Lawrence N. Greenleaf|
Lawrence N. Greenleaf wrote this poem on November 19, 1898 about a mythical lodge that was really every lodge. It is certainly his best-known poem a century later. In 1959 a restored pioneer lodge room in South Park City in Fairplay, Colorado was designated as "The Lodge Room Over Simpkins' Store." For a couple of photographs of that lodgeroom you can check out www.southparkcity.org/lodgehall.htm and www.2be1ask1.com/library/simpkins.html and coloradomasons.org/gl/News/Simpkins-Poem.htm.
— From the 50th Anniversary Poem by P.G.M. Lawrence N. Greenleaf, and reprinted in the Centennial Celebration book, 1961
Grand Master of Masons in Colorado, 1880
Deputy of The Supreme Council, 33°, for Colorado,
Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, 1878-1917
Born in Massachusetts on Oct. 4, 1838, Lawrence N. Greenleaf is closely associated with the state of Colorado, where he was honored as Poet Laureate of Colorado. As a newspaperman, signing himself "Peter Punever," Lawrence Greenleaf's various short poems first appeared in the fledgling Rocky Mountain News. He published several* books of humorous poems or essays.
A member of Denver Lodge, No.5, he was the founder and editor of the "Square and Compass" magazine. His most famous work was "The Lodge Room Over Simpkins Store" which has appeared in every copy of the Colorado Craftsman. It was the inspiration for the re-creation and furnishing of "Friendship Lodge" in the reconstructed pioneer South Park City adjacent to Fairplay, Colo. Greenleaf was respected throughout the Masonic world for his illuminating correspondence reports, the first of which appeared in 1870, the last in 1917. He was a close friend of and was in touch with all the great Masonic thinkers of his time. There were some who would have hailed him as the poet laureate of Freemasonry, as well as Colorado's.
Lawrence Greenleaf died October, 25 1922.
* Greenleaf reportedly published more than one book, but the only one we can find reference to is "King Sham and Other Atrocities in Verse; including a
Humorous History of the Pike's Peak Excitement" 1868.
Following is a much longer biography of L.N. Greenleaf which was written in his lifetime by Wilbur Fiske Stone.
Lawrence Nichols Greenleaf, of Denver, known as the Pioneer Poet, was born in Boston, Massachusetts, October 4, 1838. He was educated in the public schools of that city, being graduated from the English high school with the class of 1855. He then entered a wholesale importing house, where he remained for four years, when the glowing reports from the Pike's Peak gold region induced him to seek the far west.
He left Boston on the llth of April, 1860, and stopped at Chicago and St. Louis en route. From the latter city he took passage on a steamboat to Hannibal, Missouri, and thence proceeded by rail to St. Joseph, Missouri, where he joined the Brad Pease party, leaving there with horse teams on the 28th of April and reaching Denver May 24, 1860, after a journey of twenty-seven days. Having formed a partnership with G. G. Brewer, he purchased a mule team and loaded a wagon with groceries and miners' supplies, going to California Gulch, now Leadville, by way of Colorado City and the Ute Pass, which at that time was little more than a trail and was most hazardous traveling with a loaded wagon owing to the rough and precipitous incline. Having disposed of their stock, the partners returned to Denver and engaged in merchandising, erecting in July, 1860, the first two-story brick building on Larimer street, between Fourteenth and Fifteenth streets. The firm continued in business for over thirty years, when it was dissolved, after which each partner continued in business for a few years longer alone.
Mr. Greenleaf figured throughout this entire period as one of the prominent and leading merchants of the city, contributing in no small measure to its commercial development and ever meriting and enjoying the highest respect by reason of the energy and enterprise of his methods. Upon retiring from the mercantile business he became the publisher of the Square and Compass, a Masonic monthly, which he conducted for twenty-five years. His contributions in prose and poetry of recent years have been Masonic in sentiment and have been widely copied.
Mr. Greenleaf rightly acquired the title of Pioneer Poet in 1860. In December of that year there was founded in Denver a society under the name of the Literary and Historical Society of Denver, which projected a series of lectures, the proceeds of which were to be devoted to charitable and benevolent purposes. The first of the series took place in Mechanic's Hall in Blake street, over Tilton's store. This was a two-story brick building and was destroyed by the Cherry Creek flood of 1864. The lecturer was Dr. W H. Farner, who took for his subject The Nineteenth Century. Mr. Greenleaf was invited to deliver a poem on this occasion and preceded the lecturer in the evening.
The date was December 12th. The Rocky Mountain News the next day had the following to say concerning the poem, the report being written by Ed Bliss, who was then connected with this journal: "Before the lecture an original poem was delivered by Mr. Greenleaf. It was of a humorous character, abounding in keen satire and well devised puns, and produced repeated rounds of applause from those present. Mr. Greenleaf possesses rare poetic talent and may in time become no Insignificant rival of the renowned Saxe." The poem was repeated by request on the occasion of the next lecture on January 10, 1861, which was delivered by the Hon. George W. Purkins. In 1861 and 1862, under the nom de plume of Peter Punever, Mr. Greenleaf contributed humorous poems and quips and quirps to the columns of the Rocky Mountain News which attracted general notice in what was then the territory of Colorado. Early in 1862 he wrote a satirical poem entitled King Sham, which was first delivered on March 26, 1862, at a benefit performance at the People's Theatre, then under the management of Langrishe and Dougherty. The success which attended this effort induced Mr. Greeuleaf to undertake a trip throughout the territory, and this is believed to have been the first lecture tour in this newly settled region. He was obliged to travel by stage, mule team or on mule back, as the case might be, to reach the various mining camps, sometimes crossing difficult ranges of mountains. The poem was delivered on fourteen occasions with repeated success.
At the Fourth of July celebration in Denver in 1865 he delivered a poem written for the occasion. The Fourth of July, 1866, was celebrated under the auspices of the Colorado Pioneers Association. This organization is not to be confounded with the present Pioneer Society, which was not organized until 1881. The former was composed of the blue-blood aristocracy of 'fifty-niners, none others being eligible. The committee had to have a poet and as none could be found among their own number, Mr. Greenleaf was pressed into service and became a 'fifty-niner by brevet. His poem was entitled, Pike's Peakers of '59. He has delivered poems on many occasions and at the reunions of the Pioneers his most ambitious effort was his Centennial Poem, delivered at the centennial celebration in Denver, July 4, 1876.
It is interesting to note in this connection that Mr. Greenleaf's first appearance in public as the author of a poem occurred even before his removal to Colorado. It was on the occasion of. the annual declamation of the Lowell Literary Association, held in the Meionaon, Tremont Temple. Boston, Massachusetts, on the 13th of May, 1857. He selected the imposing subject of Art. Even at that early day he received favorable comment, the Boston Traveler saying: "A poem on Art, by L. N. Greenleaf, though at times a little faulty in metre, was well conceived and reflects credit on the writer as a promise of something better." The Daily Bee wrote as follows: "One of the most pleasing features of the entertainment was the recitation of an original poem, entitled Art, by Mr. Lawrence N. Greenleaf. The young gentleman is deserving of much praise for his production, and if the close attention and loud applause of an audience are any mark of approbation, he may well feel proud of this, his first effort." A later poem which he wrote, taking Columbus as his theme, brought forth the following from the Boston Herald: "His poem on Art, delivered last season before the Lowell Literary Association, was highly commended, but we think his last production its superior," while the Boston Transcript said of it that his poem "finely portrayed in verse the noble zeal of Columbus and evinced poetic talent of no mean order."
In reminiscent mood he wrote Just Forty Years Ago, closing with the stanzas:
"Roll back the veiling mists of time from that eventful day —
How like a dream the retrospect? — old things have passed away.
The very face of nature changed, where erst was arid waste,
Sage brush and cactus, dusty weeds through which lithe lizards raced,
The thirsty soil now oft refreshed, Is carpeted with green,
And leafy avenues of shade where never tree was seen.
Ten-story blocks mark cabin sites, ox-trains have vanished quite,
From gambling halls we hear no yells or fiddlers through the night.
No motley groups indulge in talk of 'big things' lately found.
No threats of burning town at night by Indians prowling 'round.
No roughs upon the rampage go, with frequent pistol shot,
There is no 'man for breakfast,' — no excitement raging hot.
Draw, draw the misty veil again o'er memory's passing show,
O'er scenes so vivid to our sight — just forty years ago.
"Just forty years ago today, just forty years ago,
We keep repeating o'er and o'er, in dreamy mood and slow.
The words have such far distant sound 'tis hard to grasp their truth —
What's count of years to one whose heart claims kinship still to youth?
A truce to cheery sentiment, dissemble as we may,
They've left sure trace on form and face and streaked our locks with gray.
These be thy tell-tale marks, O Time! slight handicap as yet.
In busy life's unceasing round with duties must be met.
Most grateful we for needful strength that thou hast spared as such,
On mind and heart and senses all, hath laid so light a touch.
While golden dreams delusive prove, and wealth takes sudden wings,
The truest Joy that stirs the breast from faithful service springs.
More good than ill the years have brought, more happiness than woe.
And fate was kinder than we knew — just forty years ago."
While Mr. Greenleaf comes of New England ancestry, his genius has been developed in the west. His father, Gardner Greenleaf, was a New Englander, and his mother, who bore the maiden name of Rebecca J. Caldwell, was a native of Nova Scotia. For almost sixty years, however, he has been a resident of Colorado. Here, on the 30th of March, 1869, he was married to Miss Jennie S. Hammond, of Denver, and to them have been born three children, two sons and a daughter, all of whom are married and reside in other states. Mrs. Greenleaf is a daughter of Lorenzo R. Hammond, of Massachusetts, and came to Denver with her mother and stepfather, Martin Rollins, in 1860. The sons and daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Greenleaf are: Gardner, who was born in 1871 and is now in Chicago; Eugene Lawrence, who was born August 19, 1875, and is a magician, traveling with the Redpath Bureau and known as Eugene Laurant; and Rebecca Jane, who was born in 1877 and is the wife of Don R. Lewis, a merchant of Salt Lake City. Mr. and Mrs. Lawrence N. Greenleaf still make their home in Denver.
From the nature of his pursuits Mr. Greenleaf was disinclined to seek political office, but has always been a stalwart champion of the democratic party. He served on the board of education in School District, No. 1, for two terms, from 1885 until 1391. He and his family are attendants of the Episcopal church, and he is an honored member of the Colorado Pioneer Society and has been active in the Masonic fraternity for more than forty-six years, having presided over lodge, chapter, council and commandery, while in the grand bodies he has filled the offices of grand master, grand high priest and grand master of the Royal & Select Masters. He is a thirty-third degree Mason and was the deputy of the inspector general in Colorado, and he has presided over the various bodies of the Scottish Rite, yet all this comprises but a small part of the many positions he has filled. As merchant, as Mason, as editor and writer of prose and poetry, he has exerted a widely felt influence for progress, for advancement and for culture, and today, in the eightieth year of his age, he is one of the most honored and venerated citizens of Denver.