Music by Brother J.L.F. Mendelssohn
JEREMY LADD CROSS
by James R. Case, Historian
Grand Council of Conn. R. & S.M.
Delegations of Royal and Select Masters
from nearby Councils will conduct a
pilgrimage, on or about Saint John's Day in
June 1983, to the grave Or Jeremy Ladd Cross
in Haverhill, New Hampshire. I here the
'Father of the Cryptic Rite' was born 200 years
ago on June 27th.
Reputable Masonic historians and encyclopedists credit this 'famous Masonic author
and lecturer' with having a 'wide spread influence on the practical workings of
Freemasonry'. A few detractors have maligned
Cross as a 'charlatan', a 'degree peddler' and
one who 'made his Masonry a very nice paying
Occurrences which took place 125 years ago
cannot be judged by today's standards, rules
and regulations. A close review of his diary and
letters, and more attention to chronology,
brings out the high-spots in the career of this
'plain New Hampshire lecturer', the subsequent
disseminator of the Royal and Select Masters
degrees, combined in the prcsent 'Cryptic Rite',
a term he never used.
As a country boy with scant schooling,
Jeremy went down to Portsmouth, the
political, social and commercial metropolis of
the state, learned the hatters' trade, and encountered his first set back in business, having
made an unfortunate choice of a partner.
He was twenty-three years old in 1807 when
he applied for membership in prestigious old
St. Johns Lodge, of which the Master was Rev.
George Richards, an accomplished ritualist.
Cross served some time as Junior Deacon and,
late in 1813 took a dimit and began a circuit of
northern New Hampshire and adjacent Vermont, as a journeyman in his trade. He never
went back to his mother Lodge.
He was carrying a certificate from the
Grand Lecturer which attested his proficiency
in the ritual. The version then in use had been
agreed upon by conferees from New Hampshire
and Massachusetts some years earlier.
Cross was instrumental in the revival of interest in North Star Lodge at Lancaster; was
paid his shekel in Aurora Mark Lodge at Bradford; was arched in Champlain Chapter at St.
Albans, Vermont; and acquired the Select
Masters degree (and perhaps others) during an
extended sojourn at Hopkinton. He became
highly proficient in all the degrees which he had
regularly received or may have been favored
with, in return for his 'instruction in the degrees
of the Lodge'. He had knowledge of the Past
Master's degree and the order of High
Priesthood, but not acquired through election.
With savings from his trade and lecturing,
in May 1816 Jeremy set out for Providence,
where Thomas Smith Webb was then active in
Lodge, Chapter and Encampment (later Commandery). His objective was to 'perfect himself
in the work of the Chapter'. During a stop-over
in Boston he records that he lectured before and
received the 'sanction' of grand lodge officers.
Delegates from Massachusetts and Rhode
Island were about to sail for New York, where
the Ceneral Grand Chapter was to meet. Cross
went along with them as a visitor, having no
credentials. During the session he made the acquaintance of Philip Eckel of Baltimore and
John Hart Lynde, Deputy Grand High Priest in
Connecticut, among others. He is said to have
visited Columbian Council, and to have obtained the degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite
but those matters are not documented. Of
greatest importance was a certificate of a sort
over the names of all the General Grand
Chapter Officers, which was printed in the introductory pages of the 'True Chart' he issued
three years later. The fact of its being in print
implied more than the document stated.
Cross continued to Philadelphia where
Webb, John Snow and others had gone to persuade Pennsylvania to join a coalition of Grand
Commanderies, an attempt which failed. Cross
was refused permission to lecture in Pennsylvania, where he reported tinding 'ignorance
and obstinacy'. Undaunted, he crossed the river
into New Jersey, visiting lodges there and in
Delaware enroute to Baltimore.
Here he conferred with Eckel, who invoked
'the authority in me vested' and gave Cross permission to confer the degrees of Royal and
Select Masters on any group of the essential
nine Royal Arch Masons wherever he traveled,
found a welcome and was successlul in
Striking out for the west he visited several
places in Pennsylvania and Ohio. A visit to
Lexington, Kentucky coincided with the
presence of Webb and John Snow perfecting
the organization of a Grand Chapter for the
state, and a local encampment of Knights
Templar. Cross found the atmosphere congenial, prolonged his visit, lectured and communicated the Council degrees. He visited
Madison, Indiana and St. Louis and then proceeded down the Mississippi.
At Natchez he spent twelve days and installed the officers of a Chapter which Benjamin
Gleason had congregated earlier in the year.
Pointedly he reported he did not confer the
order of High Priesthood as he 'did not possess
it regularly'. He was never elected to the top office in Lodge, Chapter or Commandery.
In New Orleans he was 'received and
acknowledged by the Consistory, presented
with a full and perfect set of all the degrees,
their histories, accompanied with the drawings,
emblems, seals, etc.'
On May 27, 1817 Cross was back in
Baltimore and now obtained 'authority' to
issue warrants to Councils he had organized or
might establish in the future. In a letter to Eckel
he wrote "There are so many of these little
Degrees that are given by anyone and in any
place which are of no consequence that the
Brethren have but little confidence in this unless
it has the appearance of some kind of sanction,
and I think those who receive it would not make
sufficient application to perfect themselves in
the History Work and Lectures unless there was
an inducement held out for an office in the
After a years absence and a brief visit to the
old homestead, in August he was again in
hospitable Hopkinton and then to Boston
where he established a Council and obtained
the degree of Knight Templar in an 'irregular
encampment'. At Providence he perfected
himself in the degrees of the Chapter with
Webb and 'rehearsed' the degrees of the Lodge
with grand lodge officers, Webb then being
Grand Master. At Hartford he found the
Grand Master and Grand Secretary 'lacked
Masonic fire' so on to New Haven, where he
conferred with Lynde about employment by the
Grand Chapter of Connecticut.
Again he headed south, going to New York
city by steamer, and then across New Jersey
and Delaware, leaving warrants in several
places and thus earning his passage money. He
arrived at Richmond early in December, attended a meeting of the 'working committee' of the
Grand Lodge and, on Christmas Day established a Council with John Dove as TIM. He mentioned a hotel bill of $8.75 for three days keep.
On his way north he organized a Council at
Dumfries, was at Fredericksburg for observance of St. Johns Day in December, visited the
Lodge at Alexandria and at Washington learned that Lynde had died. He continued to Connecticut in expectation that their agreement
would be honored. Waiting for Grand Chapter
in May, he made a swing around eastern Connecticut, warranting six Councils, noting that in
New London he 'rcd $55 for 7 days work'. At
Norwich he made the acquaintance of James
Cushman, of whom more later.
He now chose New Haven as his place of
residence and made his first business arrangements when he 'Agreed with Amos
Doolittle to engrave RA aprons and go 1/2 on
expense and profits'. After a tour of western
Connecticut he attended meetings of the Grand
Lodge and Grand Chapter.
Cross became a Grand Lecturer in 1818,
following appointment by the Grand Chapter
of Connecticut, each Chapter having been
assessed $20 to cover four days instruction. In
1819 he and Cushman were appointed Grand
Visitors, now to act under direction of the
grand officers, with a prescribed limit to their
expenses. For the next few years Cross sat pro
tem in different chairs at Grand Convocations,
reporting his activities as one of three Grand
Visitors. His last appointment was made in
1823 and no mention is made of him in Grand
Chapter records after 1826. However, his 'True
Chart' had been recommended and he was a
committeeman on such business as aprons, procurement of jewels, robes and certificates. Inexplicably his name is not on the membership list
of Franklin Chapter in New Haven.
At Grand Lodge in May 1818 he was appointed Grand Lecturer, an assessment of $10
was made on each lodge, with a recommendation that other (rival) lecturers not be
employed. A year later his accounts were 'liquidated' and he was directed to act thereafter
under orders from the Grand Officers. He is
listed immediately following the Grand
Secretary among those present in 1823, and was
installed while the office of Grand Lecturer was
proposed in a revision of the constitution, it
was omitted from the final version adopted in
1824, after which the name of Cross does not
appear in reports of Grand Communications.
He had affiliated with Hiram Lodge in 1818 but
became a charter member of Adelphi Lodge
when it was organized in New Haven in 1923.
He was never elected to any station in either, or
any lodge as far as known.
With less than a decade of official recognition Cross had acquired the 'R.W.' and 'G.L.'
which appear on his headstone. His reputation
was firmly established and there is plenty of
evidence to show that he continued to lecture
and instruct for the rest of his life. A pertinent
echo of sentiment among delegates to Grand
Lodge appears in the minutes of the session in
1842, when the appointment of a Grand Lecturer was proposed, considered and negatived,
experience with a former grand lecturer having
Cross had continued to 'sell' the degrees of
Royal and Select Master and had warranted as
many as eleven Councils in Connecticut before
delegates assembled on May 18, 1819 and
organized the first Grand Council in the world,
which has continued its existence and independence to the present day. Cross is not
recorded among those present at the organization meeting. He did serve as TIM of Harmony
Council in New Haven for eight years.
In Templar circles 1818 was an important
year for Cross. In September he had visited
Providence, was 'healed' in St. Johns Commandery and received the Order of Red Cross.
On October he affiliated with Washington
Commandery at a meeting in New London.
Here an arrangement was made with Henry Fowle, Deputy General Grand Master, for
publication of a 'Templars Chart', the silent
partner to have one third of the profits. Such
was his ability to memorize that a short time
later he was able to communicate the work in
'the valiant Orders of Knighthood' to Cushman
who later was active in Virginia Templary.
Although New Haven Commandery was
organized in 1825, Cross did not affiliate. His
few visits were connected with the design or
procurement of a uniform.
In December 1819 the 'True Masonic Chart
or Hieroglyphic Monitor' was copyrighted. The
foreword admitted that few changes had been
made in earlier texts of 'illustrations' by
Preston and Webb. But Cross included forty
pages of pictured emblems and from that time
his Monitor became so popular it ran through
sixteen editions in which Cross had an interest.
Webb had died in 1819 but his name and that of
Cross were used for years on pirated or 'improved editions' of their monitors.
The 'Monument' with such components as
the 'Weeping Virgin', 'Broken Column' and
'Father Time', often attributed to the inventive
genius of Cross and Doolittle, definitely was
not. The text of the lecture is in the cipher notes
of John Barney in the ritual as he obtained it
from Gleason at Boston in 1817 . An earlier and
much better engraving appears on a wall chart
published by 'Comp. H. Parmalee' in
Philadelphia under the title of 'Masonic Mirror
and Symbolic Chart' and for which a copyright
was secured in August 1818.
Cross did not abandon his lecturing entirely
but was going into business in a big way. He
had earlier sold aprons from a Providence
maker and arks from a Hartford builder. Now
he began to develop a system of production in
New Haven. His True Charts were being shipped all over the country which then had little
Masonry west of the Missouri and Mississippi
rivers. He supplied satin as well as leather
aprons, robes, capes and accessories. Doolittle
printed diplomas and Select ' flaps' . From
some of Cross' letters we learn about prices and
the extent of his business.
John Barker was another disciple of Cross.
He went to Charleston, South Carolina for his
health, became active in Masonic circles and
was appointed an agent of the Supreme Council
of the Ancient and Accepted Rite. Leaving
Virginia and North Carolina to Cushman.
Barker traveled throughout the south and disseminated the degrees of Royal and Select
Masters in several locations, the Supreme
Council having jurisdiction over the degrees
which were then considered detached or
'floating'. Barker knew that Cross had
numerous documents and miscellanea from the
Consistory in New Orleans, and worked out an
exchange, whereby Cross turned them all over
to the Supreme Council and in turn was rewarded with membership and a 33d degree patent.
Cushman as courier also received the degree.
Cross himself was never in Charleston.
Cross did not lecture in Massachusetts
lodges as Benjamin Gleason served there officially, nor in Rhode Island where Webb lived
several years. In Vermont neither his book nor
his work found favor. Pennsylvania was inhospitable, Maryland was Eckels territory. Except in New York city, Cross deferred to Salem
Town, although Wadsworth, Eno and Hayes
were named among his proteges. Ohio and
points west were left to Barney. This distribution of territory which existed, perhaps was
prearranged, gave rise to the idea that a 'Lecturers' Union' existed. One disgraceful action
in which collusion is apparent was the vicious
campaign against David Vinton.
The anti-Masonic frenzy, sparked by the
disappearance of William Morgan from
Batavia, NY in 1826, fostered by designing
politicians and uncomprehending ordained
critics of the fraternity, had its effect on Cross
and his supply business. New Haven was the
citadel of Freemasonry in Connecticut and
braced against the storm, but Jeremy felt that
New York city was a more fertile field, a better
shipping point from which to satisfy the great
demand in the southern states, and a more
favorable place for a man going into business as
wholesale paper dealer and publisher.
Cross signed the 1832 'Declaration of Principles' widely publicized in Massachusetts and
Connecticut. He then moved to New York city,
'entered into mercantile employ' and pro-
spered. He is listed in the city directory in 1834
and omitted 20 years later, having retired to
Haverhill in October 1853 . His parents were
dead and he lived with a spinster sister in the
old homestead. Cross never married, although
his diary occasionally hints at an interest in
some charming female, apparently never pursued or perhaps nor reciprocated. He left a con-
In New York city Masonry did not suffer as
much from the Morgan incident as from personality differences within Grand Lodge circles
and among the most contentious and disruptive
was Henry C. Atwood a 'favorite pupil of
Cross'. His ambitions and trouble making extended to the Ancient and Accepted Rite, and
Cross was persuaded to bring out his 33d
diploma and accept the spot as titular head of
the 'Atwood' Council. Other respectable individuals who had been named without being
consulted did not serve. Within a year Cross
was superseded, having insisted on Royal Arch
membership as a pre-requisite for admission,
and Templar Knighthood for advancement.
Jeremy took his Masonry into retirement
with him, encouraged the reactivation of Grafton Lodge in Haverhill, installed and instructed
the officers and was a regular attendant until a
few months before he died on January 26,
1860. His headstone memorializes a Right Worshipful Grand Lecturer and features an emblem
of the 33d degree. All very complimentary to a
'modest, devoted and influential Mason.' Still
more so is the epitaph which reads 'A Pattern
Son and Brother', one who was truly 'amiable,
distinguished and exemplary'.
Notes and further reading.
The 'History of the Cryptic Rite' by Hinman, Denslow and Hunt, prints the diary of
Jeremy Ladd Cross in the appendix. Reprints
of the Proceedings of the several Grand bodies
in Connecticut are basic references. Histories of
the Rite in North Carolina and Virginia are interesting reading. Authorized histories of the
Scottish Rite, both South and North, as well as
Folger's, are not always in agreement. An 'illustrated' twenty page biographical pamphlet
by Brother Case, compiled for the Grand
Lodge of New Hampshire in 1958, is out of
print. Entries in Masonic encyclopedias vary in
length and content.
NOTE: R.W. Bro. Case resides at Wells Apt.
302, 55 Masonic Ave., Wallingford, Conn.