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Article # 57
Langford Address (1867)

Author: R.W.Bro. Langford    Posted on: Wednesday, March 19, 2003
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[ The Historical Address known as Langford Address was delivered by R.W.Bro. N.P.Langford,  the then R.W.Grand  Historian of the M.W.Grand Lodge of Montana. He was one of the pioneers of Masonry in the Territory of  Montana and the frontiers. Those were days of considerable difficulty in travel. He and many other brethren had travelled to Bannack to attend the funeral of a slain brother. His efforts to establish a Lodge in Bannack did not materialise then.  A Lodge was established there later. The address was found in a book published by order of the Grand Lodge of Montana in 1868, probably  the only remaining copy in existence then, by Bro. Clyde Foote of Hamilton, to whom some Masonic Books were given by  Bro. Bob Stewart.. W.Bro. Larry Hale, P.M  Ionic Lodge, No.38   Hamilton, Montana  was given a Photostat of the address by Bro. Clyde, who later presented the book to the Grand Lodge.
Having  been inspired by the address and  wishing that all  Masons ought to be equally inspired, W.Bro. Larry distributed copies to Masons and had also posted the same in the web. He was kind enough to permit us to post the address in our site. We are very thankful to him.

The Address indicates the difficulties and dangers faced by the dedicated  Masons during the formative years for spreading Freemasonry, as well as the development  of  the Masonic Thought. Study of the addresses of the previous centuries, besides  being instructive is always inspiring.  Please read the addresss….. R.Ratnaswami, Web Master]


  Brethren of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Montana:-

No institution contains more valuable undeveloped history than Masonry. Were all the influences, which from age to age it has exercised over the affairs of the world, published, a volume of rare historic value would be added to our libraries. The history of every other human institution has been fully recorded. Masonry, in all its symbolic teachings, while it has quietly exhibited its power over conduct and action, is yet without a written history. The story of its birth, its objects, its effects upon civilization, is traceable in all history; but the causes, of which through its allegorical instruction it has been the fruitful parent, the minds it has trained for earthly immortality, the noble plans it has originated, and the base ones it has overthrown, the light it has reflected upon past ages, and with which our age is so radiant---all these, by the inviolability of its ceremonial, are still hidden from the appreciation and admiration of the world, and known only to the initiated. To reveal them would be to break the charm which  renders  Masonry so dear to all its votaries. The great element of its indestructibility, that which has preserved it through ages of barbarism, and given to it a greater antiquity than any other human institution, is its secrecy. We would not, if we could, tell the tale of its achievements. They belong to its archives---too sacred even to be committed to durable monuments, and doubly dear to us, because their only record is the heart.

Masonry was almost an outburst of the soil of our new Territory. With an existence of scarcely five years, we yet can not tell when it first came here, who brought it, or at what particular moment in our brief history it did not exist here. It came with us, but we found it here upon our arrival. Few as were the numbers who had drank at its sacred fount, they were yet here; and as soon as they became known to each other, obedient to the teachings they had received, they were ready to co-operate for the purpose of protection and improvement. Finding themselves among a reckless people, whose trade was robbery and murder, who were unrestrained by law, superior in numbers, criminally organized, constantly tempted to ply their vocation, the few who felt the force of Masonic influence united with the few who were prepared in their hearts to receive that influence, and formed here a truly Masonic association. Grandly shown forth in their lives and character, the great cardinal virtues of the Order; and this beautiful Territory, for a while the abode of brigands, finally yielded to the rule of pure Masonic principle.

This brief contemplation of the leading features in our early history, leads me to narrate, somewhat in detail, that portion of it which ante-dates  the introduction of our Order in organized form. I esteem myself fortunate in having been one of the early settlers of Montana---more fortunate in having, before I left the abodes of civilization, been raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. When the company, of which I was one, entered what is now Montana---then Dakota---a single settlement, known by the name of Grasshopper ( now Bannack ), was the only abode of the white man in the southern part of the Territory. Our journey from Minnesota, of fourteen hundred miles, by a route never before traveled, and with the slow conveyance of ox trains, was of long duration, and tedious. It was a clear September twilight when we camped on the western side of the range of the Rocky Mountains, where it is crossed by the Mullan road. The labors of the day over, three of our number---a brother named Charlton, another whose name I have forgotten, and myself---the only three Master Masons in the company, impressed with the grandeur of the mountain scenery and the mild beauty of the evening, ascended the mountain to its summit, and there, in imitation of our ancient brethren, opened and closed an informal Lodge of Master Masons. I had listened to the solemn ritual of Masonry a hundred times, but never when it impressed me so seriously as upon this occasion; such also was the experience of my companions. Our long journey, and its undeviating round of daily employments, had, until this occasion, been wholly unalleviated by any circumstance calculated to soften or mellow the feelings subjected to such discipline. We felt it a relief to know each other in the light of Masonry. Never was the fraternal clasp more cordial than when in the glory of that beautiful autumnal evening, we opened and closed the first Lodge ever assembled in Montana.

Contemplating this early incident in the history of our Order, from our present stand-point, and including in the contemplation what Masonry has since done for the Territory, and the Territory for Masonry, it seems to have been invested with a kind of prophetic interest; especially as at that time it could hardly have been possible for the few Masons in the Territory to have known each other, except as mere adventurers. As a manifestation of the all-pervading affections of Masons for the Lodge, it is worthy of enduring record in our archives. It is one of those facts that will reach forward into our history, and seize upon those undying  elements which shall transmit it to posterity. The fact will render the spot sacred---and once known among Masons, it will never be forgotten, that the first Lodge in the Territory was opened and closed upon the summit of the Rocky Mountains.
I might dilate upon the beauty of the evening upon which we met; the calm radiance of the moon and stars; the grandeur of the surrounding scenery. We exchanged fraternal greetings, spoke kind words one to another, and gave ourselves up to the enjoyment of that elevation of spirit which Masonry, under such circumstances, alone could evoke; and when we left the summit of that glorious range of mountains, to descend to our camp, each felt that he had been made better and happier for this confidential interchange of Masonic sentiment.

Men, when separated by distance from their homes, and all that is dear to them upon earth, and uncertain as to the exposures and perils that lie before them, are apt to reflect upon those events in their past experience which afford the greatest promise or feeling of security and happiness. Every true Mason who has made the journey across the Plains can attest to this; and as one of the striking evidences of the effect of this influence upon the Masons who came early to this Territory, I mention here a little incident which occurred while our train was working its weary way over the mountains lying between Deer Lodge and Bannack. I happened at that time to be the only Mason in a company consisting of ten or twelve men. We had stopped at noon for refreshment near the bank of what is now known as Silver Bow Creek, and were preparing to resume our journey, when three or four horsemen descended from the mountains into the valley where we had halted. They were dressed in the course but picturesque costume of mountaineers, and presented to our inexperienced eyes the appearance of a troop of brigands. We regarded their movements with suspicion, and were ready at a moment’s warning to engage them in hostile combat. All but one of them rode on without deigning to notice us. He stopped and engaged in conversation with those of our men who were occupied in yoking our oxen.

I was at a little distance, and at the moment was engaged in adjusting the cincho of my saddle, when I heard him make the inquiry,---

"Whose train is this?"
To which he received the reply, "Nobody’s; we own the wagons among ourselves."
"Where are you from?"
"From Minnesota."
"How many men were there in your train?"
"About one hundred and thirty."
"Was there a man named H. A. Biff in your train?"
"No, sir! No such man."
"Did you ever hear of such a man?"
"I never did," replied one.
"I know of no one of that name," said another.

Now, as fortune would have it, I had, a short time before, traveled the same road that had been traveled by the missing man ( who, as I afterward learned, was a Mason ), and I had been informed by those who at that time accompanied me, that he had been killed by three ruffians. The particulars of his assassination are familiar to you all. This was the first murder of a brother, of which we have any knowledge or record.

From the information thus received, I was enabled to answer his anxious inquiries; and as I rode along in company with him during the rest of the day, I was greatly pleased in finding in him an intelligent and warm-hearted brother Mason. It was his first meeting with a brother in the Territory; and we employed the time together in relating each to the other his Masonic experience, and bearing mutual testimony to the satisfaction we had derived from the Order, and to its peculiar adaptability to our condition in this new country. A friendship was thus formed, through the instrumentality of Masonry, which could not otherwise have found existence.

My arrival at Bannack, was at a period of our Territorial history marked by events which have been portrayed with a master’s hand by a brother of our Order, who is now no more---Prof. Thomas J. Dimsdale. To attempt, after his faithful and glowing delineation, to give a history of the early society of this Territory, would be, in the language of the poet,

"To gild refined gold,
And paint the lily."

Suffice it to say, that, attracted by the promises which this Territory gave of the easy acquirement of wealth, a great number of the hardened villains who had infested the various mining camps on the Pacific slope, assembled here for the purpose of availing themselves of such opportunities as might offer to depredate upon the hard earnings of the honest and laborious people of the Territory. Robbery, plunder, and murder were the basis of their organization; and no laws, except those enforced by necessity, and originating in the virtuous determination of the miners, impeded their intentions. History does not afford the record of a crisis which was more fully calculated to test the elements that enter into and form human character. Every possible temptation that avarice could suggest was offered to corrupt the virtue and integrity of the little community which at that time composed the first settlement of our Territory. There was nothing to restrain the passions of men but their own sense of right and wrong; and the fact that the right finally triumphed was not without its significance in determining those influences by which men were governed. That fact was in the highest degree creditable to our Order. A great majority of the law-abiding people then dwelling at Bannack, were, as after developments proved, Masons, who, with hardly an exception, were struggling in the lowest depths of poverty. They had come to the Territory to improve such opportunities as its rich gulches and fertile valleys afforded for a speedy acquisition of means with which to improve their condition on their return to the States. Many of them had left families behind; some were young men in their first search for fortune; others were in middle life, seeking to repair broken fortunes; and others still there were, who acknowledged no better reason for their presence here than a mere love of adventure.

This society, is heterogeneous as it now appears, and composed of people from many of the States of the Union, who had been reared and educated under widely variant influences, and who, under less discouraging circumstances, would have found few personal affinities to favor speedy acquaintanceship, recognized in Masonry an element by which they not only became the warmest of friends and brothers, but a power for protection and self-defense which could hardly have originated in any other cause. An occasion offered soon after my arrival which was decisive of this opinion. One of the early immigrants from the East, Brother William H. Bell, of St. Louis, fell a victim to an attack of mountain fever. He was a Mason in good standing, and desired, if possible, to be buried with Masonic honors. All the Masons in the settlement were requested to meet on the evening of the day of his death, at the cabin of Brother C. J. Miller ( late a member of Helena Lodge No. 3 ), on Yankee Flat, for the purpose of making preparations for the funeral.

At this time the numerical power of Masonry in the Territory was unknown. Judge of our surprise after the brethren had assembled, to find that the cabin would not contain one-half the persons in attendance. We adjourned to a larger cabin. The usual examinations were conducted, prolonging the meeting into

"The wee sma’ hours
Ayont the twal."

Though not unmindful of the solemn purpose for which we had assembled, the great and no less agreeable surprise occasioned by meeting in such large numbers, led us even then to contemplate the expediency of obtaining from the nearest Masonic jurisdiction, authority to organize a regular working Lodge. The subject was mentioned and received with favor.

The following day the funeral services were held; the ceremonies conducted by myself; and the first man who had died in any settlement of the Territory was consigned to the grave by as generous and warm-hearted a band of brethren as ever congregated upon a like solemn occasion. Seventy-six good men and true dropped the evergreen into the grave of our departed brother; and as they stood around the grave with uncovered heads, and listened in reverential silence to the impressive language of our beautiful ritual, I felt more than on any other occasion how excellent a thing it was for a man to be a Mason.

When we take a rational view of death and the grave, and contemplate the future in its connection with the duties of the living to the living, it matters little, perhaps, how these bodies of ours are disposed of when they cease to be animated by our spirits; but, to the man of sentiment and feeling, what can be more grateful than the assurance that when he "shuffles off this mortal coil," those whom he has loved will pay to his remains that respect, with which, while he lived, they were wont to regard him. How satisfying must this assurance have been to our brother, whose last hours in this then desolate country were cheered by the kind utterances and genial sympathies of his Masonic brethren---utterances and sympathies, which, but for that fraternal tie that makes us all kin, would not have found in this community of strangers an opportunity for expression.

It is no less remarkable than interesting fact in Montana Masonry, that this solemn occurrence should have afforded the opportunity of making known to each other nearly all the members of the Masonic fraternity at that time in the Territory. And what more fitting occasion for such an event! Every Mason there present, in view of the circumstances surrounding him, could learn a new and most impressive lesson in Masonry. No one knew which of that little band might next be stricken down, nor by what casualty. Death by violence and at the hands of assassins literally stared each of us in the face. Masonry, hitherto known only as a quiet, agreeable, social, moral, and peaceful institution, grew into a Briareus and put forth its hundred arms in all directions for our protection and support. In its ties of brotherhood, in its allegorical instructions, in its ample definition of the virtues which constitute true manhood, they found a bond of union already formed, which enabled them at once to initiate law and order, inflict punishment, and eventually to compel obedience. When the Masons of Bannack departed from the burial of their brother, every man of them was prepared to present a bold and decided front against the crime and recklessness which threatened their destruction. The interest of the occasion was increased by the presence of a disposition among all to compare views socially, and become familiar with each other’s antecedents. From this moment Masonic History commenced its lofty career in Montana. Other law-loving people, who, though not members of the Order, possessed the first and highest preparations to become so, united with our brethren in organized force to vanquish crime and drive it from our borders.

It is worthy of comment that every Mason in these trying hours of our history, adhered steadfastly to his principles. Neither poverty, persuasion, temptation, nor opportunity had the effect to shake a single faith founded on Masonic principle; and it is the crowning glory of our Order that not one of all that band of desperadoes who expiated a life of crime upon the scaffold had ever crossed the threshold of a lodge-room. The irregularities of their lives, their love of crime, their recklessness of law and of all the proprieties of life, originated in the evil associations and corrupt influences of a society over which neither Masonry nor Religion had ever exercised the least control. The retribution which finally overtook them had its origin in principles traceable to that stalwart morality which is ever the offspring of Masonic and Religious institutions. All true men then lived upon the square, and in a condition of mutual dependence.

It is pleasant in refreshing these early memories, to recall the names of those whom we then knew by outward signs and met as brothers---prominent among them were Walter B. Dance, Samuel T. Hauser, James Stuart, Neil Howie, Drury Underwood, James Dyke, and others--- Masons who, in the first terrible year of our history, were instant in every good word and work which had for its object the protection, improvement, and purification of our little society, and were first and foremost among those who were ever ready to vindicate the cause of Truth when Right called almost in vain for a champion, and when those who espoused her cause were marked for slaughter. These names, familiar now as household words to the people of Montana, then constituted a tower of strength around which good men rallied in every exigency,

Nor must I forget those other names, equally familiar, of men not then made Masons by passing through the outward ceremony of initiation, but who, in their devotion to the principles of our Order,---Eternal Truth and Love for the universal brotherhood of man,---illustrated in their courageous conduct, the fact that already they were made Masons where we all must needs first be prepared---"in the heart,"---and who only awaited the opportunity, which has since been afforded and improved by them, to become Masons, who united with us in all efforts to destroy the common enemy.

To the steady resistance to wrong of these early settlers of Bannack is Montana indebted for that condition of society which enabled the men of the succeeding year,---Brothers Wilbur F. Sanders, Gov. Sidney Edgerton, Paris S. Pfouts, Alexander Davis, John Fetherstun, J.X. Beidler, Wm. Berkin, Geo. Chrisman, and others, all Masons,---by uniting their efforts with those of the men who, the previous year, had preserved our little settlement from destruction, to finally rid our Territory of the murderers, thieves, and robbers that then infested it.

These were two most memorable epochs in the history of our Territory; and the invincible heroism of the first period, which, though it could hardly hold the lawless in check, developed a spirit of chivalry unsurpassed even in the days of knighthood, shone forth not less brilliantly than that of the second period, when the majesty and power of Truth and Justice were so triumphantly vindicated.
I shall never forget the time when, during the second period, the intelligence of the execution of George Ives, and Henry Plummer and his band, reached me while I was temporarily absent at Washington; and the feelings of relief, mingled with those of wonder, by which I am affected. Who had initiated this great work? What man possessed the moral courage---the self-sacrifice---the commanding power---equal to the task? I trust that my brethren will not consider it inappropriate to this occasion, and that my friend and brother will forgive the indelicacy, when I name our worthy Grand Secretary as the one who stood above all others, and bore the brunt of those thrilling and momentous events in the second year of our early history.

Previous to the occurrence of these events, indeed immediately after the funeral of Brother Bell, measures were taken to effect the organization of a Lodge at Bannack. Application for a Dispensation had been made in proper form to the Grand Lodge of Nebraska, and in due time granted. This instrument, now in my possession, declared the applicants to be a "Lodge of Master Masons," and appointed "Bro. N. P. Langford, First Master, Bro. James Dyke, First Senior Warden." It is issued under the hand of George Armstrong, M. W. Grand Master of Nebraska, and bears date April 27th, A. D. 1863, A. L. 5863.

Before the Dispensation was received, a large majority of the Masons of Bannack, attracted by the golden promises of other portions of the Territory, became scattered, and the Lodge never met under this authority. The papers I cheerfully surrender to the custody of the Grand Lodge, and ask for them, in the name of the early brethren of Bannack, careful preservation in its archives.

While awaiting the receipt of this Dispensation, the Masons of Bannack cultivated that harmony and sociability which are the legitimate fruits of that Order, by holding frequent social meetings. In the midst of the terrors of that fearful period of crime and lawlessness, these social gatherings inspired us with a feeling of security, which association in any other form, for mutual protection and for the common good, never could have done.

We knew that among our brethren our counsels and opinions would be inviolably kept; each one regarding the welfare of the other as that of a brother, and each realizing full well that the opinions held by another affecting many citizens of apparent respectability in our midst, if made public, would be the death-warrant of him whose indiscretion had led him to speak forth the opinions which perhaps we all held in common. Never were made manifest in a greater degree the value of "those truly Masonic virtues, Silence and Circumspection."

Friendships formed under such circumstances were attended by so many incidents to test the truthfulness, the bravery, the integrity, and indeed all the nobler elements of human character, that they can not be easily forgotten. The tie which grows out of the associations formed in times of danger, and for purposes of self-preservation, is of itself sufficient to make lasting friendships; but when that is strengthened by that bond of unity and love which originates in Masonic obligations,
it can never be broken. Whatever after-affiliations of life may occur to estrange them in business or political affairs, the early settlers of Montana will never forget the hour when their manhood was exerted to save themselves and their Territory from organized ruffianism and lawlessness;---it will ever be a green spot in their memories, to which as years roll on and death thins their ranks, they can recur with increasing interest and delight. Nor will it stop with their generation; but growing in interest as it grows in age, the thrilling history will be incorporated into our annals, and descend to the latest posterity. A time can never come in Montana when the names and actions of those true men who figured in her early history will cease to be venerated; those men who made and enforced laws where none existed; formed governments before government was known among us; spoke order into existence, when all order was threatened with destruction; and sternly executed the demands of justice in presence of the co-operative elements designed to slay them; and as often as they are remembered and venerated, so often will the influence and steadfastness of Masonic principle be acknowledged. A higher and more immediate satisfaction than this may be found in the fact that we owe our present freedom from crime, our present security for life and happiness, our present regard for law and order, to the faithful and noble efforts of the early Masons of Montana, and the prevalence of these principles.

The history of our Order, since that time, needs not to be written. It is recorded in our Lodges which have sprung up in all the settlements of the Territory, and in this Grand body, now holding its Third Annual Communication. Masonry is now a fixed and enduring institution among us---as perpetual as our mountains.

But while we enjoy it in its peaceful power, see its temples rise among us, contemplate its beneficent labors for the poor and distressed, and participate in the solemn and ennobling exercises of its ritual, let us occasionally cast a glance back upon its early history, if it be only to admire the practical beauties of its character, and to renew our faith in its efficiency at all times and in every age, to adorn, fortify, and develop the virtues and energies of its votaries, and render them equal to the most trying exigencies of life.

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