A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE ORDER OF THE EASTER STAR
The history of the Order of the Eastern Star is divided into three Periods:
1. Period I extended from 1850 to 1866, under the leadership of Dr. Rob Morris, Poet Laureate of Masonry.
2. Period II extended from 1866 to 1876, under the leadership of Robert Macoy of New York.
3. Period III extends from 1876, when the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, was established to the present time.
As to the real origin of the Eastern Star degrees in its Initiatory form, there is no doubt that the honor belongs to Dr. Rob Morris during Period I.
Rob Morris, Founder of OES
Never satisfied that all the good in Masonry should be confined to men, with a little encouragement from his wife, Charlotte, Dr. Morris felt that Masonry should be for the whole family. But by the laws of that Ancient Order, women were not eligible for its degrees. Knowing he could not change the Ancient Landmarks of Masonry, Dr. Morris sought some method by which women could share with the Masonic Brother the same inspiration that “prompts man to noble deeds.”
It wasn’t until 1850, while confined to his home after an accident, that Dr. Morris fully developed the Eastern Star Degrees in their present initiatory form.
During this time, he carefully thought out the symbolism and significance of the floor plan and the corps of officers. He conferred the degrees upon his wife and daughters, and some neighbors, presumably having an idea to clothe the ladies with certain words or signs whereby they might make themselves known to Master Masons.
Dr. Morris set down the principles of the order in his Rosary of the Eastern Star. By 1855, he had organized a “Supreme Constellation” in New York, which chartered chapters throughout the United States.
These signs and so-called mysteries of the Order were communicated freely to all Master Masons and their relatives. Dr. Morris and other prominent Master Masons gave many lectures and conferred the degrees on many white ladies throughout the nation.
In 1866, Dr. Morris started working with Robert Macoy and handed the Order over to him while he traveled in the Holy Land. Macoy organized the current system of Chapters, and modified Dr. Morris’ Rosary into a Ritual.
Establishing The Order Of The Eastern Star, P.H.A.
In 1874, Grand Master Myers found himself wrestling with a decision to grant or deny permission for the establishment of the Adoptive Rite for women of color. There were many who were opposed to any decision to grant permission for the establishment of the Adoptive Rite for women of color in the District of Columbia. He finally granted permission for Sir Thornton A. Jackson 33° and his colleagues to establish the first Chapter of Adoptive Rite, Order of the Eastern Star among women of color in United States.
Sir Thornton Andrew Jackson 33° like Rob Morris felt that women of color, also, needed to be able to join a sister organization to the brothers. On August 10, 1874, Sir Thornton Andrew Jackson 33° received the several degrees of the Rite of Adoption of the Order of the Eastern Star from Brother C. B. Case, a Deputy and agent of Illustrious Robert Macoy 33°, Supreme Patron of the Rite of Adoption of the World. In addition, Sir Thornton A. Jackson 33° also received a letter from Brother C. B. Case granting him the authority to establish chapters of the Order of Eastern Star among eligible black women. In audience to the authority granted by Grand Master William H. Myers, Union Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, Sir Thornton Andrew Jackson 33° established the first Eastern Star Chapter among women of color in the United States.
Mrs. Georgiana Thomas, a lady of color, had long dreamed of an Eastern Star Chapter and when Sir Thornton A. Jackson approached her about establishing a Chapter she realized that her dream for Queen Esther Chapter was in reach of becoming a reality.
On Wednesday, December 1, 1874, Mrs. Georgiana Henson Thomas opened the doors of her home at 708 0 Street, N.W., Washington D.C. and witnessed the establishment of Queen Esther Chapter No.1. And so it was 90 years after the founding of the first Black Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons that Queen Esther Chapter No.1, Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliation was officially instituted and began the first chapter of the Adoptive Rite among ladies of color. The first Worthy Matron was Sister Martha Welch and the first Worthy Patron was Brother Thornton A. Jackson.
Grand Master William H. Myers and Deputy Grand Master William A. Taliaferro, Union Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, were also invited to receive the degrees. They both accepted, thus further cementing the ties that bind the Masonic family together.
Upon the occasion of Grand Master Myers’ initiation into the Adoptive Rite, he made the following statement to the sisters of Queen Esther Chapter No.1-extolling them to greatness:
“May the dove of peace hover over you. May the All Seeing Eye, whom the Sun, Moon and Stars obey ever watch over you. May he keep and protect you in your every effort to promote interests in the general good of this chapter.”
In 1875, Pythagoras Lodge NO.9 presented the officers of Queen Esther Chapter No.1 with their first badges, which were known as Rosettes. Worthy Patron Thornton A. Jackson who wished the chapter success and prosperity in the work upon which they were entering made this presentation. He encouraged the officers to wear the Rosettes with dignity keeping ever before them the memory of the five Heroines: Adah, Ruth, Esther, Martha and Electa.
In closing, Brother Jackson stated “To you Queen Esther Chapter and Associates, the representatives of the rays of the beautiful star and from whom comes the most charming, the most prophetic and the most instructive lessons of the Old and New Testaments. May you always through an air of beauty and solemnity around all that you bring thousands to worship Him.” This has been the charge as bona fide members of the Order of Eastern Stars since 1875.
In 1890, Queen of Sheba Chapter No.2 and Gethsemane Chapter No.3, Order of the Eastern Star was established by Thornton A. Jackson within the Jurisdiction of the District of Columbia. Further, he helped to establish one chapter in Alexandria, Virginia; three chapters in Maryland; and three chapters in Pennsylvania.
In each instance when a chapter was organized and established, a regularly constituted Masonic Lodge adopted it and became its Protective Lodge. For is it not the job of the father, brother, and husband to protect their sister, daughter, wife, mother, and widows? Thus, Brother Jackson was able to bring about more unity within the Masonic Family.
On May 24, 1892, Queen Esther Chapter No.1, Queen of Sheba Chapter No.2, Gethsemane Chapter No.3, located in Washington, DC; and Electa Chapter No.2, Queen Esther Chapter No. 5, and Queen of Sheba Chapter No.6 located in the State of Maryland, held a Convention for the purpose of organizing a Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star for the District of Columbia and Its Jurisdiction.
The convention, composed of the duly accredited delegates and representatives from the above- named Chapters, assembled at 708 0 Street, NW, Washington, DC in the Chapter Room of Queen of Sheba Chapter No.2 and after deliberation did form the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star or Adoptive Rite of Free Masonry for the District of Columbia and its Jurisdiction.
From 1892 to 1955, the Grand body of the Eastern Star of this city was known as the Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star for the District of Columbia. In 1955, this Grand Chapter was renamed the Georgiana Thomas Grand Chapter, O.E.S., P.HA, for the District of Columbia and Jurisdiction, as a tribute, in honor of its first Worthy Grand Matron, Georgiana Henson Thomas.
They chose the name of Georgianna Thomas Grand Chapter because of the commitment of Georgiana Henson Thomas to the Order. She was one of the sixty-three (63) founders of the Plymouth Congregational Church where she served as a Deaconess until her death. She served as the first Grand Royal Matron of the Grand Chapter of the District of Columbia from 1892-1894. Georgiana Henson Thomas also served as the Grand Representative near the Grand East of Illinois in 1904. She passed away in July 1941 at the age of ninety-nine.
International Conference of the Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, August 18th – 21st, 1935.
Georgiana Thomas seated in the front.
The Adoptive Rite, Order of the Eastern Star has experienced phenomenal growth since its inception on Wednesday, December 1, 1874. Today there are forty-four (44) Grand Chapters dispersed throughout the United States, Canada, Liberia, and the Commonwealth of the Bahamas and the recently formed Grand Chapter of the Caribbean. All of these Grand Chapters are basking under the umbrella of the Grand Lodge in whose jurisdiction they were organized. History has recorded and indicates there now exist approximately three thousand five hundred ninety-three (3,593) constituent chapters and approximately one hundred eighty thousand seven hundred and nine (180,709) in membership all within the frame work of these Grand Chapters.
Myra Grand Chapter
In pursuance of a call by Electa Chapter No. 2 (now Electa Chapter No. 1) Baltimore City, instituted May 1876; Queen Esther Chapter No.5 (now Queen Esther Chapter No.2) Frederick, Maryland, instituted May 24, 1882; Queen of Sheba Chapter No.6 (now Queen of Sheba No.3) Baltimore City instituted August 10, 1874; and Bathsheba Chapter No.7 (now Bathsheba No.4) Nanticoke, Maryland, instituted November 26, 1895 assembled in the new Samaritan Temple at Calvert and Saratoga Streets, Baltimore City, Maryland on Thursday, November 26, 1896 and after mature deliberation did organize and form a Grand Chapter Adoptive Rite, Order of the Eastern Star for the State of Maryland and Its Jurisdiction.
The Convention was called to order at 12 o’clock noon, November 26, 1896, by J. Murray Ralph of Electa Chapter No.2, now No.1, who read the following call.
“Whereas, it is in the province of every State to have a Grand Chapter whenever there shall exist not less than three (3) legally Constituted Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star within the said State and,
Whereas, there do now exist four (4) Chapters in the State of Maryland therefore,
Resolved: That we do organize a Grand Chapter for the State of Maryland and its Jurisdiction, that all chapters represented at the Convention holding charters by the Grand Chapter of Maryland when formed at a nominal cost for the same.”
On the motion of Brother Arthur Thompson, the Convention proceeded to the election of officers for the Grand Chapter of Maryland after which, on motion of Brother Arthur Thompson, the Convention adjourned.
The Grand Chapter, O.E.S. for the State of Maryland was opened by Royal Grand Patron John N. Hunt of the Georgianna Thomas Grand Chapter of the District of Columbia assisted by P.P. James O. Bampfield, 33rd degree, and the members of the Georgianna Thomas Grand Chapter, Jurisdiction of District of Columbia. Sir J. N. Hunt then installed the following as Grand Officers- Elect for the ensuing year:
Sister Harriet Blake, Royal Grand Matron
Brother Blake Downs, Royal Grand Patron
Sister Elizabeth Scroggins, Royal Associate Grand Matron
Brother Samuel E. Young, Royal Associate Grand Patron
Sister Mary E. Jackson, Grand Treasurer
Brother J. Murray Ralph, Grand Secretary
Sister Elizabeth Jones, Grand Conductress
Sister Rosa J. Richardson, Grand Associate Conductress
Sister Anna Mackey, Grand Warder
Brother Arthur Thompson, Grand Chaplain
Brother Richard H. Freeman, Grand Worthy Lecturer
Sister Annie White, Grand Adah
Sister Gussie Rideout, Grand Ruth
Sister Mary A. Gross, Grand Esther
Sister Martha E. Cummings, Grand Martha
Sister Priscilla Nichols, Grand Electa
Brother George I. Rideout, Grand Sentinel
In 1928, during the administration of Worthy Grand Matron Marietta Stewart and Worthy Grand Patron Charles W. Simms, a recommendation was submitted to change the name from the Grand Chapter of the State of Maryland to Myra Grand Chapter, O.E.S., P.H.A. and Its Jurisdiction. The recommendation was tabled for one year and was adopted in 1929.
Myra Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, P.H.A. grew steadily since its beginning on November 26, 1896. In 1996, we consisted of fifty-six (56) chartered chapters and nine (9) Districts. Forty-one (41) chapters in Maryland and fifteen (15) located Europe. The districts in the State of Maryland were District No.1 with ten (10) chapters; District No.2 with seven (7) chapters; District No.3 with five (5) chapters; District NO.4 with five (5) chapters; District No.5 with six (6) chapters; District NO.6 with three (3) chapters; District NO.7 with five (5) chapters; District NO.8 comprising Germany, the Netherlands, and Italy with fourteen (14) chapters and District NO.9 in England has one (1) chapter.
A recommendation approved in the Annual Communication of November 1972, granted Myra Grand Chapter permission to establish a holding chapter for our military members who rotate to the States. The name of this chapter is Myra Military Chapter No. 82. It is located in Baltimore at the Willard W. Allen Masonic Temple and was chartered in January 1973.
Today in 2016, the year of our 120th Anniversary, we have experienced declining growth in our membership. Due to the deployment of military members back to the United States, our military chapters overseas have been closed or declared inactive, as well as Myra Grand Chapter’s Military Holding Chapter. Presently, we only have thirty-one (31) active chapters here in Maryland versus the fifty-six (56) chartered chapters we had in 1996. District No.1 has nine (9) chapters; District No.2 has seven (7) chapters; District No.3 has three (3); District NO.4 has four (4) chapters; District NO.5 has three (3); and District No.7 has five (5) chapters. District No.6 chapters were combined with District NO.2. Due to the age of members and lack of participation, Myra Grand Chapter is actively recruiting new members and modernizing our organization to compete and thrive in the 21st century.
Since 1896 there have been seventy-five (75) Sisters who served Myra Grand Chapter in the leadership role as Grand Worthy Matron and seventy (70) brothers who have served as Grand Worthy Patron. Additionally, seventeen (17) Sisters and Brothers have received the illustrious title of “Honorary” Past Grand Worthy Matron and Past Grand Worthy Patron for outstanding service rendered to the Grand Chapter.
Myra Grand Chapter has been blessed for 120 years with outstanding leadership from our Grand Matrons and Grand Patrons. Over the years the title has changed from Royal Grand Matron and Royal Grand Patron to Grand Worthy Matron and Grand Worthy Patron, but the diligence required for the job has been the same. Upholding our belief in God; the gift of benevolence; the pride of providing service to our community; the spirit of giving; and loving kindness will sustain our beliefs and give us the foresight to send these beliefs out into the world, so that others may see what the Order of the Eastern Star is about and strive to emulate and join us in the future.
Harriett A. Blake
First Royal Grand Matron Myra Grand Chapter, OES, PHA