Dr. Rob 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
which qualified him as a successful lawyer, lecturer, educator and instructor in Masonry. He devoted many years in research and creative
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. Embued 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.
In 1950 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 this distinguished Master Builder of
our Order. This was a gift from the Grand Chapter of Kentucky and was unveiled by his grand. daughter Miss Ella Morris Mount, Past Grand
Matron and Grand Secretary of Kentucky.
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 -- 1955