James Monroe McKaskle: Surprise at the Masonic Lodge

This entry is part of the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks series.  This week’s prompt is SURPRISE.  To see other posts in this series, view my 52 Ancestors in 2019 index


Have you ever been inside a masonic lodge? As a child, I often went with my parents to vote at New Hope Masonic Lodge in Liddieville, Louisiana. The lobby was occupied by the familiar faces of community members, nice ladies from church manning the polls, and those huge, aqua voting machines that made a satisfying “cha-ching” when my mom let me pull the lever. But anything beyond the lobby and behind the big wooden door was off limits — part of the building’s secret purpose.

I’d been away from the community many years when a current Mason told my dad about an old photograph he saw on the wall. It was hanging in their inner room, and he thought the man could be an ancestor of ours. During my Christmas 2017 visit home, the Mason met me and my father at the lodge and allowed us beyond that secretive door. Inside that room awaited one of my best genealogy surprises: a photo of James Monroe McKaskle, my 2x great-grandfather.

Photo of James Monroe “Jim” McKaskle, hanging at New Hope Masonic Lodge, Liddieville, Louisiana; dates stipulate years he served as Worshipful Master

James Monroe “Jim” McKaskle was born in 1855, likely in Jackson Parish, Louisiana, to parents Daniel Monroe McKaskle and Charity.¹ He married Rebecca Lurana Fowler on July 6, 1876, also likely in Jackson Parish.²

Jim and Rebecca had seven known children:³,⁴

  • Elizabeth J. McKaskle
  • Mary Frances McKaskle
  • Charity L. McKaskle
  • Martille J. McKaskle
  • Nancy Bell McKaskle
  • Lula A. McKaskle (from whom I descend)
  • William Keiffer McKaskle

Freemasonry seems to have been an important part of Jim’s life. Referencing historical copies of Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, I have tracked Jim’s progression in freemasonry as well as his movements around north Louisiana. This annual publication is available for download from the Louisiana Masonic Library & Museum, and their archives contain copies from 1850 – 2013. These proceedings summarize state Masonic activities, including business conducted at their annual meeting. Most useful are the lists of each local lodge’s members and officers. Death years are even included for active Masons — a great find for ancestors who died before these vital records were mandated by the state!

Jim was initiated into Brookline Lodge, No. 198, in Hood’s Mill, Jackson Parish, Louisiana, in 1882.⁵ Jim’s father Daniel Monroe McKaskle was a Past Master of this lodge, his father-in-law James S. Fowler was its Worshipful Master that year, and his brother-in-law Lewis Cass Fowler was also a member.⁶ Jim continued as a member of Brookline Lodge, serving as Junior Warden in 1886 and 1887, Senior Deacon in 1892, and Senior Warden from 1889-91, 1895-96, and 1898.⁷ Jim filled the highest office of the local Brookline Lodge, Worshipful Master, in the years 1893, 1900, and 1901.⁸

As Jim was attaining these higher ranks in the Brookline lodge, his wife Rebecca died. Rebecca died sometime after the birth of William Keiffer on April 10, 1899, and when the census enumerator visited the household on July 27, 1900. In this 1900 census, Jim is reported as a widower living in Winn Parish,⁹ but it’s possible his household still lived on his Jackson Parish land and the enumerator mistakenly placed them on Winn Parish side of the boundary.

Regardless of where the family was situated in 1900, a move soon happened for Jim and his children, as evidenced by Masonic records. He is reported as “dimitted” — withdrawn — from the Brookline lodge for 1902.¹⁰ In February 1903, he reappears in the proceedings as the Worshipful Master of newly-chartered Rosemary Lodge No. 278 in Newport, Winn Parish, Louisiana¹¹ — about 11 miles south of his previous lodge in Hood’s Mill. Because Jim served as the lodge’s first Worshipful Master, he was probably was instrumental in chartering the group.

Jim only stayed with the Rosemary Lodge one year, as he is listed as “dimitted” in 1904.¹² He moved to Franklin Parish during this period, and reappears in the 1906 proceedings as a member of Winnsboro Lodge No. 246.¹³ He served as their Senior Warden in 1907.¹⁴

Winnsboro Lodge was about eight miles from Jim’s farm in Liddieville, so it seems he went to work again organizing a lodge closer to his home. The following excerpt is from Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1907:¹⁵

November 1. To organize a new Lodge under the title of New Hope Lodge, U.D., Liddieville, La., with sixteen members.

This dispensation was refused in June because the proposed Lodge had no hall of their own, and they went to work and erected a nice, comfortable hall of their own, and the dispensation was granted with pleasure.

The 1909 proceedings report continued progress of the new Liddieville group:¹⁶

New Hope Lodge has made returns, paid degree tax and desires a charter. This Lodge was organized during the month of December of last year and has during the past twelve months conferred thirty-two degrees and has twenty-five members on roll. The fee for the charter is paid.

Charter for New Hope Lodge No. 328, reissued in 1910 after fire

New Hope Lodge No. 328 was granted its charter in 1909.¹⁷ Jim had served as Worshipful Master throughout the dispensation period and continued in this office from 1909-1911, and again in 1913 and 1916.¹⁸ The other years he advised the group as Past Master.

Not only did Jim gain a charter for New Hope Lodge in 1909, he also gained a wife. On June 15, 1909, he married Amarentha “Alma” Rebecca Smart Johnston, widow of his Masonic brother William Silas Johnston.¹⁹ Their blended family included Jim’s two minor children, Lula and William Keiffer, and Alma’s four children remaining at home: Hardy, Ida, Wayne, and Mamie.²⁰

Jim continued in Freemasonry the remainder of his life, seeing New Hope Lodge through a fire that destroyed their meeting hall in 1910.²¹ He helped his group rebuild and served as Past Master and Chaplain for many years. His Mason brothers were probably a support system for him after his second wife Alma died in 1913,²² leaving him again as a widower with young children that weren’t even his own. He married a third time, to Mrs. Alma Bridges, on December 18, 1918.²³

Earlier that year Jim celebrated an important milestone — forty years as a Mason. He made the trip to the Grand Lodge in New Orleans for its annual meeting. Proceedings for February 5, 1918, describe Jim’s experience at the meeting:²⁴

The M.W. Grand Master then requested all Brethren who had attained a Masonic record of forty years or over to approach the East for presentation to the Grand Lodge. The following brethren responded and were introduced and at the conclusion of the ceremony were accorded the private Grand Honors of Masonry:

J.M. McKaskle, New Hope Lodge No. 328, Liddieville, La. – 40 years…

Jim died October 6, 1932, in Franklin Parish.²⁵ He devoted 50 years of his life to Freemasonry, an organization he undoubtedly believed in and loved. His own great-grandson is a Past Master of New Hope Lodge and remains active in group Jim was instrumental in chartering.


But my surprises at the Masonic lodge weren’t over. I inquired about the photograph’s origins and learned it was collected for New Hope’s centennial celebration. The man who led the effort told my father the photograph came from my grandmother Ethel McMurry Horne before her death. Jim was the only grandparent she knew personally, and we’d never seen any photos of him in her belongings. She must have shared the only photograph she had of him — and I’m thankful it has been preserved for me to see so many years later.


¹1860 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, LA, population schedule, p. 91 (penned), dwelling 580, family 580, James M McKaskle in Daniel McKaskle household; image, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7667/4231222_00445/38261545 : accessed 6 Feb 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 411.

²Louisiana Genealogical & Historical Society, Be It Known and Remembered: Bible Records, 5 vols. (Baton Rouge : Louisiana Genealogical & Historical Society, 1960-67; 1992), 2:110.

³1880 U.S. census, Jackson Parish, LA, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 37, p. 30 (penned), dwelling 260, family 260, J.M. McKaskle household; image Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/6742/4241370-00788/8899596 : accessed 6 Feb 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 454.

⁴1900 U.S. census, Winn Parish, LA, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 115, sheet 14-A, family 276, James M. McKaskle household; image Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4119813_01057/20021539 : accessed 6 Feb 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 586.

⁵”Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1882,” The Grand Lodge of Louisiana, Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society (libary.la-mason.com : accessed 6 Feb 2019), digital images, p. 165.

Ibid.

⁷ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1886,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 165.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1887,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 181.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1889,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 135.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1890,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 145.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1891,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 145.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1892,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 178.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1895,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 137.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1896,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 139.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1898,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 147.

⁸ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1893,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 151.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1900,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 127.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1901,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 116.

⁹ 1900 U.S. census, Winn Parish, LA, population schedule, enumeration district (ED) 115, sheet 14-A, family 276, James M. McKaskle household; image Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7602/4119813_01057/20021539 : accessed 6 Feb 2019); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 586.

¹⁰ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1902,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 128.

¹¹ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1903,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 160.

¹² “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1904,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 162.

¹³ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1906,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 173.

¹⁴ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1907,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 197.

¹⁵ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1907,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 27.

¹⁶ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1909,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 59-60.

¹⁷Ibid.

¹⁸ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1909,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 236.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1910,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 261.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1911,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 267.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1913,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 248.
“Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1916,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 289.

¹⁹ Franklin Parish, Louisiana, marriage certificate, unnumbered (1909), J.M. McKaskle and Anna Johnston; Franklin Parish Clerk of Court, Winnsboro, Louisiana.

²⁰1910 U.S. census, Franklin Parish, LA, population schedule, Ward 8, p. 1287 (penned), enumeration district (ED) 52, sheet 21-B, dwelling 387, family 387, Jim McKaskle household; image Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/7884/31111_4329976-00737 : accessed 6 Feb 2018); citing NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 514.

²¹ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1910,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 57-58.

²²Franklin Parish, Louisiana, probate case files, unnumbered, box 89, Succession of W.S. Johnston and Alma Johnston (1925), 28 Feb 1925; Franklin Parish Clerk of Court, Winnsboro.

²³ Franklin Parish, Louisiana, marriage certificate, unnumbered (1918), J.M. McKaskle and Mrs. Alma Bridges; Franklin Parish Clerk of Court, Winnsboro, Louisiana.

²⁴ “Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Louisiana, 1918,” Louisiana Masonic Library Museum Society, p. 146.

²⁵ Louisiana, Statewide Death Index, 1900-1949; database Ancestry.com (https://search.ancestry.com/cgi-bin/sse.dll?indiv=1&dbid=6697&h=354211&ssrc=pt&tid=49495569&pid=20220247057&usePUB=true : accessed 6 Feb 2019); Jim M McKaskle of Franklin Parish, Louisiana.

8 thoughts on “James Monroe McKaskle: Surprise at the Masonic Lodge”

  1. Jess you never fail to surprise, as do these relatives of ours. I think Jim looks a bit like my aunts, Addie and Allie. His daughter Mary Francis was my grandmother Nettie Wright’s mother-another example of how untwined our family is. It’s like they never really left the Clan lifestyle when they left Scotland.
    How much information do you have on Rebecca Fowler’s family, as gas as going back?

      1. I should have specified Rebecca’s family on her mother’s side and so on. This is where the African genes meet with the European. 23&me updated this week-the Scandinavian is Danish, the African is Senegalese, Guinea and something else-I’ll look. It did say that only 20%of African Americans share the same genes. It’s also turned up a tiny drop of native dna too…

        1. Tell me how you’ve pinpointed Rebecca’s side for the African DNA? I’m not sure it’s possible to narrow it down like that, but please let me know what you’ve found.

  2. In the latest ieteratiin of 23&me theyve done the work. Theyve also determined that out Scandinavian ancestry is Danish, and for the first time, a drop of Native American shows up.
    Im also #2 in Neantertal dna fragments!

  3. William Keiffer McKaskle is my great grandfather! Do you have other information
    about his mother’s death? We always thought both of his parents drowned in a wagon, crossing a creek.

    1. Hi there, cousin! I hadn’t heard that story. His mother Rebecca died young, before 1900. I will do some searching. Do you know where it may have happened?

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