Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Historian's Wages

Every so often a historian's research will produce a jewel worthy of the hours and travel, I call it, a Historian's Wages.

After being placed on the project, working alongside the Grand Historian (MWPHGL of WA), WB Rick Sepolen, to restore and organize the Grand Lodge Proceedings, I learned of the sizeable Masonic Collection at the University of Washington. I went there to see if I could find information on Conrad A. Rideout, a figure of interest and upcoming article for the Phylaxis Society. I believe that every researcher and historian can attest to the fact that during the course of research sometimes inspiration for new projects and leads can come from just an interesting sounding Collection name.

One such name was Dr. Nettie J. Asberry; I saw her collection of papers mentioned and decided to sign them out to find out who she was and her story. Upon search of the papers, I found myself intriguingly drawn to her story. I needed to find more about her life and work. I came across a particular piece that looked, at first glance, like a handwritten letter. I noticed the name, or what appeared to be the name of Most Worshipful E. H. Holmes, Past Grand Master of Masons for the State of Washington, Prince Hall (1917-1923). I immediately designated it a document of interest and took photographs of all five (5) pages and continued with my research.

After getting home, I wanted to go through all of the pieces that I had obtained, and list them in my database. Upon further review, I discovered that the letter was actually a Eulogy HANDWRITTEN by Most Worshipful Past Grand Master E. H. Holmes. But for whom it was written was even more rewarding, because it was a two-fold wage. The eulogy was written for Dr. Nettie J. Asberry's husband, who had transitioned this life on July 25th, 1939. Her husband, I was soon to find out, was none other than Most Worshipful Henry J. Asberry, Past Grand Master of Masons for the State of Washington, Prince Hall (1910-1911). He was the 4th in succession after Most Worshipful J. E. Shepperson.

Handwritten Eulogy for MW PGM Henry J. Asberry, by MW PGM E. H. Holmes dated July 31st, 1939 (courtesy of the University of Washington, Special collections, Nettie J. Asberry Collection, Box 1, folder 13)

I want to transcribe the Eulogy for the benefit of the Craft, and a copy will be placed in the Grand Lodge archive as a memorial-it is written:

"Eulogy: The Most Worshipful H. J. Asberry, Past Grand Master Tacoma Monday, July 31st, 1939:  By E. H. Homes

I came across the state to say goodbye to my old friend and brother, Most Worshipful Henry J. Asberry, Past Grand Master of Masons, with this Golden Jubilee, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the State's admission into the Union, ringing out all over the Commonwealth.

The Sand in the hourglass of time ran out on the life of the old Grand Master and he was gathered home with the fathers. The old Pioneer, the extraordinary citizen, businessman, husband, and fraternal leader has gone the way of all the earth.
As King Solomon, the wisest man that ever lived-so eloquently depicted it, "he is travelling on the level of time to that undisclosed country whose bourne no traveler has ever returned.

I like to think of him as I knew him in his prime, 30 odd years ago, when at Portland Oregon, in the vigor of his manhood, vibrant, intelligent, a great level of the peculiar arts(Masonry). He stood in his place, surrounded by great galaxy of talented, trusty Masons; among whom I recall- Grand Master J. C. Logan, J. Edward Hawkins, James E. Shepperson, J. W. Payne, and a host of others, and won by [sheer ferver] of intellect, the acclaim of the craft, who elected him unanimously Senior Grand Warden of the M. W. United Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, State of Washington, and any Jurisdiction thereunto belonging.

I followed this great Mason to Seattle in 1909 when passion ran high, confusion and mutiny, revolution reigned supreme, and the craft torn asunder, looked as though it had found end.And I saw him stand like a stone wall, for things that was righteous, honorable, just, I was proud to see him elected Deputy Grand Master that year.

I was with him in Spokane in 1910 when he was exalted to the Grand Mastership-the throne upon which King Solomon first sat most excellent Grand Master of Masons, now occupied!I was his Grand Secretary.

I want to testify here and now to his gentleness, his sense of justice, and of charity; that he had so well learned; "that extends beyond the grave into the boundless realm of eternity". Of his skill to draw his designs upon the trestle board of Masonry, whereby the craft might pursue their labor. Our acquaintance and friend, this [?] throughout the years.

And well might I testify before his old friends, neighbors, and brothers of the fraternity he loved so well, and say with the poet: that the elements in his nature was so gently mixed that all the world might say, "here indeed is a man we shall not soon see his like again."

He told me once, "Holmes, I think the greatest thing in life is love." And I feel when he faces his Maker on the other shore, he can say with a clear conscience, "my cardinal virtue was that, I love the brethren." All of those eminent Masons who preceded him in the Grand Mastership of the most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masonry went home to glory years ago, and I envision there was a great reunion up there in the sky when Henry J. Asberry gave the word that was lost and was admitted to the great Lodge above, over which the Grand Master of the Universe presides. And they shouted the heaven home and hosannas to HIS name!

Of his life in this city, and his adopted state, I leave for you to judge; he walked up rightly in and out among you for nearly two generations. His name was a household word. And where men and Masons met he was well spoken of.

He was first citizen.

He helped to lay deep the foundations of this State and the superstructure upon which it is raised. And won the esteem and admiration of his fellows. Our hearts are touched and our sympathies go out to his beloved wife, and the craft he so unselfishly loved, and his fellow townsmen, at his lost. And the warning his death teaches, that we too must die, prepare to meet your God!

The old Grand Master is dead. Soon they were laid him away in the silent city of the dead, they are to sleep until the morn of the resurrection; and I shall cherish to my latest day, his memory.

And the friend we had made, that the survivor should speak of this life and time of each other. And as I grow old and gray and look back upon sweet memories of this life, it will be my fond recollection of his well spent life; a life lived greatly, admirably, and godly.

I trust that we shall meet him beyond the river, where parting is no more. And as he traveled through the valleys and the shadows, that angels of mercy accompanied and comforted this good man, and welcomed him home to be with his heavenly Father forevermore.

Good bye and [?] choicest-blessings be upon you Henry, is our fervent prayer. Bon voyage old friend, A safe journey and happiness, Peace to your [?]!"

What could one possibly add to such an elegant mastery of statesmanship? Simply moving...
M.W. Henry J. Asberry, Past Grand Master
MW United Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. for the State of WA

Written by Brother John L. Hairston, MPS-Life, Phylaxis Society
J. C. Logan Lodge #53, F. & A.M.
MWPHGL of WA and Jurisdiction

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