The fraternal order of Freemasons is no stranger to conspiracy and controversy. Their secretive nature, use of eclectic pagan symbolism within their lodges, as well as rumors of bizarre rituals have long been the root of many legends and stories. Dating back to medieval times, this old organization has had members from all walks of life including war veterans, engineers, builders, astronauts, and even the Founding Fathers of the United States.

The Masonic Square and Compass.

The Masonic Square and Compass.

We’ve all heard the stories of the New World Order and the Illuminati, along with their connection to an elite inner circle of Freemasons. While some evidence is more believable than others, the fact remains that there is no concrete evidence that such an organization exists or that the Freemasons are at the center of it. That’s not to say that some Freemasons haven’t been publicly scrutinized for injustices, and the Morgan Affair shows just how far some Masons may be willing to go to keep their secrets.

The Anti-Masonic Depiction of "Captain" William Morgan

The Anti-Masonic Depiction of “Captain” William Morgan.

The trouble all began in 1823. Having lost everything in a fire that destroyed his distillery in Canada, “Captain” William Morgan, along with his young bride, decided to move to New York and start fresh. Having lived in the city of Rochester for several years, Morgan eventually relocated to the town of Batavia in 1826. There he befriended several Masons in town and started patroning a local temple.

He told members that he had been initiated at a different chapter in Canada and wished to attend meetings at their lodge. It was true that he had visited Masonic lodges before appearing at the Batavia office, but no one could confirm where he was inducted into the organization or if he ever had been. His admission into the York Rite chapter of Masonry had been denied. It was later confirmed that Morgan did receive his York Rite Royal Arch Degree in 1925, though it is unknown if he had achieved the six degrees proceeding it.

An opportunity to open a new chapter had been proposed and William Morgan’s name was on the petition. He was enthralled with the opportunity, but those dreams were cut short. Other members of Morgan’s chapter opposed the idea, citing his sketchy credentials as the reason why he should not be a candidate. Bitter about the rejection, Morgan, along with the help of newspaper editor David C. Miller, set out to write a tell-all book. This is where the story begins to get a bit blurry, depending on which account you believe.

Depiction of William Morgan from Masonic literature.

Depiction of William Morgan from Masonic literature.

According to Masons, Morgan was a drunk, a thief, and a liar. He was never a Mason; he wasn’t even a Captain, as he had claimed, and when outed by his local chapter he decided to turn on them by threatening to publish an Anti-Mason book. Masons also claim that David C. Miller may have been willing to scheme with Morgan because he himself was once a first degree Mason, but was prevented from moving up within the order.

What is known is that after Morgan and Miller revealed their intentions, the newspaper building was burned to the ground. The Masons offered a reward for the capture of the culprits, but believe that Miller set the fire himself. Four Masons were indicated in the fire and three were arrested.

Morgan was also not without his own troubles. Shortly before his book was due to be published he was arrested several times, allegedly because of charges instigated by the Masons. On his final arrest a man showed up to pay his bail and Morgan was never seen again. At least a dozen different “eye-witness” reports exist to what exactly happened that day.

Some say that he was carried away by men with torches and murdered. Others say that he was met with a horse and wagon and told never to return. The Masonic story says that Morgan was kidnapped and ordered to return to Canada. There he would receive some money to begin a new life as long as he took a pledge to never to return to the United States, publish his book, or speak a word of the arrangements.

The Masonic version of Morgan’s story does not explain how in October of 1827, a body washed up on the shores of Lake Ontario. Although the body had been in a state of decomposition, Morgan’s wife claimed that the body was her husband’s. She said that she was able to identify the corpse because of the distinctive broken teeth, matching those of Morgan’s. Morgan’s doctor also identified the body, noting the distinctive teeth. The case would have probably been closed, had the inquest committee not included a particularly outspoken Anti-Mason, New York politician Thurlow Weed. Masons accused Weed of intentionally mutilating the corpse in order to make it appear to be Morgan’s.

During the same time frame of Morgan’s disappearance, another man named Timothy Monroe had also been reported missing. During the third inquest, Monroe’s wife was called in to identify the body. She positively identified the body as that of her missing husband’s. The ruling stood and no Masons were ever brought to trial for the murder of Morgan.

After Morgan’s mysterious disappearance, his case was often used as propaganda fodder for a rising political party. Formed in 1828, the Anti-Masonic party unofficially became the U.S.’ third political party and touted Morgan as a hero for standing up against the powerful and dangerous organization of Freemasons. It would be illogical not to question if the story had been exaggerated by Anti-Masonics in order to gain support for their party.

A monument purchased by The National Christian Association was erected in the Batavia Cemetery, commending Morgan for his heroism.

Perhaps we will never really know what really happened to “Captain” William Morgan. Was he just chased off by some over-zealous Masons, angered that he wanted to reveal their heavily guarded secrets, or did Morgan face a far more sinister fate for his brazenness? A third theory also exists that Morgan ran off on his own accord, as a publicity stunt for his book. The only thing that is certain is that in spite of Morgan’s disappearance, his book was able to be published. Proving that, just maybe, the Masons aren’t nearly as powerful as some may believe.