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Monday, February 26, 2018

Mosaic Templars of America - Reddick Temple #1232, Franklin, Tenn.

I recently noticed a unique headstone in the historic Toussaint L'Ouveture Cemetery (founded in 1884) in Franklin. It had an interesting emblem on the top, and the statement "Reddick Temple 1232, Franklin, Tenn" near the bottom. I was intrigued.

W. F. Reynolds b, Oct. 7, 1869 died Oct. 12, 1928
Reddick Temple #1232
I started looking for more of these headstones and was able to find several that contained these same markings and notations. I wanted to learn more about their significance. This is what I discovered.

The letters "M", "T", and "A" at the top of the headstones denote the Mosaic Templars of America. The two crossed shepherd staffs in the center represent Moses and Aaron and the Exodus story from the Bible. The “3V’s” represent John E. Bush’s [one of the MTA founders] triumphant motto, adopted from Julius Caesar, “Veni, Vidi, Veci” (“I came, I saw, I conquered.”). Finally an ouroboros (snake eating its tail), representing the cyclical nature of life surrounds the symbol.

The Mosaic Templars of America

The Mosaic Templars of America was an African American fraternal organization founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1883 by John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts - two men who had both been formerly enslaved. The organization was established to provide burial, insurance and life insurance services to the African-American community.  Fraternal organizations like the MTA were extremely popular during this time period.  Here is a wonderful video called A Time of Joining, produced by NPT's Citizenship Project, about their origin and importance here in Tennessee:

By the early 1900s, local chapters or "temples" of the MTA were starting to spread from Arkansas into additional states, including Tennessee.  Below is part of an article that appeared in the Nashville Globe newspaper in 1917 describing the purpose and operation of the group.

Nashville Globe, July 6, 1917, page 8
At some point, it appears a Temple was organized in Franklin and named for local resident and prominent African American community leader John Watt Reddick. I suspect that the Reddick Temple may have been organized by John Watt Reddick and thus named after him.  (This article discusses some of his significant history and legacy in Franklin).

Several headstones in Franklin bear the notation Reddick Temple #2132 and I found some obituaries that mention this Temple as well.  The earliest MTA headstone with the Reddick Temple notation was installed in 1918, leading me to believe the Temple must have been organized before or in 1918 - perhaps in 1917, which is when J.W. Reddick joined the MTA.  John Watt Reddick was elected the State Grand Master (its highest office) in 1922. Other chapters of the MTA also appear to have been organized in the area, based on the notations on the Franklin headstones.  They were all called "chambers" which indicates that they were all-female groups: the West Harpeth Chamber, the River Chamber, the Wilson Chamber, the Carothers Chamber, and the Rose of Sharon Chamber.   The earliest of the MTA headstones that appear in Franklin is Grant Holt's headstone - installed in 1918.  The last was Ms. Tabertha Partee's, installed in 1929. Hattie Yarbrough's headstone was installed in 1946 but I think the lettering looks different from the others and I suspect that it was manufactured after the MTA Chamber had ceased operation.

In November 1913 an advertisement appeared in the Nashville Globe newspaper  explaining to the public the purpose of the MTA and how to get involved.    It described that Temples were open to adult males and Chambers were open to adult females.  Also, organizers would be compensated a few dollars for each individual recruited to join their organization.  

MTA Headstones.  In 1912, the Burial Board of the Mosaic Templars of America met in Nashville. This article in the Nashville Globe newspaper described the growth in the organization nationally.

The Nashville Globe, Fri Nov 1, 1912
Application for MTA Headstone
Courtesy of the Mosaic Templars Center
The Mosaic Templars' burial insurance policies covered funeral expenses for members, both men and women, who maintained monthly dues. According to the book History of the Mosaic Templars of America, its official 1924 history, the MTA authorized a Monument Department in 1914 to provide markers to its deceased members in exchange for the payment of 50 cents per year. This burial insurance policy included a Vermont marble marker like the ones that I found in the Toussaint L'Ouveture Cemetery in Franklin. These traditional MTA markers had a rounded and forward-sloping top, with the MTA symbol cut into the top center. The name of the deceased member was carved below the symbol, with dates of birth (if known) and death. The name of the local chapter, the chapter number, and the city where the chapter was located could be found on the bottom. The dimensions of the markers generally measured twenty-five to twenty-nine inches in height, fifteen to seventeen inches in width, and three to five inches in depth.

In 1925, John W. Reddick's name was listed among a group of men who incorporated the "People's Burial Association" in Franklin.  It's not clear whether this was associated with the MTA or another endeavor.

That same year, the Tennessee Grand Lodge of the Mosaic Templars of America met in Franklin at the Providence United Primitive Baptist Church on the corner of Natchez St. and Granbury Streets

I received a copy of the below letterhead from Leigh Ann Gardner at MTSU.  She has been researching benevolent societies such as the MTA for many years and was nice enough to share these images that she received from the Mosaic Templars of America with me.  On this letter, J.W. Reddick's home office in Franklin - on Columbia Avenue - shows all the officers of the MTA in Tennessee in 1926.  Among those in Williamson County were Fannie Calhoun (Franklin), J. L. Hyde (Nolensville), M.J. Patton (Thompson's Station), Prof. W. F. Reynolds (listed as Nashville but with close Williamson County ties), R. T. Murdick (Franklin), Lettie Ashworth (Burwood), Maggie L. Mayberry (Nashville - but from Leiper's Fork in Williamson County), and Martha Byers (Spring Hill).

Portion of Letter written by J. W. Reddick on MTA letterhead, courtesy of Mosaic Templars Cultural Center

1927 Membership Drive

In late 1926, J.W. Reddick organized a statewide membership drive for the Tennessee chapters of the MTA for the following year. He planned an ambitious circuit of visits to local cities and towns to educate and enroll new members in the month of May finishing at home in Franklin on May 20th, 1927.   The attached letter to the officer from the LaGrange chapter shows Reddick's plans to visit 18 sites in the month.  He signed the letter with the organization's motto - "Yours in 3V's"
Courtesy of the Mosaic Templars Center
However,  on Christmas Day, 1926 the Cumberland River at Nashville crested at 56 ft 2 in - which is higher than even the devastating 2010 floods (when the Cumberland reached 51.86 feet). Flooding in the Mississippi River effected states all along its length as well.  By May, the River below Memphis was 60 miles wide. The flooding from this event is still considered to be America's worst in its history. As this catastrophe unfolded J. W. Reddick received notice from the National Office of the MTA in Arkansas  to delay his membership campaign).

April 27, 1927 Letter from J. W. Reddick membership campaign
Courtesy of the Mosaic Templars Center

Receivership and End of MTA.  Unfortunately, largely brought on by the Great Depression and perhaps by the effects of the flooding, in July 1930, the Mosaic Templars of America went into receivership. The organization struggled to regain its status, but by the end of the decade it had ceased operations.

Below are photographs of all the MTA headstones that I could locate in Toussaint L'Ouveture Cemetery in Franklin.  If you know of or find others that I have missed, or know of other MTA headstones elsewhere in Williamson County cemeteries, please let me know - I would love to include them in this post.  You can contact me through the "About Me" section of this blog.

Wm H. Baugh, died Aug 13, 1922, Reddick Temple #1232
I think this was William Baugh (b. 1872) who was a house carpenter and lived in Hard Bargain on Mount Hope Street in 1920, just two years before he died.  

Will Bennett Sr.
Born December 20, 1876, Died August 30, 1919
Reddick Temple
William Bennett was the son of Martin and Ida Bennett. He lived on Cummins Street in Franklin.  He and his son (below) died on the same day - both of disease.

Will Bennett Jr
Born August 5, 1895, Died August 30, 1919
Reddick Temple
William Bennett Jr was the son of William Bennet Sr and Minnie Whitehead. He was a farmer when he died of pneumonia on the same day as his father.

Born about 1850, Died September 9, 1925
Rose of Sharon Chamber, #325, Franklin, Tenn
Ellen Swanson Buford lived on Cummins Street in Franklin and worked as a cook for private families. She married Houston Buford in 1873.

Henry Ferguson
B. April 5, 1865, Died Nov 9, 1926, River Chamber
Henry Ferguson was a plasterer in Franklin when he died of a stroke at the age of 62.
Katie Fitzgerald
born March 15, 1890, died Jan 11, 1921
Rose of Sharon Chapter #3955
Katie Gipson Fitzgerald was the daughter of William and Maggie Gipson and wife of Jesse Fitzgerald. She lived in Franklin and worked as a housemaid when she died of heart disease at just 31 years old. 

Grant Holt, born July 4, 1870 died Dec. 30,1918, Reddick Temple #2132 
He was the son of Phillip and Fannie Holt. He worked as a laborer and was married to the former Ellen Wright.  The couple had a teenage son and daughter, and were living on 4th Avenue in downtown Franklin when he died of heart disease.
Ola Hamilton
born May 8, 1896, died Dec 6, 1919
West Harpeth Chamber #3645, Parry? Station, Tenn.
Ola was the daughter of Charlie Hamilton and Francis Bradley. The family farmed on Columbia Pike.  By the time Ola was 13 years old she was helping to support the family by working as a laundress. She died when she was just 23 years old.

Carrie Hildreth
born 1852, died March 12, 1927
Rose of Sharon Chamber #3955, Franklin, Tenn.
Carrie Parks Hildreth was the daughter of Millie Abernathy - making her the half-sister to Mary McLemore (Harvey McLemore's daughter from the McLemore House Hard Bargain.  She lived on the corner of 2nd and South Margin Streets and had several children including Mattie (see below) with her husband Tony Hildreth, whom she married on Valentine's Day 1887. They were very involved in social organizations in Franklin including the Canadian Art Club. Tony Hildreth worked for the Craig Lumber Company which is responsible for building many of the arts and crafts bungalows around town.
Mattie Hobbs, born about 1881, died April 17, 1929
Mattie Hildreth Hobbs was the daughter of Carrie Hildreth (headstone above) and Tony Hildreth. She and her husband Hightower Hobbs lived on Columbia Avenue in Franklin. Hightower was a miller in the flour mill. 
Ethel Luster
born Apr 17, 1901, died May 15, 1919
Rose of Sharon Chamber #3955, Franklin, Tenn
Ethel was the daughter of Nelson Luster and Fannie Kinnard.
She was just 18 years old when she died of tuberculosis. 

Jordan Hughes
b 1871, died 3 Dec 1920
Reddick Temple
Lived in Hard Bargain. Married to Emma Buford. He was a “Hackman’ – he drove a cart and for a part of his life ran a successful business in Nashville called Hughes & Bros.

John Merrill
b. 1922, death April 25, 1923
Wilson Chamber #4305?, Nashville Tenn
John Merrill was a carpenter in the Hard Bargain neighborhood. In 1878 he was elected a constable in Williamson County and was a leader in the community until he moved to Nashville around  1909. His great-grandson Robert Murdic Jr was a Tuskegee Airman in World War II and his great-great- grandson Tom Murdic was president of the African American Heritage Society of Williamson County.
Peter McCarn, died Dec 30 1925 
West Harpeth Chamber #3645, Franklin, Tenn.
Squire Ridley and his wife Katie
Squire Ridley
Born about 1856, Died April 27, 1924
West Harpeth Chamber #3645, Franklin, Tenn.
Squire Ridley was the son of Tom Ridley and Priscilla? Ridley. In 1882, Squire Ridley married Katie Johnson. They were farmers along Columbia Avenue in the West Harpeth area of Williamson County, north of Thompson's Station.  He died of pneumonia brought on by the flu. 
Tom Roberson
Died Feb 21, 1921
Rivers? Chamber, #3860, Franklin, Tenn.
Emma Roundtree, b. Jan. 19, 1888, died Sept 28, 1922
Rose of Sharon Chamber #3955, Franklin, Tenn.
Daughter of Washington and Bettie Murphy and wife of Clifford Roundtree

Edmond Scott, Born about 1852, Died Jan. 16, 1922
River Chamber #3860, Franklin, Tenn

Edmond Scott was about 70 years old when he died of heart failure.  He worked as a waiter or "house man" in Franklin and was married to the former Brightie Johnson. The couple owned their own house on Natchez Street.
Will Scruggs, born about 1888, died April 17, 1928, 
Reddick Temple #1232 (sic) Franklin, Tenn
Will Scruggs was the son of Gilbert Scruggs and Hannah Sparkman.  He was living in Nashville when he died and his death certificate shows that the plans were for him to be buried there, but it appears as though he was ultimately buried in Franklin.
Archie Secrest
b. 1866, died Dec 20, 1919
Reddick Temple #1232, Franklin, Tenn.
Arch Secrest was born about 1855 in Tennessee. His parents were born in Virginia.   As a young man he was a farmer in Williamson County. Later he moved to Franklin where he worked as a porter.

Mary Williams, Died July 9, 1926
Rose of Sharon Chamber #3955, Franklin, Tenn.
Hattie Yarbrough
Born about 1861 in Alabama, Died Feb 11, 1946
Carothers Chamber #4241, Franklin, Tenn.
Note - this is not the standard marble headstone created in the 1920s.
This might have been created after when I think the MTA's Burial Department ceased operations.
Hattie w

Will Yarbrough
Born about 1853, Died April 30, 1925
Carothers Chamber #4241, Franklin, Tenn.
Will Yarbrough and his wife Harriet lived on Hillsboro Road where they farmed. 

MTA Members in Franklin  A search of the MTA registry on their website revealed the following names (below) associated with MTA chapters in Franklin, Tennessee. When possible, I have added additional information to the listings.  I suspect that since John Watt Reddick was the Grand Master of the MTA in Tennessee, many of these members assigned to the Franklin chapter may have not actually lived here.  When I researched the people listed below, many of them seem to have lived in Nashville, Memphis or other towns in Tennessee.  I speculate that he recruited them to join the MTA through his Reddick Temple or perhaps they were listed on the rolls under his address while he was the Grand Master.  Its also interesting to me that many of the people with MTA headstones in Franklin do not appear on this list, leading me to believe that this list of Franklin's MTA members is incomplete.

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Spring Hill, Burwood, Tennessee
Rank: Tennessee Committee of Management
MTA Marker: Unknown (she died in1979 - headstone not located)

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Spring Hill, Tennessee
Rank: Tennessee Temple Board
MTA Marker: Unknown (this does not appear to be an MTA headstone to me)
I believe this was Martha Sharber Byers, b. Dec 22, 1969, died April 25, 1941, wife of John Byers (school teacher). The couple lived in Spring Hill, Tennessee.
Martha Sharber Byers headstone

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Franklin, Tennessee
Rank: S.G.S. of Tennessee; Secretary, Tennessee Temple Board; Chief Clerk, National Temple
MTA Marker: Unknown

4. COLEMAN, M. E., DR.
Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Franklin, Tennessee
Rank: Officer of Tennessee
MTA Marker: Unknown
I think this may have been a 1906 female graduate of Meharry Medical College, Dr. Mattie Elizabeth Howard Coleman.  Dr. Coleman was the state health officer of the Anti-Tuberculosis Society in 1923.

5. DIXON, S. J., REV.
Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Franklin, Tennessee
Rank: S.G.C. of Tennessee; S.C.G.D. of Tennessee
MTA Marker: Unknown
I think this was Rev. Dixon of Houston, Texas. In 1918 he was elected Field Secretary of the Home Mission Board of the National Baptist Convention. He was sent to Little Rock, Arkansas (the headquarters of the MTA) from Nashville (the headquarters of the National Baptist Publishing Board.

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Franklin, Tennessee (Beech Grove, TN)
Rank: Tennessee Burial Board
MTA Marker: River Chamber #3360?
B. April 5, 1865, worked as a plasterer, lived on Columbia Avenue, in Franklin. Died October 9, 1926 per death certificate (headstone says Nov 9)
Henry Ferguson headstone

7. HYDE, J. , P. L.
Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Nolensville, Tennessee
Rank: S.G.O.G. of Tennessee
MTA Marker: Unknown

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Franklin, Tennessee
Rank: Tennessee Committee of Management
MTA Marker: Unknown
Maggie Mayberry was b. Nov. 1865 in the Hillsboro (Leiper's Fork) area of Williamson County to Moses and Ann Mayberry. She was a successful and popular seamstress in Nashville.

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Franklin, Tennessee (
Rank: Brig. Gen. of Tennessee
MTA Marker: Unknown
- This might be Robert T. Murdick, b. April 1883 in Williamson County, married to Mary Ellen Merrill.

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: West Harpeth, Tennessee
Rank: Tennessee Burial Board
MTA Marker: No
- This is probably Nancy Parrish, born around 1868.  She was married to John Parrish, the couple lived on Lewisburg Pike in Franklin where they farmed and raised their family. She died 21 Jan 1938.

11. PATTON, M. J.
Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Thompson's Station, Tennessee
Rank: S.G.G. of Tennessee
MTA Marker: Unknown

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Franklin, Tennessee
Rank: Tennessee State Grand Master (elected August 30, 1922); President, Burial Board of Tennessee; President, Temple Board of Tennessee
MTA Marker: None - interestingly, J.W. Reddick does not have an MTA headstone.
John Watt Reddick was born Sept 2, 1880 in Franklin, Tennessee; died January 22, 1941 in Cook County, Illinois. Buried in Franklin, Tennessee.

Chapter: Tennessee Jurisdiction
City, State: Nashville, Tennessee
Rank: Officer of Tennessee
MTA Marker: Yes - burial in Franklin