Thomas Wildey is recognized as the Founder of American Odd Fellowship but the actual builders worked in almost obscurity. Thomas Wildey stood in the spotlight and the real builders stood in the shadows. Wildey took great effort to make sure it remained that way. Without the men working behind the scenes, Odd Fellowship would have never attained its greatness or become the fraternity we know today. The record will attest to the fact that Wildey was headstrong, uncompromising and unrelentless in his drive to make his dream of establishing the Order in his adopted country a reality. Nothing nor anyone would stand in his way. Some tried but wilted beneath the bullish English blacksmith. Wildey was unwilling to share the limelight with anyone.
Wildey was an Englishman through and through and all his thoughts and ideas were a reflection of his English nature and character. Wildey clung to the old ways and was an integral part of the old guard until the end of his life. Wildey was a shrewd man and gifted in reading the innate hearts of men. He had the uncanny ability to enlist men with far greater ability and use them to further his dream. Many outstanding men were firmly pushed to the rear if he could not control them through his influence. If others differed to any degree, the sweet smiling, genial Thomas Wildey would suddenly transform into a force to be dealt with. It is indeed a mystery how these founding fathers could manifest such loyalty and devotion to Wildey when it was so apparent that Wildey gathered to himself all the glory and honor and pushed his worthy associates a little deeper in the shadows and never, ever gave them the credit that they were so richly entitled.
There is a need to tell the entire story. There is no intention to steal anything away from the founder but to bring out of the shadows of obscurity, the men who developed the ideas of Wildey. Others polished his addresses which made him look great in the eyes of his peers and it was others who actually laid the stones upon Wildey's foundation and erected one of the world's greatest fraternities. Without them, Odd Fellowship would have faded into nonexistence within the walls of the public houses. God smiled upon our fraternity when he gave us such men as Ridgely, Mathiot, Entwisle, Welch, Kennedy and a host of others who were willing to stay in the shadows and give all the glory and honor to its founder.
Thomas Wildey was born in the City of London, England on the 15th day of January, 1782 in the reign of George III at the close of our Revolutionary War. At five years old he went to a parish school and left at the age of fourteen to learn a trade. Judging from his attainments, the school must have been inferior or the scholar dull and negligent. His indentures called for the trade of a coach-spring maker at which he served his time and came forth a skilled workman. He pursued it as a journeyman for a number of years in many towns of England. In the year 1817, he married and soon after embarked at Liverpool for the United States and arrived at Baltimore early in the month of September. Before leaving home he had been prominent among mechanics not only as a workman but in their class enjoyments. Among these, perhaps, none ranked higher than those which were pursued by the so called Odd Fellows. On his coming of age he became an initiate of Lodge No. 17 of that Order in the City of London and served in every capacity from the humblest to the highest office. At an early age, he was presented by his brothers with a silver medal as a token of regard for valuable services. In a short time he was responsible for the institution of Morning Star Lodge No. 38. He was unanimously chosen its first presiding officer and during his membership of ten years, he was called upon twice to fill the same chair.
The Manchester Unity was not formed until 1809 and Wildey became an Odd Fellow in 1804 so he must have been connected with someone of the independent organizations which afterwards formed the Manchester Unity. On the 30th day of July, 1817, he bade adieu to his native land and embarked for America. He reached the City of Baltimore on the 2nd of September following where he sought and obtained employment. Business was stagnant and money scarce. The war just over had crippled all kinds of trade but he was the master of his trade and found work where others could not. Subsequently, he was found on Harrison Street in Baltimore with a partner as coach spring makers. Afterwards, he was on one of the wharves as a coal dealer and off and on, kept an eating house to which his love of company disposed him. Later, he was a market gardner and last of all a farmer with capital.
In 1818 he made the acquaintance of John Welsh, an Englishman and a house and ship painter and who had preceded him to this country. These two were naturally much together as fellow countrymen and never tired in recurring to men and scenes in the old world. A year had cemented this intimacy when a new feature was added to it. They discovered that each of them had been an Odd Fellow and the mutual surprise was quite agreeable.
Thomas Wildey was from humble extraction and might be ranked just above a common laborer. He signed himself, coach spring maker but his fellow craftsmen knew him better by the name "Blacksmith". His appearance was striking as a specimen of a true John Bull with the bluffness, sincerity and pluck of that nation. With a mellow voice and a hearty grip, he never failed to win all comers in a jovial company. The man was restless and full of vitality and nothing could repress the animal vivacity which was always breaking out in frolic and humor. At times, indeed, he was serious and that was always when he saw human suffering and he ran eagerly to relieve it. It is said, when the yellow fever raged in Baltimore, he was constant in his efforts to assist the sufferers. He gave medicines and money and nursed and watched the victims when many fled from the contagion. His friendship was rarely given but when granted, became a sacred thing to which he bowed with lowly reverence. Of education he had little or none but one of his station had better discernment of men.
His judgement was quick and excellent and his ready mind grasped a good suggestion and never failed to make it his own. In his sphere he was always the arbiter holding sway over his equals by his will and humor and even among his superiors passing for a man of vigor and capacity. Such was Thomas Wildey when he had just attained his 37th year in the early part of 1819.
Wildey suggested that he knew of a society which would just suit this country and mentioned the name of the Odd Fellows. Welch carelessly remarked that he had been a member of the Order but had never met with one or heard of such a society since his emigration. By mutual admissions it was found that Welch was a Past Vice Grand in Birmingham, England and Wildey had been initiated in that country in the year of 1804. Wildey often thought on the subject and finally concluded to publish a notice for the meeting of Odd Fellows as might be residing in the city. For this purpose he sought Welch and induced him to join in the call. He then details the subsequent proceedings and the incidents of the first informal meeting. He says, "Pursuant to notice, the preliminary meeting took place on the 13th day of April, 1819." Four gentlemen were present with Wildey making five in all.
Wildey examined them and was satisfied that they had been regularly initiated into the Order. Wildey then informed them of his intention to establish the society of Odd Fellows and craved their assistance for that purpose. He also stated that no such society was known in the city and, of course, there was no organized arrangement to relieve the distressed or to care for the widow and orphan. And further, that the citizens to whom he had presented the subject did not wish any such society. He also said that the first Lodge should be named Washington Lodge. This was consented to and it was agreed that the Lodge should be opened Monday, the 26th of April, 1819. The 26th of April arrived and at seven o'clock P.M., Wildey preceded to open the Lodge. He, first of all, took his obligation in the presence of the other four and then obligated them. As they had agreed, the new Lodge was named Washington Lodge No. 1 and it will always be a day which will be held in grateful remembrance by every Odd Fellow.
The enterprise made little progress for several years. Like all such efforts by humble and obscure beginners it had to struggle against disfavor, apathy and a want of confidence. Wildey, the leader could bring to its aid no friends of high places, no collateral influence or patronage. It was self dependent and alone and had to rely upon its intrinsic excellence. But its success was to be found in the daring energy of the unlettered blacksmith. It appealed to an irresistible passion of his nature. He loved excitement and was easily warmed into a glow of feeling and no ordinary misfortune could effect his spirit which was always hopeful. He lived in constant motion and was never quite unless asleep or sick. It was always bustle-bustle and a kind of perpetual motion wherever he went. His sense of a certain kind of decorum was very keen and order was the rule of his life. He had the English idea of class and degree engrafted on his character so firmly that it was a passion. Thus his devotion to the Lodge rank and degree which could never brook either question or censure.
He had another incentive, an instinct, yet undeveloped, led him to enjoy mystery. The Order had given him a grip and password and these affected his imagination as giving dignity to the proceeding. At bottom, he was a devotee of secrecy and it had a charm that led him on step by step until it overcame in that strong nature the inferior appetite itself. As the society slowly advanced, he rose with it and always the leader. As it took on solumn form and affecting ceremony, no man was more captivated by their charms than the bluff chairman. His rugged Nature was large and found ready room for new impressions. His worship of mystery made him a fit priest to preside at the decorated altars. No boy was more bewildered and delighted with fancy's story than this man who was as natural as a boy in his love of the marvellous. To him the crowns and mitres of the officers were real and the gavel and title of Noble Grand and Grand Master gave full assurance of splendid rank and supreme authority. The legends of the ceremonies were to him veritable history and thus a kind of supernatural importance was attached to the doctrines and duties they enjoined. He came to believe in them with the simplicity of a child but with the will of a giant and here we may find the secret of that devotion which made him great. Thus he was sincere and doubted the enterprise or that it was worthy to succeed. Those who saw him in the Lodge were always impressed by his earnestness and enthusiasm. He was every inch a presiding officer, full of courtesy but commanding implicit deference. In the performance of his duties he was full of dignity. His face was lighted up with intelligence and he was deft and precise in every arrangement. All who met him in public were satisfied that he was in love with his work and had undying faith in his mission. That mission in his mind was twofold. First to become the founder of the Order. Second, by that Order to spread fraternity over all the world. The first was fully born and the latter beyond mere assertion was but nascent. Yet as supplementary of the former he gave it every endeavor and we are sure that the result was astonishing even to him. Yet not so of the initial idea, for in fancy he was in 1822 a famous man.
This idea possessed him to the exclusion of ordinary motives because he recrossed the ocean and strove for and obtained a separation from the Unity and painfully traveled by slow coaches and over bad roads, a visitor to states and cities seeking for proselytes. For this, he spent laborious days and sleepless nights devising plans and wasting his small property for means to sustain the enterprise. He often felt himself unequal to the intellectual wants of the rising institution. Around him were men his superiors in that direction but he did not hesitate. His haughty spirit bent to ask assistance and he sat at their feet for the lessons he should impart to others.
Again the same idea bowed his iron will and stayed his despotic energy at every stage where change and strategy were required by the changing times and events of the period. In all critical junctures his sure eye found the counselor for his purpose, and once found, all his imperial faculties were united to drive on in a new direction. He was never wasteful of his money but when he saw the Order in want, it stirred his very bowels and made him sick at heart. At such times he came forward with his all and his credit in the bargain. If the Order lacked a place of meeting, he turned out his household to give it shelter. If it wanted a messenger, his response was, "Here am I." On all sides he spread around it his protection and affection as the child of his very soul. This was more intensified because he gave himself no other fixed employment. This was his business and all else but temporary expedients. No wonder his associates gazed on him with astonishment and gave him the pre-eminence. He had purchased it with his money, deserved it by his labors, conquered it by his zeal, held it by his prudence and indeed owned it as such men are the natural owners and chieftains among others.
When he retired from the office in 1823, he saw that success was certain. At that period he had instituted four Lodges in Maryland, organized the Grand Lodge of Maryland and the Grand Lodge of the United States and originated the Patriarchal Order. He had extended the Order to Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, District of Columbia, Ohio, Louisiana, Kentucky and Delaware. The Order was no longer in the hands of one man or of a few men but the vigorous offspring. The dominion he had gained and the power he had exercised were slipping from his grasp. The hour of his official abdication had arrived when he should resign the scepter and place the crown on the brow of a successor in the line of those great Odd Fellows who were to spread the fame of the Order over the whole earth. There was no decay in his faculties and no diminution of his activity or zeal but the day of personal government and single efforts had passed away to give place to an era of organization and associated effort, far beyond the capacity of any single individual.
This scene rises before us as a great event in the life of Wildey, then but fifty-one years of age and in the prime of manhood which but few could match. Of all his pioneers of 1819, not one was by his side. Entwisle had died early, Welch had sought other associations and of his later helpers, Williams had deceived him and the rest were scattered and gone. Two alone were present who sat in the early councils; Scotchburn, of his own nationality, who entered the Grand Lodge of Maryland and of the United States in November 22, 1822 and Mathiot who was initiated early 1823 and who was now Grand Secretary. All the others were new men to him and far other sort than his first companions. These were organizers who had come in to take up the work where he should lay it down and gratefully writing his name upon it as upon a precious cornerstone which would alike perpetuate his labor and his fame.
It will appear elsewhere in this history that Wildey did not confine himself to Maryland. For his expenses, he received but a trifling sum and paid into the treasury seventy-five dollars as the charter fee of the new Grand Bodies. The expenses could not have been less than three times the amount awarded to him and the balance coming out of his own pocket. From that hour he assiduously labored until he saw those bodies united with Maryland in the Grand Lodge of the United States. Suddenly, he who never missed a meeting was absent and rumors were afloat that he was doing something for his brothers at some distant place. But July came and with it came the Grand Sire fresh from a trip to the mother country.
It seems that he reached Manchester on the 17th day of June, 1826 having had a passage of twenty-one days from Baltimore to Liverpool. With his usual good fortune he obtained all that he wished and was the subject of astonishment at his daring by the English brethren. They hailed him with enthusiasm as the father of trans-Atlantic Odd Fellowship. He again embarked, and, after many hardships, landed in his adopted country. As soon as he could recover from his fatigue, he passed around among the Lodges inspecting the work and cheering the brothers with his presence. He produced and read to them the new charter which gave them independence, charter and power. With no credentials but the reputation that preceded him and no endorsement from his order, or petition from his Grand Lodge, he grasped the prize and laid it at the feet of the Grand Lodge of the United States. It was a free gift from the Manchester Unity to Wildey and it was a free gift from Wildey to his brethren.
On the 3rd of October, 1835, he was made Traveling Agent of the Grand Lodge of the United States and he accepted this appointment. In March, 1837, we find him in Pittsburgh and from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, West Virginia, on through the interior of Ohio, accompanied by the Grand Lodge of Ohio with a band of music, he embarks and makes a triumphant entry into Louisville, Kentucky. In his progress he reaches Natchez on the 25th of April where he establishes a Lodge and forms an encampment. Before leaving, he also institutes the Grand Lodge of Mississippi. Afterwards, entering Alabama, he opened an encampment in Mobile and provided for the institution of Mobile Lodge No. 2.
Although he had now attained to and passed all the honors and distinctions which the Order could confer, and was no longer invested with the robes and prerogatives of office, he did not, as men generally do, throw off as a worn garment, his interest and regard for his early love. There still remained a few of the early co-laborers in the vineyard and he had raised up spirits kindred to his own whose character, talents and devotion to the institution offered the amplest security for its safety.
His crowning good fortune lay in this, that when the work was done, he knew and accepted the issue. For such a man to cease to lead was almost to cease to live. He recognized it but was satisfied. His fame was secure and he foresaw that new leaders were the necessary program of the future.
Wildey did not rise with the modern progress of the Order and the most that can be said of him was that he did not seem to descend. His work had not added grace to his manner or led him to improve his education. The frank, almost abrupt address that was native to him always remained to the very last and his habits still peculiar. Those who knew him in later years wondered at his prominence and saw nothing in the man to explain it. Measured by the standard of his work when expanded, he seemed feeble and insignificant. His appearance and conduct were not calculated to impress the observer with the opinion that he was in presence of more than an ordinary man. In fact, some natural emotions of concern would at times arise, as to whether indeed it was proper to look at him as the source of so much that gratified the pride and taste of so great a number of cultivated persons.
His mind was unconsciously always recurring to the old scenes and his first companions. His heart was with the modern era, but his memories, most sacred by a thousand recollections, were most faithful to the older times. The new names that had sprung up and the new men that were leading the enterprise, seemed to confuse him and inspire a sort of wonder that such things should be. Inaction had come to him, to relax his energies and blunt his sensibilities. He was the ancestor among his heirs already in possession. The magician whose arts had been improved and himself supplanted by those more skilful. His day's work was done and the night came on apace and he had nothing to fill up the interval. Strange multitudes came to look upon him and spoke kind words of greeting but they were not his familiars and in many cases he saw that they were rather surprised than satisfied.
The great Odd Fellow was now out of office and to all appearances was henceforth free from its cares and anxieties and return to private life. But in laying down his official rank, he merely disrobed himself of regalia, of former apparel, because the real life of the man illuminated him with a halo which no arbitrary distinction or blaze of reputation could bestow. We may imagine his reflections when he traveled in memory over the scenes of his life in America. First, a stranger, poor and neglected and then a well to do but obscure mechanic. Then, the beginner of a club with a grip and a sign to keep intruders away. He looks again and the club has become a society indicating the progress of his labors.
At the annual session of the Grand Lodge of the United States he was pressed beneath the weight of years and disease, with infirm and tottering steps but his heart still true to its youthful instincts and again at the session in 1861 at Baltimore, when they looked upon him in the Grand Lodge chamber for the last time receiving the congratulations and greetings of his grateful brethren with a countenance, although furrowed and stricken, yet radiant with joy at the consciousness that his mission had not been in vain. In a few weeks after the adjournment, his body sank to it's final rest. In the Wildey eulogy at Front Street Theatre, Grand Secretary Ridgely told the story which even now unseals the fountain of tears. He said, "It was my fortune to witness his last days of life, to have received, as it were from his own lips his parting words to his brothers. Amid the suffering of the body and general prostration his mind never wandered. It was clear and unclouded and dwelt almost exclusively upon that subject which had engrossed him for more than forty years.
Tomorrow, he feebly uttered but alas, that morrow never came to him. The gorgeous sun which was then pouring its golden flood of light upon his pillow, his eyes never beheld again. As I left him I grasped his hand and was overwhelmed by the gushing memories of the past. When but a boy comparatively, he admitted me to his confidence and to his counsels. He had honored me with his friendship which had never been interrupted during a period of more than thirty years. I had been his contemporary in the Order and a witness to his labors and their splendid reward."
No, Wildey did not see the morrow nor did he see the grave assembly of the magnates of the Order listening to the panegyric that was the first loud echo of his fame. He did not read the inscription on the marble to be reared by his Lodges in the City of Baltimore, Maryland. He did not witness the splendid procession that with waving banners thronged the streets to do homage to his memory. He did not see the representatives of a nation of brothers unveiling his monument with paeans.
He died in the arms of his Order, pleasant in their lives and in his death, they were not divided. Thus fell the last and greatest of the Trio and the roll of public benefactors had one more added to its illustrious catalog. With all the pomp and ceremony that befitted the occasion of 'funeral honors' and a mourning train that filled the thoroughfares of his adopted city, he was laid to rest in Greemount Cemetery where his early disciples, Mathiot and Marley and Boyd, afterwards lay down beside him. Three marked men in our history illustrating the virtues of Friendship, Love and Truth.
Entwisle was know as the Guiding Hand but was also highly regarded as "The Intellectual and Literary Man." We do not know of any association which has cultivated literature as have the Odd Fellows of the United States. At an early day the call was for a magazine to defend and proclaim its principles and now we are pre-eminent in the solidity, talent, power and numbers of our publications. From the very first, every struggle was for light to illuminate the public mind. Each movement of the fathers had a separate chronicle, an appropriate statement and formal address. A lodge room is a school of instruction not to be surpassed by academy or college. Here order is taught, the order of intelligence, rank and service respectively. Here symbol and allegory amuse, inform and edify. Here scenic effects excite, astonish and elevate the fancy. Here models and examples inspire the loftiest emulation of the highest excellence. Here eloquent sentiments, set to beautiful language and adorned with truthful imagery, stimulate to virtue and here conflicting creeds and platforms are banished beyond the ante room.
Entwisle, like most of the early members of the Order, was a native of England but of what part has never been disclosed. The silence of his contemporaries on the subject of his personal history can be accounted for by the ignorance of all the importance of the special services of each of the parties. Another reason is apparent in the absence of that culture among his coadjutors which alone could detect his excellence. But the best and true reason, we suppose, was that the arch-worker Wildey by his splendid energy obscured all other merit or had the good fortune to have it reflected in himself. Wildey had nothing to communicate that was not already known, and never spoke of Entwisle as he did of Welch, Boyd and others who were his acknowledged favorites. This is certainly remarkable. Several of those that knew Entwisle survived him for more than forty years and two of them are now living, yet they retain no impression of his eminence. It may be that the superior traits we find in this brother were entirely overlooked. Perhaps their standpoint was too close and his presence too familiar for accurate and dispassionate criticism. Envy may have drawn the veil around him when he sunk suddenly out of sight and left no cultivated brother to gather and preserve his laurels. It may even be that serious or fatal defects of character had made him obnoxious to the Brotherhood.
Wildey's silence might have been caused the Entwisle's fatal prominence and masterly importance in a common field. It will be found later that we have not imagined the founder worthy of apotheosis. We present him as we find him with his appetites and habits as well as his "blushing honors". It was not in his nature to brook a rival, nor his fault if he was true to his nature. Wildey loved reputation, such as he attained, as only as such men can love it. He left Boyd and the rest behind him and below him. Welch retired and gave him the whole field but not so of the Grand Secretary. He had gone down in his harness as the first medal was preparing to adorn his bosom. He had clothed the rude figure with graceful drapery as the originator of the American Degrees. His was the correspondence that in weighty words molded others to the common policy. The pen of Entwisle polished his diction and with flowing periods gave the poetic impulse and above all, his hands wrote those reports, resolutions and addresses by which the great leader signalized each successive step to victory.
To such as have studied human nature, it is not new to hear of "the fears of the brave and follies of the wise", nor that an unlettered man should pride himself upon his literary merits. It is not strange then if Wildey, everywhere receiving the applause due to papers, of which by the record he was the writer, should have hesitated to give credit to another. Besides, Entwisle was dead and forgotten and it could do no good. He was a stranger, and left no friends to keep his memory alive. This day was not anticipated, when softer hands and, if not kinder, yet kindred hearts should hunt him out and bear him to light, when his work should praise him and the Order he served so well would hail him as worthiest of all in what adds luster to these latter days, the rein of the lofty moral principles of which he wrote so well. We have no patience with trifling details of a meager record full of trumpery, which cannot tell us one fact of life and death of such importance to the Order. If he was forgotten in the expectation of his predictions, we may only deplore with Pliny.
In what manner then we may, and with the meager materials at hand, we shall proceed. We know that he was married, that he was young, that he left a widow, who may for what we know, lived long after him. We only see him in the year 1821 flashing meteor like in the twilight of that era, and in 1824 suddenly disappearing below the horizon. Persistent inquiry has discovered or started certain traditional stories of him, some of which may have had good foundation. All say that he was the son of a Christian Minister. One make the father a Presbyterian and yet another an Episcopalian. Again, another says he was a Wesleyan Minister but all agree that he was intended for the sacred calling but after receiving the proper education, refused to enter in the ministry. An early marriage is cited as the reason that had the most weight with him in making the decision and necessity drove him from home to obtain sustenance for his family. And thus said Grand Sire Kennedy"he became estranged from his family and before many years, with his young wife and child, emigrated to America."
Taking up his abode in Baltimore, he procured employment on one of the newspapers of the day and signed himself as a printer as he may have learned that gentle craft and practiced the art preservative. Here, of course, he was supplied with general information, as well as opportunity for study and improvement. While thus situated, his social nature led him among his countrymen, and at an early day, to join with them to build up the Order of Odd Fellowship. He took an active part at once, for he seems to have been better instructed in the progress of the Order in England than his companions. Past Grand Sire Kennedy says he was a Past Grand in 1820 while John Welch was Noble Grand. He doubtless passed the chairs before leaving home. No person having, at that time, been Noble Grand in Washington Lodge but Wildey. At all events, we find him a past Grand in the earliest record which we have been able to put upon the journal. Whatever may be the fact, he is claimed by Washington Lodge as one of its early initiates. The lost minutes could alone settle the questions.
The education of Entwisle have him a leading position, especially in regard to improvements in the work of the Order or in any reform that might be projected. Entirely devoted to the Wildey interest, he led the way to improve its intellectual condition. His ability in that way may be judged by the design and execution of the Covenant and Remembrance Degrees, prepared by him as early as 1820, which, in substance and structure, were altogether superior to the Degrees adopted by the Manchester Unity in 1816. He even made an effort to improve the old ritual, but was forced to desist. The veneration in which it was held made its bad grammar and faulty style its greatest merits. Indeed, the awkwardness of its diction was generally esteemed among its distinguishing beauties. When afterwards, in 1831, the effort was made by the Grand Lodge of Maryland to correct some of its glaring errors in style and composition and quite grudgingly it was done. The mark of the knife could be scarcely detected. And when again in 1835, a bolder attempt was made in the Grand Lodge of the United States, how suddenly it shrank before the angry glance of "ancient usage". It was not until 1845, when the Order had become fully American, that the Representatives found courage to disregard the past. The effort was then successful and the ancient ritual made to speak pure English. That great reform did not stop there but introduced new features of refinement which gave the noble ritual of today.
To Entwisle is especially due the credit of devising the representative system on which the Grand Lodge of the United States is organized. The original purpose of those drafted the warrant which came back from Preston, was to establish a central supreme authority vested in a local working lodge. To his superior discernment, endorsed by Welch, the Order is indebted for the discovery of the fallacy of this plan and especially of its unfitness for this country. He pointed out a certain failure on the one hand and indicated the true policy by which Maryland would lose nothing and the Order would spread over the nation. He and Welch found their model in the political framework of the government of the United States. First, subordinate lodges in several states and their Past Grands in a state Grand Lodge to govern and defend them. Then, over all, a general Grand Lodge composed of representatives from the state Grand Lodges as the supreme head of the Order. It is not contended that he saw all this at once or that he fully comprehended its tendency but he certainly looked and worked in that direction. His masterly report from the committee on the organization of the Grand Lodge of the United States is sonorous and full of matter.
To examine his writings and subject them to critical investigation would vindicate our estimate and show how well and forcibly he held the pen and supplied the brain work. In one matter he had a choice but it was not gratified. He expected that the clause in the constitution making the City of Baltimore the permanent seat of the Body would meet with no opposition. He had his heart upon this feature but his sudden demise saved him from a painful disappointment. He did not foresee that two of the four Grand Lodges would insist on striking out "permanent" and inserting "present". He had made calculations on the foreign jurisdictions that gratitude would move them to adopt Baltimore as the home for the Order. His regrets would have been greater because in his advocacy of the plan he had one argument that put down all opposition. He pointed to the clause securing the Grand Lodge of Maryland as the special reason for wishing to have it rise to power. He thought that human nature, in common gratitude and justice, would make it acceptable to all.
A short time before his death at the annual anniversary, he was toasted and he responded to the worth occasion. How easy, unaffected and graceful the style and how rich the vein of humor, pathos and eloquence. One rises from the perusal as if from a bath of generous wine.
But his chief legacy to the Order was the Covenant and Remembrance Degrees. Some change of apparel was made in it in 1845 but the substance remains. The Covenant Degree demands at our hands, a far different notice and under the scrutiny of criticism becomes the most beautiful, instructive and consistent part of the ritual. In 1844, a committee on revision was engaged in a thorough reconstruction of the ritual. Its great design was to prune away every vestige of Masonic work. The Covenant Degree was the main object of attack. The committee appointed to do this, sat in New York and consulted every Masonic work they could find in the metropolis but could find no trace or foundation for the imputation. All of the committee were Masons in good standing and left no stone unturned to find the suspicious coincidence and they concluded that its origin was not Masonic.
The Roman legend adapted to the purpose the plebians deserted the aristocracy and the revolt threatened to bring in the reign of agrarianism. Shakespeare has admirably dramatized the incident in his coriolanus in which he portrays with admirable skill the danger of division and that the safety of the whole depended upon a union of all the parts. These furnished the material which the young author has put to such valuable use. Of course, the stories were not of his invention but he, like Shakespeare, has caught the ideas and put them in dramatic form.
His official services appear upon the record and the first known minutes puts him next to Wildey. He was acclaimed, made Deputy Grand Master at the organization of the Grand Lodge of Maryland on the 7th of February, 1821. He was thus the first to fill the second place to the founder of the Order. This office of labor and responsibility he held for two years when he gave place to Welch. His services with his pen were imperatively called for in the secretary's office and he obeyed the call. At the election held on the 22nd of February, 1823, he was elected and installed Grand Secretary and at once entered on the duties of that great office. Here he organized the designs of his colleagues, and became the mainspring of all that followed.
But suddenly, in his vigorous manhood and in the midst of arduous labor, he died. He had no other recompense. He had toiled without reward and he fell almost unnoticed in the confusion of the events then occurring. It is true that in life the Grand Secretary was duly esteemed. To him was awarded the first medal ever to be granted by the Grand Lodge. To him was awarded the position of first Grand Representative and in him, next to Wildey, were bound up the hopes of them all. But he died at a period when most of them thought the whole work was done and that the great workman might be spared or give place to feebler men. When the shout of victory was heard over the great birth of a federal union, its champion, with arms crossed upon his breast, was left to his silent funeral. His sudden departure was soon felt to be a calamity, and the void in the administrative branch of the Order was not filled for many years as many efforts to supply his place were signal failures.
His illness must have been brief for he was at the quarterly session in May. How inadequate the proceedings in view of the loss incurred. But when we consider the assembly he had left, the wonder is not so great. There were but eight present at the meeting on the occasion of his death and five were absent and were fined for non-attendance making in all a show of thirteen persons nominally interested. In such a body the individual was everything and the aggregate representatives, on ordinary occasions, merely ciphers. Whatever might have been the feeling at the time it is remarkable that Wildey, after stating the object of the meeting, did not deliver the usual address.
It is a work of pleasure to portray the character of this favorite brother, who, in a limited circle, has made a great impression upon our leading men. All who have gone back patiently to the beginning, whatever their previous opinions, return with enthusiasm for the early laborer. Among others, Past Grand Sire John Kennedy, who had deeply studied the first decade, did him a sort of homage as its presiding genius. He had formed in his mind an ideal of the man that was both striking and affecting. He thought him a young man full of promise and above his associations, yet, held to them by the bond of a common purpose and living in a future and bright sphere of which his hopes gave sure augury. He was a student and scholar transforming the dull prose of his surroundings into the poetry of A mind of taste and a heart of sensibility and that when among the early band he was above them and in his soaring thoughts found no sympathy among the ruder workmen. It may be also that we confess the spell, for which we have felt, from the first hour we traced him adorning the foundations with the chaplet fitting to crown the edifice.
We have imagined him reticent, grave, yet gentle and winning in his manners. As a reader of the classics, he was well acquainted with the rich stores of English Literature. A man not yet fully assured of his own faculties because he wrote and thought with the ease of superior men. A hero worshipper also, looking upon Wildey as a very prodigy of energy and readily yielding the palm to a kind of power which he had no faculty or desire to wield. A gentleman, in fact, of rare wit and fancy, struggling in eclipse among the clouds of poverty, a stranger who never was fully at home among his fellows and whose aspirations and whose genial influence would better suit these days of opulent prosperity than the narrow limits of his time. We have resented as something personal that he was not the beloved disciple of the founder.
Kindred spirits will be excited by his story to pay him the tribute which has been so long and ungenerously withheld. The Grand Lodge of the United States, so quick to seek out merit and reward it, may devise some means of exalting a name so glorious. It may yet become as wide spread as Wildey's and the whole Order give him applause. Encampments and lodges may yet seek his record for a charter name. Degree Lodges may rise to perpetuate Entwisle as they have others of olden time. Above All, our orators shall hang upon him their richest eloquence to point the morals they have learned from him and a vast brotherhood shall mourn over the early death of this Man and Brother.
Wildey, in surviving all his early friends, had his full reward and now wears the chaplet he so well deserved but his good fortune has been the means of concealing the merits of the other men, who in a large degree, gave his greatness its existence and its final triumph. In energy, in enthusiasm, in executive ability, Wildey was truly great but in no way was he greater than the selection of the counselors by whom he was guided.