Great Smoky Mountains 

Masonic Monument/Marker

    

    

    

         

At an altitude of 4,522 feet, in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, stands a most singular and significant monument to Freemasonry.  The Masonic Shrine or Marker, is a tribute to the universality of Masonry that should be viewed by all.

Located near Black Camp Gap, it is 17 miles from Waynesville, North Carolina, and is reached by taking Route 19 South through Lake Junaluska and Maggie Valley to Soco Gap and the Blue Ridge Parkway.  Head south on the Parkway toward Cherokee, and turn right onto the side road to Heintooga Overlook.  The Marker, which is accessed by a short paved walkway from a parking area, is identified with a plaque by the roadside.

Through the efforts of Right Illustrious Companion T. Troy Wyche, Companion J. R. Boyd contributed one and one-half acres of land to the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of North Carolina during the Cryptic Year 1936-37.  At the 1937 Summer Assembly of York Rite Masons, a copper box, hermetically sealed and containing dated and Masonic memorabilia of that era, was locked into a black walnut box, and buried in a concrete vault at the Black Camp Gap property.  (In 1972, the box was unearthed, and the contents removed and placed in a display in Waynesville Masonic Lodge.  A new container, with items of that era, was placed back in the vault).  Companion T. Troy Wyche was already laying plans to mark the spot, and contacted Masonic Lodges, Grand Lodges, Grand York Rite Bodies, Scottish Rite Bodies, and any individuals of Masonic organizations interested in sending stones to be incorporated in the building of the monument.

From the proceedings of the Grand Council's Annual Assembly in Greensboro, North Carolina, on May 10th, 1938:  "To mark the spot where the Grand Council last year buried its Memorial Deposit, we conceive the idea of a Masonic Marker as a true symbol of the universality of Masonry, and therefore have requested Masons of all countries and states to contribute stones to go therein.  Interesting stones have come from five continents, the isles of the seven seas, and from historic spots of nearly every state in the Union.  The idea has caused manifestation of great interest in the United States and among (Masons in) foreign countries, and consciousness that Freemasonry does have a message for this troubled world."  (This was at a time when war clouds were gathering over Europe and we were destined to involvement in World War II.)

Work of constructing the Marker was under the supervision of a non-Mason, Oscar L. Briggs, Supt. of the Water Department in Waynesville, North Carolina.  The city contributed the labor and the trucks for hauling the materials to the site.  M.I. Companion Wyche compiled a catalog showing the location and giving a history and description of each stone.  The completed marker was unveiled and consecrated at the Summer Assembly on July 11th, 1938.  It was estimated that this was the largest group of Cryptic Masons, (over 600) ever to meet outside the General Grand Council.  There were ten Illustrious Grand Masters present, distinguished Masons from 21 states, Canada, Cuba, and the Canal Zone.  After preliminary ceremonies at the Masonic Temple in Waynesville, the group journeyed to Black Camp Gap for the unveiling and dedication.  Rt. Wor. Companion Thomas J. Harkins, Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, made the dedication address.

T. Troy Wyche passed through the Ninth Arch and to his just reward on April 26, 1939.  That summer, the Grand Council voted to have an appropriate marker erected in his memory at the Shrine site at Black Camp Gap.

In 1941, M.I. Claude B. Hosaflook, then a Provincial Grand Master of the Grand Council, conceived a plan for a series of 3, 5, 7, and 9 steps and five landings leading up to the Marker.  These were cut from Georgia gray granite and taken to the site in the Fall of that year.  However, World War II delayed completion and dedication until September 1948.  The riser of each step bears the inscription of each donor.

In 1949, the Blue Ridge Parkway took over the land on three sides of the Marker from the Boyd heirs, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park owning the remaining side.

Contained in construction of the Marker are 687 separate items or memorial pieces, consisting of various types of stones, granite, quartz, marble, slate, jade, onyx, tile, brick, crystal, gypsum, fluorspar, agate, garnet, fossil stone, and petrified wood.  The stones are reported to vary in weight from one ounce to a 170-pound stone from a Cuban fortress constructed by Don Hernando DeSoto in the 1500's.

The Marker was not destined to contain the Memorial Chest, since it remained buried in its concrete vault. It is alleged that the plans for the monument were drawn by Companion Wyche, it being 12 feet high and 9 feet square at the base.

As a protection against vandalism, an iron fence was erected around the Marker in 1954.  Due to some deterioration from the weather, a wooden covering was constructed through Grand Council efforts around 1978.

Of primary significance was the enthusiasm and cooperation of Masonic Bodies throughout the world in contributing to the Shrine Freemasonry's belief in the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man is more appreciated when viewing the tranquil and scenic setting of the Marker.  The universality of our great Fraternity was truly was truly demonstrated in a tangible manner, but let us not forget that all of the stones contributed would be nothing more than a pile of rubble were it not for the cement that binds them together.  It is the responsibility of each member of the Craft to make certain that the cement of Brotherly Love and Affection continues to hold us together as Masons, as Brothers, and as the children of God.

Here is a color post card of the monument taken in 1935.

References

History of the Cryptic Rite in North Carolina, 1822-1961, published by the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters in North Carolina.

Masonic Shrine Catalogue of Stones in Marker, compiled by T. Troy Wyche.

Proceedings of the Grand Council Royal and Select Masters in N.C., March 16-19, 1936.

A North Carolina Masonic Shrine, by Clufton L. Taylor, PSM, PGHP; Robert Kraus, PGC Knights Templar of N.C.

This story was reprinted from the Royal Arch Mason Magazine, Vol. 19 - 11, Fall 1999.  It was submitted by Galard C. Moore, Jr. PGHP of N.C., June 14, 1999.

A special "Thanks" to Brother Pete Streicher of Whittier, N.C. for submitting the photographs above which assisted in telling the story of this wonderful monument.

Click here to view the Catalog of Stones used in the building of this Monument/Marker

A special "Thank You" to Brother Peter Vojtik of Raven Lodge #303, Oswego, IL for submitting the pdf copy of the above catalog so our visitors could view it.

 

         

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