Southern Jurisdiction

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.


Newly added to Digital Collections: Scottish Rite Documents

A2019_178_0262_webDo you want to take a closer look at how the Scottish Rite developed during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? The Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library recently added a selection of new documents related to Scottish Rite history to its Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives Digital Collections website. There are now over fifty primary source documents related to the history of the Scottish Rite available through our digital collections website. Viewing the documents is easy - clicking on an image will open a high-res image of the document or, in the case of some multi-page documents, a PDF.

The digitized Scottish Rite material includes some of the founding documents of both the Northern Masonic and Southern Jurisdictions, as well as official documents that show the various schisms within the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction in the nineteenth century, especially with regard to groups founded by or inspired by Joseph Cerneau.

Do you have a question about Scottish Rite history? We'd love to hear from you. Head over to the Library & Archives page on the museum's website to get in touch with us.

Caption:
Announcement of the Union of the Hays and Raymond Supreme Councils, 1863. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Gift of the Supreme Council of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, A2019/178/0262.


A DeMolay Certificate Signed by Two Presidents

Doyle DeMolay certificate smallerOn October 14, 1922, a special ceremony took place in Washington, D.C. at the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction’s headquarters building, known as the House of the Temple. Although Scottish Rite members attended, the gathering was, in fact, a DeMolay event. A uniformed degree team of twenty-eight boys from Kansas City Chapter—the original DeMolay chapter—had traveled from Missouri in order to institute Robert LeBruce Chapter of DeMolay, Washington D.C.’s second DeMolay chapter. The Kansas City contingent also included a number of adults, among them DeMolay’s founder Frank S. Land (1890-1959). Those present in the room included 107 boys chosen to receive the degrees, as well as the boys’ fathers. Members of the Southern Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council, who were already in town for their own meeting, also attended.

Among those receiving the two DeMolay degrees that evening was nineteen-year-old Robert Emmet Doyle, Jr. (1903-1988). His DeMolay certificate is pictured here. In anticipation of the institution of the chapter, members had unanimously elected Doyle as the first Master Councilor of the Robert LeBruce Chapter. The founding of the Robert LeBruce Chapter in 1921 was part of a larger trend. DeMolay experienced tremendous growth in its first few years. Although originally located only in Missouri, where it began, by 1922, after only three years in existence, DeMolay boasted chapters in nearly every U.S. state.

Doyle followed the tradition of many Masons, by having his certificate autographed by nearly thirty Masons hailing from California, Connecticut, Florida, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Montana, Texas, Wyoming, and Washington, D.C. Among these signatures, those of two U.S. presidents, Warren G. Harding (1865-1923) and William H. Taft (1857-1930), stand out. Harding autographed and dated the certificate on April 24, 1922, while he was president. Because he was a Scottish Rite Mason, he added a “32°” after his name. Taft did not date his signature, but did include the name of his lodge, Kilwinning Lodge No. 356. All of the dated autographs are from 1922 and 1923, so it seems likely that Taft’s is also from around this time. In the early 1920s, the former president served as Chief Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. Based in Washington, D.C., Doyle also collected signatures from various Scottish Rite Masons from the Southern Jurisdiction, including the long-serving Sovereign Grand Commander, John Cowles (1863-1954).

Just a few years after joining DeMolay, Doyle was raised a Master Mason in his father’s lodge, Lafayette Lodge No. 19. Doyle became a Scottish Rite Mason in the Southern Jurisdiction as part of a fifty-five member class upon which the 14th degree was conferred on October 28, 1924, at the Washington D.C.-based Mithras Lodge of Perfection No. 1. By the 1940s, Doyle had moved from Washington D.C. to California, where he lived until his death in 1988. His certificate, now in our collection, helps illustrate the deep connection between DeMolay and Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

Caption:
DeMolay certificate issued to Robert Emmet Doyle, Jr., 1922. Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, Lexington, Massachusetts, Museum Purchase, A2017/024/001.


Skeletons in the Lodge Room

2014_057DP1DB

As we often like to remind our readers, the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library actively collects materials associated with any and all American Masonic and fraternal groups.  This recent acquisition is a pin that was produced for members of the Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction (SJ) in 1905.  The two American Scottish Rite jurisdictions co-exist in the United States.  The Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) oversees Scottish Rite groups in fifteen states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest.  The SJ administers Scottish Rite groups in the other 35 states, as well as Washington, D.C. where their headquarters is located.  The NMJ founded the Museum & Library in Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1975.

The two jurisdictions don’t always follow the same ritual, but the symbols on this pin were also used by the NMJ during the 1800s and early 1900s.  An illustration in The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, written by Charles McClenachan (1829-1896) in 1867 – who served as Chair of the NMJ’s Ritual Committee from 1882 to 1896 – shows the same skeleton holding a chalice and a banner (at the left side of the illustration - click on it to see a larger version).  This prop was used in the ritual for the fraternity’s honorary 33rd degree ritual. When McClenachan wrote his book in 1867, the Scottish Rite conferred degrees in much the same way as local lodges.  McClenachan’s illustration shows the men wearing sashes over their street clothes.  A few years later, members changed their rituals to theatrical endeavors complete with sets, costumes and props. RARE14.7.M126 1867DP1DB

The shape and materials of this pin were popular among fraternal groups during the late 1800s and early 1900s.  The shield shape relates to fraternal symbolism, while the enamel face allowed for colorful and detailed decoration.  The Museum’s collection includes at least one similar pin associated with the NMJ from 1901, while the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts collection includes several round enamel pins produced for local Knights Templar Commanderies in 1895.

This pin was probably given or sold to attendees of the SJ’s biennial meeting in Washington, D.C., in October 1905.  Along the bottom is the Latin phrase, “Post Tenebras Lux,” which translates to “Light After Darkness.”

Top: Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction pin, 1905, unidentified maker, United States, Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library purchase, 2014.057.  Photograph by David Bohl.

Bottom: Frontispiece, The Book of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, 1867, Charles T. McClenachan, author, Masonic Publishing and Manufacturing Company, publisher, New York, New York, Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library.  Photograph by David Bohl.

 

 


Happy 201st Birthday to the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction!

2013_030DI1Today, August 5, 2014, marks the 201st anniversary of the founding of the Scottish Rite’s Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (which founded the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library in 1975). A year ago today, we celebrated the momentous occasion of the fraternity’s 200th anniversary – see our posts from last year - here and here. This year, the day is passing more quietly. However, our exhibition, “A Sublime Brotherhood: 200 Years of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction,” which opened last year, is still on view – for a few more weeks. The exhibition will close on September 27, 2014, so if you haven’t visited, it’s time to plan a trip to the museum. We have one more gallery talk planned in the exhibit. The Museum’s Director of Collections and curator of the exhibition, Aimee E. Newell, will offer a free gallery talk on Saturday, September 27, at 2 p.m.

During the official anniversary ceremony last August, in New York City, Sovereign Grand Commander John William McNaughton welcomed his counterpart from the Southern Jurisdiction, Sovereign Grand Commander Ronald Seale. At the festivities, Commander Seale presented Commander McNaughton with a reproduction of the 1813 charter that officially created the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. Commander Seale also presented a commemorative glass vase to celebrate the occasion (see above). The vase is currently on view in our lobby as part of our display of recent acquisitions. Engraved on the front is the double-headed eagle emblem of the Scottish Rite with an inscription, “Presented to the Supreme Council, 33°, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, in honor of its Bicentennial Anniversary 1813-2013 by the Supreme Council, 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, USA.”

To order a copy of the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction's recent published history, which the exhibition is based on, visit the NMJ online store.

Vase, 2013, United States, gift of the Supreme Council, 33°, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, USA, 2013.030. Photograph by David Bohl.


Frederick Dalcho's Scottish Rite Rituals from 1801

5.10 SC155_R231DP1DBSome of the earliest and most important Scottish Rite rituals in existence are in the collection of the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives at the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library. A number of them are currently on view in Secret Scripts: Masonic and Fraternal Ritual Books in the Van Gorden-Williams Library and Archives in the library's reading room.

The earliest ritual on view is Frederick Dalcho's 1801 version of the 4th degree (Secret Master). Dalcho (1770-1836), a medical doctor who later became an Episcopal minister, was the first Lieutenant Grand Commander of the Charleston Supreme Council (today's Scottish Rite Southern Jurisdiction), and served as its second Sovereign Grand Commander from 1816 until 1822. The Charleston Supreme Council was founded in 1801, but the degrees of the Lodge of Perfection (4-14) had been worked in Charleston since the founding of the Sublime Grand Lodge of Perfection in  1783. Upon its founding, the Charleston Supreme Council began bringing together groups and individual degrees that would eventually become the system of Scottish Rite degrees (4-32, as well as the 33rd) that we know today.

Dalcho's 1801 version of the 4th degree is the closest we can get today to the first degree that a candidate would have encountered upon his entrance into the Scottish Rite during its earliest days. Scottish Rite degrees today are theatrical stage productions, an innovation that did not occur until the late nineteenth century. The ritual degrees of the Scottish Rite for most of the 1800s occurred in rectangular lodge rooms, just like the Craft degrees. In the early days of the Scottish Rite, many of the degrees were merely "communicated" to the candidate, which is to say that they were read and explained to him. If the degree were "conferred, that is, fully acted out by the candidate and members of the lodge, the conferral would have taken place in the same type of room - or possibly exactly the same room - as those of the Craft degrees, complete with props and costumes. (See this previous post to get a sense of what the lodge room for the 4th degree would have looked like in 1867.)

Also on view in Secret Scripts is a 33rd degree ritual, written ca. 1801 in Dalcho's hand. It is, in the words of Arturo de Hoyos, "the earliest thirty-third degree ritual directly traceable to the Scottish Rite." Unlike the 4th degree, the Dalcho 33rd degree ritual contains many corrections and additions, demonstrating that, from its beginnings, Scottish Rite rituals have been evolving and changing.

Be sure to check out our previous posts about other rituals that are also on view in Secret Scripts through February 1, 2014.

 Caption:

4th degree (Secret Master) Scottish Rite Ritual, 1801. Frederick Dalcho, Charleston, South Carolina. Collection of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum & Library, SC 155-R231. Photograph by David Bohl.


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.