Azariah Theodore Crane “ATC” Pierson

Azariah Theodore Crane “ATC” Pierson

Morris Plains, Morris County, New Jersey, USA
Death 1890 (aged 72–73)
Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Burial Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA
Plot Block 10 Lot 30.
Memorial ID 74128649 · View Source
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A Brief Sketch of the Beginnings of Minnesota Chapter No. 1, RAM
By RAM Ch #1

The first meeting of Royal Arch Masons in the Territory of Minnesota was convened in the office of General George L. Becker, later first president of the St. Paul and Pacific Railroad, 198 West Third Street, in Saint Paul during the month of July 1853. There were eight men present and their purpose was to organize a chapter of Royal Arch Masons in St. Paul. The group comprised prominent early settlers and community leaders: Azariah Theodore Crane Pierson, Henry Morris, Henry Buel, J.J. Bardwell, William H. Newton, George W. Biddle, and Charles D, Fillmore.

Application for dispensation was made to the General Grand Chapter of the United States under the name of Minnesota Royal Arch Chapter No. 1. In order to proceed with the application, favorable recommendation from a duly chartered Chapter was required. Accordingly, Comp. Pierson journeyed to Dubuque, Iowa, to gain support, and being successful, he forwarded the application to M.E. Willis Stewart, soon to be elected Deputy General Grand High Priest. At the Triennial Convocation, the General Grand Chapter granted Minnesota's request and issued dispensation on September 26, 1853. The first officers designated by Stewart were A.T.C.Pierson as High Priest, Judge Andrew G. Chatfield as King, and George L. Becker as Scribe.

Work in the new Chapter commenced on December 21, 1853. The Chapter opened on the Royal Arch Degree for the purpose of electing four additional Companions to make a total of sixteen founding members under dispensation. These founders, with their respective occupations and places of residence were:

Azariah Theodore Crane Pierson, Indian Agent, St. Paul
{(He came to St. Paul in 1851 as a confidential clerk to the superintendent of the Indian department working with the Winnebagoes, Chippewas and Sioux, a position he held until the Indian outbreak in 1862. He was then appointed as the chief "draughtsman" in the office of the Surveyor General in St. Paul.) }

Andrew G. Chatfield, U.S. District Judge, Belle Plaine

George L. Becker, Lawyer, St. Paul

Henry Morris, Accountant, St. Paul

Andrew J. Whitney, Accountant, St. Paul

George W. Biddle, Dentist, St. Paul

Norris Hobart, Clergyman, Ramsey County

William H. Newton, Real Estate Dealer, St. Paul

Charles D. Fillmore, Carpenter, St. Paul

Sylvanus Patridge, Merchant, Stillwater

Daniel Mc Lane, Lumberman, Stillwater

Abram Van Vohres, Surveyor, Stillwater

Alfred E. Ames, Physician, Minneapolis

Emmanuel Case, Farmer, Minneapolis

Henry Buel, Merchant, St. Paul

Andrew J. Morgan, Painter. St. Paul

Thirty Companions were exalted during the period of dispensation, making a total membership at the time of Charter of 64.

The Chapter adopted a portion of the Constitution of the Grand Chapter of Michigan as a guide for its organization and protocol. Nearly three years later, application was made for a Charter, which was promptly granted on September 11, 1856 by the General Grand Chapter, meeting at Hartford, Connecticut.

The first meeting of Minnesota Royal Arch Chapter No. 1 under Charter was held on Wednesday evening, November 12, 1856 with Companion Reverend John Penman (exalted April 15, 1856) presiding. Election was held and ballots cast, resulting in the installation of Comp. Pierson as High Priest, an office that he held until June of 1859. During his tenure, 68 Companions had been exalted and 16 joining from other chapter jurisdictions.

The industry and zeal of the early companions of Minnesota Chapter is remarkable to the chronicler of its history. On the first meeting of the chapter under dispensation, December 21, 1853, three candidates, D.W. Dunwell, a carpenter, James Y. Caldwell, also a carpenter, and Peter T. Bradley, a harness-maker, all from St. Paul, were presented for admission, advanced to the Degree of Mark Master, and summarily inducted into the Oriental Chair. One week later these aspirants were received and acknowledged as Most Excellent Masters and exalted as Royal Arch Masons. One petitioner, by virtue of having presided as Master of his Lodge, was inducted as a Past Master without the obligatory degree. In yet another instance, Comp. William Freeborn, a land agent from Red Wing presented his petition on February 15th of 1854 and received all of the degrees the same evening because he was about to return to his home a days travel distant.

The Chapter in these first years occupied in a rented hall on the third floor of the building in which it had initially met in George Becker's office to request dispensation. It was then sharing quarters with Saint Paul Lodge No. 3, and on February 22, 1854, accepted Ancient Landmark Lodge No. 5 as another tenant. On April 5, 1854. a committee was appointed to meet with various lodges (Masonic and otherwise) to explore the possibility of erecting a building for all to meet. In May of that year, Excellent. Comp. Pierson went east to receive the Order of High Priesthood. During his absence, a special convocation was called to receive two visitors, Past High Priests from Maine and Iowa.

Although the Chapter met somewhat irregularly during its infancy, Pierson kept meticulous records. He officiated at virtually every installation of officers and was instrumental in drafting the regulations for the governance of the Chapter. It may be of interested to note that the prescribed date of the annual meeting of the Chapter was to be the stated meeting immediately preceding the Festival of St. John the Baptist. Two standing committees were formed: Finance and Accounts and Charity in Relief. As for eligibility for membership:

"No candidate can be exalted unless he has been a Master Mason at least three months, and made suitable proficiency, and resided within the jurisdiction of this Chapter (which at present includes the whole territory of Minnesota) six months, provided however this section as to residence is not to apply to Master Masons, members of subordinate Lodges within the Territory and who so resided at the formation of this Chapter."

In the early years, there was some irregularity in election of officers. The first election under Charter took place on November 12, 1856, however no other election took place until June 2, 1858. As such Pierson served his first term as High Priest for one year and seven months. It was also often the case that the veilsmen were not installed, or the actual installation was neglected with officers simply proclaimed in their positions.

The finances were primarily for rent and the purchase of furnishings and paraphernalia, at first of a makeshift variety. In February 10, 1858, the offices of Treasurer and Secretary were confirmed with the election of Comp. Norman W, Kittson, who listed his occupation as Indian Trader, as Treasurer and W. S. Combs as Secretary. The Chapter assumed the responsibility of fitting up the quarters, including all furniture, heat and lights and to apportion the costs to the others sharing the hall. Other expenses included a bill for $44.40 which covered rent, sawing and carrying wood, drayage for moving Chapter furniture, purchase of wood, fixing up the tabernacle, and fitting up the room. The Chapter's portion of the rent for the hall amounted to $135.00 a year. Kittson initiated a program to estimate the total expenses for the year and to apportion them among the tenants accordingly; this was the beginning of the Chapter budget and a means of simplifying accounting.

On September 7, 1859, Minnesota Chapter was honored to receive Albert G. Mackey, M.D., Grand High Priest of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter of South Carolina. On this occasion, Mackey conferred the Royal Arch Degree. A noted author and scholar, Mackey was considered the highest authority on Masonry in the county.

During the Civil War the Chapter continued to meet but was well aware of the patriotic obligations of its members. A dispensation from the Grand Chapter, signed by Alfred E. Ames, Grand High Priest, and received on March 27, 1862, empowered Minnesota Chapter to receive the petitions, act upon the same, and confer the degrees at discretion upon Brothers L. L. Baxter, a lawyer, and Charles Johnson, a farmer, both from Carver. These men belonged to the Regular Army and were under marching orders to leave the state in a few days. They were exalted on April 11, 1862. Also, the Chapter conducted funeral services on Companion Captain William Henry Acker (exalted March 25, 1857) who fell in the Battle of Pittsburg Landing. The Companions of St. Anthony Chapter No. 3 also attended. Frequently, the Chapter room was draped in mourning during this period. On account of the Civil War, there was no meeting of the General Grand Chapter, scheduled to occur in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1862.

On April 21, 1868, at 3:00AM, the Mackubin Building, which had been occupied by the Chapter and several other Masonic bodies, burned, and the Charter and other properties of the Chapter were lost. Offers of assistance were made by the St. Paul Lodge No. 2 of the Odd Fellows, St. John's Chapter No. 7, Minneapolis, and St, Anthony Falls Chapter No. 3. The May 7, 1868, Chapter meeting was held at the Odd Fellows Hall, and the next year entered into a lease for quarters in the Forepaugh Block at the corner of Wabasha and Third Streets.

In outfitting the new hall, the Chapter purchased a total of $665.63 of paraphernalia. It is of interest to sample a few of these items and costs. A set of costumes cost $350.00, a set of twelve officers jewels, $48.00, a signet ring, $4.00, a set of five swords and belts, $62.50, a brass incense burner, $15.00, a pot of manna and Aaron's rod, $5.25, an Ark of the Covenant, $20.00, and a set of officers aprons $60.00.

On June 3, 1869, the annual convocation was held and a new corps of officers elected and installed. A new book was purchased for the records of the Chapter, the previous minutes book being opened on November 12, 1856 and used for 13 years. The Chapter would continue to keep a minute record its proceedings, its finances, its rosters of officers, and its work in an archival treasure spanning 150 years. This brief sketch has been intended to bring to light but a few of the stories concealed therein. Taken in context, the history of Minnesota Chapter No. 1 is the history of Masonry in Minnesota.

In 1903, looking back over the early years of the Chapter and the lives of those who are among its founders, Excellent Companion William S. Combs, a St. Paul bookseller exalted on January 3, 1855, made the following observation in the florid prose of the era:

This is an age of history making and history recording, and consequently an age of rapid progress along all lines of human endeavor. The historic ages as compared with the prehistoric age of this planet is but a span, but the rate of progress into civilization of the races of the earth in this age is marvelous, and can be accounted for in no other way than that each generation records its achievements to be mastered and built upon by succeeding generations. So may it be with these records. We hope that Capitular Masonry may be improved and made a more potent force for good because of these humble efforts.

The mere records do not however to any great extent measure the influence of the lives whose names are here recorded.

Many of these men had achieved much in the world's arenas and as a relaxation and mental and spiritual improvement devoted part of their time to the mysteries. It will be necessary then to go out into the daily lives of these men to fully appreciate their worth and work. It must, however, be inferred that the moral precepts inculcated by our order have a molding influence upon their life work, whatever it may be, to lift it out of the dull routine into that of enthusiasm for work well done in whatever field of endeavor engages the builder.

Those unacquainted with the beauty and grandeur of the principles of our art may look with misgivings upon the devotion and sincerity of those who practically opened their lives in contemplation and practice upon the various divisions and subdivisions of this unique institution. Those who have become imbued with sublime principles of this magnificent order rejoice that they have discovered the secret of all true progress in civilization. They have discovered the foundation of all that is enduring – eternal. They have become thoroughly convinced of their duty toward mankind. And although it may require ages to rise out of the conditions which surround us, yet truth is mighty and will prevail.

Superstition, tyranny, and ignorance will finally be cleared away and the human race will come up into the full possession of its inheritance.


In relating the circumstances surrounding the death of Azariah Theodore Crane Pierson in his book Centennium 1853-1953, Edward Johnstone notes that from the time Pierson retired as Grand Master of Masons of Minnesota he was often referred to as "Father Pierson." This affectionate salutation was so appropriate it stuck to him for the rest of his life. Grand Master J.A. Kiester in his address to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota in 1890, reporting on the death of Brother Pierson, said, "His name has been familiar throughout the American Masonic world for many years, and he has been connected in a prominent way with all the Masonic organizations of this state from the beginning."

Every Masonic organization in Minnesota, in tracing its history, will invariably encounter the
name of A.T.C. Pierson in its records. A.T.C. Pierson was born at Speedwell, near Morris Plains,
New Jersey, on 29 Aug 1817. His family moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, when he was four, and then back to New Jersey after a year. They finally settled in New York a few years later. Pierson was educated in New York, and at age eighteen he married sixteen-year-old Miss Eleanor C. Berrien of Long Island, New York. It was a marriage that would last 54 years, and she was a great help to him in his Masonic work. He and his wife had three daughters.In 1837, at age twenty, he graduated from a medical school in New York, but it does not appear that he ever practiced medicine. He was a druggist supplies salesman for a short time. He came to St. Paul in 1851 as a confidential clerk to the superintendent of the Indian department working with the Winnebagoes, Chippewas and Sioux, a position he held until the Indian outbreak in 1862. He was then appointed as the chief "draughtsman" in the office of the Surveyor General in St. Paul.

Sovereign Grand Inspectors General and Deputies 33 Albert Pike, in his circular letter to the Ancient and
Accepted Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction, said of Pierson that he "made himself known to me as a Mason in 1851, at the village of St. Paul, in the Territory of Minnesota, where he then resided. A mutual liking and occasional meetings followed, and our acquaintance ripened a few years afterwards into a friendship that lasted until he died."

Another account of the same event added that it was "an acquaintance that was often strained, but never broken." Owing to the dominant personalities of both of these great Masons, some strife was inevitable, but their differences were never allowed to overcome the strength of their mutual respect and friendship.

Pierson became a Mason in 1851 and became aware of the Scottish Rite in 1853. It is not known when he received the degrees of the Rite, but he received the Thirty-third degree in 1859 in Chicago. Also in 1853, he convened the convention to form the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and was elected to serve as its secretary. A charter member of Ancient Landmark Lodge No. 5 in 1854, he served as its first Junior Warden. Strangely, with all his Masonic activity, this was the highest of{ice he ever held in a blue lodge. In 1855, he was
elected Deputy Grand Master, becoming Grand Master the following year and serving in that capacity for nine years. Brother Pierson was admitted to the Scottish Rite Supreme Council in March 1860 and was appointed Captain of the Guard. He continued to serve as an Active Member of the Supreme Council and as the Sovereign Grand Inspector General for Minnesota until his resignation on May 5, 1870.

Pierson served both the Scottish Rite and the Grand Lodge of Minnesota during a period of great stress and
strife. New lodges were being chartered every year and he began to visit each of these new lodges during a period when transportation was limited to horseback or boat. The first train service was instituted in 1862 when ten miles of track were opened between St. Paul and St. Anthony. Communication was difficult, being limited to the mail service and the telegraph. The economic depression of 1859 and the coming Civil War complicated attempts to firmly establish Masonry and the Scottish Rite in Minnesota. Many blue
lodges experienced difficulties during the Civil War as members left for military service. Scottish Rite activity was virtually nonexistent during the war years.

In 1866, at the first Supreme Council meeting after the war, Pierson was elected Grand Prior of the Supreme Council. On 1 Dec. 1867, he issued a charter to Pierson Lodge of Perfection in St. Paul. This body never met, however, because the Thrice Puissant Grand Master, Charles Whippo Nash, was absent most of the time. The charter was reissued on May 7, 1869, and the first continuous lodge of Scottish Rite Masonry was founded under the leadership of Giles W. Merrill.

After the Civil War, Albert Pike renewed his efforts to strengthen the Supreme Council. A number of the Sovereign Grand Inspectors General, Pierson included, were not communicating with the Supreme Council. Pike, who had been elected Grand Commander in 1859, even lashed out at Albert Mackey, Grand Secretary, for being indolent. The Inspectors General were authorized to communicate the degrees and charter lodges, and to collect fees from which expenses could be deducted. Pierson was doing this not only in Minnesota, but also in other areas of the upper Midwest. However, reports were not being submitted, the Supreme Council was not advised of the names of those receiving degrees, and the fees were not being remitted to
the Supreme Council. It was also reported that an illegal cipher was being used and that Pierson was infringing on the territory of Wisconsin of the Northern Jurisdiction. Of the latter charge, Pierson was exonerated. The St. Paul Valley also experienced unrest. Some members wrote to the Grand Commander accusing Pierson of wrongdoing. Others claimed that Pierson was being wrongly accused and unfairly punished. Although the whole truth may never be known, some felt that Pierson had dreams of founding a new jurisdiction with himself as its Grand Commander. Whatever the facts were, it is evident that there were differences of opinion both locally and at the Supreme Council.

Sovereign Grand Inspector General Pierson attended the Supreme Council Session in Baltimore in May 1870, where the disharmony came to a head. Pierson took a very active part in the sessions, but resigned as Sovereign Grand Inspector General. He was later removed from the roster of the Thirty-third degree and from membership in the Scottish Rite. However, he was held in such high esteem by his brethren in the St. Paul Valley that they voted him a life membership with no dues or fees required. He was always listed as a Thirty-third degree Inspector General Honorary in the St. Paul Valley, and he continued to participate in the
activities of the valley including installation of officers and conferral of degrees.

He remained active in Masonry and made significant contributions to Masonry for the remainder of his life. The eloquent letter sent to all jurisdictions by Albert Pike following Pierson's death evidences his continued respect and admiration from the Grand Commander. Pike directed that the letter be read in lodge and that all "Bodies of the Obedience" are draped in mourning for sixty days for the death of an Inspector General.

There can be no doubt that Masonry in Minnesota is deeply indebted to A.T. C. Pierson for the energy, enthusiasm, and devotion that he gave to the fraternity. The Grand Lodge of Minnesota, the Scottish Rite, and the York Rite all owe their existence in part to the untiring efforts of this great man.

Source: The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in Minnesota,1867-2001
INPUT from FG Friend---Well, I have it on ancestry forms that a cousin of my mother's had done a few years ago. Also have a picture of him along with some of the other "fathers" of St. Paul, MN. Any obit I find has the Mason's obit and nothing about his wife and children. He would maybe be my great, great grandfather. Guess I'll have to dig out the papers and see if anything is listed there. My cousin had gone to the Masonic Temple in St. Paul and obtained his picture. His name is Azariah Theodore Crane Pierson NOT ACT Pierson, sorry for the error and he is referred as ATC in just about everything I have. My other great grandfather, Jareb Griffin Palmer, is also on find a grave - survivor of an Indian massacre in/around Spirit Lake, IA. Have a problem finding anything on my mother, June Palmer (Braun) Nichol' born July 9, 1915 in or around Crosby, ND. Don't think a birth certificate was ever issued but she did have a baptismal cert. which she had to use along with old school records to apply for social security. Another weird thing, looking up my step-father's background, it only shows his 3rd wife and nothing about my mother. Why is that - because of no birth cert. or an error somewhere else?? Lois Ritter




  • Created by: Glenn Kiecker
  • Added: 29 Jul 2011
  • Find A Grave Memorial 74128649
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Azariah Theodore Crane “ATC” Pierson (1817–1890), Find A Grave Memorial no. 74128649, citing Oakland Cemetery, Saint Paul, Ramsey County, Minnesota, USA ; Maintained by Glenn Kiecker (contributor 47452661) .