By Karl W. Grube, MA, Ph.D., 32o 

Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Roscoe Bonisteel was an advocate for civil rights, a developer of commercial properties,  a philanthropist of libraries/museums and 79th Grand Master of Masons in Michigan.  He was elected by the Brotherhood of Michigan Freemasons in 1929.

Bonisteel’s skilled oratory in the court room quickly earned him a reputation among his colleagues.  Businessmen, bankers, and politicians retained his legal services. His law practice flourished and led to the founding of an insurance company, real estate development firm, and seats on boards of directors of local banks. 

He served with distinction as a Captain in the US Army Air Forces in World War I and gave ample time upon his return to the American Legion. He was District Governor of Rotary and a Board member of the University Musical Society of Ann Arbor. A devoted family man, he married Lillian Coleman Rudolph in 1914 and had four daughters and a son.

He became a Regent of the University of Michigan in 1946 serving until 1972, and was instrumental in the purchase of 267 acres and the master planning of North Campus in 1951, he was a staunch friend of libraries and museums, He founded the Friends’ Society of the Michigan Historical Collections, which later led to the Bentley Historical Library and the expansion of the largest collection of library works at a public university. 

A great philanthropist, he was generous to Dickenson College , the University of Michigan , and Interlochen Art Academy and National Music Camp. He purchased for the University of Michigan’s Clements Library the prestigious Cass Collection. He secured bank commitments and sufficient monies to initiate the 10 year Scottish Rite Northern Jurisdiction Museum of Our National Heritage project at Lexington, Massachusetts. In 1951 he and other prominent brothers personally pledged monies necessary to retire the Detroit Masonic Temple mortgage. 

Past Grand Master Brother Bonisteel was raised a Master Mason in Golden Rule Lodge No. 159 in 1914, served as Worshipful Master in 1920, and, following regular advancement, became the Grand Master of Michigan Free and Accepted Masons in 1929. He served as the Chairman of the Jurisprudence Committee for 25 consecutive years.

He belonged to Washtenaw Chapter No. 6, Royal Arch Masons, Ann Arbor Council No. 86, R. S. M., Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13; and a Director of the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple Corporation. He received the thirty-two Scottish Rite Degrees in the Valley of Detroit in 1926. He became an honorary 33° Degree Mason in 1939, and was crowned a Scottish Rite Active Member at Detroit , September 30, 1964. 

Brother Bonisteel was a prime “mover and shaker” in securing the funding for the Scottish Rite’s National Heritage Museum of American History.  In 1966 Brother Bonisteel and the Grand Masters from Illinois and Massachusetts raised $10,000,000 for the 1976 Bi-Centennial Heritage project. 

Brother Roscoe Bonisteel was a leader in Michigan Civil Rights during the turbulent decade of the 1960’s  He was a strong advocate for recognition of Prince Hall Masonry* with all of the rights and privileges of  the Grand Lodge of Freemasons in Michigan through a series of Grand Lodge Resolutions at the annual meeting.  His efforts were not immediately successful but raised the consciousness of the brotherhood with recognition finally coming to Prince Hall Masonry during the 1990’s. 

To Most Worshipful Brother Bonisteel goes the credit for the creation of the masterpiece in oil which was placed on canvas by the renowned artist Robert Thom. It preserve forever the historic September 15, 1817, meeting of Zion Lodge No. 1, Judge Augustus Woodward, Father Gabriel Richard, and Reverend John Monteith establishing the money for The University of Michigan.  The original curriculum was based upon the University of France established by Napoleon Bonaparte.

Pic - Detroit Masonic Temple, the largest and most complex of Masonic Temples in the world.  The Temple features 1,007 rooms, a 14 story ritual tower, Masonic auditorium., and 10 story Shrine Temple. George D. Mason, architect/engineer of Detroit Cit, Parducci, sculpturer of Venice,  and DeLorenzo, interior architect of New York City created a national  treasure  of Art and Architecture worthy of being recognized on the USA National Register of Historic Places. http://detroitmta.lodges.gl-mi.org/index.html

George Washington’s Trowel displayed at the Scottish Rite’s Northern Jurisdiction Museum of Our National Heritage, Lexington Massachusetts Trowel was used to lay the cornerstone of our Nationals Capitol.

In 2002 Karl W. Grube, Ph.D.*** and other prominent Ann Arbor Freemasons founded the Bonisteel Masonic Library, a non-profit educational corporation housed in the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple at 2875 W. Liberty Road Ann Arbor Michigan USA. The one hundred year old assets of the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple Library were acquired to form the initial collections for the library.  http://www.bonisteelml.org  

The Library is organized to acquire and maintain books, documents, artifacts and other forms of information related to Freemasonry; make those materials and information to the general public; and use those materials and information to develop educational program related to Freemasonry.

Upon his passing in 1972, he received full a Masonic Ritual Funeral Service at the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple, located at 327 4th Avenue Ann Arbor.  In 1924 Rousseau/McConkey, Professors of Architecture & Art designed the Temple.   A church funeral service was also held at the Presbyterian Church. His earthly remains are entombed in a mausoleum crypt at the Washtenong Memorial Park, Ann Arbor Michigan USA.

In 2002 Karl W. Grube, Ph.D. and other prominent Ann Arbor Freemasons founded the Bonisteel Masonic Library, a non-profit educational corporation housed in the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple at 2875 W. Liberty Road Ann Arbor Michigan USA . The one hundred year old assets of the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple Library were acquired to form the initial collections for the library. 

The Library is organized to acquire and maintain books, documents, artifacts and other forms of information related to Freemasonry; make those materials and information to the general public; and use those materials and information to develop educational program related to Freemasonry.

 


 

Karl Grube, Ph.D., Founder of the Bonisteel Masonic Library and a 40 year active Freemason. He was a faculty member at the University of Michigan; his specialty was architecture and education.  He has written four books, 56 simulation games, five white papers for Michigan Governors, and numerous Masonic articles.

 

*** Copyright ©2003 Karl W. Grube, Ph.D.. All rights reserved. No part of this paper may be reproduced, republished, or mirrored by any electronic means without prior permission in writing from the copyright holder.

* Prince Hall Masonry was organized in Boston as African Lodge No. 429  under a Charter granted by the Grand Lodge of England  in 1784.  Prince Hall was a freeman and a  leathersmith who was assigned to General Gage’s Regiment of the British Military in North America. He  was first  “Made a Mason” in General Gage’s Boston Military Masonic Lodge. http://www.miphgl.org/

** This paper was adapted from the Roscoe O. Bonisteel personal papers of the Bentley Historical Library, Michigan Historical Collections, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor Michigan, 1974. Further research was conducted in the official records of the Ann Arbor Masonic Temple Corporation, Grand Lodge of Free & Accepted Masons of the State of Michigan, Golden Rule Lodge No. 159 and the Bonisteel Masonic Library. http://www.umich.edu/~bhl


 

Karl W. Grube, Chairman  and Frank Pope, Zal Gaz Grotto, Masons of Washtenaw County Program October 2002 - Bentley Historical Library University of Michigan Ann Arbor, Michigan USA 

Photo by Mitchell Ozog

Pic - Robert Thom’s Founding of the University of Michigan  September 15, 1817, meeting of Zion Lodge No. 1, Judge Augustus Woodward, Father Gabriel Richard, and Reverend John Monteith establishing the money for the University of Michigan. 

 

Photo by Mitchell Ozog - more about Pic here



Roscoe Bonisteel congratulates Harlan Hatcher, newly invested as president of the University of Michigan - 11/1951

http://oldnews.aadl.org

http://oldnews.aadl.org

1955 Joseph Maddy and Roscoe Bonisteel

1971 Jacobi and Bonisteel

Roscoe O. Bonisteel

Bentley Historical Library (The Roscoe O. and Lillian C. Bonisteel Room); Joseph Maniscalco; Roscoe O. Bonisteel,

Artist
Joseph Maniscalco

from: copyright: Bentley Historical Library U of M

http://oldnews.aadl.org

 

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