Rob Morris (Our Founder)
Brother Rob Morris
Master Builder of
the Order of the Eastern Star
Morris, Master Builder of the Order of the Eastern Star, was
born August 31, 1818 near Boston, Massachusetts. His
childhood and young manhood were spent in New York where he
received many educational advantages, including a splendid
college training that qualified him as a successful lawyer,
lecturer, educator and instructor in Freemasonry. He devoted
many years of research and creative writing that benefited
all aspects of our Beloved Ancient Craft.
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 our great Fraternal Order. Imbued with
this desire, his fertile mind set forth to evolve an Order
that would benefit both men and women.
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
tirelessly 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.
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 built,
established the signs and passes, colors and emblems of the
Order and promulgated the fundamental principles which have
remained unchanged through the years.
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.
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
Brother Morris' departure for the Holy Land, he transferred
to Robert Macoy all of the authority he had assumed and
exercised in planning the Order of the Eastern Star. Under
Brother 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, Brother Macoy compiled and
published a Ritual, using Brother Morris' Rosary as a guide.
the beginning of the organization of present-day Chapters of
the Order of the Eastern Star. 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
Morris traveled extensively in foreign countries. He spent
nearly a year in the Holy Land. He also 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.
his work in Freemasonry and Eastern Star, he wrote many
religious songs that are used by Churches and Sunday
Schools. While seated on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in
Palestine, he wrote the beautiful song "O, Galilee."
1858-1859, Brother 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 Freemasonry, he was conceded to be one of the
most versatile and learned Freemasons of his day.
the General Grand Chapter conferred on Most Worshipful
Brother 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 Festival Day of the
Order, to be observed by having special programs on that
day. He also had the honorary Degrees of Doctor of
Philosophy and Doctor of Laws conferred upon him later in
crowning event in the career of this remarkable man occurred
in 1884 when over 500,000 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 singular honor. Brother Morris was
the first poet thought capable of filling this place after
Robert Burns. In the presence of more than seven hundred
dignitaries from around the world, this honor was conferred
for the second time in the history of the Craft.
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.
the publication of different Rituals and revised editions
brought considerable 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
standardized Ritual of the Order of the Eastern Star. The
one now in use has evolved from the Ritual edited by the
Committees appointed at that time.
Chapters of the Order of the Eastern Star now encircle the
globe. 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
of 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.
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
1,000,000 in over 8,000 Chapters.
the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star,
observed the One Hundredth Anniversary of the Writing of the
Ritual with appropriate ceremonies, held in Washington, D.C.
The International Eastern Star Temple and the offices of the
General Grand Chapter are located in Washington, D.C. In the
Reception Room of the international Eastern Star Temple,
over the mantel, hangs an oil painting of the distinguished
Master Builder of our Order. This was a gift from the Grand
Chapter of Kentucky and was unveiled by his granddaughter,
Sister Ella Morris Mount, Past Grand Matron and Grand
Secretary of Kentucky.
Morris spent a great part of his life in Mississippi,
Tennessee and Kentucky. The last twenty-six years of his
life 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.
Red Brick School Building in Mississippi" is owned by the
Grand Chapter of Mississippi and is maintained as a Shrine
in honor of Brother Morris' writing of the Ritual in
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 LaGrange,
Kentucky, where admiring friends from all over the world
have erected a tall marble column in his memory. On one side
of the shaft is the Square and Compasses and on the other
side is the Five Pointed Star.
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.
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 of 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.
from "The Ritual Of The Order Of The Eastern Star" published
by the General Grand Chapter