Master Builder of the Order of the Eastern Star
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Rob Morris, Master Builder of the Order of the Eastern Star,
was born August 31, 1818, near Boston, Massachusetts.
His childhood and young manhood were spent in New York
where he received many educational advantages including a splendid college
training which qualified him as a successful lawyer, lecturer, educator and
instructor in Masonry. He devoted many years in research and creative writing.
Morris became a Master Mason in Oxford, Mississippi, March 5, 1846. At this time he was President of Mt. Sylvan
Academy. He soon became interested in an idea that the female relatives of
Master Masons should share, in a measure, the benefits from knowledge of this
great fraternal Order. Embued with this desire, his fertile mind set forth to
evolve an Order which would benefit both men and women.
President of Mt. Sylvan Academy, he met and later married Miss Charlotte Mendenhall.
Several children were born of this union. Mrs. Morris was an inspiration to Dr. Morris and a real helpmate for nearly fifty
years. They both worked on the idea of the Order and invited brother Masons
and their wives to discuss the plans with Dr. Morris demonstrating to them the theories he
had formulated. This may be rightfully termed the origin of the Order of the
Eastern Star, although it was many years before it was recognized or its
principles felt by those who were fortunate enough to come within its scope.
the years he taught as principal in "The Little Red Brick School
Building" in Richland, Mississippi,
1849 - 1850, he worked with zeal writing a Ritual of the Order of the Eastern
Star. In 1850 he systematized the Degrees with the idea of giving them form, he
decided on the degrees, contemplated the themes, incorporated from the pages of
antiquity the heroines and names upon which the beautiful work is built,
established the signs and passes, colors and emblems of the Order and
promulgated the fundamental principles which have remained unchanged through
first Ritual was compiled and published under the title of "The Rosary of
the Eastern Star."
1855 he organized a Supreme Constellation with himself as the Most Enlightened
Grand Luminary, with headquarters in New York City.
Charters were issued in all parts of the United
1860 the Constellation form of organization was discontinued and charters were
issued for the organization of Families. In 1868 the Constellation and Families
became lost except for their historical value.
1866 Dr. Morris
became associated with Mr. Robert Macoy of New York City.
Upon Mr. Morris'
departure for the Holy Land he transferred to Robert Macoy all the authority he had assumed and
exercised in planning the Order of the Eastern Star. Under Mr. Macoy's guiding hand the Supreme Grand
Chapter was organized. This was a self-constituted body. Deputies were
appointed in all parts of the United States,
the Territories and in Mexico.
1867 and 1868 Mr. Macoy
compiled and published a Ritual, using Dr. Morris' Rosary as a guide. This was the
beginning of the organization of Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star in
the States as well as internationally. He immediately attempted to make the
work more systematic and succeeded in adapting it to organized Chapters in such
a way as to assure their success.
Morris traveled extensively in foreign
countries. He spent nearly a year in the Holy Land. He
organized the first Masonic Lodge in Jerusalem,
Royal Solomon Number One, and became its first Worshipful Master.
was an author of great ability and wrote numerous and valuable works on Masonry
and its kindred subjects. The most popular were, "The Lights and Shadows
of Masonry" and "Free Masonry in the Holy Land."
He contributed to columns in almost every Masonic publication.
was also a poet of unusual attainment, having written over four hundred poems.
His best known poem is "The Level and the Square." Many of these
poems were devoted to the Order of the Eastern Star and are still used by
from his work in Masonry and Eastern Star, he wrote many religious songs which
are used by Churches and Sunday Schools.
While seated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in Palestine,
he wrote the beautiful song "0, Galilee."
1858-1859 Dr. Morris
served as Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky.
In 1860 he drafted the Constitution of the Grand Lodge. Having passed through
the chairs in the Blue Lodge, Royal Arch Chapter, Council, Commandery,
Consistory and Grand Lodge, and having spent most of the strength, thought and
wisdom of his early manhood in a close study of the Rituals, codes, principles
and tenets of Masonry, he was conceded to be one of the most versatile and
learned Masons of his day.
1880 the General Grand Chapter conferred on Dr. Morris the title of "Master
Builder of the Order of the Eastern
Star" and August 31st, the birthday of this illustrious man, was set apart
as the Festal Day of the Order, to be observed by having special programs on
that day. He also had the Degrees of Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Laws conferred
upon him later in life.
crowning event in the career of this remarkable man occurred in 1884 when over
500,000 Master Masons throughout the world expressed their desire that he be
crowned with the laurel wreath, symbolizing Poet Laureate of Masonry. One
hundred years had elapsed since the first Poet Laureate, Robert Burns, had received this honor.
Dr. Morris was the first poet thought capable of
filling this place after Robert Burns.
In the presence of more than seven hundred dignitaries this honor was conferred
for the second time in the history of the craft.
first Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was organized in Michigan
in 1867. Three years later Grand Chapters were organized in Mississippi, New Jersey and
York. Before the close of 1876, Grand Chapters were
organized in California, Vermont, Indiana, Connecticut, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri,
the publication of different Rituals and revised editions thereof brought
confusion and diversity in the work where there should have been uniformity. It
therefore became necessary that this be corrected with all Grand Chapters
united under one body and using the same Ritual; thus the General Grand Chapter
of the Order of the Eastern Star was organized in Indianapolis, Indiana, on November 16, 1876. Committees were appointed to compile
and edit a Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star. The one now in use has been
evolved from the Ritual edited by the Committees appointed at that time.
Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star now encircle the earth. The General
Grand Chapter has jurisdiction over all Grand Chapters in the United
States (except New
York and New Jersey
which are independent Grand Chapters), the Provinces in Canada,
and the Grand Chapter of Puerto Rico. There is a Supreme Grand Chapter of
Scotland with jurisdiction over Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, South
Africa, and New
Zealand. The States, Territories and
Dependencies of Australia are under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Chapter
of Australia which was established in 1985.
have been organized subordinate to the General Grand Chapter in Alaska, Aruba, Austria,
Bermuda, Taiwan, Panama, Germany, Guam, Hawaii, Japan, Mexico, Okinawa,
and Saudi Arabia.
The membership in the Order numbers over 1,000,000 members in over 8,000
1950 the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, observed the One
Hundredth Anniversary of the Writing of the Ritual with appropriate ceremonies
held in Washington, D.C.
International Eastern Star Temple
and the offices of the General Grand Chapter are located in Washington, D.C. In the Reception room of the
International Eastern Star Temple,
over the mantel, hangs an oil painting of this distinguished Master Builder of our Order. This was a gift from
the Grand Chapter of Kentucky and was unveiled by his grand daughter, Miss Ella Morris
Past Grand Matron and Grand Secretary of Kentucky.
Morris spent a great part of his life in Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.
The last twenty-six years were spent in LaGrange, Kentucky, where his family was reared and
educated. His home is now the property of the Grand Chapter of Kentucky and is
maintained as a Shrine in honor of the Master Builder of our Order.
"Little Red Brick School Building in Mississippi"
is owned by the Grand Chapter of Mississippi and is maintained as a Shrine in
honor of Dr. Morris'
writing of the Ritual in Mississippi.
July 31, 1888, when the
news of his death was sent to all parts of the world, profound grief was
expressed at his passing as his whole life had been devoted to the uplifting of
humanity. He was buried in the cemetery in La Grange, Kentucky, where admiring friends from all
over the world have erected a tall marble shaft in his memory. On one side of
the shaft is the Square and Compasses and on the other side is the Five Pointed
Dr.Morris was generous, tender of heart and
loving in disposition. He was happiest when sharing with others that which the
Lord had bestowed upon him.
the stars which bedeck the canopy of heaven are the beauty and glory of the
night and light the pathway of man on his journey through life, so may the
beautiful Star in the East, with all its significance, ever remain the glory of
the Order of the Eastern Star and light the pathway of the members in the
fulfillment of their vows.
Compiled by Mamie
Lander, Past Most Worthy Grand Matron
and Right Worthy Grand Secretary -- 1955
Events in his life:
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|1818 (Aug 31)
||- Born Robert
Williams Peckham in New York City
||- At the death of
his father, was placed in a foster home in
Western NY where he took the name of his Foster
Father, John Morris.
|1849 (Mar 5)
||- Became a Master
Mason in Oxford, Miss.
||- Began writing
first ritual for O.E.S
"Supreme Constellation" headquartered
in New York.
||- Served as Most
Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in KY.
Constitution of the Grand Lodge
||- Organization of
authority to Robert MaCoy who published a ritual
using Morris' "The Rosary of the Eastern
Star" as a guide
||- First Grand
Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star
organized in Michigan.
||- Grand Chapters
organized in MS, NJ and NY.
|1876 (Nov. 16)
||- All Grand Chapters
united under General Grand Chapter in
||- Title of Master
Builder of the Order of the Eastern Star
conferred upon Dr. Morris by the General Grand
||- Named Poet
Laureate of Masonry.
|1888 (July 31)
||- Died. Buried at
His Own Words:
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"The five Androgynous degrees ... are supposed to
have been introduced into this country by the French
officers who assisted our Government during the struggle
"The degree called the Eastern
Star... is strictly my own origination. By the aid of my
papers, and the memory of Mrs. Morris, I recall even the
trivial occurrences connected with the work- how I
hesitated for a theme, how I dallied over a name, how I
wrought face to face with the clock that I might keep my
drama within due limits of time, etc. The name was first
settled upon, The Eastern Star."
First in the array of Adoptive Degrees,
highest in the ranks of brilliant and impressive thought,
comes the Eastern Star, with its fixed points of
Jepthah's Daughter, Ruth, Esther, Martha, and Electa.
Those who have heard our lectures in different sections
of the United States are aware that we value it both for
what it has done and for its future promise. We have
personally communicated The Eastern Star to more than
three thousand ladies, the wives, daughters, sisters, and
widows of Master Masons. The degree is never communicated
as from man to man- to impart it at all requires the
consent and presence of five or more ladies who must be,
if unmarried, at least 18 years of age. 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-
when generally adopted in our fraternity, as we doubt not
it will be, it will add greatly to the practical
importance of the degree."
"My first course of lectures was
given in November, 1850, at Colliersville, Tennessee....
At Colliersville, likewise, I conferred the degrees of
the Eastern Star and Good Samaritan. Both of these I had
received some years before, the latter by Brother
Stevens, the same who presided at my passing and raising.
The restrictions under which the Eastern Star was
communicated to me were 'that it should only be given to
Master Masons, their wives, widows, sisters and
daughters, and only when five or more ladies of the
classes named were present'; these rules I have always
"When I was initiated into Masonry
in 1846, I received my Third Degree from Brother William
H. Stevens, afterward Grand Master of Mississippi. He was
a Mason of considerable ability, burning zeal, and a warm
advocate of Ladies' Masonry. In 1847, he conferred upon
Mrs. Morris and myself the Degree of Heroine of Jericho;
and from him I acquired my first appetite for this whole
system of Adoptive Masonry."
"I wrote every word of the original
lectures and composed the songs. For twenty-eight years I
have been communicating it as my own origination. I am
the founder of the system, and no one can show any proof
of its existence prior to 1849."
"In the winter of 1850 I was a
resident of Jackson, Mississippi. For some time previous
I had contemplated, as hinted above, the preparation of a
Ritual of Adoptive Masonry, the degrees then in vogue
appearing to me poorly conceived, weakly wrought out,
unimpressive, and particularly defective in point of
motive. I allude especially to those degrees styled The
Mason's Daughter, and the Heroines of Jericho. But I do
expressly except from this criticism The Good Samaritan,
which, in my judgement, posesses dramatic elements and
machinery equal to those that are in the Templar's Order,
the High Priesthood, and the Cryptic Rite, and other
organizations of Thomas Smith Webb. I have always
recommended The Good Samaritan, and a thousand times
conferred it in various parts of the world.... About the
first week of February, 1850, I was laid up for two weeks
with a sharp attack of rheumatism, and it was this period
which I gave to the work at hand.... The only piece of
mechanism difficult to fit into the construction was the
cabalistic motto known as *****; but this occurred to me
in ample time for use.... The theory of the whole subject
is succinctly stated in my Rosary of the Eastern Star,
published in 1865.... So my Ritual was complete, and
after touching and retouching the manuscript, as
professional authors love to do, I invited a neighboring
Mason and his wife to join with my own, and to them, in
my own parlor, communicated the Degrees in 1850. They
were the first recipients- the first of twice fifty
thousand who have seen the signs, heard the words,
exchanged the touch, and joined in the music of the
Eastern Star... In 1855 I arranged the system of
'Constellations of the Eastern Star' of which the Mosaic
Book was the index, and established more than one hundred
of those bodies.... Four years later I prepared an easier
plan styled 'Families of the Eastern Star' intended, in
its simplicity and the readiness by which it could be
worked, to avoid the complexity of the 'Constellations.'
This ran well until the war broke out. This ended my work
in systemizing the Eastern Star, and I should never have
done more with it, save to confer it in an informal
manner as at first, but for Brother Robert Macoy of New
York, who in 1868, when I publicly announced my
intentions of confining my labors during the remainder of
my life to Holy Land Investigations, proposed the plan of
Eastern Star Chapters now in vogue. He had my full
consent and endorsement, and thus became the instigator
of a third and more successful system."
"Robert Macoy proposed the plan of
Eastern Star Chapters now in vogue."
The Masonic Poetry
of Brother Rob Morris
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THE LEVEL AND THE
(This poem, written in August, 1854.)
We meet upon the Level and we part upon the Square.
What words of precious meaning, those words Masonic
Come, let us contemplate them! They are worthy of a
In the very walls of Masonry the sentiment is
We meet upon the Level, though from every station
The rich man from his palace and the poor man from
For the rich must leave his wealth and state outside
the Mason's door,
And the poor man finds his best respect upon the
We act upon the Plumb - 'tis the orders of our Guide.
We walk upright in virtue's way and lean to neither
The All-Seeing Eye that reads our hearts doth bear us
That we still try to honor God and give each man his
We part upon the Square, for the world must have its
We mingle with the multitude, a faithful band and
But the influence of our gatherings in memory is
And we long upon the Level to renew the happy scene.
There's a world where all are equal - we are hurrying
toward it fast,
We shall meet upon the Level there when the gates of
Death are past;
We shall stand before the Orient, and our Master will
To try the blocks we offer with His own unerring
We shall meet upon the Level there, but never thence
There's a Mansion - 'tis all ready for each trusting,
There's a Mansion, and a welcome, and a multitude is
Who have met upon the Level and been tried upon the
Let us meet upon the Level, then while laboring
Let us meet and let us labor, though the labor be
Already in the Western sky the signs bid us prepare
To gather up our Working Tools and part upon the
Hands round, ye faithful Brotherhood, the bright
We part upon the Square below to meet in Heaven
What words of precious meaning, those words Masonic
We meet upon the Level and we part upon the square.
LODGE WELCOME TO LADIES
It is in our hearts, dear sisters,
While the Mason's chain is bright,
To give our warmest welcome
To the best beloved, tonight;
To the wife, so fondly cherished,
To the daughter, sister, true,
To the faithful, tenderhearted --
Shall I say the word? -- to you.
We acknowledge countless blessings
From the Bounteous Hand above;
Our bond was first cemented
By Divine assent and love;
We are grateful, truly grateful,
For all gifts He doth bestow,
But our warmest thanks are given --
Shall I say the word? -- for you.
The woes of life are many,
Thronging dark on every side,
In tears, and sighs, and broken hearts,
And sorrows far and wide;
The Mason's hand is generous,
But most freely we bestow,
When the appeal is made us --
Shall I say the word? -- by you.
Our brotherhood is countless,
From the East unto the West;
In every land, and clime, and tongue,
They range among the best;
And every man a hundred miles
On frosty sod will go,
To give you help, or win a smile --
Shall I say the word? -- from you.
Then hail! Adoptive Masonry,
That brings us here together;
May manly arms 'round lovely forms
Protect from stormy weather;
And when, adown the hill of life,
Our tottering feet shall go,
May our weary steps be comforted --
Shall I say the word? -- by you.
MIND OF GOD
And can we know the mind of God,
A window to the will supreme?
And is His purpose all exposed
to human eye, so faint and dim?
Look! Open upward broadly lies
The Word of God -- the unerring Law,
Threatening and promising by turns,
As Masons yield to fear or love,
Oh, be it ours to walk therein,
And at the end have sure reward!
A MASON'S PLEDGE
Brother, let us often ponder
What we Masons pledged to do,
When, prepared at yonder's altar,
We assumed the Mason's vow;
Foot and knee, breast, hand and cheek,
Let these oft our duties speak.
Breast to breast: in holy casket
At life's center strongly held,
Every sacred thing intrusted,
Sealed by faith's unbroken seal;
What you promised God to shield
Suffer, die, but never yield.
Never yield whate'er the trial;
Never yield whate'er the number;
Never yield through foully threatened,
Even at the stroke of death.
Hand to back: A brother falling --
His misfortune is too great,
Stretch the generous hand, sustain him,
Quick, before it is too late.
Like a strong, unfaltering prop,
Hold the faltering brother up.
Hold him up; stand like a column;
Hold him up: there's good stuff in him;
Hold him with his head toward Heaven;
Hold him with the lion's grip.
Cheek to cheek: O, when the tempter
Comes, a brother's soul to win,
With a timely whisper warn him
Of the dark and deadly sin.
Extricate him from the snare,
Save him with fraternal care.
Save him -- Heavenly powers invoke you --
Save him -- man is worth the saving
Save him -- breathe your spirit in him
As you'd have your God save you.
This completes the obligation;
Brother, lest you let it slip,
Fasten on tenacious memory
All our points of Fellowship;
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek --
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek.
THE MODEL MASON
There's a fine old Mason in the land, he's genial,
wise and true,
His list of brothers comprehends, hear brothers, me
So warm his heart the snow blast fails to chill his
And his hand is like a giant's when outstretched to
man or God; --
Reproach nor blame, nor any shame,
has checked his course or dimmed his fame --
All honor to his name!
This fine old Mason is but one of a large family:
In every lodge you'll find his kin, you'll find them
two or three;
You'll know them when you see them, for they have
their father's face,
A generous knack of speaking truth and doing good
Reproach nor blame, nor any shame,
has checked their course or dimmed their fame --
Freemason is their name!
Ah, many an orphan smiles upon the kindred as they
And many a widow's prayers confess the sympathizing
The Father of this Brotherhood himself is joyed to
Their works -- they're numbered all in Heaven, those
deeds of charity!
Reproach nor blame, nor any shame,
there check their course or dim their fame --
All honor to their name!
THE FIVE POINTS OF
Joyful task it is, dear brothers
Thus to take upon the lip
With full heart, and fitting gesture,
All our points of fellowship.
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek
Each a measured part shall speak:
Speak of answering mercy's call;
Speak of prayer for Masons all;
Speak of keeping secrets duly;
Speak of stretching strong hand truly;
Speak of whispering the unruly.
Foot to foot: 'tis mercy's mandate,
When is heard the plaintive sigh,
Hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked,
On the wings of aid to fly;
Hasten, mitigate the grief --
Hasten, bear him quick relief!
Quick with bread to feed the hungry;
Quick with raiment for the naked;
Quick with shelter for the homeless;
Quick with heart's deep sympathy.
Knee to knee: in silence praying,
Lord, give listening ear this day!
Every earthly stain confessing,
For all tempted Masons pray!
Perish envy, perish hate,
For all Masons supplicate.
Bless them, Lord upon the ocean;
Bless them perishing in the desert;
Bless them falling 'neath temptation
Bless them when about to die!
THE MASON'S PLEDGE
Brother, hearken, while I tell you
What we Masons pledged to do
When, prepared at yonder altar,
We assumed the Mason's vow!
Foot and knee, breast, hand and cheek --
Hearken while I make them speak!
Foot to foot, on mercy's errand,
When we hear a brother's cry,
Hungry, thirsty, barefoot, naked,
With God's mercy let us fly.
This of all our thoughts the chief,
How to give him quick relief.
Knee to knee, in earnest praying,
None but God to hear or heed,
All our woes and sins confessing,
Let us for each other plead;
By the spirit of our call,
Let us pray for brothers all.
Breast to breast, in sacred casket,
At life's center let us seal
Every truth to us entrusted,
Nor one holy thing reveal!
What a Mason vows to shield,
Let him die, but never yield.
Hand to back, a brother's falling,
Look, his burdens are too great.
Stretch the generous hand and hold him
Up before it is too late.
The right arm's a friendly prop,
Made to hold a brother up.
Cheek to cheek, in timely whisper
When the temper strives to win.
Urge the brother's bounden duty,
Show him the approaching sin.
Point to him the deadly snare,
Save him with a brother's care.
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Special thanks to
Brother Raymond Dotson, P.P. of Goldsboro Chapter #54 in
from who's website at http://www.esn.net/~oes/ some of
this information was copied.