Archive for the ‘Eastern Star’ Category

We went to DC for a presentation at a conference

Thought I’d share a few photos of our recent trip to DC. I was invited to give a presentation at a conference on fraternalism, so we took the opportunity to see a few things we didn’t get to the last time we were there.

Belmont House: This historic was built c. 1911 by Perry Belmont as a place to bring his wife. She had been previously married to a homebody, who made the mistake of letting her attend social events with their single friend Perry. When she divorced her husband and married Perry only five hours later, the new couple was ostracized in their hometown of New York City. So Perry moved them to DC and built this house. However, news of their history found them, and when they threw their first large ball, only one couple attended. Luckily for them, the couple was President and Mrs. Taft; after that, they were suddenly back “in” society.

Entry way



This is not an umbrella stand but a cane safe. Back in the day, society men’s canes were adorned with lots of gold and other precious metals, so these lockable holders kept them safe at large gatherings.



Family dining room. See the desk in the back corner?…



This is a closer view. Snazzy, isn’t it? Now see the books on top? The second one is mine (Little Lodges)! No one knew I was coming for a tour, and the guide didn’t know me, so it wasn’t “planted.” Hubby asked, and the guide said those are the books always kept on the desk.


The grand ballroom. Notice the mirror over the fireplace on the right. When this mirror was installed, it was the largest single-piece mirror in the world.


The formal dining hall. I love the old candelabras in front of the far wall.


The microwave is modern, obviously, but the cabinetry and warming oven in the kitchen are original. You need a ladder to reach the top cabinets.

The House of the (Scottish Rite) Temple: Built in 1915, this building houses an old research library and museums in addition to meeting rooms.

One of the meeting rooms.


One of the research libraries.


I wrote about this in Little Lodges!


Another library, because you can never have too many books.

George Washington Masonic Memorial: The GW monument is closed for repairs (it was closed for repairs last time we were in DC, too; wonder if I’ll ever get in that one) so we went to the GW Masonic Memorial instead. Constructed between 1923 and 1932, this memorial was created to “inspire humanity through education to emulate and promote the virtues, character, and vision of George Washington, the Man, the Mason, and Father of our Country.”


The man himself.


Replica of the lodge meeting room in which GW met. The altar (in center), bible on it, and Master’s chair (under portrait far wall) are all original from that lodge. Other artifacts from GW’s life are preserved in the wall cubbies, like the clock from Mt. Vernon seen to the left.

The grounds as seen from the top floor observation deck.

And finally, a pretty terrible shot of me beginning my presentation – hubby took it with a zoomed in cell, in a room with dimmed lights (for the slides), which is always a disaster.

“Just as I am, without one plea…”

I caught a cold the day before the conference began and presented this paper with a wicked sore throat. Must have done okay, though, because two academic presses asked to publish it, and a third organization asked about hosting me in a few months. But my next gig is in July, at the Story Circle conference. I’ll be leading a workshop on how to turn your passion into a book. Come join us!


LauraPalooza recap – Part 2

The second day of LauraPalooza lived up to the expectation set by the first day. The opening presentation was by William Anderson, preeminent LIW researcher, who announced his forthcoming book, The Selected Letters of Laura Ingalls Wilder. From the earliest existing letter written by Laura (to the Eastern Star chapter in De Smet, and which is also included in my book Little Lodges on the Prairie) to the last, this book will be the last words of Laura that we’ll have. I’m really looking forward to it.

Then Julie Miller gave a moving presentation about her life on an Iowa Century Farm. She experienced many of the same things Laura did.

Eddie Higgins of the UK talked about her experience reading the Little House books across the sea, and some of the things that didn’t make sense due to differences in British English from American, and things that are just unfamiliar across the sea.

Did Pa get suspenders or braces for Christmas? It depends on where you live!

Did Pa get suspenders or braces for Christmas? It depends on where you live!

The next two presenters also had some of those same issues. Hisayo Ogushi and Yumiko Taniguchi are both from Japan, and spoke of the influence of Laura in that country and the translation of the books into Japanese.

We had another wonderful lunch, during which John Miller spoke of Laura as a Midwesterner.

After lunch, there were hand-on workshops. Choosing among crafts, woodworking, and writing was probably difficult from some people, but of course I went straight to “Write Your Own Little House Story” with Kelly Kathleen Ferguson. She led us in exercises to enhance creativity in writing, using our experiences with the Little House books.

The afternoon presentations dealt with addiction in the 1800s, finances and well-being, Charles Ingalls’ time in Illinois, and the similarities of the Little House books to fairytales. All were interesting and informative.

After the last presentation, I went to supper with four friends.


We spent 4 hours visiting, and laughed so hard we cried (I did, at least – and I know I saw a couple of them wiping their eyes a few times, too). And there was still the field trip to come!

Saturday was spent in De Smet. We were split into smaller groups; my group went first to the Ingalls home built by Pa on 3rd Street. The staff was gracious enough to allow Julie Miller and Kevin Pearce to play a duet on the pump organ and violin, and we all sang Pa’s favorite song, “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.”

Julie Miller and Kevin Pearce played "In the Sweet Bye and Bye."

Julie Miller and Kevin Pearce played “In the Sweet Bye and Bye.”

The rest of the group then went on to the surveyor’s house and the first school in De Smet, but I broke off (I’ve been to those locations several times) and went to the Masonic Lodge to see if I could help set up for a special Eastern Star program that was going to be held later in the afternoon. It ended up being much smaller than anticipated; the driver of a group that was coming from out of town injured his foot at the last minute and had to go to the emergency room, so that group didn’t make it. Still, it was nice to visit with those who were there and talk a little about Laura Ingalls Wilder and the Eastern Star.

As an added bonus, a few of my group from LauraPalooza came by and got to view a few special items: the original copy of that earliest letter that Laura wrote mentioned above, along with an original letter written by Carrie and one written by Grace; Pa’s original petition to join the Eastern Star; the actual minutes of the meeting at which Laura joined the Eastern Star; and the sword Pa used as Tyler of the Masonic Lodge.

Letters written by Laura, Carrie, and Grace, and Pa's petition to the Eastern Star.

Letters written by Laura, Carrie, and Grace, and Pa’s petition to the Eastern Star.

A few "LauraPaloozers" got to hold the sword Pa used as Tyler of the De Smet Masonic Lodge.

A few “LauraPaloozers” got to hold the sword Pa used as Tyler of the De Smet Masonic Lodge.

I snuck in a cemetery tour with Nancy Cleaveland. Later, I met up with my little group again for the pageant. We had fun at the photo board, even though the sun was shining right in our eyes.


The pageant was the last activity. We said our goodbyes, but we’re all on social media so we can keep in touch until LauraPalooza 2017. And who knows, maybe we’ll meet up at a LIW site or somewhere before that. Here’s hoping.

Even though the conference was over, my adventure wasn’t. Stay tuned!

Wilder Wednesday – The Shining Star

Wilder Wednesday posts are inspired by Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie book series.

I have just learned something new! Isn’t it a wonderful thing that we are ‘never too old to learn’… ~Laura Ingalls Wilder, “Giving and Taking Advice,” Missouri Ruralist, January 20, 1917

This week’s post was going to be about Laura the Party Girl, but then I realized that tomorrow is June 4, and knew this week had to be about Laura the Shining Star. (The Party post will appear in the future. Click “follow” to be notified when it does.)

It was on June 4 in 1897 that Laura became a member of the Mansfield Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in Mansfield, Missouri.

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Minutes from the meeting of the Order of the Eastern Star at which Laura was admitted to Mansfield Chapter

The Order of the Eastern Star is a benevolent fraternity for Freemasons and their families. Its motto is “Dedication To Charity, Truth And Loving Kindness.” Like Freemasonry, the Order of the Eastern Star has a two-fold purpose: improvement of self, and improvement of society. This is achieved through promotion of education and charity. As a benevolent society, the Order of the Eastern Star has fostered programs which have raised millions of dollars for various charitable causes, including finding cures for diseases, care for orphans and the elderly, and scholarships.

Those who have read the Little House series of books know that the Ingalls family valued education, and those who have read her Missouri Ruralist articles know that Laura valued learning her entire life. We also know that Laura was raised to be helpful and to be truthful. Thus she was a perfect fit for the Order of the Eastern Star.

Laura first joined the Order of the Eastern Star in De Smet, South Dakota in 1893. She qualified for membership as the daughter of a Freemason. In De Smet, Laura was active in the Bethlehem Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, even serving as an officer.

3-beth 1893 11 13 LIW ap init 2

Minutes of the meeting of the Order of the Eastern Star at which Laura was first initiated.

Laura wasn’t the only Ingalls who was a member of the Chapter. Her mother Caroline and her little sister Carrie were also members, and her father Charles joined soon after she did. They were a family of stars, shining in the community.

Only a few months after joining Bethlehem Chapter, Laura moved with her husband Almanzo and their daughter Rose to Mansfield, Missouri. When the Wilders settled there, there was not an Eastern Star Chapter in the town. Laura helped organize one a few years later. According to the rules of the Order, those wishing to transfer membership from one Chapter to another, as Laura did, must be voted on by the new Chapter. So even though she helped establish Mansfield Chapter, Laura did not officially become a member until they voted her in, on June 4, 1897. Almanzo joined a few years later, in 1903; he had joined the Masonic Lodge in 1898.

In Mansfield Chapter, Laura and Almanzo were both very active for over 3 decades. They held many offices. Laura served as Worthy Matron, the highest office of a Chapter, three times. She even held an office at the Grand Chapter (state) level, and attended Grand Chapter sessions several times.

3-pin cover

Laura’s pin from the Grand Session of the Order of the Eastern Star held in Kansas City in September, 1906.

Mansfield Chapter gave Laura a gift of appreciation on two separate occasions for her work in the Order of the Eastern Star. One of these was a book, and the other a gold pin.

3-1904 01 06 L gifted jewel

Minutes from the meeting of the Order of the Eastern Star at which Laura was gifted a gold pin in appreciation of her service.

Some other famous Eastern Stars: Clara Barton; Maya Angelou; Eleanor Roosevelt; Colleen Dewhurst; Barbara Mandrell; Dale Evans; Rosa Parks; and President Harry Truman and his wife Bess.