ETWG First Chapter Book Awards: Quite Curious by Sara Marie Hogg


Quite Curious by Sara Marie Hogg is a Finalist in the Nonfiction/Memoir category of Published Books for the East Texas Writers Guild First Chapter Book Awards.

QUITE CURIOUS is a collection of the unexplained mysteries around us, written as narrative nonfiction stories. Some are written from the perspective of “flies on the wall.”


Award-Winning First Chapter

A Masonic Mystery

Robert and Nicky had just been inducted into the Order of the DeMolay.

“I hope we can become Masons one day, don’t you, Robert?” Nicky asked his lifelong friend.

“Of course. Just like our fathers before us.” The two twelve year olds were fascinated by the rituals and mystery of these fraternal orders. They searched books for some of the strange tales connected with them, and one of their favorites concerned Colonel John McKinstry and Joseph Brant. This is what they had learned.

Freemasonry is shrouded in secrecy and mysticism. In early America, the Masonic brotherhood would grow to include our finest patriots, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, John Hancock, Paul Revere, and John Paul Jones. Lafayette, the French fighter for American democracy, was encouraged into the brotherhood by George Washington, himself. George preferred fellow Masons for his officers because he felt they had the same noble beliefs. It was a quick way to separate the wheat from the chaff, a reliable shortcut. Over time, many found that the bonds of Masonic brotherhood often eclipsed any other loyalties.

There is an unbelievable tale from Masonic lore that is probable, a tale that has been handed down, but like many handed-down tales, its truth has not been verified.

During the American Revolution, the British cultivated allegiances with Native American tribes. The colonists were considered a common enemy. It is a fact that Colonel John McKinstry was an American officer captured by Indian allies of the British, Mohawks.

It is also known that McKinstry was a brave man, but naturally he could not help experiencing anxiety as he was bound to a tree by the Mohawks who captured him, and preparations were made to burn him alive. The fire was lit, and flames shot up and were singeing his legs. He was sure to die a horrible death. Who knows what possessed him to use a universal Masonic signal for help, a secret signal known only to members of the brotherhood. There were certainly no Masons nearby who could help him. It was a desperate move. Perhaps he was delirious.

McKinstry was, no doubt, suffering from pain and smoke inhalation by this time, his moments on earth growing shorter, when the execution was immediately halted by one of his Mohawk captors. He had recognized the Masonic signal. The man who stepped forward to halt the execution was Joseph Brant, a Mohawk chief who had spent some time in Europe—part of it on his own education—and was initiated onto the Masonic craft there. Brant had returned to North America and his tribe, but he retained his Masonic loyalty.

After stopping the execution, Brant handed McKinstry over to British Masons, who took MeKinstry to an American outpost. Both Brant, and the British Masons, held their Masonic allegiance in higher regard than their loyalty to their country or tribe.

Joseph Brant, born in March of 1743, was known among his people as Thayendanegea (“two wagers”). His birthplace was Ohio Country, somewhere along the Cuyahoga River. During the American Revolutionary War, he led Mohawk and colonial Loyalists to the Crown against rebel colonists on the New York frontier. He was given the name Monster Brant because of accusations that he committed atrocities. These charges were later proven false and, after the war, he remained a leader of his people and was highly involved in their affairs.

He died on November 24, 1807 (age 64) in what is now Burlington, Ontario. He professed to be Anglican in religion and was known to have shown compassion numerous occasions. Perhaps one of those occasions involved Colonel McKinstry.

“Ma, may I go? Please!” Sarah Sue Handley was itching to go to Denver with her pa. It was the kind of thing a fourteen-year old girl living during the second term of President Ulysses S. Grant would love to do.   It would give her something to look forward to. There was eventual marriage, a place of her own, a family–someday. Years between this stage of adolescence and those events would be sparse with excitement and she knew it.

“Well girl,” her mother, Sally answered, “we have all these things to put up, peas to shell, leather-britches-beans to crock, berries to can, corn to shuck. Your pa and Mr. Hanebrink will be off looking at livestock. What will you and Ginny do with yourselves?”

“You could give me a list of things to get at the mercantile.”

“I don’t think your pa and Mr. Hanebrink are going to want two young-uns along.”

“I’ll get everything, here, done. I promise. Will you ask Pa? Please, Ma. Please!”

Mrs. Handley frowned. “You know how he is, but I do need some things that he is not real good at picking out for me.”

Nehemiah, Sarah Sue’s little brother began wheezing. Mrs. Handley looked over by the stone fireplace where he sat. She gazed at him with an agony that only a mother could feel. She said to Sarah Sue under her breath, “He gets weaker and weaker, paler and paler. He’s slipping away from us.”

“Don’t say that Ma!”

“No doctor could ever tell us what is wrong with him. He is a weak and sickly child. It causes a deep ache in my heart.”

“I know, Ma. It’s not right. I would trade places with him if I could.”

“Hush, child.”

Somehow her pa was convinced. Lucas Handley and John Henry Hanebrink climbed up onto the seat of the buckboard. Sarah Sue and Ginny made themselves comfortable for the ride, in the back. .

“You brought more peas to shell and I brought some pillowcases to overcast,” Ginny Hanebrink said, as they began the seven miles from Cherry Creek Settlement, to Denver.

.   “Okay girls, you get the things for your mas at the mercantile, then go into the Cornflower Café.” Mr. Handley reached into his pocket and handed Sarah Sue some money for a meal, “and wait there for us to return. Don’t go anywhere else, now. We will come as soon as we can.”

“Yes, Pa.”

As the buckboard pulled away, Sarah Sue asked Ginny, “Why are you bringing those pillowcases with you?”

“I want to try to match some thread on them, but the true reason is because I thought they would be the right size to carry our goods in, when we buy them, don’t you think?”

“Why, yes.”

The girls scurried into the mercantile for a long time of looking at the wondrous wares. Their investigation was interrupted by a voice.

“Where are you ladies going, now?” Sarah Sue and Ginny turned to see a kindly clerk inquiring this of four women who had just purchased bottles of violet water.


The clerk nodded. “Oh yes, The Healer. We make more money when he is in town.”

The two curious girls suspended their browsing and followed the women out the front door. They caught up with the friendly group of women whose high-top shoes making

clicks and clomps on the boardwalk. Two of the ladies turned around. “Pardon me, ma’am!” Sarah Sue called out. “Where is The Healer going to be? What does he do?”

The youngest of the ladies replied, “He is Francis Schlatter. He prays over the sick or injured and heals them of any infirmities, no matter how serious.”

“He performs miracles!” The second lady added. “People gather down there, where the street ends.” She pointed. “You will find a throng of people waiting to see him. Follow the sound of people’s voices.”

“Does it cost anything?” Ginny asked.

“Why, no,” the lady answered.

Sarah Sue and Ginny hurried back into the mercantile and took care to purchase the items their mothers requested. They fitted them into the pillowcases.

“Do you think we could go? To see The Healer? It is a big event.” Sarah Sue asked.

“We were told not to go anywhere but the mercantile and the café, but I want to go.”

“Do you think our pas would know?”

“If we are careful, they wouldn’t know. How would they know?”

The two girls headed up the street. As they neared the sound of the voices, they tried to worm their way closer to the front of the gathering. People had their eyes fixed on a man elevated on a platform. He turned.

“He looks like Jesus!” Ginny exclaimed to Sarah Sue in a whisper. The man leapt from the platform and grasped the hands of a crippled man. “Our Father, who art in heaven…” The healer recited the Lord’s Prayer. His glistening eyes gazed toward heaven. The girls stood transfixed.

“He is healed!” A man nearby shouted.


“He is healed. Thank you, Lord.”


“Hallelujah! The stricken is healed!” The crowd continued chanting. Women all about swooned and collapsed.

“It’s a miracle! Amen! Hallelujah! Let him through, to tend to our fallen sisters. Let him pass! Amen!”

The girls were astounded when The Healer walked about in the crowd and laid his hands on the fallen women and they came to, immediately, and got to their feet, with the help of others. He then went through a line of afflicted people, and again grasped their hands and recited the Lord’s Prayer, in a thick accent. He did look like Jesus—and the afflicted professed to be instantly healed of their ailments.

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