By: McDonald "Don" L. Burbidge,   33°

Ill. Isaac Auld was not only a notable Freemason in Charleston, South Carolina, at the turn of the 19th Century but also a large landowner, experimental  botanist, and well-known doctor.  

Photo: No image, except a silhouette portrait, exists  of Ill. Isaac Auld. However the noted painter, Ill. John D. Melius, 33°, recently  created the above image of Auld based on the original silhouette portrait and other historical sources.

Dr. Frederick Dalcho, himself a Founding Member of the Supreme Council on May 31, 1801, asked his friend and medical associate Isaac Auld to become the seventh member of the newly fledged Masonic Body. Auld readily accepted on January 10, 1802.

Isaac Auld was born on February 25, 1770, in Norristown, Pennsylvania, to Jacob and Lydia Auld who were of Scottish decent. His father, a Mason, was a member of "Old Lodge No. 8" in Pennsylvania, a soldier in the Sixth Battalion of the Keystone State during the Revolutionary War, and a large landowner, eventually leaving his 1,200-acre estate in Pennsylvania to his son. In addition, Isaac Auld acquired a 1,100-acre plantation on Edisto Island, near Charleston. There he grew several crops and experimented with various types of plants, especially the growth of an improved form of long-staple cotton.

In addition, Ill. Auld had a medical career and was a prominent member of Charleston society when he met and married a local belle, Miss Frances Miot, on February 8, 1798. Dennis Isaac Auld, who is a living descendant of Isaac Auld, states it was a case of love at first sight: "Isaac had just returned from the Dominican Republic and was attending a play at the Dock Street Theater. Upon walking up the steps, he looked over and saw Miss Frances Miot who was with her father. Isaac asked his friend who she was and also informed his friend that he was going to marry her, and he later did."

On April 1, 1801, Dr. Auld was elected the 65th member of the South Carolina Medical Society, three months before Dr. Frederick Dalcho, who became the 66th member. Moses Holbrook, who was to become a Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, was the 145th member of the society. A book titled People and Professions of Charleston, South Carolina for the year 1782–1802 states: "Dalcho & Auld, Apothecaries, 132 East Bay Street." Together, Ill. Dalcho and Auld also operated a doctor's office on Meeting Street. The register states physicians equaled 2% of the Charleston population at that time. Drs. Dalcho and Auld were within a few months of being the same age, and the two men had a number of mutual interests that drew them together. They both were members of the same Sublime Grand Lodge of Perfection in Charleston along with John Mitchell who was the Founding Father of the Supreme Council in 1801. The Lodge's register of 1802 shows Isaac Auld as Senior Warden of this Lodge of Perfection, the third principal officer under John Mitchell and Frederick Dalcho.

Active in many civic affairs, Ill. Bros. Auld and Dalcho helped establish Charleston's first "Botanic Garden," which was funded by the Medical Society of Charleston and located on the northwest corner of Meeting and Columbus Streets. In the Charleston Courier of August 8, 1805, an ad by the Medical Society informed the public of the garden's purpose. It reads: "Innumerable are the advantages which will result from this establishment. It will induce in young persons, a taste for the studies of Nature. The structure of a feather or flower is more likely to impress their minds with a just notion of infinite power and wisdom, than the most profound discourses on such abstract subjects, as are beyond the limits of their capacity to comprehend. Botany is a branch of natural history that possesses many advantages; it contributes to health of body, and cheerfulness of disposition, by presenting an inducement to take air and exercise—it is adapted to the simplest capacity, which renders it attainable to every rank in life."

In addition to farming, medicine and botany, Ill. Auld must have had an interest in music since it is noted that following an Oration by Ill. Frederick Dalcho, as its Grand Master, to the "Sublime Grand Lodge of South Carolina" meeting in Charleston on March 21, 1803, two songs were sung. The first, written by Bro. Thomas Dunckerly, was titled "Anthem I"; the second, "Anthem II," was composed by Ill. Auld. Only the words to these two songs have survived.

In 1824, Ill. Auld built a home and practiced medicine on Edingsville Island, located off Edisto Beach about 70 miles from Charleston. Established that same year, Edingsville Island was used by well-to-do Charlestonians who sought to escape the summer heat and disease-carrying mosquitoes of the city. At that time, the island had more than 50 buildings, including two churches and a school.

Dr. Auld's name appeared less frequently in the minutes of the South Carolina Medical Society over the years, indicating he was withdrawing more and more from Charleston, confining his practice and other activities to Edisto. His fame as a physician, however, was extending beyond South Carolina during this time, as evidenced in the faculty minutes of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York City, April 7, 1820. The faculty minutes state: The college took up the consideration of the testimonials in behalf of the character of Isaac Auld, a practitioner of medicine in South Carolina, and after some time spent thereon, On Motion, it was resolved that the Isaac Auld be recommended to the Honorable Regents of the University as a person eminently qualified to receive the degree of Doctor of Medicine in the College.

Past research and family records provide no proof that Isaac Auld ever received a Doctor's Degree prior to this stated intention by the faculty of the College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, New York City. It is assumed that Auld studied under a doctor in Pennsylvania and might have received a letter of intent from this doctor indicating that he was competent to practice medicine. In those days, this was an acceptable way to become a medical practitioner.

In February 1822, Dr. Frederick Dalcho resigned from his post as Grand Commander. Upon Ill. Dalcho's resignation, Dr. Auld issued new Letters of Constitution for the Council of Princes of Jerusalem at Charleston, inactive since the fire of 1819. It was issued to Illustrious Brothers Moses Holbrook, Horatio Gates Street, Alexander McDonald, Robert Carr, and Joseph McCosh. This action was not only to reactivate the Council but also to regularize a group of Masons who had helped the Supreme Council. Dr. Auld signed this document as Acting Grand Commander, and it was signed also by Dr. James Moultrie as Acting Lieutenant Grand Commander, and by Moses Clava Levy as the Treasurer General.

Under the administration of Grand Commander Auld, the Supreme Council at Charleston turned its attention to several important matters. For example, Dr. Holbrook discovered that John Fowler, of Ireland, had written to Dalcho expressing a desire to open a Supreme Council in Ireland. Bro. Holbrook responded and Fowler wrote back that he was still interested, but also noted that since the Grand Duke of Leinster, the Grand Master of Freemasons of Ireland, had appointed him his Deputy Grand Master, he thought it proper to appoint the Grand Duke in his stead. John Fowler also suggested that he be granted the title of Lieutenant General of the Grand Commander instead. Fowler's suggestion was carried out with the necessary documents. During a meeting on August 13, 1824, the Supreme Council issued "Letters Patent" naming the Duke of Leinster as Grand Commander for Ireland.

One cold fall day in 1826, a friend of Dr. Auld, a Mr. Hardy from Pennsylvania, was visiting him at his Edingsville Island residence. As Dr. Auld showed Mr. Hardy his plantation, they were caught in a very heavy rain. Chilled to the bone, both contracted what was then known as "country fever." Dr. Auld died on October 17, 1826, and Mr. Hardy died shortly thereafter. Isaac Auld was buried on his Edisto Island land, but his gravesite is now lost due to hurricanes in the mid and late 1800s which washed away many cemeteries and buildings. Dr. Isaac Auld was the last of the original "Eleven Gentleman of Charleston" to hold an office in the Supreme Council. The next Grand Commander, Ill. Moses Holbrook, was not a member of the original eleven Founders.

We are fortunate that Fred, Bobbie, and Dennis Auld, descendants of Isaac Auld, have agreed to loan the Scottish Rite some of Brother Auld's personal belongings for the Scottish Rite's bicentennial anniversary. The celebration will be held in Charleston, South Carolina, September 30–October 3, 2001. The articles to be displayed are a pocket watch that belonged to Jacob Auld that he passed on to his son Isaac Auld. This pocket watch, still in working condition, has been passed from father to son for many generations. Along with the watch, will be the mortar and pestle Ill. Auld used to mix medicine when he was a doctor both in Charleston and Edisto Island.

Reprinted with permission of the Scottish Rite Journal, October, 2000



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