By T.S. Akers
(Originally written in 2009)
(Originally written in 2009)
It was in the 1870s that a young surveyor by the name of Abner E. Norman became the chainman of the central survey area of Indian Territory and was sent by the United States Land Office to gather the lay of the land. Norman’s crew burned the words “NORMAN’S CAMP” into an elm tree near a watering hole and when settlers arrived after the Land Run of 1889, they decided Norman was a fitting name for their new town situated just north of the Canadian River.[i]
With these early settlers came all the trappings of civilization, one of those being Freemasonry. In 1874, the Grand Lodge of Indian Territory was organized by the representatives of three Lodges at Caddo, Indian Territory.[ii] It is to this Grand Lodge that Norman Lodge #38 owes its first charter, issued on November 5, 1890.[iii]
With Lodges now residing in a new territory, the Oklahoma Territory, a petition was made to the Grand Lodge of Indian Territory by members from Guthrie Lodge #35, North Canadian Lodge #36, and Edmond Lodge #37 for the formation of a new Grand Lodge.[iv] Shortly after its creation in November, the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma Territory issued a new charter to Norman Lodge #5 on December 3, 1892.[v]
With statehood in 1907 came more changes for Norman Masonic Lodge. There were now two Grand Lodges operating in the newly formed state of Oklahoma and it was only a matter of time before they united. This merging of the two Grand Lodges came in 1909 and the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, of the State of Oklahoma came into existence.[vi] After the merger, a good number of the Lodges reverted back to the numbers originally given to them by the Grand Lodge of Indian Territory. Thus, Norman Lodge #38 was presented its last and most recent charter dated February 11, 1909.[vii]
Founded in 1890, the University of Oklahoma first comes to mind when one typically thinks of Norman, Oklahoma. The university was fortunate enough to have a guiding Masonic hand in its infancy. David Ross Boyd was appointed the first President of the University of Oklahoma and his legacy can still be seen across the Norman Campus today.[viii] During his tenure at the university, Boyd also enjoyed the brotherhood of Norman Masonic Lodge.
The University of Oklahoma also had another Masonic benefactor. Henry Lowndes Muldrow was the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma and an honorary member of Norman Masonic Lodge.[ix] Muldrow organized the Masonic Charity Foundation in 1930 and bestowed a gift of $300,000 to the university for the construction of a Masonic dormitory.[x] The dormitory is now modern day Whitehand Hall and serves as an office building. Muldrow’s involvement with the University of Oklahoma can also been seen on the northeast corner of Evans Hall, the Office of the President, where one of the first cornerstones was laid by the newly formed Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma.[xi]
In addition to the familial surroundings of the Lodge, Brethren studying at the University of Oklahoma, and later those simply interested in the Masonic Fraternity, had another source for brotherhood in Norman. The Acacia Fraternity was founded in 1909 and a chapter operated on campus from 1920 to 1971. Membership was originally limited to Master Masons, but the requirement was dropped in 1933. All told, 900 men were initiated into the Acacia chapter at the University of Oklahoma before it left campus. Today the Acacia Fraternity still maintains an informal spiritual tie to Freemasonry.[xii]
Acacia Fraternity House at the University of Oklahoma, c. 1943
Norman Masonic Lodge presently resides at 1700 North Porter in Norman where it meets in a beautiful Masonic Temple. The building was erected in the early 1970s. One of the principal forces behind the construction of the new temple was John Wesley Preble, who served as Grand Master in 1973.[xiii] Prior to the completion of the new temple, Norman Masonic Lodge met at the 200 block of East Comanche in Norman, next to what is the present day office of the Norman Transcript.
As Masonry began to grow in the newly formed State of Oklahoma, a variety of other Masonic Orders began to establish their presence. On March 12, 1898, Lion Chapter # 24 Royal Arch Masons was chartered and attached to Norman Masonic Lodge, though the name would later change to Norman Chapter in 1928.[xiv] In time, a Council of Cryptic Masons and a Commandery of Knights Templar were chartered in Norman in 1914. Today, the Norman Masonic Temple is not only home to these York Rite Bodies but also the Order of the Eastern Star, the Order of Amaranth, the Order of the White Shrine of Jerusalem, DeMolay International, Job’s Daughters International, and the International Order of Rainbow for Girls.
Founded in Indian Territory, helping to form the first Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, and then participating in the union of the two Grand Lodges, Freemasonry in Norman has weathered the storm and the brethren of Norman Lodge #38 AF&AM have left a lasting mark on "Norman’s Camp."
[i] “Our History,” City of Norman, <http://www.ci.norman.ok.us/our_history.htm>, Accessed 4 Oct. 2009.
[ii] “A Brief History of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge AF&AM of the State of Oklahoma,” Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, <http://www.gloklahoma.com/about.aspx>, Accessed 4 Oct. 2009.
[iii] Grand Lodge of Indian Territory, Charter, November 5, 1890, Private Collection, Norman Lodge #38, Norman, Oklahoma.
[iv] “A Brief History of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge AF&AM of the State of Oklahoma.”
[v] Grand Lodge of Oklahoma Territory, Charter, December 3, 1892, Private Collection, Norman Lodge #38, Norman, Oklahoma.
[vi] “A Brief History of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge AF&AM of the State of Oklahoma.”
[vii] Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma, Charter, February 11, 1909, Private Collection, Norman Lodge #38, Norman, Oklahoma.
[viii] “David Ross Boyd,” Oklahoma Historical Society’s Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, <http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/B/BO030.html>, Accessed 4 Oct. 2009.
[ix] “The Masonic History of Hal Muldrow,” The Muldrow Newsletter, <http://www.dallas.net/~mcmanus/muldrow/2k_3/m2n3p3.htm>, Accessed 5 Oct. 2009.
[x] Charles Evans, “Henry Lowndes Muldrow,” The Chronicles of Oklahoma 4 (January 1951): 397.
[xi] Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma, Cornerstone, November 16, 1909, Evans Hall, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma.
[xii] Keith Bushey, Assistant Executive Director, Acacia Fraternity, Telephone Interview, October 7, 2009.
[xiii] “Past Grand Masters,” Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, <http://www.okmasons.org/past-grand-masters.aspx>, Accessed 5 Oct. 2009.
[xiv] Lion Chapter #24 Royal Arch Masons, Chapter Penny, March 12, 1898, Private Collection, Trasen S. Akers, Norman, Oklahoma.