The Eternal East in the Magic City

067: Data and Retention
April 15, 2016
068: The Importance of Landmarks
May 3, 2016

The Eternal East in the Magic City

Recently I supervised a class of students on a visit to the Historic Miami City Cemetery. This was the first municipal cemetery in Miami, Florida founded in 1897, on ten acres of “rocky wasteland” about a half mile to the north of what was then a fledgling city, sold by Mrs. Mary Brickell to the city for $750. That would be worth nearly $22,000 today.  To put that in some perspective, a 1.25 acre parcel of land near where the Miami River meets Biscayne Bay sold for approximately $100 million in 2014.

While it is a modest cemetery, spanning only 10 acres, and for someone like myself who spent his childhood in places of greater age, such as Philadelphia, and much greater age still, such as Ireland, it seems new, it is none the less a fascinating place to visit, filled with a great deal of local history. I will not delve into the history which would only interest those who are from Miami. However, for a small graveyard, it contains a significant number of grave stones which demonstrate that for a city boasting a mere 120 years, it has a strong history of connection with fraternal orders of every sort.

In the few short hours I spent in this site, I counted no less that 30 stones which belonged to either Freemasons or “Woodsmen of the World” and at least a handful that from their iconography were also Odd Fellows. Beyond that, there were Women who were members of the Order of the Eastern Star, and at least one grave bearing a woman’s name which also bore the Masonic Square and Compass. Since I know there are several feminine lodges in the Miami area, it is likely she was a Freemason.

It should be noted here, that as with most cemeteries in Southern US cities, this one is segregated by race and religion, containing Catholic, Jewish, Protestant, and Black sections. While these areas predominate, there are a few exceptions to the segregation. One of Miami’s Prominent early citizens and his family are buried in the Catholic section, although his wife was understood to have been of mixed race, a couple of the cities earliest black residents were also buried in what became identified as a “protestant” (white) section before segregation was established more formally, as was at least one famous Miccusukee Indian, Jack Tigertail, whose image graces the seal of the City of Hialeah, a few miles north of this graveyard. As an aside, Jack Tigertail was murdered, apparently the victim of a business deal gone bad, meeting his maker due to a dispute over the price of egret plumes. He left behind a wife and three daughters. He was buried in an unmarked grave. Being Native American he didn’t have the resources to pay for a stone, and nobody else felt it necessary.

The first Jewish (Kosher) Butcher to live in Miami, Phillip Ullendorff, who passed away in 1923 is buried in the walled Jewish section of the cemetery, and his headstone proudly proclaims his masonic status.

One place, interestingly enough, where race or religion did not seem to exert any influence were in the military graves. There, blacks, whites, jews, and gentiles might be buried in common. This of course is ironic since it was not until after WWII that the military ceased to be segregated itself.

However, as suggested by the existence of a woman’s grave bearing the Square and Compass, “mainstream” Freemasonry is far from being the only, or perhaps even the predominant form of Freemasonry represented in this cemetery. Quite a few headstones found in the Black section of the cemetery proclaim the active presence of Prince Hall Freemasonry in Miami. These stones, in fact none of the stones I saw, give any indication of what the mason’s affiliation was, so while it is easy to assume that in most cases, they would represent what is popularly considered “regular” Freemasonry, there is no way without doing some extensive research, to determine what their obediences or jurisdictions were. In the case of the Black Freemasons (and I choose to use the term black in preference to African American because much of the early population of Miami of African ancestry were from the Caribbean rather than North American in origin) there were many jurisdictions to choose from and not all would have been what is described today as “regular” Prince Hall.

One of the graves of Freemasons in the Black section which is in the worst condition of any of the Masonic graces, is that of Fred Dean, who lived from 1894 to 1924, a mere 30 years, proudly proclaims his status as a 32° Mason.

There are a number of tomb stones, as well as mausoleums which are the worse for wear. Some mausoleums have over the years replaced their original fancy bronze or ironwork gates with cement, due to repeated vandalism. Of course, tombs also suffered from the effects of several serious hurricanes over the past century. As a result, it is difficult to determine at times whether a stone was the victim of weather or the callousness of humanity.

Among the most interesting stones are those associated with the Woodsmen of the World. This fraternal organization was founded in 1890 in Omaha, Nebraska, by Joseph Cullen Root. Root, who was a member of several other fraternal organizations including the Freemasons, founded Modern Woodmen of America (MWA) in Lyons, Iowa, in 1883, after hearing a sermon about “pioneer woodsmen clearing away the forest to provide for their families”. Taking his own surname to heart, he wanted to start a society that “would clear away problems of financial security for its members.”

It was responsible for the erection of numerous distinctive tombstones depicting tree stumps across the country before 1930. Since 2015, it has been known by the name WoodmenLife. There are easily a dozen or more Woodsmen of the World stones in the Miami City Cemetery, including one which is included in the old walled Jewish Segment of the graveyard.

A few stones sported the three rings which signify membership in the Odd Fellows, and others have symbols which appear to be related to the Order of Knights of Pythias.

Whatever their affiliations, they have all gone to the eternal east, and it would appear that any petty, dogmatic, or sectarian biases relating to their membership in fraternal orders expired with them. Now that is something we shouldn’t need to die to experience.

A word or two by way of explanation may be
worth offering concerning the title of this blog.
Hedge Mason, like similar terms Hedge Master,
Hedge Lodge, and the more widely recognized
Hedge School, are terms from Hiberno-English.
The latter of these terms, as many Irish will know,
refers to illicit schools dedicated to the maintenance
of Irish culture and language, alongside the classics
of European Philosophy, including Greek and Latin studies.
These institutions were founded throughout rural Ireland during
the Penal era when Irish Gaelic culture was under attack
by the English occupier. During this time also, the term
Hedge was added to masonic terms to refer to any masonic
individual or institution not approved of by the
Anglophone world. These often were lodges and masons
working to advance the cause of Irish independence.
It seems a very appropriate term then, for me to use to
name this blog.

For quite a while I have observed various blogs and podcasts

relating to Freemasonry, finding both much worth emulating
and a few things worth avoiding among them. Fairly
quickly it became apparent to me that there was little
being published in North America (or elsewhere for that matter)
that dealt fairly and offering a positive perspective on Liberal
Freemasonry or the world beyond the confines of the
Preston-Webb Rites or the AASR Northern or Southern
Jurisdictions and especially with the Modern Rite with which
we are associated.. Such sites exist beyond the Anglophone
Internet, but The Hedge Mason will endeavor to bring some
of that information within the grasp of an English speaking
audience.

It seems to me that it is time for a change, and this blog

will hopefully serve as a small corrective step in that direction.

The goal of this blog will be to provide interesting topics

from time to time on subjects relating to Liberal Freemasonry
and on responsible alternatives to what is exemplified by the
mainstream Grand Lodge system in North America.
While this site will not avoid covering contemporary issues,
it will try to avoid heavy handed critiques of any system or
tradition within Freemasonry. It is my belief that there is no
such thing as clandestine or irregular freemasonry. Such
labels belittle the rich tapestry of our traditions both
contemporary and historical. Further, such attitudes
directly contradict the premise of brotherhood and fraternalism
which is the foundation of Freemasonry.

In short, this site is about education and expanding

the horizons of Freemasons of all stripes and those who
are just interested in the subject. It is not a place intended
for debate or dispute, although if it engenders some that might
be a good thing.
Just in case some object to certain posts being off topic,
please note the subtitle of this blog includes the phrase,
“and other stuff.” That of course is because it’s my blog and
occasionally I want to ramble.

We look forward to sharing with you!


Source: The Hedge Mason