Friday, May 12, 2017

Finding Oklahoma Community Leaders in Masonic Proceedings

Proceedings of the St. John Grand Lodge, Muskogee Indian Territory, 
Annual Communication, 1896 (Cover Page)

In recent months I have been most appreciative of  information that can be gleaned from studying the activities of the Prince Hall Masons and their various lodges throughout the nation. Both the 18th and 19th centuries, many leaders in communities were found to be among men who also were active with Masonic grand lodges.

Thankfully I have had an amazing opportunity to speak with, meet with and learn from James Morgan III, of Prince George's County Maryland, who has proven to be quite an authority of the Prince Hall grand lodges, and their history in various regions of the country. Mr. Morgan is a member of the Prince Hall Grand Lodges of Washington, DC. In addition, Mr. Morgan has demonstrated his expertise by locating for me, images of community leaders in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. These same leaders were also among leaders in their local masonic organization. Mr. Morgan's contacts with others who also possess much knowledge of the organizational histories, has proven most beneficial.

As one who studies Indian Territory, and Oklahoma, I was pleased to receive proceedings from the 4th Annual Communication held in Muskogee, Indian Territory. The actual event occurred in Muskogee, Indian Territory in 1896 and it is a clear indicator of who the persons of influence in the Territory were. From some of the pages of the meeting, some of the leaders were reflected. Names such as J. Milton Turner, A.W.G. Sango, William  Vann and others are found upon the pages of the book of proceedings. Many were also leaders in the communities of Freedmen of Oklahoma.

I was excited to also see a list of the various lodges and their post offices throughout the twin territories. The two territories are Oklahoma Territory, and Indian Territory. Also keep in mind that the territories did not merge geographically until statehood occurred in 1907.

Proceedings of the St. John Grand Lodge, Muskogee Indian Terriotry, 
Annual Communication, 1896 

Seeing the location of the various masonic lodges one can actually glean more information about the lives of one's ancestors, and part of their social and also political network. In addition by reading the proceedings one can also learn more about lodges in other cities and states and compile a list from the communities that existed over 100 years ago.

Partial list of masonic lodges in Indian Territory. - 1896 p 1-2

Souce: Same as above: p 3-4

As genealogists, there is much to appreciate in these records, and all are encouraged to explore using some of these publications now in the public domain to study the local community, and to learn about those persons with whom our ancestors lived, and the circle of associates who influenced them.

The presences of these masonic groups in Indian and Oklahoma Territory is a part of the community history. Because of the strong influence that masonic organizations have had over the years, it would be wise to include questions about ancestors who may have been a part of these groups. New chapters may emerge in family histories and some old photos and family artifacts may eventually be explained by knowledge of these fraternal lodges and their value to family and community.