hemorethan16,000objects

intheNationalHeritage

Museumcollectioncontain

morethan2,000itemsknownasthe
“SupremeCouncilCollection.”As
theNorthernMasonicJurisdiction’s
200thanniversaryapproachesin
2013,themuseumisstartingtoplan
anexhibitiononthehistoryofthe
SupremeCouncil,N.M.J.,U.S.A.,to
celebratethatmomentousoccasion.
Thefirststepinthisprocessisan
inventoryandassessmentofthe
collection.Highlightedherearea
fewobjectsthatwillintroduce
readerstothewidevarietyofitems
thathelpustellthestoryofScottish
RiteFreemasonry.Whilesomeof
theseobjectsareassociatedwiththe
foundersoftheN.M.J.,othersare
smallitemsthatmightbeoverlooked
yettellinterestingstoriesaboutN.M.J.pastactivities
andmembers.

ThefirstAmericanSupremeCouncilwas

establishedinCharleston,SC,in1801.In1813,that
bodyrecognizedtheSupremeCouncilforthe
NorthernMasonicJurisdiction.Oneofthemembers
ofthisgroupfromitsbeginningwasJohnJames
JosephGourgas(1777-1865),whoemigratedto
BostonviaLondonfromSwitzerlandin1803.
Knowntodayas“theConservatoroftheRite,”
GourgasbecameSovereignGrandCommanderin
1832,servinguntil1851.Duringthefirsttenyearsof
histermasGrandCommander,theSupreme
Councilwasinactiveduetothepressuresofanti-
Masonicfervor.However,despitealackofmeetings,
Gourgasdidnotsitidle.Hepreservedthefounding

documentsandritualsalongwithotherhistorical
documents.Hekeptupcorrespondencewith
ScottishRiteleadersinEuropeandintheSouthern
Jurisdictionaswellasinhisownjurisdiction.Heled
arevivaloftheScottishRiteintheearly1840safter
anti-Masonicactivitiescooled.

Partlythroughtheircorrespondence,Gourgas

forgedastrongrelationshipwithhiscounterpartin
theSouthernJurisdiction,S.G.C.MosesHolbrook.
AwatercolorintheSupremeCouncilcollection
representstheclosetiesbetweentheNorthernand
SouthernJurisdictions.Datingtothe1840s,a
handwrittennoteonthedrawingreads,“Charleston
S.C.theirDiploma’sheadings,”suggestingthatitisa
watercolordepictionofaSouthernJurisdiction
degreecertificatewhichperhapsinspiredthe
NorthernMasonicJurisdiction’sowncertificatesas
Gourgaswasstirredtoactioninthemid-1840s.The
watercolorissignedonthebackbyGourgasandhas

6

August2009/

TheNorthernLight

ByAIMEEE.NEWELL

Approaching200Years

TheSupremeCouncilCollection

willshinein2013

T

ScottishRite

Watercolor,ca.

1840,National

HeritageMuseum,

Photographby

DavidBohl.