by Howard E. Pike, P.P.
The year was 1872. The Republic was rebuilding from the Civil War and U.S. Grant was serving as president. The country stood on the verge of what was to become the “Gilded Age” when business, economy and industrialism would flourish. In New York City, the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Domestic Shrine was founded. The order membership requirement was that of a man had to be a member of the York Rite, the Scottish Rite or both.
No new temples of the fledgling order were formed until 1876. Charters were then granted to establish temples in nine cities. They included Rochester, New York; Montpelier, Vermont; Cleveland, Ohio; Albany, New York; Cincinnati, Ohio; Troy, New York; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Bridgeport, Conn.; and Davenport, Iowa.
In Utica, New York, Frazier W. Hurlburt, who was an active Mason, became a member of the Shrine on a business trip to New York. It was Hurlburt who gathered a group of area men and sent for a dispensation to establish a Shrine Temple in Utica, NY. The dispensation is dated October 30, 1877, making Utica the 11th city to receive a charter.
There were seven names on that dispensation, and the minutes of the meeting of November 2, 1877, show that there were six men who were initiated into the Order by Noble Frazier W. Hurlburt, constituting the seven charter members of Ziyara Temple. The men included in this original group were Theodore W. Bolles, Edward A. Tallman, Taliesin Evans, Henry R. Jones, Jacob J. Davis, and Charles B. Foster.
Their first meeting took place on December 26, 1877, when it was decided that subsequent meetings would take place on the last Wednesday evening of each month. By June 1878, the petitions of John Griffiths, T. Jay Griffiths, Charles E. Barnard, H. Gilbert Hart, and David J. Evans were accepted and they were elected to membership.
The 12 names all appear on the charter, and each was elected to office as follows:
High Priest and Prophet
Second Ceremonial Master
First Ceremonial Master
Captain of the Guard
50,000 Square Miles
Ziyara Temple covered 50,000 square miles of territory from just east of Rochester, New York to just west of Albany, New York, and from the Canadian border to the Pennsylvania state line. On October 2, 1878, the first petitions were received from other men who wished to become members of the shrine. Those petitioners were from Oswego, New York. In those days the initiation fee was $5.
Later, in 1886, 25 petitions were received from men in the Fulton-Oswego areas. It was at this time that both Oswego and Binghamton made requests to be granted a dispensation to start their own shrine temples, but both requests were denied. They continued as members of Ziyara Temple.
Records from that time show that on June 29, 1887, a big meeting took place during which business was conducted in the afternoon, and in the evening 55 candidates were initiated. There was a visitation from Mecca Temple and the Imperial Potentate, Sam Briggs, was also present for the festivities.
Following the banquet that evening, Illustrious Grand Potentate Frazier W. Hurlburt resigned his position, asked for, and was granted a demit. It was felt that business and health had made his continuance in office an impossibility. The Imperial Potentate appointed Taliesin Evans, who served as acting potentate, until Henry Coggleshall was elected in December of 1878, for one year, then John W. Boyle became potentate.
Boyle’s Leadership Brings Growth
Under the leadership of Potentate Boyle, Ziyara Temple increased its membership and improved finances. He remained in office nine years. During that period, the Temple invested $1,000 in stocks and became incorporated. By 1891 the Temple had 528 members and over $2,000 in bonds. The Charter of Ziyara Temple was suspended in February, but was restored again in October of 1891. During the suspension, some nobles of Watertown made a petition for a temple and it was granted, thus, Media Temple was formed.
In January of 1897, it was decided that Ziyara would join with five other Masonic bodies and buy property to build a Masonic Temple. At the same time it was decided that Thomas R. Procter would be Ziyara’s Incorporating Trustee, and $2,000 was appropriated to help buy the property. In December of that year, the request of Binghamton for the forming of Kalurah Temple was granted, and they were able to get their temple started in 1898. In spite of the fact that Ziyara lost members because of the formation of Media and Kalurah Temples, it still had a membership of 534 in the year 1900.
In the year 1902, John W. Boyle was re-elected potentate. This time, he held office through the year 1910. Illustrious Noble Boyle was a strong-willed man and a leader in both masonry and the shrine. He was well known and, under his leadership, Ziyara progressed. It was shortly after his re-election that an Arab Patrol was organized and it continued to function for quite a few years, during which time, it attended a number of Shrine National Conventions. It seems noteworthy that at the annual meeting of December 7, 1904, attended by 500 nobles, even though Illustrious Potentate Boyle was in London, England, he was nevertheless unanimously re-elected to be potentate for the year 1905.
An Important Meeting in 1905
The meeting on June 7th 1905, was opened by Chief Rabban, Noble John R. Baxter, with 400 nobles attending. Shortly after the meeting opened, Illustrious Noble Boyle entered the room and was received with a standing ovation. Upon taking over direction of the meeting, Noble Boyle gave an interesting address, after which he read certain charges, which had been made against him during his absence in Europe. The charges were found to be unwarranted to have been made because of personal malice. Consequently, the nobles assembled voted $500 to help Illustrious Boyle fight the case against him. He was later exonerated.
It was at the same meeting that a resolution was passed that Syracuse should have a temple providing it was approved by the Imperial Council. At that time, our records show that the membership from Utica was 170 and from Syracuse the membership was 353. There were, of course, additional members from other sections of the territory. The resolution also provided that if Syracuse was not to have a temple, the home of Ziyara would be moved from Utica to Syracuse. The minutes of a later meeting reveal that this resolution was not accepted on either point by the Imperial Council.
Potentate Boyle is Honored
At a meeting in April of 1906, notice was received from the Imperial Potentate that Illustrious Potentate Boyle was appointed as Chairman of the Imperial Council’s Committee on Jurisprudence and Laws. One of the nobles present, Roderick Campbell, read a letter from the Imperial Potentate, H. A. Collins, to the fact that Illustrious Potentate Boyle and he had been personal friends for many years and he was happy to make the appointment mentioned. In October of 1906, a notice was received by the Temple to the effect that Illustrious Potentate Boyle was appointed as a Special Deputy Imperial Potentate to visit and inspect the work of Melha Temple at Springfield, Massachusetts. Records also show that Potentate Boyle was granted “all the rights and privileges of a past Imperial Potentate.” So far as we know, no other Shriner has ever received such an honor.
It is recorded in many places that the Shriners from the beginning were quick to respond to calls for help from those who had suffered a disaster. It is recorded that Shriners contributed generously to the victims of the Galveston flood in the early 1900’s. Our records show that in 1916, in response to a request from the Imperial Potentate, Ziyara Temple sent a check for $300 to Islam Temple in San Francisco to help the distressed nobles who were suffering from the effects of an earthquake and fire. Later, it will be noted that this charitable spirit became one of the basic principles of the shrine movement.
Although the Ziyara Temple had a very humble beginning, by the end of the 19th century it was not uncommon to have the Secretary note in his book that there were 300, 400 or even 500 members at a meeting. It was difficult to get a place large enough to contain the number of nobles who came to meetings and the request was made from larger quarters.
Many times, petitions were accepted at a meeting, the petitioners were then brought into the meeting and obligated, and forthwith became members. At other times, there was a big ceremonial to which visitors came, many times from Mecca Temple in New York. Nearly always, a large banquet followed the meeting and all meetings were definitely social gatherings. In the early days, there was a permanent committee appointed to have fireworks ready so that if nobles were visiting from other places, they were escorted to the train with fireworks.
During our annual election meetings, every officer was elected by popular vote and, occasionally, there was considerable competition for offices. In the Utica area, most of the candidates were members only of the Commandery, because the Scottish Rite did not have a local Consistory which could take them to the 32nd degree.
Because many of the members were from different parts of the territory, it was necessary for the officers to go to different places for initiations. The records show that they had gone several times to Oswego, Norwich, Binghamton, Watertown, Ogdensburg, Cortland and Syracuse. Each time, of course, several new members were added to the roster and money added to the treasury. In 1920, Illustrious Herbert W. Greenland of Syracuse was the potentate. It was at that time that Syracuse made a second try for a temple and the request was granted, thus, Tigris Temple was instituted.
It was about that time that the Scottish Rite was able to get a Consistory in Utica and started having large classes of candidates, most of whom joined Ziyara Temple after they finished their 32nd degree. By 1922, the creation of Tigris Temple had resulted in a loss of 930 members to Ziyara. In spite of this, Ziyara had a membership of 2113. The large number was accounted for by the fact that during 1921 and 1922, 754 nobles were created by Ziyara Temple. By 1930, the roster had increased to 2167 members and the treasurer’s report showed a balance of $93,603.
Because of the large number who attended the ceremony, they were held in different places, the first being at the Lumberg Theater, the Gaiety Theater, the Utica Theater, the Avon Theater, the Stanley Theater, the Parkway Armory, and the Utica Memorial Auditorium were all used. Of these, only the last three still stand.
Joint ceremonials have been held with Media Temple, Kalurah Temple and Tigris Temple. In 1950, when Imperial Potentate Harold Lloyd visited Utica, all three of those temples joined with Ziyara in a ceremonial at the Stanley Theater. Three thousand were present and there was a class of 197 candidates. In 1959, Ziyara journeyed to Montreal for a joint ceremonial with Karnack Temple, and many new goals were initiated.
Down through the years, Ziyara has been blessed with many fine units, the first of which was the Arab Patrol which became the Utica Patrol, then the Chanters in 1920, the Band in 1921 and the Wrecking Crew, which is now the Director Staff, in 1924. They were the only ones until the 1940’s when we added the Rome Patrol, and later the Reception Caravan, the Zanies, Legion of Honor, the Motor Corps and the Drum and Bugle Corps. We should not forget the Frolicquers, which was formed in 1924 by Noble Albert Sittig. This unit was one of a kind, and dressed in their Scottish Kilties, entertained not only people who were attending the parades, but went to many hospitals to entertain the crippled children as well. It remained in existence until the death of Noble Sittig. We also had a medical unit, which at one time, was composed of 81 doctors. There was also a drum and bugle corps that was formed in 1934 but remained in existence only until 1943. We were pleased to have a comeback into existence in 1972 under the leadership of James B. Turnbull, III, who became Potentate in 1975.
Recently, a group of Ziyara Nobles, got together and formed the M.R. Club, which stands for Masonic Retirees. They make it a practice to go to the Masonic Home and entertain the elderly people who are living there. They performed a much needed work. Our Director Emeritus, Harold Lowenburg, was the founder of this group.
Our units serve Ziyara in many ways. It’s has become a tradition to invite the units of the temple to participate in many non-shrine functions. On the Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Armistice (Veteran’s) Day and on occasion, the Fireman’s Field Days, as well as the opening of various town and county fairs, our units are much in demand. We, of course, have our own shrine parades at the spring ceremonial and at the fall meeting of the New York-Ontario Shrine Association. In some recent years, we have made a good showing at the Imperial Sessions. In the Imperial Parade, units representing temples from all of North America participate, and such parades have taken over six hours to pass in their entirety.
A Ziyara Shrine parade is an impressive sight. It is led by the Legion of Honor with their colorful flags flying. They are followed by the Potentates and Divan members who march in their colorful formal wear. The drum and bugle corps usually comes next, and provides a sharp beat for marching as well as a rousing sound for spectators. The patrols follow in their Arabic uniforms, and perform intricate drill patterns along the line of march.
For many years, members of our Reception Caravan dressed in a black tuxedo with white gloves, and have carried a very large American flag mounted on a framework. Ziyara’s band presently rides in a special trailer, and plays a number of selections over the parade route. Our Chanters have built their own vehicle for parade participation, and sing a number of songs for the benefit of parade spectators.
The Director Staff maintains some very special vehicles, including an antique fire truck, and a special float or two which are still a part of our line. Our Zanies are a very interesting and active group. They show off in full clown regalia for parades, and either walk or ride special track vehicles. They are always very popular with the children along the side lines. Finally, the motor court riding of their 20 cycles, flying small American flags and executing breathtaking maneuvers at considerable speed are real spectacle.
Ziyara Temple was hard hit by the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Many of the Nobles were unable to pay their dues and, of necessity, were dropped from membership. During the Depression, Ziyara Temple had an Employment Committee and was successful in obtaining jobs for many members. The depression also resulted in the abandonment of plans to build a temple and mosque combined. 1922, Ziyara had entered into an agreement with the Scottish Rite for this purpose. Property had been bought, but before a building could be built, the Great Depression came and the plans did not materialize. The property was sold to the Oneida National Bank and the Corn Hill Building and Loan Association, now called the Federal Savings and Loan Association. That sale provided a very important fund which has been carefully maintained by our trustees. It has been supplemented in various ways, and today provides a much needed supplement to our income from dues and fees.
In order to keep members interested in the shrine during those years, various types of entertainment were provided. One year there was a Mid-Summer Night’s Ball. There were all sold-out smokers, barbecues, clambakes, football games, rodeos and one year, the Marine Band. Membership dropped off to its lowest point in about 1940 when there were only 1354 members. At the time of the Second World War, membership had started to increase and by 1958 had again reached 2,467.
Even though 1931 was a depression year, Ziyara Temple started the publication which we called the “Bugle”. Is still being sent to our members monthly has kept all of the Nobles aware of what is going on, not only in our own temple, but in many other places as well. The first editor was Noble William Schutze. He remained in that position for 26 1/2 years, until the time of his death. After his death, the Recorder, Noble Hebert E. Griffith, became the Editor with Mrs. Esther P. Adams as Assistant Editor. We know that all Nobles look forward to receiving their copy each month. It has since become our custom to include many items of personal interest such as weddings, promotions, sickness and death which have occurred in our Ziyara family.
Crippled Children’s Project
The greatest charity of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine is the Crippled Children Project. It was started by the Imperial Council on September 16, 1922. In 1935, Ziyara Temple made a pilgrimage to the Crippled Children’s Hospital in Springfield Massachusetts. It was the first such visitation in all Shrinedom. There was an enormous caravan of automobiles. The necessary arrangements were made with the state police in both New York and Massachusetts, and the caravan was escorted to the hospital.
In the spring of 1940, through the efforts of potentate Moses Hubbard Jr. and Noble Bill Schutze, as well as the Recorder Herber E. Griffith, Ziyara Temple had a Crippled Children’s Clinic in Utica. This was the first. Since the beginning, we have sponsored 71 clinics – 35 for Philadelphia in 36 for Springfield.
In 1934, the Imperial Council decided to allow any member to purchase a Life Membership in the Crippled Children’s Hospitals. At that time, the price of such memberships was $60 in a work called Permit Contributing Memberships. Such memberships continue to be sold today but prices now $150. Memorial contributions in any amount desired from $1 and up are accepted from any individual or group. A long established method of contributing to the support of our Shriner’s Hospital is known as “Rungs on the Ladder of Babies Smiles.” The subscription price of each rung is $60, given by any individual, group or organization in memory of, or in honor of, anyone they may designate.
To this date, members and friends of Ziyara Temple have contributed 3283 Rungs on the Ladder of Baby Smiles. The object of these memberships in contributions was to create an endowment for the hospitals to help them continue their great work. In 1936, one of our members, Noble Dalton, bought 14 Permanent Contributing Memberships and asked that 13 of them be given to deserving of members of Ziyara. This was another first, and the Imperial Potentate at that time derived great pleasure in telling his audiences about the philanthropic move of our member.
In 1933, it was decided to have the family basket picnic. This became a combined effort with the Crippled Children’s Picnic, and several times, the Imperial Potentate attended the picnics when he made his official visit. That’s why at the present time, Ziyara is having two picnics; one for crippled children which is held at the Masonic Home grounds, and the other, our family picnic, which is held in Durhamville. As many as 3000 have attended. The first child sponsored as part of Ziyara’s Crippled Children’s Program was Rosa Bugiag from Little Falls. Since that time, many children from this area have been sent to either the Philadelphia or Springfield hospital. Children have also been sent to the Burns Hospital for treatment.
Cooperation between the Knights of Columbus of Ilion and Ziyara Temple, was instituted in 1937 with the sponsoring of a dance which was attended by over 2,500 people. One thousand eight hundred ($1,800) dollars were raised for the benefit of the Crippled Children’s Hospitals. Since that time, a cordial relationship between the two organizations has been maintained, and as a result, many Rungs on the Ladder of Baby Smiles have been purchased by the Knights.
One of the ways that the Imperial Council has asked that we raise money for the hospitals was through saved tinfoil. The tinfoil was sold and recycled. This project continued until 1950. During that period, Ziyara Temple accounted for at least 30,000 lbs. of foil. A request was also made that we save used razor blades. These were shipped out to Minnesota, where they were resharpened and sold, and the money received was given to the hospital there.
During the Second World War, a request was made that when Nobles’ wives were canning fruits and vegetables, that they can get an extra jar and give it to the Crippled Children’s Hospital. Two different years, Ziyara collected these home canned fruits and vegetables and obtained over 7500 jars each year. As a matter of fact, the second year our temple had over 16,000 jars and they were divided between Springfield, Philadelphia and Montreal.
Although Ziyara Temple has always been a “fine organization” its members never fail to keep in mind the great charity of the shrine. This is well documented by the fact that in 1945, when the Minnie Marsh White estate of Cooperstown was probated, it’s was found that she had left $50,000 to the crippled Children’s Hospitals. This was the largest amount that had ever been left to the hospitals at that time. Late Noble Louis R. Mather willed the hospitals $129,000 in 1953. All of these things demonstrate that Ziyara Temple and her Nobles have ever been most generous to the crippled children and hospitals.
For the Good Times
Over the years, Ziyara has had a number of outstanding and well attended types of entertainment. At one card party and dance, both Hotels Utica and Martin were used and 1500 attended. Then, there was a large picnic in 1936 which over 3000 attended. In 1938, the Middlebury College Glee Club entertained us with over 500 present. Also that same year, the Broadway Revue had a capacity audience of over 4500. The basket picnics at Cedar Lake were sometimes attended by over 2500 Nobles, their wives and children. And for the 75th jubilee in 1952, over 1800 were present. Then there were the Tyroliers from the Austrian Alps, and the Masonic Squar-ee.
During 1938, a Hi-Noon Club was formed. The members met once a month. It was very successful for quite a long time. Another program which was very successful was the Mother’s Day Program, and it annually attracted at least 400 people. Both programs ended mainly because of rationing of gasoline during World War II. Another source of good times and good fellowship, were the meetings of the New York-Ontario Shrine Association which began in 1926. Utica was the first host and one of the original members. It met each year in different city, with the exception of those years in which it was difficult to obtain gasoline.
Ziyara sponsored its first circus in 1922. It took place a few times and in 1947, became an annual event. Many Nobles assist in the work of putting on the circus and a great many children receive free tickets because of their generosity. The year 1951 saw the past potentates form the local organization of Cabiri. Dr. H. Day Parkhurst, Past Potentate, was not only the driving force in the formation of this group, but also with in its continuance until his recent death. Each year at holiday time, a group of Nobles tended the Salvation Army Kettle for a day to raise money for the Army’s usual Christmas dinners. For three consecutive years, Ziyara Temple had been awarded the prize for getting most money in the kettles.
Ziyara temple has many famous and outstanding sons. Four of our Nobles became Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of the State of New York. They were John W. Voorman, who was instrumental in having the Masonic Home built in Utica; Gay H. Brown, during whose administration the Brotherhood Fund was started – he was also one of the founders of the Medical Research Building; Carl W, Peterson, responsible for refurbishing the Grand Lodge Building in New York, as well as part of the Masonic Home property and present Grand Master Albert W. Schneider, now engaged in trying to raise $7.5 million for more new buildings at the Masonic Home.
At least five of our Nobles were members of Congress; they were Homer P. Snyder, Frederick M. Davenport; Dr. Fred J. Douglas; William Williams and Past Potentate Alexander Pirnie.
Two of our local insurance companies had Ziyara Nobles as their chief officers; Edward Trevvett was the founder of the Commercial Travelers Mutual Insurance Company and Victor T. Ehre, now Chairman of the Utica Mutual Insurance Company.
Among our bankers, we find that three of our Potentates while serving in that office, were also President of the Oneida National Bank. They were Charles W. Hall, H. Russell Johnson and Forest R. Kelley. Also, among our members was Leroy Fairchild, who was the founder of the Mystic Order of the Veiled Prophets of the Enchanted Realm, otherwise known as the Grotto. It is impossible to read the history of either Oneida or Herkimer counties without encountering the names of the outstanding judges, bank presidents, doctors, surgeons, lawyers and businessmen who were members of Ziyara temple.
Among the industrialists were Merrill Jesse Brayton of the Utica Electric Light and Power Company; Joseph R. Reaney, who owned the many mills in Mohawk Valley; Thomas R. Proctor of Utica and Charles S. Mott, who became vice-president of the General Motors Corporation. These last three were also well known philanthropists. Richard S. Reynolds went to the Gold Fields, made a fortune and returned to Utica where he left a sizable fortune. His heirs have provided a building for the Boy Scouts of America, Upper Mohawk Council, Inc.
Because of desire as proximity to the Rome Air Base, we have had many distinguished officers of the armed forces as our members. Also, many members have been mayors of their cities, towns and villages. Three of our Nobles, brothers, were all members of the famous Sousa’s Band . Henry, William and John Schueler. In 1934, Noble Jack Wright, a well-known aviator, attempted to fly from London England, to Melbourne Australia. Although his attempt was unsuccessful, we still acclaim his attempt. Utica is fortunate to have Utica College, largely due to the efforts of our past potentate, Illustrious Moses G. Hubbard, Jr. Two of our members, James Brooks and Sidney Warren were elected President of the Shrine Patrol Association of North America.
As of 1977, Ziyara Temple had over 1900 members. A fine feature of membership are the Shrine Clubs, which have been of great assistance to this organization. The first of such clubs was the Adirondack Club, known now as the Northern Lights Shrine Club. In addition, we have the Eastern, the Mohawk Valley, the Southern Tier, the Fort Stanwix, the Western and the Shrine Club of Greater Utica. They are so placed that every Noble is within easy distance of at least one of the clubs.
Such a high point of the history of Ziyara Shriners for the past 100 years. Many more things have been accomplished, many more outstanding men have been Nobles and much more could be written which would fill in many volumes. We are extremely proud of our heritage, and look forward to building an even greater future. The word “Ziyara” means “pilgrimage to holy place” but we, the members and Nobles of Ziyara, know that it means “The Friendly Temple.” Now with friendly smiles on our faces, let us begin the second hundred years with great zeal as an even greater heritage for those who will come after us.
Special thanks to Ill. Alun M. Ellis, PP for this article