Quite a while ago, our Secretary, Pro. Seth Anthony, PM, performed some research into the history of the Grotto as a personal project. He wrote a short paper on the subject that was quickly stashed away and forgotten, because, well, who needs facts!
Recently, he rediscovered the file for the paper and now we share it here with you. It’s not a complete history by any means, but it does serve as a brief and quality introduction to the history of our organization. Enjoy!
If you are reading this article, then you obviously have an interest in the Grotto and the Enchanted Realm that it has created. Members of this organization have a love and zeal for the group that remains unparalleled in other Masonic bodies. Yet, very few of the members have a good understanding of the early days of the organization. Little research is available on some of the simplest questions, such as “Who were the founders? How did the Grotto get its start? What were the early days like?” For this paper, we’ve collected information from several resources in an attempt to create for you an image of what our fraternity looked like in those formative years.
The members Hamilton Lodge No. 120, Free and Accepted Masons, of Hamilton, NY, were planning a Royal Arch Degree that would be held under the auspices of Cyrus Chapter No. 50, Royal Arch Masons. The group found that they got along splendidly and continued to meet, even after the degree had been conferred. Soon, the men began playing friendly pranks on each other, which only heightened their fellowship. With this kind of jollity taking hold, it wasn’t long before other nearby Brothers wished to join the group which, by that time, had taken on the name of “The Fairchild Deviltry Committee,” in honor of the ringleader, Bro. Leroy Fairchild, who was a local merchant and business man.
With interest growing, the members decided that it was time formalize the group and scheduled a meeting for September 10, 1889. Seventeen men showed up for this first official gathering, which resulted in the election of Brother Fairchild as leader of the group. The office he assumed was dubbed “King Devil,” in honor of the moniker the brotherhood had earned. Brother Sidney D. Smith was elected Secretary on the same day and the basics began to take shape. They immediately decided to limit membership to Master Masons for obvious reasons. It was also voted that Brothers R.R. Riddell and H.P. Tompkins would be the first candidates for the Order and an initiation date was set. However, there existed one problem. What would the initiation ceremony look like?
Students of fraternal history will note that the Grotto took shape during the first “Golden Age of Fraternalism.” During this time there were hundreds of fraternal groups in the United States and a significant portion of the country’s population belonged to at least one of them. The men knew that they’d have to have a ritual and ceremony unlike any other, as well as one that encompassed the ideals and values the group believed in. With this in mind, Brother George Beal and Brother Adon Smith worked together to create a ritual for the order. This work was brought before a ritual committee which was pleased with the result. This version of the ceremony would be used to initiate Riddell and Tompkins as the first new members.
Immediately upon joining, Riddell knew that he could assist in improving the ritual. He was appointed to a ritual committee consisting of himself, LeRoy Fairchild, George Beal, Adon Smith, and William West. The first revision was undertaken with earnest. Riddell would bring his sense of showmanship to the ritual, adding in many flashy and fanciful Persian portions. Beal, on the other hand, had more interest in classical mythology and wanted those elements incorporated into the work. A compromise was found that incorporated Beal’s desires, but also included the theatrical elements proposed by Riddell, not to mention the devilish motif that was still intact from the early days. From then on, only Beal would have any real say in changes to the ritual, which remains his legacy to this day. In 1917, Beal would be officially lauded by the Supreme Council for his work, cementing his place in Grotto history.
Come May of 1890, interest in the group had spread at a rapid pace and it was realized that methods for widening the membership of the Order was needed. This marks the early formation of what is today known as the Supreme Council. It was on May 28 that the Fairchild Deviltry Committee met and formally adopted new provisions for governance, better enabling them to expand the organization. The final preparations were made and on June 13, 1890, the men met and took the name “The Mystic Order of the Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm.” The name was chosen based on the story that had been laid out in the ritual and it was thought to be suitably mysterious and grandiose for the time period. LeRoy Fairchild presided at this meeting, with Sidney Smith acting as Secretary. The group was comprised of fourteen men, hailing from several different areas that were interested in forming the first local Grottos.
They adopted a Constitution and set of Statues to form the Supreme Council, after which elections were held based upon the rules outlined therein. The following were elected (all of whom are from Hamilton, NY, unless otherwise noted:)
- Grand Monarch – Thomas L. James
- Deputy Grand Monarch – LeRoy Fairchild
- Grand Chief Justice – George H. Raymond of New York City, NY
- Grand Master of Ceremonies – J. C. Terry of St. Paul, MN
- Grand Treasurer – William M. West
- Grand Secretary – Sidney D. Smith
- Grand Keeper of the Archives – Oren Root of Clinton, NY
- Grand Orator – James B. Murray of Auburn, NY
- Venerable Grand Prophet – Name Unknown
- Trustees – U. C. Van Vleck; Adon N. Smith; D. B. West
The Grand Monarch then made appointments as permitted by the Constitution. These consisted of the following (again, all from Hamilton, NY, unless otherwise noted):
- Grand Captain of the Guard – Thomas H. Beal
- Grand Alchemist – J. F. Gregory
- Standard Bearer – Samuel J. Todd of New Orleans, LA
- Grand Marshal – John Cunningham of Utica, NY
- Grand Steward – J. W. Clark
- Deputy Grand Chief Justice – B. J. Stimson
- Deputy Grand Master of Ceremonies – George Beal
It is interesting to note that all but one of the original elected Grand Officer positions have survived to this day, with Grand Keeper of the Archives being the notable exception. However, the Appointed Grand Officer positions have changed significantly through the years. Today, the Grand Marshal and the Grand Captain of the Guard are elected positions in the Supreme Council line, which leads to being elected Grand Monarch. The two Appointed Grand Office positions that exist today were not even part of the original list – those being Grand Sentinel and Grand Chaplain.
The officers were installed by the Grand Chief Justice, which then empowered them to create subordinate bodies. They immediately granted a dispensation to Druid Grotto No. 1 of Hamilton, NY (which would change its name to Mokanna Grotto No. 1 before its chartering.) Other business to be brought before the new Supreme Council included the approval of an obligation, written by Brother W.C. Eaton, and the appointment of officers to oversee committees. The group adjourned to observe the dinner hour, reconvening the next day (July 14, 1890.) The men approved the seal and badge of the order, as well as the official head covering, which was to be a turban. Originally, the color of the turban was limited by the Supreme Council, but by the end of 1890, a local Grotto could choose any color for their turbans as long as the entire Grotto used the same color; all veils were required to be silver. Veils of purple were reserved for members of the Supreme Council.
The Supreme Council meeting of June 11, 1891, would prove to be the true launching point of the organization. On this day a report was made of the granting of a dispensation for the second Grotto to be formed – Khorassan Grotto No. 2, of Ilion, NY. Later that year dispensations were also granted to Lalla Rookh Grotto No. 3 of Rochester, NY, and Zeba Grotto No. 4 of Rome, NY. On June 9, 1892, Khorassan Grotto No. 2 was officially chartered, making it the second operational Grotto in the Enchanted Realm.
In 1893, the Supreme Council held its first meeting outside of Hamilton, NY. They would meet in New York City, which proved to be an easier travel destination for members outside of the Hamilton area. On June 27, 1893, the Supreme Council issued another charter and its first large batch of dispensations. It formally chartered Mirzola Grotto No. 5 at Amsterdam, NY, and provided dispensations to three other Grottoes – Hiawatha Grotto No. 6 of Anoka, MN (the first Grotto located outside of New York); Azim Grotto No. 7 of New York City; and Shiras Grotto No. 8 of Antwerp, NY.
At the meeting of the Supreme Council of June 14, 1894, the body issued final charters to Hiawatha No. 6, Azim No. 7, and Shiras No. 8, along with Zelica No. 9 (of Kinderhoook, NY), which had been granted a dispensation in between meetings. It was also at this meeting that Brother Thomas L. James relinquished the title of Grand Monarch, being replaced by Brother Adon Smith, who would serve until 1899. Smith would die one year later, at the age of 65, on June 13, 1900 – ten years to the day of the forming of the Enchanted Realm and the institution of the modern Supreme Council.
From 1902 on, the Supreme Council would elect and transition power to officers on a yearly basis. In total, 113 men have been hailed with the title of Grand Monarch to date, each of them leaving a legacy on the Realm. However, if it weren’t for the early and dedicated efforts of Brother LeRoy Fairchild and his close friends, there would be no Grotto today.
Little of Bro. Fairchild’s Masonic record is readily available, but it is known that he was born in New York in 1847, making him 39 years old when the “deviltry” began. Sadly, Bro. Fairchild would not live to see the grandeur of the Enchanted Realm that he helped to create, as he would pass away at the age of 51 in 1897.
The other key player during all of the formative years was Brother Sidney D. Smith, who would remain Grand Secretary until June of 1924, serving more than 30 years in that position. Alas, as with the other founders, his post Grotto life was to be short, as he passed away on November 12, 1924.
At your next meeting, why not offer up a prayer or a toast in honor of those men who gave us the organization we have today? We’re sure that they are smiling down upon us and their legacy.
- Hutchinson, Kenneth. “History of the Grottoes of North America, MOVPER.” The Grottoes of North America. The Grottoes of North America, December, 2011. Web. 24 Jan 2012.
- Mackey, Albert. Mackey’s Revised Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. 8. 1. Chicago, IL: The Masonic History Company, 1912. 426-428. Print.
- Stevens, Albert. The Cycolpaedia of Fraternities. 2. New York: E. B. Treat and Company, 1907. Print.
- Supreme Council of North America, MOVPER. Officers of the Supreme Council. Gahanna, OH: The Grottoes of North America, 2011. Print.