The Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of The State of Ohio

The history of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the state of Ohio began on the 14th day of March in 1818 when John Snow, at his home on North High Street in Worthington received a dispensation to form the first Commandery of Knights Templar East of the Appalachian Mountains. It was issued by Thomas Smith Webb, who was at that time serving as Deputy General Grand Master of the General Grand Encampment of Knight Templars of the United States of America and was credited with being the father of the American system of the York Rite of Freemasonry.  He was a business associate of John Snow and visited often in the Snow home.

On the following day, 15 March 1818, Sir Knight John Snow summoned all Sir Knights living within “the distance of forty miles” to assemble in the Masonic Hall at Worthington. Those present were Thomas Smith Webb, hailing from the General Grand Encampment and the Grand Encampment of Massachusetts and Rhode Island, John Snow, hailing from St John’s Encampment of Rhode Island, and Frederick Curtis, hailing from Ireland. After opening a Council of Red Cross Knights, James Kilbourne and Chester Griswold were elected, created and dubbed Knights of the Red Cross.  Thus began the history of Mt Vernon Commandery No.1 and the Order of Knights Templar in Ohio. Griswold was the first to be dubbed and created a Knight of the Valiant and Magnanimous Order of the Temple and the Knights of Malta of the Order of St John of Jerusalem. Kilbourne and Griswold were prominent citizens of Worthington. On September 16, 1819, Mt Vernon Encampment was issued its Charter.

Seventeen years later, December 16, 1835, the General Grand Encampment issued a charter to Lancaster Encampment No. 2.  William J. Reese and George Sanderson were the first petitioners. Sir Knight Reese served as the first Eminent Commander and became one of its most prominent members. 

Six years later, September 17, 1841, a charter was issued to Cincinnati Encampment No.3.  Sir Knight and Reverend Robert J. Punshon was the first Eminent Commander. He went on to become an influential member in the Grand Encampment of Ohio.

Two years later, July 5, 1843, Sir Knight William J. Reese, who was serving as the Grand Captain General of the General Grand Encampment of the USA, issued a dispensation to institute an Encampment at Massillon. This became Massillon Encampment No.4. Sir Knight George D. Hine was its first Eminent Commander. He later became an Officer in the Grand Encampment of Ohio.

A few days later, July 22, 1843, a dispensation was issued to Sir Knight and Reverend Joseph Muenscher and others to institute an Encampment of Knights Templar at Mt Vernon. It became known as Clinton Encampment No. 5.

The stage was now prepared for the formation of the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of Ohio. On October 24, 1843, in the Old Market House Building at Lancaster, and on the recommendation of Sir Knight William J. Reese, Right Eminent Grand Generalissimo of the General Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the U S A, a Conclave of Knights Templar was opened for the purpose of forming a Grand Encampment of Knights Templar for the State of Ohio. After reading a Warrant from the General Grand Encampment of the USA, the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of Ohio was declared instituted.

Thus the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the State of Ohio had its birth. The First Officers elected were M.Z. Kreider of Lancaster as Grand Master; G.D. Hines of Massillon, Deputy Grand Master; Isaac C. Copelen, of Cincinnati as Grand Generalissimo; J.N. Burr of Mt Vernon, as Grand Captain General; John Barney of Worthington, as Grand Prelate; John Evans of Cincinnati, as Grand Senior Warden; Kimball Porter of Wooster, as Grand Junior Warden; A.D. Bigelow of Newark as Grand Treasurer; B.F. Smith of Mt Vernon as Grand Recorder; B. Latham of Columbus as Grand Standard Bearer; Ezra Griswold of Delaware as Grand Sword Bearer; J.P. Worstell of Massillon as Grand Warder; and Rev Robert Punshon of Cincinnati, as Chaplain.

The Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of Ohio was renamed the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of Ohio at the 25th Conclave held at Cincinnati in 1867.  Encampments were renamed Commanderies   The General Grand Encampment retained its name as the administrative body of the Templar Masonry. The Grand Master of Ohio became the Grand Commander with the honorary title of “ Right Eminent Grand Commander.”

By 1869 the ranks of the Sir Knights in the Grand Commandery of Ohio had grown to 1,642. By 1879 it had grown to more than 3,000 belonging to 34 Commanderies. In 1882 the Grand Commandery began Annual Inspections of each Commandery. In 1892 the Grand Commandey adopted the Ritual as approved by the Grand Encampment and thus standardized the Ritual of the Orders. Originally the sequence of conferral was the Order of Red Cross, Order of the Temple and lastly the Order of Malta. This was changed in 1916 to establish the Order of The Temple as the predominate Order of the Templars.

In 1916 the membership of the Grand Commandery was 18,704.  In 1928, the membership had soared to 34,266. Of the 84 original Commanderies, 83 are still functioning with Jerusalem No. 75 Chartered in 2001 and Covert No.43 chartered 2003.