DR. ROB MORRIS
Master Builder of the Order of
the Eastern Star
Dr. 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.
Dr. 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.
While 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.
During 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 builded, established the
signs and passes, colors and emblems of the Order and promulgated the
fundamental principles which have remained unchanged through the years.
The first Ritual was compiled and published under the
title of "The Rosary of the Eastern Star."
In 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 States.
In 1860 the Constellation form of organization wits
discontinued and charters were issued for the organization of Families. In 1868
the Constellation and Families became lost except for their historical value.
In 1866 Dr. Morris became associated with Mr. Robert
McCoy, of New York City. Upon Mr. Morris' departure for the Holy Land he
transferred to Robert McCoy all the authority he had assumed and exercised in
planning the Order of the Eastern Star. Under Mr. McCoy’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.
In 1867 and 1868 Mr. McCoy 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 nationally. 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
Dr. 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.
He was an author of great ability and wrote numerous and
valuable works on Masonry and its kindred subjects.
The most popular of which were, “The Lights and Shadows of Masonry”
and “Free Masonry in the Holy Land.” He contributed to columns in almost
every Masonic publication.
He 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 arc still used by Chapters.
Aside 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
In 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 Masonry, he was
conceded to be one of the most versatile and learned Masons of his day.
In 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.
The crowning event in the career of this remarkable man
occurred in 1884 when over five hundred thousand 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 Bums, 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.
The 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 New York, Before the close of 1876
Grand Chapters were organized in California, Vermont, Indiana, Connecticut,
Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Massachusetts.
Meanwhile 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.
The 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.
Chapters have been organized subordinate to the General
Grand Chapter in Alaska, Aruba, Austria, Bermuda, Taiwan, Panama, Germany, Guam,
Hawaii, Japan, Mexico, Okinawa, Italy, Philippines and Saudi Arabia. The
membership in the Order numbers over one million members in over eight thousand
In 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.
The 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 granddaughter, Miss Ella
Morris Mount, Past Grand Matron and Grand Secretary of Kentucky.
Dr. 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.
The "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.
On 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 Star.
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. As 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
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