The Philalethes Society has had a large number of very interesting members. Among them is Bro∴ Lee Edwin Wells, FPS, who was called by Bro∴ Allen E. Roberts, FPS, "the savior of the Society."1 Bro∴ Wells contributed heavily to the journal during its introductory years and eventually served as President of the Society from 1952 to 1954. He was instrumental in keeping the Philalethes Society alive after the unexpected deaths of Bro∴ Walter A. Quincke, FPS, and Bro∴ Harold H. Kinney, FPS, in 1952.
"Since [World War II] The Philalethes Society has gone through a reformation. We of the Executive Committee feel that the information we have, the papers that are written for us, should not be confined to the few. Therefore, we have opened the membership to every Master Mason in good standing in a just and legal jurisdiction, wherever it might be in the world. We realize that not all of us can write papers on Masonic subjects or devote our lives to research. But the knowledge gained by those who can is, of right, the property of all Masons everywhere."2
Wells was born on June 1, 1907 in Indianapolis, Indiana. He was the foster son of Robert E. and Nellie Frances Wells. He became a Mason in North Park Lodge № 646, also in Indianapolis, on February 26, 1944. He eventually affiliated with a lodge in Los Angeles, California. Wells joined the Philalethes Society in 1945 and was elected Fellow in 1947.3
In addition to his works on Freemasonry, Wells was a professional writer. He published over 40 novels, many of them Westerns. In the 1950s he became a board member and regional vice president of the Mystery Writers of America. According to one source, for at least ten years he was associated with "an occult school in New York."4
Three of Wells' books were adapted for the silver screen. Day of the Outlaw was released in 1959. The film was directed by André de Toth and starred Robert Ryan, Burl Ives, and Tina Louise. Louise is probably best known for her role as Ginger on Gilligan's Island.
Day of the Outlaw is, in fact, an outstanding film. It takes place in a town in the Rocky Mountains, somewhere in Wyoming. The cinematography captures the bleak Wyoming landscape and impresses on the audience the dangers of the harsh winter faced by the characters. Like many of the finest Westerns, the story features a strong moral message. Unlike most Westerns, the protagonist, a tough-as-nails cowboy with a reputation for violence, vanquishes the villains without ever using a gun. Brains triumphs over brawn and virtue overcomes vice. There is something Masonic in its message.
Wells was also featured on the small screen. He wrote for Target and Harbor Command in the late 1950s, and several of his stories were adapted for other TV series.5 One stands out: "Mr. Muldoon's Partner" is an episode in the fifth and last season of Maverick. In this episode, Bret Maverick, played by James Garner, encounters a man claiming to be a leprechaun.
Wells passed away in San Diego on April 29, 1982. He had been suspended from his Los Angeles lodge in 1955 for non-payment of dues.
This article originally appeared in The Philalethes E-Bulletin in Fall 2014.
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Roberts, Allen E. Seekers of Truth: The Story of the Philalethes Society, 1928-1988. Highland Springs, Va.: Anchor Communications, 1988. 25.
Roberts, Allen E. "The Savior of the Philalethes - Lee E. Wells." Philalethes XLI, no. 3 (June, 1988). 20-21.
Seekers of Truth. 52.
"WELLS, LEE E.: 1907-" Indiana Authors and Their Books 1917-1966. January 1, 1974. Accessed January 5, 2020. https://webapp1.dlib.indiana.edu/inauthors/view?docId=encyclopedia/VAA5365-02.xml&brand=ia-books&chunk.id=ina-v2-entry-2606&toc.id=ina-v2-entry-2606.