I stood curbside at Chicago's O'Hare Airport waiting for my ride. I was there to speak at a Masonic event and another one of the speakers walked up to me and introduced himself as a Brother from Tennessee. I told him I was from Missouri. As we shook hands he said, "Steve, we forgive you."
I knew exactly what he meant. The story, the Missouri side of it, anyway, had come to me in a sort of bull session I had with the Grand Secretary of Missouri at the time, RWB Ron Miller:
Back about 200 years ago… in fact, exactly 200 years ago, the territory that would soon become the state of Missouri had about 100 Brothers who were members of three Lodges spearheading an effort to form a Grand Lodge. The three Lodges were Missouri Lodge 12, Joachim Lodge 25, and St. Charles Lodge 28, all chartered through the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.
Today, the process of creating a new Grand Lodge might be a formal event accompanied by pomp and circumstance. Back then, however, when communication was a lot slower, things were different. The Brothers from those three Lodges got together, decided the time was right, and, presto chango, declared themselves to be a Grand Lodge. No pomp, no circumstance, no muss, no fuss.
When you stop to think about it, any group today could do the same thing; just get together and announce to the world, "Hey, guys, look at us… we're a new Grand Lodge!" There is one catch. The key to becoming a Grand Lodge is not declaration. It's recognition.
Missouri's uppity declaration did not sit well with the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. It responded to Missouri's claim with a resounding, "Oh, no, you're not a Grand Lodge." It seems the three Lodges combined owed their mother Grand Lodge a total of $17, and it refused to recognize them until the debt was paid. Missouri disputed the claim.
In the meantime, other Grand Lodges granted recognition to Missouri, which ultimately settled the issue and gave Missouri the backing to respond to Tennessee, "Oh, yes we are a Grand Lodge." Subsequent correspondence indicates Missouri did not follow its response with, "Nyah, nyah, na nyah, nyah," but the urge to do so may have been strong.
So at least between me and my new friend from Tennessee this two centuries old dispute now appears to have been settled and the Grand Lodge of Missouri and Grand Lodge of Tennessee can let bygones be bygones.
We're still not paying the $17, though.