Nathaniel Greene Curtis was born February 8, 1826, on the banks of the beautiful Neuse River, Waite County, North Carolina. When a young man, before attaining his majority, he removed to Memphis, Tenn., from which place he emigrated to California, arriving in San Francisco and Sacramento in May, 1850, and in both of these cities he practiced his profession of attorney and counsellor at law, which he continued almost to the end of his life.
In 1853-54-55-56 he was elected to and filled the office of Recorder or Police Judge of Sacramento City. In June 1860, he was appointed by Gov. and Bro. John G. Downey Major-General commanding the Fourth Division of the National Guard of the State of California, and by his wisdom, good judgement and discretion he rendered most valuable and important patriotic service in preventing local hostilities from breaking out in his section of California during the War of the Rebellion and in maintaining peace.
It was during this exciting period that he was elected and served as Assemblyman from Sacramento County in the State Legislature during the twelfth session in 1861. He was then elected and re-elected State Senator from Sacramento County, and served in the seventeenth session of 1867-68, the eighteenth session in 1869-70, and in the twenty-second session of 1877-78, until the new constitution was adopted, when he declined further election and service. He continued in the practice of his profession in the law and acquired a competency, which rendered his contemplated retirement a matter of choice and his own volition.
The following is his Masonic record, and is without a parallel in Masonic history.
He was initiated an Entered Apprentice, February 17, 1846, in South Memphis Lodge No. 118, at South Memphis, Tenn. The record of his Lodge states: “On February 17, 1846, the degree of Entered Apprentice was conferred for the first time in the young Lodge, the candidates being Nathaniel Greene Curtis and John Patten, the East being filled by James Penn, PGM of Alabama.
Bro. Curtis was the first Fellow Craft passed and also the first Master Mason raised in the Lodge (March 23 and April 8, 1846, respectively) and proved excellent material, being honored with the office of Worshipful Master at the first election held under the charter, held in Hightown Hall, December 11, 1846. Bro. Curtis rendered the Order faithful service here until he removed to California. He served as Worshipful Master of this Lodge on 1847-48-49, and dimitted therefrom March 8, 1850.
He was initiated when but twenty years and nine days of age,
and elected Worshipful Master of that Lodge
one month and nineteen days before he was twenty-one years old,
having been the youngest Master of a Masonic Lodge on record.
Bro. Curtis affiliated with Washington Lodge, U.D., February 21, 1852, and was elected first regular Worshipful Master of the same under the charter as Washington Lodge No. 20, in Sacramento, California, May 13, 1852, and was re-elected Worshipful Master of the same in 1853-1854 and 1857, and remained a member of it until the end of life, a period of forty-five years, four months and twenty-one days.
He was elected RW Deputy Grande Master, May 8, 1854, and MW Grand Master of Masons of California in 1857-58-59-60 and laid the corner-stone of the State Capitol in Sacramento, that of the Masonic Temple in San Francisco, and many others during his long service of four consecutive terms as Grand Master.
He continuously served as Chairman of the Committee of Jurisprudence in the Grand Lodge of California, and he with the late Past Grand Master William Caldwell Belcher, were the two great pillars and the two tables of stone containing the Masonic law and the code of this Grand Jurisdiction. He was also the Grand Representative of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia near the Grand Lodge of California.
Brother Curtis was exalted a Royal Arch Mason in 1848 in Memphis Chapter in Memphis, Tenn., and dimitted in 1849, and became a charter member of Sacramento Chapter No. 3, in Sacramento, Cal., July 28, 1854, and of which he was a member until the end of life. He received the degrees of Royal and Select Masters in Sacramento Council No. 1, in Sacramento, and was a member when he died; received the Order of the Red Cross on July 7, 1853, and Knight Templar and Knight of Malta in June 21, 1854, in Sacramento Commandery No. 2 in Sacramento, Cal., of which he remained a member until death.
He was one of the founders of the Masonic Veteran Association of the Pacific Coast, on December 27, 2878, and was a life member.
He died at his residence in Sacramento on July 12, 1897, aged 71 years, 5 months and 4 days, mourned by his family and the entire State of California. The Grand Lodge of California conducted the funeral ceremonies, escorted by Sacramento Commandery of Knights Templar No. 2, Sacramento Royal Arch Chapter, and followed by Washington Lodge No. 20, and all the Craftsmen resident and sojourning at the capital of the State. His remains were deposited with the solemn formalities of the Craft in the City Cemetery of the city of Sacramento, where he had resided over forty-seven years, or nearly half a century.
Washington Lodge No. 20 stands to the front with its glorious record of the past, and is second to none on the roll of the Grand Lodge of California, while the name of Nathaniel Greene Curtis will shine in letters of gold high up on the scroll in our Masonic Pantheon.
Source: 50 Years of Masonry In California (pages 22-23)
Compiled and Edited by Edwin A. Sherman, 33º
Venerable Grand Secretary of the Masonic Veteran Association of the Pacific Coast
Published by George Spaulding & Co. Publishers, San Francisco, CA, 1898