Monday, February 22, 2021

Did Davy Crockett Survive The Alamo?

 

The list is a mile long: Jimmy Hoffa, Princess Diana, Jim Morrison, D.B. Cooper, Amelia Earhart, Adolf Hitler, Michael Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Anastasia, I could go on and on…  and the Granddaddy of them all… Elvis.

Who are these people? All of them have been reported to be alive after their deaths. We might even add William Morgan to that list. Killed or not, there were enough "Morgans" sighted out there after 1826 to populate a small town.

And then there is that guy in my neck o' the woods… Jesse James. So many people claimed to be Jesse after he died that in 1994, archaeologists came to l'il ole Kearney, Missouri and dug him up. Do you know who was in that grave? Jesse James.

Well, this finally brings us to the Masonic connection to all this, Brother Davy Crockett. Is it possible that the King of the Wild Frontier did not die at the Alamo? Be careful, you skeptics, and consider this.

There were many Freemasons on both sides at the battle of the Alamo. Most notably on the Mexican side was General Santa Ana himself. Legend has it that he avoided execution after the Battle of San Juacinto by giving the Grand Hailing Sign of Distress when taken to Sam Houston. Houston, himself a Freemason, was then said to have spared the general's life. One way or another, there is no doubt that Santa Ana escaped with his life.

So, if Santa Ana could do it, why not Davy Crockett? And there are, in fact, reports that he gave the grand hailing sign and was spared.

Old newspaper articles exist which claim Crockett survived. One in particular from an April, 1836 edition of the Cincinnati Whig reports, "Colonel Crockett not yet dead," with the paper saying it is "much gratified in being able to inform readers that Colonel Crockett, the hero and patriot is not yet dead. This cheering news is brought by a gentleman now in this city from Texas." The article goes on to give details of Crockett's wounds and medical treatment. It says he received a severe blow from a tomahawk, and was shot in his left arm and one of his thighs. It also reports he is "doing well."

The main theory about what followed the Alamo says Brother Crockett eventually went to Winston County, Alabama. There, in 1859, a land grant was issued to a man named David Crockett. The document itself is signed by both David Crockett and President James Buchanan.

The story begs the question as to why Crockett would survive the Alamo, not return home, and more or less keep it a secret that he was alive. Jason Scott, who now owns the land, speculates Crockett had fought Andrew Jackson, president at the time of the Alamo, over the Indian Removal Act – which is true – and for some reason wanted to "lay low," using the Alamo as the perfect cover for his death, then resurfacing at the age of 73, fourteen years after Jackson died. The story clearly leaves a few gaps which Scott explains away by claiming, "Crockett just wanted to be left alone and go hunting."

Scott also claims Crockett was buried on the property, that bones were discovered, scientifically confirmed to be human, and then returned to their resting place. Ground penetrating radar on the property has turned up nothing.

In effect, the evidence that Crockett survived the Alamo is scant. It becomes more questionable when comparing the signature on the land grant to known Crockett signatures. It does not take a handwriting expert to quickly see they are not the same.

On the other hand, there are several eyewitnesses from the Alamo who gave an account of Crockett's death, or identified his body after the battle. Among the most notable of these is that of Susanna Dickinson, the wife of one of the Texans killed, who said she saw Crockett's body along with what she called his "peculiar hat," outside the chapel. Francisco Antonio Ruiz, mayor of San Antonio, whom Santa Anna ordered to identify bodies, corroborated her story. Other reports, differ, saying Crockett was captured and executed. 

So the debate over the years from legitimate historians has not been whether Davy Crockett died at the Alamo, but how he died. It is a virtual certainty that he did not survive; and it may not be as important how he died as the fact that of his own volition, he stayed and fought for what he believed in.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Sheriff Andy Taylor, Freemason?

In season six of the Andy Griffith Show, episode 7, Sheriff Andy Taylor comes into some money. Andy, his girlfriend Helen Crump, son Opie, and Andy's Aunt Bee, have dinner and discuss what he should do with his newfound riches.:

Andy: This has been quite a day.
Helen: How exciting! What are you going to do with the money?
Andy: Put it in the bank.
Helen: Put it in the bank?
Andy: What's wrong with that?
Helen: Why don't you do something fun with it? Splurge. Do something crazy.
Andy: What are you talking about?
Helen: Well, when was the last time you people took a trip?
Andy: We take trips. We go up to Raleigh every now and then. And we drove up to Asheville that time… remember?
Aunt Bee: When your cousin became a Mason.
Opie: "Can we take a trip, Pa? Can we? Can we Aunt Bee?
Aunt Bee: "Well, it's entirely up to your father, dear."
Andy: "Well, I suppose we could take a little of the money and take a little trip. Want to go to Parkinson's Falls? It's nice this time of year and Opie hasn't been there since he was a baby."
Aunt Bee: "Hmmmm…"
Andy: "Well, you wanna drive up to Asheville again and see cousin Evan Moore? He's a Grand Master now."


Well, whadya know? Andy's cousin was Grand Master of North Carolina. How about Sheriff Taylor himself? So, we know he went to see his cousin become a Mason, and you don't get in unless you also are a Brother. Aunt Bee and Opie, however, would have been shut out of the actual ceremony. It wouldn't be the first time that's happened, though. Still, the show doesn't specify. In another episode a few years before, members of a "gentleman's club" recruited Andy. Recruited? Whatever happened to 2B1ASK1? It's a moot point because Andy didn't join, since the members wanted him, but not his deputy Barney Fife. If Sheriff Andy was, in fact, a Freemason, he apparently kept it… dare I say… a secret.

Most viewers may not realize the iconic Andy Griffith Show was a spin-off from the Danny Thomas Show. In an episode of that show, country-bumpkin sheriff Andy stopped Thomas' character for speeding. The plot followed Thomas' trials and tribulations while dealing with the small town sheriff, who was also the town judge and newspaper editor. Thomas, a member of Gothic Lodge 270 in New Jersey, created the Andy Griffith show based on that pilot episode and was executive producer for several programs. He was also a 33° Scottish Rite Mason and a member of Al Malaikha Shrine in Los Angeles.

Andy Griffith himself was not a Freemason, but held the Fraternity in high regard. He actually got his comedic start performing for a few summers at the Dare County Shrine Club in – where else – North Carolina.

So there you have it: the Masonic ties to the Andy Griffith show. To recap:

Sheriff Andy Taylor: Maybe… but probably not a Freemason
Andy's cousin Evan Moore: Grand Master of North Carolina
Show creator and executive producer Danny Thomas: A Freemason
Andy Griffith: Not a Freemason

Who knows, maybe Aunt Bee or Andy's girlfriend Helen Crump were in the Eastern Star.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Lord Charles Cornwallis and Baron Johann de Kalb

 

Among the many stories of Brothers meeting in mortal combat on the battlefield, but nevertheless extending Brotherly Love and Masonic courtesies is the account of the meeting of Lord Charles Cornwallis and Baron Johann de Kalb. Not much is known of the Masonic activities of either nor are their Lodges known for certain. It is likely, however, de Kalb was a member of Pennsylvania's Armed Forces Lodge 29.

Brother Cornwallis is best known as the British General during the American Revolution who surrendered to George Washington at Yorktown, putting an end to the American Revolutionary War. As a member of the House of Lords, Cornwallis actually sided with the American Colonists, but chose country over ideology when he became the commander of British forces in the colonies on January 1, 1776. He led that effort until his surrender October 19, 1781. After the Revolution, Cornwallis went on to serve as commander-in-chief of India in 1786, as well as Viceroy of Ireland from 1798-1801. He returned to India in March 1805, serving as Governor General until his death seven months later at the age of 66.

Born in Germany in 1721, Brother de Kalb served in the French army for over 20 years, coming to America in 1768 on what was called a secret mission, designed to help France determine the level of discontent among the colonists. During that trip, he came to respect the colonists for what he called their "spirit of independence." Nine years later, he returned to the colonies with the Marquis de Lafayette, his protégé. Joining the American forces with the rank of Major General, he spent most of that winter at Valley Forge with a brigade of troops under his command. DeKalb was a popular figure given his support, loyalty and ultimate sacrifice to America. Across the country, cities towns and counties have been named after him. The ironclad Civil War ship, named in his honor sported a large square and compasses atop its mast. Brother George Washington described him as "The generous stranger, who came from a distant land to fight our battles."

...And at one of those battles, in Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, 1780. De Kalb's horse was shot from under him and while he was still on the ground British soldiers shot and bayonetted him.

Cornwallis saw what had happened and rode to his aid. "I am sorry, sir, to see you," he said,"not sorry that you are vanquished, but sorry to see you so badly wounded." He ordered his own surgeons to come to DeKalb's aid and supervised as they dressed his wounds.

DeKalb replied, "I thank you sir for your generous sympathy, but I die the death I always prayed for: the death of a soldier fighting for the rights of man." He died three days later at the age of 59. Cornwallis, his mortal enemy but Masonic Brother, attended his funeral and performed the Grand Honors of Masonry at his grave site.


Sunday, January 31, 2021

Nat "King" Cole

 

Nat "King" Cole, a member of Thomas Waller Lodge 49 in Los Angeles and a 33° Scottish rite Mason, was an American jazz pianist, singer and one of the first African Americans to have his own television show. Since his death, he has remained enormously popular worldwide, adding five posthumous Grammys to the single one he received during his lifetime. In 1991, Cole's daughter, Natalie, released a duet with videos of her father singing one of his great hits, Unforgettable, winning the 1992 Grammy for Record of the Year. He has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one for his work in television and one for his music.

Cole was an active and outspoken participant in the Civil Rights movement, often lamenting the fact that entertainers such as himself were accepted in many situations where African Americans in other professions were not. Recognizing his activism, Both presidents Kennedy and Johnson invited him to the White House during their terms. His television show, which aired in 1956 and 1957 had high ratings and enjoyed critical praise; however, in spite of the fact that he was accepted in some entertainment circles, the show was dropped after two seasons because national advertisers would not support a black man.

At a young age, Brother Nat struggled to get his career off the ground. He went broke and, in his words, "was forced to play in every joint from San Diego to Bakersfield." It was in one of those dives that an inebriated customer stuck a hat on his head, called it a crown, and, in a play on his last name, dubbed him "Old King Cole." The nickname stuck and Cole, truly a king in the world of music, forever became Nat King Cole.

Brother Cole owed his success to a soft baritone voice. He was convinced smoking enhanced his rich singing tone and maintained a three-pack-a-day habit during his adult years. Prior to each recording session, he would smoke several cigarettes in quick succession to enhance the effect. Regrettably, the practice took his life in 1965, when he died of lung cancer at the young age of 45.


Friday, January 15, 2021

The Brother Who Banned Freemasonry — Twice

 

A man of many titles, Aleksándr Pávlovich, better known as Alexander I, served as Emperor of Russia beginning in 1801. During his term, he also became Grand Duke of Finland, King of Poland, and Grand Duke of Lithuania, positions which he held concurrently until his death. He was a busy guy. Although details of his initiation are sketchy, he was said to be a member of Canongate Kilwinning Lodge of Edinburgh, Scotland. There is no doubt, however, he was a member of the Craft in Poland. Alexander was a generous donor to Grand Orient of Poland and, in 1815, he attended a banquet which Polish Masons gave in his honor.

Born in Saint Petersburg, he was the grandson of Catherine the Great, who had reigned as Empress for 34 years until her death in 1796. Alexander's father, Paul I, succeeded her. Paul's attempts to reel in the aristocracy and, at the same time, establish reforms, and grant rights to the peasant class, alienated many of his trusted advisors. Members of the nobility became increasingly wary of Paul's attempts to govern and developed a plot to overthrow him. On March 11, 1801, a group of soldiers whom Paul had dismissed cornered him in his bedroom at St. Michael's Castle and attempted to force him to abdicate. When Paul refused, they brutally murdered him. 

Twenty-three year old Alexander was in the Castle at the time and as the assassins left, instead of murdering him as well, confronted the new Emperor with the warning, "It's time for you to grow up."

Paul I had distrusted Freemasonry and within a few years of becoming Emperor, he banned the fraternity and all other secret societies. With Paul's death, the Craft flourished under Alexander's reign.

Alexander pulled back on his father's reforms, but at the same time began to take measures to monitor the activities of the upper-class, which had killed his father. Eventually, like his father, his distrust of the Masons grew and he also banned Freemasonry. A Brother named Johann Boeber, who later became Grand Master of Russia, spoke up for the Craft and convinced Alexander to reverse the ban.

For years after that Freemasonry grew in Russia with Brother Alexander as an enthusiastic participant.

Once the crisis that brought him into office subsided, Alexander became more liberal in his views, again raising concerns among aristocrats. A series of events over the years, including an attempt at kidnapping him, the murder of one of his agents and rumblings of a revolutionary conspiracy, rekindled his concern. At the same time, his mental health began to deteriorate. He was reported to have become withdrawn and passive, showing signs of paranoia. With all those factors in play, on August 1, 1822, he again banned Freemasonry.

While on a sea voyage, Alexander died of typhus on December 1, 1825. There are other reports of Brothers in positions of power who have banned Freemasonry, but Brother Alexander Pávlovich may hold the distinction of being the only Freemason who banned the fraternity twice.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

The Missouri Lodge of Research

 Harry S. Truman was one of the Founding Fathers of the Missouri Lodge of Research, which has a rich and interesting history.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Return Johnathan Meigs

 

He was the he first Chief Justice of the Ohio State Supreme Court, a United States Senator, the fourth Governor of Ohio, the fifth United States Postmaster General, and he was a member of American Union Lodge 1 in Ohio. Born in 1774, his unusual name was Return Johnathan Meigs, Jr. In addition to serving in each of these important positions, Brother Meigs was a Brevet Colonel in the United States Army. Future President William Henry Harrison considered him to be so distinguished, he named Fort Meigs in Ohio in his honor during the War of 1812 and Meigs County in Ohio is also named for him; yet the very mention of him begs the question, where did Brother Return get such a unique first name?

The first step in the long journey to solve that mystery is an easy one. He was named after his father, Return Johnathan Meigs, Sr. The senior Return Meigs was born in 1740 and served as a colonel in the Army during the American Revolution. In May, 1777, he led what is now known as the Meigs Raid and, greatly outnumbered, defeated the British in a sea battle. In 1779, he put down a mutiny of Army troops and received a written thanks from General George Washington. Like his son, he was a member of American Union Lodge 1 in Ohio and served as Worshipful Master in 1801. Later, he became an Indian Agent in Tennessee, where Meigs County and Meigs Mountain are named for him; and, like his son, the mention of him begs the question, where did Brother Return senior get such a unique first name?

Well, like his son, Return Sr. Got his name from his father, Lieutenant Return Meigs, who was born in Guilford, Connecticut in 1707. He died in 1782 at the age of 75 and other than the fact he served in the military, not much is known about him. It is unlikely he was a Freemason.

Lieutenant Return Meigs was the fifth child of Janna and Hannah Willard Meigs. Hannah was a Puritan who refused to marry Janna on many occasions. Janna gave it one final try and upon being refused again, gave up and mounted his horse and rode off. At that, Hannah, realizing she was losing him forever, called out, "Return, Janna, return!" Janna did return and the couple was married May 16, 1698. Janna said when she cried out to him, "Return," it was the sweetest word he had ever heard, and named his son Return in honor of it; and his son, Lieutenant Return named his son, Return Johnathan, who named his son Return Johnathan, Jr., and the family has continued to pass the name down through more generations ever since. Return Johnathan Meigs. It's a love story.