His first attendance at Grand Encampment was in 1826, at which time he was elected Deputy General Grand Master. Due to the death of General Grand Master DeWitt Clinton, he presided over the Fourth Grand Conclave and was elected to the office of General Grand Master in 1829, and at the Fifth Grand Conclave in 1832 was re-elected to that position. At the Fifth Grand Conclave, it was announced and discussed that anti-Masonry from the Morgan incident of 1826 was stunting the growth and the very existence of the Knightly orders. A resolution was adopted stating their consensus of "highly approving the firm and dignified manner in which the several encampments (i.e., Commanderies) had conducted their affairs relative to the persecuting and violent spirit with which they had been assailed by a political party which, in assailing the orders of Masonry, aim a blow at all the free institutions of the country." At the Sixth Grand Conclave, also presided over by Nye, finances of the encampments were discussed, and it was voted that no encampment be allowed to confer the orders for less than $20.00. Seven degrees were recognized, including the four of the American Royal Arch: the Mark Master Mason, Past Master Mason (Virtual), Most Excellent Master, and the Royal Arch. The three knightly orders recognized included Knights of the Red Cross, Knights Templars [sic], and Knights of Malta. (Note the sequence of these orders which gave precedence to the Knights of Malta as being the chief order of Knighthood.) Additionally, a charter was granted to San Felipe de Austin encampment No. 1 of Texas in the Republic of Mexico.
In 1842, we find mention of him in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. He was received with the honors due his rank. At that session, it was "Resolved, that the M.W. Jonathan Nye, P.G.M. of the Grand Lodge of Vermont be admitted an honorary member of this Grand Lodge, and be permitted at all times a seat in the same as such." Nye received an appointment as "Organizing" Lecturer. In this capacity he instituted "Mormon Lodges" at Nauvoo and elsewhere, one of which was named after him and another (Helm) named after another Grand Master.
Masons of nearby non-Mormon Lodges (in particular, Bodley) claimed irregularities in the conduct of the Nauvoo lodges. The concerns of Bodley Lodge had the desired effect, and the Grand Master suspended work of Nauvoo Lodge on August 11. Nye was appointed chairman of a special committee to visit Nauvoo and investigate the irregularities in the conduct of Nauvoo Lodge, U.D. (In nearly five months, that Lodge had initiated two hundred fifty-six candidates and raised two hundred forty-three). The committee accordingly visited Nauvoo to inspect the records and work. The committee recommended that the lodge be permitted to resume labor. Nauvoo Lodge did so much work that it became necessary to establish two more lodges in Nauvoo, Nye and Helm. (Ultimately, the Grand Lodge of Illinois revoked the dispensations of four of the Mormon lodges and the charter of the other was suspended.)
The last months of his life were spent in Iowa, and at a meeting when the formation of a Grand Lodge in that state was being considered, he was asked his opinion of the idea. His opinion being in favor, a committee was appointed to address the formation of a Grand Lodge in Iowa, but due to difficulties, the Grand Lodge was not established until 1844.
He had settled in Fort Madison, Iowa, and was preparing a speech to be delivered before the Masonic fraternity when he was stricken, and on April 1, 1843, he passed away and was buried in Fort Madison. Of him, his New Hampshire biographer said: "We have been unable to find a similar instance among all the prominent and distinguished fraters in the country, and it is an unmistakable evidence of his ability and merit."
1. Jonathan Nye photo courtesy of RW Bro. Palmer E. Martin, Grand Secretary, Grand Lodge of Vermont, via e-mail, January 20, 2014.
2. Turnbull, Everett R. and Denslow, Ray V., A History of Royal Arch Masonry, Vol. I, 1956, p. 414; pp. 1035- 1036.
3. Turnbull, Everett R., The Rise and Progress of Freemasonry in Illinois 1783-1952, pp.130, 281. (http://libsysdigi.library.uiuc.edu/OCA/Books2008-09/riseprogressoffr00turn/riseprogressoffr00turn_djvu.txt)
4. Dutcher, L.L., Historical discourse on the rise and progress of the First Congregational Church, of St. Albans, Vermont, E.B. Whiting, St Albans, VT, 1860, pp. 6-7. (Available online at Google Books).
5. Hogan, Mervin B., Grand Master Jonathan Nye and Nauvoo Lodge, 1983.
6. "The Last Masonic Address of the Late M.W. Phillip C. Tucker, Before the Grand Lodge of Vermont" as recorded in Freemason's Monthly Magazine, Vol. 20, 1861, page 332.
7. William F. Cleveland, Joseph E. Morcombe, History of the Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F. & A.M. , Vol. I, Torch Press, 1910, pp.91-93. (Available online at Google Books).
8. Otis Frederick Reed Waite, History of the town of Claremont, New Hampshire, for a period of one hundred and thirty years from 1764 to 1894, , John B. Clarke Co., 1895 p.89 (Available online at Google Books).
9. Nye, L.B., A genealogy of American Nyes, Vol.1, 1977, p. 204.
10. The figure (Figure 1) was designed by the Rev. Jonathan Nye for the Hieroglyphic Monitor, published by Jeremy L. Cross in 1819. From: http://freemasonry.bcy.ca/art/monument/pierson.html .
11. Bates, Louise, Historical catalogue of Brown University, 1764-1914, Brown Univ. Press, 1914, p.72 (Available online at Google Books).
12. Brownell, John H., et. al., The American Tyler-Keystone: Devoted to Freemasonry and Its Concordant Orders, Volume 13, 1898, pp. 260-261 (Available online at Google Books).
13. Goodwin, S.H., MORMONISM AND MASONRY: Origins, Connections and Coincidences Between Mason and Mormon Temple/Templar Rituals, 1920, pp.34-36 (Available online at http://www.phoenixmasonry.org/mormonisn_and_masonry.htm).
14. Kimball, Stanley B., Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1986, p. 84.
15. Kaulback, Michael S. and Van Doren, Richard W., A History of the Knights Templar in America,?? - 2009 A.D., 2009.
Right Eminent Sir Knight Marshall, KYGCH(3), KCT, 33°, is a Past Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar 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 can be reached at email@example.com.