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The Mystery of William Morgan Dinner Show

January 22, 2022 @ 5:00 pm - 11:30 pm

“The mystery of William Morgan”- original composition written specifically with the WNY audience in mind. 
Based on a true 19th century mystery involving the masons, the Mormons, the Canadians and Grand Island &  WNY.
The victim is William Morgan.
The suspects include a bar woman, the wife, wife’s future husband, a crooked sheriff and a crooked politician.

Presented by:

WNY IMPROV who has performed throughout New York State as well as in Ontario, Pennsylvania and Maryland. Our experienced performers have performed in dozens of films, dinner theater productions, theater, commercials and TV productions.


More information about William Morgan:

In September of 1826, William Morgan was arrested on trumped-up charges in Genesee County. Instead of being jailed locally, though, he was then hustled to Canandaigua for trial. But before the trial he was released by night into the hands of a shadowy stranger who supposedly had paid his bail. The stranger took Morgan into a closed carriage and… … Morgan was never seen again. This incident, so reminiscent of the after-dark “release” of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney before their murder by Mississippi police in 1964, made Canandaigua the pivot for yet another significant 19th-century legal case. In previous weeks we’ve looked at the 1800 trial of Jemima Wilkinson for blasphemy; the 1842 drumhead court-martial and hanging of young Canandaiguan Philip Spencer on the high seas; and the 1873 conviction of Susan B. Anthony for the crime of voting. In every one of these cases, the surface charges were surrogates for deeper motivations. The issue with Morgan was not his debts, nor the charge that he had stolen a shirt and tie. The issue was that he was fiercely opposing the Masons. That may seem bewildering in a day when Freemasons are largely looked on as community supporters with rituals that outsiders consider silly but harmless. But in the 1700s and 1800s Masonry was much more widespread, and at the same time more selective. Since it was a SECRET society, feverishly lurid tales were told of what they did behind closed doors. And since members were often among the most prominent in the community, the resentful suspicion grew that Masons rigged the hirings, the promotions, the financial affairs, and the elections. They seemed to form an elite in a country that was becoming increasingly anti-elite. There were also religious reservations about the Masons; their acknowledgement of an undefined Supreme Being was far too vague for many believers. And indeed men who disdained traditional religion (George Washington and Benjamin Franklin, to name two) may have found Masonry’s indefinite religiosity an acceptable substitute. Mormonism didn’t exist yet, but its later ties with Masonry wouldn’t enthuse the orthodox, either. Morgan’s beef at first wasn’t about any of these things. He wasn’t out, and wanting in. He wasn’t in, and deciding to get out. He wasn’t out, and happy to stay out. Morgan was in and wanted further in, but furiously found himself blocked. Morgan had been admitted to the lodge in LeRoy, but wanted to transfer to the more-prestigious lodge in Batavia. Batavia wouldn’t have him – some say because of drink, or possibly he wasn’t considered refined enough. Whatever the reason was, the enraged Morgan, now soured on the order, set to work on a book exposing (and condemning) the secrets of Masonry. To those who took their oaths of secrecy seriously, this was their worst nightmare – the insider who could spill the beans. Moreover, the fact was that Morgan could print any horror story he wanted. Bound by their oaths, they couldn’t set the record straight. And, of course, if they WERE in fact using the lodges to grease the wheels of commerce and power, that would come out too. Ads against Morgan appeared in the papers, and arson was apparently tried against the publisher. So… arrested and jailed in Batavia, bailed out by his publisher, re-arrested almost immediately and haled to Canandaigua, released in mysterious circumstances in the dead of night – what happened to William Morgan? The mysterious carriage reportedly appeared at Fort Niagara, and rumor spread that Morgan was immured there. Rumor ALSO said that he had been taken out into the Niagara River and dumped overboard. In October Morgan’s wife (25 years his junior) identified a body washed ashore – but a Canadian woman identified the same body as HER husband. Newspaperman Thurlow Weed, who was ramping up an anti-Masonry campaign, declared that the body was “a good enough Morgan,” and unleashed the presses against the murdering, secretive, un-American lodge. Canandaigua’s John Spencer – coincidentally father of the Philip Spencer later hanged at sea – was appointed special prosecutor to investigate the disappearance. Governor DeWitt Clinton vainly offered a $1000 reward for news on Morgan’s whereabouts. Masons insisted that Morgan had fled the country to start a new life under an assumed name, but that story didn’t find many buyers. Three Masons were convicted of kidnapping Morgan, and served prison sentences for the crime. Most contemporaries, and most historians since, figured that they also murdered him. The Morgan mystery only fueled sales of the book, and Thurlow Weed’s campaign gave birth to the Anti-Masonic Party. Many Anti-Masonics later drifted into the Whigs, and eventually became Republicans. During its heyday, though, the Anti-Masonics created the national nominating convention, and the party platform. They elected two governors of Vermont. Millard Fillmore, William Henry Harrison, William H. Seward, and John Quincy Adams all ran for office on the Anti-Masonic ticket, which ALSO opposed well-known Mason Andrew Jackson. Jackson was one of 14 or so Masonic Presidents, with Washington the first and Gerald Ford the latest. Canandaigua’s role in the affair was brief and tangential, but it set western New York ablaze, and changed the course of American politics, government, and history.


January 22, 2022
5:00 pm - 11:30 pm
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The Falconwood Event Center
Beaver Island State Park
Grand Island, NY 14072 United States
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