Current Interest: Historic Portrait Finds a Home

Bro. Gary Handy, KCCH, and Ill. H. Lloyd Wilkerson, 33°, Past Lt. Grand Commander and SGIG Emeritus in N.C.

March-April 2011

Photo: Left to right: Bro. Gary Handy, KCCH, and Ill. H. Lloyd Wilkerson, 33°, Past Lt. Grand Commander and SGIG Emeritus in N.C.

After nearly 100 years, the newly discovered and restored oil portrait of Ill. James Wakefield Cortland, 33°, SGIG in NC 1895–1914, was unveiled in the Valley of Greensboro, N.C. Greensboro is where the Cortland Lodge of Perfection was formed following his death while serving as SGIG in North Carolina. Ill. Cortland sat for this portrait in Asheville for the same artist who painted several members of the Vanderbilt (Biltmore) family around 1897. (The Biltmore house was opened in 1895.) The portrait was unveiled by Ill. H. Lloyd Wilkerson, 33°, Past Lt. Grand Commander and SGIG Emeritus in N.C., and Bro. Gary Handy, KCCH.

More than a year ago, the Valley of Asheville found in its attic a wood crate that contained an unidentified oil portrait that had been shipped to them in the 1970s from the Supreme Council in Washington. The portrait was badly damaged, but photos of it circulated in the Orient of North Carolina identified the subject to be Ill. Cortland, 33°, who had been a member of the Asheville Bodies and SGIG in North Carolina. Ill. E. John Elmore, 33°, Secretary of the Greensboro Bodies, produced a matching black and white photo for identification.

The combined fundraising efforts by the Knights of Saint Andrews in the Valleys of Asheville and Greensboro made possible this historic event. The Valley of Asheville was successful in locating an oil painting restoration artist who agreed to restore and clean the canvas. In the final agreement between the two bodies, since Asheville was moving to another facility, the original restored portrait would come to Greensboro and a copy would remain with the Asheville Bodies. Under the leadership of Bro. Gary Handy, KCCH, Knight Master of Greensboro KSA, a “JW Cortland Portrait Society” was formed seeking 50 donors of $33 each whose names would be placed on a portrait plaque. He was successful! The portrait is now on display in the Library of the Greensboro Masonic Temple.­


Ill. James Wakefield Cortland, 33°, Sovereign Grand Inspector General in North Carolina, 1895–1914

James W. Cortland was born in Baltimore, Maryland on January 6, 1846. He was educated in Dresden, Germany, in the Polytechnical School at Troy, New York, and at the Royal Academy of Mines at Freiberg, Germany. He was listed as a “planter” when he resided in Asheville, N. C.

Bro. Cortland was made a Mason in Concordia Lodge, Baltimore in 1867. He held many Masonic offices in various Masonic bodies in Baltimore until 1871 when ”throat trouble” caused him issues and he moved to Hendersonville, N.C. He affiliated with Kedron Lodge in 1884 and became its first elected Master. In 1886 he moved to Asheville, N.C. He moved his Masonic membership to Asheville Lodge and became its first elected Master in 1887. He became a Master of the Royal Secret December 22, 1869, in Baltimore, Maryland, and joined the Royal Order of Scotland in 1892. He was coroneted an Inspector General Honorary on October 19, 1893, and was crowned an active member of the Supreme Council on October 23, 1895. He served in this capacity until his death on May 9, 1914, while on a trip to Baltimore, Maryland. There was no immediate family as he was a life-long bachelor.

His portrait was presented to him around 1897 and was on display at the House of the Temple In Washington DC until the 1960s.

—Submitted by H. Lloyd Wilkerson, 33°, SGIG Emeritus