The Register: Signing Your Name Into History

by Midnight Freemasons Contributor
Todd E. Creason

Signatures from the 1940s
Some time back, Greg Knott wrote a piece for the Midnight Freemasons called Connecting With History And Family.  It was about an experience we both shared recently.  Greg and I attended a third degree at our lodge, and as Secretary of the Lodge, I had the old register out so that our newest Master Mason could sign it as all Master Masons had who came before him.  Greg and I got looking at that old register, pointing at names we both knew.

Greg found his great-great-great grandfather's signature in that book--truly remarkable.  I found the signatures of many old friends, including the man that top-lined my petition--Worshipful Brother Raymond VanBuskirk. I wore Raymond's hat when I was Master of the Lodge, and after he passed away, his daughters gave me his Scottish Rite ring, which is one of my most treasured possessions.  And on the same page Raymond signed more than seven decades earlier, was Bro. Joe Silkey.  Believe it or not, I had the great privilege of presenting him his 70-year pin when I was Worshipful Master.  He passed away last year, but he attended meetings regularly into his 90s.
HWB Joseph Silkey
As I looked at those signatures going back to 1877, I realized something.  Every man listed in that book signed it as the newest Master Mason in our lodge--many as young men just as their life was truly beginning.  They were embarking on a new adventure in search of light, and some of them found it in our Lodge.  Freemasonry became important to them.  It may have changed their lives in some fundamental way as it continues to do for so many of us today.  Many went on to serve as officers in the lodge, and forty-six of the men who signed that book served as the Worshipful Master of our Lodge.

But what occurred to me was that when they signed that book, there was nothing below their name.  What came after them was still in the future.  Each signature forming a link in a long chain going back to the beginning of the lodge in 1877.  But they probably didn't understand back when they signed that register that they were responsible for what was to come after.  All those signatures in our book are links to our past--all that came before. But those that sign it last represent the bridge to the lodge's future. 

What's important is what we do today, because what we do today is what keeps the lodges strong, and our traditions there for future generations.  And maybe, if Greg and I are very lucky, in seventy years or so, two Masons will be sitting at my old desk in the lodge and pointing at our signatures in the register . . . instead of paying attention to the degree like they should be.


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 member of Homer Lodge No. 199, and a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL). 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, and Charter President of the Illini High Twelve in Champaign-Urbana (IL).


  1. You raise a very good point here. An additional point I would like to share is that more history than you might know is in that book of signatures.

    In 1998, when I was High Priest of St. Andrew's Royal Arch Chapter in Boston (est. 1769), I looked in the closet of our office at Grand Lodge and found a box.

    Among the contents of the box was an old book. I started to carefully look at it and saw a signature I recognized. I got very nervous because the signature was real.

    The signature belonged to Paul Revere, Patriot and hero of the American War of Independance, a member of the chapter and later, 1795-7, the MW Grand Master of Massachusetts.

    I also found in the book the signature of Joseph Warren, a medical doctor, a hero of the revolution who, when killed at the Battle of Bunker Hill, was the Grand Master.

    Needless to say I got that book to The Museum of Our National Heritage in Lexington. They verified that the signatures were authentic and now the book is in a climate controlled preservation environment.

    I do not know what caused me to look deep in that closet on that day. But I thank the Great Creator that I did.
    Bro. Scott M. Sherman
    Master, Boston University Lodge A.F. & A.M.
    All my other titles are Past. After 32 years my favorites are Brother or Companion.

    1. That's a great story--thanks for sharing it. Our Masonic Lodges are full of history. They've been around a long time. I don't know how many times a Lodge Secretary somewhere has helped me with research while I was writing my books. Right here in my corner of the world, we have several lodges that had famous men as members. As you noted, very often lodges don't even know what they hold in their archives. Good lesson here for Lodge Secretaries--know what you've got in your archives, not only when it comes to famous men, but also, share those records with your members. As I pointed out in my piece, seeing those signatures, and reading those details may very well be important to somebody in your lodge. Thanks again. ~Todd E. Creason


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