The Conference of Masonic Grand Secretaries of North America (CMGSNA) was founded in 1928, but traces its origins to an earlier organization. During the 1891 triennial meeting of the General Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch in Minneapolis, MN, Theodore S. Parvin Grand Secretary of Iowa called a meeting of other attending grand secretaries. On July 22, 1891 the “Masonic Grand Secretaries Guild” was organized. The first attendees elected officers, drafted by-laws and discussed various important topics facing a rapidly growing Craft. A second meeting was held in Colorado in 1892, but a third never seemed to have materialized. The Guild’s short history nonetheless produced its objective: “to become personally acquainted; to agree, if possible, upon the best forms and method, and in general, to consult touching specific and other interests of Grand Secretaries offices and duties.”
On February 21, 1928 Grand Secretary of Illinois Scott Owen invited grand secretaries to a meeting the evening before the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association annual meeting on Washington’s Birthday. Grand Secretaries from Alabama, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon and Virginia met at the Raleigh Hotel in Washington DC. At this meeting those attending voted to create a permanent association, elected officers and collected $14 to cover the secretary’s expenses. Sadly Scott Owen passed away before the next meeting, but the Conference continued. At the second meeting 21 Grand Secretaries attended and elected Charles C. Hunt of Iowa as the first Chairman, By the 3rd meeting the Conference had expanded the agenda to begin discussing certificates of good standing, interjurisdictional affiliation requirements and standardized dues cards.
Within ten years a majority of US Grand Secretaries attended the Conference as membership included Canadian Grand Secretaries and non-Grand Secretaries as guest
speakers. Its annual reports included tables of information on dues and fees, dual and plural membership and other statistics. Grand Secretaries’ contact information along with their photos and the full transcription of each meeting were also printed
During World War II the annual meetings diminished and no meeting was held in 1945. But in 1946 the Conference changed its name from Masonic Grand Secretaries of the United States by adding “and Canada.” The next year it simplified the name to “in North America” as membership included secretaries of Masonic appendant bodies and charities. During the 1950s and early 1960s, the CMGSNA met in the Pan American Room of the Statler Hotel in Washington DC in conjunction with the Conference of Grand Masters of Masons North America (CGMNA). The Grand Masters had organized their Conference in 1927 around the annual meeting of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association.
In 1964 the Conference followed the CGMNA and the GWMNMA to Kansas City, meeting for the first time outside of D.C. or Virginia. It returned to DC the next year and continued to meet at the Shorham Hotel until the US bicentennial of 1976, when it met in Philadelphia. Three years later the CMGSNA began moving its meeting location every year with the first held in Denver Colorado. Since that time the Conference moves according to location selected by the CGMNA.
Each year the Conference publishes its proceedings that contain statistical tables, contact information and a running index of topics discussed over the last 50 years. A progressive line of officers was adopted in 1966 and since that time such distinguished Masons as Dwight L. Smith (IN), and Thomas W. Jackson (PA) have served as President of the Conference.
Currently, the Conference of Grand Secretaries in North America just completed its eighty-eighth meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Conference is comprised of 63 Jurisdictions throughout North America, extending from Canada to Mexico. It is a 501(c)(10) organization incorporated in the State of Wisconsin.
History compiled by W.Brother Mark A. Tabbert of the George Washington Masonic Memorial.