Masonry in NM 101

A Short History of the Grand Historian.

The idea of appointing a Grand Historian for the Grand Lodge of New Mexico was first floated as a formal recommendation by MW Herbert S. Murdoch at his 1930 Annual Communication, held at Clayton. His idea was that the Historian would undertake to gather and safeguard the historical material and information which languished in all of the Lodge buildings across the state, to “compile and put on record” that archival material, “so that in the passing of time it may not become extinct.” (GLNM Proceedings, 1930, p.61)

Tyler Anderson

The idea was that the office would not be a full-time job, but indeed be a paid position. The Committee on Grand Master’s Address supported the idea, and recommended a yearly salary not to exceed $500, which in 1930 was no paltry sum. The Committee on Accounts, Ways, and Means suggested that the existing Education Committee be tasked with the work. Thus, at that time, nothing came of the idea. (GLNM Proceedings, 1930, p.202, 204)

Only two years later, another Grand Master, Wilbur Elser, revisited the idea broadly at the 1932 Communication at Las Cruces. Elser pivoted on the question, and instead of recommending a Grand Historian be created, pointed out that the Grand Lodge had been employing Brother H.L. Haywood, a published author and former driving force of the educational programs and publications of the Grand Lodge of New York. Haywood had moved to New Mexico for health reasons, and the Grand Lodge brought him on board to write educational pamphlets for use here. (GLNM Proceedings, 1932, p.41, 42)

Haywood did produce at least eleven pamphlets for New Mexico, of which one was a short history of Masonry in New Mexico. But there is no evidence that Haywood undertook the work of a Grand Historian, as Elser intimated (and probably hoped) he might.

Following those events, the idea largely subsided for over thirty years. But at the 1965 Communication in Albuquerque, the Special Committee on History and Grand Lodge Centennial laid out an expansive plan for the centennial (still twelve years away) which included the appointment of a Grand Historian to spearhead research, name committees, and develop a library of New Mexico Masonic history, among other functions. (GLNM Proceedings, 1965, pp.126-130)

The recommendation was not enacted immediately, but in the 1969-70 year William A. Henry was appointed by MW Merle C. Holmes as the “Grand Lodge Historian,” an apparently informal title and role. His appointment is actually not mentioned in the 1969 Proceedings. Henry submitted a report the following year at the 1970 Communication in Las Cruces, outlining the need to formalize the position, define its goals, and provide necessary financial support and archival access. The tone of his report frankly opens the question as to whether he felt he was the man for the job. But at that 1970 Communication he was formally appointed as Grand Historian, and recorded as a Grand Lodge officer. (GLNM Proceedings, 1970, pp.42-44)

Henry filled the formalized office for two years, and was succeeded by LaMoine “Red” Langston, Past Grand Master, who undertook to research and compile the now-familiar blue hardcover, A History of Masonry in New Mexico 1877-1977. Langston died on March 15th of 1976—the first day of the 1976 Grand Lodge Annual Communication—and the book was taken to completion, from manuscript to published copy, by one of the Centennial Committee members, Darrell A. Swayze. Swayze succeeded Langston as Grand Historian in 1977. (A History of Masonry in New Mexico, 1977, p.iv)

Perhaps oddly, the office was not added to the Grand Lodge Bylaws until 1990, and to the Grand Lodge Constitution until 1991, simultaneous to the appointment of the fifth holder of the seat, David Millis. (GLNM Proceedings, 1990, p.99; GLNM Proceedings, 1991, p.75)

After the 1977 Centennial and associated book, the office became less single-purpose-driven, and the work expanded toward more general historical research and compilation. Since then the Grand Historian has provided not only the background work of collecting and safeguarding histories of the Lodges and of Masonry in New Mexico, but has served as one of the primary drivers of Masonic education in the state.

As of 2023, there have been six Grand Historians in the Grand Lodge of New Mexico. William A. Henry (years appointed: 1970, 1971); LaMoine Langston (1972-1975); Darrell A. Swayze (1977-1983); Myndert M. Gilbert (1984-1990); David Millis (1991-2017); Tyler Anderson (2018-present).

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