Old Leo Letters – September 10, 2010

Old Leo Letters
Issue # 1 – September 10, 2010
L.E.O. – Leadership – Education – Oratory!

“Leadership is action, not position.” Proverb

Dear Masonic Student,

The article below is a piece I wrote back in 2004. I hadn’t forgotten about it, but I did lose it. It was first published in the September / October issue of the Minnesota Mason Newspaper. I looked in every computer file I have here in my office and couldn’t find the article. Finally I asked the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, R.W. Brother Doug Campbell, and he had it archived, so he sent me a copy. I really appreciate Brother Doug’s help. I up-dated the article; I hope it will be of interest to you – Ed (The Old Leo)

“Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” George S. Patton

James Frederick Lawless
by Ed Halpaus

This article should be of interest to a lot of Masons: Those who enjoy Masonic history, or simply learning about the men who became Masons years ago and helped pave the way for the Masons of today.

In 1967 the Grand Master of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Minnesota, Most Worshipful Brother Joseph Seltzer, attended the 250th anniversary of the formation of the Premier Grand Lodge in 1717

The 1967 celebration was hosted by the United Grand Lodge of England. The 300th anniversary will be in 2017. For those who like to look ahead or to witness history they may want to plan on attending the 300th anniversary celebration, and it might be enjoyable to take a look at your Grand Lodge progressive line and figure out who will be the Grand Master of your Grand Lodge in 2017, because if the United Grand Lodge hosts a celebration for the 300th anniversary, he may be the Mason attending to represent your Grand Lodge.

I mention ‘if,’ and ‘may,’ because of some history M.W. Brother Joe used to mention to me in our visits. (Brother Joe was a great guy who was very knowledgeable and interested in Masonry and Masonic Education; he passed to the Celestial Lodge just 3 week prior to his 100th birthday.) Our M.W. Brother told me that on the 50 year marks of the founding of the Premiere Grand Lodge there seemed to be many problems that either prevented an anniversary celebration, or prevented many Grand Masters from making the trip to England for a celebration. In 1767 relations were strained between the Colonies and Great Britain; in 1817 the war of 1812 was only 5 years into history, and the relations between our two countries was still not the best;  in 1867 the U.S. was involved in its Civil War, and Great Britain was supporting the Confederacy; by 1917 the U.S. and Great Britain were allies, but were involved in the Great War, which we now know as the First World War; in 1967 the U.S. and its allies, which includes our Friends in Great Britain, were involved in the Viet Nam War, but still the United Grand Lodge held a great celebration to commemorate the founding of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717. According to Brother Joe they may have had other celebrations, but this was the first time it was on so large a scale and the first time a Grand Master from Minnesota attended.

I would like to put in a plug for the value of Grand Lodge Proceedings for the Masonic student to read when he has a chance. These are good books to acquire for a Masonic library; either a Mason’s private collection or a Lodge library. Sadly Many Lodges have just thrown away the proceedings thinking they had no lasting value, but they are good sources of information on a variety of subjects.

In my Grand Lodge the proceedings at one time also contained the proceedings of the Masonic Veteran association, and that is where I got the idea for the article on M.W. Brother Lawless. The following article was first published (in a different form) in the September / October issue of the Minnesota Mason. In the 1917 Proceedings of the Minnesota Masonic Veteran Association the Historian for the association wrote: “many will remember James Lawless formerly of St. Paul now living at Bournemouth England.”  That line caught my eye, and the correct title for Brother Lawless is Most Worshipful Brother James F. Lawless. He was Grand Master of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Minnesota for the year 1896–1897. The Historian told about a letter he received from M.W. Brother Lawless in 1917. It seems Brother Lawless moved to Bournemouth England in about 1911 or 1912, establishing a home there.

M.W. Brother Lawless was born in Ireland in 1864 and came to America as a young man. He took his degrees in United Service Lodge #215 at Newbridge, Kildare Ireland. On December 2, 1887, having demitted from his Lodge in Ireland, he petitioned and became affiliated with St. Paul Lodge #3 in St.  Paul, Minnesota: His membership roster number in St.  Paul No. 3’s book of members is #352. When he joined the Lodge in St. Paul he was 23 years old, and he listed his occupation as Bookkeeper.

After arriving in St. Paul “he entered the service of the Great Northern Express Company at St. Paul, and by virtue of his energy and indefatigable labors rose rapidly in the ranks becoming Auditor of the company in 1892, and then Superintendent in 1896. In 1898 he resigned to accept the position of General Manager of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company at Seattle, Washington. A few years later became General Manager of the San Francisco, California, Street Railway Company. He resigned the latter position some ten years ago and made his residence at Bournemouth, in the south of England, where he established a beautiful country home.”ii

That is the kind of man and business man Most Worshipful Brother Lawless was.  As I mentioned Brother Lawless joined St.  Paul No. 3 in 1887. In 1890 he was elected to the office of Senior Warden of his Lodge; he then served as Master in 1891, 1892, and 1893. It was in 1893 he was appointed to the office of Grand Orator for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota.

His Grand Oration is interesting reading, and can be found in the 1894 Proceedings. One part of his oration I would like to show you as an example is this:  “The history of the order bears eloquent testimony to the skill of the operative brethren. The structures of the old world which engage the attention of all; the cathedrals, wonderful in their architectural beauty, have had the square and compass, the plumb and the rule applied to them, and stand living monuments of their perfect work. And from this operative body was evolved the speculative school,  applying the square and compass, the plumb and rule to the hearts of men, whose spiritual buildings, if erected agreeable to these measures, will stand the inspection of the Supreme Grand Master and remain throughout the ages as monuments of truth and righteousness.”

In 1894 Brother Lawless was elected Senior Grand Warden, then Deputy Grand Master in 1895, and then Grand Master in 1896. Rapid advancement, but he was certainly up the task.

In the letter he sent to the historian of the Masonic Veteran Association in 1917 Brother Lawless said he was enjoying life in England, and had taken the job as acting special constable, (in an unpaid capacity,) in order to release a younger man to be in the army. He was also active in the recruiting service in England during World War I. In his letter he stated that he had confidence and faith in the ultimate success of the allies in the war.

In his eulogy read by Grand Master Jenkins in 1922 it was said that M.W. Brother Lawless was a firm friend, a man of strong convictions, equitable to all and loyal. “His constant aim was to do right, and to be faithful to every trust and duty.”

Most Worshipful Brother Lawless was a Knight Templar, a 33° S.R. Mason, and a Shrine Mason. He is buried at Boscombe Cemetery at Bournemouth, England. His funeral was largely attended by his friends and associates; there were also many people of prominence attending his funeral.

M.W. Brother Lawless was a member of the Masonic Veteran Association.  This is an interesting group. The name has only to do with Masonic age. Back then a man needed to be 21 to be made a Mason, and once he had been a Mason for 21 years he was eligible to be in the Masonic Veteran This is a good Masonic body for the Masonic Student to learn more about.


i 2002 List of Lodges Masonic
ii Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota 1922 – Grand Master’s Report – F.E. Jenkins, G.M.

“If leadership is an art, then leaders are the artists, organizations are the easel, people are the canvas, ideas are the pigment, values are the frame, and vision is the thing that’s hung up at the gallery–the final outcome that’s so magical – tempts the audience to forget the messy process by which the result is fashioned, and lures them into a state of awe.” Walter Stevenson

Fraternal regards,
Ed Halpaus
Grand LEO
Grand Lodge A.F. & A.M. of MN