The View from Puncheon Creek: Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine

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We’ve all seen them at parades and events dressed in Arab garb putting on a show. They are funny, they are comical in their little cars and scooters or marching to their Arabic music. But few of us really know anything about them.

What they do or why they do it. We know they run a hospital for children but for the most part we don’t understand how the hospital works. I have often wondered myself but never took the time to research who they were, why they were, or what they do. A recent guest, Jimmy Kinney of the Ashland Temple, gave a presentation at our Kiwanis meeting which revved up my interest. 

First let’s take a look at how it all got started. The Mystic Shrine now known as Shriners International grew out of the Freemasonry and one must be a Freemason to become a Shriner. In 1870 a group of Freemasons was gathered in New York. It was at their dinner that the idea of a new fraternity based on brotherly love, relief, and truth. The organization would stress comradery and fun. Two men, Walter M. Fleming, M.D., and William J. Florence, took the idea seriously. Walter would give several performances in Egypt where he developed the ideas for the fraternity and presented them to William, who took the ideas and converted them into what would become Shriners International. The group would adopt an Arabic theme, thus the garb you see them wear today. The group is organized into temples headed by potentate. The temples are now commonly called Shrine Auditoriums. 

The Imperial Session of the Shriners was held in Portland, Oregon in 1920, at which session the membership unanimously passed a resolution creating the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children System, opening the first hospital in 1922. Today the Shriners Hospital for Children is part of the Mayo Clinic Hospital System and provides free care to any child under 18 years of age with these conditions   ORTHOPAEDICS, BURN CARE, CLEFT LIP AND PALATE, SPINAL CORD INJURY regardless of financial status. No child is ever turned away. If they can’t help the child they will arrange for treatment at a facility that can. The Shriners are treating over 70 patients from Magoffin County as I write this. They would like to have more children from Magoffin County take advantage of their service. I want to stress that the services they provide are always free to any child in need. 

If you have or know of a child with a medical need contact the Shriners Hospital for Children Orthopedics in Lexington, Kentucky at 859-268-5675 or 800-444-8314. For burn victims, Cleft Lip & palate contact the Shriners Hospital for Children in Cincinnati at 513-872-6000 or 800-875-8580. For emergencies call 866-947-7840. For general information,

So the next time you see the Shriners having fun in a parade remember there is a serious side to what they do. Offer them your thanks and your support. They are truly worthy of all our admiration. 


Art by Erin Alise Conley