Excerpt from “Chapter 12 – Laid to Rest”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 12 – Laid to Rest”:

In addition to the appeal to help settle Morris’s debts, there was a collection
made by both Eastern Star Chapters and Masonic Lodges for Morris’s grave
marker and monument. On May 29, 1891, there was a dedication and unveiling
of the monument gravestone for Morris at the Valley of Rest Cemetery. Hon.
Elisha S. Fitch gave the address from a 12-page bulletin that he prepared.

Rob Morris’s wife, Charlotte, went through great sacrifices as Morris’s zealous
efforts kept him away from his family. But Charlotte persevered, and with the
help of their oldest son, John, the family was able to eventually settle in their permanent
home at LaGrange.

There is no doubt that Morris’s efforts could not have been as successful
without Charlotte and John’s help. Morris’s commitment to the fraternal order of
Freemasonry and his faith cast a wide net that provided a respected organized network
where men and women could come together and work on charitable causes
both locally, nationally, and internationally. By the early 20th century the Order
of the Eastern Star was known worldwide. Women such as Red Cross founder
Clara Barton, one of the most widely respected women in the world, had become
an OES member with an OES chapter named in her honor from her hometown
of Oxford, Massachusetts.

Excerpt from “Chapter 11 – The 19th Century Poet Laureate of Freemasonry”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 11 – The 19th Century Poet Laureate of Freemasonry”:

On Dec. 17, 1884, Rob Morris was crowned the poet laureate of Freemasonry
at the grand lodge room of the Masonic Temple in New York. Morris
succeeded the 18th century poet laureate, Robert Burns, who took the honor
in 1787 as the first poet laureate of Freemasonry in Canongate Kilwilling Lodge,
No. 2, Edinburgh, Scotland.

To achieve the honor of poet laureate a query was sent, over the signatures
of the grand master, deputy grand master, and grand secretary of New York, to
more than 1,000 Masons in the United States, Canada, and Great Britain to support
Morris as Poet Laureate of Freemasonry. The response was overwhelming
and immediate: “Crown him, he has earned it; he honors Freemasonry by his
pure life, genius, and learning; he has sought through many tribulations the
truth!” “Crown him, his single poem, The Level and The Square, demands the
laurel wreath!” “Crown Him: let there be no waiting till after death to mark his
praise, but honor his grey hairs while he is yet in the land of the living” (Oldham
County Historical Society, n.d.).

Excerpt from “Chapter 10 – Trip to the Holy Land”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 10 – Trip to the Holy Land”:

The trip lasted seven months, and Morris returned home to his family in
LaGrange on July 21. Although he met many Masons in the Middle East, there
was no grand lodge established there, so he began a process to do so. Morris had
a strong friendship with William Mercer Wilson, grand master of the United
Grand Lodge of Canada. He had visited Canada several times and was even
involved in settling a dispute issue. The respect was so high for Morris that he had
been named as past deputy grand master.

The relationship between Wilson and Morris enabled Morris to petition the
grand lodge of Canada for a charter for a lodge in Jerusalem. By command of the
M.W. Bro. W. M. Mercer, Royal Solomon Mother Lodge in the city of Jerusalem
was constituted by charter issued by the grand lodge of Canada on February 17,
1873. Rob Morris was named the first master of this lodge and instructed to
observe all the rights and regulations of the craft.

Book Signing at the Annual Pilgrimage at the Rob Morris Historic Home

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I enjoyed my first book signing with the Order of the Eastern Star at the Annual Pilgrimage each year which takes place at the Rob Morris Historic Home in LaGrange. I was encouraged by the support of the Eastern Star members and overwhelmed with their appreciation for the book. I am pictured with Margie Morgan Applegate who was responsible for the unpublished letters that I used to write the book.

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Excerpt from “Chapter 9 – Life at LaGrange Kentucky: The Masonic College of Kentucky”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 9 – Life at LaGrange Kentucky: The Masonic College of Kentucky”:

In the new democracy of the United States, education was not to be
restricted to the privileged but an opportunity for all citizens. Masons such as
George Washington and Benjamin Franklin became founders of free public
schools. As people moved west, initiatives for education were strong. Academies
were initially formed in isolated communities where families came together to pay
instructor salaries. Masonic academies were constructed and offered higher levels
of degrees for students. The academies were often coed and included residences
for students who often attended from out of state. These academies were particularly
popular in Southern communities that were more rural and had fewer
advantages for educational opportunities than the more populated Northeastern
states.

Excerpt from “Chapter 8 – Letters Between Rob and Son John”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 8 – Letters Between Rob and Son John”:

Litchfield, Kentucky, December 25, 1853 [excerpt]
My Dear son John

The Cumberland Presbyterians have a church here and last Sunday they
got me to preach twice for them. It is only twenty miles from here to the
great Mammoth Cave, the greatest Cave in the world. That cave runs ten
miles under ground. I have a story to tell Sis about some ladies that went into
that cave and like to have got drowned. I rode my poney Phil about twenty
miles on Friday. He is the greatest little poney every you saw. He trots so easy.
And he will go to mill or plow or go in a little wagon or let you and Alfred
ride on his back. I hope I can bring him home with me and leave him there
and then he shall belong to my boys. He don’t like a switch much but I just
lay it to him and Mr. Morehead lays a spur and jab to him when he gets a
little lazy. Is our cistern dug? Is the garden plowed? Is the chimney finished?
I will be along there in a few weeks and see.

From your Father.

Excerpt from “Chapter 7 – The Order of the Eastern Star”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 7 – The Order of the Eastern Star”:

In the preface to the fifth edition (1847) of the Thesauros, there are hints of
connections to France from George Washington’s friend the Marquis de
LaFayette: “The testimony of our faithful friend and Brother Protector, Gen.
Lafayette, concerning its influence during the long continental wars of Napoleon
and the evidences preserved by our remaining revolutionary patriots, are too precious
to be cast away in the strife which our enemies would raise. The light is
again kindled, and should be sustained by every lover of good order” (Pond,
1950, p. 11). The secret work and cabalistic acronym “F.A.T.A.L.” given in the
Thesauros, became the motto for the Order of the Eastern Star. The meaning of
the acronym is only shared with Eastern Star members.

In several publications Morris acknowledges the Thesauros as well as the fact
that the Degrees for the Order of the Eastern Star had historic precedence: “This
degree is of French extraction, and has all the embellishments of that fanciful race.
It is properly conferred in a regular organization styled a Constellation which in
its American form will be shortly placed before the public” (op.cit., p. 19).

Excerpt from “Chapter 6 – The Conservator Period”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 6 – The Conservator Period”:

In 1826 William Morgan viciously attacked Freemasonry as an elitist and
politically connected fraternity and threatened to publish a book to debunk
the secrets of the order. The motivation for the book supposedly occurred when
he was rejected as a member for a new Masonic lodge proposed in Batavia, New
York. The print shop for the new book was “mysteriously” burned down, and a
series of events followed that jeopardized Morgan. On September 11, 1826, Morgan
was arrested for stealing a shirt and tie and taken to a jail in Canandaigua,
New York. He was soon released for lack of evidence but immediately rearrested
for failure to pay a $2.69 debt to an innkeeper. On September 12, a group of men
came and paid Morgan’s fine. As they took him away, Morgan was heard hollering
“Murder” (Morris, 1883).

A body was recovered from Lake Ontario presumably that of Morgan. Several
inquests were made concerning the body that washed upon the shore of Lake
Ontario. In one inquest Morgan’s wife positively identified the body of that being
her husband. In another inquest the body was identified as another man. Fiftyfour
Masons were indicted for Morgan’s kidnapping, and those 10 of the Masons,
including the Niagara County Sheriff, Eli Bruce, were given sentences ranging
from 30 days to 28 months (Ibid).

Excerpt from “Chapter 5 – A Masonic Career”

A Place in the Lodge: Dr. Rob Morris, Freemasonry and the Order of the Eastern Star by Nancy Stearns Theiss, PhD

Excerpt from “Chapter 5 – A Masonic Career”:

In the first letter from this series, Morris indicates he had priced slaves. As
he traveled from North to South, he witnessed a deepening wedge nationally on
slavery between the rising antislavery sentiment of the North and the South’s
defensiveness. Rob Morris was conflicted on the issue of slavery. As a native from
Massachusetts, the institution of slavery was not a factor in his upbringing. His
wife Charlotte, however, came from a slave-holding family, and the Morris family
letters reveal that Rob promises Charlotte slaves several times to help ease the
burden of housekeeping. He priced slaves in his correspondence, but he never
purchased slaves. Often, however, Charlotte “hired out” slaves from other owners.
This was a common practice where slave owners would lease their slaves to
others for household work, field labor, and other tasks. The hire outs could be
through a season or a year depending on the agreement between owner and
leasee. The agreement usually included that the lease provide a suit of clothes,
including shoes, and room and board. Sometimes slaves would be allowed to keep
part of the money (Oldham County Historical Society, 1824–1864).