Shrine History



The great Shrine organization of today traces its origins to New York City and
to four dedicated men. The men were Dr. Walter M. Fleming (b 1838),
actor William Jermyn Conlin (born July 26, 1831, better known by his stage name William J. Florence)
Charles T. McClenachan and William S. Paterson In 1870.
These four men were Masons. Many Manhattan Masons of the era made it a point
to lunch at the Knickerbocker Cottage, a restaurant at 426 Sixth Avenue.
A particularly jovial group of Masons used to meet regularly at a special table on the second floor of the restaurant.

It was Fleming’s idea to establish a fun fraternal order for men who had
completed their requirements in the Scottish or York Rite Masonic organizations.

Fleming presented his idea to William Florence, like Fleming a resident of Albany, NY,
who became a world-renowned actor. Florence was later to provide the founding group
with the key elements for the colorful Shrine rituals. Charles T. McClenachan, an outstanding lawyer,
was in addition a well-known expert on Masonic ritual.

The fourth founding member of the organization was William Paterson, a native Scotsman
who had a successful career as a printer in New York City. Fleming,
Florence, McClenachan and Paterson formed the nucleus of a luncheon club
where the prime topic was formation of a new order.

On September 26, 1872, the original 13 met in New York’s Masonic Hall,
114 East Thirteenth Street, for the purpose of formally organizing the
Ancient Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America.
The Shrine was born.

The 13 original members of the New York luncheon club were named as charter members of the New York Temple,
named Mecca. The following officers were elected: William J. Fleming, Potentate;
Charles T. McClenachan, Chief Rabban; John A. Moore, Assistant Rabban;
William S. Paterson, Recorder; Edward Eddy, High Priest; James S. Chappell,
Treasurer; George W. Millar, Oriental Guide; Oswald M. d’Aubigne, Captain of the Guard.

The new Shrine was not an immediate success in terms of membership.
Fleming was especially active in recruiting new members,
but by September 1876, there were only 43 Nobles, and 37 of these were from New York City.
The spark that was needed to make the Shrine prosper apparently was formation of the Imperial Council.

Noble Fleming conceived the idea.
At the meeting in New York’s Masonic Temple June 6, 1876,
about 309 members from Mecca Temple performed the ritual
of an annual Imperial Session, and
the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine for North America was conferred
on 25 neophytes. At a later business meeting, Noble Fleming called for the formation
of a parent governing body for the Order. Fleming’s recommendation was approved,
and creation of the Imperial Grand Council of the Ancient Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine
was authorized. Fleming, whose tremendous energy had helped carry the Order
through its difficult early years, was elected to a three-year term as the first Grand Potentate.

New York

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