Masonic mystique: How history and tradition still holds relevance today
The Moses Cook Lodge #111 is located at 303 West Canal St. in Picayune. This local treasure, rich in Masonic history that extends from the Civil War through today, originally received its charter under dispensation in 1850.
The lodge was named after Moses Cook, who was a quartermaster with Gen. Andrew Jackson’s army during the War of 1812. Cook fell in love with the area surrounding the Hobolochitto Creek, which was the site of a trading post owned by Stephen Jarrell. He returned after the war and purchased the site. He expanded the post and encouraged settlement in the area.
Cook later became a judge and founded the Moses Cook Masonic Lodge, which is still active in Picayune. Cook is buried in the Founder’s Cemetery, located at the Hermitage.
The Civil War had documented instances recorded where temporary truces were put in place allowing soldiers from both sides to participate in Masonic burial rites for their brother Masons.
One such recorded instance was in the truce called in June 1863 to bury a Union officer, Lt. Cmdr. John Hart, from the USS Albatross. The death of Hart happened during the siege of Vicksburg. Hart, a Master Mason, hailed from a New York lodge and is buried in the Masonic section of the cemetery at Grace Episcopal Church in St. Francisville, La.
This is a fact confirmed by Anne Klein of Grace Episcopal.
“He was on a boat in the Mississippi River during the Civil War and his last wish was to have a Masonic burial,” said Klein. “They put up a truce flag and came here, where our masonic grand master and some of the older Masons performed the ceremony with both Union and Confederate forces involved.”
As if to prove the old adage, “no good deed goes unpunished,” Klein said that a few days later, both the town and church, were bombed by Union ships.
“His family came down about 20 years ago to bring him home but when they realized his importance to the community, they decided to leave him,” Klein said. “They come and visit him here and every year there is a group that does an reenactment of the truce and burial. It is truly an experience.”
It is rumored that during the civil war, the jewels in the case of the Moses Cook Lodge were confiscated during the last part of the Civil War. The commander of that battalion was a Mason. When he found out that his men had taken them, he had them return the jewels to the Lodge.
It is also said that some Masons wore signs and symbols of the craft on their uniforms, hoping a Mason on the other side would recognize him as a brother and spare him harm.
The ties that bound the brotherhood of Masons together in the days of Cook and Civil War are just as strong today, current Masons say.
Master Mason Glen Brady, came into lodge in 1969 and became a Master Mason in 1970.
“There is a fraternal bond among the Masons, they are definitely a family organization,” Brady said. “My history with the Moses Cook Lodge goes back to my great-great-grandfather, Andrew Sladen. He was Worshipful Master of Moses Cook Lodge years ago. My father and brother were Masons out of Louisiana. My daughter was in the Rainbows and became Worthy Advisor for them; my wife and I were both in Eastern Star when the chapter was open here.”
The Eastern Star is a fraternal organization for wives or daughters of Masons, Rainbows is the fraternal organization for girls under the age of 18 and De Molays is the fraternal organization for boys under the age of 18.
Picayune Mayor Ed Pinero and City Manager Jim Luke are both Masons and were involved in De Molays as young men.
“The Moses Cook Lodge #111 is a fantastic Masonic lodge with a long and stellar history,” said Pinero.
“Many of Pearl River County’s finest individuals have attended this lodge. I am proud to be a member of the lodge and I look forward to the lodge doing many great things.”
“I was honored to be elected as the first Master Councilor for the Order of De Molay in Picayune, when I was 17 years old,” said Luke.
“The Order builds character and leadership qualities at an early age. Many men, who first acquired their leadership abilities as an officer in a De Molay chapter, have gone on to distinguished careers in business, government service, the military, entertainment, and athletics.
“I will always will be grateful to my mom and dad and Moses Cook Lodge 111 in Picayune for their support.”
The Lodge is as relevant today as it was during Civil War times and during the founding of our country. The brotherhood stays focused on traditional beliefs, which involve taking care of each other and the community. They shake their heads at the Hollywood hype and attention from sources like fiction writer Dan Brown.
“We take care of our widows and brothers in need. We hold a banquet for widows every year and give them a basket at Christmas,” Brady said. “We are currently trying to raise money to fix our roof. Nothing at all like I would see at the movies. At the end of the day, we are a big family and we still take care of our brothers.”
The group holds an open house each year called Masonic Fellowship Day. This Jan. 18, the doors to the lodge will be open to celebrate the day.
“Grand Masters, Grand High Priests, Grand Illustrious Masters and Scottish Rite Masters will be on hand to welcome people and answer questions for those who are interested in finding out more about the Masonic brotherhood,” Brady said. “It’s a good day for those curious or interested in joining masonry to come and meet us. We can get to know them.”
Brady said that the fellowship is the best part.
“You get to meet people from all over the world. We had people from Italy, England, Bulgaria come to our Grand Assembly held in Gulfport; you had to speak to some through a translator, but we did get to speak to each other and relate.”