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Bathsheba Grand Chapter #169

Dr. Rob Morris
Master Builder of the Order of the Eastern Star

    [Events in the Life of Dr. Robert Morris]    

  [Quotes from Dr. Robert Morris]

This portrait Copyright by Ray Dotson
All rights reserved!
From an original oil painting of Dr. Morris commissioned by Sister Gerri and Brother Ray Dotson and donated to Mt. Arayat Chapter #11, OES of the Philippines, 1969


Dr. Morris became a Master Mason in Oxford, Mississippi, March 5, 1846. At this time he was President of Mt. Sylvan Academy. He soon became interested in an idea that the female relatives of Master Masons should share, in a measure, the benefits from knowledge of this great fraternal Order. Imbued with this desire, his fertile mind set forth to evolve an Order which would benefit both men and women.

While President of Mt. Sylvan Academy he met and later married Miss Charlotte Mendenhall. Several children were born of this union. Mrs. Morris was an inspiration to Dr. Morris and a real helpmate for nearly fifty years. They both worked on the idea of the Order and invited brother Masons and their wives to discuss the plans, with Dr. Morris demonstrating to them the theories he had formulated. This may be rightfully termed the origin of the Order of the Eastern Star, although it was many years before it was recognized or its principles felt by those who were fortunate enough to come within its scope.

During the years he taught as principal in "The Little Red Brick School Building" in Richland, Mississippi, 1849 - 1850, he worked with zeal writing a Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star. In 1850 he systematized the Degrees with the idea of giving them form, he decided on the degrees, contemplated the themes, incorporated from the pages of antiquity the heroines and names upon which the beautiful work is builded, established the signs and passes, colors and emblems of the Order and promulgated the fundamental principles which have remained unchanged through the years.

The first Ritual was compiled and published under the title of "The Rosary of the Eastern Star."

In 1855 he organized a Supreme Constellation with himself as the Most Enlightened Grand Luminary, with headquarters in New York City. Charters were issued in all parts of the United States.

In 1860 the Constellation form of organization was discontinued and charters were issued for the organization of Families. In 1868 the Constellation and Families became lost except for their historical value.

In 1866 Dr. Morris became associated with Mr. Robert Macoy, of New York City. Upon Mr. Morris' departure for the Holy Land he transferred to Robert Macoy all the authority he had assumed and exercised in planning the Order of the Eastern Star. Under Mr. Macoy's guiding hand the Supreme Grand Chapter was organized. This was a self constituted body. Deputies were appointed in all parts of the United States, the Territories and in Mexico.

In 1867 and 1868 Mr. Macoy compiled and published a Ritual, using Dr. Morris' Rosary as a guide. This was the beginning of the organization of Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star in the States as well as nationally. He immediately attempted to make the work more systematic and succeeded in adapting it to organized Chapters in such a way as to assure their success.

Dr. Morris traveled extensively in foreign countries. He spent nearly a year in the Holy Land. He organized the first Masonic Lodge in Jerusalem, Royal Solomon Number One, and became its first Worshipful Master.

He was an author of great ability and wrote numerous and valuable works on Masonry and its kindred subjects. The most popular of which were, "The Lights and Shadows of Masonry" and "Free Masonry in the Holy Land." He contributed to columns in almost every Masonic publication.

He was also a poet of unusual attainment, having written over four hundred poems. His best known poem is "The Level and the Square." Many of these poems were devoted to the Order of the Eastern Star and are still used by Chapters.

Aside from his work in Masonry and Eastern Star, he wrote many religious songs which are used by Churches and Sunday Schools. While seated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in Palestine, he wrote the beautiful song "0, Galilee."

In 1858-1859 Dr. Morris served as Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Kentucky. In 1860 he drafted the Constitution of the Grand Lodge. Having passed through the chairs in the Blue Lodge, Royal Arch Chapter, Council, Commandery, Consistory and Grand Lodge, and having spent most of the strength, thought and wisdom of his early manhood in a close study of the Rituals, codes, principles and tenets of Masonry, he was conceded to be one of the most versatile and learned Masons of his day.

In 1880 the General Grand Chapter conferred on Dr. Morris the title of "Master Builder of the Order of the Eastern Star" and August 31st, the birthday of this illustrious man, was set apart as the Festal Day of the Order, to be observed by having special programs on that day. He also had the Degrees of Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Laws conferred upon him later in life.

The crowning event in the career of this remarkable man occurred in 1884 when over five hundred thousand Master Masons throughout the world expressed their desire that he be crowned with the laurel wreath, symbolizing Poet Laureate of Masonry. One hundred years had elapsed since the first Poet Laureate, Robert Burns, had received this honor. Dr. Morris was the first poet thought capable of filling this place after Robert Burns. In the presence of more than seven hundred dignitaries this honor was conferred for the second time in the history of the craft.

The first Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was organized in Michigan in 1867. Three years later Grand Chapters were organized in Mississippi, New Jersey and New York. Before the close of 1876 Grand Chapters were organized in California, Vermont, Indiana, Connecticut, Nebraska, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas and Massachusetts.

Meanwhile the publication of different Rituals and revised editions thereof, brought confusion and diversity in the work where there should have been uniformity. It therefore became necessary that this be corrected with all Grand Chapters united under one body and using the same Ritual, thus the General Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was organized ' in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 16, 1876. Committees were appointed to compile and edit a Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star. The one now in use has been evolved from the Ritual edited by the Committees appointed at that time.

The Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star now encircle the earth. The General Grand Chapter has jurisdiction over all Grand Chapters in the United States (except New York and New Jersey which are independent Grand Chapters) the Provinces in Canada and the Grand Chapter of Puerto Rico. There is a Supreme Grand Chapter of Scotland with jurisdiction over Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, South Africa, and New Zealand. The States, Territories and Dependencies of Australia are under the jurisdiction of the United Grand Chapter of Australia which was established in 1985.

Chapters have been organized subordinate to the General Grand Chapter in Alaska, Aruba, Austria, Bermuda, Taiwan, Panama, Germany, Guam, Hawaii, Japan, Mexico, Okinawa, Italy, Philippines and Saudi Arabia. The membership in the Order numbers over one million members in over eight thousand Chapters.

Dr. Morris spent a great part of his life in Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky. The last twenty-six years were spent in LaGrange, Kentucky where his family was reared and educated. His home is now the property of the Grand Chapter of Kentucky and is maintained as a Shrine in honor of the Master Builder of our Order.

The "Little Red Brick School Building in Mississippi" is owned by the Grand Chapter of Mississippi and is maintained as a Shrine in honor of Dr. Morris' writing of the Ritual in Mississippi.

On July 31, 1888, when the news of his death was sent to all parts of the world, profound grief was expressed at his passing as his whole life had been devoted to the uplifting of humanity. He was buried in the cemetery in La Grange, Kentucky, where admiring friends from all over the world have erected a tall marble shaft in his memory. On one side of the shaft is the Square and Compasses and on the other side is the Five Pointed Star.

Dr. Morris was generous, tender of heart and loving in disposition. He was happiest when sharing with others that which the Lord had bestowed upon him.

As the stars which bedeck the canopy of heaven are the beauty and glory of the night and light the pathway of man on his journey through life, so may the beautiful Star in the East, with all its significance, ever remain the glory of the Order of the Eastern Star and light the pathway of the members in the fulfillment of their vows.

Compiled by Mamie Lander, Past Most Worthy Grand Matron
and Right Worthy Grand Secretary International Order of the Eastern Star -- 1955


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Events in the life of Dr. Robert Morrris

1818 (Aug. 31)  -  Born Robert Williams Peckham in New York City.

1825 At the death of his father,  was placed in a foster home in Western NY  where he took the name of his Foster Father, John Morris.

1846- (March 5)  -   Became a Master Mason in Oxford Miss.

1849/50- Began writing first ritual for O.E.S.

1855 Organized "Supreme Constellation" headquartered in New York.

1858/59 Served as Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in KY.

1860 -   Drafted Constitution of the Grand Lodge.
          -  Constellation Organization discontinued.
          -  Organization of Families issued.

1867-   Transferred authority to Robert MaCoy who published a ritual using Morris' "The Rosary of the Eastern Star" as a guide
          -  First Grand Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star organized in Michigan.

1870- Grand Chapters organized in MS, NJ and NY.

1876- (Nov. 16) - All Grand Chapters united under General Grand Chapter in Indianapolis,  IN.

1880- Title of Master Builder of the Order of the Eastern Star conferred upon Dr.  Morris by the General Grand Chapter.

1884- Named Poet Laureate of Masonry.

1888- (July 31)    Died.   Buried at LaGrange, KY.

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Quotes from Dr. Robert Morris

"I adopted the apparently quaint and odd cognomen of Rob as a prefix.  The immediate cause of this was my determination not any longer to be confounded with Mr. Robert Morris, the author and poet, of Philadelphia." 1851

"The five Androgynous degrees ... are supposed to have been introduced into this country by the French officers who assisted our Government during the struggle for liberty".... 1852

"The degree called the Eastern Star... is strictly my own origination. By the aid of my papers, and the memory of Mrs. Morris, I recall even the trivial occurrences connected with the work- how I hesitated for a theme, how I dallied over a name, how I wrought face to face with the clock that I might keep my drama within due limits of time, etc. The name was first settled upon, The Eastern Star." 1852

"First in the array of Adoptive Degrees, highest in the ranks of brilliant and impressive thought, comes the Eastern Star, with its fixed points of Jepthah's Daughter, Ruth, Esther, Martha, and Electa. Those who have heard our lectures in different sections of the United States are aware that we value it both for what it has done and for its future promise. We have personally communicated The Eastern Star to more than three thousand ladies, the wives, daughters, sisters, and widows of Master Masons. The degree is never communicated as from man to man- to impart it at all requires the consent and presence of five or more ladies who must be, if unmarried, at least 18 years of age.  This degree is of French extraction, and has all the embellishments of that fanciful race. It is properly conferred in a regular organization styled a Constellation, which in its American form will be shortly placed before the public- when generally adopted in our fraternity, as we doubt not it will be, it will add greatly to the practical importance of the degree." 1854

"My first course of lectures was given in November, 1850, at Colliersville, Tennessee.... At Colliersville, likewise, I conferred the degrees of the Eastern Star and Good Samaritan. Both of these I had received some years before, the latter by Brother Stevens, the same who presided at my passing and raising. The restrictions under which the Eastern Star was communicated to me were 'that it should only be given to Master Masons, their wives, widows, sisters and daughters, and only when five or more ladies of the classes named were present'; these rules I have always adhered to." 1862

 "When I was initiated into Masonry in 1846, I received my Third Degree from Brother William H. Stevens, afterwards Grand Master of Mississippi. He was a Mason of considerable ability, burning zeal, and a warm advocate of Ladies' Masonry. In 1847, he conferred upon Mrs. Morris and myself the Degree of Heroine of Jericho; and from him I acquired my first appetite for this whole system of Adoptive Masonry." 1873

"I wrote every word of the original lectures and composed the songs. For twenty-eight years I have been communicating it as my own origination. I am the founder of the system, and no one can show any proof of its existence prior to 1849." 1877

"In the winter of 1850 I was a resident of Jackson, Mississippi. For some time previous I had contemplated, as hinted above, the preparation of a Ritual of Adoptive Masonry, the degrees then in vogue appearing to me poorly conceived, weakly wrought out, unimpressive, and particularly defective in point of motive. I allude especially to those degrees styled The Mason's Daughter, and the Heroines of Jericho. But I do expressly except from this criticism The Good Samaritan, which, in my judgement, posesses dramatic elements and machinery equal to those that are in the Templar's Order, the High Priesthood, and the Cryptic Rite, and other organizations of Thomas Smith Webb. I have always recommended The Good Samaritan, and a thousand times conferred it in various parts of the world.... About the first week of February, 1850, I was laid up for two weeks with a sharp attack of rheumatism, and it was this period which I gave to the work at hand.... The only piece of mechanism difficult to fit into the construction was the cabalistic motto known as *****; but this occurred to me in ample time for use.... The theory of the whole subject is succinctly stated in my Rosary of the Eastern Star, published in 1865.... So my Ritual was complete, and after touching and retouching the manuscript, as professional authors love to do, I invited a neighboring Mason and his wife to join with my own, and to them, in my own parlor, communicated the Degrees in 1850. They were the first recipients- the first of twice fifty thousand who have seen the signs, heard the words, exchanged the touch, and joined in the music of the Eastern Star... In 1855 I arranged the system of 'Constellations of the Eastern Star' of which the Mosaic Book was the index, and established more than one hundred of those bodies....  Four years later I prepared an easier plan styled 'Families of the Eastern Star' intended, in its simplicity and the readiness by which it could be worked, to avoid the complexity of the 'Constellations.'   This ran well until the war broke out. This ended my work in systemizing the Eastern Star, and I should never have done more with it, save to confer it in an informal manner as at first, but for Brother Robert Macoy of New York, who in 1868, when I publicly announced my intentions of confining my labors during the remainder of my life to Holy Land Investigations, proposed the plan of Eastern Star Chapters now in vogue. He had my full consent and endorsement, and thus became the instigator of a third and more successful system." 1884

"Robert Macoy proposed the plan of Eastern Star Chapters now in vogue." 1884

"Should the parlor room or hall be narrow, and extra chairs are needed on initiation night, the pedestal May be placed in front of the chair, but never back of the chair as the Heroine Point sitting in the chair is the guardian, chairs may also face the Altar or East" **

"All Altar work is given with Three motions, Three Triangles, Three words, Two statements and Three questions."  **

 "Signs are given above the waistline, a symbol we are Spiritual; as below the waistline is Carnel.  We are Individuals and not People." **

"Should the Enlightened, Illustrious or Eminent Leader or officers pass to the Beyond; or a member of the Family Chapter, the Burial of the dead Shall be fulfilled.
The meeting following death, if eligible for Altar drape, a solemn ceremony for one evening shall be observed, immediately after Family Chapter is opened, a committee will place drape over the Altar assisted by the Chaplain or Conductor.  This remains and will be removed just before the Bible is closed.  All Manual Law will be observed
If a member of the Family Chapter has passed into the Great Beyond, the charter will be draped for each member and removed accordingly to placing of one lunar month.
At the close of the year, an open ceremony may be given and relatives invited.  The Bible will lay on or may be carried in open, and after each prayer 'Amen' (long A), and Response, 'So may it ever be.'
A drape will be removed just before Bible is closed." **



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Masonic Poetry of Dr. Rob Morris

Poet Laureate of Freemasonry


We meet upon the Level and we part upon the Square.
What words of precious meaning, those words Masonic are!
Come, let us contemplate them! They are worthy of a thought;
In the very walls of Masonry the sentiment is wrought.

We meet upon the Level, though from every station come,
The rich man from his palace and the poor man from his home;
For the rich must leave his wealth and state outside the Mason's door,
And the poor man finds his best respect upon the Checkered Floor.

We act upon the Plumb - 'tis the orders of our Guide.
We walk upright in virtue's way and lean to neither side;
The All-Seeing Eye that reads our hearts doth bear us witness true
That we still try to honor God and give each man his due.

We part upon the Square, for the world must have its due;
We mingle with the multitude, a faithful band and true.
But the influence of our gatherings in memory is green,
And we long upon the Level to renew the happy scene.

There's a world where all are equal - we are hurrying toward it fast,
We shall meet upon the Level there when the gates of Death are past;
We shall stand before the Orient, and our Master will be there
To try the blocks we offer with His own unerring Square.

We shall meet upon the Level there, but never thence depart.
There's a Mansion - 'tis all ready for each trusting, faithful heart.
There's a Mansion, and a welcome, and a multitude is there
Who have met upon the Level and been tried upon the Square.

Let us meet upon the Level, then while laboring patient here;
Let us meet and let us labor, though the labor be severe;
Already in the Western sky the signs bid us prepare
To gather up our Working Tools and part upon the Square.

Hands round, ye faithful Brotherhood, the bright fraternal Chain.
We part upon the Square below to meet in Heaven again!
What words of precious meaning, those words Masonic are --
We meet upon the Level and we part upon the square




It is in our hearts, dear sisters,
While the Mason's chain is bright,
To give our warmest welcome
To the best beloved, tonight;
To the wife, so fondly cherished,
To the daughter, sister, true,
To the faithful, tenderhearted --
Shall I say the word? -- to you.

We acknowledge countless blessings
From the Bounteous Hand above;
Our bond was first cemented
By Divine assent and love;
We are grateful, truly grateful,
For all gifts He doth bestow,
But our warmest thanks are given --
Shall I say the word? -- for you.

The woes of life are many,
Thronging dark on every side,
In tears, and sighs, and broken hearts,
And sorrows far and wide;
The Mason's hand is generous,
But most freely we bestow,
When the appeal is made us --
Shall I say the word? -- by you.

Our brotherhood is countless,
From the East unto the West;
In every land, and clime, and tongue,
They range among the best;
And every man a hundred miles
On frosty sod will go,
To give you help, or win a smile --
Shall I say the word? -- from you.

Then hail! Adoptive Masonry,
That brings us here together;
May manly arms 'round lovely forms
Protect from stormy weather;
And when, adown the hill of life,
Our tottering feet shall go,
May our weary steps be comforted --
Shall I say the word? -- by you.


And can we know the mind of God,
A window to the will supreme?
And is His purpose all exposed
to human eye, so faint and dim?
Look! Open upward broadly lies
The Word of God -- the unerring Law,
Threatening and promising by turns,
As Masons yield to fear or love,
Oh, be it ours to walk therein,
And at the end have sure reward!



Brother, let us often ponder
What we Masons pledged to do,
When, prepared at yonder's altar,
We assumed the Mason's vow;
Foot and knee, breast, hand and cheek,
Let these oft our duties speak.

Breast to breast: in holy casket
At life's center strongly held,
Every sacred thing intrusted,
Sealed by faith's unbroken seal;
What you promised God to shield
Suffer, die, but never yield.

Never yield whate'er the trial;
Never yield whate'er the number;
Never yield through foully threatened,
Even at the stroke of death.
Hand to back: A brother falling --
His misfortune is too great,
Stretch the generous hand, sustain him,
Quick, before it is too late.

Like a strong, unfaltering prop,
Hold the faltering brother up.
Hold him up; stand like a column;
Hold him up: there's good stuff in him;
Hold him with his head toward Heaven;
Hold him with the lion's grip.

Cheek to cheek: O, when the tempter
Comes, a brother's soul to win,
With a timely whisper warn him
Of the dark and deadly sin.
Extricate him from the snare,
Save him with fraternal care.

Save him -- Heavenly powers invoke you --
Save him -- man is worth the saving
Save him -- breathe your spirit in him
As you'd have your God save you.

This completes the obligation;
Brother, lest you let it slip,
Fasten on tenacious memory
All our points of Fellowship;
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek --
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek.


There's a fine old Mason in the land, he's genial, wise and true,
His list of brothers comprehends, hear brothers, me and you;
So warm his heart the snow blast fails to chill his generous blood,
And his hand is like a giant's when outstretched to man or God; --
Reproach nor blame, nor any shame,
has checked his course or dimmed his fame --
All honor to his name!

This fine old Mason is but one of a large family:
In every lodge you'll find his kin, you'll find them two or three;
You'll know them when you see them, for they have their father's face,
A generous knack of speaking truth and doing good always; --
Reproach nor blame, nor any shame,
has checked their course or dimmed their fame --
Freemason is their name!

Ah, many an orphan smiles upon the kindred as they pass;
And many a widow's prayers confess the sympathizing grace;
The Father of this Brotherhood himself is joyed to see;
Their works -- they're numbered all in Heaven, those deeds of charity!
Reproach nor blame, nor any shame,
there check their course or dim their fame --
All honor to their name!


Joyful task it is, dear brothers
Thus to take upon the lip
With full heart, and fitting gesture,
All our points of fellowship.
Foot and knee, breast, hand, and cheek
Each a measured part shall speak:
Speak of answering mercy's call;
Speak of prayer for Masons all;
Speak of keeping secrets duly;
Speak of stretching strong hand truly;
Speak of whispering the unruly.

Foot to foot: 'tis mercy's mandate,
When is heard the plaintive sigh,
Hungry, thirsty, homeless, naked,
On the wings of aid to fly;
Hasten, mitigate the grief --
Hasten, bear him quick relief!
Quick with bread to feed the hungry;
Quick with raiment for the naked;
Quick with shelter for the homeless;
Quick with heart's deep sympathy.

Knee to knee: in silence praying,
Lord, give listening ear this day!
Every earthly stain confessing,
For all tempted Masons pray!
Perish envy, perish hate,
For all Masons supplicate.
Bless them, Lord upon the ocean;
Bless them perishing in the desert;
Bless them falling 'neath temptation
Bless them when about to die!


Brother, hearken, while I tell you
What we Masons pledged to do
When, prepared at yonder altar,
We assumed the Mason's vow!
Foot and knee, breast, hand and cheek --
Hearken while I make them speak!

Foot to foot, on mercy's errand,
When we hear a brother's cry,
Hungry, thirsty, barefoot, naked,
With God's mercy let us fly.
This of all our thoughts the chief,
How to give him quick relief.

Knee to knee, in earnest praying,
None but God to hear or heed,
All our woes and sins confessing,
Let us for each other plead;
By the spirit of our call,
Let us pray for brothers all.

Breast to breast, in sacred casket,
At life's center let us seal
Every truth to us entrusted,
Nor one holy thing reveal!
What a Mason vows to shield,
Let him die, but never yield.

Hand to back, a brother's falling,
Look, his burdens are too great.
Stretch the generous hand and hold him
Up before it is too late.
The right arm's a friendly prop,
Made to hold a brother up.

Cheek to cheek, in timely whisper
When the temper strives to win.
Urge the brother's bounden duty,
Show him the approaching sin.
Point to him the deadly snare,
Save him with a brother's care.

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