Thursday, August 31, 2006

SOME MASONIC TIDBITS


FREEMASONS IN THE AIR

On his famous solo flight over the Atlantic in 1927 Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh wore the square and compasses on his jacket as a good luck emblem. He was a Mason at the time.

When Bernt Balchen, explorer and air pioneer, flew over the North Pole and the South Pole with Brother Richard E. Byrd, they dropped Masonic flags on both Poles. In the 1933-35 expedition over the South Pole, Brother Balchen also tossed his Shrine fez on the Pole.

Leroy Gordon Cooper, Jr., famous astronaut, on his 22 orbit flight carried a Masonic coin in his pocket as well as a blue Masonic flag which he later presented to his mother lodge, Carbondale No. 82, Carbondale, Colorado.

On August 23, 1879, Lodge No. 239 of France held a meeting in a balloon flying over Paris, at which time a Brother was initiated.

The inventors of the first balloon were Joseph Montgolfier, Michel Montgolfier, and Jacques Etielle; all were members of the Nine Sisters Lodge in France.

Brother Eddie Rickenbacker, World War I air ace, was a devoted Mason for many years.

FREEMASONRY IN THE WHITE HOUSE

James Hoban was the architect who designed and supervised the construction of the White House. When the British destroyed this building during the War of 1812, he designed the one replacing it. James Hoban was a Mason. He was probably present when the cornerstone was laid by Maryland Lodge No. 9 of Georgetown on October 13, 1792, with Masonic ceremony. He was also a devout Roman Catholic.

During President Truman's term of office it was necessary to rebuild the White House. In 1952, while the work was in progress, Brother Truman discovered that some of the original stones contained traditional "Mason's marks". He directed that these stones be preserved and delegated the duty to Major General Harry H. Vaughan, Brother Renah F. Camalier, and the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. These stones were distributed to the Grand Lodges of the United States and to certain territories and foreign governments. On February 22, 1966, the last stone was presented to the George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association for display in the Temple on Shooter's Hill.

WHY PRESIDENT McKINLEY BECAME A MASON

When General Horatio King asked William McKinley how he happen to become a Mason he explained: "After the Battle of Opequam, I went with our surgeon of our Ohio regiment to the field where there were about 5,000 Confederate prisoners under guard. Almost as soon as we passed the guard, I noticed the doctor shook the hands with a number of Confederate prisoners. He also took from his pocket a roll of bills and distributed all he had among them. Boy-like, I looked on in wonderment; I didn't know what it all meant. On the way back from camp I asked him:
"Did you know these men or ever see them before?"
"No," replied the doctor, "I never saw them before."
"But," I persisted, "You gave them a lot of money, all you had about you. Do you ever expect to get it back?"
"Well'" said the doctor, "If they are able to pay me back, they will. But it makes no difference to me; they are brother Masons in trouble and I am only doing my duty."
"I said to myself, If that is Freemasonry I will take some of it for myself."

FREEMASONS BUILD FORTS

"Fort Masonic" was built on what was known as the Heights of Brooklyn, which later became Bond and Nevins Streets, Brooklyn, New York. On August 22, 1814, the Grand Lodge of New York adopted a resolution by which, on September 1, the officers of the Grand Lodge accompanied by a group of Masons from fourteen lodges, went to the place and performed one day's work. On September 17, another day's work was done to complete the work.

"Fort Hiram" was built on October 3, 1814, at Fort Point, Rhode Island, but the Grand Lodge which supervised 230 Masons at work. Thomas Smith Webb was Grand Master at the time. The purpose of the fortification was to protect the harbor of Providence, Rhode Island.

THE RUG OF APPRECIATION

As a young man Sarkis H. Nahigian fled Armenia to escape persecution and arrived in the United States in 1890. He worked hard and became a successful businessman in Chicago and a devoted Mason. In 1948 he presented a priceless Oriental rug, 46½ feet long and 29½ feet wide, to the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. In presenting the gift he said:

"I came to America believing in miracles. I say these words with gratitude, faith and pride. Gratitude -- to the generations of hard-working and God-fearing men and women who came to this new country to make a home for freedom. Faith, in that the democracy they built will never die. Pride, in that my chance has come to show my appreciation for being an American. And believe me when I say there is no finer title, no higher position than to be a citizen of the United States."

"Here we have freedom of thought, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech. One does not appreciate what these freedoms mean until one recalls what it was to be deprived of them. Now, again, in humble spirit, it gives me great pleasure to donate to our beloved George Washington Memorial Building, the largest Persian Royal Meshed carpet I have ever known. I donate this carpet in grateful appreciation of all the unlimited privileges and friendships and support I have enjoyed in this blessed United States of America, and not among the least of these is my privilege of being a Mason."

SILENT CAL AND THE CRAFT

President Calvin Coolidge had the reputation of being a person of few words. One time while attending a public function he was told by a young lady, "Mr. President, I made a bet that I can get you to say three words." To which he replied, "You lose."

Although not a Mason, he was not stingy with words when he talked about Freemasonry. While Governor of the Bay State, he addresses the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and said: "It has not been my fortune to know very much about Freemasonry, but I have had the great fortune to know many Freemasons, and I have been able in that way to judge the tree by its fruits. I know of your high ideals. I have seen that you hold your meeting in the presence of the Bible, and I know that men who observe that formality have high sentiments of citizenship, of worth, and of character. That is the strength of our Commonwealth and Nation."


A CIVIL WAR STORY
by John Hohenstein, Zerubbabel Lodge #15, Savannah, Georgia

It was a time not long after Fort Sumter and The War of Northern Aggression was well under way. The Yankees, as they are still wont to do, had promptly flocked to Hilton Head and Tybee Islands, the barrier islands on opposite sides of the mouth of the Savannah River. The Savannah Folks didn't mind much that the Yankees had stolen the good beaches, for the water was still a bit cool for Southern preferences and, besides, they knew the gnats and mosquitoes would teach the Yankees a lesson they'd never forget. So, the Southerners, as Southerners are wont to do sometimes, just waited.

They didn't have to wait very long before the Yankees on Hilton Head sent out a messenger under a white flag.

It seemed that the Yankees had among them a young fellow who had passed through the Fellow Craft Degree before shipping out. The Yanks were just sitting around slapping gnats when it occurred to one of them that, just maybe, there was a nearby lodge that could test him in the Fellow Craft Degree and raise him to that of a Master Mason.

As luck would have it, there was indeed a lodge in Savannah that would soon be having a Masters Degree.

One morning, not too many days later, a detail of Confederate Cavalry slipped across the Savannah River into South Carolina and traveled through Bluffton to the shore opposite Hilton Head Island.

From there they escorted one Fellow Craft Mason and, I believe, a number of Master Masons of the Northern Persuasion, safely through the Confederate Lines and back through about 35 miles of Confederate defenses to Savannah where the candidate and his witnesses were delivered into the lodge.

The records note that this Brother was indeed proficient in the Fellow Craft Degree and he was raised to the Degree of a Master Mason.

That night another detail of Confederate Cavalry, no doubt Brothers to a man, slipped back across the Savannah River and safely escorted their Brothers back to Hilton Head.

Anyway, I have loved this story since the first time I heard it. It clearly demonstrates that, at the darkest period in our Nation's history, when brothers were killing brothers, Brothers could still be Brothers.

LONG ISLAND MASONS

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