The Second Body

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

Are you tired of the Morgan Affair? Do you think we've explored every nook, cranny, and crevice of the evidence and come to a dead end on a street to nowhere? Are you ready to move on? Me, too. But before we do, let's just take one more quick look at something.

For those of you who have been living on the back side of the Masonic moon and have never heard of the Morgan Affair, here's a quick summary:

In 1826, William Morgan, who had connived his way into Masonic Lodges but wasn't really a Brother, announced he was going to publish a book revealing Masonic secrets. Upset, certain Masons kidnapped Morgan and spirited him off to the border of New York and Ontario. After that, no one knows what happened. Speculation that the Masons murdered Morgan ran high. Anti-Masonic furor followed, with about a half dozen convictions for the kidnapping. Amidst the confusion, a body showed up, was determined to be Morgan, and buried. Then it was exhumed and determined to be someone else. Afterward, there were more Morgan sightings than there have been of Elvis, but none were confirmed, only adding to the mystery and confusion. 

Now, that's not even the Reader's Digest version of the incident, but those are facts anyone knows if they know anything about the Morgan affair; but you never… or rarely… hear about the second body. That's right, the second body.

I refer you to the "New York Times" of June 22, 1881, with a headline, front page center, that screams, "WILLIAM MORGAN'S BONES." A sub-heading informs us workers found a silver ring with the body that had the initials "W.M," and a tobacco box that, "seems to prove the bones are those of …" Morgan. Part of that lengthy article reads:

"BATAVIA, N. Y., June 21 – This little town is filled with excitement to-day over the discovery of what are believed to be the remains of William Morgan, the man who betrayed the secrets of the Freemasons in his book entitled "Morgan's Illustrations of Masonry" 55 years ago, and was abducted and made away with before his work was given to the public. The mystery surrounding the fate of William Morgan has defied human ingenuity for over half a century, and now it seems destined to be unraveled at last, when most, if not all, the actors in the tragedy, like its victim, are laid away in the grave. About 11 miles west of Batavia, in Genesee County, lies the town of Pembroke, and it is in this place that the bones were found. Some men were… opening up a stone quarry, when they suddenly came upon the remains of a human skeleton… The locality is about two miles south of the Tonawanda Indian Reservation, and the men at first thought that they had chanced upon the bones of some Indian brave. But this idea was soon dispelled by the consideration that no trinkets were found with the skeleton, and such articles are always buried with the remains of a departed Indian… it was quite evident that the persons who had deposited the body in its resting place intended that it should be well concealed… After some time… one of the party [discovered] a silver ring, which… was found to bear the monogram "W. M.," the initials of William Morgan…. 

The initials W.M., however, will fit a great many names, so that the discovery of the ring, taken by itself, would not be considered of such great importance. But… soon an object of much greater significance was discovered. This was a small tin box… In this box was found a manuscript, the writing of which was scarcely legible… The crumpled paper was taken to the office of Dr. Phillips, where it was placed under a microscope… the words " Masons," "Liar," "Prison," "Kill," and the full name "Henry Brown" were plainly visible… The name of "Henry Brown," too, is most significant. At the time of Morgan's disappearance Henry Brown was a lawyer in this town, and a prominent Mason. In 1829 three years after the tragedy, he published a book,,, entitled, "A Narrative of the anti-Mosonick Excitement in the Western part of the State of New York"… In it Henry Brown gives a very correct account of the abduction of Morgan, and admits that it was probably done by Masons, who, in their zeal for their order, lacked discretion. He strives to show that although Morgan was abducted, there is no proof that he was murdered, and indulges in long arguments to show that the anti-Masonic excitement created by the Morgan tragedy was uncalled for, and the work of political demagogues. If it shall now appear that the body found is accompanied by a threatening letter signed by Brown, the inference will be irresistible that the remains are those of William Morgan, and that Henry Brown, the great defender of the Masons of Batavia, was one of the murderers. This discovery bids fair to explode all other theories regarding the fate of Morgan."

The article goes on to give great detail about the Morgan affair. But is says nothing about what was done with the body or the artifacts found with it. Bear in mind, this is from the "New York Times," not the "Deadwood Dishrag." If the account is true, perhaps Henry Brown was one of the murderers, as the article suggests

Or, consider that one of the myriad of Morgan theories claims the Masons released Morgan and he lived in that area with Native Americans; and workers found this body near a reservation. So, if that manuscript was in Morgan's handwriting, does it prove he lived in the area until at least 1829, read the book, and was himself calling Brown a liar? In which case, the Masons did not kill Morgan.

The Morgan Affair: the mysterious 19th century Masonic gift that just keeps on giving.


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 is 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.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.