During the California Gold Rush, the body of a heavily tattooed man was discovered floating in San Francisco Bay. Upon examination, he was found to be carrying the silver shekel of a Mark Master Mason bearing his initials. His tattoos were Masonic in nature; on his left arm he bore the symbols of the Entered Apprentice degree, on his right he bore the symbols of a Fellowcraft, and over his heart were the symbols of a Master Mason. The man’s name remains unknown, but a large gathering of Masons attended his Masonic Funeral.
Every year Blue Lodges across the state of California bestow an honor known as the Hiram award upon a single member of their individual Lodge. The award is generally described as the ‘highest honor” which can be presented by a Lodge. This can be somewhat confusing, as being Master of the Lodge is also described as being the ‘highest honor” that a Mason can achieve. Technically, both statements are true.
To understand the differences, it is necessary to know the history of the Hiram Award, how it is awarded, what it is, and who is eligible to receive it.
Before the Grand Lodge of California came into existence in 1850, the first Masons began arriving in the area. While there were many Masons who came to California, first Master Mason to arrive and settle in the area permanently was Brother Abel Sterrns.
Nicknamed “Cara de Caballo” (“Horse Face”) for his “long-jawed countenance,” Brother Stearns was born in Lunenburg, Massachusetts. He was raised to Master Mason, as far as records indicate, in Salem, MA. He moved from Salem to colonial Mexico, where he became a naturalized citizen.
On February 27, 2011, Frank Woodruff Buckles passed away. At the time of his death, he was one of three surviving World War I veterans in the world, and the only American of the group of veterans. He was 110 years old.
Buckles enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1917 at the age of 17. He shipped over to Europe on the RMS Carpathia (the ship which responded to and rescued survivors from the RMS Titanic only five years before), where he served with 1st Fort Riley Casual Detachment driving motorcycles and ambulances in England and France.