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Master Masonís apron (c. early 20th century)

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A Fraternity By Your Side: The Story of Walter Cary Wilcox, “The Mason’s Boy”

In 1878 Walter Cary Wilcox, the son of a Louisiana Freemason, was orphaned in New Orleans. By the efforts of the Masonic Service Lodges of New Orleans and Chicago, little Walter was transported by train to live with his grandmother in Oakland. There, he became a ward of the Grand Lodge of California, who allocated annual sums of money for his care.  He also became somewhat of a celebrity because of his tragic situation and the assistance he received from the Fraternity. Upon his grandmother’s death in September 1888 he was adopted by Nathan W. Spaulding, the Grand Treasurer of the California Masonic Grand Lodge, who raised Walter as his own son. Walter, on his way to a successful family and professional life, became a Master Mason in Oakland Lodge No. 188 at a celebrated degree conferral on May 11, 1895.

The Henry Wilson Coil Library and Museum is home to the numerous letters, telegrams and photographs concerning Walter’s touching story, as well as the two famous identification tags he sported around his neck—those items that attested to his care by the Fraternity during his long and arduous trip west. Versions of his tale differ wildly—often fraught with misspelled names and incorrect dates. An appraisal of each scrap of correspondence and records in the Proceedings was necessary in order to approximate the correct timeline of Walter’s unique story.

View the items and read his story.

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