Vol. XIX No. 9 — September 1941


Most Masons know of the great and treasured mementoes of the past, which while actually the possessions of certain lodges and grand lodges, are really the relics of the whole Craft; the Bible on which Washington was obligated, chief jewel in the crown of Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4, Virginia; the marble gavel with which the father of his country Masonically laid the cornerstone of the Capitol, more valuable than its weight in precious stones to Potomac Lodge No. 5 of the District of Columbia; the Washington Masonic letter, possession of New York; the Bible from St.Johns Lodge of New York on which Washington was sworn in as President of the United States; the Paul Revere Urn with Washingtons hair in it, belonging to Massachusetts; the Command- ery skull, once a road agents, cherished in Montana; the small rawhide trunk in which the charter of the first lodge west of the Rockies was brought to Oregon; the original gavel of Texas, etc., etc.

But for every relic well known are a thousand of lesser fame, some of them even more interesting than those which have been so well set forth in print that they are “household names” to well informed Masons.

A thousand Bulletins the size of this would not suffice to catalog them, but a few may be mentioned as unique and interesting.

The Register of Mobile Lodge No. 40, Mobile, Ala., was signed by Lafayette when he came to this country after the Revolutionary War, and made a trip through Alabama — several places on the route are marked with tablets showing where he stopped or was entertained — and visited the lodge in Mobile.

The block of marble from Alabama in the Washington Monument was furnished by the Grand Lodge of Alabama. Montgomery Lodge No. 11 of Montgomery has some interesting old letters and correspondence concerning the furnishing and shipment of this block.

The hall of Aztlan Lodge No. 1, Arizona, has on the wall of one of its rooms a framed demit signed by Paul Revere when he was master of St. Andrews lodge of Boston, Mass. The demit, which bears the seal of the lodge, was issued to John Myer “10 August Salvation, 1782, and of Masonry 5782.” Though the ink is somewhat dim and faded, it is in a fair state of preservation.

Historic Masonic relics in Connecticut are many. They include the sword worn by Brother Israel Putnam in the Revolutionary War, treasured and exhibited by Putnam Lodge No. 46 of South Woodstock. Of what lodge he was a member it is not known.

The spurs worn by General David Wooster at the Battle of Ridgefield, in which he was mortally wounded, are the possession of Wooster Lodge No. 79 of New Haven. General Wooster brought the first charter to Connecticut in 1750 and was the charter master of Hiram Lodge No. 1.

A precious document is the agreement between the Grand Lodge of Connecticut and Amos Doolittle, the engraver and innkeeper, in which for a loan of one hundred dollars without interest the grand lodge was to be furnished quarters for its annual meetings together with fuel and candles as long as it desired. This is dated 1802. Amos Doolittle is the “artist” responsible for the pictures used in Masonic lectures.

Among the revered antiquities in the possession of Delaware Masons is the Lafayette Lodge No. 14 Charter, signed by Lafayette himself, and his son and secretary. The lodge was formed in January 1825. The lodge is alive and active today, living up to its great name. During Lafayette’s visit to this country he was often entertained in Wilmington.

Among other Masonic antiquities in the Masonic Museum in the Temple in Wilmington are: altar of the Blue Tavern Lodge used in 1805; master’s hat used during Revolutionary Period; the demit of James Mahaffey, granted by Ireland Oct. 3, 1792; and a grand lodge seal dated 1806.

The Oglethorpe Bible in the possession of Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, Georgia, together with the unfinished chart in the archives of the grand lodge, which estabfishes the succession of the Grand Lodge of Georgia from the Colonial Grand Lodge of Georgia, evidencing the resignation of Samuel Elbert, grand master, and the election of William Stephens, are cherished Georgia relics.

Iowa has so many valued and important relics that it is difficult to make a selection. The Paul Revere Urn in Massachusetts contains a lock of George Washington’s hair. Iowa has a lock of hair which it is claimed came from the head of George Washington. It was presented by James Diver of Keokuk, Iowa, who claimed it had been in his family since 1836. It had been presented to the Divers February 7,1836, by an old friend, Jno. P. Pierre, but no one knows how it was obtained from Washington.

An original copy of the first Masonic book printed in America is one of fourteen copies in the United States and one in England; fifteen copies now known to be in existence.

Probably Iowa’s most valuable Masonic possession is an original copy of Roberts’ Constitutions published in 1722. Only one other copy is known to exist.

In the museum is a ledger kept in 1780, showing accounts running into hundreds of thousands of dollars, among them one of Robert Morris, a financier of that period. His account totals about 100,000 pounds English money.

In the Proceedings of the Grand Encampment for 1883, facing page 60, is a facsimile of a Knight Templar diploma issued by the “Invincible Order of Knights Templar of St. Andrews Lodge No. 1, Ancient Masons, Charleston, South Carolina, August 1, 1783. Iowa has the original of that document.

Among important Masonic relics in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky is a cane, which was then the property of, and held in the hand of General Albert Sidneyjohnston of the Confederate States, when he fell at Shiloh. Another is an autograph album, containing the signatures, post office addresses, military rank and Masonic affiliations of the 423 members of the Johnson’s Island Confederate Prisoners Masonic Association, while imprisoned at Johnsons Island, Ohio, in 1864.

Many Masonic relics are scattered throughout Missouri, most of them in private collections. The Missouri Historical Society, in St. Louis, has a large number of interesting relics, largely diplomas and Masonic regalia.

In Missouri’s Masonic Museum are treasured a mosaic picture of George Washington that hung in Sul- grave Manor, his ancestral English home, for over 100 years; the shoulder straps used by Admiral Robert Coontz during the World War, when he was in supreme command of the U.S. Fleet; Masonic sentiments signed by Gen. John J. Pershing and by Chauncey Depew; the Mark Twain gavel and petition for degrees; autograph signatures and medals of great Masons of foreign lands and of the U.S.A.; autographed original poem on Lindbergh flight by Fay Hempstead, last Poet Laureate of Freemasonry; and the only bronze statue in existence of Washington wearing Masonic regalia.

Montana is still rather young and its history still so fresh that it is rather hard to pick out one thing more outstanding than the rest. The hall of Virginia City Lodge No. 1, and Montana Lodge No. 2, both at Virginia City, is full of relics; they have the original charters, the first ones issued to any lodge in this section, and the first minutes.

The Grand Lodge of Nebraska cherishes a set of jewels made of tin made by a member of Nebraska Lodge No. 1, and the first set of jewels ever used by a Masonic lodge in Nebraska 85 years ago. This set of jewels is in possession of Nebraska Lodge No. 1.

Also treasured is a gavel made from a log of the building in which the first Masonic lodge in Nebraska was held, in April 1855. This building later had to be tom down because the Missouri River was washing the land away from it.

New Hampshire is proud of a past masters jewel presented to Samuel Larkin in 1804; the first P.M. jewel ever presented to any of its past masters, and probably the first one ever given in the state. It is hand-made of silver, the work of one of Portsmouth’s “whitesmiths,” as they were called, to distinguish them from blacksmiths who worked in black metal or iron, while the former worked in white metals, silver or tin. In by-laws in New Hampshire occupations of whitesmith and blacksmith are mentioned.

The Grand Lodge of New Mexico possesses the Masonic apron of Brother Christopher (Kit) Carson, trader and Indian fighter of the early history of New Mexico, and Montezuma Lodge No. 1, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, possesses Brother Carson’s rifle, important relics of Masonic and historic value.

New York displays a pair of glazed china punch bowls, 4 14 inches high by 1114 inches in diameter, bearing Masonic emblems in colors, used at the banquet, September 11, 1824, following the historic visit of the Marquis de Lafayette to Jerusalem Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, and to Columbian and Morton Commander- ies, Knights Templar.

In the Masonic Museum in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, are some oxen yoke that were used in the breaking of the original sod 75 years or more ago; fire-arms of the early settlers and a very creditable collection of Indian bead work, clothing and other paraphernalia all used, collected and turned in by pioneer Masons.

In the grand lodge Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, are the Square and Compasses, used for a time in the first Masonic lodge organized in Utah Territory. The lodge was Rocky Mountain No. 205, Missouri Registry, held at Camp Floyd, while Col. Albert Sidneyjohnston was in command. Its dispensation was dated March 6, 1859. The “jewels” were made out of a portion of a camp kettle by the army blacksmith. They are the property of Damascus Lodge No. 10 and were loaned to grand lodge.

Of the forty-nine grand lodges of the nation, only twenty have any kind of Masonic museum, and but half of these are of sufficient size and interest really to be effective in the influence a Museum is supposed to wield.

Any good museum may be of importance; the good Masonic museums are of profound importance and untold value to the Craft. Urey keep tradition alive. They wield a restraining influence against those too modern minded brethren to whom “stream lining” and “modernization” should be applied to the Ancient Craft. They stretch back ghostly hands for those who examine their treasures, to touch the hem of garments worn by forgotten men of the Craft, of years the memories of which have faded. Museums are of untold help to the historian, and few are the years in which one or another does not yield some new fact to some researcher with a new slant on historical investigation. The museum is to Masonic history, tradition and story what the Hall of Archives is to the United States Government.

In the Library of Congress in Washington, among many other treasures, rests the original Declaration of Independence, and a Gutenberg Bible. Who can question the inspiration both have had upon the unknown thousands who have, with awe in their hearts, seen the documents which more than any others made this nation what it is? For the one gave to the world a new thought of human dignity and worth, the other, the first fruit of the art of printing from movable type, was that discovery of the arts which has had more profound an effect upon mankind, and upon his religion, than any other ever made.

In Alexandria-Washington Lodge are priceless relics of the Father of His Country, including their chair in which he sat as charter master — literally hundreds of thousands ofMasons have been thrilled to see it and in imagination at least, watch George Washington wield the gavel of Masonic authority.

In lesser degree every Masonic antiquity, wherever kept and displayed, wields also a gentle influence towards the preservation of, and the reverence for, those ancient laws and principles which make Freemasonry what it is, and not something else.

In musty attics; between the pages of old books; hidden in old trunks and drawers; tucked away in old safes and safe-deposit boxes are doubtless thousands of Masonic treasures. The owners either do not know what they possess, or knowing, have so much sentimental regard for their keepsakes that they retain them, with all the risks of loss and fire, rather than give or loan them to Masonic museums where they may be protected for all time.

Two hundred years ago a piece of Colonial furniture could be bought for a song. Now an authentic table contemporary with Washington’s day may bring hundreds if not thousands of dollars. The aprons worn by the brethren of the earliest American lodges were then but pieces of lambskin; today they are the priceless possessions of those to whom Masonic history is a living story. Jewels, gavels, wardens’ pillars, crockery, and cutlery with Masonic emblems fired or engraved; old minute books, certificates, charts, all the hundreds of varieties of what may well have been but junk when new, is now of value and interest.

And the time to collect it is now, not later. Every year sees fires, movings, losses, discardings, which lessen the number of Masonic treasures which might be saved did their owners but take the little time neces sary to search them out from their hiding places.

If these few pages intrigue those who read to look in their archives, and if by chance there is found some Masonic memento which, of small use or worth where it is may easily become a prize and priceless exhibit if in the possession of lodge or grand lodge or grand lodge Museum, how well worthwhile this writing!

The Masonic Service Association of North America