What would happen if I read every proceeding of the Grand Lodge of Michigan from beginning to the present day? I asked myself that question two weeks ago while I was looking something up in the 1860 proceedings. I go to the proceedings from one year or another almost everyday to look up something I’m researching. Every time I do this I feel like I am just peeking inside the door of a room that has so much great stuff in it. You have to be careful not to get distracted by all the historical bling.
So… it got to me thinking about what would happen if I did this? What would it take? Certainly time, but we measure time differently in the Craft than most other people do. We are used to things taking a little while. Sometimes that is a good thing (ritual progression when it is done right), sometimes it is a bad thing (reading of the minutes – sorry secretaries – I LOVE to read old lodge minutes, they are a goldmine of information, but I’m just not too fond of hearing them read aloud to me in a meeting). Sometimes you just have to do things and not consider how long it will take. It is like the rebuilding of the temple. Some things just take a while and they are worth the time (right Zerubbabel?).
If you have ever seen a complete set of proceedings you know what I’m getting at. We have a complete set of proceedings in the Michigan Masonic Museum and Library. Perhaps one of the few complete sets in the State. They take up six shelves. Something really interesting happened during the evolution of Grand Lodge proceedings. As Masonry developed in the United States, Grand Lodges spoke with one another and shared their proceedings with one another. This gave rise to the ‘correspondence’ section of our proceedings which, at times, became larger than the rest of the entire proceedings. This continued for a number of years before eventually being cut back. So some of those proceedings are pretty hefty. Masonic War and Peace.
Given the ‘correspondence’ and the actual proceedings, I hope to come out of this with two things. First, a linear understanding of our entire Grand Lodge history as shown in the yearly snapshots afforded by the proceedings. Second, a unique depth of understanding for the development of Freemasonry in North America as seen through the evolution of our sister Grand Lodges via their correspondence with Michigan. To some extent this has already been done through the eyes of those who compiled the correspondence here in Michigan. At the end of the day, that is what proceedings are, someone’s view of Masonic history. Be it the Grand Master in his allocution, the Grand Secretary in his summary, or the committee chairman in his report.
I have no idea how long it is going to take me, but its been fascinating so far. I’m only up to 1844 and I’m writing notes left and right about things to come back to. Even a simple statement can spark intense curiosity. Take for example this short statement from Page 9 of the June 1, 1842 proceedings:
“On motion, the name of John Clark, of St. Clair County, and John Farmer, of Detroit, were ordered to be entered on the records of the Grand Lodge as Ceceders from Masonry during the late crusade against said institution, and they were thereupon recommended to the peculiar vigilance of the Grand Tyler.”
Makes you ask what heck did these guys do to warrant such an open and obvious denunciation in the proceedings of the recently reformed Grand Lodge? This strikes me as an excellent subject for a research paper on the anti-masonic period in Michigan. Along those lines, our early Grand Lodge brethren suggest in their writings that the anti-masonic period was so extreme in Michigan because of a flood of immigrants from Western New York which itself was the central nexus for the zealous anti-masonic sentiment that overtook our country in the wake of the Morgan affair. To me that was a simple, yet previously unconsidered societal indicator that paralleled historic events in early Michigan Masonry. Again, the kind of insight I’m hoping to gain from reading through the proceedings.
I won’t load you up with anymore details now, but I’ll keep you updated as I read through our history from soup to nuts. Until next time brothers…
-The Masonic Historian