The following history was reprinted with permission of:

Under the Auspices of:

The Grand Lodge of Alberta A.F. & A. M.

This paper and additional information was presented in The Internet Lodge of Research, GRA  on 15 May 2002 (showing how current the information is) by a visitor to Lodge
          Terry W. McCammon, Most Excellent Great Chief, 2002 - 2003, Knight Masons.

A History of Knight Masonry
in the United States of America

Douglas L. Jordan, Grand Scribe.1

The Arrival: 1932-1937:
The history of Knight Masonry in the United States of America starts in North Carolina, for it was in this State that the first three Councils were formed. J. Edward Allen, John Raymond Shute II, and Frederic F. Bahnson, all prominent in North Carolina Masonry in the 1930's, became interested in Masonry on the worldwide basis. The visit of Lord Cassillis, Grand Z of the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland, to North Carolina in 1931 furthered this interest. It appears from correspondence that J. Ray Shute and twenty others received the degrees of Royal Ark Mariner and Knight of the Sword during this visit. In February 1932, he requested charters from Scotland for three Councils of Knights of the Sword and Lodges of Royal Ark Mariners, certifying that he would properly confer the degrees. Charters were granted on 21 March 1932 to Councils and Lodges named Saint Andrew's in America No 1a in Monroe, Cassillis No 2a in Raleigh, and Howell No. 3a in Charlotte. The Lodges continue to exist today as Councils chartered under the Allied Masonic Degrees; however, the associated Councils of Knights of the Sword disappeared when the AMD charters were accepted.

In 1934 a group of leading American Masons became concerned with the possible suppression of Masonry in Europe. William Moseley Brown, Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, and J. Raymond Shute, Sovereign Grand Master of the Allied Masonic Degrees, were sent to Europe in 1934 as the representatives of this group with the intent of bringing some of the lesser known Masonic degrees to the United States. En route to Geneva, while in Dublin, they met J.H. Hamill, the Grand Scribe of the Grand Council of the Degrees of Knight of the Sword, Knight of the East, and Knight of the East and West (now the Grand Council of Knight Masons) who conferred these degrees on them on August 5, 1934. These were the same degrees as conferred in the Scottish Council of Knights of the Sword. On their return, Shute inquired of Dublin on how to introduce the Irish work into the United States. Grand Scribe J.H. Hamill replied on October 19, 1934: 

Personally it would seem to me that the most direct way of introducing our degrees to America is for you and six or seven others who got the Scottish degrees to apply to us for a Warrant. I would suggest that seven of you should sign one of the enclosed application forms and return it with a covering letter stating that the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross as conferred in your K.T. Commanderies and our degrees of Knight Masonry are quite different and distinct. 

This last sentence contained the sticking point since the North Carolinians did not have authority to speak for the Grand Encampment. On October 30, 1934, Shute submitted membership lists and names for three Councils: Saint Patrick's in America in Monroe, North Carolina, Shamrock, Thistle and Rose in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Harp, Cross and Eagle to be in Alexandria, Virginia. At the same time an application for a Provincial Grand Council was made with the following officers:      

Provincial Great Chief ...............................J. Ray Shute  
Provincial Deputy Great Chief...............J. Edward Allen 
Provincial Senior Grand Knight.. William Moseley Brown 
Provincial Junior Grand Knight.......Luther T. Hartsell, Jr. 
Provincial Grand Scribe......................Clarence J. West2
Provincial Grand Treasurer......................James W. Clift
Provincial Captain of the Guard.......Frederic F. Bahnson 

In his covering letter he states, "...we have 51 sovereign Grand Lodges in U.S.A.; to attempt to secure any approval in any national movement such as this will run into state discussions that will do nothing but hurt the matter and my suggestion is that you let us proceed with this matter to the best of our judgment, as we know just how to handle the situation." 

Hamill was not satisfied, and after reviewing a Knight Templar ritual provided by Shute, on February 20, 1935 he sent a letter to the Grand Encampment of the USA which ends, "I shall be glad to have an expression of opinion from your Knights Templar authorities with regard to the Illustrious Order of the Red Cross." As Shute had suggested to Hamill, the Grand Recorder of the Grand Encampment was unwilling to give such an opinion and suggested that it was a matter for Bro. Hamill to decide. 

On May 25, 1936 J. H. Hamill, writing officially to Allen, transmitted warrants dated May 20, 1936 for three Councils: Council #26 in Monroe, Council #27 in Raleigh, North Carolina, and Council #28 in Alexandria, Virginia. He held up on the Grand Provincial Council until the three Councils actually came into being. He also asked that the designated Excellent Chiefs of each Council to come to Dublin to be installed and the Councils constituted. 

Frederic M. Bahnson, designated to be Excellent Chief of Shamrock, Thistle and Rose Council #27 wrote J.H. Hamill in June 1936 concerning a planned trip to Europe in July. He suggested that while his family was visiting London he would go to Dublin, receive the degrees and be deputized to constitute the other Councils. Hamill's response on July 1, 1936 was a cablegram:



When his ship arrived in Southampton, Bahnson received a request from J.H. Hamill to visit Dublin. While there he paid the necessary warrant fees for the three new Councils and received the degree of Installed Chief. In reporting this to Allen, he suggested that funds be raised to invite the Deputy Great Chief and other officers to visit the U.S. as guests and confer the degrees. Allen recognized this suggestion as the best solution, although it would cost some money.3The next twelve months were spent in planning the events of the following summer.

On April 17, 1937, J.H. Hamill wrote that a commission of R.E. Sir Kt. E. H. Burne, Deputy Great Chief, accompanied by V.E. Sir Knights. T. J. Smalley, G.W. Hamill, F.E. Davies, A.H. Kirkpatrick and himself planned to come to America at the end of August or the beginning of September 1937 to constitute the three American Councils. J. Edward Allen, as Grand Commander of North Carolina, immediately sent an official letter to Dublin assuring them that a commission would be "heartily welcomed; that its purposes as stated are not in the least objected to but on the other hand that it is believed that the cause of Masonry in general will be promoted thereby." 

It was originally planned to locate Harp, Cross and Eagle Council at Alexandria, Virginia, with William Moseley Brown as Excellent Chief. However, Shute, Allen, and Bahnson determined that attempting to achieve a peaceful entry in more than one Masonic Grand Jurisdiction at a time would cause many difficulties. If all three Councils were in North Carolina and all the members residents of that state their combined influence in Masonic circles should be able to take care of those who believed that there were already enough Masonic organizations. In late May 1937 Shute proposed that the third Council be located in Allen's hometown, Warrenton, North Carolina, and the Grand Council ultimately accepted this.4

The itinerary was planned in detail during the summer, with particular efforts being taken to assure that the wives of the visitors would be well entertained. Bahnson and Allen met them in Washington on September 9th and drove them to Winston-Salem with stops at the Luray Caverns and Natural Bridge in the beautiful Valley of Virginia. From there they went to the Great Smoky Mountains. Then they returned to the Oxford (Masonic) Orphanage where they were entertained at an outdoor picnic with the children. Then on to Warrenton and Washington, North Carolina for a formal dinner at the Hotel Louise with toasts back and forth, customary in England and Ireland, but not in U.S.A. Then to the Masonic Lodge building in Washington, North Carolina where the degrees were actually conferred on 22 candidates and the Councils constituted on September 14, 1937.

At this time each Council was presented with a copy of the old trowel used by the Knights of the Sword in Ireland in laying the corner stone of the Parliament Building by the Grand Master of Ireland, and more recently used by the Supreme Council of the 33rd Degree in Ireland. It had been in constant use for over 120 years before our Councils were constituted. The wooden handles on these trowels came from Speakers Platform of the Irish House of Commons. 

The remainder of the year was occupied in assessing the results. There was a universal belief that there should be a Provincial Grand Superintendent to oversee the American Councils. The Grand Council agreed with the Americans in thinking of a nation wide organization but felt that the country was too large for a single Superintendent. Thus, on December 16, 1937 Frederic F. Bahnson was appointed Provincial Grand Superintendent for the USA, Southern Jurisdiction. The bounds of this "Southern Jurisdiction" would not be defined until 1946. 

II. The Bahnson Years: 1937-1944 
In a letter to Harold V.B. Voorhis in September 1938, Fred Bahnson expressed his philosophy as the Provincial Grand Superintendent: 

As representing Grand Council I have held my approval of all the names proposed, as I feel we should not rush to increase of membership. Membership is by invitation only, and we are anxious to select the membership with such discriminating care that it will always be considered an honor to be, or to be invited to become, a member of this group. That means that by starting slowly, we can easily establish proper precedent which should be almost impossible to acquire if we are less sure of what we do at the start.

There certainly was no rush to increase membership. Voorhis and Ward St. Clair had been proposed early in 1938, yet invitations were not extended until 1941. This inactivity led E.H. Burne, on the eve of his election as Chief, to write on September 6, 1940:

I have for many moons had in my thoughts my fine Brethren who hold in trust for our Grand Council 3 Warrants bearing good Irish names and many times I am asked how they are progressing. I would love to have something in the nature of a report that I could give to Grand Council at its November Meeting which  would give them an insight as to how the Brethren of the Order across the Atlantic are carrying on.

Bahnson found his solution was at the annual Masonic Meetings in Washington, D.C. On February 22, 1941, Harold V.B. Voorhis of New Jersey, Ward K. St. Clair and George O. Linkletter of New York and Clarence Brain of Oklahoma were initiated, and in July, Henry F. Evans of Colorado was added. Linkletter and St. Clair immediately set about starting a Council in New York. This was warranted on December 17, 1942 as Paumanok Council, No. 32, following a request submitted a year earlier. It was essentially inactive until 1945. 

The entry of the U.S. into World War II and Bahnson's ill health effectively ended activity by Knight Masons in America for the duration. Following Bahnson's death on March 18, 1944, J. Edward Allen was appointed Provincial Grand Superintendent for the Southern Jurisdiction on September 13, 1945.

III. The Allen-Shute Years: 1945-1950 
In 1945, Paumanok Council conferred the degrees on a class of six, and the following year added three more. In 1946, during the annual Masonic Week in Washington, D.C., the four Councils resumed the practice of a joint conferral of the degrees. Over the following three years, 51 members were added in this way. In addition, Paumanok Council initiated another 12 members at their meetings. Then in December 1949, J. Edward Allen resigned from his Masonic activities. 

This unexpected resignation had two consequences: 1) the Councils ceased to make new members for the next two years, and 2) it forced action on making Knight Masonry a nation-wide organization. On August 3, 1950, J. Raymond Shute, II was appointed Provincial Grand Superintendent for the Southern Jurisdiction, and Harold V.B. Voorhis was appointed Provincial Grand Superintendent for the Northern Jurisdiction. According to Voorhis, during the Masonic meetings in Washington in 1946, he and Allen drew a line across the United States defining the two jurisdictions. This map was provided by Voorhis to Shute and the Grand Council, and became the official alignment. At that time, the three original councils were in the Southern Jurisdiction, and only Paumanok Council No 32 in New York was in the Northern Jurisdiction. 

However, Shute was under heavy pressure at work. In November he suggested to Voorhis that the two jurisdictions be merged and Voorhis take over as Provincial Grand Superintendent for the USA. Voorhis agreed, and forwarded the suggestion to Dublin. Upon Shute's resignation on December 31, 1950, the change was accomplished. 

IV. The Voorhis Years: 1951-1967  
Voorhis had the objective of strengthening Knight Masonry in the United States by spreading the membership and the Councils across the country. During the next 17 years a pattern was established. New members were regularly initiated - an average of more than 75 each year. To support these, six new Councils were chartered: 

The Gateway to the West Council No 58         Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania         19 March 1951 
Kilwinning Council No 62                                 Zanesville, Ohio                    17 February 1954 
Erin Council No 63                                         Harrisburg, Pennsylvania        22 October 1957  
West Virginia Council No. 64                          Clarksburg, West Virginia      13 December 1958  
Kincora Council No 70                                    Denver, Colorado                 24 June 1961
Maryland Council No. 72                                 Maryland                              23 June 1965 

When the original Councils were chartered in North Carolina, the founders had insisted that there was no intention of breaking off from the Grand Council. However, by 1966, Bahnson was dead, while Allen and Shute were no longer active in Masonry. For the new leaders, the matter of independence from Ireland was simply a question of time. This led Voorhis on June 1, 1966 to write the Councils: 

At the next meeting of the Sir Knights in Washington, D.C. in February 1967, the matter of forming a Grand Council of Knight Masons in the United States will be discussed. I trust each Council will have their Excellent Chief, or a representative present to express an opinion.

By early July he had received enough response to cause him to write to the Great Chief, M.E. John H. Keers on July 2, 1966. In the letter he detailed the problems of administering a membership of over 1000 in ten Councils through a Grand Body so far removed from the U.S.A. After discussing the Annual Meeting in Washington, he concluded, "I am certain that at such a Convention meeting in 1967, we will form a Grand Council of K.M. for the U.S.A., issue them new Charters and elect Grand Officers." This initiated a period of tension as the Americans awaited the reaction of the Grand Council.

On July 14, 1966 a letter went to all Councils informing them that all the records had been transferred to Provincial Grand Scribe J. Landis Randall. Voorhis continued: 

After sending in your Annual Return, do not initiate ANY new members until after our next meeting in Washington, February 1967. The reason for this is that we contemplate the formation of a Grand Council, Knight Masons for the United States. In such an event new Charters will be issued to our ten Councils, among other changes. 

By the end of August he had completed the basic framework for new Grand Council. This included a draft set of Statutes, a slate of officers, and the preparation of forms for charters, certificates, and stationery. On September 1 a letter went to all Councils advising them of the status and requesting that they be in position to vote at the February meeting. The tension was relieved when on October 20, 1966 Grand Scribe James McC. Allen provided the official reaction to the proposed new Grand Council: 

If our members in the U.S.A. consider that their interests can best be served by a Grand Council of their own, we will be pleased to facilitate them and launch it with the dignity it deserves. 

V. Constituting a New Grand Council: February 18, 1967
The minutes record:

A Convention of the Provincial Grand Council of Knight Masons (Ireland) for the United States of America was called by the Provincial Superintendent R.E. Sir Knight Harold V.B. Voorhis for 3:00 p.m. on February 18, 1967 in the Hotel Washington, Washington,  D.C. for the purpose of organizing a Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America... 

Sir Knight John Ballinger seconded a motion by Sir Knight Bird H. Dolby and the representatives unanimously approved the formation of the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America.

After adopting a Constitution and Statutes, they elected as the first Grand Officers of the Grand Council of Knight Masons in the U.S.A.:

M.E. Harold Van Buren Voorhis (4) .................. Great Chief           1967,68 
R.E. Henry Emmerson (4)......................Deputy Great Chief             Gr.Ch.1970 
V.E. Murray C. Alexander (1)...............Grand Senior Knight            Gr.Ch.1969
V.E. William L. Ramsey (2) .................. Grand Junior Knight            Died 1970
V.E. J. Landis Randall (5)...............................   Grand Scribe            1975(H)
V.E. Edwin E. Gruener (5)......................... Grand Treasurer              Died1968 
V.E. Charles A. Harris (3) ..................Grand Senior Warden             Died 1980 
V.E. Robert L. Grubb (1).................... Grand Junior Warden             Gr.Ch.1971 
V.E. William J.J. Fleming (7)..Grand Director of Ceremonies             Gr.Ch.1972
V.E. Harry W. Bundy (8)................................. Grand Priest              Died 1967
V.E. Bird H. Dolby (9)................................. Grand Steward             Died 1970 
V.E. Andrew W. Drumheiser (5)................... Grand Sentinel             Gr Tr 1968 

The newly elected Great Chief installed his officers, but postponed his installation until it could be accomplished properly by representatives from Ireland.5 Charters were then issued to nine of the U.S. Councils. The Grand Lodge of Ohio had a law that any new Masonic bodies in Ohio required approval from the Grand Lodge. Approval could not be obtained at that time, and Kilwinning Council No. 62 remained under their original warrant from Ireland.6

Thus, at its Constitution the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the U.S.A. had nine active Councils and 872 members. At the Constitution meeting, Great Chief's Council No. 0 was chartered with Sir Knight DeWitt D. Sager of New Jersey as the first Excellent Chief. Its purpose is to receive in membership deserving Masons who live in areas in which no Council is chartered. Formerly, Paumanok Council had been receiving these as Associate Members, but this practice now ended and the Associate Members were enrolled as regular members either in Great Chief's Council or in some other Council as they desired. The actual paperwork to accomplish this occupied most of the ensuing year. 

As his first official act, the new Great Chief admitted Ill. George A. Newbury, 33, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Jurisdiction to membership in Great Chief's Council of the Knight Masons. 

VI. The Grand Council of Knight Masons in the U.S.A.: 1967 -1997 
Getting Organized: 1967-1968 
The records of the first year are filled with letters of the Grand Scribe, the Great Chief, the Grand Council in Dublin, and the American Councils as they rearranged their organization. It fell to the Grand Scribe, J. Landis Randall, to establish procedures and create forms for the administration of the new Grand Council. These activities included: devising subordinate Council by-laws, procuring regalia for the Grand Council and the new Great Chief, prodding the Ritual Committee to complete revisions to remove references to Ireland, procuring Council jewelry and regalia for sale to the American Councils, ordering new letterheads, charter forms, dispensation forms, membership cards etc., and answering questions from the Scribes of the various Councils including one who in November was still not sure if the Grand Council had been Constituted!7

In the midst of this activity, on June 7, 1967, a letter from Ireland informed the Americans that it would be necessary to return their original Warrants for cancellation. Otherwise the Councils would be liable for annual dues. Kincora Council No. 70 encountered a problem when their Scribe, Harry W. Bundy, who was also the Grand Priest, died on July 5, 1967 leaving the whereabouts of the Warrant a mystery. A Photostat copy was provided from the Grand Superintendent's records, and the Warrants were all canceled. New Charters were issued to the nine Councils in October.

 On February 17, 1968 the Grand Council met in Washington to review the work of its first year. Voorhis summarized the accomplishments: 

The new Grand Council closed (last year) to meet on February 17, 1968 with the necessary groundwork and business of organizing the Grand Council being placed in the hands of the Grand Officers. During the year 1967 new Charters were issued, proposed by-laws for the Grand Council were approved in Committee and the business of the Grand Council proceeded. During the year, dispensations for the formation of three new Councils were issued by the elected Most Excellent Great Chief Sir Knight Harold V. B. Voorhis and sent to the Committee on Charters and Dispensations for recommendation at the next meeting of the Grand Council. These Councils were Northern New Jersey Council UD located at Sussex, New Jersey, Southern New Jersey Council UD located at Glassboro, New Jersey, and Virginia Council UD located at Arlington, Virginia.

This first year of the Grand Council of the United States was a year of organization. The Councils proceeded to work and new members were knighted. The Grand Council showed a respectable growth for a new Grand Council and great promise lies ahead.

Voorhis also suggested, and the Grand Council agreed, that Honorary Membership be conferred on M.E. Great Chief John H. Keers, R.E. Grand Scribe James McC. Allen, V.E. Deputy Grand Scribe Arthur Mowlds, and V.E. Provincial Grand Superintendent (N.I.) Robert W. Stuart, in appreciation of the fine way they had helped in creating the new Grand Council. M.E. Great Chief Keers was also appointed Grand Representative by Voorhis.

 The loss of Kilwinning Council and its 282 members had been offset by the affiliation of the 207 former Associate Members and the rapid growth of the Maryland Council, so that 916 members were reported at this meeting. In addition, Charters were issued the three new Councils, and two others were placed under dispensation. Sir Knight Dewitt D. Sager was elected Grand Priest of the Council. The Grand Officers were properly invested with their Collars and Jewels and the Grand Council moved ahead into its second year. Later in the year, Voorhis appointed James R. Case of Connecticut as the Excellent Chief of Great Chief's Council. 

The year 1968 was marked by the death of two Grand Officers. The death of V.E. Dewitt D. Sager, Grand Priest on April 22 caused Grand Secretary Randall to comment, "The office has a spell on it to lose two in a row."8 Then on November 9, 1968 the Grand Council suffered a serious loss with the death of Grand Treasurer Edwin E. Gruener. As chairman of the By-Laws Committee he had labored diligently over the past year endeavoring to get the Councils to adopt reasonable by-laws.

Recognition: The Concordat
A major order of business for the Grand Council was to establish formal relations with the Mother Grand Council in Dublin. In January 1969 James McC. Allen, Grand Scribe in Dublin wrote: 

We are anxious to complete our recognition of the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America and have been in communication with the Supreme Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in Scotland to ensure that they will join with us in recognizing your Charters and Certificates. 

He also provided a draft "Concordat" to be considered at the February meeting. Because a strike had caused delay in the mails, the letter was not received until March 3, 1969, thereby preventing any consideration at the February meeting. Voorhis replied, in his last letter as Great Chief, that he saw no problem with the Concordat and suggested that it be dated and signed. 

Great Chief John H. Keers signed it at Freemasons Hall in Dublin on June 25, 1969, but the Grand Scribe delayed sending the approved document to the United States until October 9th when he was able to report that the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland had also agreed to its provisions. On October 15, 1969, Great Chief Murray C. Alexander signed and the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the United States of America became an officially recognized independent Masonic body. 

Although the Supreme Grand Royal Arch Chapter of Scotland joined in the Concordat, for some reason there was no direct fraternal correspondence between the two Grand bodies until 1996. During the summer of 1996 this omission was rectified and Grand Representatives were exchanged.


1The quotations in this history are taken from the documents in the archives of the Grand Council of Knight Masons of the U.S.A. References are provided as footnotes when the source is not obvious in the text. With the kind permission of M.E. Past Great Chief Otis Jones, extensive use has also been made of his Knight Masons, A History. While recognizing that the Grand Council has a worldwide jurisdiction, ease of reference has frequently forced the use of the word "Ireland" to distinguish it from the Grand Council in the U.S.A.
2West and Clift were never recorded as members of Knight Masons.
3Reported by J. Edward Allen in letter to J. Ray Shute dated July 30, 1936
4Brown did not affiliate with a Council in the U.S.A. until 1952, and no Council was chartered in Virginia until 1968.
5Because of the expenses involved, at the suggestion of Great Chief J. H. Keers, he was installed on April 12, 1967 by the Deputy Great Chief, V.E. Henry Emmerson a Past Grand Senior Warden of the Grand Council.
6In spite of the optimism of the persons involved, approval was not given until 1996.
7Voorhis' handwritten note was. "I don't understand this."
8Randall letter to Voorhis 24 January 1969

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