James A. Marples, 32°

Brethren today, as Bro. Plumb did in 19th-century Kansas, must work to build communities for the next generations of Americans.

As Americans, we are fortunate to enjoy the blessings of liberty which were secured by our nation’s Founding Fathers, so many of them Freemasons. Likewise, the physical infrastructures of highways, roads, and bridges which connect our vast nation’s cities, towns, and hamlets were themselves built and maintained for us by our predecessors.

Freemasons often played pivotal roles in starting America’s cities and towns. A particularly illustrative example is that of Brother Preston B. Plumb. He was born October 12, 1837, in Delaware County, Ohio. As an enterprising young man, he moved to Lawrence, Kansas. Soon afterward, he envisioned potential opportunities in an unsettled area about 70 miles to the southwest, near the Cottonwood and Neosho Rivers.

Bro. Plumb was one of five men who laid out the town of Emporia, Kansas. Initially a printer by trade, he established the Kansas News in 1857 and received his Masonic Degrees respectively on April 14, June 23, and October 9, 1859. After Emporia Lodge No. 12 was chartered, he became a member of that Lodge, as well as of the Emporia York Rite Bodies, including Emporia Commandery No. 8 of Knights Templar.the southwest, near the Cottonwood and Neosho Rivers.

Bro. Plumb gave careful study to the well-being of the growing town. For instance, he gave $200, a large sum for that day, in cash and donated two lots on the southwest corner of Cottonwood Street and Second Avenue for the erection of the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church.

A post office, bank, and school were all established, thus providing the essential elements for the town’s survival. The Civil War era saw Bro. Plumb serving in the Union Army, eventually rising to the rank of Lt. Colonel. Having already studied law and being admitted to the bar, Bro. Plumb decided he must utilize his knowledge to help people on a broader level. Consequently, in 1877, he was sworn in as a United States Senator, a position he held for 14 years until his untimely death in 1891 at the age of 54.

Significantly, while Bro. Plumb worked in Washington, D.C., he was just a short distance away from another Masonic Brother who likewise was a newspaperman, soldier, and lawyer—Ill. Albert Pike, 33°. Bro. Pike, too, passed away in 1891 on April 2nd of that year.

At the 36th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Kansas, on February 17, 1892, Grand Master Andrew M. Callaham sadly announced the deaths of Brothers Pike and Plumb, two Brethren who were community builders and nation builders.

By 1900, eight years after Brother Plumb’s death, Emporia, Kansas, boasted two colleges, a daily newspaper and several weeklies, an opera house, two railroads, a thriving business district, new industries, and fertile farmland nearby.

Today, Emporia and thousands of towns and cities like it all across America have grown far beyond their originators’ wildest expectations. As we enjoy the opportunities that exist today within our cities and towns, let us pause to remember the sacrifices made by others, many of them Brethren, to create our communities and bequeath to us a noble heritage of building for the benefit of our fellowmen. Then, let us, as Masons, continue to bind people together in our communities and in our nation. A Masonic Lodge is still essential to any community in that it provides a valuable service which cannot be found in any store, shop, factory, entertainment center, or other enterprise. Our task is to keep the doors of our Lodges open and to provide the Masons, like Bro. Plumb, who are the pillars of the community.

When our neighbors see that Freemasonry is a true benefit to the community, they will eagerly join our Lodges. We must walk uprightly as Brother Plumb did. Let us get to work, Brethren, building our communities for the next generations of Americans.

James A. Marples
is a Life Member of Mulvane Lodge No. 201, Mulvane, Kansas; the El Dorado, Kansas, York Rite Bodies; and the Lincoln, Nebraska, Scottish Rite Bodies. He is also a member of Isis Shrine Temple, Selena, Kansas, and Associate Member of Anezeh Shrine Temple, Mexico City, Mexico. He is a Life Member of The Royal Order Of Scotland.