William Blackstone Hubbard, 5th Grand Master of the Grand Encampment
(Sixth in a series on our Grand Masters)
George L. Marshall, Jr., PGC, KCT, ADC
Chairman Grand Encampment Knights Templar History Committee
William Blackstone Hubbard had the rather unusual distinction of serving as Most Eminent Grand Master of the Grand Encampment over four Triennial Conclaves, from 1847 through 1859. He was also instrumental in bringing about and presided over the so-called “Conclave of Revision” in 1856. This Conclave will be discussed more fully later in this article.
He was born in Utica, New York, on August 26, 1795, the son of Bela and Naomi Hubbard. He must have been destined to be a lawyer, for he was named after Sir William Blackstone, the eminent English jurist and judge. And so it turned out. After receiving a classical collegiate education, he read and studied law under his maternal uncle, Silas Stowe. After being admitted to the New York Bar, he moved west and settled in St. Clairsville, OH, in 1816, where he began the practice of law. He was married on January 2, 1817, to Mary Margaret Johnson (1798-1878) of St. Clairsville, with whom he had eight children, five of whom survived at the time of his decease.
He became president of a local bank in St. Clairsville, and served for several years as state prosecuting attorney for Belmont County. He was elected to serve in the Ohio state senate in 1827 and 1829. While in the senate, he drafted a bill regarding railroads, which bill, entitled “An Act to Incorporate the Ohio Canal and Steubenville Railroad Company” was subsequently passed in 1830 by the legislature. This was the first legislation passed by Ohio on the subject of railroads, and was among the first passed by any state on this subject. He was elected to the state house of representatives in 1831, and was chosen as Speaker by the members. In 1839 he moved to Columbus, OH, where he remained for the rest of his life.
Other notable accomplishments by MESK Hubbard include: President of the Exchange Bank of Columbus, under what was known as Kelly's banking law; President of the First National Bank of Columbus (the first national bank organized in the capital of Ohio), and he died in the occupancy of that position. He was initially a Whig and later a Republican. Salmon. P. Chase, while Governor of Ohio, and afterwards as Secretary of the Treasury of the United States, consulted him about financial questions, and held his opinions in high estimation. In science, literature, philosophy and the arts he was as well versed as any man of his time. He was a Trustee of the Ohio University, from which he received the honorary degree of LL. D.; was President of the Columbus & Xenia Railroad Company; founder and first President of Green Lawn Cemetery in Columbus; and was appointed on the committee that visited Washington D.C. in the interests of Columbus, to procure the location of the United States Arsenal at the capital of Ohio. Of great public spirit, he was connected with and fostered all the railroads entering at Columbus and all the local improvements of his day.
Turning now to his Masonic history, in 1821 he returned to New York for a visit and while there received his Master Mason Degree in Rising Sun Lodge No. 125 at Adams, New York on September 12, 1821. On returning to St. Clairsville, he dimitted to Belmont Lodge No. 16 on October 17, 1821. He was elected Worshipful Master in 1821, Senior Deacon in 1822, Junior Warden in 1823, and Worshipful Master again in 1824 and 1825. Upon moving to Columbus, he was instrumental in organizing Columbus Lodge No. 30. In fact, he was named the initial Worshipful Master of Columbus Lodge No. 30 on the Charter of that Lodge which was granted in 1841. M. W. Brother William Blackstone Hubbard served the Grand Lodge of Ohio as Senior Grand Warden in 1843 and 1844, Deputy Grand Master pro-tem in 1845 and was elected Grand Master in 1850, a position which he held until 1853.
He became a member of Zanesville Chapter No. 9 RAM of Zanesville on August 26, 1822 and on October 20, 1842 was elected Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Ohio. In 1841 he was knighted in Lancaster Encampment and in 1847 became the General Grand Master of the General Grand Encampment, a position he held for 12 years.
On September 25, 1851 he was elected to receive the 33rd degree of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite and also became an active member of the Supreme Council. In May, 1861 he was elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, but declined to serve.
His service to the Grand Encampment of the United States was extensive. He was elected Grand Master at the 10th Triennial Conclave held in September, 1847 at Columbus, OH. He insisted that he be regularly installed by Grand Master Hammett of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, a ceremony which had been utterly neglected or, at least, not at all regularly practiced by previous Grand Masters. Presiding at the 11th Triennial Conclave held in September, 1850 at Boston, MA, he presented a full report, covering eight pages, of his doings, submitting with it all of his official correspondence correctly filed and turned over to a committee appointed to review it. The extension of the Order's boundaries continued--subordinate Encampments joining from six new states: Vermont, North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Texas. Further, the Order added new Encampments to those already existing in Maine, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama and Louisiana. Dispensation to form an Encampment in Canada was denied, on the ground that this did not belong to the Order's jurisdiction. For the first time in the history of the Order the sessions of the Triennial Conclave occupied a whole week, and time never hung idle upon the hands of the assembled Sir Knights.
At the 12th Triennial Conclave, held in Lexington, KY, in September 1853, the Grand Master's report had grown more extensive and elaborate, so that it now covered fourteen pages, as against eight in the previous one. The report was able to state that twelve Encampments covering ten States had been added to the roster of the General Grand Encampment, among them one in the then far distant California. Much was being done both by way of study and research and by means of exemplification, especially at the General Grand meetings, to regulate the ritual and make it uniform throughout the country. The Constitution and organization required overhauling and some things were found which had proved themselves unnecessary over time; other things, which had since become necessary or which had been recognized as useful and needful, were lacking. Consequently, a committee of five was appointed, including Hubbard, to present a revision of the Constitution at the next General Conclave. Grand Master Hubbard's stated dream of "a succession of Encampments from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean, and from the Rio del Norte to Lake Superior" was emerging from the darkness and taking on substance and reality. In 1854 Grand Master Hubbard published a digest of his decisions up to 1853. Since then other digests have been published, each endeavoring to bring up to date the rulings on Templar law. The birth of modern Templary in the United States would be inaugurated at the 13th Triennial Conclave, the great “Conclave of Revision.”
This Conclave was held in September, 1856, at Hartford, CT. In the interval 1853-1856, by the untiring efforts of M. E. Grand Master Hubbard, three new State Grand Encampments were created, viz., Texas, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. So twenty-two States and Territories (or their equivalents) were there represented, ten of them by Grand Encampments: Massachusetts and Rhode Island, New York, Vermont, Connecticut, Ohio, Kentucky, Maine, Pennsylvania, Indiana and Texas; and twelve by Subordinate Encampments: New Hampshire, Maryland, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, California and the District of Columbia. All of the Grand Officers were present, as was now becoming the rule, where formerly it had been the exception. A full Grand Master's report was for the third time presented by M. E. Grand Master Hubbard, and was thus made a regular and established tradition. The report further took up the matter of Rites, especially in regard to the degrees, which form the necessary stepping stones to the Knight Templar Order. In connection with a clause in the Constitution of the State Grand Encampment of Connecticut, which required an applicant for the Orders of Knighthood to be in possession of the degrees of Royal and Select Master, Grand Master Hubbard declared this provision "not in force" and "inoperative, unless thereafter approved by your honorable body." The clause was not approved, but the action of the Grand Master was, and so remains--a rule of Templary in some Grand Commanderies to the present day.
An important consideration was the revision of the Constitution. The committee on this subject was assembled under the chairmanship of Grand Master Hubbard himself. At the Grand Master’s request, Robert Morris, who had for some time been helpfully active in these matters and was thoroughly familiar with them, was added to the Committee. The 1856 Constitution, as revised and presented in final draft and written by Robert Morris, was set up in four articles. The very titles of the first three show one of the radical changes instituted. We have been referring in this article to a “General Grand Encampment”, State Grand “Encampments”, and Subordinate “Encampments”. These names will undoubtedly have appeared strange or even incorrect to modern Knights Templar. But I have chosen to use these names for the sake of their historical accuracy and correctness. These were the names originally given to these various bodies and institutions by the founders of American Templary, and retained through the nearly half century of its existence up to the time of the 13th Triennial Conclave. It was only in 1856 that the change was made. Accordingly, Article I of the 1856 Constitution is described as concerning "the Grand Encampment," no longer the General Grand Encampment. As in the name of the association, so also in the names of its officers the cumbersome and unnecessary prefix "General" was dropped; the title now was simply "Most Eminent Grand Master." Article II concerned State Grand Commanderies, in place of the former Encampments; the supreme state officer was now a "Right Eminent Grand Commander," no longer a “Grand Master”. And in Article III the Subordinate Bodies were now named Commanderies, thus removing the name Encampment from all but the national supreme body. Article IV concerned "Miscellanea," one of the most important being a provision for a method of amending the Constitution.
Some of the interesting changes made within the Constitution of 1856 are the following: Authority to institute new Commanderies in states having no Grand Commandery was now vested in the Grand Master alone, instead of "the first four General Officers," as before; in a similar way, where Grand Commanderies were in existence, the same power was restricted to the Grand Commander alone; election to office in the Grand Encampment was restricted to such Knights as were members of some Subordinate Commandery, whether under the general or under the immediate jurisdiction of the Grand Encampment. Obviously, in the present Constitution, several of these laws and rules have been changed or modified since. This was entirely within the possibilities provided by the revisers in 1856, as the provision mentioned in Article IV indicates. In fact it was recognized that much remained to be done, and that only an impulse toward action in the right direction could then be given. Three subjects were recognized as matters, rights and duties of legislation which were vested in the Grand Encampment: 1.) Dress; 2.) Work (i. e., Ritual); and 3.) Discipline. None of these three was finally acted upon; indeed, for a good many parts of these subjects the time for final action was still far away. But the great thing, which was in the power of the men at Hartford assembled, was done; vital and important subjects were broached, and a discussion and serious consideration of them was initiated.
At the conclusion of the 1856 Conclave, Grand Master Hubbard refused to be a candidate for re-election. But Morgan Nelson, who was thereupon elected, declined to be installed; the Deputy Grand Master likewise refused to serve; and then the honor in which Grand Master Hubbard was held clearly appeared, in that by unanimous vote he was re-elected and, by the earnest appeal of all present, was prevailed upon to serve his fourth consecutive term.
The 14th Triennial Conclave, held in Chicago, IL, was again presided over by Grand Master Hubbard. And again, further improvements in the administration and regulations of the Grand Encampment were made. At his suggestion, the Conclave instituted a standing committee to examine and pass upon the returns of Grand and Subordinate Commanderies, a duty which had previously been performed by the Grand Master in addition to his executive work. The subject of the Templar uniform was presented at this Conclave, and a uniform costume for the first time adopted. This was revised, however, in 1862 and the “Edict on the Uniform of a Knight Templar” was issued. The original edict in 1859 changed the frock coat from black to white, and simultaneously abolished the wearing of the Knight Templar apron. In order to prevent further loss of material on the Order's early American history, the proceedings from 1816 to 1856 were ordered reprinted. In the matter of Ritual, a Templar Burial Service was prepared and adopted.
Most Eminent Sir Knight Hubbard died of a paralytic stroke on January 3, 1866 at his residence at the age of 70. His obituary, from the Columbus Morning Journal, reads as follows:
“Hon. William B. Hubbard, Past Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge of Ohio, and Past Grand High Priest and Grand Master of Knights Templar of the United States, was buried yesterday with all the honors paid by the bodies over which he had presided to their highest offices and with all the demonstrations of respect paid by the people to a worthy and influential citizen.|
The morning train from London brought to the city the Masonic lodges of that place and West Jefferson; the lodges at other places near were represented, and John D. Caldwell, Grand Secretary of the Masonic Lodge of Ohio, was present from Cincinnati.
The funeral ceremonies or services took place at the residence of the family at 2 p.m., Rev. Mr. Richards, of Trinity Church, conducted the religious services; Rev. D. A. Randall read a biographical sketch of the deceased, and the Masonic ceremonies were performed under the direction of Mr. Thomas Sparrow, Grand Master for the State of Ohio. The crowd in attendance was very large, and the services throughout were very impressive, and the ceremonies imposing. The body was encased in a rich burial case, ornamented with the escutcheons of the two orders, the top being of plate glass so that the entire form was visible. The guard of honor consisted of a number of Knights in full costume.
The procession moved from the residence to Green Lawn Cemetery, where the ceremonies were conducted and the body consigned to the grave.”
R.E. Sir Knight Marshall, KYGCH (3), KCT, 33°, is a Past Grand High Priest, Past Grand Illustrious Master, and Past Grand Commander of the Grand York Rite Bodies of Alabama. He is a member of the Editorial Review Board of the Knight Templar Magazine and has published several articles in that magazine as well as in the Royal Arch Mason magazine. He also serves as an ADC to MEPGM William H. Koon, II. He can be reached at email@example.com.