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Royal Solomon Mother Lodge in Israel
Zoltan A. Lazar
Lecture delivered before the John Ross Robertson Chapter of the Philalethes Society, Toronto, Canada
Reprinted from The Israeli Freemason


Royal Solomon Mother Lodge #293, on the register of Grand Lodge, was constituted in the Holy Land on February 17th 1873. The investigation that led to uncover the story behind this fact, unearthed a fascinating historical account of Canadian and American Masonry at work in the Middle East, years before any formal establishment by other grand jurisdictions.

Dr. Rob Morris, G.M., Grand Lodge of Kentucky

The life and accomplishments of Rob Moms are well documented in various books dealing with his contributions to Masonry in general and his Grand Lodge in particular. However some highlights in his life provide an inkling to the personality and motivation of a man who was a key player in the establishment of our subject Lodge. In private life, Rob Morris was a teacher, lecturer, president of a college, and also did some legal works. In this capacity, he travelled extensively throughout the north-east region of the United States, Europe, and what was known then as the Ottoman Empire. His Masonic career started in 1846 and by 1858 he was elevated to the office of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky. In 1860, he drafted the constitution of this Grand Lodge. Together with his wife he formulated ideas and plans which may be considered the founding principles of the Order of the Eastern Star.

William Mercer Wilson, G.M., Grand Lodge of Canada

Volumes upon volumes have been written about our first Grand Master. At the period of time relating to the Royal Solomon Mother Lodge, our Grand Master was in his 10th year of tenure and had already completed 17 years of Grand Lodge Mastership under the previous jurisdiction. During his travels and associations he met Dr. Rob Morris and a great friendship developed and flourished.

In The Beginning

Dr. Rob Morris was infatuated with the Holy Land, so much so that in 1854, with a loan from the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, he attempted to conduct a trip to the Holy Land. Unfortunately, due to a fire in his New York hotel, which destroyed his belongings, he was forced to return to Kentucky, his goal unachieved. Undaunted by this failure and a previous one due to lack of funds, Rob Morris did achieve his goal in 1865 by raising the necessary funds through the sale of his periodicals about the Holy Land. By February 1868, he arrived in Smyrna and proceeded to Beirut, and later, to Jaffa and Jerusalem. At the same time, in the Holy Land, many travelers came from England, Scotland, Europe, and the United States, under the auspices of engineering expeditions, commercial enterprises, and archaeological and religious missions. These activities were very popular at the time because of the generous privileges granted by the Turkish government. Rob Morris was delegated to find other Masons from many jurisdictions, but was dismayed by the fact that there were no established Lodges to greet them. It was this situation that inspired Rob Morris to hold moot Lodges and Lodges of instruction in the Holy Land. Upon his return to the United States, Rob Morris endeavored to obtain sanction for the establishment of a permanent Lodge under the jurisdiction of a Grand Lodge from a familiar body in his native land. This too was not to be.

The Canadian Connection

The friendship between Rob Morris and Mercer Wilson was very well established and it would be true to say that the admiration that these great Masons held for each other led to close Masonic cooperation between Canada and the United States. So much so that, when the United Grand Lodge of Canada was formed, Rob Morris was called upon to counsel Mercer Wilson and was later honored as a Past Deputy Grand Master in recognition of his contributions. It is this friendship and mutual understanding that led Rob Morris to petition the Grand Lodge of Canada for a charter for a Lodge in Jerusalem. By command of the M.W. Bro. W.M. Mercer, Royal Solomon Mother Lodge in the city of Jerusalem was constituted by charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Canada on February 17th 1873. Rob Morris was named the first Master of this Lodge and instructed to observe all the rights and regulations of the Craft. The purpose of the warrant was described as a means of enabling distinguished Masons to revive the Masonic light in that Grand old east which was the seat of its birth and from which its brilliant rays have been transmitted to every quarter of the globe. It was also suggested by our Grand Master that the three great lights of Masonry, together with the jewels and collars for the officers should be sent to our new Lodge. It was further added by Rob Morris that every Master Mason who was a member of the American- Holy Land Exploration Society would be automatically an honorary life member without further dues or fees. In that manner, the first and last Canadian Lodge was instituted off the shores of Canada. The warrant was sent to Jerusalem and according to the minute book the Lodge was organized by Bro. J. Sheville, S.W., Bro. R. Floyd , J.W., Bro. C.F.T. Drake, Acting Secretary, and Bros. G.M. Powell, S. Bergheim, J. Hilpem, P. Bergheim. The first Meeting was held on May 7th, 1873, at King Solomon Quarries underneath the Old City of Jerusalem.

It is interesting to note that the entry in the minutes book was captioned as signed by Rob Morris. However, the signature was not his. It became obvious that Rob Morris never made it back to Jerusalem, to properly activate the warrant and serve as Worshipful Master as well as instruct the Brethren there in the administration of Lodge affairs. Numerous entries in the minutes book show that although the Brethren were well meaning, they really did not know how to run a Lodge, and they were constantly waiting for Brethren from the United States and Canada to help them. This was the state of affairs in the new Lodge during its first years. Interestingly, a letter received by the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Canada, on June 22nd 1876, outlines the problems that our distant Brethren were having, as well as fraternal requests that the many promises made be honored. Other correspondence was sent to Rob Morris in Kentucky with requests for support. The reply from Rob Morris later that year was, unfortunately, not what the Brethren hoped for. They were instructed to look to their own members for support and instruction, and because of his advanced age and paralysis, he could no longer provide any support to the Lodge. Time passed, and various entries in the minutes book indicate that the Lodge did have American visitors from time to time. Unfortunately, there is no comment about Canadian visitors at the Lodge. An entry in the mid 1890's, in the communications of the Grand Lodges of Arkansas and Minnesota, indicates that the Lodge was still operating; however, just barely. In 1901, in the communication of the Grand Lodge of Canada, M.W. Bro. Richard B. Hungerford recounted the circumstances surrounding the establishment of Royal Solomon Mother Lodge #293, and entered that in his best judgment the Grand Lodge had no way of knowing or supervising the activities of a Lodge so far away and therefore the minutes books should be returned and the warrant cancelled. The Grand Secretary was instructed to carry out the instructions. The last reference in the communications of the Grand Lodge of Canada indicate that, in 1907, the then Grand Master, James H. Burritt, finally acted on the instructions of his predecessor by declaring the warrant cancelled and all member Masons unaffiliated. The warrant, seal, and minutes books were received some time later.

Out of the Ashes

This is a short outline of the history surrounding Royal Solomon Mother Lodge #293, constituted February 1873 and cancelled March 1907 hopefully, out of the ashes of this Lodge, those displaced Masons may have found their way to other Lodges founded under the jurisdiction of other Grand Lodges, which started operating at the turn of the century and later became the founding Lodges of the Grand Lodge of the State of Israel.