A Unique and Important History
by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR
A recent episode of The Masonic Roundtable (it's Must-See-TV*) discussed Lodge history. Saying Lodge history — or Grand Lodge history, or even Masonic history — is a good thing is about as bold as being for Mom and apple pie but cataloging it and keeping it up to date is a difficult process.
First of all, I have to mention my state, Missouri, has done a great job preserving its history with a large Masonic Museum and an extensive library. If you're ever in Columbia, both are worth the trip — but there is more.
Beginning in 1999, the Missouri Lodge of Research, under the direction of its Editor Ronald E. Wood, Jr., published a complete history of existing Missouri Lodges. The monstrous eight-volume set included one volume of Grand Master biographies and took seven years to complete. As a reference library it's a masterpiece and, in my opinion, hasn't gotten the recognition it deserves.
In order to get it written, Brother Wood asked each Lodge to submit its own history with a picture of the current building. He then compiled it into what may be the most comprehensive history of the local Lodges in any jurisdiction.
The project had some rough spots. First, different authors made for differences in writing styles and inconsistencies in the individual histories. Some Lodges submitted extensive reports requiring as much as 20 pages. Others contributed only a paragraph. One such Lodge's only item of significance, for example, was that at one time it moved from 111½ Vermont Street to 111 Vermont Street... an earthshaking piece of Masonic history thankfully never to be lost.
The second issue related to the fact that the Missouri Lodge of Research selected each of these eight volumes to be its "book of the year" — the premium distributed to each member. While cataloging this history was important, members became impatient with receiving similar books over the seven-year period. More than that, Ronald Miller, then Secretary of the Missouri Lodge of Research, reported there was a significant drop in membership from those outside the Grand Lodge of Missouri, who saw the books as not being relevant to their interests.
Still, even with its foibles, this is a unique and important history. As Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, I found the set invaluable.
It would have been more valuable were it on the Internet in searchable, usable form. In fact, groups contemplating such projects should consider — as the Roundtable pointed out — publishing them on the Internet, followed by hard-copy publication, a step that may not even be necessary. This kind of project is an enormous undertaking but, for the purposes of Masonic research and history, well worth the work.
*Well, technically, its a podcast most listen to, so it's Must-See-TV that most don't see and it isn't TV.
Bro. Steve Harrison, 33°, is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is the editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine, author of the book Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, a Fellow of the Missouri Lodge of Research and also its Worshipful Master. He is a dual member of Kearney Lodge #311, St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite, Moila Shrine and a member and Past Dean of the DeMolay Legion of Honor. Brother Harrison is a regular contributor to the Midnight Freemasons blog as well as several other Masonic publications. His latest book, Freemasons: Tales From the Craft & Freemasons at Oak Island. Both are available on amazon.com.