Whence Came We ?
Before going into the history of Tall Cedarism. I would like
to quote the Preamble of our Constitution, which is not only
adequate, but sometimes fills a need for those men who are
our brothers through the great Masonic fraternity in which
we progressed from the apprentice, fellow craft, and Master
It is to promote wider acquaintances and friendship among
men already bound together by fraternal vows: To perpetuate
itself as a fraternal and social organization, and to
provide for its orderly government," In the good book it
states. " in the beginning." And thus it is with the Tall
Cedars of Lebanon-there was a beginning, just how and where
is a moot question and a lot of it is conjecture, but some
facts do come out of the wood (Cedar wood, i.e..).
Apparently it all started in 1843 with some very energetic
and imaginative Master Masons who dreamed up the idea of a
Tall Cedar Degree, and in those days the degree was called "
The Ancient and Honorable Rite of Humility." The name "Tall
Cedar Degree" does not reveal itself other than the
possibility of a somewhat shorter title than the
aforementioned, and this was to remain as such until we
adopted the title of " Tall Cedars of Lebanon of the United
States of America" upon incorporation in 1902.
It was some time around 1846, after the meetings of the
Grand Lodge and some of the Blue Lodges in the Pennsylvania
and New Jersey area that they would have the Tall Cedar
Degree performed., and from what I can gather, it was a form
of hazing in which the candidates for the degree were gotten
from those willing to receive it, and it was put on by those
who had already received the degree. However, there was a
great lapse of time and nothing was heard about this degree
until the early 1850's when a Dr. Thomas J. Corson from the
New Jersey area started conferring the degree as he had
received it in Philadelphia.
As you well know, around that time your only means of travel
was the horse and buggy, and the train, so this degree was
not performed often, but rest assure, whenever they had a
good gathering of Master Masons, the Tall Cedar Degree was
put on. It was always so much clean fun to see someone get
the works, even as it is today. Some " Old Timer" spoke of a
jury of men being housed in the hotel in a town in New
Jersey, that heard the Tall Cedar Degree was to be
performed. The Deputy Sheriff being a Mason took those that
were also Masons to see it performed and after it was over
brought them back to the hotel. It must have been really
something to go to all that trouble.
Upon the death of Dr. Corson in 1879 the Tall Cedar Degree
was continued by Dr. Stevens , who organized the first
regular degree team and went to several cities and towns
throughout the New Jersey area performing the work.
It seems that Glassboro, New Jersey, was the focal point for
the performance of the Tall Cedars Degree, for whenever that
had enough candidates the work was put on. In 1887 Dr.
Stevens and his degree team came to the town and conferred
the degree on Frank W. Bowen and Orlando M. Bowen, and
thirteen other candidates. I mention the names of these
brethren because they were part of the charter group that
formed the Tall Cedars of Lebanon. Even today, The Pitman
Masonic Club in Pitman, New Jersey is where the 34th degree
is performed, and perhaps is the aftermath of he Tall Cedar
In similar manner as the 34th degree is now conferred, at
Pitman Masonic Club on May 24, 1901, fifty-four Master
masons who had received the Tall Cedar Degree met in
Glassboro, New Jersey, to watch and confer the degree on 53
candidates from Glassboro, Clayton, Williamstown, Manuta,
Woodbury and Philadelphia, with the following as officers.
They were Grand Mogul Frank W. Bowen, Vice-Mogul Jacob Bibo,
Treasurer T.C. Allen, Secretary Dr. F.A. Stanger, Conductor
S. Stanger Iszard, Assistant Conductor Charles W. Wood,
Inside Announcer W.H. Jones, Outside Announcer B.T. Ferrell,
Preparer of the Forest Bresier Westcoat, Jr. Chaplain Rev.
John H. Algar.
I mentioned above officers' titles to give you an idea of
what comprised Tall Cedar Degree Team,. It seems that the
library of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has a manuscript
in its archives written in 1864 by Brother William H. Adams,
Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge, recording the secret
work, and a description of the degree.
Four Master Masons who received the Tall Cedar Degree later
became Supreme Tall Cedars, They were Frank W. Bowen, and
Orlando M. Bowen in 1887, David H. Lukens in 1888, and Johns
S. Broughton in 1889. The above brethren along with several
others (fifteen in all, charter members of our organization)
assembled in the State Capitol of New Jersey, in the City of
Trenton, on March 18, 1902 for the purpose of establishing a
fraternal order to be know as the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of
America for fun, frolic, and fellowship. These brethren felt
that since this form of friendship and sociability occurred
so infrequently and had little form, that by incorporating
they could eliminate the haphazard, disorganized methods of
conferring the Tall cedar Degree and thus stabilize and
preserve a worthwhile ceremony.
I honestly believe that in the Prologue and Royal Court we
have one of the most beautiful ritualistic works and we are
indeed thankful to Rev. George S. Gassner who was
instrumental in making up the ritual. It comes directly from
the first book of Kings Chapter 5 verses 1 though 10, and
the second book of Chronicles, Chapter 2 verses 8 and 9. Of
the two passages, the first book of Kings, Chapter 5 is more
specific. It revolves around the building of the Temple of
Jerusalem, and that King Solomon had to rely in the help of
King Hiram of Tyre who send his Hewers of Wood into the
forest of Lebanon to strike down and shape all the tall
cedars for use in the Temple thus the Tall Cedars of Lebanon
have a biblical background and performance of the Tall Cedar
Degree in the Blue Lodges at the conclusion of their
meetings brings us closer to our Masonic forbearance.
Thus, from March 18, 1902 to 1971, we are known as the Tall
Cedars of Lebanon of the United States of America, However,
on November 13 1971 in our 70th year of existence we
instituted a Forest in Canada, and be came known as the Tall
Cedars of Lebanon of North America. While our strength of
membership lies in the eastern section of the United States
were are slowly expanding westward.
All down through the years the Tall Cedars of Lebanon had in
one way or anther, on occasion contributed to worthy causes,
However they really became of age when they decided that "no
organization could continue to prosper unless it had a
definite uplifting objective for the benefit of humanity."
These were the remarks of the Most Worshipful Grand Master
Harry Campbell of Washington, DC in 1933. After years of
investigation and research in 1951 they found not only a
worthy cause but one which desperately needed support --
muscular dystrophy. Up until 1972 we supported the
Metabolism Unity on the tenth floor of the Research Center
in New York City through our Contributions and Life Fund
Memberships in the National Charitable Objective.
When the Metabolism Unity of the Research Center was closed
in 1972 the Supreme Forest was advised that the Muscular
Dystrophy Association and the Muscular Dystrophy Association
of America were going to submit monies in the form of
research grants to various universities and colleges in the
search and cure for muscular dystrophy, and they would
welcome our support in this endeavor. It was decided that
the Tall Cedars of Lebanon of North America would become a
part of this project with the Jerry Lewis Tall Cedar Day
Camp in the summertime. Thus while one aspect of our
National Charitable Objective fades away another on come
into the forefront with the possible finding of a cure for
the dreaded disease through the project and to provide for a
little bit of fun for these children in the summertime.
Before I close I would like to leave this thought with you.
Should you meet a Cedar wearing a pyramid upon his head,
greet him for he is always glad to extend to you the hand of
friendship for he carries in his heart compassion,
friendship and love for his fellow man -- that is why he is
a Tall Cedar.
Written by the late J. Edward Bullen, Past Grand Tall Cedar
Baltimore no. 45, Supreme Historian 1970-1975.