By David N. Bollinger
Wayne County Historical Society
Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him. The well known scripture from the King James Version of St. Matthew’s gospel, Chapter 2 and verse 2. It is the principal verse of the largest fraternal organization in the world to which both women and men may belong, the Order of the Eastern Star. The “Star,” as it is commonly referred to, was founded in 1850 by Dr. Rob Morris of Boston, Massachusetts. Dr. Morris was a educator and lawyer and has often been called the “Poet Laureate of Freemasonry“.
The teachings of the Order of the Eastern Star are based upon the scriptures of the Holy Bible, using beautiful and inspiring Biblical examples of heroic conduct and moral values. The emblem of the Order is a five-pointed star with the white ray of the star pointing downwards towards the manger of Jesus. The character-building lessons taught in the Order, are stories inspired by Biblical figures: Adah (Jephthah’s Daughter), Ruth (the widow and the Gleaner), Esther ( the wife and the Noble Queen), Martha (The Sister of Lazarus) and Electa (The Elect Lady of St. John’s 2nd Gospel). These five heroines portray the noble principals which should adorn the personal lives of Eastern Star members.
Worldwide there are over 500,000 members of the Order of the Eastern Star. The members dedicate their lives to charity, truth, love and kindness. The charitable nature of the organization is shown in the millions of dollars which have been raised through the years to support worldwide, national and local charities. Like Freemasonry, the Order of the Eastern Star is made of members from all walks of life. The Order does boast of well known and time honored members. Some include; Harry S. Truman (former President of the United States), Clara Barton (Founder and First President of the American Red Cross), Laura Ingalls Wilder (author of the Little House series of books), Dale Evans (Western film and TV legend), Rosa Parks (civil rights activist), Eleanor Roosevelt (former First Lady of the United States) and Sarah Ophelia Cannon (the legendary Grand Ole Opry comedienne, known as “Minnie Pearl”).
To have a complete history of the Greenville Chapter No. 337, and its roll of members, one would almost need to put it into book form. The focus of this article is to give insight on the organization of the Chapter, tell of its early beginnings and highlight the leaders of the chapter throughout the last 100 years.
The Grand Chapter of Missouri Order of the Eastern Star was constituted on October 13, 1875. No known Chapter existed in Greenville prior to 1911. Up to this point, the gentlemen of Greenville had been actively serving in Freemasonry for over 45 years. The Johnson Lodge No. 158 A.F. & A.M. was chartered after the Civil War in Greenville on October 19, 1867. This was through the leadership efforts of prominent citizen Zenas Smith (1794-1867). Johnson Lodge No. 158 surrendered its charter on April 25, 1885 for unknown reasons. The present day Greenville Lodge No. 107 A.F. & A.M. was chartered on October 4, 1886 as the Greenville & Williamsville Lodge No. 107 and rotated meetings between the two towns until 1903, when the meetings in Williamsville ceased and the name was dropped from the charter.
A lodge of Rebekah’s and a Maccabee Hive were two fraternal female organizations that had already existed in Greenville prior to 1911. It is unknown as to who was the driving force in getting a Eastern Star chapter organized in Greenville, but efforts were started in late 1910. The sponsoring chapter appears to have been St. Mark’s Chapter No. 167 of Cape Girardeau. Brother F.A. Kage led the organization with a proxy from the present Grand Patron Charles G. Ferguson. Sixteen members of St. Mark’s Chapter were present and organized the “Greenville Chapter Under Dispensation” on February 18, 1911. This was an all day Saturday event and eleven citizens of the Greenville community were initiated into the Order.
The membership qualifications in those days was very limited. Men could only join if they were Master Masons in good standing. The ladies had to be the wife, daughter, widow, mother or sister of a Master Mason in good standing. The thirteen charter members of the Greenville Chapter were made of a broad variety of people. All prominent in their own right. They were;
* Claiborne Barnes (1847-1934). The oldest of the thirteen charter members, and a former Sherriff of Wayne County. By the 1911 organization of the Chapter he had left politics and was farming. He later ran a hotel in Williamsville, before moving to Lewis County, Washington.
* Rev. Sebastian Cabot Biffle, Sr. (1848-1927) and his second wife Mary Alice (Carr) Biffle (1850-1924). Natives of Madison County. Rev. Biffle was pastor of the Methodist Church in Greenville. He had left by 1920 and was serving atIronton.
* Rev. Henry Taylor Eaves (1873-1964). A native of Jefferson County, Mo. He served on the St. Louis Worlds Fair board, and was former Moderator and clerk of the Jefferson County Baptist Association. He was the Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Greenville. Also an educator, he served as principal and teacher in both the Greenville and Piedmont school systems.
* Dr. Jesse Wilbur Hale (1873-1930) and his wife Effie (Bollinger) Hale (1873-1957). A prominent physician in Greenville. He and his wife were natives of IronCounty. They spent their last days in Dewitt, Texas.
* Benjamin Holmes “Ben” Hughes (1875-1953). The Wayne County treasurer and a prominent farmer on Lake Creek for many years. He later moved his family to Granite City, Illinois.
* Edward Mark “Ed” Smith (1869-1926) and his first wife Gatsey Luna (Bollinger) Smith (1874-1912). Smith was a native of Washington County, Mo. He was a merchant, banker, and community leader in Greenville. His wife was a descendant of some of the earliest pioneers of Greenville. Both were active leaders inthe Greenville Christian Church. Mrs. Smith was the first of the charter members to pass away.
* George Thomas Wilkinson (1866-1939) and his wife Lucy Alice (Settle) Wilkinson (1870-1952). Both natives of Wayne County who came from two of the most prominent families around Greenville. Mr. Wilkinson was a very successful merchant in Greenville, and both he and Mrs. Wilkinson were activeleaders in the Baptist Church. They later moved to Memphis, Tennessee.
* Dr. Nathaniel Grant Wilson (1861-1926) and his second wife Lora Elisa (Page) Wilson (1870-1950). Dr. Wilson was with no doubt the most active Physician in Greenville at the time of the organization of the Chapter. Dr. and Mrs. Wilsonwere the only two of the charter members who were already members of the Order prior to the organization. Mrs. Wilson was elected the first Worthy Matron. The doctor later accepted a job as physician in the Missouri State School in Marshall, Mo., and the couple relocated there.
The second meeting of the Chapter resulted in the election of five members by demit from another Chapter. They were; Nellie Caroline (Mabrey) Bollinger (1876-1916), Mary Jane (Meador) Montgomery (1833-1917), Greenville Attorney, Voltaire Velos Ing (1865-1924), and his second wife Mary Eliza (Woods) Ing (1871-1963) and Alberta Florence “Bertie“ (White) Holladay (1877-1969). The name of the Chapter in which the members demitted from is not recorded in the minutes.
The first slate of officers that were elected were as follows: Lora Wilson (Worthy Matron), Dr. J.W. Hale (Worthy Patron), Lucy Wilkinson (Associate Matron), Effie Hale (Conductress), Alice Biffle (Associate Conductress), B.H. Hughes (Treasurer) and Rev. H.T. Eaves (Secretary). As Worthy Matron of the Order, Lora Wilson appointed the following offices; Bertie Holladay (Adah), Luna Smith (Ruth), Mary Ing (Esther), Mary Montgomery (Martha), Nellie Bollinger (Electa), Rev. S.C. Biffle (Chaplain), Geo. T. Wilkinson (Marshal), E.M. Smith (Warder) and Claiborne Barnes (Sentinel).
Lora Elisa (Page) Wilson, the first Worthy Matron of the Chapter, was the daughter of New Hampshire native Marvin P. Page (1835-1907) and his first wife Martha (Patterson) Page. After the death of Martha Page, Mr. Page was united in marriage to Mary Amanda (McGhee) Baker-Page (1854-1918). She was the widow of Patterson physician Dr. Samuel A. Baker (1839-1874) and the mother of Missouri Governor Samuel Aaron Baker (1874-1933). Worthy Matron Lora Wilson and Governor Baker shared the same half sister Ethel Page (b. 1887) who was initiated into the Greenville Chapter in February of 1913.
Greenville Postmaster Abner Barrow (1858-1929) and his daughter Blanch Barrow (b. 1893) were the first two citizens to petition the new Chapter for initiation. The fee for initiation was a whopping $2.00. Annual dues were $1.00. The initiation of the Barrow father and daughter in June of 1911 resulted in a steady membership growth over the next year. By August of 1912 the Chapter had grown to 27 members. The surnames of members inclued; Wilson, Wilkinson, Hale, Biffle, Smith, Hughes, Eaves, Barnes, Holladay, Ing, Montgomery, Bollinger, Barrow, Bryar, Daffron, Stivers and Creath.
On Sept. 23, 1912, the Chapter met in regular meeting form and DDGM Sister Millie Eaton presented the charter to the Chapter and gave its official title as Greenville Chapter No. 337 O.E.S. And thus began a work that has lasted these last 100 years.