The University of Southern Mississippi -- McCain Library and Archives
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Collection Title: Hattiesburg Knights of Pythias Minute Book
Collection Number: M247
Dates: March 1900 - August 1913
Volume: .20 cubic feet
Provenance: Donated by Mr. and Mrs. John McGregor, December 1987. Both the Grand Lodge Knights of Pythias, Domain of Mississippi and the Supreme Lodge of the Knights of Pythias were subsequently notified of the donation, and both expressed approval.
The Supreme Order of the Knights of Pythias was founded on February 19, 1864, by Justus H. Rathbone in an effort to heal hatreds caused by the Civil War. The organization, which emphasizes the principles of friendship, charity, and benevolence, was based on the friendship of Damon and Pythias, two citizens of the Roman state of Syracuse who lived in the fourth century B.C.
The first lodge was formed in Washington, D.C. in August 1868. State and local Knights of Pythias chapters promoted cooperation, friendship, goodwill, and opportunities for public service. Members were required to follow a code of strict morality, absolute truthfulness, honor, and integrity. Rituals for the organization were written by the founder.
State lodges consisted of all local chapters and had an internal organizational scheme based on the national supreme lodge. The Knights of Pythias chapter in Hattiesburg, Mississippi was Crescent Lodge #47, which was initiated on March 13, 1888. In the beginning, weekly meetings were held in the Castle Hall but were later moved to the Odd Fellows Hall at 119-121 East Front Street. From 1903-1913 meetings were held on the third floor of the Citizens Bank building, at the corner of Main and Front Streets.
Officers of the Hattiesburg Knights of Pythias Crescent Lodge #47 were elected every six months and served in the following capacities: the Grand Chancellor presided over meetings and was aided by the Vice-Chancellor who performed social and organizational duties; the Keeper of Records and Seal acted as secretary, recording minutes and managing correspondence; the Inner and Outer Guard tended the doors; the Master of Exchequer and of Finance issued warrants, disbursed funds, and balanced the ledger. The only annual salaried positions were those of the Keeper of Records and Seal, who received $24.00; the Exchequer, who received $10.00; and the Master of Finance who received 10% of all dues collected from members.
Membership of the Hattiesburg Lodge #47 was comprised of professional men such as doctors, lawyers, and clergy, as well as businessmen. Some noted members were Dr. W.W. Crawford, a physician; Paul B. Johnson, noted legislator; George Currie, lawyer and officer of Knights of Pythias; D.E. McInnis and J.S. Turner, businessmen; and C.M. and R.B. McLeod, presidents of rival banks and owners of a local department store.
Individuals became members either by invitation or application, but could also be admitted by transfer from another lodge. Candidates were referred to a committee which investigated their worthiness. A quorum of members was required to vote either for or against admission of candidates. Once approved for membership, initiates were required to pay $5.00 in dues (a figure that increased to $6.00 in 1911), and a $10.00 initiation fee. New members entered the chapter with the rank of page. The ranking system was developed by the founder and was based on the medieval premise of chivalry. Through service to the lodge, members could work toward earning the ranks of esquire and knight.
The Hattiesburg lodge served the local community by contributing its members' time and the lodge's resources to several local charities, as well as orphanages in Natchez and Jackson, and the Confederate Veteran's Home in Biloxi. This lodge also provided assistance to fellow members who were ill or in financial trouble, and to flood victims in Galveston, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, as well. In addition, the lodge rented its meeting rooms to fellow organizations, helped to organize and support an Athletic Club for local youth, and supported community events such as parades.
The last report from the Hattiesburg Lodge to the Grand Lodge of Mississippi was made December 31, 1941.
The collection consists of one volume of minutes from meetings of the Knights of Pythias Crescent Lodge #47, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, covering the period March 1900 to August 1913, and two pamphlets on the history of the Knights of Pythias. The pamphlets were provided by Mr. Jack Klai, Supreme Secretary of the Knights of Pythias.
The minute book contains weekly chronological entries from meetings held at Castle Hall, Odd Fellows Hall, and the third floor of the Citizens Bank Building. The types of organizational and charitable activities which were conducted by the society are evident in the minutes.
Meetings were held on Thursday evenings and followed a prescribed format. Each committee presented its report, then candidates for membership were voted on by a quorum of members. Other business conducted at the meetings included discussion and approval of charitable support for members, people in the community, local causes, and upkeep of Lodge #47.
The minute book has 500 numbered pages, only three pages of which are not filled. There are no entries for November 1905 through January 1906, December 1906, or August 1907 through September 1908. Entries were made by the Keeper of Records and Seal, who with the other officers, was elected every six months. Entries vary in style and legibility. Some are written in ink, while others are in pencil.
This collection should be of use to those interested in the infrastructure and activities of fraternal organizations in the Hattiesburg area, as well as their affiliation with state and national organizations. A list of in-state and out-of-state lodges named in the minutes is included. Included in the entries are descriptions of attendance at community events by members and notations of members' deaths. Names and locations of various building in Hattiesburg, as well as names of local doctors, lawyers, clergy, and businessmen are also included. In addition, the notes contain information concerning expulsion of members for violation of the organization's code, plus details of efforts to establish a local Temple of Pythian Sisters in Hattiesburg.