proceedings

for both Supreme Councils agree that William Blackstone Hubbard was one of the few, if not the only, men pushing for reconciliation. As Lieutenant Sovereign Grand Commander Van Rensselaer stated in his 1862 Annual Address,

 

The members of the Supreme Council and Sovereign Consistory, are all aware of the efforts made by our Ill. Brother William B. Hubbard, and the Princes of the Royal Secret, at our last session, May, 1861, to induce the late Commander and Treasurer to meet with the Council, resume their seats, and aid in the work. The sittings of the Council were continued for several days, in the hope that the exertions of our Illustrious Brethren would meet with success, and that peace and harmony would be restored. (1862 Proceedings, p. 588-589)

 

Hubbard’s sole intention was to broker peace between his Brothers, and only after his efforts during 1861’s Annual Session were exhausted did Hubbard leave before its closure. As Raymond reported to his Sovereign Grand Consistory on May 22, “On leaving, he [Hubbard] addressed a note to me regretting his disappointment, and declaring that he did not expect ever again to meet any of his brethren in Supreme Council on earth…” (1861 Raymond Proceedings, p. 31)

On the day after Hubbard had left Annual Session, on May 20, 1861, the five members of the Van Rensselaer Supreme Council who were present unanimously voted to depose Sovereign Grand Commander Edward A. Raymond, and elected William B. Hubbard in his place. “The reason for their doing this is plain,” Raymond stated.

 

…[T]hey felt the need of the condition to their cause of the capital which the publication of such an election might possibly bring, and therefore they elected him after he had gone, and consequently, could not decline while they were in session. (1861 Raymond Proceedings, p. 31)

 

Scan_2019-09-24_16-53-51
William Blackstone Hubbard

William Blackstone Hubbard would never serve as Sovereign Grand Commander. During the following year’s Annual Session, Hubbard offered “his well wishes to the Supreme Council” but declined “any official honors.” In the years following, Hubbard distanced himself from the Supreme Council, which in the 1865 Proceedings declared his seat as an Active Member vacant, citing his ill health.

William Blackstone Hubbard, 33°, died the following year on January 5, 1866. He never lived to see the unification of the two previously competing Supreme Councils in 1867.

 

 

 


Captions

List of officers, members, and Sovereign Grand Inspectors Generals, 1862 February 5. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, SC 300.002.


A Celebration of the Role of DeMolay International in the Lives of Young Men

In celebration of DeMolay International’s one hundredth anniversary, the staff of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library would like to congratulate the Order and recognize its commitment to shape young men of all nationalities into “leaders of character.” In this week’s post, we highlight this festive 1937 Halloween costume dance invitation addressed to Robert G. Milliken of Denver, Colorado.

A2019_008_001DS1Denver Chapter Halloween costume dance
invitation (obverse)
.

 

A2019_008_001DS2

Denver Chapter Halloween costume dance
invitation (reverse)
.

While little information has been discovered regarding the costume dance held at Denver’s Scottish Rite Temple, Milliken’s 2011 obituary details a life that exemplifies the seven cardinal virtues or the "basis of good character" taught by the Order.

If you happen to be in the metro Boston area over the summer, please consult our website for more information regarding the museum's current exhibitions, including the Library’s new exhibit that celebrates DeMolay’s storied history.

 


Captions

Denver Chapter Halloween costume dance invitation, 1937 October 29. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 014.


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.

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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.


Captions

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.


References

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. https://archive.org/stream/charlesdarwinell00np/charlesdarwinell00np_djvu.txt

Cambridge Chronicle. 1879. “Temperance Reminiscences. Some Recollections of Twenty Years.” August 23, 1879. Accessed: 25 March 2019. https://cambridge.dlconsulting.com/?a=d&d=Chronicle18790823-01.2.2

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. https://dp.la/primary-source-sets/women-and-the-temperance-movement

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. https://books.google.com/books/about/Representative_Women_of_New_England.html?id=BY0EAAAAYAAJ

IOGT International. n.d. “The History.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://iogt.org/about-iogt/the-iogt-way/who-we-are/the-history/

Library of Congress. n.d. “The Grand Army of the Republic and Kindred Societies.” Accessed 25 March 2019. https://www.loc.gov/rr/main/gar/garintro.html

National Woman’s Relief Corps. n.d. “Women’s Relief Corps.” Accessed 25 March 2019. http://womansreliefcorps.org/

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. https://archive.org/details/historyofdepartm01woma/page/n7


Freemasonry and the Growth of Nursing during the Civil War

Research into this recent acquisition to the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library highlights the Fraternity’s efforts to support the Union through the creation of the Masonic Mission, an agency created and “managed wholly by Masons.”

A2018_146_001DS001Circular letter from W. H. Hadley of the Masonic Mission to Mosaic Lodge, September 20, 1864.

 

As many readers may know, the support and care of sick and wounded soldiers throughout the war was carried out by private relief agencies and not by the federal government. The most well-known of these private agencies was the United States Sanitary Commission, which was created by an act of federal legislation in 1861 and was responsible for the set-up, staffing, and management of almost all Union hospitals during the war.

However, as Union losses mounted in the early years of the Civil War, the Sanitary Commission found it more and more difficult to drum up the necessary support to meet the demand for female nurses by late 1862. As William Hobart Hadley, the author of this circular letter, a Mason, and an agent for the Sanitary Commission in the New England states, reported, anti-Republican sentiment permeated the areas he had canvassed for help. The hearts of people throughout the North had hardened to the fate of the Union by April 1863.

During this same period, another member of the Masonic family tree, Sarah P. Edson, a volunteer nurse, and possibly a holder of all the Adoptive Degrees, sought to address the growing need for nurses on the front lines. After her first effort to create a training school for women nurses met with opposition from the Sanitary Commission and the Surgeon General of the United States in a Senate committee, Edson sought the help of New York’s Freemasons. In response to Edson’s pleas, the “Army Nurses’ Association was formed . . . and commenced work under the auspices of the Masons” in the winter of 1862.

By the time of the Battle of the Wilderness (May 5-7, 1864), Union surgeons on the front lines requested that Edson, who had rushed to help at the front, send ten of her “nurses then receiving instruction as part of her class at Clinton Hall, New York.” The Masonic Mission was formed shortly after, and by the time of the Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864), the agency worked in partnership with the Sanitary Commission, the Christian Commission, and other state and local agencies to help the Army create a “hospital tent city, which could care for twelve thousand patients.”

After a brief period of success, political clashes with the Sanitary Commission and the failure of its managers to pay its female nurses led to the demise of the Masonic Mission as a school for Army nurses. The Mission would refocus its efforts on aiding the North’s poor who were hit especially hard by the rising cost of coal for heating and flour. Sarah P. Edson’s ambitious plan to create an Army-based school for nursing would have to wait until Congress established the United States Army Nurse Corps in 1901, and the Navy followed suit in 1908.


Captions

Circular letter from W. H. Hadley of the Masonic Mission to Mosaic Lodge, September 20, 1864. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 260.006.


References

Attie, Jeanie. 1998. Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil War. Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press.

Brockett, L. P. and Mary C. Vaughan. 1867. “Mrs. Sarah P. Edson.” In Woman’s Work in the Civil War: A Record of Heroism, Patriotism and Patience, 440-447. Philadelphia: Zeigler, McCurdy & Co. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=0aDhAAAAMAAJ

Carpenter, C. C. 1903. “William Hobart Hadley, 21, Waterford Vt.” In Biographical Catalogue of the Trustees, Teachers and Students of Phillips Academy, Andover, 1778-1830, 143. Andover, Mass.: Andover Press. Accessed: 5 February 2019.https://books.google.com/books?id=HbNBAAAAYAAJ&pg=PA143

Edson, Sarah P. 1865. “The Masonic Mission and the Five Points Mission.” New York Herald, January 9 1865. https://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83030313/1865-01-09/ed-1/seq-2/#date1=1865&index=0&date2=1865

Frank, Linda C. 2012. “Our Famous Women, Part 1.” Auburnpub.com, March 11, 2012. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://auburnpub.com/lifestyles/our-famous-women-part-i/article_33d1b54c-6b05-11e1-a597-0019bb2963f4.html

Mitchell, E. L. “Masonic Charities.” Masonic Monthly 2, no. 3 (January): 118-120. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://archive.org/details/MasonicMonthlyVolII1864/page/n129

Morris, Rob. 1864. “The Masonic Mission.” The Voice of Masonry and Tidings from the Craft 2, no. 6 (June): 276-277. Accessed: 5 February 2019. https://books.google.com/books?id=zd0cAQAAMAAJ&dq="masonic%20mission" 1864&pg=PA276   

Oates, Stephen B. 1994. Woman of Valor: Clara Barton and the Civil War. New York: The Free Press.

Sarnecky, Mary T. 1999. A History of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

Slotkin, Richard. 2009. No Quarter: The Battle of the Crater, 1864. New York: Random House.




Rare Prince Hall Acquisitions Offers Insights into African-American Philanthropy

In a blog post published in September for the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, we highlighted the Scottish Rite’s vision to be a fraternity that fulfils its Masonic obligation to care for its members. In this week’s blog post, we expand upon this theme by featuring three documents taken from the records of a Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in New London, Connecticut, Jepthah Lodge, No. 11. Taken together, these documents highlight the benevolent hearts of African American Freemasons as they respond to a request for aid from Reverend Octavius Singleton, the superintendent of the National Home Finding Society for Colored Children.

In the first document (see below), a letter from Reverend Singleton to Edward M. Stevens, the Junior Warden of Jepthah Lodge, Singleton recounts the difficult times faced by his organization and asks Stevens to petition his Lodge and church for donations.


A2017_054_016DS
Letter from Reverend O. Singleton of the National Home Finding Society to Edward M. Stevens, June 28, 1922.

 

6-28-1922
Mr. Edward M. Stevens, J.W.
My Dear Friend:

     For 11 years we have been toiling almost single handed and alone to perform the duty every man and woman owes to the homeless child of our race. Our own people have not played the part of the good Samaritan toward these poor unfortunates, and had it not been for white friends, these poor little children would still be hungry and naked, out of doors, abused and mistreated. But through their aid, we have cared for 250 children, and have on hand now 50. We have the home in the city a picture of which I send herewith enclosed, and a farm of 240 acres, near Irvington, Ky., and 22 children down there practically out of doors from January 11th, to September 11th.
     We accidently got burnt out on the farm last January, then we erected another building, but before it was completed, a cloud burst and tornado struck us Sunday, May 30th., and leveled it to the ground.
     Through the kind assistance of Colored Lodges and Churches and the help of white friends –and one of these, Mr. Theo. Ahrens gave $200.00, and raised nearly $200.00 besides among his friends – we have about completed another new building. But we have run behind, we owe for coal, for bread, and groceries, for lumber etc. then too we have got to furnish the building and we’ve got to build a school house.

     My Dear Brother, I know you are a man of influence in your Lodge and church; and I don’t believe there is a Church or Lodge in the whole country, that would refuse to take up a collection to help a work like this, that has just gone through so much distress and suffering.
     Please send names of all giving 25¢ or more that we might publish same in the Colored papers. And know always, that any Lodge, any Church, any Community, in or outside of the State of Kentucky, has the right and privilege of placing children in our institution whether they help or not.
     Please do not pass this by, please don’t put it off but give every member a chance to show his fraternal and christian [sic] sympathy and pity and love for the poorest of the poor and the most needy of all creatures of the earth.

Yours for God’s little lambs,  

Rev. O. Singleton, Gen’l Supt.,
National Home Finding Society
1716 West Chestnut Street
Louisville, Kentucky



A2017_054_009DS1 - Copy (2)

A Picture of the National Home Finding Society's "Busy Bee Farm" taken on July 15, 1922. after the great fire and tornado of 1920

 

Singleton’s letter was read before the members of Jepthah Lodge on July 12, 1922, and a collection was held that raised $4.35 for Superintendent Singleton’s home for orphaned children. The Lodge’s donation was sent by money order to Singleton along with the letter depicted below. In addition to this act of kindness, the minutes of Jepthah Lodge show that at this meeting the Lodge also gave $15.00 to Mrs. Clara A. Burr, the widow of a deceased member. 

A2017_054_017DS

Letter from Jepthah Lodge, No. 11, to Reverend O. Singleton, July 18, 1922.

  July 18th, 1922
The National Home Finding Society
Rev. O. Singleton

Dear Sir:-

      Your letter of June 28th. addressed to Mr. Edward M. Stevens has been referred to Jeptha Lodge No. 11, F. & A. M. for our consideration.
       We wish to assure you that we are greatly in sympathy with any and all enterprises which tend towards the advancement of our colored people as a  whole and any difficulties which any one community has in as deeply felt by us as though we were subject to the same misfortune.
      We greatly commend the “National Home Finding Society” for the work they are doing to assist these little children who you state are practically homeless, and wish that were financially able to assist you more than we are doing just now; however, we have urged each member present to contribute as liberably [sic] as his means will afford and he can obtain the address of the Society from our Sec. should any of them wish to make a personal contribution.
      Enclosed you will find a money order to the amount of $4.35 which was contributed by the few brethren who were present at our last regular communication and trust that it will assist you in your struggle to pay off current expenses.

We trust that you will be successful in all attempts you may make for the proper care of these lettle [sic] children.

Very Sincerely Yours,

Jeptha Lodge, No. 11, F. & A. M.
John Ware W. M.
John R. Leeks, Sec.


Donations from people and organizations, such as Jepthah Lodge, No. 11, kept Octavius Singleton’s ambitious dream of providing a home for Kentucky’s homeless African American children alive for over 30 years in spite of tremendous obstacles.  As Jennie Cole of the Filson Historical Society writes, “World War II brought times of increasing hardship to the Home,” and when “combined with the ill health of” Singleton’s wife Harriet, his great partner and the matron of the home, Singleton was forced “to release the children in his care or find placement for them in other homes.” Yet, in spite of each setback, Singleton persevered; he continued to seek support for his work at Irvington, Kentucky, and for “blacks living in his hometown of Edwards, Mississippi and the surrounding region” until his death in 1950.

A2017_054_009DS1 - Copy (3)










National Home Finding Society for Colored Children pamphlet, about 1922.


Captions

Letter from Reverend O. Singleton of the National Home Finding Society to Edward M. Stevens, June 28, 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 130.002.

National Home Finding Society for Colored Children pamphlet, about 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 130.002.

Letter from Jephtha Lodge, No. 11, to Reverend O. Singleton, July 18, 1922. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 130.002.

References

Cole, Jennie. “Singleton family Papers, 1907-1983.” Filson Historical Society, last modified August 12, 2015. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://filsonhistorical.org/research-doc/singleton-family-papers-1907-1983/

Kleber, John E., ed. “Civic, Fraternal, and Philanthropic Orphanages.” In The Encyclopedia of Louisville, 682. Lexington, Kentucky: University Press of Kentucky, 2001. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=pXbYITw4ZesC&dq

Powell, Jacob W. Bird’s Eye View of the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church with Observations on the Progress of the Colored People of Louisville, Kentucky, and a History of the Movement Looking Toward the Elevation of Rev. Benjamin W. Swain, D.D. to the Bishopric in 1920. Boston: Lavalle Press, 1918. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=Vf8-AAAAYAAJ&dq

Slingerland, W. H. Child Welfare Work in Louisville: A Study of Conditions, Agencies and Institutions. Louisville, Kentucky: Welfare League, 1919. Accessed: 27 October 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=FFQHAAAAMAAJ

 

 

 


Assistance from Those "Whose Benevolent Hearts Glows"

At the core of Scottish Rite Freemasonry is a vision to be a fraternity that fulfills its Masonic obligation to care for its members. In this week’s post, we highlight two documents from the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library that illustrate this vision in action, as well as the “benevolent hearts” of Freemasonry.

In the first document, an 1810 letter to Columbian Lodge in Boston, Massachusetts, Susanna Kelly, the widow of Joseph Kelley, a Freemason, petitions Columbian for relief as she and her children await safe passage to Suriname, the home of Kelly’s mother. Susanna’s letter highlights the difficulties that unmarried or widowed women faced in nineteenth-century America and provides insights into how the embargo and Non-Intercourse Act of 1809, two events that led up to the War of 1812, affected everyday Americans.

The second document, an 1810 report submitted by the committee to aid Susanna Kelly, outlines Columbian Lodge’s efforts to aid the Kelly family in conjunction with St. Andrew’s Royal Arch Chapter and its High Priest, John B. Hammatt. Hammatt, who had been initiated at Columbian Lodge, personally paid for many of the family's expenses and advanced Mrs. Kelly $15.00, which may have been used to aid the family during the voyage.     

A1980_013_25DS1 

 


Letter from Susanna Kelly to Columbian Lodge,
June 2, 1810

Boston 2nd June 1810
To the Right Worshipful Master, officers, and members of Columbian Lodge – Gentlemen

It is with extreme reluctance your petitioner again solicits your attention, a widow, with several helpless children, in a country without connections, without money, and without friend (excepting indeed the charitable and humane society of free masons, of which my deceased husband was a member) where can I turn for assistance, but to those, whose benevolent Hearts glow with pity and friendship for the unfortunate. Soon after the death of my husband I determined to return to my mother who resides at Suriname, and who, having heard of my loss, kindly invited me to her arms. But the Embargo and non intercourse laws, prevented my taking advantage of her protection. + I have been obliged tho very reluctantly to request assistance of your fraternity to save myself and children from perishing. Intercourse between this + other countries, having been restored, I hope soon to be able to take a passage to Suriname + am at present in cheap lodging at Charlestown waiting on opportunity for that purpose. But, Gentlemen, I am without resource to obtain a subsistence, a stranger, and a foreigner, who will employ me. I appeal therefore to that generosity, that charity and to that humanity which is so often exercised in the cause of distress – whatever you may be pleased to grant me will be received with the most heart felt gratitude by, gentlemen, your devoted servant--

Susanna Kelly

A1980_013_26DS1Committee Report to Columbian Lodge, 1810  

The committee chosen by Columbian Lodge to alleviate the distress of the widow + children of our late Br. Joseph Kelly by presenting them certain sums of money according to votes of said Lodge, + also to procure a passage for them to Suriname, with deference state, that in conjunction with a committee from St. Andrews Chapter, for that purpose, they have accomplished the above object, but not without expending more money than was appropriated by said Lodge for that purpose as will appear by the following statement,

Cash advanced Mrs. Kelly $25.00
Cash paid for bread 10.50
Cash paid Mrs. Johnson for Mrs. Kelly and children’s board 2.90
Cash paid for wine, eggs, butter [carg. hack hire?] 7.30
Cash paid for beef + bread 7.36
Cash paid for [meal?] and washing floor 1.75
Cash paid for [sundries?] by J. B. Hammatt 34.25
Cash paid for [sauce?] by J. B. Hammatt 9.00
Cash paid for [Truck.g?] by J. B. Hammatt 2.00
Cash advan[ce]d Ms. K. by J. B. Hammatt 15.00
_____
$115.06

That the committee from St. Andrew’s Chapter have paid fifty one dollars of the above sum. Thereby leaving $64.06 paid by your committee, + that they have received 25$ of the Sec.y, which deducted from the above sum leaves $39.06 for which no provision has been made.

Dan.l Baxter      Committee
Sam. Smith

Caption

Letter from Susanna Kelly to Columbian Lodge, June 2, 1810. Gift of Columbian Lodge, Boston, Massachusetts, courtesy of Mrs. Godfrey S. Tomkins, MA 002.

Committee Report to Columbian Lodge, 1810. Gift of Columbian Lodge, Boston, Massachusetts, courtesy of Mrs. Godfrey S. Tomkins, MA 002.

 


New Acquisition highlights the challenges faced by Freemasonry in Post-Civil War South Carolina

A2018_009_002DS1As Union forces overtook South Carolina during the Civil War and after, many of the state’s Masonic Lodges were forced to suspend operations because of their members’ military service to the Confederacy and/or the displacement of the state’s civilian population. Such was the case in the city of Charleston, where Union shells fired by batteries on Morris Island prompted Charleston’s Masons to relocate their lodge at least twice, and in the city of Columbia, where the city’s lodge buildings were destroyed over the course of the war. At a meeting called by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina to “devise ways to obtain assistance” for the lodges under its jurisdiction, the Grand Lodge acknowledged its helplessness to aid its subordinate lodges and formed a committee to “urge our brethren abroad” to assist the state’s distressed Masons and Masonic Lodges.

While the war had devastated much of the state, including Georgetown, South Carolina’s, rice-growing economy, the city’s Masonic Lodge, Winyah Lodge, No. 40, had flourished. The Lodge’s “fine large building” had remained untouched, and its brothers continued their work uninterrupted until the summer of 1865, when Union soldiers occupied the city. The following circular letter from the collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library documents the occupancy and destruction of Winyah Lodge’s building by Union soldiers of the 15th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment in the months just after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. In it, the authors, two of which served in the Confederate military, petition their fellow Masons, both North and South, to aid Winyah Lodge in the rebuilding of their “lost Temple.” They describe in detail how the white soldiers of the 15th Maine torched their lodge building in response to being “relieved by a Battalion of United States colored Troops” under the command of Colonel A. J. Willard. The circular letter provides a fascinating insight into the difficulties faced by the Fraternity, as well as the country, in post-Civil War America, as well as touching upon issues such as race.

In the aftermath of the destruction of their lodge building and its contents by the 15th Maine, Winyah Lodge’s efforts to collect restitution from the Federal Government for its losses were blocked until the passage of the Tucker Act of 1887. This act waived the sovereign immunity of the United States in certain lawsuits, and allowed citizens to sue the Federal Government. Inexplicably, and for some unknown reason, the Lodge failed to take advantage of this new law until 1906, when the Trustees of Winyah Lodge, No. 40, filed their case. In the following year, the court, which noted this suspiciously long gap between the incident in question and the filing of the case, ruled that it could not determine from the evidence presented who started the fire. 

 

 


Caption

Circular letter from Winyah Lodge, No. 40, to Pacific Lodge, No. 45, June 4, 1873. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library, MA 540.001

References

Boyd, Mary, and James H. Clark (2010). Georgetown and Winyah Bay. Charlestown, S.C.: Arcadia Pub.

Emanuel, S. (1909). An Historical Sketch of the Georgetown Rifle Guards and as Co. A of the Tenth Regiment, So. Ca. Volunteers, in the Army of the Confederate States. South Carolina: [no publisher]. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://archive.org/details/02830886.3413.emory.edu

Shorey, Henry A. (1890). The Story of the Maine Fifteenth. Bridgeton, Me.: Press of the Bridgton News. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://archive.org/details/storyofmainefif00shor

 “From the Quarries.” American Tyler 8, 1 (1894): 836-837. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://books.google.com/books?id=vctNAAAAMAAJ&dq=%22winyah%20lodge%2C%20No.%2040%22%20masons%20georgetown&pg=PA837#v=onepage&q=%22three%20months'%20vacation%22&f=false

U.S. Congress. Senate. United States Congressional Serial Set. Trustees of Winyah Lodge No. 40, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Georgetown S.C. 59th Cong., 2d sess., 1907. S. Doc. No. 225, serial 5071. Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://books.google.com/books/about/United_States_Congressional_serial_set.html?id=K-o3AQAAIAAJ

United States National Park Service. “Soldiers and Sailors Database: Emanuel, Solomon.” Accessed: 27 June 2018. https://www.nps.gov/civilwar/search-soldiers-detail.htm?soldierId=8FEEAE9A-DC7A-DF11-BF36-B8AC6F5D926A