To our Fraternity:
I wanted to share this letter written in 1890 to the craft from our first Grand Master, MWB George Ayres as he created the Grand Lodge Charity Fund and the Widows and Orphans Fund. It was his incredible vision that now, 127 years later, with these two funds combined into one, his initial investment of fifty dollars has now grown to around 4 million dollars. More importantly, it has helped hundreds of Masons and their families in times of financial need. His vision and passion on carrying out the tenets of our fraternity still inspire today.
Mike Rodman, Grand Master
Office of the M. W. Grand Master
BRETHREN — We are rapidly approaching the Sixteenth Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Dakota, and as I review its history I have no fault to find with the past. The past is gone and outside of profiting by past experience, is irretrievably lost, but we have the present and future to deal with, and as I review the proceedings of Our Sister Grand Jurisdictions, and note the noble works of charity and benevolence being inaugurated and carried on by them, I cannot but feel that we are negligent of our duty and behind the times in at least two things, to-wit: a Grand Lodge Charity and a Widow’s and Orphans’ Funds.
We proclaim to the world that the leading objects of our institution are, “to inculcate sound morality, to make men honest and upright, true to their God and faithful to their country, and to unite them by the strong bond of Charity, Friendship and Brotherly Love, so that when any one is said to be a member of it, the world may know that he is one to whom the burdened heart may pour out its sorrows, to whom distress may prefer its suit, whose hand is guided by justice and whose heart is expanded by benevolence.
“That is the purpose of Freemasonry to create friendship, to make provision for the relief of poor and distressed brethren, and to protect the widows and orphans.”
Brethren, Are we carrying out the grand design of our ancient and honorable institution? The sands of life are swiftly running, the harvest is steadily ripening and Father Time with his scythe is industriously reaping the fruits of death among our brethren. We feel our own feet sliding on the precarious bank on which we stand, and a few more suns, we, too, will be called to the land where our fathers have gone before us, and while some of us may leave our families in comfortable circumstances, many more will leave weeping widows and helpless orphans, who will follow the last earthly remains of a loved husband and father to the grave and when the inanimate lump of clay is deposited in the cold and cheerless chambers of the tomb, will realize the fact that their only earthly support is gone.
Widows are left destitute, orphans naked, and the aged on whom the frost of years has laid its cold hand, paralyzed their strength, exhausted their spirits and rendered them unable to provide means of relief for these unfortunates.
Brethren, Actions speak louder than words. Brilliant flow of oratory and grammatically constructed eulogies of what Masonry has accomplished, will not suffice, for no institution can live long and prosper on its past achievements, but its life and influence for good depends on what it is doing to-day. We should not leave the work for our posterity, but should initiate and carry on ourselves so long as an indulgent Providence permits us to enjoy the manifold blessing of this world. Again, we are building not only for the present, but the future, and should interpret and carry out the grand design of Masonry not alone for the present generation but that future generations may be benefitted by our works and profit by our example. With this belief paramount in my mind and in order to start this glorious work I will subscribe fifty dollars, viz: Twenty-five dollars to the Grand Charity Fund and twenty-five dollars to the Widows and Orphans Fund.
Now, how much will each constituent Lodge in this Grand Jurisdiction add to each fund by voluntary individual subscriptions from the members and brethren in their jurisdiction. The brethren can subscribe to either or both funds as they may choose, and I ask that the Master of each Lodge appoint a special committee to solicit subscriptions to these funds, the name of each Lodge and subscriber to appear in our next annual proceedings as the founders of these funds. The money subscribed can either be sent to the Grand Secretary, or be conveyed to the next Annual Grand Communication of the Grand Lodge by your representatives.
Masters of the Lodges will please give this matter their prompt attention.
In closing, I desire to call your attention to the Grand Lodge of Arizona, which at its Eighth Annual Communication, with but eight constituent Lodges and a total membership of 424, reports the magnificent sum of $1,129.50 as a Widows and Orphans Fund.
Geo. V. Ayres, Grand Master