By T.S. Akers
Brigadier General Ewell L. Head, c. 1938
(From the Historical Annual National Guard of the State of Oklahoma 1938)
Many Masons have served in the military and in Oklahoma the Masonic Fraternity and our Nation’s Armed Forces often go hand in hand. For example, in December of 1917 over two-hundred soldiers from Camp Doniphan at Fort Sill journeyed to Guthrie to receive the degrees of the Scottish Rite.[i] When the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Oklahoma convened that same year, it was noted that a number of the Grand Officers were absent due to being in the service of their country. In what can only be described as an act of respect for their sacrifice, the absent officers were advanced to their next offices accordingly.[ii] One notable Oklahoma Mason who took up the profession of arms was Brigadier General Ewell Lewis Head.
Head was born in Quincy, Illinois, on March 17, 1880. He began his military career in 1897 when he enlisted in the Illinois National Guard. Head was mustered into federal service on April 25, 1898, serving as a corporal during the Spanish-American War. He remained with the Illinois National Guard after 1898 and was promoted to the rank of captain in the cavalry in 1902. Head moved to California for a period and continued his military service there with the California National Guard where he was appointed a lieutenant in the infantry in 1909. He only remained with the California National Guard for roughly a year.[iii]
Head ultimately made his way to Oklahoma and joined with the Oklahoma National Guard as a captain in Company A of the 2nd Oklahoma Infantry Regiment on August 31, 1918. He was promoted to the rank of major in March of 1919 and transferred to the 3rd Oklahoma Infantry Regiment.[iv] In 1921, the 3rd Oklahoma Infantry Regiment was re-designated the 180th Infantry Regiment with headquarters at Muskogee.[v] At that time, Head was made colonel and placed in command of the 180th Infantry Regiment. On March 17, 1936, Head was promoted to the rank of brigadier general and made commander of the 90th Infantry Brigade, headquartered in Oklahoma City.[vi] He retired from military service in 1939.[vii]
Colonel Head, c. 1921
(Courtesy of David Greenshields)
It was in Muskogee that Head made his home and operated a shoe store.[viii] He also became associated with Freemasonry once he arrived in Muskogee. Head was initiated an Entered Apprentice on December 12, 1917, in Oriental Lodge No. 430 AF&AM. He was passed to the degree of Fellowcraft the following month and raised to the degree of Master Mason on February 27, 1918. Head was appointed Senior Deacon of Oriental Lodge in 1919 and subsequently elected Junior Warden in 1920. For reasons that are unclear, he was forced to step away from holding office in Oriental Lodge; however, Head was again elected Junior Warden in 1940. He would serve as Worshipful Master of Oriental Lodge in 1942.[ix]
Head took the degrees of the Scottish Rite in McAlester during the Reunion of April 26-27, 1921.[x] By 1941, he had become a Past Commander of Muskogee Commandery No. 2 and was serving as a judge for Knights Templar field drills. Head held a position on the Work and Tactics Committee of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Oklahoma until 1953.[xi] Head was also active in the Bedouin Shrine of Muskogee, serving as Commandant of his Shrine unit at one point.[xii]
After years of devoted service to his country and the Masonic Fraternity, General Head died on June 17, 1956.[xiii] He was laid to rest in Memorial Park Cemetery of Muskogee, Oklahoma.[xiv]
[i] The Oklahoma Consistory 3, no. 1 (January 1918).
[ii] Charles E. Creager, History of Freemasonry in Oklahoma (Muskogee, Oklahoma: Muskogee Print Shop, 1935), 187-189.
[iii] Historical Annual National Guard of the State of Oklahoma 1938 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Army and Navy Publishing Co., 1938), 41.
[iv] Historical Annual National Guard of the State of Oklahoma 1938 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Army and Navy Publishing Co., 1938), 41.
[v] “180th Cavalry Regiment,” Center of Military History, last modified October 14, 2014, http://www.history.army.mil/html/forcestruc/lineages/branches/armor-cav/180cvrg.htm.
[vi] Historical Annual National Guard of the State of Oklahoma 1938 (Baton Rouge, Louisiana: Army and Navy Publishing Co., 1938), 41.
[vii] Official National Guard Register for 1939 (Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1940), 1026.
[viii] "United States Census, 1920," database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MJ9S-RCH : accessed May 22, 2016), Ewell L Head, Muskogee Ward 1, Muskogee, Oklahoma, United States; citing sheet 14A, NARA microfilm publication T625 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,821,477.
[ix] “Head, Ewell Lewis” (member profile, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma AF&AM).
[x] “Head, Ewell Lewis” (member profile, McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite).
[xi] Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Oklahoma, Proceedings of the 46th Annual Conclave (Oklahoma: 1941).
[xii] "The Many Uniforms of Gen. Ewell Head, 1897 - 1930's," U.S. Militaria Forum, accessed November 12, 2012, http://www.usmilitariaforum.com/forums/index.php?/topic/85859-the-many-uniforms-of-gen-ewell-head-1897-1930s.
[xiii] “Head, Ewell Lewis” (member profile, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma AF&AM).
[xiv] “Ewell Head,” Find A Grave, accessed May 8, 2016, http://findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=head&GSfn=ewell&GSbyrel=all&GSdy=1956&GSdyrel=in&GSst=38&GScntry=4&GSob=n&GRid=89801552&df=all&.