"The life story of Frank Sherman Land is the story of the Order of DeMolay. One would not be complete without the other. So begins the Reverend Herbert Ewing Duncan, as he weaves together the biography of a remarkable man with the history of the creation and promotion of the Order of DeMolay.
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FRANK LAND WAS to say in later years, after he had seen thousands of young men grow into manhood, that “It is the beginning that is most important. The early years are the base on which a life is built. If sound ideals are a part of youth then the mature years will radiate sound ideals, wholesome endeavor, and worthwhile activities.” In his own life, the qualities of…
MIDWEST AMERICA in the first years of a new century was caught up in the potential changes and the high optimism of the time. The twentieth century was believed to be the century of progress as the scars of the War Between the States were healed and the western frontier grew into statehood. St. Louis was busy preparing for a World’s Fair to be opened in 1904 to outshine the Pan American Exposition. Theodore Roosevelt had assumed the Presidency following the assassination of William McKinley by a Polish anarchist on September 6, 1901, and was showing his “big stick” to the economy of the nation. There was a national pride in America and the anticipation that the future would be…
Frank noticed that they were of the same height, of what was then called average, a few inches under six feet. The boy’s hair was brown, cut short and smoothed back with a part high on the right side. The forehead was high and his blue eyes gave the indication of friendliness to complete the ever-present smile about his lips. His clothing showed wear and its size had not kept pace with his years but there was a touch of the immaculate about him. Frank thought, “If I had a son, I would want him to be just like this lad.”
Land found Marshall slumped in a well-worn upholstered chair, the picture of a man at leisurely ease. The old newspaperman was dressed in his habitual careless manner. His suit out of press and hidden in the folds of an ample vest was a heavy gold watch chain sagging under the weight of a fraternal medallion. His upper lip sported a graying mustache and his chin a small goatee. From the left pocket of his coat the latest copy of the Journal projected to the point of slipping to the floor. No two men could have been as different in appearance as these two Franks. One immaculate, the other casual and completely indifferent as to dress and appearance. But each radiated a tremendous ability, a strength of character, and a devotion to idealism. Now at this chance meeting neither man realized that before 24 hours were to pass the outline plan of the two degrees of DeMolay would be written to remain unchanged for five decades and more.
Master Masons by the score rose in standing ovation and crowded around Dad Land to extend congratulations and pledge support and help for what they called the “greatest thing” that has happened in their time. Slowly they all left and an exuberant but tired group of Advisors talked over the events of a long day. Land turned to Marshall saying, “You have written the perfect ritual for the perfect Fraternity.” Marshall replied, “Your dream is now truth. It will carry as an inspiration for young men through all of time.”
“I had never heard of this club for boys, but I understand they have a beautiful ritual. They call it DeMola, or something like that. Maybe it is DeMolay from the last of the Templars but I think it is DeMola. You fellows are too young to join. You must be 16. When you are old enough, I want to be the one to sign your petitions.”
Frank Land was no longer the shy, timid, young man of the past but had grown in stature and in confidence. He was known throughout the nation as the Founder and controlling genius of DeMolay. Thousands of boys and men called him “Dad.” He was under constant pressure to make personal appearances, radio interviews and to speak to youth groups across the nation. Increasingly he was away from the office, but no matter where he was he always made three phone calls each day–one to the office, one to his wife, and one to his mother.
DEMOLAY WAS NOW in the throes of “growing pains.” Personality clashes, differing opinions and lack of financing pressed constantly for solutions. The sixth annual session of the Grand Council was held in Kansas City in March of 1926. The phenomenal growth of DeMolay was reflected in the ever-increasing interest in youth that continued to surge across the nation of 5,572 new DeMolay members and the creation of 61 new Chapters was reported for the previous year.
By the summer of 1929 there were signs of a let-up but no one remotely imagined the total collapse that was to come with the failure of the stock exchanges on that fateful day in October when the boom of the twenties became only a memory. The days of the Great Depression of the nineteen thirties descended upon a stricken nation to reach its lowest point in March of 1933. Unemployment reached the staggering total of 15 million as men willing to work for a dollar a week could not find work. Industrial output was cut in half, mortgage foreclosures were widespread, a third of the nation’s railroad mileage was in bankruptcy and proud men took their own lives in their desperation.
Louis Gordon Lower was the man most “sought after” from all the prominent men present for the First and Second Founder’s Conferences. The boys wanted to meet him and to go home saying, “I shook hands with Louie Lower, the first DeMolay.” To them he personified all the Order represented in personality, appearance, ability, and dedication. He was a legend in his own time and had been looked up to, admired, and respected since DeMolay first took form. Chapter members could talk to “Louie” when they were reluctant to talk to those in authority of the organization of DeMolay and found him ever ready to listen and take positive action if such action was needed. And because of his influence, the generation gap that could have existed never came into being.
THE THIRTIETH ANNIVERSARY of the Order of DeMolay in March of 1949, came as the nineteenth century approached its halfway point to look back upon a decade of violence and change. Some observers commented that America during these years experienced a second Revolution. World War II had burst upon the nation with the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. American boys were sent abroad and for four years were to be found on guard or fighting in every quarter of the planet. Peace finally came with the surrender of Germany on May 8, 1945, and the surrender of Japan a few months later on August 14, 1945-just five days after a new epoch in the history of mankind was ushered in by the explosion of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9. Slowly the realization came that isolation was impossible for never again would there be a spot on the globe in which America would not be deeply concerned nor where it could fail to play a part.
FRANK LAND was now a citizen extraordinary of America. He was known in every State and Province, and welcomed in cities and communities all across the nation. Shrine Temples presented gifts to him on his official visitation and the Masonic world followed his leadership. For many years he had spent the greater part of his time away from home but during this year as Imperial Potentate he was seldom in Kansas City. When asked how far he had travelled during the year, he would reply, “As close as I can figure, it must be a hundred thousand miles.”
The departed whom we now remember has entered into the peace of life eternal. He shall live on earth in the acts of goodness he performed and in the hearts of those who cherish his memory, May the beauty of his life abide among us as a loving benediction.
“I feel that the greatness of DeMolay lies beyond the rituals, the pomp and ceremony, the necessary organization, and even beyond these Memorial Rooms. It is something as bright as the flash of fire from the morning sun striking the lance of a knight of the crusades, or like the mist rising from the sea, or beautiful as a flower, or the setting of the sun. It is the spirit of a great organization founded upon the life of a martyr of the fourteenth century…
Interviews with close associates of Dad Land.
What happened to the others?