Joseph Brant portrait, 1776
Another story relating to Brant during the war has another
‘rebel’ captive named Lieutenant Boyd giving Brant a Masonic
sign, which secured him a reprieve from execution. However,
on this occasion, Brant left his Masonic captive in the care of
the British, who subsequently had Boyd tortured and executed.
After the war, Brant removed himself with his tribe to Canada,
establishing the Grand River Reservation for the Mohawk
Indians. He became affiliated with Lodge No. 11 at the
Mohawk village at Grand River of which he was the first
Master and he later affiliated with Barton Lodge No.10 at
Hamilton, Ontario. Brant returned to England in 1785 in an
attempt to settle legal disputes on the Reservation lands, were
he was again well received by George III and the Prince of
After Brant’s death in 1807, his legend continued to
develop, with numerous accounts of his life and his death
being written. One such account lengthily entitled The Life
of Captain Joseph Brant with An Account of his Re-interment at
Mohawk, 1850, and of the Corner Stone Ceremony in the Erection of
the Brant Memorial, 1886, celebrated Brant’s achievements and
detailed that a certain Jonathan Maynard had also been saved
by Brant during the war.
Like McKinstry, Maynard, who later became a member of
the Senate of Massachusetts, had been saved at the last minute
by Brant, who had recognised him giving a Masonic sign.
Brant’s remains were re-interred in 1850 with an Indian relay,
where a number of warriors took turn in carrying his remains
to the chapel of the Mohawks, located in Brant’s Mohawk
village, which is now part of the city of Brantford. Many local
Freemasons were present, and his tomb was restored with an
inscription paid for by them.
The legend of Brant saving his fellow Masons was
examined by Albert C. Mackey in his Encyclopedia of
Freemasonry in which he referred to a book entitled Indian
Masonry by a certain Brother Robert C. Wright. In the book,
Wright states that ‘signs given by the Indians could easily be
mistaken for Masonic signs by an enthusiastic Freemason’.
Using Wright’s claims that the Indians used similar Masonic
signs or gestures within their culture, and these were mistaken
by over enthusiastic Freemasons, Mackey was putting forward
an argument that the stories of encounters with ‘Masonic’
Indians were perhaps in doubt.
Mackey then put forward the question ‘is the Indian a
Freemason’ before examining a number of historically Native
American Indians who were Freemasons, including Joseph
Brant and General Eli S. Parker, the Seneca Chief who fought
in the American Civil War. Mackey concluded:
‘Thus from primitive and ancient rites akin to Freemasonry, which
had their origin in the shadows of the distant past, the American
Indian is graduating into Free and Accepted Masonry as it has
been taught to us. It is an instructive example of the universality
of human belief in fraternity, morality and immortality’.
Mackey presented that the Indians, in recognising the
universal ethos of Freemasonry within their own culture,
were drawn to the Craft. Thus an understanding into Brant’s
moralistic approach to fellow Freemasons who were prisoners
during the war was being sought, his actions fascinating
Masonic historians well into the twentieth century.
Brant became a symbol for Freemasonry, his story being
used as a metaphor for the Masonic bond, a bond which
became greater than the bond of serving one’s country during
wartime. Brant also came to represent a respect for the Native
American Indian during a time when the US was promoting
the ‘manifest destiny’, an ethos which the United States
government saw as God’s right for them to settle the Indian
lands of the west.
Brant’s myth even exceeded the traditional Victorian
image of the ‘noble savage’, his meeting of other Freemasons
while visiting London such as the writer James Boswell
and Masonic members of the Hanoverian Household such
as the Prince of Wales compounded this. Brant once said:
‘My principle is founded on justice, and justice is all I wish
for’, a statement which certainly conveyed his moralistic and