American Union Chapter No. 1
Royal Arch Masons
200 Years in Marietta, Ohio – June 16, 1792 to June 16, 1992
Author, Right Worshipful Brother Earl C. Gifford
Chapter 1: THE FIRST FIFTY YEARS – 1792 to 1842
American Union Chapter No. 1, Royal Arch Masons, of Marietta, Ohio is recognized as the oldest Chapter of Royal Arch Masons in Ohio. For the first 24 years of its existence it was a part of the operation of American Union Lodge, which conferred the Capitular Degrees under its sanction. The Lodge was originally constituted in Massachusetts on February 20, 1776 and was a traveling army Lodge during the Revolutionary War. It was reopened in Marietta in 1790, and Marietta became its permanent home.
The Chapter dates itself from the date of the first conferral of the Royal Arch Degree in American Union on June 16, 1792. The Grand Chapter of Ohio at the time of its formation in 1816 recognized American Union Chapter as having existed from the 1792 date.
Although the story of the formation of the Chapter as a separate organization makes interesting reading, that story is well told in Selby & Walker’s “History of Royal Arch Freemasonry in Ohio” Volume 1, pages 9 – 11 and 17 – 21. It is the purpose of the present paper to trace the history of the Chapter from its separate chartering in 1816 up to the present. As to the earlier period, suffice it to say that the question of proper organization and government of the Capitular Degrees was an emotional one among Marietta Brethren, and caused American Union Lodge to refuse to join the Grand Lodge of Ohio at its constitution in 1808 and for some years thereafter, because American Union refused to give up jurisdiction over these prized degrees. After several years of waiting, asking, and humoring, the Grand Lodge finally forced the issue in 1815 by declaring American Union Lodge to be operating as an unauthorized, unwarranted Lodge and banned the intercourse of regular Masons with American Union. This caused a cleavage among the Marietta Brethren, one group going to the Grand Lodge Communication on January 1, 1816 and receiving a charter from the Grand Lodge of Ohio, while the other faction continued to operate as a rival, unauthorized Lodge in Marietta for several years. The minutes of this group were lost and have never been found. A leader of this faction was their Secretary, Colonel Ichabod Nye, and many believe he deliberately destroyed the minutes after the Lodge became dormant.
On October 16, 1816, a meeting of the Royal Arch Masons of Marietta (apparently the “legal” group) was called to receive and discuss a proposal from the Cincinnati Chapter to form a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Ohio at a convention to be held in Worthington on October 21, 1816. Thirteen Companions attended this meeting, which was presided over by Joseph Wood. They elected Levi Barber, Samuel Hoit, and Joseph Wood as delegates to the Worthington convention and empowered them to “act in behalf of this chapter as they may deem most expedient in said convention”. Companion Barber was not able to go.
A perusal of the Selby-Walker history of the Grand Chapter will disclose the success of the Worthington convention, and the fact that Samuel Hoit of American Union was elected and installed as the first Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Ohio. Companion Hoit is the first of four members of American Union to gain the distinction of being Grand High Priest at this writing.
On December 3, 1816 the members of American Union Chapter gathered as per custom at the door of the hall where they usually met (apparently Ichabod Nye’s store) and were adamantly refused admission by Nye (Secretary of the now “irregular” branch of American Union Lodge). The Companions then adjourned to the Hall of the other American Union Lodge (the branch recognized by the Grand Lodge of Ohio) on Point Harmar. Brother Weston Thomas was elected to membership as a Most Excellent Master by affiliation. Grand High Priest Hoit then opened in the Royal Arch Degree, and the official report of the delegates to the Worthington convention was received, after which the annual election of officers was held. Levi Barber was elected High Priest, and two Royal Arch Masons were elected to membership by demit. No explanation is given as to why High Priest Joseph T. Millard did not preside at this meeting. He was present. Perhaps he simply deferred to the new Grand High Priest.