Robert Thomís Historic Painting Depicts Zion Lodgeís Action on September 15, 1817 to found University of Michigan


Masonry makes history. Supplies seed money to build U of Mís 1st hall. Grand Lodge commissions Robert Thom, renowned painter of history. Worldís greatest recreator of history paints Zion Lodge scene of September 15, 1817.

(Photo by Mitchell Ozog, 2002)


The formal presentation of Robert Thomís painting of Masonryís role in the founding of the University of Michigan was made to the University by the Masonic Foundation of the Grand Lodge, F. & A.M. of Michigan, Sunday, November 26, 1967 in the Rackham Building at Ann Arbor. Past Grand Master Roscoe O. Bonisteel was Master of Ceremonies. Farmer U of M President Harlan Hatcher formally accepted it on behalf of the University.

The painting depicts the scene in Zion Lodge No. 1 on the night of September 15, 1817, when the Lodge met in an emergent session for the purpose of making the first donation to the University. Painstaking research and a long and difficult search for authentic likenesses of the early 19th century Freemasons who were the first donors to the stateís great University were an integral part of the artistís preparation for this recreation of the historic scene.

The large figures in the foreground left to right, are: Worshipful Master Sylvester Day, an officer in the U.S. Army Medical Corps; Father Gabriel Richard, Roman Catholic Priest; John Monteith, Presbyterian Minister; and Judge Augustus Brevoort Woodward, the prime and driving force behind the birth of the University. Seated at the desk is Treasurer Abraham Edwards, and standing with his hand on the desk is Henry Jackson Hunt, Mayor of Detroit; and next to him is Senior Deacon pro tem, Austin E. Wing. In the doorway at the back is Ebenezer Reed, Tiler pro tem, publisher of the Detroit Gazette, first Michigan daily, which was founded in the same year that the University of Michigan had its birth. Other figures in the background, at the extreme left, seated, Judge James Abbott; standing at the back, Army Lieutenant Edmund Kirby, who was the first High Priest under the dispensation of Michiganís first Royal Arch Chapter, Monroe No. 1, and who was the son of the first General Grand High Priest of the General Grand chapter, Ephraim Kirby of Rhode Islandí a fellow Army Lieutenant, Thomas Hunt; and seated between the two military men, at the rear, George McDougall. At the other side of the door are Junior Deacon Thomas Rowland (seated); and Senior Warden Robert Irwin. Other background figures are not identified, but represent lodge members of the day.


(From: USA Bicentennial 1776-1976, page 17. texts only)††