Order of the Eastern Star Ring

By Melissa Cole, Curator

The exhibition Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be closing soon at the Oshawa Museum so I thought this ring from the OM’s collection would be a great item to highlight since it belonged to the donor’s mother who was a member of the Order of the Eastern Star or (OES) for short.

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The OES is a masonic organization that is the sister organization of the Freemasons.  It is the largest fraternal organization to which men and women both belong, although the majority of its members are female.  The stated purposes of the organization are:  Charitable, Educational, Fraternal and Scientific; but there is much more to it than that.  Dr. Rob Morris, a very well-known and active Mason, is credited with founding the Eastern Star.  It is believed that the OES had its roots in France as early as 1703 – a decade before the inception of the first Grand Lodge of London in 1717.  Morris admitted that he borrowed the structure of the organization from the French who introduced the “Androgynous degrees” into America when they came to help out the Americans in their struggles against Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War.  He knew that the ancient landmarks of the order did not permit women from joining the fraternity and thus harbored his ideas for many years without action. It was in 1850 when Morris wrote the initiatory Degrees of the order. He first initiated his wife and daughters and expanded to some neighbor ladies. The signs and modes of recognition given to them, he freely communicated to Masons so that they would be able to recognize the newly initiated women.

In 1868, Morris passed his mantle on to Robert McCoy, a fellow mason, to carry on and expand the work of the Eastern Star.  He wrote the rituals of the order as they exist today.  These degrees centred on the lives of five biblical heroines which are represented on this ring.

In order to be a member of the OES you must be 18 years of age, believe in a supreme being and be related to a male Freemason through one of the following ways:

  • Affiliated Master Masons in good standing
  • the wives
  • daughters
  • legally adopted daughters
  • mothers
  • widows
  • sisters
  • half sisters
  • granddaughters
  • stepmothers
  • stepdaughters
  • stepsisters
  • daughters-in-law
  • grandmothers
  • great granddaughters
  • nieces
  • mothers-in-law
  • sisters-in-law

 

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This 5 pointed, inverted star represented on this ring reflects the five points of the Order of the Eastern Star which are female biblical figures that are associated with a color, a cardinal feminine virtue and, in some cases, a season of the year.

Lets take a closer look at each of the points represented on this inverted star which is featured on this ring.

OES Ring.jpg

The first point is Adah, Jephtah’s daughter from the Book of Judges. She is associated with the youth of spring and the color blue. Her cardinal virtue is respect for the binding power of a vow.  She is symbolized by a sword and shield symbolizing how she sacrificed her life to save her father’s honor.

The second point of the Order of the Eastern Star is Ruth, the widow from the Book of Ruth. She is associated with the abundance (symbolized through the sheaf of barley) and growth of summer and the color yellow. Ruth’s cardinal virtue is piety.

The third point is Esther, the wife from the Book of Esther. Esther is associated with the color white but does not represent a season. She is symbolized through a crown and scepter.  Esther’s cardinal virtue is fidelity to family and friends.

The fourth point of the Order of the Eastern Star is Martha, sister of Mary and Lazarus in the Gospel of John. Martha is associated with the end of life (symbolized through the broken column), winter and the color green. Martha’s cardinal virtue is undeviating faith through hardship.

The fifth point is Electa, the mother and the elect lady from the Second Epistle of John. She is associated with the full maturity of life, autumn and the color red. Electa’s cardinal virtue is patience.  This is symbolized through the cup representing charity.

Inside the center of the star is a pentagram (5-sided figure) with an altar as the logo’s focal point.   The open book upon the altar signifies obedience to God’s word.

Local Eastern Star chapters select their own charities and places of service in their own communities. Each year special charities are selected for that year’s emphasis and might include volunteer programs in elementary schools or volunteers in literacy programs and specific community outreach.  To learn more about OES visit www.easternstar.org


Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be on display at the Oshawa Museum until August 31, 2016.  This exhibit is travelling from the Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre.

Freemasonry Poster

De-Mystifying Freemasonry

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Next month a new exhibition will be opening at the Oshawa Museum, Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight.   Freemasonry is shrouded in superstition and generally misunderstood; the oft-called “secret Society” has been actively involved in bettering communities behind the scenes since the 1700s.  This exhibit which opens at the Oshawa Museum on May 9 will cover the history of Masonry and some of the stereotypes portrayed in the media along with a special focus on the lodges of Oshawa.  Pop culture has been responsible for fuelling the speculations and conspiracy theories associated with Freemasonry – particularly books such as Dan Brown’s The Lost Symbol.  In this book it was suggested that the government of Washington was secretly fun by a coven of masons practicing sinister rites.

A series of large shadow boxes form the framework of the exhibition.  The exhibit walks a viewer through the various periods in History from;

  • The very early times – operative masons, establishment of Grand Lodges in England, Scotland, Ireland and so on.
  • The Migration of Freemasonry to the New World
  • The Renaissance
  • Freemasonry today
  • Military lodges
  • Concordant bodies
  • Philanthropy and Benevolence
  • Symbolism of Freemasonry
  • Portraits of famous Freemasons through history

A special focus of the exhibition while it is here will highlight the lodges in Oshawa and portray individuals from Oshawa who were Masons.  While compiling the research I discovered that my great grandfather was a Master Mason.  His name was listed in the 1958 program of the Order of the Eastern Star as Worshipful Patron.  The Order of the Eastern Star is a masonic organization that is the sister organization of the Freemasons.  It is the largest fraternal organization to which men and women both belong, although the majority of its members are female.  The stated purposes of the organization are:  Charitable, Educational, Fraternal and Scientific.  They used to meet in Oshawa at the temple on Centre Street.  Today they meet in Whitby.

William Henderson OES

The exhibit runs from May 9th to August 31 at the Oshawa Museum!  On Sunday May 29 I will be talking about Masonry in Oshawa at our monthly Tea and Talk.  Watch our social media channels and e-news bulletins for future events while the exhibition is here in Oshawa.

Freemasonry Exhibit Logo

Where The Streets Get Their Names – Fairbanks Street

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

In less than one month, our 2016 feature exhibition will open.  We’re excited to host Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight, travelling from Bruce County Museum and Cultural Centre, and with all exhibits, we supplement with local content, so Oshawa’s Masonic history will be featured! In advance of the exhibit opening, I thought sharing the story of Fairbanks Street would be a nice complement!

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Detail of Fairbanks Street, from 1921 Fire Insurance Map

Who was Fairbanks?

Silas Fairbanks was born in York (now Toronto) on January 1st, 1821, the eldest son of Levi Fairbanks. He attended Upper Canada College (then located at King and Simcoe Streets) and later studied law under Mr. John Bell. On January 26, 1850, he was elected to the council at the first meeting held by the Village of Oshawa. He remained a member of the council until 1856 when he was elected Reeve of Oshawa.

In 1851 he married Hannah Arkland, daughter of Charles Arkland, and together they had two daughters and a son.

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Silas Fairbanks

In 1857, he was elected a Grammar School Trustee and served in that capacity until 1871. It was during this time that his parish church (St. George’s) moved to the corner of Centre and John Streets. Fairbanks was a great influence in this move and was also one of the founders of the Sunday School at St. George’s.

Silas Fairbanks was a Freemason. He was initiated into St. John’s Lodge #75 (Toronto) on June 6th, 1859, passed July 11, 1859 and raised August 8, 1859. On July 20, 1860, dispensation was received for Lebanon Lodge, and Silas Fairbanks was named its first Worshipful Master U.D. In 1861, Lebanon Lodge #139 received its warrant of Constitution with Silas B. Fairbanks as Worshipful Master. In the following year (1862) he was re-elected Reeve of Oshawa. In 1864 he was installed as Worshipful Master for third term and the Lodge recorded its first initiation, Mr. Patrick Duffy.

In 1866 he was appointed to command the 34th Provisional Battalion when it was formed, a command he held until his death. This was also the year that Silas Fairbanks and William McCabe, both members of Lebanon formed Pentalpha Chapter Lodge.

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Silas Fairbank’s tunic, on display at the Ontario Regiment Museum

Fairbanks received his appointment to Grand Lodge in 1866 and on Feb. 12, 1867 he was presented with his Grand Lodge Regalia in Lebanon Lodge. Early in 1871, Silas presented Lebanon Lodge with its Secretary’s desk.

Silas died on August 15, 1871, at the age of 50. The Town of Oshawa closed down for the day of his funeral; recorded as the largest ever held in the Town.  The Ontario Reformer reported on his funeral:

Friday afternoon last will long be remembered by the citizens of Oshawa, and the date of the most imposing funeral that has ever taken place in Oshawa – that of the late Lt. Col. SB Fairbanks.  The village wore a mournful look – business suspended, shops closed… and the streets lined with a mass of sad spectators.  The funeral procession was formed… in the following order: No 1 company of volunteers, battalion band, No 2 company, two lodges of Odd Fellows, representatives from various lodges of Free Masons, the horse, drawn by four black horses led by volunteers… then followed by members of parliament, village and county councillors and a long procession of mourners and sympathizers.

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Fairbanks’s tombstone in St. Georges Cemetery

It is interesting to note that Fairbanks, a man of importance in the Masonic history of Oshawa, does not have any symbolism on his tomb.  This is likely because Freemasonry was regarded as a secret society, and it wasn’t until years later that Masonic symbols were used with frequency on gravestones.

Fairbanks Street
Fairbanks Street

Fairbanks is a fairly established street in our City; one of the earliest maps we have is from 1877, and Fairbanks is seen, an east-west street between Simcoe and Centre.  Today, the street extends slightly west of Centre, and it is the street that connects southbound Centre and northbound Simcoe, where the one-way streets join up again to become two-way.


 

Freemasonry: A History Hidden in Plain Sight will be on display at the Oshawa Museum from May to September 2016.

Freemasonry Poster