Rising to the Occasion
William Silas Whitehead of Newark, New Jersey,
was our Grand Master from 1864 to 1867. I never looked at him
without being struck by his resemblance to General Judson Kilpatrick,
the famous Cavalry General in the War for the Union. Each had
long mutton-chop whiskers, was slightly bald and wore at times
a sort of grim expression. The Grand Master, however, would have
made two or more of the dapper young officer, who, by-the-way
was a Major General at the age of twenty-eight years, the youngest
soldier in the Army who ever attained that distinction. Kilpatrick
was of medium size, a natty little fellow with a very small hand
and foot and a mouth of generous width and a voice that was as
musical and penetrating as the notes of a bugle.
The stature of Mr. Whitehead was six feet,
eight inches. This amazing height seemed still greater because
of a slight stoop of the massive shoulders. He officiated at the
dedication of the new Lodge Room of No.5 in Taylor Hall in 1867.
I recall his towering form as he moved gravely around the large
apartment, with Past Master William D. Sinclair as one of his
Aides: Sinclair --peace to the memory of the good man -- was about
the size of General Kilpatrick. As they turned the corner of the
room where Brother Bailey, the famous railroad Conductor, was
standing among the Members, he shook with silent laughter. He
tried in vain to repress it, when he caught a reproving glance
from Sinclair, as he was moving past him.
After the ceremonies were over, Baily sought
out Sinclair to apologize.
"I couldn't help it," he said,
"for you remind me of a poodle dog trotting at the side of
"And that's the way I felt," replied
Sinclair, "pleased with the fancy."
One night Grand Master Whitehead visited
a prominent theatre in New York. His seat was well toward the
front and the building was crowded. His head and shoulders were
so conspicuous that soon someone shouted, "Down in front!"
Others joined in the cry until fully a score of voices were heard.
Mr. Whitehead affected for a time not to hear the demand, but
it grew so insistent that he could not ignore it. Turning his
head and raising his hand for an appeal for silence, he called
"Gentlemen, to convince you that I
am sitting down, I'll now rise."
And he came slowly to his feet until his
astounding stature was fully revealed. Laughter and applause followed
and he was disturbed no more.
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