Louis W. Roy, Sr. Council of Deliberation

History of the Order of the Golden Circle

Early in the year of 1907, certain gentlemen of the Ancient Accepted Order of the Scottish Rite of Free­masonry for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States of America conceived the idea of forming a Ladies Auxiliary to the Jonathan Davis Consistory of Washington, D.C.

They felt that as in other branches of Masonry, their wives, mothers, sisters and daughters could be of great assistance to them and furthermore could partake of such courtesies as the Sublime Princes could offer to blood relatives. To Ill. Andrew Laster, 33°, whose untiring zeal was known to these brethren, was given the task of organizing the Auxiliary. Furnished with the names of certain ladies prominent in Eastern Star Chapters, he proceeded to organize the Auxiliary, hereafter to be known as the Ladies’ Auxiliary to Johnathan Davis Consistory. The growth at first was disgustingly slow, but later, Mr. Laster, who was made of stuff that pioneers were made of, refused to be dis­couraged. He visited the ladies in every area that he could approach them and urged them to attend the meetings and sought out new members. At many times only two, and sometimes one, attended the meetings. But he never lost courage. In October, 1907, the Auxiliary received a new impetus, new members were added, the old ones took on new zeal and the Auxiliary started on its present course of success.

About this time, the new Sovereign Grand Commander, Robert L. Pendleton, 33°, who was then the Ill. Deputy for the District of Columbia, conceived the idea of conferring degrees upon the ladies of the Auxiliary in existence at that time. Thus bringing them into closer relationship with the brethren of the Scottish Rite. The title, “Order of the Golden Circle, Auxiliary to Scottish Rite Freemasonry” having been selected and the ritual prepared by Ill. Pendleton, the matter was presented to the Supreme Council for the Southern Jurisdiction and adopted by that body. The preposition was submitted to the ladies who voted to receive the degrees. All the ladies who at that time were members of the Auxiliary were to be eligible, but thereafter, the membership was to be limited to those only possessing the Scottish Rite relationship.

On May 6, 1908, Ill. Pendleton assisted by other Ill. Sirs conferred the degrees upon the ladies. The obligations, signs and mottos were given. The ladies named their Assembly, “The Richard Howell Gleaves, Assembly No. 2, Order of the Golden Circle.” Number 1 was assigned to Queen Esther Assembly of Baltimore, Maryland, because the Scottish Rite Auxiliary of that city was the first to be organized in the Jurisdiction. This Assembly was named after the late Richard Howell Gleaves, one of the most prominent Masons in the United States at that time. Born in the earlier part of the nineteenth century, in that grand old Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, in his early manhood he went to the State of South Carolina. During the stirring days of reconstruction, he played a prominent part, at one time being the Lieutenant Governor of the state. He was a typical gentleman, courtly and of the old world type of courtesy. He was the fifth Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, serving from 1857 to 1861. He played a prominent part in the history of Black Masonry, and the very prosperous condition of Black Masons of the District of Columbia today is largely due to his tireless efforts. The ladies felt that no better nor fitting memorial could be given him than to have his name on their banner under the motto “Peace and Unity.”

The ritual, form of application, the Constitution and the burial service were all written by Ill. Pendleton and copyrighted under the laws of the United States in 1908.

The late J. Francis Rickards 33°, when he was Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Jurisdiction, decided to establish the Order of the Golden Circle in this Jurisdiction. Since the ritual was copyrighted, it was necessary for him to get the permission of Ill. Pendleton, which he did. Within a short time after obtaining this permission, Ill. Rickards established a number of Assemblies in this Jurisdiction. Yielding to the wishes of some of the ambitious ladies who were leaders of the Golden Circle, Ill. Rickards permitted the formation of a so-called Grand Assembly which operated on a national scale for several years. When Ill. Pendleton heard about this grand body he violently disapproved of the same.

In 1920 Ill. Rickards conferred with Ill. Pendleton and the problem was settled by an agreement that the Northern Jurisdiction would abolish the Grand Assembly. This was done and since that time until 1969 the Order of the Golden Circle existed in the Northern Jurisdiction on the same basis as it exists in the Southern Jurisdiction, where it originated.

In 1969 the late Ill. Leland D. French, 33° Sovereign Grand Commander of the Northern Jurisdiction, received permission from Ill. John G. Lewis, 33 ° Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern Jurisdiction, to organize the State Grand Assemblies in the Northern Jurisdiction.

In compliance with Article VII, enacted at the 1970 Supreme Council, held at Detroit, Michigan, Ill. French met with Ill. John G. Lewis and the necessary changes were made in the Constitution and By-Laws.

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