Synopsis of the History
Royal Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star
Prince Hall Affiliated (PHA), Arkansas Jurisdiction
When an organization loses its history, and its tradition, its kinship with its former forbearer… it loses itself. There can be no substitute for the recognition of the past.
The following information below is a brief summary and outline of the significant historical events of the past that has led us to the present. This history will help us understand and appreciate the present events in preparation for the future.
In the beginning, Grand Master Moses A. Clark, 4th grand master, appointed Brother Joseph C. Corbin, Past Grand Master (3rd grandmaster) to visit Kansas Grand Lodge and request them to come to Arkansas and organize the Grand Chapter of Eastern Star. This did occur, and in 1885, the first local chapter and grand chapter were organized at the same time in Augusta, Arkansas. The local chapter became known as Augusta #1. The Grand Chapter of The Order of Eastern Star of Arkansas was established with John H. Johnson (second grandmaster) serving as Grand Patron (1885), and Sister Maria Craigin as Grand Matron (the name printed in some later documents as Mariah Craighan), 1885-1889. The Grand Associate Matron was Cora Gillam, and the Grand Secretary was Brother Joseph C. Corbin, 1885- 1891.
John H Johnson died on July 12, 1885 in Little Rock, and was buried in Augusta, AR. (Matthew J. Caruth documented the death from an article in the Arkansas Gazette dated July 13, 1885.) In the earliest documents printed by the Grand Chapter there is not a date given for the formation of the Grand Chapter. Only the year was mentioned as 1885. Through research I have not found when the date of July 12, 1885, came to be designated as the established date for the Grand Chapter of Arkansas. Therefore, it is speculated that the date of John H. Johnson’s death may have been used as the origination date in honor of him.
Alice Havis, 1889 – 1893, 2nd Grand Worthy Matron
In 1886, S. T. Boyd became the second Grand Worthy Patron. This name is not listed in any of the early writings of OES grand historians as grand patron. Past Grand Master Howard Woods (Historian) through an oral interview acknowledged that the 2nd Grand Worthy Patron also served as the President of Shorter College. S. T. Boyd is listed in a historical document of the Grand Lodge as President of Shorter College. It is documented in the book “History of the African Methodist Episcopal Church” by Daniel Alexander Payne that Professor S. T. Boyd became the principal of then Bethel Institute (later Shorter University) in Arkadelphia.
Boyd was also the fifth Grand Master (1905-1910). He died December 21, 1927, and was buried in Arkadelphia.
In 1888, Brother James E. Peake was elected the third Grand Patron, (1888-1907). It was under his administration that the Grand Matron was given the authority to make annual visits to local chapters and provide instruction concerning the work of the Order of the Eastern Star. Before this task was given, the Grand Matron only presided at the annual session of the Grand Chapter.
In 1907, Grand Patron Peake died. The second Sunday in October 1908, the monument of Grand Patron James E Peake was unveiled, and this date was set aside to be celebrated each year as Peake Memorial Day, presently known as Peake Memorial Star Day. James E Peake was from Arkadelphia, AR.
In 1893, Sister M. J. Elliot was elected as the third Grand Matron. She served only one year.
In 1894, Sister Cora Johnson was elected the fourth Grand Matron, 1894-1901. She was the first Grand Matron to explore the field and pushed the organization.
In 1901, Sister F. F. White became fifth Grand Matron and served until 1906. In 1902, the Grand Palace (Queen of the South), and Grand Court (Amaranth) were formed. Later the International Conferences of Grand Chapters because of non-uniformity of the work ordered all chapters working in these degrees to discontinue.
Sister Parthenia A. Gipson served as 6th Grand Matron from 1906-1916. She held the title of Grand Matron Emeritus until her death in April 22, 1962, in Memphis and wrote the first recorded history of record for the Grand Chapter (1885-1954). At this time she was the youngest grand matron.
In 1916, Sister M. J. Johnson was elected 7th Worthy Matron and served until 1940. Her tenure was marked by many calamities: the change in the insurance law that caused the insurance program to be changed to the relief and charity, bankruptcy, and other hindrances. Whole chapters dropped membership. But, she is recorded as a fighter who continued to work to keep the organization alive.
**** (The Royal Grand Chapter Relief Department was incorporated on September 25, 1917.)
In 1940, Sister Annie B. Gillam was elected the eighth Grand Matron. It was under her administration, that the organization began to revive. In 1943, she recommended the creation of the office of Deputy Grand Matron and institution of an educational program for the youth. The Deputy Grand Matron joined forces with the Grand Matron and began a membership drive to organize new chapters and reinstate dropped chapters and youth fraternities thus restoring the confidence of the old and young. In 1945, they added more than five hundred members. In 1954, there were 177 chapters with 11,130 members, and forty six youth chapters with 800 members. Grand Master Reed assisted in this mission because everywhere he set up or reinstated a Lodge, he would put their ladies in the Chapter.
Annie B. Gillam served until her death on November 2, 1959. At this time Shirley W. Inghram was serving as Grand Associate Matron. She was elected as Grand Worthy Matron in 1960 and served until 1983, the year of her death. Grand Matron Inghram brought structure to the organization, continued with the purchasing of property, and sustaining and promoting membership.
Following in the leadership role as Grand Worthy Matron were Lettie L. Poston, Doris Pace, Irma Sears, Winnie Ruth Johnson, and the current (14th) Grand Worthy Matron Flora Jean Gibson Simon. (They will be featured in the second half.)
List of Grand Worthy Matrons in chronological order since the origin:
- Maria Craigin: 1885-1889
- Alice Havis: 1889-1893
- J. Elliot: 1893-1894
- Cora Johnson: 1894-1901
- F. White: 1901-1906
- Parthenia A. Gipson: 1906-1916 (Emeritus to 1962 – her death)
- J. Johnson: 1916-1940 (longest term serving 24 years)
- Annie B. Gilliam: 1940-1959 ( Most noted for membership increase: Died 11/2/59)
- Shirley W. Inghram: 1960-1983 (Youth scholarship named in her honor)
- Lettie L. Poston: 1983-1992 (Disband local Amaranth Courts)
- Doris J. Pace: 1992-1995
- Irma Sears: 1995-1998
- Winnie R. Johnson: 1998-2013
- Flora Jean Simon 2013 - Present
- John H. Johnson: 1885
- T. Boyd: 1886-1888
- James E. Peake: 1888-1907 (Peake-Memorial Star Day: honor)
- Cary Brown: 1907-1910
- Isaac T. Gilliam: 1910-1918
- H. Wheeler: 1918-1953 (longest serving 35 years)
- J. H. Clayborn: 1953-1954
- H. D. Dorn: 1954-1955
- Norman H. McGill: 1955-1985
- Hermas B. Gant: 1985-1988
- Lloyd Bourne: 1988-1998
- Booker T. Magee: 1998-2013 (Last elected patron. During his tenure, Grand Master Wilson began appointing the Grand Patrons)
- Johnny H. Carolina 2013-Present