Mosaic Templars of America Grave Marker

I was thrilled this weekend to find a grave marker for a member of the Mosaic Templars of America, in Marshall, Texas.


The Mosaic Templars of America was an African American fraternal organization founded in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1882 and incorporated in 1883 by two former slaves, John E. Bush and Chester W. Keatts.mosaic-templars-john-bush-chester-keatts

The organization was established to provide important services such as burial insurance and life insurance to the African American community. Like many fraternal organizations, the Mosaic Templars’ burial insurance policies covered funeral expenses for members, both men and women, who maintained monthly dues.

By 1913, the burial insurance policy also included a Vermont marble marker. These markers are still found in cemeteries across Arkansas and other states. As membership grew, the Mosaic Templars expanded its operations to inclumt_img_endowmentdeptde a newspaper, hospital, and building and loan association. The organization attracted thousands of members and built a complex of three buildings at the corner of West Ninth Street and Broadway in Little Rock, Arkansas. The National Grand Temple, the Annex, and the State Temple were completed in 1913, 1918 and 1921, respectively.

Photo of the Mosaic Templar’s Endowment Office staff from the History of the Mosaic Templars of America and Its Founders and Officials.
Courtesy Special Collections, University of Arkansas Libraries, Fayetteville.

A blank Mosaic Templars of America [MTA] Monument Claim Form.  In order for a deceaMTCC2013.01.004-MTAMC.jpgsed MTA member to receive an MTA marker, local chapter officers had to complete and sign the monument claim form to verify that the deceased MTA member had paid all dues and fees, and confirm that the deceased was a member in good standing.  They also had to submit the member’s information that was to be placed on the marker, and had to provide a delivery address for the completed marker.

According to their official 1924 history, the MTA authorized a Monument Department as early as 1911 to provide markers to its deceased members. Operations were managed by the state jurisdictions until 1914, when the MTA created a national Monument Department to centralize operations and cut costs. Members paid an annual tax to finance the department, and were promised a marble marker.

A traditional MTA marker had a rounded and forward-sloping top, with the MTA symbol cut into the top center. The name of the deceased member was carved below the symbol, with dates of birth (if known) and death. The name of the local chapter, the chapter number and the city where the chapter was located could be found on the bottom. MTA markers issued by the Modern Mosaic Templars of America appear exactly as the MTA markers except with the word “Modern” carved just above the MTA logo. The dimensions of the markers generally measured twenty-five to twenty-nine inches in height, fifteen to seventeen inches in width, and three to five inches in depth.

The name of the organization, taken from the Biblical figure Moses who emancipated Hebrew slaves, elected the Templars ideals of love, charity, protection, and brotherhood. The organization was originally called “The Order of Moses,” but the founders revised the name to “Mosaic Templars of America” in 1883 during the incorporation process. Modeled after the United States government, the organization consisted of an executive branch, a legislative branch, and even a judicial branch.

Members of fraternal organizations often wore badges as a proof of membership, and the badges of this organization displayed several symbols of tScreen Shot 2017-11-06 at 9.55.25 AMhe Mosaic Templars. The letters “M,” “T” and “A” denote the Mosaic Templars of America. The two crossed shepherd staffs in the center represent MoseMTCC2004.01.01_MTAbdge.jpgs and Aaron and Exodus story from the Bible. The “3v’s” abbreviates the Latin phrase “Veni Vidi Vici,” meaning “I came, I saw, I conquered.” Finally an ouroboros (snake eating its tail), representing the cyclical nature of life surrounding the symbol.
In July 1930, the Mosaic Templars of America went into receivership.

The organization struggled to regain its status, but by the end the decade it had ceased operations in Arkansas.


But I want to also share a bit about Amy since it is her grave marker, after all.

She was born in Tennessee in 1864, to Abner Dollis and Celia Bloodsworth Dollis.

By the time she was 25, in 1890, she was working as a live-in cook in the home of Sheriff William Poland and his family. 

Just ten years later she had married, and was the widow of, “John” whose last name was not listed in the city directory. She had a two-year -old daughter named Cely, who was obviously named for Amy’s mother.

By 1912 she supported her daughter by working as a “washerwoman,” and lived at 805 Riptoe Street in Marshall, where only a couple of older homes still stand. 

Her death certificate lists her father as Abner Dollis, and her cause of death by apoplexy (the term commonly used for a stroke).

Her daughter Pearl (this was possibly a middle name for Cely), a public school teacher, married Rufus Brown. In 1910, the couple was living with Amy in her home.

Amy died of apoplexy (a term commonly used for stroke), in 1928.

Amy Dollis’ marker, the one I spotted in Marshall, is not in the database being created by the curator of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center at this time, so I was thrilled to be able to share the find with them.

MTCC_logo_CMYK-HORIZWhen you’re in Little Rock, visit the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center museum at 501 West Ninth Street downtown.





4 thoughts on “Mosaic Templars of America Grave Marker

  1. EVAN R. STROHL says:

    Good Evening!
    I am 77 y.o. and live in Pensacola, FL. (actually the suburb of Cantonment, FL)

    About 1980, I was particularly interested in Cemeteries and Headstones, as I began the search for my ancestors, who actually, all came from the New York and New Jersey area.

    I quickly realized back then, that CEMETERIES were actually one of the more useful pieces of information in this hobby. With that, I organized a small group of hearty members of our recently formed West Florida Genealogy Society, and we began surveying our local cemeteries, beginning about 1982. Within a short time, we had found most of them—in our
    Escambia County, FL.

    About 10 years later, our small, but rugged team of men and women had MOST of the job done—listing about 120 cemeteries at last count.

    One of the more fascinating aspects for ME, was the “gravestone art”—; then, trying to connect the various SYMBOLS or LETTERS to their appropriate organizations!! We FOUND on the TWO (2) specimens in OUR county of Escambia Co, and one more, I believe, in Santa Rosa County, next door to us.
    The letters “MTA” were found on these stones..

    The years went by, and I “let go” of trying to identify these.
    Our group was NEVER able to identify these—–

    And, I just “filed them away” in in the Cemetery File Cabinet!

    Here we are, 20 or 30 years later, and a very bright young genealogist, who JUST HAPPENS to volunteer for Find-A-Grave, joined our group recently, and it didn’t take her long to find those etchings in our files, and looked them up on the Internet.
    She couldn’t wait to SHOW me what the M T A “stood for!”
    WOW, and now I pulled up your website, again, and I noticed that you might be interested in the location of these two or three, that we found, years ago!! Or pics, or information.

    Just letting you know.

    I’ve printed out the 9 pages from your Website, by Kathleen, and will file it in our Genealogy Library.

    Just wanted to share this FIND with you, from about 30 years ago, and I’m excited that I found your STORY, to put into our files, along with those headstone etchings—hopefully I can put my hands on them again!!!

    Yours truly,

    Evan R. Strohl
    1704 Condor Dr.
    Cantonment, FL 32533

    • admin says:

      This makes me so very happy! Thank you so much for sharing it with me. Yes, I’m definitely interested in finding the locations of more “MTA” markers. It’s amazing what we can accomplish together, isn’t it?

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