Best Wishes to a Brother from Morton Lodge No. 352

As I've said many times before, the fraternity of Freemasonry provides Masons with the unique opportunity to meet people they normally would have never had the chance to meet otherwise.  I heard a story yesterday I thought I'd share.

Yesterday, a friend and Brother of mine Jerry Agles, a Past Master of Morton Lodge No. 352 told me that Brother Phil Jackson was leaving the USA and going home to New Zealand. I met Phil just over a year ago in Pekin, and we had a great conversation over dinner. He's an unforgettable character, and I can see why his friend are so sorry to see him go home. He's made a lot of friends in the past three years, and has been an active member of the lodge.

The funny part of this story was the Jerry told Phil he couldn't leave until he'd "replaced himself" in the lodge by presenting the lodge with a petition for a new member. Something we should all do, every year.  Well, Phil presented the lodge with a petition for a young man he knew from his church, and work has begun to raise this young man a Master Mason. So Phil Jackson has fulfilled the requirement placed on him by Jerry Agles of replacing himself.

So Phil, I'm sorry to say, I guess you're free to leave the country now... we'll all miss you, and best of luck to you and your family in New Zealand. Keep in touch, Brother Jackson.



Mattoon Lodge No. 260: Past Master's Dinner 10/28/09

Todd Creason and Grand Master of Illinois Richard Swaney

It’s always great fun to visit other lodges, and the trip I made to Mattoon to speak at their Past Master Dinner was especially enjoyable. I was invited by their Worshipful Master, Ken McDonald. Ken is a certified lodge instructor, and we met some months ago when he visited Ogden as an instructor for one of our worker’s clubs. He’s not only a very nice guy, but he’s an excellent instructor—very tough, but it was one of the best sessions I’d ever attended. I couldn’t believe it when he called me a few days later and invited me to speak in Mattoon.

Ogden Lodge Secretary and Past Master, Denver Phelps, accompanied me. He’s not only our Secretary, but also our former District Deputy Grand Master, and our current Assistant Area Grand Master. Denver is a lot of fun on a car trip, so we had lively conversation on the way down and back—and it’s not every day, you can get your AAGM to roadie for you. He helped me haul in books and set up my table.

This event was especially fun because our new Grand Master was in attendance. Grand Master Richard Swaney had just been installed a couple weeks earlier at our Grand Lodge session, so this was one of his first official events as Grand Master. Denver and I got to sit up at the head table with him over dinner, and he’s a lot of fun to talk to. His speech certainly eclipsed mine—his jokes were certainly a lot funnier. He seemed to really like my brand new quote book—I sent him home with the only copy I had of A Freemason Said That? Great Quotes of Famous Freemasons (see picture).

The event was well planned, and well attended. I think that’s my favorite kind of event to speak at, because it’s a way lodges say thank you to their Past Master’s. I noticed in the program, that Mattoon was honoring living PM’s going back to 1958. I met several of them—each a link in the Mattoon Lodge chain that goes back more than 150 years. Mattoon Lodge No. 260 is actually older than the city of Mattoon itself I later read—they were chartered before the city itself. Worshipful Bro McDonald did a great job planning the event down to the last detail—he even had an pianist/organist there who played music written by famous Freemasons—Mozart, John Philip Sousa, Sibelius, Liszt, etc.

I also met a history professor from Eastern Illinois University—Brother Michael H. Shirley. I wish I’d met him two or three years earlier—he would have been an excellent resource to tap when I was researching my books. Definitely somebody I’ll be talking to in the future. Bro. Shirley is also the Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois.

It never ceases to amaze me how you can go into a group of strangers, and because you have one thing in common, being a Mason, you are instantly amongst a group of friends. On the back of the program where listed ten reasons to become a Mason—number three really struck home. It said, “A Masonic Lodge is a place to meet outstanding individuals from all walks of life, that a person would not otherwise have had the opportunity to know and call brother.”

Masonic Travels Interview

Ken Dennis put up a nice interview on his website over the weekend.  I think my favorite question he asked was:
With the recent popularity of Dan Brown’s latest book the Lost Symbol, many of our non-Mason readers might be interested in knowing if you have ever drank blood from a skull in your travels? If you did, would you tell me?

You know, I keep waiting to get summoned into that secret meeting where I’ll be told the location of the Templar treasure, learn that Elvis is still alive, and be given the key to Area 51. But it hasn’t happened yet. In reality, however, the secrets really aren’t that secret—I read recently the secrets were published about two seconds after the Grand Lodge of England was formed in 1717. But people always want to believe there is more. Dan Brown tapped into that idea so many believe—that there is way more hidden behind the veil of “secret societies.” Brown has made a great living exposing the “secrets” of mysterious groups like Opus Dei, the Illuminati, and most recently, Freemasonry. But remember, Dan Brown writes fiction.

If you want to read the whole interview, it's at Masonic Traveler--Todd Creason Interview.

Washington Bible and Lafayette Sword at Illinois Grand Lodge

The Washington Bible

General Lafayette's Sword from the Revolutionary War
Both photos courtesy of Ray and Judy Gordon, Pekin, Illinois

Both of these unique items, still in the possession of Masonic lodges, were on display at the 170th Annual Communication of the Illinois Grand Lodge.  The Washington Bible, as you can see, is always closely guarded by dedicated members of the St. John's Lodge No. 1 in New York when it travels, to ensure it is not damaged. 

Our incoming Grand Master, Richard Swaney, was able to touch the Washington Bible during his installation when he took his obligation as Grand Master with a gloved hand.  What a great honor to be sworn in on the same Bible George Washington swore his oath as President on April 30, 1789.

Item of Interest: The Washington Bible

I'm on my way to Springfield early in the morning to attend the 170th Grand Lodge Annual Communication as many Illinois Masons are. I think the thing that makes this meeting so unique, is the presence of the Washington Bible. I wrote about this remarkable book in the first chapter of my first book. It's a very rare honor to have such a unique American treasure on display. Below is an article about the bible from the website of its owners and caretakers-- St. Johns Lodge No. 1. ~TEC

As one of the oldest Lodges in the United States of America, it is only fitting that our Altar Bible is an irreplaceable part of the fabric of American history. On March 8th 1770, St. John's Lodge suffered a catastrophic fire at its old Lodge room at Scotch Street. In addition to losing its earliest records and Lodge furnishings, the original Lodge Bible was destroyed in the conflagration.

On November 28th, 1770, the Master of the St. John's, W:. Jonathan Hampton, presented a replacement Bible to the Lodge. At the time, printed Bibles were an expensive rarity and the Lodge was fortunate indeed to benefit from W:. Hampton's generosity. Scarcely could the Brethren of the time have predicted that within a few short years the Colonies were to sever their ties with their mother country and the Bible was to become the very cornerstone of a new nation founded upon the Masonic principles of liberty and equality.
The Bible was printed by Mark Baskett, printer ny Royal Appointment to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, London 1767. The deep gold lettering, distinctly clear on both covers, displays this inscription:

"God shall establish; St. John's Lodge constituted 5757; Burnt down 8th March, 5770; Rebuilt and opened November 28th, 5770. Officers then presiding: Jonathan Hampton, Master: William Butler, Senior Warden: Isaac Heron, Junior Warden."

The Bible is the King James Version, complete with the Apocrypha and elaborately supplemented with the historical, astronomical and legal data of that period. It contains numerous artistic steel engravings portraying Biblical narratives from designs and paintings by old masters and engraved by the celebrated English artist, John Stuart.

After the conclusion of the War of Independence, New York City became the first Constitutional capital of the United States, and it was there on April 30th, 1789 that Brother George Washington was to be sworn in as the first President of the United States.
On a platform erected for the purpose, in front of the then City Hall, were gathered the Congress of the United States, with George Wash­ington and Chancellor Livingston, Grand Master of Masons in the State of New York. In front of them was an immense concourse of citizens. It was indeed a great holiday occasion; the Revolutionary War was over and peace reigned throughout the country.
Everything was ready for the administration of the oath of office to the President of the new government, when it was discovered that a Holy Bible had not been provided on which the President-Elect could swear allegiance to the Constitution. Jacob Morton, who was Marshal of the parade, and at that time Master of St. John's Lodge, was standing close by. Seeing the dilemma they were in, he remarked that he could get the altar Bible of St. John's Lodge, which met at the Old Coffee House on the corner of Water and Wall Streets. Chancellor Livingston begged him to do so. The Bible was brought, and the ceremony proceeded. The stately Washington took his oath with his right hand resting on the Bible which had been opened to Genesis XLIX and L. His head bowed in a reverential manner, he added in a clear and distinct voice, "I swear, so help me God!" then bowing over this magnificent Bible, he reverently kissed it, whereupon Chancellor Livingston exclaimed in a ringing voice, "Long live George Wash­ington, President of the United States!"
To preserve the memory of this auspicious event, a page was inserted in the Bible with the following inscription:

"On this sacred volume, on the 30th day of April, A. L. 5789, in the City of New York, was administered to George Washington, the first president of the United States of America, the oath to support the Constitution of the United States. This important ceremony was performed by the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of New York, the Honorable Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor of the State.

Fame stretched her wings and with her trumpet blew.

Great Washington is near. What praise is due?

What title shall he have? She paused, and said

‘Not one - his name alone strikes every title dead.

The Bible has since been used at four other inaugurations: President Harding in 1921; President Eisenhower in 1953; President Jimmy Carter in 1977 and President George Bush Sr. in 1989. It was also to have been used for the inauguration of George W. Bush in 2001, but rain prevented its use. It has also been present at numerous public and Masonic occasions, including Washington's funeral procession in New York, December 31st, 1799; the introduction of Croton water into New York City, October 14th, 1840; the dedication of the Masonic Temple in Boston, June 24th, 1867, and of that in Philadelphia on May 24th, 1869; the dedication of the Washington monument in Washington, February 21st, 1885 and its rededication in 1998; and the laying of the cornerstone of the Masonic Home at Utica on May 21st, 1891.

It was also used at the opening of the present Masonic Hall in New York on September 18, 1909, when St. John's Lodge held the first meeting, and conferred the first Third Degree, in the newly completed Temple. More recently it featured at the World Fair in New York, has been displayed at the CIA Offices outside Washington D.C., and at the Famous Fathers & Sons exhibition at the George Bush Memorial Library outside Dallas, Texas in 2001.

The Bible is still in active use by the Lodge. When not being used by St. John’s Lodge or on tour, it is on display at Federal Hall, Wall Street, New York.


Todd E. Creason, 33° is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and continues to be a regular contributor. He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as Secretary. He's also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199. He is a member the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville, the York Rite Bodies of Champaign/Urbana (IL), the Ansar Shrine (IL), Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL), and a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research. He was recently awarded the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association. You can contact him at:

Masonic Travels First to Review Famous American Freemasons Volume II

Not too long ago I did a review of Brother Todd Creason’s first publication, Famous American Freemasons Volume 1, a book which I thoroughly enjoyed. Todd has now released the second volume in that series with more excellently presented stories of the lives of some of the most interesting American Brethren in history.
Not only does Todd provide us with thirty inspiring new stories of our Brethren, but his presentation, formatting and layout of the entire book has been updated and looks absolutely fabulous, making for an enjoyable book that you don’t want to put down.

A special introduction by Brother James L Tungate describes to the reader about the continuity of life and how the Masonic fraternity is a continuance and ongoing legacy left by each of us.

It’s interesting how so many great men became a part of the same organization and leads you to wonder if they were drawn to Masonry because of their like natures or habits, or was it Freemasonry that helped to further develop and nurture them in to the great men they became?

This book, although Masonic, is not about Freemasonry. It is about famous men and the tales of their lives, men who also happened to be Freemasons. Todd strikes a lovely balance in his books, having interesting factual histories of individuals with only a slight Masonic twist at the end of each chapter.

I found this book difficult to put down and read it over a very short period of time, enjoying it immensely and recommend it to everyone, but especially to those with an interest in American History or Culture.

Both of Todd E. Creason’s books are available on

Be sure and visit Masonic Travels--it's an excellent site for those of you interested in topics related to Freemasonry. TEC

The Illustrious James L. Tungate, 33° to Write Special Introduction in Famous American Freemasons: Volume II

Todd E. Creason has announced that the Illustrious James L. Tungate, 33° has agreed to write a special introduction to Famous American Freemasons: Volume II due out on July 4th, 2009.
"He's a terrific writer, and I thought of him immediately," Creason said. "I'm very happy he agreed to do it. And he did a terrific job. I think readers are really going to enjoy his introduction."

James L. Tungate is an Active Member of the Supreme Council, Thirty-third Degree, Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, and serves as Executive Producer of its Thirty-Third Degree, as well as a writer for the Ritualistic Matters Committee and Chairman of the Jurisprudence Committee. He is the representative to the Supreme Council for France. He is the former Worshipful Master of Milford Lodge No. 168, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, and current Treasurer of Watseka Lodge No. 446. He serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois as its Chairman of Legislation.

Mr. Tungate graduated with Honors from Illinois Wesleyan University and earned M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Northwestern University, and Juris Doctor degree from the University of Illinois College of Law as a Harnow Scholar. He has taught at Northwestern University and was Chairman of Communications for Loyola University, New Orleans, before establishing a private law practice in Illinois with his wife, Susan Sumner Tungate. He has also taught law in the gifted child program at Purdue University. He was one of the founders of, and continues teaching in, the People’s Law School, a project sponsored by the Illinois State Bar Association to educate the general public about everyday issues of law. He also serves the Illinois Bar as an elected Representative to its General Assembly. He is the President of the Iroquois County Bar Association. He is a member of the United States Supreme Court Bar as well as a member of the Illinois Supreme Court Committee on Fitness and Character.

Mr. Tungate and his wife, now Circuit Court Judge Susan Tungate, reside in central Illinois. They have two sons, Edward and James, who are also life members of their father’s Masonic Lodge and Scottish Rite Valley, where their grandfather and great-grandfather were also members.

The Valley of Danville Feast of Tishri

From Danville, Illinois: 9/12/09

Todd was invited to speak at the Valley of Danville’s Feast of Tishri. It was a very special invitation for Todd. He became a 32º Mason at the Valley of Danville, and the Valley of Danville had taken a very active role in helping him promote his first book. As if that weren’t enough, the Valley of Danville had honored him as the “2009 Mason of the Year.” Todd was grateful for the opportunity to finally thank the members of the valley in person.

After a delicious meal, Todd gave a brief speech, and then tried something totally different. He challenged the audience with trivia questions. The Danville crowd knew their history well, and it turned into a lively competition. It was a memorable evening.

Suit Up for the Illinois Council of Deliberation in Bloomington!

From Bloomington, Illinois: 6/27/09

Todd was invited to speak at the annual meeting of the Illinois Council of Deliberation in Bloomington, Illinois. It was the first time he had worn a tux since he was married, but he was glad he went to the effort. He was surprised to learn that he was dining at the head table with Grand Master of Illinois, Daniel C. Yandell and his wife, as well as the Grand High Priest Richard Yena and his wife, and the Illustrious Commander-in-Chief of the Illinois Council of Deliberation Lee B. Lockwood, 33º.

Since it was so close to the Fourth of July, Todd’s speech was focused on celebrating America, and how Freemasons had not only helped to found our nation, but had also shaped our uniquely American culture.

Afterwards, he signed copies of Famous American Freemasons, and took preorders for Famous American Freemasons: Volume II due out in July 2009. And of course, he never misses an opportunity to promote, announcing the soon-to-be-released book of quotes “A Freemason Said That? Great Quotes of Famous Freemasons” scheduled for release in Fall 2009.

Creason Visits Historic Catlin Lodge No. 285

From Catlin, IL: 3/7/09

Todd and Valerie were invited to join the members of Catlin Lodge No. 285 at a Past Master’s Dinner. After an enormous meal of fried chicken with all the fixings, and home-made desserts, Todd spoke to the audience from the 113 year old stage of the Catlin Opera House—one the first floor of Catlin Lodge No. 285. He talked about the long 150-year tradition of Masonry in Catlin, the history of Masonry in America, and ended with some interesting history he dug up about Catlin Lodge No. 285. The building, as it stands today, looks just like the photograph above taken in the 1940s. The Opera House itself underway a major renovation by the members of the lodge, and continues to be a community meeting place, as it has been since it was built in 1896.

An interesting note, the Lodge held its first meeting in the “new” building the week after another Freemason, William McKinley, was inaugurated President of the United States.

The following is reprinted, in part, from the Catlin Historical Society webpage:

“In the year of 1858 the Catlin Lodge No.285 received their Charter from the Grand Lodge of the state of Illinois of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. The Lodge was organized on the 7th day of October 1858, with the first Worshipful Master being Dr. Allen Latham. In the beginning they were located in the old frame school building on the cur-rent Catlin Park grounds. This frame building was later condemned as unfit for children, the brick structure which we refer to as the old grade schoolwas then built on the same site. In the late 1890’s the members started to consider building a two-story building of their own.

In 1896 lot #19 in the Layton McDonald Second Addition to the village of Catlin was purchased for $135.00 and construction began. The Masonic building, better known as the Opera House still stands on North Sandusky Street. For many years the first floor was used for community activities, such as school plays, home talent plays, medicine shows, movies and even basketball.

In 1914 the Lodge had a curtain made for the stage. Local Catlin and Danville business advertisements were sold and placed on the curtain. In later years the curtain was removed and the Catlin Historical Society be-came caretakers of this large piece of Mason history. Last year the Society, whom regrettably had no area large enough to display, returned the curtain to its rightful owners and once again it hangs on the Masonic stage. Its showing age but still looks great! “

Catlin Lodge will be marking their 150th Anniversary with a re-dedication ceremony this Fall.

National Review: Scottish Rite Journal Nov/Dec 2008

Bro. Todd E. Creason, Famous American Freemasons, Morrisville, N.C.:, 2007, paperbound, 280 pages, ISBN 978-1-4357-0345-2. Available on the Internet, new and used, from about $17.00

I’ll admit when I first saw the title of this book, I thought “Oh joy abounding, yet another list.” Wrong, very wrong. Brother Creason has put together a joy of a book. Its great charm is in its narrative style. He doesn’t list famous American Freemasons, he tells you about them, in a way which even keeps you guessing for a while as to the subject of each sketch. His research has unearthed information not in the usual biographies, or at least not presented in such a compelling way. Each sketch runs about five to seven pages, and you will find good humor and honest respect for his subjects. The entries are grouped under the classifications of American Patriots, American Presidents, Military Men, American Entertainers, and American Legends. Under American Legends, as an example, you will find The Explorers, The Equalizer, The Empresario, The Old Scout, and The Aviator. It’s a lot of fun to read these biographical sketches, but they are addictive—you always want to read just one more. Incidentally, this would make a great educational series for Lodge meetings. Each one is short enough to be read in a meeting and gripping enough that the Brethren would be sure to enjoy it. Give a copy to yourself for Christmas, and buy a second one for the Lodge, and a third to give to your local public library.

~James T. Tresner II, 33°, Grand Cross, Book Review Editor

Gourmet Meal, Fun and Fellowship in Pekin Wrap-Up the Last Event

Todd with Grand High Priest Richard Yena

From Pekin, IL: 10/30/08

This was the last stop in my promotion tour for Famous American Freemasons: Volume I, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to do! There was a good turn out, I met a lot of interesting people, and saw a lot of familiar faces of friends I’d met in other places. The meal was absolutely fabulous. I’ve never seen a three course gourmet meal served in a Masonic Lodge before.

1st course—Apple and Butternut Squash Soup
2nd course—Duo of Pan Seared Chicken Breast with Pomegranate-Balsamic Glaze and Roasted Pork Loin with Apricot, Pumpkin Risotto, and Braised Autumn Greens
3rd course—Chocolate Mousse

And the service was impeccable. The Job’s Daughters were in charge of the service, and did a terrific job of serving drinks, bringing out the meal, and picking up the plates.

The organizers of the Pekin Dinner did a great job of coming up with a very unique event. They wanted an event that might get past active members interested in being more active again, get potential members interested in joining, but also something just about everyone could enjoy. They even raffled off copies of the book.

My compliments to the Chef! I’d like to especially thank Kevin Wurster for doing so much to organize the event. Thanks to the Job’s Daughters for doing such a good job, and to the volunteers who helped prepare and clean up. And special thanks also to Judy Gordon for taking so many great pictures.

I hope those that attended Pekin enjoyed my presentation as much as I enjoyed being there.


Todd E. Creason

Creason Interview to Air on CNN Headline News

From Chicago, IL: 9/17/08

Todd E. Creason was recently interviewed by award winning news anchor Paul Lisnek for ComCast Newsmaker about his book “Famous American Freemasons.” He talked about famous Americans throughout history that were Masons as well as talking about what Masonry is, and how somebody interested in Masonry would go about joining the fraternity. His interview was the last one in a series of nine interviews that focused on different aspects of Masonry.

The five minute interview will air on CNN Headline News on ComCast cable between October 13 – 19 at 24 and 54 minutes past the hour. Todd’s spot will come up in rotation about four times a day for the entire week.

Todd Speaks at Second Author Event Sponsored by the Bridgeport York Rite Bodies

From Lawrenceville, IL: 8/23/08

Brother Todd E. Creason was invited to speak at an author dinner sponsored by the Bridgeport York Rite Bodies on Saturday August 23th. It was held at Callahan's Restaurant in Lawrenceville, IL for husbands, wives and families. After a social hour and book signing, a delicious dinner, and a hilarious introduction entitled "Only In America" given by the always entertaining Brother Bill Hussey, Todd gave a short talk about Freemasons in American history.

He also spoke about Freemasonry, and what it has meant to him, and how he was inspired by his experiences in the fraternity into writing a series of books. Todd often comments after these events that he is continually surprised by how much the average Freemason knows about American history. As a whole, Masons are very well connected to their history, which is probably much of the reason there has been such interest in his book. As usual, Todd learned a few things he didn't know, and got a few ideas that he will most likely work into his book.

Todd was especially honored to be asked to speak at the event, because he knew many of the members from his membership in the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville. In fact, the event was the very first event he was asked to do after he published his book. He also had a chance to visit with some of the members that only a few short months earlier had participated in putting on the Commandery Degrees in nearby Olney, IL where Brother Creason became a Sir Knight along with about twenty more individuals.

This is the second author event put on by the Bridgeport York Rite Bodies--the first event featured Christopher Hodapp, the author of the popular "Freemasonry for Dummies."

Todd E. Creason Speaks In Lincoln, IL.

From Lincoln, IL: 7/29/08

On Tuesday, July 29th, Brother Todd E. Creason spoke to an audience of Masons at Lincoln Lodge No. 210. He arrived in town just before the weather did. A severe thunderstorm hit Lincoln moments after he got there, but there was still a good crowd that braved the weather attended the event. Todd joked at the beginning of the speech that he’d like to thank the community leaders of Lincoln for the terrific reception—apparently nobody had ever heralded his arrival to an event by setting off the storm sirens before.

In the speech Creason explained about how he came to author, compile and publish his newly released book "Famous American Freemasons." Creason also shared with the group as to what induced him to become a Mason and how his love for history inspired him to unite the two passions into what will is the first of three volumes. He also spoke briefly about his involvement with the 32nd Degree Masonic Learning Centers for Children and stressed the importance of the work that organization does. Afterwards Creason shared refreshments with the group and answered questions while signing books.

The event was co-sponsored by Lincoln Lodge No. 210 and Mt. Pulaski Lodge No. 87, and Todd would like to thank the brethren of these two lodges for inviting him. There were several other lodges in attendance including DeWitt Lodge No. 84, Henderson Lodge No. 820, Morton Lodge No. 352 and Atlanta Lodge No. 165. He hopes that he’ll be invited back upon the publication of the second volume of “Famous American Freemasons.”

Coming Soon!

The Famous American Freemason Blog