The Caretaker: A Photograph

By Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson, PM

This week as I was looking around the office for something to write about, I asked my wife what I should talk about next. She said "How about that photograph of Curtis?" I didn't think about it for more than a second or two. I knew that's what I should write about. While the photograph isn't an artifact, it does have a story and a real meaning to me.

Curtis was a Past Master, he was my mentor and he was a great friend who imparted to me what Freemasonry was all about. When I first became a Freemason, the Worshipful Master told me that Curtis would be my Intender. I didn't know what that meant at the time. But week after week, I met Curtis at the lodge. Every Monday, rain or shine, we sat there in the foyer of the lodge and practiced my catechism.

We'd go through it a bit then something would always come up and we'd break away from the memory work and talk instead about life. Curtis taught me a lot about life. Things I never even considered before. How to treat people, being a leader, knowing how and when to say "no", we talked about the benefits of having hearing aids (He joked about turning his off so as not to hear his wife yell at him), but most of all, we talked about Freemasonry and what it did for him in his life. He once told me his favorite bumper sticker said "Whence Came You?", because no one but a Mason would know what it meant. Now you know the backstory on the name of my podcast.

I was Curtis' last pupil. Shortly after being raised to Master Mason, the lodge got together and bought Curtis a Lifetime Membership, a token of appreciation for all he had done for Waukegan Lodge #78 over the years. I remember sitting in the dining hall thinking, "I hope I can influence as many men as he did someday."

During our catechism practices, Curtis would smoke. And in between cigarettes, he would take multiple hits off of his inhaler. He was funny that way. This was back in the day of course, before smoking was banned in lodges (which wasn't that long ago). Curtis told me one day that he knew his time was coming. I always played it off. I would say things like, "You have another 100 years old man." Of course he knew and so did I, that I was wrong.

One morning I received a call from another Brother of the lodge. Zig was his name. Zig is still around and one feisty old sailor, I might add. He said, "Bob, Curtis is in the hospital. Betty took him in, he was having a rough time breathing." I told Zig that we should go see him and of course Zig swung by the house and picked me up. When I arrived at the hospital, he was in bed and sleeping. Betty, his wife, said he's been tired and not able to sleep comfortably. So Zig and I sat there and just talked.
Soon however, Curtis woke up and smiled. He asked how we were doing and made some small talk. He fatigued easily. He had to do some lung exercises while we were there as well. All in all, it looked as though he'd go home in a few days. I held his hand and said, "Curtis, Zig and I are taking off. Get some rest, Brother."

And that was the last time I ever saw Curtis. He passed that evening and I received the call the next day. I stayed home from work that day. It was a weird feeling altogether. Feeling a sadness like that for someone I hadn't truly known for that long. But there I was, head in hands, sobbing.
I'll never forget the the first Masonic Funeral I ever attended. It was Curtis'. And I will never forget what Terry Behling, a Past Master and mentor from our lodge said as he and I stood in the lounge of the funeral home. We stood there in silence, sipping burnt coffee and eating those awful short bread funeral cookies, I'm sure we looked a mess. Terry looked up and said, "You know who I really feel sorry for? All the new Brothers who won't get that experience."

He was right. Curtis brought something to the table that I have yet to see again. Years after he passed away, another mentor of the lodge was in the dining room going through some old pictures. One of them was this picture. I asked him if I could have it. "Of course." Was the reply. I've kept this picture in my office ever since. In all my Masonic endeavors I think about Curtis and I guess in my own way, get an approval.

~RHJ 

Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatrewhich focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

Have You Made Your Mark?

by Midnight Freemason Contributor 
Bill Hosler, PM

Any Mason who has advanced through the degrees of the York Rite knows the meaning of  “Making your mark”. For those companions and Sir Knights it means they have added their “Mark” to a book symbolically linking them to the cathedral builders of ancient times. Most of you created your mark and handed it to the recorder of the group and went on with life and the other degrees.

In the world of the profane most people believe the phrase “Making your mark” means you have created a long lasting impression on someone or the world itself. You have added something positive that will be remembered after you passed to the Celestial lodge above. It's another Masonic phrase that has become a household word even though the original meaning has faded away. 

One question I ask myself is “Have I made a mark on my lodge?”  Years from now, once I leave this planet will the members of my lodge remember me or any of my works? Will something I have done or said be referenced years from now? 

Many will say “Of course I will be remembered. My picture is on the wall of the lodge with the other Past Masters!” But is your photograph, along with 100 other men leaving your mark? How many times have you looked at one of these photos and truly known anything about the man in the photo? Usually I just look at them and think how much the clothing styles have changed since the year the photo was taken.  In my opinion the photo is a memorial not a lasting impression.

Some would say the best way to leave your mark would be in your active participation in lodge.  Being a long time lodge secretary or being the chairman of a committee for several decades would leave a lasting impression.  These are great ways to serve your lodge. But make no mistake, after several years the memory of your participation will wither away. 

In my humble opinion the best way to leave your mark on the lodge is the way in which you interact with your Brethren and teach them to become better men and Masons. Whether you realize it or not, the other Brethren look at you, especially the younger men and hold you up to be an example of how they should conduct themselves in life as well as inside a tiled lodge room.  These men want and need guidance on their journey through the Craft!

These men begin judging us from the moment they walk through our front door of your temple. If they walk in the door and see a building in disrepair, dingy walls, broken furniture and get “hit in the face” with that familiar “old person smell” like they are walking into their grand parents house that will leave a lasting impression but sadly not a good one.  

These young men are looking for positive men and a positive atmosphere which will help them become better men. When they see you sitting on the sidelines chatting while the lodge is conducting candidates during degree work, falling asleep or the lodge having the same argument every month during a stated meeting, it won't take them long to realize we don't have the answers which they are looking for or even worse, we aren't providing what we tell these men we give them when they ask for a petition. Remember Brethren these men are the ones who are checking to see how square your ashlar truly is. 

It has now been many years since that warm night in June when I first knocked on the door of my lodge and asked to be made a Mason. But I will never forget the Brethren assembled who befriended me and taught me how to be a just and upright Mason and a better man. Sadly many of these Brothers now are no longer with us but I think about them each and everyday. Their memories bring a smile to my face. Each one of these men “Made their mark” on my soul and created lifelong memories for me. Many of the things these Brethren taught me, I try to convey to you in my writings. 


I hope some of my words inspire you to be a better man and Freemason and  help me “Make my mark” upon your living stone and in turn, help me honor these men. 

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Liking Each Other

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

I’ve been going to the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Illinois every year since I was raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. It’s been a different experience every time, with new experiences on top of old ones, new friendships made and old friendships renewed, conversations both sublime and mundane, and always a sense of belonging. 

Sometimes my wife, Debra, accompanies me. It’s the only time aside from weddings we both get to dress well, eat well, and have adult conversations in elegant surroundings. The Grand Communication is held in Springfield, our state capital, which is home to the Abraham Lincoln home, the Old State Capital, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, so there’s a lot for her to do if she chooses when the weird guys in aprons are meeting for various essential and non-essential purposes. 

We went there together for the first time in 2010, had fun with friends at the various banquets, hospitality rooms, and hotel lobbies, and generally enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. After the weekend was over, we were heading home, and I asked her what she thought. Without hesitating, she said, “I like how you guys like each other so much.”


And that really sums up a lot of what I love about the Craft. There’s a reason the first tenet of a Mason’s profession is Brotherly Love. Without that, nothing else matters. Masonry removes the barrier of mistrust that seems to exist in the profane world and that causes others to remain at a perpetual distance from one another. My closest friends in this world are almost all Masons, and it’s not just because they are likeable guys; it’s because they go out of their way to like other people. Deb saw it right away, and if there’s one thing that keeps her patient with me as I spend yet another evening at a Masonic event, it’s the precious gift of Brotherly Love I’ve found in Freemasonry. I find it in the stated meetings at my home lodge and I find it in the Annual Communication of my Grand Lodge. And so I’ll keep going back, year after year, because it renews both my love of the Craft and my connection to my Brethren. With any luck, Deb will come too.

~RWB

R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

No Mason Left Behind: Part Deux

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. "Doc" Gentry



Welcome back all ya'll (that's the plural form of ya'll that don't speak southern). I hope you didn't think the last piece was the "end all be all" of this understanding of us being present, but let's move on to the degrees and let's start on initiation. So if we have followed a healthy train of thought on mentoring, then they have met and talked with the brother the lodge has assigned as a mentor for this individual, the Intender. I hope you have spent time getting to know this possible brother more than just having him come out to you and made an effort to learn more about them outside lodge and to get to know their family, and hopefully for them to get to know yours. Yes, we focus on the individual, our potential new brother, but his family must not feel left out either. 

Hopefully you talked about some of the history, how some states differ, and even explained clandestine freemasonry and the stance by the Grand Lodge of your area on this topic. I hope you know that all clandestine lodges aren't the same. I also hope you had time to explain the difference between irregular and clandestine lodges. Now it's the candidates night!

Your candidate comes into fellowship with the brothers, but he is and should be the focus. If everything goes the right way, he is the focus of the night, all brothers are positioning to talk to him, to know his feelings and thoughts, and even his expectations of the night. Hopefully he has started a journal to write this down because he may forget if he doesn't and without that retrospect later in his Masonic life, he will miss out on growth opportunities. Everything is in place and ready to go and it goes off without a hitch. Ok so what little things did you share beforehand? And did you leave enough mystery to keep this ceremony in a light to leave an impact? Ok did you share 1-3 things of an esoteric value of the degree to which the new brother went through? No!?! Why not? You don't do the esoteric stuff? I got that, but what if the new brother does? I'm not saying you need to delve into the mysteries of Sacred Geometry and give the new brother all the new mysteries of the universe, in fact esoteric studies are proven to bring different light, though similar, to each researcher. You do however, need to know a few things to show them the path and the plethora of different facets our brotherhood has in store for them. 

You see, No Mason Left Behind means that each Intender has a relevant understanding of the various topics within Masonry to be able to speak on a topic to show a direction, not give the answers but give a path that leads to the answers. I know this is tougher for the longer running members sometimes, and there is nothing wrong with their reasons for joining the fraternity. How do you know if it is something you don't like, if you are not sure what it is?

How about the historical aspects of the degree they just went through? Do you understand the ritual enough to translate it for them? You know that mad scientist Einstein said that if you truly know something, you can explain it simple enough that others will understand it, or something like that. I look at it this way, Freemasonry is a lot like the medical field, in that when you think you know it all, you no longer understand any of it. We all, from the newest Entered Apprentice to the 50 year Master Mason need to continue to study, learn and apply Freemasonry. No one takes a step alone, not even the guy who has been Grand Master. In fact the longer you are a Freemason, the more important it is for you to surround yourself with "younger" Freemasons. Not by age, but how long they've been in the brotherhood.

I will leave you with that thought, let it sink in and let the hate-mail come forth. I love you all and like what I say or disagree, please let me know, comment or drop me an e-mail. I would love to hear your thoughts.


In love and on the level,
-Doc   

Brother Daniel "Doc" Gentry is a Brother Master Mason under the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Mason's of the State of Illinois, in the 1st Northeast district. His sign is Leo, and has been known to enjoy long walks in blizzards. He is stubborn and has no plans of joining the York or Scottish Rite anytime soon. Also in his spare time, he is a great DM for D&D games. Sacred Geometery! You can reach him by email at doc@midnightfreemasons.org

The 50 Year Member: A Dirty Shame

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bill Hosler, PM

“I’m telling you this whole thing is a downright dirty shame!” Pudge said loudly as he picked up a box, his deep voice sounding God-like with the reverberation coming from the marble walls of the large, empty lodge room.  “There has to be a way to stop this!”  The 50 year member slowly standing upright and wiping his face with a handkerchief from his back pocket. “I wish there was too, but after all these years it can’t be stopped. I'm afraid it's a done deal,” The old man said sadly. 

It was a sad day for our two friends as they were helping the Brethren of a nearby lodge remove the last of the items they had been storing in their former temple. It had become a familiar story. The building which had been erected at the turn of the 20th century had fallen on hard times. This edifice which had once been the pride of the city had begun to crumble in a derelict section of downtown. Once the site of chauffeur driven limousines bringing ladies dressed in their finest evening gowns on the arms of gentlemen in white tie and tails walking up the grand staircase of the temple to attend the opera or the symphony, sadly these days the steps are now covered in trash in a building which has become a shelter to homeless people trying to find a place to get out of the elements. 

After many years of struggling with the cost of maintenance and trying to come up with ways to pay for the monthly utilities the Brethren decided to sell their home and look for smaller, more affordable quarters. It was a sad day for them but they took consolation in the fact that they had done everything they could. For many years the Brethren tried having fundraisers. A fish fry in the fall and a pancake breakfast in the spring. Both events were sparsely attended. The members counted on word of mouth advertising to bring in customers. Rarely did the people come since the events were held on Saturdays when downtown was like a ghost town. Most people didn't want to drive into the city center from the suburbs when they could have breakfast at a chain restaurant down the road.  

Over the years as the older members passed away and the pool of volunteers willing to work the events got smaller. Younger members said they didn't want to give up their weekends working making food when the profit would net around a hundred dollars (If they were lucky to make a profit). To pay a monthly heating bill of over four thousand a month. Not to mention the cost  of maintaining a 90 year old 78 thousand square foot building. The younger members offered several alternative fundraisers which required less labor and produced more revenue but the board voted them down mostly because “We have never done anything like that before.”

Several years after voting to put their temple on the market the board decided to remove their listing.  In that time the Brethren received one offer which was so low they considered an insult. It was pennies on the dollar and much less than what they thought their property was worth and much less than what they needed to buy another property. 

Finally after nearly a decade of struggle an exhausted temple board threw in the towel and signed away the ownership of the building to the city and the members of the several lodges which met in the building either found a new venue in which to meet, consolidated with another lodge or turned their charter into the Grand Lodge. 

The city tried to find alternate uses for the building. They tried to make it into an art gallery and then a fine arts studio and several other ideas. None of the plans could be fulfilled either because of lack of funding or because the building wasn't suited for the purpose.  After nearly a decade of being abandoned the city decided to tear down this once magnificent edifice. The building had become, in the mind of the government, a health and safety hazard. Rodents ran rampant through the building while evidence of  prostitution and drug paraphernalia were discovered scattered across the floor of the grand ballroom which once hosted presidents and governors.  The place became the focus of several newspaper articles and TV reports showing the decay and the hazards caused growing pressure on the city council to eliminate what had begun to be called a symptom of "urban blight". Sadly the city council voted to have the building torn down and a parking lot put in its place. 

“What would it take to change this?” Pudge asked in desperation. “Well.  First you would have to get the city council to change their minds. You would have to come up with a viable plan quickly to save this building and then you would need the money to restore it. Probably between two to four million dollars to fix everything and bring it to current codes and standards.”  Pudge’s brow furrowed as his heart sank. The young man began to feel helpless. 

"I understand. It's just such a shame. Such a beautiful building. It's just horrible that it's going to become a parking lot! How does something like this happen?” Pudge asked. The old man took a deep breath and slowly lowered the box he was holding to the ground. 

“Well” the old man started “I can't speak about this particular building but sadly I've seen this happen too many times.” The 50 year member continued. “One building I'm thinking of had over one-thousand members in the 1950’s. Each one of them paid, I'm guessing, around twenty five dollars a year in per capita to the building every year. In those days twenty five bucks was a lot of money. Especially when you had that many men paying that amount. The money was rolling in. The leaders never gave a second thought to the fact that those numbers wouldn’t stay the same. They spent money like there was no tomorrow. Sadly there wasn’t. They put some money away but not enough. They also used the money to buy land surrounding the building. They paid a premium for that property thinking they would have enough members continue to pay dues. A few years later the real estate market downtown plunged and their investment was worthless. 

Around the same time membership began to drop. You already know that story Pudge. The numbers kept dropping and the lodge wasn't bringing in new membership to replace those that we lost. 

After several decades the membership had dwindled down to less than 500 members. It was the beginning of the end. The temple tried to rent out their beautifully ornate ballroom for weddings. There was a lot of interest at first until the customers discovered that, thanks to the temperance zealots a century and half before, the Grand lodge would not allow alcohol in the building. Once potential customers discovered this you never heard from them again. In desperation the board had no choice but to raise per capita on the members of the building. At first the leadership thought this would solve all their problems but they neglected to consider two things. One an increase of only ten dollars really didn't keep up with the inflation of the past fifty years and two, the worst of it was not everyone would have to pay the increase.”

The 50 year member elaborated “Out of the one 500 members in the building two thirds of them had been Masons for over fifty years. By Grand lodge law these Brethren did not have to pay anything. Including the per capita. The members were asked, (I'm thinking 'begged' might be a better word) to pay the thirty five dollars but nearly all declined with the rationale they had paid their dues for fifty years so they had done their part. So what you were looking at was around one hundred fifty men trying to take care of the expenses of the entire building. To make it worse the older men who had to pay nothing ran the building, so if the young men tried to come up with a way to make up for the shortfall they were voted down.”  

The 50 year member summed up his thoughts. “I guess Pudge, sometimes we are our own worst enemy. Some of us want to live in the past while not planning for the future. I am just glad our temple thought ahead and tried to make sure we planned for the rainy days we all know will come.” The men picked up their cardboard boxes and slowly started carrying them to the truck. 


“I'm glad we are in better shape. Even though I would hate to see this building demolished I understand. Still a shame.” Pudge said. “I know, I hate to see it too, but I heard a very wise Brother once ask the question “Are we a Brotherhood of men or real estate speculators?” He was right. Friendship, Morality and Brotherly love can prevail in any building we meet in. No matter how expensive or ornate a building, it isn't a lodge without the charter and the brothers. Just like the old saying “ Iron bars do not a prison make.” Neither do marble walls and ornate columns a Freemason make.” 

~BH

WB Bill Hosler was made a Master Mason in 2002 in Three Rivers Lodge #733 in Indiana. He served as Worshipful Master in 2007 and became a member of the internet committee for Indiana's Grand Lodge. Bill is currently a member of Roff Lodge No. 169 in Roff Oklahoma and Lebanon Lodge No. 837 in Frisco,Texas. Bill is also a member of the Valley of Fort Wayne Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in Indiana. A typical active Freemason, Bill also served as the High Priest of Fort Wayne's Chapter of the York Rite No. 19 and was commander of of the Fort Wayne Commandery No. 4 of the Knight Templar. During all this he also served as the webmaster and magazine editor for the Mizpah Shrine in Fort Wayne Indiana.

Greatness in Small Things

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

In Illinois the office of Grand Orator, in the days before short attention spans, was one of great moment. Charged with speaking to the Brethren assembled for the annual Grand Communication, the Grand Orator’s address was usually quite long. I’m not sure that today’s Masons would sit still for something that would last an hour or more, and any applause in response to such an oration would likely be of relief that it was over, rather than appreciation for the ideas it contained. 

That’s a pity, for the ideas contained in the grand orations were usually excellent, and often eloquently expressed. Brother Oscar A Kropf’s Grand Oration in 1916, for example, spoke of each individual’s worth in phrases that inspire:

We are wont to lull ourselves into a state of mental ease by the idea that the great things of this world have fallen to the lot of others; that our efforts are of no particular consequence. Let us explode that fallacy. That there is a giant for every occasion, and the rest of us are mere pigmies, is a mistaken notion. To subscribe to that sentiment, is to minimize individual worth. It is to characterize God's handiwork, created in his own image, as so much mere chaff. Why were we given the power of thought and the capacity to translate that thought into action, but to leave some trace, some impression of our individuality upon this earth? To do less is a disgrace. To accomplish this requires no spectacular achievement which the world applauds. The opportunity for that may never come, and the performance of it may be of doubtful value. But it means the doing well, the common things of every day life. Sanctify and glorify the things which we are inclined to look upon as the ordinary things of every day existence by the thoroughness and splendor of their performance. Be the task however humble, the character of the performer lends it dignity. Be the lists where they may, a character within them will exert an influence which will continue in ever widening circles until their circumference touches the shores of eternity. Usefulness in life's lowliest stations is greatness. 

He calls for approaching everything we do according to Masonic principles: with a care for excellence, thoroughness, and dignity. The Brother who sits on the sidelines, waiting for someone else to volunteer because he is not himself a great man, is ignoring the essence of Masonry. We are to be useful, whether in great or small things, and we never know which seemingly insignificant act will have great effects, perhaps years later. 


I doubt Brother Kropf thought his words would be read and meditated upon a century after he delivered them, but he would likely appreciate the proof that he was right. The boundary line of our duty is illustrated in every regular and well furnished lodge, but, as Brother Kropf reminds us, if we perform our duty well, with humility and dignity, that circle’s spreading influence will touch the shores of eternity.

~RWB

R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

The Caretaker: The Apron

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Robert H. Johnson, PM

In my short time as a Freemason, I have amassed quite a few items of a fraternal kind and they litter my study like dusty museum pieces. Strewn about in various corners and all vying for space on the crowded shelves, ledges and walls are items that all have a unique story. While contemplating on what to write next, I frequently look around the room for inspiration and while the items frequently play the role of muse, it’s time I gave those muses some respect and attempt to tell their story as best I can. 

One such item, tucked away on a hanging basket shelf in my office closet is a rolled up apron. It sits among a few throwing knives and some all weather matches, probably not the best place for it. Ever since I have had it, I have wanted to put it in a shadow box frame and display it. I just haven’t yet. It’s been years. 

Shortly after I became a Master Mason, my father-in-law gave me the apron. It turns out it belonged to his father. My father-in-law, Steve, never joined. He did however, hold on to all the family Masonic items. Some belonging to his great grandfather, his grandfather and of course his father. Having no sons of his own who had joined the fraternity, he passed it to me. 

The apron itself is in a material sense, nothing spectacular, just what you’d expect of a 60 year old apron. The lambskin was still soft, the canvas worked and malleable, the ropes or ties were still soft, white and well braided. There were a few cracks in the lambskin but I think that's the only thing that assigns it "real" age. Under the flap it reads : 

Presented by 
Arcana Lodge No. 187
AF&AM
To Brother Robert Ross Salmon Jones Jr.
Initiated March 28th, 1956   Passed April 11th, 1956   Raised May 12th, 1956

*It was also signed by the Secretary and Worshipful Master, but alas, I can not read the writing.*

Arcana Lodge 187 is still in operation and doing well. They operate out of Minneapolis Minnesota. They celebrated their 125th year on Saturday, September 27, 2014. While the website doesn't seem to be current, their Facebook page is current and looks great. Seeing as they had a Facebook page, I went ahead and contacted them. I was delighted when the Worshipful Master, M. Justin Thompson  got back to me within two hours. 

His first word back to me was "Wow!" When I saw that responded so quickly, that was also my first response. He expressed that he had read a few of the articles posted on the Midnight Freemasons blog before. He gave me a brief history, which was amazing. It seems the lodge burned down on November 22nd, 1957. That's just one year and a couple months after My father-in-law's dad had been raised. The lodge had been rebuilt in 1959. Arcana had a volunteer core. The Minutemen paid of a 20 year mortgage in just 8 years by running a pancake breakfast that served over 5,000 people. 

Their lodge room contains an Italian marble checkered floor, a mural of King Solomon's Temple, which was painted by a fellow brother of the lodge in 1973. They even have one of those awesome 3rd degree features...You know what I'm talking about. I have to say, this apron sparked some research and that research led right to the virtual doors of Arcana #187. 

I can’t imagine what stories the apron could tell but I am sure they'd be amazing. Of course I have one secret regarding the apron. My father-in-law had two sons and neither joined the fraternity…as of yet. I had hoped that one day, one of them would join and at that time, I would be able to pass the apron on to a just and upright brother who truly has every right to receive it. I am merely the caretaker as of now. Should he never join, I will pass it along to which ever of my three sons joins first. 

In the meantime, I suppose I should go ahead and take a better measure to preserve and protect this piece. It is of course, the distinguished badge of a Mason and perhaps more importantly, a piece of my family history. 

While reflecting on this apron at the time of my writing this very article, I thought of how many brothers out there are in a similar situation. Caretakers of these aprons, some of which are tied to us, some not. How many Brothers were buried or cremated without their aprons? Until the next time my Brothers,  I’ll have another remarkable item and story for you. 


~RHJ

Bro. Robert Johnson, PM is the Managing Editor of the Midnight Freemasons blog. He is a Freemason out of the First North-East District of Illinois. He is the Secretary of Waukegan Lodge No. 78 and Education officer for the 1st N.E. District of Illinois as well as a member on the Grand Lodge Education Committee. He is also a member of the York Rite bodies, AMD, The Illinois Lodge of Research and a member of the Scottish Rite Valley of Chicago as well as a charter member of the Society of King Solomon, a charity organization run by the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Brother Johnson currently produces and hosts weekly Podcasts (internet radio programs) Whence Came You? & Masonic Radio Theatrewhich focus on topics relating to Freemasonry. In addition, he produces video shorts focusing on driving interest in the Fraternity and writes original Masonic papers from time to time. He is also a co-host of The Masonic Roundtable, a Masonic talk show. He is a husband and father of four. He works full time in the executive medical industry and is also a photographer on the side as well as an avid home brewer. He is currently working on a book of Masonic essays.

Midnight Freemasons: One Million Hits And Counting!

by Midnight Freemasons Founder
Todd E. Creason, 33°

All part of our plan for world domination . . .
The Midnight Freemasons blog just recently celebrated a milestone.  Over the holidays, we passed 1,000,000 hits!  That's what I said--ONE MILLION HITS!  In less than four years! 

It wouldn't have been possible without three things.  The first is an amazingly talented team of writers that provide top notch content, three times a week, 52 weeks a year.  The second is our faithful readers who not only read us three times a week, but share what they read here with others.  And finally, our Managing Editor Robert Johnson, whose tireless efforts and devotion to this effort has made it a resounding success. 

One of the things I'm most proud of is the Midnight Freemasons blog.  We are making a difference beyond my wildest expectations.  You only need to read a few pieces to realize what has made this blog so successful.  It's the passion our writers have for the subjects we talk about here.  Men have joined our great Fraternity because of the things they've read here--we hear that all the time.  Lodges all across the nation have gotten ideas from our blog and put them to use.  The things we talk about get talked about in Lodges, in Grand Lodges, in Masonic forums, and appendant bodies.  Our blog pieces are used for Lodge education, and are frequently reprinted in Masonic newsletters and magazines.

And our writers are involved in everything!  Our writers don't just write, they do things!  They write blogs.  They record podcasts.  They publish books.  They write for Masonic magazines and journals.  They speak.  They serve as officers in their Lodges.  They are Shriners, and York Rite, and Scottish Rite, Tall Cedars, Allied Masonic Degrees, and on and on and on.  If we started listing the titles and positions that have applied to our team of writers, it would be an impressive list indeed.  When they write about a subject, you can be sure they're writing based on their own unique knowledge and experience.  I believe that's what makes us unique--as it was once said, it's one thing to research and write a book from the library archives, and another thing altogether to write it from the trenches. 

I thank the writers, I thank our tireless editor Robert Johnson, but most of all, I thank our dedicated readers that have come back again and again!  Something tells me the second million hits won't take nearly as long as the first million!   

~TEC

Todd E. Creason, 33°, FMLR is the Founder of the Midnight Freemasons blog and is a regular contributor.  He is the author of several books and novels, including the Famous American Freemasons series. He is the author of the From Labor to Refreshment blog.  He is a Past Master of Ogden Lodge No. 754 (IL), and currently serves as the Secretary, and is also a member of Homer Lodge No. 199 where he serves as Senior Warden.  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 is a charter member of a new Illinois Royal Arch Chapter, Admiration Chapter U.D.  He was named the 2014 Illinois Secretary of the Year Award by the Illinois Masonic Secretaries Association.  You can contact him at: webmaster@toddcreason.org

Mithra Lodge

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
RWB Michael H. Shirley

My reading of various Proceedings of various Grand Communications of the Grand Lodge of Illinois is usually mundane, but never tedious. The Grand Master’s Report—if the Grand Master is given to being informative—is often full of gold in unlikely form. Such was the case in 1891, when Most Worshipful Grand Master John M. Pearson reported on the case of Mithra Lodge No. 410, of Chicago:

At the last annual communication a petition was received from one who claimed to have been elected to receive the degrees in Mithra Lodge and had already received the first and second degrees therein and for no good reason, of which he was aware, had not received the third degree, though often applying therefor. The committee on petitions called this a "very peculiar case," and after due investigation were "led to believe that the said lodge is violating the law in the manner in which said petitioner is being kept from taking the third degree." The committee recommended that all papers in the case be referred to the Grand Master with a request that he will take such steps as will ensure the due observance of the law. 

Accordingly, having ascertained where the trouble seemed to lie, I instructed R. W. Bro. Jos. H. Dixon, D. D. G. M. of the third Masonic district, to visit Mithra Lodge, and, acting under my special proxy, to preside while the case was discussed and carry out the By-Laws of this Grand Lodge relative thereto. Bro. Dixon visited the lodge twice, and carefully investigated the whole case, patiently pointed out their errors to the members of the lodge, and their duty to the brother, and finally no objection being sustained, the third degree was duly conferred. Too much praise cannot be given to Bro. Dixon for his able handling of this case, that had disturbed the harmony of Mithra Lodge for fifteen years. 


The most notable point about this case is the length of time that Mithra Lodge let itself fester. It’s unclear what the problem was—personality conflict, hurt feelings, ego—but fifteen years is an extraordinarily long time for it to continue. It’s not clear that the Brother waited for his Third Degree for fifteen years, and in fact it’s not likely, but some deep problem was clearly hurting the lodge. The thing that most impressed me, however—and apparently Grand Master Pearson, too—is the District Deputy’s handling of the case. It doesn’t take much perception to read between the lines reported here. Right Worshipful Brother Dixon’s patience in dealing with a difficult lodge, his concern for the feelings of all concerned, and his clear teaching of Masonic law must have been impressive for him to bring about such a good resolution to such a long-simmering problem. I’ve often said that my obligation requires me to assume my Brothers’ best intentions; just as often, I’ve said it’s hard to remember that when the Brother with whom I’m speaking is both wrong and sure of himself. RW Brother Dixon remembered his obligation, and acted accordingly, giving gentle Masonic correction to an erring lodge. I know nothing about him, other than what Grand Master Pearson included in his report, but that’s enough: he is one of my Masonic heroes.

~MHS

R.W.B. Michael H. Shirley serves the Grand Lodge of Illinois, A.F. & A.M, as Leadership Development Chairman and Assistant Area Deputy Grand Master of the Eastern Area. A Certified Lodge Instructor, he is a Past Master and Life Member of Tuscola Lodge No. 332 and a plural member of Island City Lodge No. 330, F & AM, in Minocqua, Wisconsin. He is Past Most Wise Master of the George E. Burow Chapter of Rose Croix in the Valley of Danville, IL; he is also a member of the Illinois Lodge of Research, the York Rite, Eastern Illinois Council No. 356 Allied Masonic Degrees, Eastern Star, Illini High Twelve, and the Tall Cedars of Lebanon.The author of several article on British and American history, he teaches at Eastern Illinois University.You can contact him at: m.h.shirley@gmail.com

Murder And Treason Excepted

by Midnight Freemason Contributor

Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR


I recently produced a Benedict Arnold video for the Whence Came You podcast.  The gist of its message is this: had a wound Arnold received in the Revolutionary War's second Battle of Saratoga been fatal, he would today be considered a great American hero.  

Having been appointed commander of the fort at West Point, Arnold contacted British Major John Andre, offering to surrender the fort to the British in exchange for an unspecified high rank and £20,000 (Roughly £2.7 million or $4 million today) .  West Point was located on the Hudson River; had the British taken control of the fort they would have controlled the river and probably turned the tide in the Revolution to their favor.  The plan fell apart when Andre was caught and, on October 2, 1780, executed as a spy.  

The British, in turn, gave Arnold the rank of Brigadier General and reduced his payment to £6,315 (£850,000/$1.25 million), since the plot failed.  Arnold moved to England and lived in relative obscurity until his death in 1801.

The video itself, a short vignette which can be seen at http://bit.ly/1VnDgVZ, doesn't tell the full story.  In researching the piece, I discovered some additional things about Benedict Arnold worth sharing:

Arnold was an active member of Hiram Lodge 1, New Haven, Connecticut.  After his act of sedition, the Lodge struck his name from its records, as did other Lodges Arnold had visited.

Benedict Arnold's father was Benedict Arnold III.  He also had an older brother named... Benedict Arnold.  It was his family's tradition to have a son with that name in each generation.  His older brother died before he was born and the family gave him the same name.  His full name was, in fact, Benedict Arnold V.

Arnold was a deserter in the French-Indian war, even though under extenuating circumstances.  He received word his mother had contracted Yellow Fever and left the battlefield to be with her.  She died shortly after he returned home.

Arnold's first profession, at 21, was a shopkeeper, selling medicines and books.  

He became a trader, a profession made difficult by the taxes the British levied to maintain the colonies.  Subsequently, to avoid the taxes, he became a smuggler.

He was catapulted to hero status when, together with Ethan Allen, he captured Fort Ticonderoga early in the American Revolution.

He led  a march to Quebec in 1775, in an effort to capture the city and make Canada the 14th colony!  When General Montgomery, who was supporting him, died, the mission failed.

Arnold again was considered a hero at the Battle of Valcour Island in the American Revolution.    He felt he should have been promoted as a result of this victory, but others were promoted over him, beginning his resentment toward the American cause.

He subsequently drove the British to the sea and was made a Major General.  With other less deserving men still superior to him, his resentment continued.

When General Horatio Gates hesitated to advance at Saratoga, Arnold took command and defeated the British.  Arnold was wounded in his left leg for the third time in his career.  He clearly was responsible for the victory but Gates snatched the glory and accepted British General Burgoyne's sword.  To add further insult, Arnold was placed under arrest for disobeying orders.  

In order to impress the father of Peggy Shipman, he purchased a 96 acre estate and subsequently married her.  The remaining money he owed on the estate sunk his finances.

When he cooked up his plot  to surrender West Point, he gave Major John Andre a pass to get him through American lines.  Andre was robbed.  When the robbers-turned-patriots discovered Andre was a spy, they arrested him and showed the pass to George Washington.  That tipped Washington off that Arnold was a traitor, and Washington immediately set out to arrest him.  Arnold escaped with only minutes to spare.  Although she knew about the plot, his wife Peggy somehow convinced Washington she was innocent.

The British made Benedict Arnold a Brigadier General in the British Army.  Americans hated him and the British resented him.  No one trusts a traitor.

An apocraphyl story claims George Washington was so angry at and so reviled Arnold he decreed his name should never be written down; subsequently he had the gravestones of Arnold's father and brother of the same name removed.  Indeed, records at Old Northtown Cemetery in Connecticut, where his father is buried, indicate "Gravestone removed in 1781."

Also, a marker known as the "Boot Monument" at Saratoga battlefield honors Arnold's heroism without naming him.  The boot commemorates the wound he received to his leg without otherwise recognizing a traitor.

The Boot Monument at Saratoga Battlefield honors 
Benedict Arnold, but does not mention his name.
In the end, Benedict Arnold regretted his seditious actions.  Knowing he was dying, he put on his former uniform and said, "Let me die in my old American uniform — The uniform in which I fought my battles.  God forgive me for ever putting on any other."

It may have been a noble thought, but it's doubtful anyone, including his former Brothers choose to forgive him.  After all, whether it be secrets or vile deeds, we Freemasons have a saying, "murder and treason excepted."

~SLH

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.

Virtuous Resolutions Part II

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Bro. Jason Richards


Last year, I wrote a piece entitled Virtuous Resolutions, in which I resolved to act in accordance with the fraternity’s four cardinal virtues (temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice) for the ensuing calendar year. Having found that the four cardinal virtues provided a great framework for self-betterment, I resolved to exercise temperance by spending more time with family, embody fortitude by putting all the effort I could spare into building up my lodge, show prudence by exercising patience, and model justice by working to be the very best man possible. 

Last year, I focused heavily on actively bettering myself through giving time, service, and energy to others. While I plan to keep my 2015 resolutions, I’m turning my focus inward for 2016. As Masons, we lead busy lives with obligations that take many different shapes and forms. In an effort to fulfill those obligations, I have found that, at times, our own spiritual health can suffer as a result. Being a Mason means taking care of one’s own spiritual needs just as much as caring for the needs of others. For this reason, I resolve to focus on Masonry’s three theological virtues: Faith, hope, and charity in an effort to better myself spiritually.

Faith: Devote dedicated time to the improvement of spiritual health

Faith, as Mackey explains in his encyclopedia, is meant to be synonymous with trust. As such, he alludes to a candidate’s trust in God being emblematical of a well-founded faith. As Masons, our respective faiths are left up to our discretion; but the tie that ultimately binds men together in Freemasonry is a shared trust in the Creator of all things. As previously mentioned, it is the duty of every Mason to nurture his own spiritual health. This year, I resolve to take the time to do so for myself by setting dedicated time aside each week for meditation and spiritual/religious introspection.

Hope: Translate desires for the future state of the fraternity into a plan as Master of the lodge

Hope is often conceptualized as the second rung of the ladder of theological virtues. A.E. Waite conceptualizes hope both as the foundation of faith (for example, one trusts in God because one hopes in immortality) and a catalyst for action. Essentially, hope—termed as “aspirations of the heart and mind” by Waite—is the force that compels one to act, trust, and love. Each Mason sees the fraternity in a different light just as each member has his own respective hopes and aspirations for the future of the organization, both at the macro and micro level. This year, I resolve to channel my aspirations for the fraternity in general and my lodge in particular into the planning of my year as Master, which will—God and lodge brethren willing—begin in December of this year. 

Charity: Endeavor to do good unto all and love everyone as best as possible

Charity is a concept often misused and misunderstood in our fraternity. While many assume charity to mean the act of giving to those less fortunate, Mackey argues that, going back to I Corinthians 13, the original use of the word came from the Greek word agape, meaning love and signifying a “kindly state of mind which renders a person full of good will and affectionate regard toward others. Colloquially, agape love today is referred to as “unconditional love” as often used to denote the love between Creator and creation. With this context in mind, I resolve to endeavor to harbor good will toward all and love everyone—more especially the household of the faithful—as best as possible. 

As we look forward to AL 6016, I wish you all a wonderful year filled with trust, hope, and love. Take the time this year to trust in your God, your brethren, and your Masonic leaders. Allow your hope for the future of Masonry to drive you to implement initiatives and changes in your lodges and Grand Lodges. But above all, love your brethren as best you can. If we all strive toward these ends, then we can all look forward to a great year!  

-JR

Bro. Jason Richards is the Senior Warden of Acacia Lodge No. 16 in Clifton, Virginia, and a member of both The Patriot Lodge No. 1957 and Fauquier Royal Arch Chapter No. 25 in Fairfax, Virginia. He is also Chaplain of Perfect Ashlar Council No. 349, Allied Masonic Degrees. He is the sole author of the Masonic weblog The 2-Foot Ruler: Masonry in Plain Language, and is a co-host on the weekly YouTube show and podcast The Masonic Roundtable. He lives in Virginia with his wife, cats, and ever-expanding collection of bow ties.