Stolen Civil War artifacts set to return to Louisiana
GREENSBURG - More than 150 years ago pure silver Masonic officers' jewels went missing from the St. Helena Lodge No. 96.
During the Civil War a Union cavalry regiment from Illinois pillaged the artifacts. Then the items were passed around to family members and ended up at a lodge in California. Now Masons from Escondido, California, just north of San Diego, will travel more than 1800 miles to get to St. Helena Parish to bring the items back to where they belong.
St. Helena lodge master Chuck Coburn says the artifacts are invaluable to the Masons in Greensburg.
"You know if you were going to have them appraised I don't know what the price would be, irregardless of that it's like a family heirloom," he said. "Those things are like immeasurable. You don't put a price on them. It's something that you're just tickled to death to have and you're proud to show them off."
A historic note left with the items explained that the jewels were stolen. Masons in California used the internet to track down the St. Helena lodge.
"If it was stolen from a lodge, the significance of the jewels is obvious to all of us in that they should go back to their original owners. They're sort of not whole without these jewels," said California Mason George Tegart.
Tegart says the artifacts were donated to Consuelo Lodge No. 325 in Escondido, California by Brother Earl Evans and Barbara Evans. Coburn says the items will return to Louisiana in August.
"It's a real great feeling. It's like getting an old family heirloom that's been missing forever and all of a sudden you found it in the attic," he said.
Both lodges plan to hold a Civil War-era reenactment ceremony to present the Masonic jewels in Greensburg on Aug. 21.