The Michigan Masonic Home

The Michigan Masonic Home for aged master Masons and their widows, at Grand Rapids, is a purely voluntary benevolent association, was incorporated 5 November 1885, and its building opened for occupancy 21 May 1891. The idea of forming this association originated with the late John D. Jennings, a native of Dublin, Ireland, who was born 16 March 1818, came to the United States at the age of twenty-one years, and was fairly prosperous until stricken with paralysis. He lived to see the Home constructed and opened, and passed his lingering days of illness within its walls until his death on Monday morning, 21 November 1891. His daughter, Mrs. Harriet Brown, was the first matron of the Home, and his wife, Mrs. Margaret H. Jennings, also a native of Dublin, died beneath its roof 6 January 1892, at the age of sixty-seven years and five months.
The Home is maintained by voluntary contributions and ten cents per capita dues by members of the various Masonic lodges of the state. It is managed by a board of fifteen trustees, which at present is constituted as follows: M. M. Read, of Ypsilanti, president; Henry l. Anthony, of Sturgis, vice-president; William West, of Manistee, treasurer; R. V. McArthur of Grand Rapids, secretary. Board of control - John W. McGrath, of Detroit; Frank D. Jenks, of Port Huron; Byron C. Hill, of Jackson; J. E. Rice, of Grand Rapids; A. D. Woodward, of Ludington, Charles L. Fitch, of Grand Rapids; A. W. Durkee, of St. John's; Charles H. Pomeroy, of Saginaw; R. D. Swartout, of Grand Rapids; Mrs. Louise Turck, of Alma; Mrs. A. A. Matteson, of Middleville, and Mrs. Lida A. Pratt, of Jackson.
The land belonging to the association comprises thirty-three and one-half acres, adjoining Grand Rapids, and near Reed's lake, and is beautifully situated. It and the buildings cost $65,000, and are now valued at $100,000, and at the present time there are thirty-eight inmates of the Home; these, with the superintendent and his family and the necessary domestics, make a total of forty-eight.
No words can express the gratitude of the inmates and the admiration of the brotherhood in general toward the founder of the Home, the lamented John D. Jennings, whose philanthropic spirit and tireless energy brought into existence this noble institution, and his incipient steps, resulting in fruition, can be no better made plain to the reader than by quoting a portion of the circular issued by him to the fraternity at the outset of his undertaking, which says:

Brotherly love is the moral cement which unites the Masonic edifice into one mass. By the exercise of brotherly love, we are taught to regard the whole human race as one family. The high and the low, the rich and the poor, created by one almighty Parent, and inhabitants of the same planet, are to aid, protect and support each other. It unites men of every country and every religion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might otherwise have remained at a perpetual distance; hence it is, that we propose to lay before our brethren of Michigan the feasibility of establishing a home in the city of Grand Rapids for the protection of indigent aged Masons, where they can be protected against want in their waning hours, and be assured of our brotherly love. We propose to lay before you, brethren of Michigan, the subject-matter for your consideration, and we not only think, but know, you will cheerfully acquiesce in the plan that each and every Mason who will think well of it to subscribe his name as a member, who is willing to pay the sum of two dollars a year for its support, said sum to be paid in semi-annual payments, and when a sufficient number of contributors signify their desire to call a convention to make rules for its perpetuity; by establishing such a home you will not only be doing yourselves an everlasting honor, but will be carying out the principles of the order which now stands foremost among all the fraternal societies in the world, the most envied for its fraternal fellowship. We do not ask you as lodges to sign - but as Masons untrammeled by any legislative body. The lodges being a constitutional part of the grand lodge, might not receive the approbation of the grand lodge, but, as master Masons, you are appealed to, to join us in this philanthropic cause, of helping the needy poor and worthy master Mason, his widow, or his orphan, in their aged declining years, when unable to help themselves. You will readily see how it is approved of, when out of 150 master Masons personally appealed to, only seven refused to sign their names.

Through this simple appeal was consummated his charitable, noble and benevolent design.
Rial V. McArthur, present superintendent and secretary of the Home association, was born in Oakfield township, Kent county, Mich., 9 September 1850, and is a son of Giles and Harriet (Newcomb), McArthur, who were born near Cleveland, Ohio, and came to Kent county, Mich., in 1843. The farm on which the parents settled, in Oakfield township, comprised 160 acres of virgin forest, but by dint of industry has been cleared off and bought under cultivation, and there the father and mother, the only surviving pioneers of the township, still five with their youngest son. The children born to Mr. and Mrs. Giles McArthur numbered seven, of whom one son is deceased. The eldest of the family, Frank, is a prosperous farmer in Grattan township; Rial V. is the second in order of birth; Lewis E. is still on the homestead; Julia A. is the wife of Dr. Pasco, of Grand Rapids; Jane is the widow of Nelson B. Rich, formerly a court officer, and whose death took place in June, 1897; Emma is the wife of William J. Spicer, a wealthy farmer of Montcalm county, and Minnie, who was married to Lewis Brown, a farmer of Grattan township, died at the age of twenty0three years.
Rial V. McArthur was educated in the common schools of Oakfield township and the graded schools at Grattan. At the age of nineteen years he came to Grand Rapids, was employed in a wholesale grocery for two years, and drove the first delivery wagon in the city. He then engaged in the grocery trade on his own account at Grattan Center and Oakfield, but two years later sold out and bought a farm, on which he lived one year, and then sold. His next business was as hotel keeper at Rockford for one year, and he then purchased a fruit farm of eighty acres near that city, on which he passed fourteen years and still owns, besides owning 223 acres east of Rockford, both of which he still manages, and from which he has realized a handsome competence.
In April, 1889, Mr. McArthur withdrew from his farm and assumed charge of the Kent county Home, on salary, and for his efficiency and service during the erection of the new buildings, his salary was increased $200 per annum, and he was also presented with a bonus of $100. After about seven years passed in this work he retired, in 1895, to his home in Grand Rapids, and spent over a year as a loan broker, when, through the instrumentality of Judge J. W. Champlin, he was selected as superintendent of the Home, which, in the meanwhile, had come under the jurisdiction of the grand lodge of Michigan. Later he was elected secretary, and has ably filled the joint office ever since.
Mr. McArthur was married 15 April 1876, at Grand Rapids, by the late Rev. Graves, D.D., to Miss Olive D. Force, a native of Vergennes township and a daughter of Britton and Eliza (Cook) Force, natives, respectively, of Trumbull and Columbiana counties, Ohio. Mr. and Mrs. Force were married in their native state, early came to Kent county, Mich., first located in Vergennes township, and are now living on a 600-acres farm in Cannon township, near Rockford. Mr. Force was one of the first school teachers of Kent county. To Mr. and Mrs. Force were born four sons and two daughters, of whom, Irving, the first born, died at the age two years, and the second child, of the same name, died at the age of forty-seven years, in 1896; Mary A. is the wife of C. W. Ives, a druggist of Cheboygan, Mich., Olive D., now Mrs. McArthur; Wilbur, a prominent musician of Grand Rapids, and one child that died unnamed.
Mrs. McArthur graduated from the high school of Rockford, taught school a year, and is a vocalist of more than local reputation. The marriage of Mr. and Mrs. McArthur has been blessed with a son and daughter, viz: Lottie May, who was educated in the Grand Rapids normal school, and is now a teacher of some note in the county schools, and Maxwell Lloyd, who was born 24 May 1888, and is now a bright lad at his studies in school.
Mr. McArthur has transacted a vast amount of business during his useful career, yet he has never brought a lawsuit against another and has never been sued. In politics, he is a democrat and is active and influential in the counsels of his party. He has held the position of township school inspector, and was once a candidate for the wardenship of the Ionia reformatory, yet, notwithstanding his being splendidly endorse, failed to secure the governor's signature to the appointment. He was made a Mason in the Valley City lodge, No. 34, of Grand Rapids, and is now a member of DeWitt Clinton consistory, Scottish rite, thirty-second degree, and he and wife are member of Oriental chapter, Order of the Easter Star. As a citizen, Mr. McArthur has ever been useful and public-spirited and progressive, and he enjoys the respect of the entire community.

Transcriber: Barb Jones