Masonic Relic Finds New Life Back In The Hands Of A Master Mason

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
 Michael H. Shirley
(originally posted 6/27/12)

Curtain Rod?
One of the things I learned early in my Masonic journey is that Illinois rod work is militarily precise when done by those who are good at it. I'm not good yet, and since I'm studying for the Certified Lodge Instructor exam, I need all the practice I can get, so I was delighted to find an old Steward's rod at an antique mall in Minocqua, Wisconsin, while on vacation. It was hanging on a wall with a tag that read "Parade Pole. Great Curtain Rod! $22." It was dirty, and the metal rod top was so tarnished it looked like wrought iron, but it was exactly what I needed and I grabbed it.

When I took it up to the counter to pay for it, I mentioned to the gentleman who took my money that the description was inaccurate. "It doesn't matter," he said. I said nothing, but it bothered me, because it does matter. Saying that a thing's true name doesn't matter is to dishonor the reason it exists. My Steward's rod would probably make a good curtain rod, and it is a parade pole of sorts, but it was made for a specific purpose, a Masonic purpose, and its true name tells that story.

So now it leans in a corner in my house. The brass top polished up nicely, and lemon oil brought some depth to the wood. The base is worn where it was repeatedly taken out of its holder and replaced at stated meetings and degrees, and it's slightly curved from age, but it looks much better than when I first saw it. My rod work is improving, and somehow using a real rod for its real purpose makes me work a little better than I did with the length of PVC I used before. There's weight to it, a solidity that is its own history. Its Masonic journey, interrupted for who knows how long, continues. With its help, so does mine.


W.B. Michael H. Shirley is Past Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and Leadership Development Chairman for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He's also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the Scottish Rite, the York Rite, Eastern Star, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. He's also a member of the newly-chartered, Illini High Twelve No. 768 in Urbana-Champaign. The author of several articles on British history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.


  1. My wife is an avid antique shopper. I am not. But many times I go along with her just to go along. I have discovered that there are just enough old Masonic items out there in those shops to make most trips interesting. So while she's looking for what I would euphemistically call bric-a-brac, I kill the boredom looking for Masonic gold nuggets. On a trip last year, I found a York Rite arch in an antique shop in Hannibal. While I felt it deserved a better home, at the asking price of $1,495 I decided that was not MY home. You made a great find, brother.

  2. Great story, nice find. I can't help but to wonder how old it is, and what Country, Lodge, or Craft it was used in, how many Stewards held it, how many initiations is was involved in and all that jazz. Is there anyway of finding out? You never know it could pre-date the 18th Century and aid in providing more proof of the existence of the Craft in earlier times?


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