The Correspondence of William H. Peckham, Supreme Commander

Correspondence of William H. Peckham,
Supreme Grand Commander of
the Supreme Grand Council,
Scottish Rite (Cerneau)

6 folders (31 items)

IntroductionHistorical NoteScope and Content Note
The documents related to the correspondence of William H. Peckham, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Grand Council, Scottish Rite (Cerneau), were presented to the library by M :. W :. Gary A. Henningsen, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of New York, in the fall of 1996. They were found in the office of the Grand Secretary of New York, and represent several years of correspondence directed to William H. Peckham, who was Sovereign Grand Commander of a Scottish Rite organization from 1880-1889. Peckham’s group was one of several minor, schismatic groups that historically have been described as spurious by other organizations which sought to force them out of business.
The letters were organized chronologically into 6 folders. Restrictions may apply to some documents.

“Cerneauism,” the term given to clandestine and spurious Supreme Councils of the Scottish Rite, derives its name from Joseph Cerneau, who established a Supreme Council on October 27, 1807. Organized in New York City, the “Sovereign Grand Consistory of Sublime Princes of the Royal Secret, Supreme Chiefs of Exalted Masonry, according to the Ancient Constitutional Scottish Rite of Heredom, for the United States of America its territories and dependencies” was denounced by the Supreme Grand Council in Charlotte, South Carolina. Between this time and 1919, when the last Cerneau Supreme Council expired, many other men set up their own councils, following Cerneau’s original example. William H. Peckham, “received into the exalted Degrees” with 200 other men in 1879, received the degree of Sovereign Grand Inspector General (33 °) and was appointed Grand Commander of one of these spurious Grand Councils in 1880. Critics and opponents of Cerneauism were quick to point out that Peckham paid the previous Grand Commander Harry J. Seymour $700 for the privilege of the office.

This collection comprises .2 linear feet of the correspondence of William H. Peckham, Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, Scottish Rite (Cemeau). Containing letters from men such as M.W. Bayliss, Henry W. Pell, and L.R. Oronhyatekha, they provide the details of organizing Scottish Rite chapters and consistories in Utica, N.Y., West Virginia, and Canada, among others. Also mentioned in this collection is the Ancient Primitive Rite of Memphis. Founded in 1839 in Paris by two French freemasons, it was based on the Rite of Mizrairn. Harry J. Seymour was the person most closely associated with the Rite in America. After being expelled from the Supreme Grand Council in 1865, he formed the Seymour-Peckham Supreme Council in 1872. He later assumed the title of Grand Master of the Rite of Memphis in America, and formed a Sovereign Sanctuary of that Rite in New York City. He claimed to be vested with authority from the Grand Orient of France, although it denied this assertation. The collection contains materials from 1881-1889, which are in fair condition. They are housed in one records carton, in the stacks with the archives. The materials are organized chronologically from front to back in 6 folders. One undated set of correspondence has been placed in the back of the last folder.