Richard Joseph NUNN was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn at its Isis-Urania temple in October 1889, taking the Latin motto ĎFortiter in reí.At his initiation his address was York Street, Savannah, Georgia USA and he wasnít an active member of the GD.




Richard Joseph Nunn appears on several US censuses; always as someone born in Wexford in Ireland.A variety of genealogical sources show men called Nunn as prominent in the county from the 17th century.†† One family in particular, the Nunns of St Margaretís Wexford, can be traced from 1675 to the mid-19th century.Perhaps Richard Joseph was a member of that family.I canít be more precise, however, as I havenít found any birth information about him other than what appears in those US censuses; and in his obituaries.



Richard Nunn was born in Wexford in December 1831.In his late teens he began to train as a doctor, spending time learning in both London and Dublin.Half-way through the process, he emigrated to Georgia USA.He finished his training at Savannah Medical College, graduating in 1854 and settling down to general practice in the city.


Richard Nunn spent almost all the rest of his life in Savannah, and came to identify strongly with his new home.During the US Civil War he served with Confederate Army in the Oglethorpe Siege Artillery, rising to the rank of captain before his health broke down and he had to quit active service.He returned to Savannah and judged himself well enough to continue his GP practice, but he had periods of ill-health, when he could not work, throughout the rest of his life.


He had gone abroad in search of better health in 1875 and was travelling in Europe when news reached him in the summer of 1876 of an outbreak of yellow fever in Savannah following very severe rains.He returned home to help with this very serious epidemic, which continued into the autumn.As the number of cases mounted, one doctor recorded that he was having to make 100 house-calls each day.Several of the medical volunteers caught the disease from their patients and died, but Richard Nunn was lucky, and survived.


By the end of the century Richard Nunn had been a physician for over 40 years.However, he was not resting on his laurels and was keen to try a few new ideas in his treatment of some patients.He joined American Electro-therapeutic Association - he may even have been one of its founders - and at its 1906 annual meeting he took part in the discussion which followed the reading of one of the papers.He described his use of two new techniques: cataphoresis - the use of electricity to force medicinal substances through living tissue; and the Roentgen (or RŲntgen) Ray - an early form of radio-therapy using X-rays.He served as the Associationís treasurer from 1903 to 1907 but I think that around that time, his health began to fail again, this time permanently.He died in June 1910 after a year of severe illness, and is buried in Savannahís Bonaventure Cemetery.



Richard Nunn appears on the 1880 US Census as a married man.This might be a mistake, though, as in all the census information I could find, he is never shown as living with a family; and the Will he made is not the Will of a man with a wife or children to provide for.The Will set up aTrust Fund to make donations to a list of Savannah charities, including a freemasonsí lodge, a girlsí orphanage and the YWCA.††



Richard Nunn was an active freemason within the state of Georgia.By 1889 he was a member of 15 lodges and three chapters and had served his year as the lodgeís most senior officer in all of them - an extraordinary level of commitment.


Nunn was one of the prime movers in bringing the Scottish Rite to Georgia.He helped to explain how it worked to his fellow freemasons in 1882, did a great deal to popularise it in the state over the next few years, and in 1888 he was elected the stateís Sovereign Grand Inspector General.The first lodge to use the Scottish Rite in Georgia was its Alpha Lodge of Perfection, whose charter is dated 17 October 1888.I canít prove that Richard Nunn was a member of that lodge but given his importance, surely he must have been.


This paragraph on the Scottish Rite is one Iíve also used in my biography of Alpheus Butts Simmons, trying to explain why the Scottish Rite held such a fascination for English freemasons in the late 19th century.Itís my paraphrase of the detailed wikipedia page on the subject.Influential books in the 18th and 19th centuries had claimed that Charles II, James II and James IIís son the Old Pretender had all been initiated into the Rite in their exiles.Thereís no historical evidence for the claims, but they gave the Rite a romantic and dramatic aura; and as the centuries passed, the Catholicism of the Stuarts, and (in Great Britain at least) the treasonable political leanings of those who succombed to their glamour, faded away.Such historical evidence as there is shows the Rite starting out in mid-18th century France before travelling via the West Indies and New Orleans to the southern states of America.It was codified at a conference held in May 1801 in Charleston, South Carolina, when the 33 degrees of which it currently consists were established, and a hierarchy set up to rule the lodges who used it.The Rite thus constituted then travelled back across the Atlantic and into Europe.Though the Rite has never been recognised by English freemasonryís governing body, the United Grand Lodge of England, individual members of English lodges are allowed to get involved with lodges that use the Rite, if they choose.



It was Richard Nunnís involvement in freemasonry which led him to being offered initiation as a member of the GD and I do think that the fact that he knew a great deal about the Scottish Rite was a decisive factor.In the autumn of 1889 Nunn made a trip to England, and as freemasons do (itís part of what being a freemason is for) he came armed with introductions to freemasons here, and attended a number of lodge meetings.One of Nunnís introductions was probably to William Wynn Westcott, a founder of the GD and member of many freemasonsí organisations.It was an accepted thing in freemasonry to compliment senior freemasons, and gain their good will, by initiating them into your lodge.I think thatís what happened with Richard Nunn and the GD: both sides of the deal probably understood it as a nominal membership only, and Nunn may never have attended another meeting after his GD initiation.


It was almost certainly Westcott who arranged for Richard Nunn to become a corresponding member of Quatuor Coronati lodge, number 2076: Nunn was present at its November 1889 meeting.As a corresponding member, Nunn wouldnít have been expected to be able to go to lodge meetings; he would also have no right to take any part in the election of lodge officers.However, he would receive copies of the lodgeís journal.Quatuor Coronati lodge had been founded in the mid-1880s, with the intention of providing a forum for freemasons interested in the history and symbolism of the Craft.The members of Quatuor Coronati were delighted, I should imagine, to have at one meeting someone who knew so much about the Scottish Rite.Nunn, too, will have been pleased at being put in touch with so many freemasons who were interested in the history of the modern rituals: one of Nunnís obituaries mentions that he published several works on freemasonry, although Iíve only been able to find one book myself.

Richard Nunn was also a very senior member of the Georgia Knights Templar, an order within freemasonry which claimed to be based on rituals passed down in secret from the medieval Knights Templar military order.The GDís A E Waite saw the contemporary Knights Templar as bringing together medieval chivalry and an active Christian commitment and perhaps Richard Nunn also saw the Order in that way.Nunn didnít live quite long enough to be present at the first annual conclave of the Georgia Knights Templar - it took place in the year of his death.However, before that time he had served as a Grand Commander of the Order in Georgia.William Wynn Westcott was of course a member of the Knights Templar in England.



Nunn may not have come to England all that often but at least during the 1890s he kept in touch with people here.In January 1895 he appeared in a list of people who were regular readers of W T Steadís magazine Borderland, a kind of news digest of developments in the occult.People on that list may have been more than mere subscribers to the magazine: they were called members of ďOur CirclesĒ.They were listed by country or county, and though some were denoted only by a number, others had allowed their names and addresses to be given, so that other circle members could get in touch and perhaps arrange to meet.William Wynn Westcott was also on the list - perhaps he had told Richard Nunn about the new magazine.Borderland was not a financial success; it was published between 1893 and 1897 before being forced to close down.There were other British-based occult magazines to try, though - the spiritualist magazine Light, for example; perhaps Richard Nunn was able to read those.



Iím pretty sure that it was his connection with Richard Nunn that led to Alpheus Butts Simmons being initiated into the GD in 1894, probably during exactly that kind of trip to England that Nunn had made in 1889.Although Nunn was a generation older than Simmons (Simmons was born in 1864) they were united both by their profession and by their involvement in freemasonry.Like Richard Nunn, Alpheus Butts Simmons was a medical practitioner working in Savannah Georgia; and like Nunn, Simmons was a member of the American Electro-therapeutic Association so they were both using that kind of new technique.On the freemasonry side they had a lot in common.Though I canít prove it, I believe that one of the 15 lodges that Nunn was a member of was the Zerubbabel Lodge of Savannah; it was one of the organisations he wanted to benefit from the trust fund he set up in his Will.Simmons was also a member of the Savannah-based ldoge Zerubbabel Lodge number 15 and served as its Worshipful Master twice.Simmons was definitely in Georgiaís Scottish Rite lodge, the Alpha Lodge of Perfection, which Iím sure Nunn was a member of as well.Those are close links between the two men, but thereís more to link them: Simmons was also a member of the Georgia Knights Templar, and it occurs to me that perhaps Simmons might even have been a kind of freemason protťgť of Nunnís.Certainly, when Simmons was preparing for his 1894 visit to England, Nunn was happy to supply letters of introduction to the people he himself had met there a few years before.



BASIC SOURCES I USED for all Golden Dawn members:


Membership of the Golden Dawn: The Golden Dawn Companion by R A Gilbert.Northampton: The Aquarian Press 1986.Between pages 125 and 175, Gilbert lists the names, initiation dates and addresses of all those people who became members of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn or its many daughter Orders between 1888 and 1914.The list is based on the Golden Dawnís administrative records and its Membersí Roll - the large piece of parchment on which all new members signed their name at their initiation.All this information had been inherited by Gilbert but itís now in the Freemasonsí Library at the United Grand Lodge of England building on Great Queen Street Covent Garden.


Family history: freebmd; (census and probate);; familysearch; Burkeís Peerage and Baronetage; Burkeís Landed Gentry; Armorial Families;; and a variety of one-family genealogy websites.


Famous-people sources: mostly about men, of course, but very useful even for the female members of GD.Oxford Dictionary of National Biography.Who Was Who. Times Digital Archive.

Catalogues: British Library; Freemasonsí Library.


Wikipedia; Google; Google Books - my three best resources.I also used other web pages, but with some caution, as - from the historianís point of view - they vary in quality a great deal.





THEREíS A SHORT PROFILE OF HIM AT, the web page of the Georgia Historical Society.The web page also gives details of Nunnís WILL AND TRUST FUND - the Society still holds Nunnís papers though the Trust Fund was wound up in the 1970s.The money held in the trust fund was to be distributed as a regular income to these local organisations:

-†††††††††† Zerubbabel Lodge no 15

-†††††††††† the Board of Trustees of the Ancient and Accepted Rite

-†††††††††† the YWCA

-†††††††††† Savannah Female Orphan Asylum

-†††††††††† Society of the Cincinatti in the State of Georgia.



Burkeís The General Armory of England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales: people called Nunn and living in Wexford in the 17th century, seen via google.

Wikipedia: list of high sheriffs of Wexford.

Alumni Cantabrigiensis has Edward Westby Nunn of St Margaretís Wexford in it. Heís also in wikipediaís list of high sheriffs and looks about the right age (born 1819) to be an older brother of Richard Joseph Nunn, or perhaps a cousin.


NUNN ON THE US CENSUS in GEORGIA.All seen at Familysearch.

1860 GS film number 803115.

1880 GS film number 1254138.

1910 GS film number 1374191.



A detailed account of the 1876 yellow fever outbreak in Savannah, based on contemporary issues of the Savannah Morning News: see

Via to Science magazine, New Series volume XVIII number 459 1903.A report on the annual meeting of the American Electro-Therapeutic Assoc, held at Atlantic City New Jersey from 22 to 24 September 1903.

Transactions of the American Electro-therapeutic Association 1906 p5, p118.

Transactions of the American Electro-therapeutic Assoc 1907 p5.This was the last volume I was able to see on the web.


SOME DEATH NOTICES/OBITUARIES.None of them are very long and one gets his age at death wrong.

Journal of the American Medical Association 1910 volume 55 number 1 p235.

Proceedings of the American Institute of Electrical Engineers volume 29 numbers 7-12 1911 p1432.

Pharmacology magazine volume LV number 3 1910 p235.

Charlotte Medical Journal volume 62 July-December 1910 p9.


BURIAL: records originally from but seen at Familysearch: record ID 61889045.



Nunn was such an important figure in freemasonry in the state of Georgia that he has a lodge named after him.

Photo of him via, the Atlanta Masonic Library and Museum.

And also see his Will.


The New Age Magazine issued by the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry and published by its southern USA jurisdiction: volume 61 1953 p22.

Via Google to



Ars Quatuor Coronati 2076 Volume II 1889 unnumbered pages at end of the volume listing current full and corresponding members: [p17] as corresponding member number 510 and as a member of 15 lodges and three chapters.


THE ONE PUBLICATION IíVE BEEN ABLE TO FIND (September 2015): At the 2nd-hand bookshop, two copies of Nunnís The Building of a Rite privately printed in Savannah 1899.



General information:

The Secret Tradition in Freemasonry by A E Waite. London: Rider and Co 1937: pp305-310; p311; p321.

A E Waite: Selected Masonic Papers edited and with an introduction by Edward Dunning.Wellingborough: Thorson Publishing Groupís Aquarian Press 1988: p73, p97.


Proceedings of the Knights Templar (Masonic Order) Grand Commandery of Michigan issued 1911: p121, p125.



Borderland: A Quarterly Review and Index volume 2 1895.Editor W T Stead.Editorial office: Mowbray House Norfolk St London WC; publishing office 125 Fleet Street.Volume 2 number 7, issued January 1895 has the list: pp88-92.





21 September 2015

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