Ray Allen Shubert and Marilee Davis Shubert
at Bob & Judy's wedding
April 4, 1964
Shortly after moving back to Nashville from Ashland City, Tennessee
I have found many tombstones with the symbols of Freemasons in cemeteries where I have trekked looking for an ancestor or just visiting in order to take pictures for my cemetery blogs, Cemeteries with Texas Ties and Cemeteries of the Covered Bridges. They are varied and beautiful, indicating that the person memorialized there was a member of the Freemasons during his lifetime.
Since Dan Brown's books, "Da Vinci Code" and "Demons and Angels", were published in 2006 there has been a flurry of interest in the Masons. I've had questions about the institution's symbolism, philosophy, and history since then and have discovered several direct and collateral ancestors who were members of the Freemasons.
What I have been surprised to learn is that my late father-in-law was a Mason, but left the organization in 1988 after being affiliated with them for thirty-four years.
After he died in 2003 my husband brought home several boxes of papers, letters, photos, etc., to go through. He found an envelope and papers mailed to his father in Nashville from the Ashland Lodge No. 604, F. & A. M., Ashland City, Tennessee in June of 1988. It is an original document with the seal of the lodge affixed in the lower left corner.
Ray Allen Shubert
DIMIT No. 9 from Ashland Lodge No. 604
The document indicates that he asked in writing to be released from his membership in the Ashland Lodge. Not knowing what a "DIMIT" was and what it implied, I decided to do some research about the origin of the word.
In 1873 Albert G. Mackey, M. D., a 33 degree Mason, wrote and published in London, England "An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences." He did so because he felt that "few men had the means, the time, and the inclination for the purchase of numerous books, some of them costly and difficult to be obtained, and for the close and attentive reading of them which is necessary to master any given subject." It was that thought that suggested to him many years prior to writing and publishing his encyclopedia, "the task of collecting materials for a work which would furnish every Freemason who might consult its pages the means of acquiring a knowledge of all matters connected with the science, the philosophy, and the history of his Order."
On page 204 Dr. Mackey defines the word Demit. "A Mason is said to demit from his Lodge when he withdraws his membership; and a demit is a document granted by the Lodge which certifies that that demission has been accepted by the Lodge, and that the demitting brother is clear of the books and in good standing as a Mason."
In the body of my father-in-law's Dimit it says that he was in good standing "and having paid all sums regularly charged against him, was dimitted at a regular meeting of this (Ashland No. 604) lodge."
Mackey continues with "To demit, which is the act of the member, is, then, to resign; and to grant a demit, which is the act of the Lodge, is to grant a certificate that the resignation has been accepted. It is derived from the French reflective verb se demetire, which, according to the dictionary of the Academy, means 'to withdraw from an office, to resign an employment.'
The application for a demit is a matter of form, and there is no power in the Lodge to refuse it, if the applicant has paid all his dues and is free of all charges. It is true that a regulation of 1722 says that no number of brethren shall withdraw or separate themselves from the Lodge in which they were made, without a dispensation; yet it is not plain how the law can be enforced, for Masonry being a voluntary association, there is no power in any Lodge to insist on any brother continuing a connection with it which he desires to sever.
The usual object in applying for a demit is to enable the brother to join some other Lodge, into which he cannot be admitted without some evidence that he was in good standing in his former Lodge. This is in accordance with an old law found in the Regulations of 1663 in the following words: 'No person hereafter who shall be accepted a Freemason, shall be admitted into any Lodge or Assembly until he has brought a certificate of the time and place of his acceptation from the Lodge that accepted him, unto the Master of that limit or division where such Lodge is kept."
In looking at Mackey's definition of Dimit, he writes that the word is "a modern, American, and wholly indefensible corruption of the technical word Demit. As the use of this corrupt form is beginning to be very prevalent among American Masonic writers, it is proper that we should inquire which is the correct word, Demit or Dimit.
For almost a century and a half the Masonic world has been content, in its technical language, to use the word demit. But within a few years, [as of 1873 when Mackey wrote the Encyclopedia] a few admirers of neologisms - men who are always ready to believe that what is old cannot be good, and that new fashions are always the best - have sought to made a change in the well-established word, and by altering the e in the first syllable into an i, they make another word dimit, which they assert is the right one. It is simply a question of orthography, and must be settled first by reference to usage, and then to etymology, to discover which of the words sustains, by its derivation, the true meaning which is intended to be conveyed."
Mackey further writes, "to demit, in Masonic language, means simply to resign. The Mason who demits from his Lodge resigns from it. The word is used in the exact sense, for instance, in the Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin, where it is said: 'No brother shall be allowed to demit from any Lodge unless for the purpose of uniting with some other.' That is to say: 'No brother shall be allowed to resign from any Lodge.'
To dimit is derived from the Latin dimittere. The prefixed particle di or dis has the effect of off from, and hence dimittere means to send away."
After finding Dr. Mackey's definitions of the words demit and dimit, which is found on my father-in-law's document from the Ashland City Lodge, I wasn't sure whether he was allowed to resign or whether he was "sent away."
The back of the document gave the dates of his initiation into the Freemasons in 1954, and his affiliation into the Ashland Lodge from the Nashville Doric Lodge #732 in March of 1962. I know that the Shuberts moved from Nashville, Tennessee to Ashland City, Tennessee around 1961 and then back to Nashville a short time later, around 1963. Whether or not he returned to the Doric Lodge and his fellow Masons in Nashville, we don't know. I have not found documentation that he did.
Ray Allen Shubert
Freemason Ashland Lodge No. 0604 Membership Card
Mackey, Albert G., M. D., "An Encyclopedia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences," Google Book Search, (Online: Books, Google.com) [Original published by Moss & Co. and A. G. Mackey, 1873 and 1878], pp 205, 211-213, <http://books.google.com/books?printsec=frontcover&id=ophIAAAAYAAJ&output=text&pg=PP1> accessed December 11, 2009).
Dimit No. 9 "To all Freemasons throughout the World" Ashland Lodge No. 604, dimit of Brother Ray Allen Shubert, June 6, 1988, John T. Bradley, Master. Original in private collection of Robert Allen Shubert.
Ashland Lodge No. 0604, Free and Accepted Masons, Membership Card, Ray Allen Shubert. No. 168, W. C. Jackson, Jr., Secretary. Original in private collection of Robert Allen Shubert.
PhotographsMarilee and Ray Shubert, Mineral Wells, Texas, April 4, 1964. Digital format. Original black and white in private collection of Robert Allen Shubert.