Very Mason

Written by Arren Kimbel-Sannit Category: History Issue: September 2016
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Mail: Letters to the Editor, PHOENIX magazine

15169 N. Scottsdale Rd., Ste. 310, Scottsdale, AZ 85254-2660

Freemasons have an extensive series of symbols, rituals and costuming that make them easy targets for conspiracy theorists and Nicolas Cage movies. Many celebrities and political officials have been masons, including George Washington, Oscar Wilde, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Buzz Aldrin and John N. Goodwin, the first territorial governor of Arizona. 

It was Goodwin who first brought masonry to the fledgling territory, and under his direction (and then eventually that of John T. Alsap, the first mayor of Phoenix), Arizona’s first freemason lodge was founded in Prescott, the territorial capital. Not long after, lodges were established all around the state, including in Tucson, where our masonic mystery begins. 

This summer, we found a vintage image (pictured left) of a man in elaborate garb standing in front of what we learned to be the Tucson Scottish Rite Cathedral, an important building for the local chapter of the Scottish Rite freemasons. The building was constructed in 1916, and we learned from a secretary at the Tucson lodge that the picture was taken in the 1920s and that the man appeared to be Harry O. Strall. The secretary said he was in costume for an initiation ceremony at a semi-annual reunion. 

So who was Harry O. Strall? We got in touch with J. Michael Atchley, former Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Arizona Free and Accepted Masons. He said he didn’t have any information offhand, but reached out to the Washington, D.C.–based Supreme Council. 

Atchley reported the national affiliate of the Scottish Rite had no record of a Harry O. Strall. As far as they could tell, he was not a member of the Tucson rite, and he wasn’t turning up elsewhere either. Atchley also said the costuming didn’t seem correct. Simply put, whoever Harry O. Strall is, he didn’t seem to be with the Tucson Scottish Rite. 

Atchley said one of the people he asked about the image said there was something that suggested the man was in fact a member of the York Rite, another masonic organization – the back of a piece of headwear on the right half of the image seems to match a ceremonial hat worn by members of the rite. Unfortunately, this is where the story ends, for now. We haven’t been able to get confirmation from the York Rite, leaving the true identity and affiliation of “Harry O. Strall” a mystery, for the time being. 

– Arren Kimbel-Sannit