Robert T. Arthur and the DeMolay Founder’s Cross

Posted: September 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

As a Senior DeMolay, I was intrigued by Seth Anthony’s quest to track down all 137 recipients of the DeMolay Founder’s Cross. The Founder’s Cross was presented by Dad Frank S. Land, founder of the Order of DeMolay, to individuals personally loyal to him. After Dad Land’s death in 1959, no further Founder’s Crosses were awarded. The first Founder’s Crosses were awarded in 1937. Its relative scarcity, and the high profile of many recipients, makes it perhaps the most prestigious award in the history DeMolay.

MasseyFoundersCross2

 

In Seth Anthony’s spreadsheet of recipients, one name stood out to me: Robert T. Arthur. It was notable not because I knew Dad Arthur—he died in 1949—but because he was a resident of Denison, Texas.

My family is from Denison. I went to Kindergarten and first grade there, my brother was born there, my mom, both my grandmothers, and many aunts and uncles still live there. It is as much of a homeland as I’ve ever had. But I know they have not had a DeMolay chapter there in a very long time. I joined the Order of DeMolay in Texas (Tyler) in 1992, and the chapter in Denison was a distant memory even then.

I considered myself familiar with the history of Texas DeMolay, but I had never heard of Dad Arthur. So I enlisted the help of everyone I could find to help track down some vital details about Robert T. Arthur on the distant hope that he might have some surviving relatives who could tell us more about him or what happened to his Founder’s Cross.

One individual, in particular, stepped forward to assist me in this search: Jim Sears. To him, I owe many thanks for tracking down these newspaper articles. His research skills are second-to-none. All of the photos below are a product of his research. Thank you, Jim.

 

The Railroad Man

Robert T. Arthur was born in Missouri in 1867. His family moved to Pilot Point, in Denton County, Texas, when he was young. Pilot Point is the oldest settlement in Denton County. It is still an operating city (unlike nearby Pilot Grove, birthplace of Benny Binion), and is still associated with horse breeding. Arthur graduated from Denton Normal school (now called the University of North Texas). He then worked in Denton as a school teacher before moving to Denison to take a job with the Katy Railroad in 1889. He worked as a conductor on passenger rail lines for over 50 years. In 1893, at the age of 26, he was elected an officer (Senior Conductor) in the Denison Division of the Order of Railway Conductors (the union representing passenger rail workers).

SundayGazeteer_Dec31_1893-excerpt

These newspaper articles are sometimes hard to read (and the text should be indexed by search engines) so I will transcribe them throughout.

[Sunday Gazetteer, Denison Texas, December 31, 1893

Division 53, of the Order of Railway Conductors, held an election of officers in their hall Thursday afternoon which resulted as follows: W.S. Oldham, C.C.; W.H. Tobin, A.C.C.; E.B. Kollert, secretary and treasurer; R.T. Arthur, S. C., Burt Cox, J.C.; J.L. Tygard, I.S.;  John Smythe, O.S.; J.H. Dolan, G.F. Miller, Jeff L. Finley, local committee, John L. Tygard, Sam Proud, J.T. Strait, trustees and finance committee.

Messrs. Daffin and Quinlan, of the Central, spent a few hours in Denison Friday.

The social event of the season among the railroad people of Denison was that of Thursday evening at the Woodmen's hall—an entertainment and banquet given by the ladies' auxiliary to the Brotherhood of Railway Conductors.]

 

The ritual for the ORC was very similar to a Masonic ceremony, so it’s not surprising that these men were members of several other fraternal organizations. Here is an example of an ORC membership card around the time Arthur joined the Brotherhood:

Railway

[image via https://www.flickr.com/photos/aemays/5618961385/]

R.T. Arthur married Ms. Lenora Tipton in Denison on July 22, 1891. The couple had three daughters: Faye, who died in infancy; Maude, who died in 1916 at age 24, and Marie, who later married Roy Miller. Robert and Lenora celebrated 50 years of marriage in Denison in 1941. He was the organizer and first advisor to the Denison Chapter of DeMolay, founded in 1921. Much of this information is gleaned from the 1941 newspaper article below.

 

Arthur_R_T__TheDenisonPress__1941Jul22__pg4

[From The Denison Press, July 22, 1941

Mr. and Mrs. R.T. Arthur were celebrating their golden wedding Tuesday at their home, 1023 West Morton, while their daughter, Marie and her husband, Roy Miller, were observing their second anniversary. Due to the health of Mrs. Arthur, there will be no formal gathering. Later in the fall the Arthurs plan a trip to California.

Mrs. Arthur is the former Lenora Tipton, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. J.I. Tipton, who operated a farm east of Denison after moving here from Kansas. Mrs. Arthur was born in Illinois. She was married at the age of 17 to Robert T. Arthur, then a young Katy railroad man, just arrived from a school teacher’s job in Denton county. He is a graduate of what was then Denton Normal. He was born in Missouri, but moved to Pilot Point with his family when he was a small boy.

The couple married in Denison July 22, 1891, at the home of an aunt, now deceased. They had three children, all girls. Faye Arthur died in infancy. Miss Maude Arthur died in Denison in 1915. Miss Marie Arthur became the wife of W. Roy Miller on her parents’ anniversary two years ago.

Mr. and Mrs. Arthur have been active in the Order of Eastern Star and the Presbyterian Church. Mr. Arthur belongs to a number of Masonic bodies including local chapters and the Shrine, Hella Temple, Dallas, and is a 33rd degree Mason, participating in the activities of a group of 33rd members in Dallas. Mr. Arthur organized the Denison chapter of DeMolay and is active in the affairs of the Shrine hospital at Dallas.

Mrs. Arthur’s hobbies are fancy needle work and flower culture. She is a member of the Denison Garden club and specializes in flower arrangement.

Mr. Arthur’s railroad career dates back to the days when Denison was a wild and wooly frontier town. He has served almost half a century with the Katy and continues his passenger run as a conductor.]

 

Through his travels as a railroad conductor, R.T. Arthur was able to travel across Texas at free or reduced rates, easily attending Scottish Rite, Shrine, and DeMolay meetings in Dallas and beyond.

It’s telling that a man, like Frank S. Land himself, who had no sons of his own, organized a group of young men into a fraternal organization that was a model for others. What tragedy to bury two daughters.

His surviving daughter, Marie, married Roy Miller and taught at Denison High School for many years.

Miller_Marie__1966YellowJacket__pg17

She passed away in 1991, leaving Robert T. Arthur with no living descendants.

Miller_Marie__obit__TheDenisonHerald__1991Feb20

Denison DeMolay

The Order of DeMolay for boys was organized Frank S. Land in Kansas City, Missouri. The first meeting was held March 24, 1919. More chapters were quickly founded across the country.

The chapter in Denison, Texas, was organized in January 1921. It was the 200th chapter founded, with Letters Temporary granted on January 28, 1921. Denison was one of the first chapters of DeMolay in Texas. Ameth Chapter, in El Paso, was the first: it was founded in 1920.

The Denison High School Yearbook from 1937 includes this page of the members and a brief history of the chapter.

1937_56

 

[Denison, Texas, High School Yearbook, 1937

ORDER OF DeMOLAY

TOP ROW: Jack Blackburn, Bill Conatser, Guy Cooke, Leland Cornell, Lewis Cox, and Harlston Crites

SECOND ROW: Clifford Ealer, Paul Horn, Keith Hubbard, Royden Lebrecht, James Miller, and Ben Oram

BOTTOM ROW: J.W. Ownby, Ray Shone, Bill Snoddy, Carl Thompson, Harry Whitmore, and Aaron Witz

The Order of DeMolay originated March 24, 1919, with Frank S. Land of Kansas City, who is now Secretary General of the Grand Council.

The Denison Chapter was the two hundredth one organized, receiving its Letters Temporary on January 28, 1921, with R.T. Arthur, Chairman of the first Advisory Council. On April 1, 1921, the first meeting was held when twenty charter members were initiated into the order.

The Order of DeMolay is now an international organization with over 1330 chapters located in every State of the Union and many foreign countries. Membership is open to boys between the ages of 15 and 21 who prove themselves to be worthy of affiliation.

Initiation into the order is a declaration by the member that he believes in the ideals of good sonship, good citizenship and other qualities of superior young manhood.

Its main purpose is to develop leaders for the community by encouraging high-grade, all around mental, physical, social, economic and spiritual development.

The Denison Chapter rates among the finest in the United States which position it has sustained through sincere work of its members and through the splendid leadership and guidance of its advisors.

The chapter has won 17 cups in competitive degree work and has received numerous honors from the Grand Council for outstanding leadership.

Its present membership is composed of about 50 young men under the following officers:

Master Councilor, Jack Blackburn; Senior Councilor, James Hogg; Junior Councilor, Ray Shone; Senior Deacon, Pat Perry; Junior Deacon, James Miller; Stuart Cooper, Chaplain; Aaron Witz, Marshal; James Drake, Senior Steward; Lewis Cox, Junior Steward; Bob Bailey, Standard Bearer; Harleston Crites, Sentinel; James Carpenter, Scribe; Preceptors: Clifford Ealer, Guy Cooke, Keith Hubbard, Leland Cornell, Richard Vanston, J.W. Ownby, and Ben Oram.

It has on its advisory board twelve members of the Denison Commandery, headed by Verne W. Murray, as chairman and H.H. Vanston as Chapter Advisor.]

Here are some of the Denison High School year book (The Yellowjacket) pages for the DeMolay club in the 1920s. Here is 1924:

DHS_DeMolays_1925YJ_pg59

 

And here is 1925:DHS_DeMolays_1924YJ_pg67

As far as I can tell, the chapter was active and productive from 1921 until the 1960s. One of the high points in the life of the chapter came in 1937 when Dad Arthur was awarded the Founder’s Cross by Frank S. Land at the Conclave in Waco.

DeMolays_TheWacoNews-Tribune_1937Jun18__pg1DeMolays__TheWacoNews-Tribune__1937Jun18__pg17

 [Waco News-Tribune, June 18, 1937

DeMolays Receive Highest Honor at Hands of Founder

Frank S. Land of Kansas City Confers Legion Award on Members of Young Men's Order

3 Wacoans given Special Awards

Alva Bryan, Robert Arthur and Lee Dewey Are Handed Crosses in Recognition of Work

The legion of honor, the highest distinction which a DeMolay can receive, was conferred on five young men of Texas last night by Frank S. Land of Kansas City, founder of the Order of DeMolay. Mr. Land also presented for the first time in the history of the order, his personal founders cross to three men, Alva Bryan, Robert Arthur, and Lee Dewey in recognition of their faithful work with DeMolay in Texas.

Those who received the legion of honor for outstanding leadership in some worthwhile endeavor are as follows: Mandell H. Cline, Mexia; Elwood Henry Brown, Houston; Maxwell Goodman, Fort Worth; Randolph Jackson, Hillsboro, and Robert Lewis, Hillsboro. 

Altar is in White

At an altar of white, surrounded by white candles, the five candidates for the degree knelt and took their vows from Mr. Land. Each preceptor placed a bouquet on the altar. A choir furnished the music. This degree was the first event of a three-day session of the state DeMolay conclave, which continues through Saturday. Today there will be the business sessions until 5:30 p.m. at which time there will be a downtown parade featuring stunts, and each chapter in Texas will be represented. A banquet and three-hour floor show will be presented tonight starting at 7:30 o'clock for all registered DeMolays.

Officers in Ceremony

Officers who conducted the ceremony were as follows: Commander in the east, Frank S. Land; Commander in the west, James Blundell; commander in the south, Pat Taggart; herald, Sidney Dobbins; grand marshal, J. Floyd Smith; grand chaplain, Jack H. Harrison; first preceptor, R.L. Othling; second preceptor, Hugh Keahey; third preceptor, George Denton; fourth preceptor, Billy Smith; fifth preceptor, George Lovell; sixth preceptor, Alva Bryan; and seventh preceptor, Lee Glasgow of Cleburne.

As apart of the ceremony Thursday night, Columbus Avenue Baptist church choir, under direction of Harry Lee Spencer, sang.

Former members of Waco chapter who have received the Legion of Honor degree are Tom Mabray, Hugh Keahey, Guy Blair, Pat Taggart, Jack Grove, Jack Harrison, Melvin Mailander and Theodore Lauck. Registration for Waco DeMolays began Thursday morning at 10 o'clock at the Shrine temple. At 3 o'clock that afternoon official registration for visiting DeMolays began in the lobby of Hotel Raleigh. With the exception of the legion of honor ceremony Thursday night, no admission was granted to any session without the registration badge.

Out-of-town DeMolays arriving on trains and busses were met and welcomed by Mack Byrom, Bob Hyde, pat Patterson, Billy Wigley, James Warner, and Edmund Avriett.]

 

This event marked the first time that Dad Land had awarded a Founder’s Cross. If they went alphabetically, Robert T. Arthur might have received the very first Founder’s Cross, though Alva Bryan was Executive Officer at the time and might have come first in precedence for Dad Land. It is a remarkable honor that Texas DeMolay Conclave hosted Dad Land personally awarding the Legion of Honor and Founder’s Crosses on this day in 1937.

Thanks again to Jim Sears for providing these images and researching all of this with me.

If you have any information about Robert T. Arthur, Marie Miller, Denison DeMolay, or the Founder’s Cross, please contact me at matt@mattbucher.com


Interview with Greg Carlisle and Nick Maniatis

Posted: June 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: DFW, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

Over at The Howling Fantods, Greg Carlisle and I were interviewed by Nick Maniatis about the history of Greg’s books Elegant Complexity and Nature’s Nightmare.

Part 1: http://www.thehowlingfantods.com/dfw/critical-analysis/natures-nightmare-interview-part-1.html

Part 2: http://www.thehowlingfantods.com/dfw/critical-analysis/natures-nightmare-interview-part-2.html

Part 3: http://www.thehowlingfantods.com/dfw/critical-analysis/natures-nightmare-interview-part-3.html


Tender Buttons

Posted: April 30th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

Over at the Austin Chronicle, I reviewed this zine from Monofonus Press. It’s a companion piece to Gertrude Stein’s classic Tender Buttons, which turns 100 years old this year.

I’ve also started writing some reviews for Publishers Weekly, but I’m not supposed to reveal which ones I wrote.


Updike Quote

Posted: January 2nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , | No Comments »

From the Foreword to The Early Stories:

“Though spared many of the material deprivations and religious terrors that had dogged our parents, and awash in a disproportionate share of the world’s resources, we continued prey to what Freud called “normal human unhappiness.” But when has happiness ever been the subject of fiction? The pursuit of it is just that—a pursuit. Death and its adjutants tax each transaction. What is possessed is devalued by what is coveted. Discontent, conflict, waste, sorrow, fear—these are the worthy, inevitable subjects. Yet our hearts expect happiness, as an underlying norm, ‘the fountain-light of all our day’ in Wordsworth’s words.”


Austin Chronicle Interview with Doug Dorst

Posted: December 10th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , | No Comments »

I got the chance to sit down and talk with Doug Dorst, author of the book S. (with JJ Abrams), Jill Meyers of A Strange Object, Jodi Egerton, and Wayne Alan Brenner of the Austin Chronicle.

 

http://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/books/2013-12-09/doug-dorst-puts-the-s-in-ship-of-theseus-with-jj-abrams-collaboration/

Here’s an excerpt of the conversation:

Bucher: For me, a lot of the book reminded me of Melville.

Brenner: I thought you were kind of tipping your hat with the quote from “Bartleby” in there.

Dorst: Which, there are so many tips of the hat I’ve made – for several different reasons. Because I was invited to write a book-y book, it feels interesting to have a tip-of-the-hat, whether it’s one that I’m putting in and leaving uncommented upon, or having a character make, it all can go in there.

Bucher: And with the authorship thing, you kind of created another one just by having two authors’ names on the front of the book. Have you had people ask you, “So, did JJ write this?” Is there any confusion there?

Dorst: I’m sure there will always be. But actually JJ has been really clear from the beginning, “No, I did not write this – Doug wrote it.”

Bucher: But even saying that, it’s not something normal authors have to say that. “No, I swear I didn’t write this.” I mean, I get what you’re saying, but it’s funny: You’re talking about authorship, and you’re traveling around and you’re on these shows and you’ve got a guy next to you saying “I didn’t write this.”

Dorst: And in some cases I’m not there, and the interviewer is asking JJ if I exist.


The State of Street View Art

Posted: November 12th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

I just published an essay on Google Sightseeing about the state of art projects using images from Google Street View. The essay was a long time in the making and I hope to move on now and post more location-specific stuff about Street View.

 

http://googlesightseeing.com/2013/11/the-past-present-and-future-of-street-view-art/

 

GSV_0


Couple of DFW things

Posted: September 4th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: DFW, personal | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

1) My essay on the “Year of David Foster Wallace” originally published in Fiction Advocate has been translated into Spanish by Maria Serrano and published online under the new title “DFW, DT, y Yo.”

http://thisistheswitchboard.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/el-anyo-de-david-foster-wallace-dfw-dt-y-yo-por-matt-bucher/

2) The Found Poetry Review recently published an issue dedicated to works from David Foster Wallace and I had a small contribution titled “David Foster Wallace Titles Roughly Translated into Other Languages (and Roughly Translated Back Into English).”

http://www.foundpoetryreview.com/wrt-david-foster-wallace/david-foster-wallace-titles-roughly-translated-into-other-languages-and-roughly-translated-back-into-english/

 

 

 

 


Nature’s Nightmare

Posted: August 14th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: DFW, personal | Tags: , , , , , , , , | No Comments »

About a year after SSMG Press published Greg Carlisle’s reader’s guide to Infinite Jest, Elegant Complexity (in December 2007), Greg emailed me and said he was toying with the idea of writing a shorter guide to Oblivion. Greg started writing this book in 2009 and, after many revisions and delays, I’m happy to see it completed now. It’s available for preorder on Amazon. There will also be a Kindle edition.

 

NATURESNIGHTMARE-COVER-4


The Cubicle Life

Posted: June 11th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: DFW | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

In his long interview with David Foster Wallace, David Lipsky brings up the issue of the decreasing cultural relevance of books (in 1996, mind you). Wallace cuts right to the heart of the problem:

“Today’s person spends way more time in front of screens. In fluorescent-lit rooms, in cubicles, being on one end or the other of an electronic data transfer. And what is it to be human and alive and exercise your humanity in that kind of exchange? Versus fifty years ago when the big thing was, I don’t know what, havin’ a house and a garden and driving ten miles to your light industrial job. And living and dying in the same town that you’re in, and knowing what other towns looked like only from photographs and the occasional movie reel. I mean, there’s just so much that seems different, and the speed with which it gets different.  The trick, the trick for fiction it seems to me is gonna be to try to create a kind of texture and a language to show, to create enough mimesis to show that nothing’s really changed, I think. And that what’s always been important is still important.”

 

 


Twelve Underappreciated Novels

Posted: February 23rd, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: personal | Tags: , , , , | No Comments »

These are some of the books that I often find myself recommending to people. Usually these are people who have read David Foster Wallace, Cormac McCarthy, Don DeLillo, Cloud Atlas, and Moby-Dick (or whatever) and are interested in something a little more offbeat. But these aren’t too offbeat. You’ve likely already read at least one or more of these, too.

1. Log of the SS The Mrs Unguentine by Stanley Crawford

This short novel (novella?) tells the story of a marriage aboard a gigantic barge. Like most of these books, it’s hard to accurately describe. The narrator has a unique voice and the fact that it’s set aboard a ship calls to mind a postmodern Melville and Waterworld. It’s the kind of book that other writers read and think “Damn, I wish I’d written that.”

2. This is Not a Novel by David Markson

Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress got a huge plug from David Foster Wallace, but Markson’s index-card tetraology of Reader’s Block, This is Not a Novel, Vanishing Point, and The Last Novel, are to me, more rereadable. (I even started a twitter account dedicated to them.) Evan Lavender-Smith called them “like porn for English majors.”

3. From Old Notebooks by Evan Lavender-Smith

Speaking of EL-S, his book, From Old Notebooks, takes the form of Markson’s books (although he also traces the form back to Evan S. Connell’s Notes from a Bottle Found on the Beach at Carmel) and updates it, giving us insight into the modern mind of the writer. If you liked Markson’s books, you’ll love Evan Lavender-Smith’s. I can’t say enough good things about it. Read biblioklept’s review.

4. The Journalist by Harry Mathews

Mathews is best known as the only American OuLiPo member, and all of his work bears some formal mark of constraint, but this novel stands out to me as his best. It’s the story of a journalist trying to make sense of his life and organize his thoughts–and of course, he slowly goes insane. If you liked Wittgenstein’s Mistress and Pale Fire, I am sure that you will like The Journalist.

5. Live Girls by Beth Nugent

This book is seriously, direly under-appreciated. I remember the day the book came out and every year or so since then I go back and read a few pages of it and can’t believe how incredible it is. The characters are strange and quirky and completely original and the story itself is just incredibly heart-rending. By my accounting, Live Girls should be considered one of the best novels published in the 1990s. If you like Steve Erickson or Vollman’s The Royal Family, you’ll probably like this, too, but I wouldn’t limit the appeal of it there.

6. Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine

Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan is now considered part of the pantheon of not just great graphic novels, but great contemporary novels. I agree and would g0 a step farther to say that fans of Chris Ware need to read Adrian Tomine. Summer Blonde is one of his best, but you can’t go wrong with Shortcomings, or any single edition of his Optic Nerve series. The latest issue of Optic Nerve contains an interesting allegory about art that deserves greater attention outside of comics circles.

7. The Lost Scrapbook by Evan Dara

This is one of the great “big” novels of the 1990s. It’s also probably the least known. Dara, almost certainly a pseudonym, plays with form and voices in a way that calls to mind Gaddis in his prime. The story is almost incidental, but part of it is an ecological thriller.

8. The Last Western by Thomas Klise

This is an obscure novel I learned about from Maria Bustillos on wallace-l. I looked for a cheap copy for years before finally picking one up on ABE for $25. Maria’s appreciation of the book is required reading. I’m certain that a publisher will re-issue it at some point and will make a good profit. The story is about an unlikely hero–a pope from New Mexico.

9. I Know Many Songs But I Cannot Sing by Brian Kiteley

Kiteley’s short novel takes place in Cairo during Ramadan. An American named Ib gets lost and wanders through an almost hallucinatory set of experiences. If you are a fan of Paul Bowles or Amitav Ghosh, you need to read this book. Also recommended is Kiteley’s masterful first novel, Still Life With Insects.

10. The Method Actors by Carl Shuker

Shuker’s novel immediately garnered comparisons to David Foster Wallace and David Mitchell when it was published in New Zealand. The voices and set pieces are dazzling. For me they call to mind the great Henry Green’s books full of characters in medias res, leaving the reader to sort out who is who and what is really going on. Shuker’s other books are also all highly recommended.

11. Super-Cannes by J.G. Ballard

Ballard may be known for Crash, but for me, this book best represents his critique of modern society. The picture he paints of Cannes is a mirror of almost every luxurious suburb and his eye for detail helps create an image that is compelling and abhorrent at the same time.

12. The Story of a Million Years by David Huddle

This one is a little different in that it is a love story, but Huddle deserves to be mentioned alongside Updike or Roth because he is more compassionate and able to craft believable female protagonists. This is not a book I frequently re-read (although it’s short), but one I’m glad I read when I did. I also liked his book La Tour Dreams of the Wolf Girl. My wife, Jordan, gets credit for introducing me to Huddle!