Thursday, August 10, 2017

Famous Illinois Freemason: "Uncle Joe" Cannon's Shoplifting Case

"Uncle Joe" Cannon political cartoon
Tempestuous Illinois Freemason, Joseph Gurney "Uncle Joe" Cannon, served a record-long term as Speaker of the House between November 9, 1903 and March 4, 1911. He was known for his fiery rhetoric, and his iron-fisted rule of Washington D.C. That period of Washington D. C. politics is known as "The Age of Cannon."  His record as Speaker of the House stood for fifty-nine years until another Illinoisian, Dennis Hassert, finally broke it.  When Uncle Joe Cannon finally retired in 1922, he was featured on the very first cover of Time magazine.  He returned to his home on Vermilion Street in Danville, Illinois, where he lived out the remainder of his life.

Abe and Sarah Bush Lincoln
But it was one of Joe Cannon's early cases that was the most interesting. Long before moving to Danville, Illinois, he lived in Tuscola, Illinois, and served as state's attorney for the 27th juducial district between 1861and 1868.  During this time he was sent to Charleston, Illinois to defend a woman accused of shoplifting--she had taken a piece of cloth from a local store.  After interviewing the woman, he learned she'd taken a small swatch of material home to compare the color against a piece she was working on--a common enough practice in that day.  Joe Cannon talked to the judge, and was able to get the charges dropped.  It was just a misunderstanding after all. 

That was fortunate, because it wouldn't have looked good for the President of the United States, a man known as "Honest Abe," to have his step-mother, whom he called "mother" and credited with his sense of humor, convicted of shoplifting in Charleston, Illinois.

That's right, the woman that Joe Cannon went to defend was none other than Sarah Bush Lincoln.

I like to tell a story about a local hero every once in awhile, and Uncle Joe is definitely an iconic character in my part of the world--and of course, Lincoln spent some time here too.  Originally, Joe Cannon was made a Mason in Shelbyville, Illinois, he affliliated with Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, Illinois in 1858--that lodge is still thriving.  I was told later, by my friend Michael Shirley (then Master of Tuscola Lodge No. 332) that he was also a charter member of that Illinois lodge, where he lived so many years.  He was also a member of Vermilion Chapter No. 82 of the Royal Arch, and the Athelstan Commandery of the Knights Tempar, both in Danville--sadly neither of those are still in existence. 

When I wrote about Uncle Joe Cannon in Famous American Freemasons: Volume II by friend Bob Blacketer, the Secretary of Olive Branch (then and now), went digging through all the musty and dusty records looking for material for the chapter in my book about Uncle Joe--I'd like to thank him again for that.  

~Todd E. Creason

Originally published February 9, 2012

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Famous Freemason Trivia!

John Paul Jones
John Paul Jones, commanding the frigate Ranger was given a nine-gun salvo as it arrived in France in February, 1778, fired from Admiral Piquet’s flagship. That was the first time an American Naval vessel was recognized by a foreign power—it was also the first time America was recognized as an independent nation.

James K. Polk
James K. Polk was the youngest President, at age 53, to die in retirement after serving as President of the United States. He died only 103 days after he left office.
When Sam Houston enlisted in the United States Army in 1813, his mother gave him a gold ring with the word “Honor” inscribed inside the band. Before he left with the army, she told him, “While the door of my cabin is open to brave men, it is eternally shut against cowards.” He wore the ring his entire life, and while honor is a word often used to describe Sam Houston, coward is not.
Mel Blanc
As a teenager, Mel Blanc used to walk by the Shriner’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. It’s the reason he later became a Mason. “Hearing about the work they did with crippled children was what initially piqued my interest in the fellowship and prompted me to seek admission.” He joined Demolay in 1925, and later joined Mid Day Lodge in Oregon in 1931 and the Shriners in 1951. He loved children.

~Todd E. Creason

You'll find many more great stories and facts about famous Freemasons in my book series Famous American Freemasons.

Originally published 3/11/2011

Saturday, August 5, 2017

What's Up With All The Reruns?

So somebody asked me recently what was up with all the reruns on the From Labor To Refreshment blog.  I always label the reprints, but if I didn't, I don't think anyone would notice.  When many of these pieces I've been running lately were originally published, I didn't have very many readers yet.  That was long before anybody knew who I was, and before the Midnight Freemasons blog became such a runaway hit.  And I wrote a lot of great content during those first several years!  Believe it or not, I wrote more than 700 posts going back to 2007!

So I'm running a few of those again--those pieces that I thought were good but didn't get much traffic when I originally posted them.  I hope you enjoy them!

~Todd E. Creason

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Winston Churchill On Courage

"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm."

~Winston Churchill
Studholme Alliance Lodge No. 1591

It's often said that there is more to be learned from failure than from success.  But it seems we've become so afraid of failure, we scarcely admit it even exists.  We have all kinds of clever phrases we use in place of "failure" today.  When we screw up these days it's a "teachable moment."  When we say it that way, it almost sounds like we meant to do it.

But there is great value in taking risks.  There is great value in learning through trial and error.  The object of the game of life is not getting to the end of it without having made any mistakes, it's about learning from those mistakes, and then trying something else when you fail, and keep trying until you succeed.

Everything in life is a risk.  Don't miss out on life by being afraid to stick your neck out.  Don't live a timid, safe life, but live adventurously, and be willing to make lots of mistakes.  Don't watch life from the sidelines--get in the game!  So you fall on your face a few times?  Did it ever occur to you that the only person that is bothered by that possibility--is you?  It's you that is holding you back.  It's your fears that keep you from living your best life.

One of my best friends, and an old-school retail manager, explained to me his philosophy of life years ago.  It was good advice.  He said:

"Knock and the door shall open.  If it doesn't, kick it in!"

~Jack Babey

Jack was right.  Life is short.  Live it boldy. If you don't you'll never learn what is truly possible.

~Todd E. Creason 

Originally published 8/6/2012

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