September 19, 2023

Recreating an Oklahoma Templar Jewel

 By T.S. Akers

This article was originally published in Volume 69, Issue No. 4 of the Knight Templar magazine.
The history of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Oklahoma is unique in that like the state of Oklahoma, it was born of two territories. Templary first arrived in what became the state of Oklahoma at Guthrie in the Oklahoma Territory. It was there on the 12th of July, 1890, that a group of Sir Knights were granted a dispensation to form a commandery of Knights Templar. They received their charter in 1892, becoming Guthrie Commandery No. 1.[1] The man who served as their first Eminent Commander was Cassius M. Barnes, a Union army veteran who later became the fourth territorial governor.[2] About the same time, Templary also arrived in the Indian Territory at Muskogee. On the 1st of October, 1891, Sir Knights in that city were granted a dispensation to form a commandery. Muskogee Commandery No. 1 was also chartered in 1892, during Twenty-Fifth Triennial Conclave of the Grand Encampment at Denver, the same as Guthrie Commandery.[3] Muskogee Commandery’s first eminent commander was Robert W. Hill, a Presbyterian minister who had been knighted in Guthrie Commandery in 1890.[4]

With the establishment of additional commanderies in each of the Twin Territories, as the Indian and Oklahoma Territories have come to be known, the decision to form grand commanderies was soon made. This first happened in the Indian Territory when on the 27th of December, 1895, the three commanderies of Muskogee No. 1, Chickasaw No. 2 at Purcell, and McAlester No. 3 formed the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of the Indian Territory. They selected Robert W. Hill as their first Grand Commander. Oklahoma Territory followed suit in forming a grand commandery on the 10th of February, 1896, consisting of the commanderies of Guthrie No. 1, Oklahoma No. 2 at Oklahoma City, and Ascension No. 3 at El Reno. The first Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Oklahoma was Cassius M. Barnes.[5]

The two grand commanderies marched forth in parallel lines in the years leading up to statehood, each enjoying growth in membership. Through her years of existence, the Grand Commandery of the Indian Territory consisted of a total of fourteen commanderies and her Oklahoma counterpart boasted twenty-one.[6] It was in 1907 that the Twin Territories were admitted into the Union as the state of Oklahoma; however, this is not how it was meant to be. The creation of the “Unassigned Lands” that became the Oklahoma Territory goes back to the Reconstruction Treaties of 1866, which were meant to punish the Five Tribes for their alliance with the Confederacy. These treaties reduced land holdings for the Five Tribes and that land was then in turn used as reservations for other Indian nations. The land that was thus not assigned was opened for non-native settlement by land run in 1889.[7] The 1890s saw further efforts to eliminate tribal sovereignty for the Five Tribes with the Dawes Commission, which ended communal land ownership, and the Curtis Act, which eliminated tribal governments beginning in 1905. It had been the popular belief that Oklahoma Territory would become its own state. Leading tribal headmen in the Indian Territory (the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muscogee, and Seminole Nations comprised the Indian Territory) had hoped to form a state of their own, the state of Sequoyah, and held conventions do to so in 1905. Unfortunately, Congress refused to hear any bills on Sequoyah statehood and the reason was entirely political. The Republican controlled Congress of the day had no interest in admitting a state to the Union that was heavily Democratic.[8]

With statehood came the existence of two grand lodges within one state, which was an issue that required attention. The grand commanderies of the Twin Territories watched as the necessary negotiations took place and details were arranged for the Grand Lodges of the Indian Territory and Oklahoma to consolidate into the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma. This consolidation was completed on the 10th of February, 1909.[9] For the other Masonic institutions that comprised the landscape of Freemasonry in the new state, only Templary and the Eastern Star found it necessary to consolidate grand jurisdictions, as they were the only other entities that operated under two territorial jurisdictions. For Templary though, that consolidation took some time. In 1908, the Grand Commander of Oklahoma Territory commented on how the state now existed with two grand bodies in its borders, stating “that ought not to prevail.” The year also saw the Sir Knights of the Indian Territory consider a motion to consolidate at their annual conclave, with the Grand Master of the Grand Encampment in attendance. The motion failed to garner the necessary two-thirds of the vote to proceed.[10] This is interesting, as consolidation for the two grand lodges was progressing, but perhaps as that had not yet occurred, the membership had a desire to wait. In took urging from the Grand Master of the Grand Encampment in 1911 to bring about consolidation for the two grand commanderies, which was finally realized on the 6th of October that year.[11] An important piece that is often overlooked here is how the grand commanderies of the Twin Territories became one. The Templar grand jurisdiction of Oklahoma Territory was simply known as the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Oklahoma; similarly, it was also the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma there. This is why the consolidated grand lodge became the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma. When Grand Master William B. Melish of the Grand Encampment presided over the consolidation of the two grand commanderies, he declared the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of the Indian Territory “closed without day forever,” thus folding it into the Grand Commandery of Oklahoma.[12]
Indian Territory Past Grand Commander jewel of Daniel M. Hailey, c. 1903.
(From the author's collection)

During her years of existence, the Grand Commandery of the Indian Territory created a special jewel to present to its Past Grand Commanders. Those jewels were of 10K gold, in the form of a passion cross. On the upper arms of the cross were the letters P, G, and C for Past Grand Commander. On the lower arm was an engraved American Indian figure with the letters TER for the Indian Territory. Only three of these jewels are known to exist today.

It does not appear that during her existence as solely a territorial jurisdiction that the Grand Commandery of Oklahoma created a Past Grand Commander jewel. After the consolidation of the two grand commanderies in 1911 though, this looks to have changed. There is a photo of Past Grand Commander DeForest F. Leach (1897-1898) wearing an Oklahoma jewel, but he also wears a 1910 triennial jewel, which likely dates the image to after consolidation. The earliest known jewel still in existence dates to 1913.
Oklahoma Past Grand Commander Jewel of Rennie L. Moore, c. 1956.
(From the collections of the McAlester Scottish Rite)
The jewel that was created may have been produced by R.M. Johnson & Son, Masonic Jewelers of Chicago. This belief stems from the dies of their work being very similar to that of the Oklahoma Past Grand Commander jewel and the fact that Past Grand Master jewels were being acquired from them. The jewels, which were originally of 10K gold, were quite large, measuring around 6 inches in length and weighing roughly 50 grams. The upper bar of the jewel bears the words “Past Grand” with banners that were engraved with the years denoting the Past Grand Commander’s term of office. From this bar a disc is suspended which bears the central image of the Great Seal of the State of Oklahoma, which originally appeared on the seal of Oklahoma Territory. It contains the state motto "Labor Omnia Vincit" or "Labor Conquers All Things." Columbia is the central figure, representing justice and statehood. She is surrounded by a pioneer and an American Indian shaking hands, which symbolizes equality. Beneath the three figures is the cornucopia of plenty. The sun of progress is situated behind them. From the upper bar of the jewel is also suspended a second bar which reads “Commander” in the same bold letters as the upper bar. From this second bar is suspended a striking medallion in the form of a Maltese cross with crown and crossed swords. In the center is a purple Templar cross behind a shield in black and white. The shield bears a passion cross in red stones.

These impressive and unique Past Grand Commander jewels were presented to Oklahoma Sir Knights who held that office through the 1970s, though it is unclear when they stopped being produced and later examples were gold plated. There are around twenty-one of these jewels in existence and one came up for sale in 2011 for around $2,000, which was purchased by the Grand Commandery Knights Templar of Oklahoma. Of these known surviving jewels, one is held in a private collection and one is in a museum collection. The other nineteen jewels are currently in circulation with living Past Grand Commanders who wear them until their passing, at which time their survivors are to return the jewels to the Grand Commandery of Oklahoma.

Whilst it is a good thing to have more living Past Grand Commanders than historic jewels available for them, it also creates a problem, as no jewels currently being produced are of the same quality and uniqueness as Oklahoma’s original jewels. The year 2022 saw this all change with an idea that originated at All Masonic Week in Washington, D.C. A retailer there had a jewel for sale that was based on Florida’s Grand Commander jewel, which featured a crowned Maltese cross strikingly like Oklahoma’s jewels. On seeing these jewels, a proposal was submitted to John Bridegroom of The Masters Craft to recreate Oklahoma’s original Past Grand Commander jewels. Many emails were exchanged to get each detail correct, but an exquisite and true to the original jewel was ultimately produced. These new jewels are something every Oklahoma Past Grand Commander can be proud to wear for years to come.
Recreated Oklahoma Past Grand Commander jewel, produced by The Masters Craft.

[1]  T.S. Akers, "The Commanderies of Oklahoma," Oklahoma Masonic History, last modified December 12, 2013,
[2]  Dianna Everett, "Barnes, Cassius McDonald (1845-1925)," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed December 23, 2021,
[3]  Akers, "The Commanderies of Oklahoma.”
[4]  T.S. Akers, The Grand High Priests of Oklahoma Royal Arch Masonry (Oklahoma City: Akers and Sons, 2019), 13.
[5]  T.S. Akers, Knights on the Prairie: A History of Templary in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Akers and Sons, 2018), 5-9.
[6]  Akers, Knights on the Prairie: A History of Templary in Oklahoma, 106-107.
[7]  Bob L. Blackburn, "Unassigned Lands," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed December 23, 2021,
[8]  T.S. Akers, "Three Grand Lodges, One State: How Oklahoma Came to Be," Oklahoma Masonic History, last modified September 1, 2022,
[9]  Akers, "Three Grand Lodges, One State: How Oklahoma Came to Be.”
[10]  Akers, Knights on the Prairie: A History of Templary in Oklahoma, 22.
[11]  Ibid., 22.
[12]  Ibid., 23.

July 24, 2023

Three Grand Lodges, One State: How Oklahoma Came to Be

By T.S. Akers

 This article was originally published in Issue No. 59 of the Journal of the Masonic Society

Oklahoma has been home to three grand lodges of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons. Interestingly, the state of Oklahoma itself was assembled from three different areas: the Indian Territory, No Man’s Land, and Oklahoma Territory. Beginning in the late 1820s, citizens of the Five Tribes (the Muscogee, Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Seminole) were forced west of the Mississippi River by the federal government. At that time, their new designated lands ran from the western border of Arkansas to the eastern boarder of Texas. Since the Missouri Compromise of 1820 prohibited slavery north of the thirty-sixth parallel, Texas surrendered a 168 x 34 mile-wide strip of land it had claimed since declaring independence, so that it could join the Union in 1845.[2] The area was often noted as “Public Land” on government maps, but became more commonly known as “No Man’s Land” as it remained unattached to any government until 1890.[2] It was in that year that the Oklahoma Territory was formed, which is directly linked to the reconstruction treaties with the Five Tribes that were entered into in 1866. These punitive treaties imposed upon the Five Tribes for aligning with the Confederacy resulted in the western half of Five Tribes’ land being ceded to the federal government.[3] Punitive treaties, such as these, were nothing new for the Muscogees for example, who suffered forced land reductions in 1790 and 1814.[4] Though the Indian Territory likely could have, and should have, stood on its own as the state of Sequoyah with the wealth of the coal and oil fields in the region, it was from that territory, along with the Public Land, and Oklahoma Territory that the state of Oklahoma was organized in 1907. Both twin territories that became Oklahoma were fertile places for the spread of Freemasonry, and that growth led to grand lodges in each territory; grand lodges which ultimately created a new grand lodge following statehood.

Whilst the reconstruction treaties of 1866 have had lasting repercussions in Oklahoma today, they had very little impact on the lives of Five Tribes citizens then. Few Muscogees or Cherokees ventured to the western end of their lands, as they first encountered the existing Osage before other Plains tribes; similarly, virtually no Chickasaw citizen lived west of the Cross Timbers due to the Plains tribes. The federal government ended up leasing the land between the 100th and 98th meridians from the Chickasaws in 1855, known as the Leased District, to be used as reservation land for the Plains tribes. Further to the west was Greer County, created by Texas, and an area in dispute.[5] It was in the Leased District, on the Kiowa Reservation, that Freemasonry began to creep from the boundary of the Indian Territory. With charters obtained from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, Freemasonry quickly began to grow and prosper amongst the Five Tribes, leading to the formation of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory in 1874. Though outside of the bounds of the Chickasaw Nation, and thus outside of the Indian Territory, it was not a serious stretch for the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory to grant a dispensation for a lodge to form on the Kiowa Reservation. It was, after all, still Indian country. On May 15, 1884, Grand Master Edmond H. Doyle granted a dispensation for the formation of a lodge at Anadarko.[6] That lodge was chartered a few short months later on the 5th of November as the twenty-first lodge on the rolls of the Indian Territory and had sixteen Masons among its ranks by 1885.[7]

The year 1889 would see an event occur that has come to define Oklahoma’s identity. People outside of Oklahoma may not know much about the state, but if one mentions the Oklahoma Sooners, they are likely familiar with that college football legacy. It is the Land Run of 1889 which brought forth the Boomers and Sooners of present-day Oklahoma fame. The Boomers being those advocating for the opening of the “Unassigned Lands” to white settlement, who often entered the area illegally, and the Sooners being those who set out to stake land claims before the land run commenced.[8] The “Unassigned Lands” encompassed the area not assigned to any of the Indian tribes that had been removed to the region. These lands were, however, far from empty of people, namely Indians considered to be “off the reservation.” Technically, the Muscogees and Seminoles still had a legal claim to the Unassigned Lands, but the Indian Appropriations Act for 1890 provided for payment to quit any claims to the 2,950 square miles. At the same time, the Springer Amendment to the act called for the opening of the “Oklahoma District” for homesteading.[9] Oklahoma is a Choctaw word meaning “red people” and comes from the Choctaw and Chickasaw reconstruction treaty of 1866 where a clause referred to all the area of the Five Tribes as the "territory of Oklahoma." This had been suggested by Allen Wright, a Freemason, and member of the Choctaw delegation.[10] At noon on April 22, 1889, settlers raced into the newly opened territory to stake their claims for 160 acres of free land.[11] This event, the first of several land runs, has become the quintessential image of Oklahoma. Today, the legacy of Oklahoma Territory outweighs, to some extent, that of the Indian Territory; due to the principle of Manifest Destiny, which the several land runs embodied.

On that opening day of the land run in April of 1889, two cities of note came into existence before night fall. The Santa Fe Railway crossed the Unassigned Lands, running north and south. Near where the railroad crossed the North Canadian River existed the Oklahoma Station. To the north, not far from where the railroad crossed the Cimarron River existed the Guthrie Station. Overnight, Oklahoma City and Guthrie came into existence, with streets laid out, town lots staked off, and steps taken towards forming municipal governments.[12] Within months, Freemasonry had taken hold at both cities. At Guthrie, Brethren were granted a dispensation to form a lodge on the 29th of August. At Oklahoma City, brethren received a dispensation to work as North Canadian Lodge on the 17th of September.[13] A grand lodge truly exists for administrative purposes to provide for regularity in Freemasonry. In this administrative capacity, it was the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory that provided the necessary paper for the lodges at Guthrie and Oklahoma City to be established.

The Guthrie Station in April of 1889.
(Courtesy of the Oklahoma Historical Society)

At the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory in November of 1889, the question of issuing charters to both Guthrie and Oklahoma City was considered. In reviewing the records of Guthrie Lodge, the Committee on Charters & Dispensations found them to be “very irregular.” It was also noted that Guthrie had passed a newly initiated Entered Apprentice to the degree of Fellowcraft and raised him a Master Mason in a timespan of less than thirty days. The committee remarked on this, stating that it is a universal custom that every brother serves as an Entered Apprentice at least one lunar month before passing to the degree of Fellowcraft, and so on. The committee recommended that a charter not be issued to Guthrie at that time, and their dispensation be continued. Regarding North Canadian Lodge at Oklahoma City, the Committee on Charters & Dispensations received no evidence that the lodge had performed any Masonic degree work and recommended their dispensation be discontinued. Whilst the committee, chaired by Past Grand Master Edmond H. Doyle, reported poorly on these two lodges, it also reported poorly on other lodges under dispensation, but recommended charters for them. (Remember, it was Doyle who chartered the first lodge outside of the Indian Territory at Anadarko.) With that in mind, the delegates to the annual communication chose to show “charity and fraternity” to the brethren at Guthrie and Oklahoma City, setting aside certain laws and usages, and granted both charters.[14] Thus Guthrie Lodge No. 35 and North Canadian Lodge No. 36 officially became constituent lodges of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory on November 6, 1889.[15]

The Organic Act, which became law on May 2, 1890, provided for the formation of Oklahoma Territory and a territorial government. A governor and secretary were to be appointed by the President of the United States and a bicameral legislature was to be elected by the residents of the new territory. Guthrie was to be the provisional capital, courts were to be established, and seven counties delineated.[16] The first session of the territorial legislature saw the creation of institutions of higher education. At Norman, the University of Oklahoma was established; at Stillwater, the Agricultural and Mechanical College; and at Edmond, the Territorial Normal School. Of these three institutions, it was the Territorial Normal School that first held classes in November of 1891. Classes at Stillwater commenced in December of 1891, and it was not until the fall of 1892 that instruction began in Norman.[17] Edmond also happened to be the next Oklahoma Territory town to secure a dispensation for a Masonic lodge on April 5, 1890. This was followed by Norman on the 28th of July of the same year. Both lodges were granted charters on November 4, 1890, becoming Edmond Lodge No. 37 and Norman Lodge No. 38. Stillwater was granted a dispensation for a lodge the following year on July 4, 1891, and that lodge was chartered less than thirty days later on the 18th of August as Frontier Lodge No. 48. The year 1892 saw the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory charter an additional four lodges in Oklahoma Territory, which included: El Reno Lodge No. 50, Kingfisher Lodge No. 52, Hennessey (later Coronado) Lodge No. 56, and Chandler Lodge No. 58.[18]

Leo Bennett, Grand Master of Masons of the Indian Territory.
(Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma)

During this period, Leo Bennett was at the helm of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory as Grand Master of Masons, his term would last four years. Bennett was a physician and newspaper publisher, who was well known in the Indian Territory. He served as Indian Agent, Mayor of Muskogee, and United States Marshal at various times in his life.[19] One of the challenges facing Bennett’s tenure as Grand Master was that of establishing a uniform system of ritualistic work for the Indian Territory.[20] With Masons coming from a variety of jurisdictions, each tended to bring their own ritualistic work with them. This issue was further compounded in the lodges of the new Oklahoma District where so many men from so many other states filled a relatively small geographic area. District Deputy Grand Master H.H. Moose noted this in his 1891 report, stating:

The impediment to harmony in most of our Lodges is due from discrepancies in the        work. Our Lodges are made up of members from nearly all the jurisdictions in the United States, consequently there are discrepancies in the manner of teaching the grand principles of the Order. The only way to obviate these things is for the Grand Lodge to adopt a work and have that work properly taught by our Grand Lecturer. In my visitations I have not attempted to instruct our Lodges in the work for the reason this Grand Lodge has no adopted work at this time. The Lodges of Oklahoma each have a way of teaching its members in the principles of Masonry, and they do smooth work, but no two Lodges teach alike.[21]

Grand Master Bennett had hopes of securing for the Indian Territory a form of the Preston-Webb ritual in its purest state but had struggled to find an example of that work without “innovations.” The Grand Lecturer of Arkansas was brought to Muskogee for an exemplification of that jurisdiction’s work, the jurisdiction from which the original Indian Territory lodges had originated, but it was ultimately rejected for having “features which seemed not to be appropriate.”[22] To resolve this issue concerning Masonic ritual, a special Committee on Work was created in 1891. It reported the following year that it had arrived at a “satisfactory degree of unanimity in the revision of the work,” which was exemplified at the annual grand communication and adopted.[23] There is no mention of a specific Masonic monitor (written ritual) being adopted and the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory never published a monitor of its own. The committee men, which included Bros. F.H. Nash, D.C. Blossom, R.W. Hill, W.A. McBride, and D.D. Leach, likely just agreed on what they believed were the best ritual workings from the variations being practiced in the Indian Territory.[24]

In addition to the adoption of ritualistic work, the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory in 1892 saw another important matter come before it. Selwyn Douglas of Oklahoma City introduced a letter before the assembled Craft asking consent for the lodges of Oklahoma Territory to form their own “separate and independent grand lodge.” The letter was referred to the Committee on Law and Usage who determined that the Grand Master of the Indian Territory would call a convention of the Oklahoma Territory lodges to consider the question of forming their own grand lodge and if those lodges chose to separate, the Grand Master would preside over the organization of the new grand lodge, its adoption of a constitution, and election of officers. The Grand Master of the Indian Territory would then formally claim that the new grand lodge was legally organized.[25] These additional steps by the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory were likely taken owing to the challenges she faced in obtaining recognition as a legitimate grand lodge from other jurisdictions.

August J. Spengel, the first Grand Master of Masons of Oklahoma.
(Courtesy of the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma)
On November 10, 1892, at ten o’clock in the morning, in the Masonic Hall of Oklahoma City, Grand Master Leo Bennett assembled the lodges of the Oklahoma District for the purpose of forming a new grand lodge. Grand Master Bennett first ascertained who were the accredited representatives of the several lodges, finding the ten lodges of Oklahoma Territory represented. With thirty available votes, those men unanimously chose to move forward with separating themselves from the Indian Territory. The convention then took up the matter of adopting a constitution and agreed to employ that of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory, known as the “Bennett Constitution,” with the necessary changes concerning boundaries and name. The brethren then proceeded with electing their officers, selecting August J. Spengel of Guthrie as their first Grand Master. At eight o’clock in the evening, the officers of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma were duly installed. At ten o’clock in the evening, the newly formed grand lodge was opened in ample form to conduct some necessary business, which included the renaming and numbering of the lodges. Those lodges of the old Oklahoma District thus became:

Anadarko Lodge No. 1

Guthrie Lodge No. 2
Oklahoma Lodge No. 3 (formerly North Canadian)
Edmond Lodge No. 4
Norman Lodge No. 5
Frontier Lodge No. 6
El Reno Lodge No. 7
Kingfisher Lodge No. 8
Coronado Lodge No. 9 (formerly Hennessey)
Chandler Lodge No. 10[26]
As a sign of good will toward the newly formed grand lodge, the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory agreed to appropriate funds to purchase a complete set of grand lodge officer jewels for the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma.[27]
The Grand Lodge of Oklahoma's original grand officer jewels.
(From the collections of the Oklahoma Grand Lodge Museum & Library)
The Grand Lodge of Oklahoma first met after its formation in November of 1892 on February 14, 1893, at El Reno. According to the annual proceedings of that body, the total number of Masons in the Oklahoma Territory was 437. Grand Master A.J. Spengel was carried forward as Grand Master, as was Deputy Grand Master Selwyn Douglas. One additional lodge was even chartered, Crescent Lodge No. 11 at Crescent City, which had just been granted a dispensation to organize on the 11th of January.[28] The jurisdiction of Oklahoma Territory was also soon to be increased. Though the Cherokee Outlet was not included in the Unassigned Lands, it might as well have been. The Cherokee’s treaty of 1866 required them to allow the federal government to settle other tribes in the outlet, which was originally hunting and range land. As previously noted, few Cherokees ventured into the Outlet owing to the existing Plains tribes there. The outcome of the treaty of 1866 was to essentially cut the Cherokees off from the Outlet by placing other tribes between the Cherokee Nation and the remainder of the Outlet. The Cherokees did lease the Outlet to Kansas ranchers operating as the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association and attempted to collect a tax on cattle passing through the Outlet to market. This all ceased in 1890 when President Benjamin Harrison forbade all grazing in the Outlet, ending any revenue for the Cherokees. They were then forced to sell the remainder of the Outlet for $1.40 to $2.50 an acre, even though they had previously rejected an offer of $3.00 an acre made by the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association. The Cherokee Outlet was opened to settlement by land run on September 16, 1893, thus bringing it into the Oklahoma Territory, which connected the previously non-contiguous Public Land to the remainder of the territory.[29]

Whilst Oklahoma Territory was short lived, the true story of the territory and its grand lodge is one of expansion. Two land runs have been mentioned here, but there were five altogether, plus a land lottery and a land auction.[30] The end result was of course the reduction in lands occupied by Indian tribes in favor of white settlement. And then there was the case of Greer County, an area in dispute with the state of Texas. The dispute arose from the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, which defined the border between the United States and Spanish territory in North America. The treaty relied on the 1818 Melish Map, based on secondary sources, which showed the Red River to have a single channel. A further surveying error in 1852 placed the 100th Meridian one degree east of its actual location, making it intersect the Red River near the mouth of its north fork. The surveying expedition reached the south fork but was unaware it was also the Red River. The error was discovered in 1857 and Texas, which had entered the Union in 1845, was now claiming the area between the two forks as its own, creating Greer County in 1860. Finally, in 1896, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that the south fork of the Red River was indeed the boundary established by the Adams-Onís Treaty.[31] And of course, the Grand Lodge of Texas had established Masonic lodges in the disputed territory along the way. Mangum Lodge No. 685 had been chartered in 1889 and Altus Lodge No. 711 in 1891.[32] The Grand Master of Texas wrote to the Grand Master of Oklahoma in May of 1896 to address the transfer of these two lodges. To see to this matter, Grand Master Henry Rucker of Oklahoma appointed Cassius M. Barnes of Guthrie, then serving as the first Grand Commander of Knights Templar, to attend the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Texas at Houston in December. There it was noted that “following the American rule and Masonic custom,” the two lodges of Greer County should be transferred to the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma Territory (a reference to the principle of American grand lodges having jurisdiction over the states and territories in which they reside). The resolution offered to make the transfer was adopted by the Grand Lodge of Texas and on February 10, 1897, and the two lodges joined with Oklahoma Territory as Mangum Lodge No. 29 and Altus Lodge No. 30.[33]

The opening of the Unassigned Lands had a direct impact on the Indian Territory. The General Allotment Act of 1887, authored by Senator Henry Dawes, called for the allotment of reservation lands. That is, the dissolution of communally held land, in favor of privately owned land. The act specifically exempted the Five Tribes and the Osage, Miami and Peoria, and Sac and Fox Nations. With the Unassigned Lands being opened to white settlement, the way was paved for allotment of other Indian land, and thus the end goal of Indian assimilation. This began in 1889 when President Benjamin Harrison appointed the Jerome Commission to negotiate with the Cherokee and other tribes, specifically around the Cherokee Outlet. The outcome was the sale of the Cherokee Outlet to the federal government, along with any land not specifically allotted to individuals. This was followed by the Dawes Commission beginning in 1893, which was responsible for compiling rolls of members of the Five Tribes and allotting homesteads. Land thus not allotted was then available for sale by the federal government.[34] The Curtis Act of 1898 dealt a further blow to tribal sovereignty in the Indian Territory, as it was set to dissolve tribal governments in 1906. Due to this, several principal chiefs of the Five Tribes sought to form their own state for admission into the Union in 1905, the state of Sequoyah.[35] Whilst bills for Sequoyah statehood were filed, the Republican-led Congress refused to consider them, as they had no desire to admit a heavily Democratic state into the Union.[36] It is unfortunate that this was the prevailing sentiment in Congress. According to the pre-eminent Oklahoma Masonic historian Charles E. Creager, the popular proposal of the time was that the new State of Oklahoma would include only the Territory of Oklahoma.[37] The Twin Territories ultimately became the state of Oklahoma on November 16, 1907, and the new state found itself with two grand lodges within its bounds. According to the rules concerning Masonic regularity, this was not a situation that could prevail, and a remedy had already been set in motion.

Map of the proposed state of Sequoyah, c. 1905.
 (Courtesy of the Library of Congress)

The Oklahoma Enabling Act, signed by President Theodore Roosevelt on June 16, 1906, provided for the writing of a constitution for a state to be formed from the Twin Territories.[38] The year 1906 also saw the process begin of merging the two grand lodges into one. A committee consisting of Masons from each of the territories was appointed that year and met in December at Oklahoma City. The plan for consolidation was laid out by the committee as follows:

Each grand jurisdiction was to be surrendered, in order that a new grand lodge could be organized by the two existing grand lodges; the new grand lodge was to be known as that of the State of Oklahoma; the Grand Master and Grand Senior Warden were to come from the Indian Territory, with the Deputy Grand Master, Grand Junior Warden, and Grand Treasurer coming from Oklahoma Territory; the balance of the grand officers were to be equally apportioned from each territory; the Grand Secretaries of each territory were to be retained, sharing the role geographically; the esoteric, or ritual, work of each grand jurisdiction was to be retained until the new grand lodge adopted work; and the charters of the original sixty lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory would revert to their previous numbers, with lodge numbers being determined after that based on their date of dispensation.[39]

These details were to be considered by each grand lodge for approval by the Craft. The membership of each grand lodge at the time was roughly equal with 6,236 Masons in the Indian Territory and 6,777 in Oklahoma Territory. However, the Indian Territory was in a better position financially, as noted in early 1907 with a Masonic Home fund balance of $64,105 and a general balance of $9,145 compared to Oklahoma’s balances of $7,420 and $3,339. The Grand Lodge of Oklahoma Territory, in adopting her amalgamation committee report, set the date for the plan to be set into motion by her subordinate lodges as August of 1907, unless in the judgement of the Grand Master it should be called off.[40] Inevitably, by August of 1907, there was no state of Oklahoma and the meeting to commence amalgamation was not held.

When the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma met again on February 11, 1908, the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory sent a delegation to attend the communication. In that delegation’s report to the Craft, they remarked upon how the question of statehood had remained undetermined when they met in August of 1907. The situation had of course changed by February of 1908 and the Indian Territory delegation invited Oklahoma to send a similar delegation to their annual communication that coming August. The Oklahoma Territory delegation did indeed attend at McAlester and at that communication Joseph S. Murrow, known today as the Father of Masonry in Oklahoma, offered a resolution to provide for delegations from the Twin Territories to further outline the “details upon which a harmonious and fraternal union of the two Grand Lodges into one may be effected.” The resolution was adopted, and the two delegations conferred, reporting on the outcome of those discussions the following day. To bring about the merger of the two grand lodges, it was decided that the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory would assemble on the second Tuesday of February 1909, the same time of the next annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. The two grand lodges were to each pass resolutions vesting their jurisdiction in the Grand Lodge of the State Oklahoma upon its organization and both grand bodies were then to meet in convention at Guthrie the following day to form the new grand lodge.[41]

This souvenir watch fob, which originally featured a leather strap attached to it, was presented to those Brethren who attended the last regular communication of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory at McAlester in August of 1908.
(From the author's collection) 

It was at McAlester on February 9, 1909, that the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory met, under the direction of Grand Master Henry L. Muldrow, to officially begin their portion of the steps toward merging with Oklahoma Territory.[42] Similarly convened in Guthrie under the direction of Grand Master David D. Hoag was the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. In his address, Hoag remarked:

It is with some degree of sadness that I view the closing day of the bright, prosperous, and zealous Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. I have enjoyed so many happy days with friends, in good fellowship, that I dread to see it pass into a greater and larger body where I cannot have that intimate and close acquaintanceship with all the brethren that I have had with my brethren in this Grand Lodge.[43]

Though the casual observer might interpret Hoag’s remarks as the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma being small, by the end, her most recent lodge chartered, Kenney Lodge, appeared on the rolls as Number 197. Shortly before seven-thirty in the evening, a telegram was received in Guthrie from McAlester. The message simply read “Resolution Transferring Property Adopted as per Copy Sent You.”[44] The real business of the day was officially concluded, and the following day, February 10, 1909, had come at last. The Indian Territory delegates arrived at Guthrie and the convention was called to order at two o’clock in the afternoon by Past Grand Master David D. Hoag of Oklahoma Territory. He then introduced Past Grand Master Leo E. Bennett of the Indian Territory as the presiding officer of the convention.[45] Bennett was no stranger to such a convention, having presided over the organization of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma. With 1,400 Masons from the Twin Territories in attendance, a new Constitution, By-Laws, and Uniform Code were submitted for consideration and adopted. Grand Officers were elected, with Henry L. Muldrow, formerly of the Indian Territory, selected as Grand Master and George Ruddell, formerly of the Oklahoma Territory, as Deputy Grand Master.[46] The dawning of the twentieth century not only ushered into existence a new state, but it also brought forth the third Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons to occupy the region that had become the state of Oklahoma, a region assembled from three principal geographic areas.

[1]  Matthew Wills, “Why Oklahoma Has a Panhandle: The long, strange story of why Oklahoma has that panhandle,” JSTOR Daily, last modified September 29, 2016,
[2]  John J. Dwyer, The Oklahomans: The Story of Oklahoma and Its People (Norman, OK: Red River Press, 2016), 206.
[3]  Dwyer, 148.
[4] Trasen S. Akers, Chilly McIntosh and Muscogee (Creek) Nation: 1800-1875 (Oklahoma City: Akers & Sons, 2018), 6.
[5]  John D. May, “Leased District,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 9, 2022,
[6]  Masonic Centennial Lodges: 1874-1974 ed. Marvin L. Julian (Guthrie: Oklahoma Lodge of Research, 1974), 18.
[7]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Eleventh Annual Communication (McAlester, Choctaw Nation, 1885).
[8]  Stan Hoig, “Land Run of 1889,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 9, 2022,
[9]  Dianna Everett, “Springer Amendment,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 11, 2022,
[10]  William D. Pennington, “Reconstruction Treaties,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 9, 2022,
[11]  Dwyer, 209.
[12]  William W. Howard, "The Rush to Oklahoma," Harper's Weekly (New York, NY), May 18, 1889: 391-394.
[13]  Masonic Centennial Lodges: 1874-1974, 31-32.
[14]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Fifteenth Annual Communication (Purcell, Chickasaw Nation, 1889), 47-49.
[15]  Masonic Centennial Lodges: 1874-1974, 31-32.
[16]  Dwyer, 216-217.
[17]  Patricia Loughlin, “University of Central Oklahoma,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 9, 2022,
[18]  Masonic Centennial Lodges: 1874-1974, 44-51.
[19]  Harry F. O'Beirne & Edward S. O'Beirne, The Indian Territory: Its Chiefs, Legislators, and Leading Men (St. Louis: C.B. Woodward, 1892), 122-124.
[20]  J. Fred Latham, The Story of Oklahoma Masonry (Guthrie: Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, 1978), 120.
[21]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Seventeenth Annual Communication (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma Territory, 1891), 18-19.
[22]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Seventeenth Annual Communication, 15.
[23]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Eighteenth Annual Communication (Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, 1892), 59.
[24]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Seventeenth Annual Communication, 63.
[25]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Eighteenth Annual Communication, 52-53.
[26]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Nineteenth Annual Communication (Ardmore, Chickasaw Nation, 1893), 18.
[27]  Charles E. Creager, History of Freemasonry in Oklahoma (Muskogee: Muskogee Print Shop, 1935), 160.
[28]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oklahoma: First Annual Communication (El Reno, O.T., 1893), 40.
[29]  Alvin O. Turner, “Cherokee Outlet Opening,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 10, 2022,
[30]  "Rushes to Statehood: The Oklahoma Land Runs," National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum,
[31]  John D. Heisch, “Old Greer County,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 10, 2022,
[32]  Masonic Centennial Lodges: 1874-1974, 53-54.
[33]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oklahoma: Fifth Annual Communication (Norman, O.T., 1897), 21-22.
[34]  Clara S. Kidwell, “Allotment,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed August 10, 2022,
[35]  Dwyer, 245.
[36]  Ibid., 264.
[37]  Creager, 160.
[38]  Dwyer, 270.
[39]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oklahoma: Fifteenth Annual Communication (Guthrie, O.T., 1907), 35-38.
[40]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oklahoma: Fifteenth Annual Communication, 39-42.
[41]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Thirty-Fifth Annual Communication (McAlester, OK, 1908), 120-125.
[42]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the Indian Territory: Thirty-Sixth Annual Communication (McAlester, OK, 1909), 21.
[43]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oklahoma: Seventeenth Annual Communication (Guthrie, OK, 1909), 136.
[44]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of Oklahoma: Seventeenth Annual Communication, 177.
[45]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the State of Oklahoma: First Annual Communication (Guthrie, OK, 1909), 199.
[46]  Proceedings of the M.: W.: Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of the State of Oklahoma: First Annual Communication, 236.