Monday, May 10, 2010

Knights of the Golden Eagle

My great-uncle, Walter Meinzen, was a member of the Knights of the Golden Eagle, as were several of his half-uncles, in the early 1900s. I learned about the organization when I noticed that "KGE" was mentioned in their obituaries. I began searching to see what organization KGE represented.

I guessed it was a fraternal organization of some kind and found "Knights of the Golden Eagle" listed in several of the Steubenville, Ohio, city directories of the time. It told the days, time, and location of meetings.

Next I searched the catalog of the Ohio Archives Library at the Ohio Historical Society and learned that it has an undated catalogue of uniforms and paraphernalia manufactured by The M. C. Lilley & Co., in Columbus, Ohio, for the Knights of the Golden Eagle. It seems that Lilley & Co. began making swords in 1865 and then expanded its product line to include uniforms and other accoutrements for various organizations.

The catalogue (cover and one page below) has illustrations and price lists for its items for sale. It would have been interesting to photocopy and post the whole catalog because it had some pretty unusual looking garb in addition to what's pictured below. Looking through the catalogue I wondered what kind of organization this could possibly be. It all seemed so strange.

I decided to see what other information I could find.
The Historical Society of Pennsylvania shares the following information about the Knights of the Golden Eagle:

"Founded in 1873 by John Emory Burbage, the Knights of the Golden Eagle is a fraternal organization with rituals based on those of the crusaders. Members pass through three stages: pilgrim, knight, and crusader. In addition to giving moral and intellectual guidance, the society provided relief to sick or unemployed members and gave survivor benefits to widows and orphans. In 1900 the Knights of the Golden Eagle had approximately 20,000 members and functioned in twenty states. The society's motto is 'Fidelity, Valor, and Honor,' and rituals reflect the emphasis placed on the word of the Bible."

The Phoenixmasonry Masonic Museum and Library devotes a section of its website to the
Knights of the Golden Eagle. There you can see photographs of two young men in their uniforms and learn more about the organization.

Do you have an ancestor who belonged to the Knights of the Golden Eagle?


  1. The information at Phoenixmasonry was really interesting. I have run across several fraternal organizations, IOOF and Knights of Pythias are the ones I learned more about. The way we socialize has really changed!

  2. I have a massive, ornate medal, in the box, and on the medal the ribbon says Supreme. It may be the high order given, and only to the Supreme Leader.

    1. I suspect "Supreme" indicated the medal was used by an officer of the Supreme Lodge (national level). Other lodge levels may have been "Grand Lodge" for state (regional level).
      I believe my grandfather John E. Davis 1874-1939 was a K.G.E. He lived in Schuylkill Co., PA until 1878, then Weld Co., CO 1878-1900. Then Fremont Co., CO 1900-1906. Then Weld Co., CO 1906-1939. He was a barber but lived in coal mining communities.
      Peace, James R. Davis, 6708 Austin Way, Sacramento, CA 95823 - - 6/4/16

    2. Thanks for the suggestion that Supreme may have signified a lodge at the national level, James. I hope perhaps Anonymous (whose comment you responded to) will come back and read your comment, too.

      Did your grandfather leave behind any records of his KGE membership or parts of his KGE uniform? They would be a treasure if he did, I'm sure.


I appreciate your comments and look forward to reading what you have to say. Thanks for stopping by.

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