Four Large Brown Dusty Binders

by Midnight Freemason Contributor
Steven L. Harrison, 33°, FMLR

Illustrious Brother James Williams was a Masonic Scholar. Missouri's representative to the renowned Quatuor Coronati Research Lodge, he maintained one of the finest private Masonic Literary collections anywhere. Upon his passing in 2011, he left that collection to his Brothers in Missouri. Sorting through the volumes, Brothers found four large brown dusty binders bulging with typewritten pages. Upon inspecting the material in them, the Brothers realized they had discovered a Masonic treasure.

Ray V. Denslow was arguably the most prolific Masonic author of the 20thcentury. Among his books were Territorial Masonry – the Story of Freemasonry and the Louisiana Purchase 1804-21; Civil War and Masonry in Missouri; History of Cryptic Masonry;The Masonic Fraternity, Its Aims and Goals; The Masonic Conservators; the History of Cryptic Masonry and on, and on. Not only does that list not scratch the surface, but it also does not include any of the dozens of pamphlets he authored.

Most Worshipful Brother Denslow served as Missouri's Grand Master in 1931-32, was a founding member and Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research, had a close friendship with President Harry Truman and served as Truman's emissary on Masonic missions around the world. From 1942-1945 he served as General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, International.

To that impressive Masonic resume we can add what he considered his crowning achievement — the founding of the Royal Arch Masonmagazine in 1943. You may have heard of it. You might, in fact, have a copy of it sitting in your living room.

He passed his passion for writing on to his son, William R. Denslow, best known for his iconic work, 10,000 Famous Freemasons. He also passed something else along to his son: those four large, brown binders bulging with typewritten pages.

Brother Denslow, it seems, was a compulsive man. At home, he lived at his typewriter and pounded out every minute of his Masonic journey — the good, the bad and, yes, the ugly. He left those binders with his son and his son, in turn, handed them to Jim Williams with the strict caveat that they were not to be published until everyone mentioned in them had passed away; and for good reason — Ray Denslow pulled no punches.

The pages in this memoir record in detail his experiences as an author, a leader and Truman's personal representative as he operated at the zenith of the craft. It is a study in Masonic politics at the highest level. It is a rewarding story of how Denslow made friends across the globe and worked to unify Masonry at the close of World War II. It is also a record of how he crossed swords with a few of the most powerful and influential Masons of his time.

Work on compiling and editing this material has been in process for over a year. Now, over a half-century after his death, the Fraternity is about to see a new book — not about, but bythis great Masonic author.

The Missouri Lodge of Research did not strictly adhere to the stipulation that everyone mentioned in the book must have passed away prior to its publication. His granddaughter, Judith Denslow Ericson, and his grandson, William R. Denslow, Jr., are not only still around, but each contributed to the book. His grandson Bill, in fact, helped with the editing process and is the Executive Editor of the manuscript, bringing the Denslow name to a third generation of significant Masonic works.

The first volume of this two-volume set, Ray V. Denslow's Masonic Journey, is now hot off the presses. The Missouri Lodge of Research will distribute a hardbound copy, free of charge, to each of its members at the Grand Lodge of Missouri's annual communication in September. Frankly, the best way to ensure getting a copy will be to join the Missouri Lodge of Research. Volume 2, as well as softcover and Kindle editions, will follow in 2019. It's a must-read for serious students of Masonic history.

If you're looking for a way to join the Missouri Lodge of Research, here it is.


Bro. Steve Harrison, 33° , is Past Master of Liberty Lodge #31, Liberty, Missouri. He is also a Fellow and Past Master of the Missouri Lodge of Research. Among his other Masonic memberships are the St. Joseph Missouri Valley of the Scottish Rite, Liberty York Rite bodies, and Moila Shrine. He is also 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. Brother Steve was Editor of the Missouri Freemason magazine for a decade and is a regular contributor to the Whence Came You podcast. Born in Indiana, he has a Master's Degree from Indiana University and is retired from a 35 year career in information technology. Steve and his wife Carolyn reside in northwest Missouri. He is the author of dozens of magazine articles and three books: Freemasonry Crosses the Mississippi, Freemasons — Tales From the Craft and Freemasons at Oak Island.

1 comment:

  1. Just dropped my application into the mailbox. Bring on my book! ��


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