November 27, 2015

Historic Oklahoma Masonic Photo Archive

T.S. Akers surveys historic Templar photos

When I was conducting research for my book Knights on the Prairie: A History of Templary in Oklahoma in 2012, I made a startling discovery.  I quickly learned that the state of our Masonic photo archives across the state was actually quite poor.  Upon being appointed Curator of Collections at the McAlester Valley of the Ancient and Accept Scottish Rite in 2014, the reality of the condition of our Masonic photo archives was only further cemented.  I immediately knew that something had to be done to rectify this before our historic photos were lost.

It was in 2013 that the worst case scenario struck the Masonic bodies of Okmulgee.  After 87 years on the top floor of the McCullough Building, a fire considerably damaged the meeting hall of Gethsemane Commandery No. 25.  That particular Commandery of Knights Templar had a long history of award winning drill teams and possessed numerous photos of those famed drill teams.  Fortunately, the fire was reasonably contained and those historic photos were not lost.  Unfortunately, the fire forced Gethsemane Commandery No. 25 to consolidate with Muskogee Commandery No. 2 in 2014. 

Knowing that we were just one fire, tornado, or flood away from losing a great deal of our state’s Masonic history, I began to explore a partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society in 2015.  As Grand Captain General of Knights Templar of Oklahoma, I initially only sought to preserve historic Oklahoma Templar photos.  Our Grand High Priest of Royal Arch Masons, Clyde Schoolfield, also saw the benefit of this initiative; which expanded the project to preserve all historic York Rite photos.

To date, the partnership with the Oklahoma Historical Society has resulted in over 30 historic Masonic photos being preserved.  The photos are actually donated to the Oklahoma Historical Society, where they will be stored in perpetuity, who in turn scans the images.  The photos will be available to researchers through the Oklahoma Historical Society of course, but copies are also provided to the Grand York Rite bodies at no charge. 

To view the online archive please follow the link:  Oklahoma Masonic Photos

 1925 Templar Parade Marshals, Tulsa

1 comment:

  1. You do a great job Trasen. I loved seeing these old pictures. I'm sure there are many more out there of Commandery's that no longer exist, stored in dusty boxes and old file cabinets that will be lost someday if not rescued. We owe you a debt of thanks for doing this. Thanks for preserving our Oklahoma Yorkrite history.

    Mike Hampton