Sept. 11, 1826, Morgan was abducted. Within 48 hours three Masons murdered him. Twenty-two years later one of the three made a deathbed confession, the details of which can be read in Finney’s book on pages 6-10.
In 1826 and the year following there was a general consensus among Masons that Morgan was indeed killed as penalty for his crimes against the Brotherhood. How or when Morgan was killed, and what Mason or Masons were “honored” with the task, was not known by the majority of lodge brothers. But, like the Niagara River in which he was drowned, rumors flowed endlessly among them. Following are four.
Elias Wilder of Elba, New York, himself not a Mason, said that “two or three weeks before William Morgan was carried from Batavia, I had a conversation with Freemason Cyrus Grout on the subject of Morgan’s attempt to publish the secrets of Masonry. Mr. Grout told me that the Masons had sent to the Grand Lodge of New York for instructions, and when they got word from them there would be something done.” After the abduction of Morgan, Mr. Wilder had another conversation with Cyrus Grout on the subject of what had become of Morgan, and Grout said to him, “Morgan was gone a fishing on the Niagara River of Lake Ontario.”
A Mason by the name of William Terry of Niagara County was told by a fraternity brother that Morgan was “taken and carried away, had been killed, and sunk in Lake Ontario.” Mr. Terry also stated that word came from the New York Grand Lodge that those engaged in the murder of Morgan, if indicted, were “to be kept harmless, and that all expense requisites to pay any fines that might be imposed was to be defrayed by the Grand Lodge; and that the actors in the affair of the abduction of Morgan so acted in obedience to orders coming from Grand Lodge.”
Mason Sylvester R. Hathaway of Niagara County was told by another Mason that “two ruffians had taken him [Morgan] out and cut his throat and tied his body to a rope and stone and threw it into the lake.”
Dr. Samuel Taggart, a Freemason from Byron, New York, told two other Masons, John Southworth and Luther Wilder of the same city, that he would “not be afraid to bet a thousand dollars that Morgan was not in the land of the living; that he had taken a voyage to Lake Ontario without float or boat and would never be seen again by any human being.”
Many decent men of the order of Masons justified the murder of Morgan by saying, “that efforts to learn the fate of Morgan would be useless – that if they had done anything with him, it was no one’s business but their own.”
These quotes are taken from depositions made March 9, 1827 by Justice of the Peace Andrew Dibble of Genesse County, NY. Mr. Dibble was one of several J.P.’s to whom 38 law-abiding citizens took witnesses after forming committees to conduct an independent investigation into the abduction and murder of Morgan.
Citizens of “the land of the free and the home of the brave” were forced to take action, because proper authorities delayed, botched, or hid evidence. To the man, these “proper authorities” were Masons, obeying orders from the Grand Lodge of New York, while disobeying the laws of the land.
Seven citizen committees in as many counties were established to investigate these crimes. For nearly a year they took leave of their jobs and paid their own expenses to return justice to our land. In contrast, Freemasonry used civil servants and public funds to obstruct justice. Upon completion of their investigations, the citizens presented evidence and demanded action.
Masons directly involved in the abduction, murder, and cover-up of these crimes numbered at least 136. They were not all from the same locality, but scattered along 100 miles of countryside. They worked in perfect concert a daring and criminal scheme without incurring the risk of full conviction or punishment. Many were of respectable character, yet their reputation came second to their primary obligation of obeying their diabolical oaths.
All that was necessary to conceal Morgan’s kidnapping and murder was Masonic partiality found in oaths taken in the first three degrees of Freemasonry, as well as oaths taken in Royal Arch and Knights Templar degrees. Oaths in the first three degrees forbid Blue Lodge Masons from divulging criminal acts of brother Masons, with the exception of murder and treason. Royal Arch and Knights Templar oaths forbid Masons from divulging all criminal acts of brother Masons, including murder and treason. Of the Masons involved in the crime, 136 were of the latter degrees.
Evidence against Freemasonry was so compelling that it precipitated a mass exodus from the Lodge. Of 50,000 Masons in America at that time, 45,000 withdrew their membership and renounced their oaths, forcing the closure of 2,000 lodges.
The Crime in more Detail
When William Morgan contracted with printer David C. Miller of Batavia to publish Illustrations of Masonry, the Masonic fraternity went into action to form a conspiracy to stop them. One group of sixty-nine Masons moved against Morgan, while another group of sixty-seven Masons moved against Miller. Their intrigues were carried out in six stages from Aug. 9 through Sept. 20, 1826. Stages 3-6 began Sept. 10 and ended Sept. 20.
1. In New York newspapers published at Canandaigua, Batavia and Black Rock, an anonymous Mason denounced Morgan as an imposter. Although these places were far apart from each other, all were within the limits of the region in which subsequent acts of violence were committed.
2. Masons employed a spy to infiltrate the meeting between Morgan and Miller for the purpose of betraying the manuscripts of the proposed work to the Masonic Lodges in an attempt to frustrate the printing of the book.
3. Masons employed an agent to secretly prepare materials for torching the printing office.
4. Several masons from various locales rendezvoused at the home of a high-degree Mason to plan the forcible seizure of the manuscripts and the destruction of the printing press.
5. Masons abused laws by hunting up small debts or civil offenses with which to carry out harassment suits against Morgan and Miller. Once arrested, these men were in the hands of Masons for easy abduction.
6. By abusing the due processes of the law, the Masonic hierarchy planned the capture and murder both Morgan and Miller. Officers of justice who themselves were Masons, were involved in the conspiracy. Their efforts failed in the case of Miller, but succeeded against Morgan.
The Plot Thickens
On Aug. 9, 1826, a newspaper article was published in Canandaigua, NY exactly as you see copied below. The print was immediately picked up by other newspapers throughout the state, including Spirit of the Times and the People’s Press in Batavia, Morgan’s hometown.
The article denouncing Captain William Morgan is actually a coded Masonic call-to-arms. And Masons are obligated to obey this notice, because of the following oath: “I promise and swear that I will obey all regular signs, summonses, or tokens given.”
The article is a two-part coded command (one written, one visual). These commands are calling to arms Master Masons and Royal Arch Masons.
Written message: “Brethren and Companions are particularly requested to observe, mark and govern themselves accordingly.
Visual Message: two right hands with index fingers pointing to both the coded problem and the coded command.
Message decoded: Master Masons are called “Brothers.” Royal Arch Masons are known as “Companions.” We shall once again quote the obligations of these two degrees before we decipher the coded message.
During the initiation of the Master Mason, he is told, “You must conceal all the crimes of your brother Masons, except murder and treason, and these only at your own option….”
The Royal Arch Mason swears, “A companion Royal Arch Mason’s secrets, given me in charge as such, and I knowing him to be such, shall remain as secure and inviolable, in my breast as in his own, murder and treason not excepted.”
The first portion of the written code identifies which degree of Mason is to respond to the call-to-arms. The second portion informs Brothers and Companions “to observe, mark and govern themselves accordingly.”
Observe in context means to “vigilantly observe Morgan’s movements.”
Mark, in Masonic parlance, refers to a “token,” “debt,” or “favor” that must be returned when asked. A favor is returned when a command is obeyed.
Govern means, “to organize a strategy for the capture of William Morgan.”
The command handed down is found in the visual coded message of the “pointing right hands.” A right hand is one of the most important symbols in Freemasonry. It both identifies and commands. It identifies with a particular and peculiar “grip” of a “brother” or “companion,” even in the dark. We read how it commands in Mackey’s Encyclopedia of Freemasonry. “The right hand has in all ages been deemed an important symbol to represent the virtue of fidelity…to an obligation.” In another place we read, “The right hand was naturally used instead of the left, because it was…the instrument by which superiors give commands to those below them.”
The two pointing right hands give a reason and a command: (1) “Morgan is considered a swindler and dangerous man,” meaning “he has broken his oath of silence by exposing Masonic secrets”; and (2) “There are people in this village who would be happy to see this Capt. Morgan,” meaning “Morgan is to be captured and brought before the lodge tribunal.”
Simply stated, Master Masons and Royal Arch Masons were ordered to observe and report the movements of Morgan, plan a strategy for his capture, and when commanded, meet out just punishment to this traitor.
The Plot to Kidnap and Murder William Morgan
(following pages are actual depositions taken from court records)
On Sunday, Sept. 10, 1826, the Ontario county coroner, Nicholas G. Chesebro, himself the Master of the Lodge at Canandaigua, applied for and obtained from Jeffrey Chipman, justice of the peace, a warrant to arrest Morgan, who lived fifty miles away at Batavia. Morgan’s alleged offense was larceny for neglecting to return a shirt and tie that had been borrowed the previous May. Armed with the warrant, the coroner hired a carriage at the public’s expense to pick up ten Royal Arch Masons along the fifty-mile route. Their names and occupations were: Holloway Hayward – constable; Henry Howard – merchant; Asa Nowlen and James Ganson – innkeepers; John Butterfield – storekeeper; Samuel S. Butler – physician; and finally, Ella G. Smith, Harris Seymour, Moses Roberts, and Joseph Scofield – occupations unknown. All ten men were anxious and willing to share in avenging the insulted majesty of their Masonic law.
On the evening of 9/10, the party stopped at the tavern of James Ganson. They were six miles from Batavia. Before daybreak Monday morning on 9/11, five of the Masons were led by the constable to rent another coach at public expense. They proceeded from Ganson’s Tavern to Batavia. At daybreak they seized Morgan.
Near sunset on 9/11, the Masons arrived back in Canandaigua. The prisoner was immediately taken before the justice of the peace who had issued the warrant. The futility of the complaint was established and Morgan was set free, since the person from whom he had borrowed the shirt and tie had not shown up in court. In fact, this person was unaware of the actions against Morgan and had not sought a prosecution for the so-called offense. The idea originated in the mind of the coroner, who executed the plan by using the law to serve the vindictive purpose of Freemasonry.
Morgan’s release posed a problem for the conspirators. They needed him jailed to give ample time to complete their schemes against him. Out of jail, Morgan could elude them. So, no sooner had the hapless prisoner been released that he found the same coroner tapping him on the shoulder; this time armed with a bogus writ for a debt of two dollars to a tavern keeper of Canandaigua. Without the ability to pay, Morgan was returned to jail.
With Morgan secure, the Masons could concentrate on making arrangements to complete the remainder of their plot. On Tuesday evening of the next day (Sept. 12), the same coroner made his appearance at the jail. After some negotiation, Morgan was once more released. No sooner was he on the street dreaming of escape from these annoyances, when upon a given signal a yellow carriage and gray horses were seen by three witnesses rolling toward the jail in the bright moonlight with extraordinary speed. A few minutes passed. Morgan was seized, gagged, and bound, then thrown into the carriage, which was filled with Masons. Without turning, the carriage sped away. Morgan was now completely in the power of his enemies. With the veil of law removed, the arm of the flesh would now be employed.
Drawing of Morgan’s kidnapping
Life Magazine, Oct. 8, 1956, p. 122.
The carriage moved along night and day, over a hundred miles of well-settled country. Fresh horses and carriage drivers were supplied at six different places, with corresponding changes of men guarding Morgan to carry on the conspiracy. With one exception, every individual involved was a Mason bound by secret oaths “to conceal and never reveal the crime of a brother Mason.” The inadvertent exception was Corydon Fox, a last minute carriage driver on one of the routes to Lewiston. Fox was later initiated by unanimous vote of the Masons in Lewiston. Officiating in the ceremony to initiate Fox was a reverend clergyman from Rochester. This clergyman was the only Mason in the carriage with Morgan on the leg from Rochester to Lewiston. The driver of the carriage on that leg was Freemason Jeremiah Brown, a member of the New York state legislature.
It afterward appeared in evidence gathered by citizen investigators that the Buffalo lodge was also involved in the plot, as were the lodges at LeRoy, Bethany, Covington, Lockport, and Rochester. Each lodge contributed manpower, horses, or other preparation made along the route traveled by the party. Nowhere was there delay, hesitation, explanation, or discussion. Everything was carried out in silence, right up to the hour of the evening of Sept. 14, when the prisoner was taken from the carriage at Fort Niagara and lodged in the place originally designed for a powder magazine.
Fort Niagara was an unoccupied military post near the mouth of the Niagara River. During the War of 1812, jurisdiction of the fort had been turned over by the State to the Federal Government. At the end of the war the Federal Government had entrusted the Fort to a Mason. This Mason opened the gates to the conspirators.
On the evening the carriage arrived at Fort Niagara, there was an installation ceremony at the Masonic Lodge “Benevolent” in the neighboring town of Lewiston, at which the arch conspirator, Nicholas G. Chesebro (the coroner), was to be made Grand High Priest. The ceremony was actually a cover for planning the next move against Morgan. An invitation was given to Masons from distant points to come together at the ceremony and consult upon what to do next with this Masonic traitor.
At the “ceremony” several Masons hesitated at the idea of murder. Messengers were dispatched to Rochester for advice. At Rochester they did not proceed hastily, nor adopt their ultimate decision without long and painful reluctance. They earnestly deliberated upon their Masonic obligation. Their final conclusion was that Masonic oaths were binding. Morgan had certainly and essentially violated them. The Masons at Rochester made a unanimous decision that Morgan must die.
In understanding Masonic thought, as well as Masonic common sense — if their obligations are binding, Masons are righteous in their decision to execute Morgan. Hence, it was not a sin, but rather an honor for the eight Masons who volunteered to draw lots to carry out the penalty. Three of the lots were marked. The executioners were not to look at their lots until they arrived home. Those three with marked lots were to rendezvous at a predetermined location and carry out their Masonic duty.
The same clergyman who had accompanied Morgan from Rochester to Lewiston adjourned the meeting in prayer. He blasphemously invoked God’s blessing upon the premeditated violation of His most solemn law – “Thou shalt not kill.”
At midnight Sept. 19, the three executioners took their victim from the fort, rowed him by boat to the middle of the Niagara, fastened weights around his body and pushed him overboard. Twenty-two years later (1848), one of the three confessed on his deathbed the evil deed he had done. That deathbed confession is printed in detail in Finney’s book, pages 6-10.
That such a tragedy could be executed in a land that guarantees freedom of speech, security of life and liberty; that it could enlist citizens of good reputation from so many quarters; that it could secure the cooperation of legislators, judges, sheriffs, constables, coroners, clergymen, generals, physicians, and lawyers; that with impunity it could involve all these possibilities and more, turned the current of popular indignation from the guilty individuals toward the Masonic institution itself. Thus, the Anti-Masonic Movement turned into a political movement, which opposed all secret societies at the polls.
Freemasonry, instead of repenting of its diabolical murder of William Morgan, has since reinforced its devilish obligations by reminding Masons of what happened to Morgan when he broke his Masonic oath. From the Masonic Hand Book we read:
When a brother reveals any of our great secrets; whenever, for instance, he tells anything about Boaz, or Tubalcain, or Jachin, or that awful Mah-hah-bone [a blasphemous name representing Jesus Christ], or even whenever a minister prays in the name of Christ in any of our assemblies, you must always hold yourself in readiness, if called upon, to cut his throat from ear to ear, pull out his tongue by the roots, and bury his body at the bottom of some lake or pond.
Of course, all this must be done in secret, as it was in the case of that man Morgan, for both law and civilization are opposed to such barbarous crimes, but then, you know you must live up to your obligation, and so long as you have sworn to do it, by being very strict and obedient in the matter, you’ll be free from sin.