Ephraim Kirby Award
William A. Butterfield
Dean D. Rein
Brian J. Hastings
A Custodian, appointed for each constituent Grand Chapter, may select and nominate a candidate
from their jurisdiction whom they determine demonstrate continuing, outstanding service to the
Craft in merit of this award. The Custodian may make recommendations any time during the
Capitular Year, but only one deserving Companion may be honored with the Ephraim Kirby Award
on an annual basis. While the recipient may be recognized from any York Rite Masonic Body, the
candidate must be Royal Arch Mason in good standing to receive the award. It is highly suggested,
presentation of the Ephraim Kirby Award should be reserved for a suitably auspicious occasion
(i.e. Annual Convocation, York Rite Conference, etc.) as time, availability and circumstances best
This award is named for the first, Most Excellent General Grand High Priest of the General Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, Ephraim Kirby, who served from 1798-1804. A brief history of this remarkable man and Mason reveals he was born in Ancient Woodbury, Connecticut, in 1757. He took part in the struggle for AmericanIndependence, saw action at Bunker Hill, and received numerous saber wounds at the Battle of Elk River from which he nearly died. In all he is said to have been in nineteen battles and skirmishes, receiving thirteen wounds, including the saber cuts already mentioned.
He was an original member of the Society of the Cincinnati of Connecticut. By his own diligence and labor he earned his education as a lawyer. In recognition of his legal talents and growing reputation, in 1787 the honorary degree of Master of Arts was conferred on him by Yale University. Published in 1789, Kirby’s Reports of Cases Adjudged in the Superior Court of the State of Connecticut, from the year 1785 to May 1788, with some Determinations in the SupremeCourt of Errors is a record of the legal history of Connecticut’s courts.
As America expanded west, Congress, by an act of 27 March 1804, created the position of an additional judge for the Mississippi Territory due to the increasing influx of settlers into that region. Under this act President Thomas Jefferson, appointed Ephraim Kirby as the additional judge effective April 6, 1804. Having accepted the office, he went directly to his new post at Fort Stoddert on the Alabama River north of Spanish-held Mobile, Alabama, near the present-day town of Mount Vernon. He left his wife and eight children behind in faraway Connecticut.
In the new, sparsely settled wilderness, he began the foundation of a new court system for what would become the State of Alabama. Regrettably, Judge Kirby did not complete his appointed term, having succumbed to yellow fever just six months later on 4 October 4 1804 at Fort Stoddert. His burial spot remains unknown. Sadly, he died before learning that President Jefferson had also appointed him Governor of the Mississippi Territory.
MEC Kirby became a member of St. Paul’s Lodge No. 11, Litchfield, Connecticut, in 1781. Representing that lodge at the convention of July 8, 1789 to form the Samuel Kirkland Grand Lodge of Connecticut, he was elected its first secretary. He was Grand Senior Warden of that Grand Lodge from 1795-97. He served three terms as master of his own lodge. Little is known of his chapter record except that he was a member of the Mark Lodge located at New Town, Connecticut.
When the Grand Chapter of Connecticut was organized at Hartford on 17 May 1798, MEC Kirbywas elected the first Grand High Priest. He was also elected first General Grand High Priest in 1798, serving until his death in 1804. He was thus Grand High Priest and General Grand High Priest at the same time.