The Grand Council of E Clampus Vitus®
The Grand Council of E Clampus Vitus, Inc. consists of the assembled body of all the current and former Noble Grand Humbugs of the Chapters. Other, non-XNGH types have been known to attend the Grand Council meetings, currently held in Sonora, the weekend before Memorial Day weekend, in May of each year, but technically speaking, it is actually only open to those who have achieved the rank of Noble Grand Humbug.
E Clampus Vitus® is incorporated in California under papers filed in 1915 by a group consisting mostly of businessmen in the Marysville area who saw their revival of E Clampus Vitus as a chance to boost the business climate, as well as have a little fun. It was nothing like the earlier, original ECV, or that which followed, or even for that matter, our present ECV. The Marysville men wore business suits to their meetings and got lots of ink in the local newspapers with their support of local enterprises and civic projects.
When the revivers of ECV met in the early 30's, there were no XNGHs around. Oh, there might have been a few of the original X-Humbugs still alive, as witness the appearance of Adam Lee Moore a little later in the decade, but there was no need for a Grand Council, as yet. After a few years, even after several Chapters had been established, the reorganizers still held informal meetings on an irregular basis to discuss locations for future events, plaques they might consider for erection, and so on.
As the number of Clampers grew beyond that normally considered today to be about as large as a Chapter, thoughts about incorporating as an organization in California began to surface. By researching the State's files, it was discovered that E Clampus Vitus® was already incorporated by the Marysville group.
It wasn't until nearly 1940 that the original directors of the 1915 incorporation were found and brought into play again, and the minutes of many Proctors meetings since 1940 exist.
In the ECV® archives is a letter dated June 10, 1948, in which Ralph Cross, one of the Proctors of ECV®, reported to Leon Whitsell that no minutes existed from meetings from 1915 till Apr. 6th, 1940.
In April of 1940, Vice President W.E. Davies (of the surviving bunch from Marysville) reported that 9 of the 15 original Directors had passed away, leaving only 6. Present at this meeting were 5 of them: Davies, Charles A. Wetmore, Chester A. Smith, Harvey Eich and Richard Barrett.
J. H. Barr, Lou P. Eichler, Lee L. Stopple, Ronald L. Olson, V. L. Vander Hoof, Leon O. Whitsell, Edgar B. Jessup, Charles L. Camp and Thomas W. Norris were appointed unanimously as directors. Richard Barrett then submitted his resignation and was replaced by George Ezra Dane. Davies also noted the demise of Leslie B. Crook, President and Noble Grand Humbug, and Harry Hyde, High Priest. (Both from the original incorporators in 1915.) The Directors set May 18, 1940 for the election of new officers of E Clampus Vitus.
Now the revivers would have some authority in the eyes of the State, as the original incorporation was still in effect, and the changeover from the 1915 group was made easily, since they gave their approval to the new Directors. This would suffice for many years, but later, in the early 60s, Meek-Stewart Chapter Ten would have to file legal papers to release their hold on the incorporation, as it turned out that they were legally the surviving chapter of the Marysville Chapter, as it was in Meek-Stewart's territory.
We will cover more about the early meetings of the Grand Council at another time, but for now, we will try to give the flavor of what happens at a Grand Council meeting.
As of this writing, there are about 825 (1350 in 2022) living NGHs and XNGHs of the approximately 1275 (2200 as of 2022) who have served since 1932.
In May, XNGHs and NGHs from all 42 (50 as of 2022) Chapters arrive in Sonora. Along with these dignitaries will arrive Hawkers, Kibitzers and Hangers-on. Wives and/or girlfriends are welcome and pets are often seen on leash around the campground, which is in the Mother Lode Fairgrounds. All the rooms at about 3 hotels and motels in Sonora are taken up by these delegates.
If things go as usual, about 400 to 500 redshirts will show up. This is not your usual crowd of redshirts, as these are mostly older, experienced Clampers who have tasted the responsibility for running a Chapter. That does not make it entirely unlike a regular chapter meeting, but there is a noticeably quieter tone about this group. However, Chapters do set up hospitality rooms in motel rooms or in tents at the campground, and food and liquor flows quite freely.
On Saturday morning, the Proctors meet in closed session to discuss items brought before it by the chapters. Considered here are such things as the granting of new charters for chapters, the settlement of territorial disputes, and other business required by the By-laws of the Corporation.
Some new Proctors are chosen to begin their 5 year term, and the Sublime Officers are moved along their path to obscurity as XSNGHs. There are 15 Proctors who represent no particular chapter, but who are chosen (by a nominating committee chosen by and in consultation with the Sublime Officers) with some regard to their geographical location. Not every chapter has had a Proctor, some have had many. No chapter may have more than one sitting Proctor at a time. Today, every Proctor must be an XNGH, but this was not always the case. In the early days, there were not enough XNGHs to go around.
After the Proctor's meeting, the General Meeting begins with a parade of sorts through the Fairgrounds, leading into the great hall, where the participants register in the Great Roll Book of the Grand Council. The meeting is called to order by the SNGH, and the actions taken by the Proctors at the morning meeting are related by the SNGR.
The Roll Call of the Chapters is made, giving each chapter a moment to note any deceased members of their chapter. The new Sublime Officers are introduced and the meeting is adjourned.
Later that evening, a sit-down dinner for one and all is served by one of the Chapters, which has been on a list for years to have the opportunity to provide this prestigious showcase for their culinary talent.
On Sunday morning, a full breakfast is provided and donations are accepted with all proceeds going to the Old Timers Museum in Murphys. (The Old Timers Museum closed in 2020, and breakfast is no longer served after the in person Grand Council meetings were able to resume after the Covid-19 pandemic.)
XSNGH Tom Barry August 9th, 2002
(Updates by: XSNGH Dan McCormick September 18th, 2022)