Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge

Free and Accepted Masons Jurisdiction of Pennsylvania

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...And Where is the Beginning?



 

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PRINCE HALL HISTORY


Prince Hall is recognized as the Father of Black Masonry in the United States. He made it possible for us to also be recognized and enjoy all privileges of Free and Accepted Masonry.

Many rumors of the birth of Prince Hall have arisen. Few records and papers have been found of him either in Barbados where it was rumored that he was born, but no record of birth, by church or state, has been found there, and none in Boston. All 11 countries of the day were searched and churches with baptismal records were examined without a find of the name of Prince Hall. 1

One widely circulated rumor states that "Prince Hall was free born in British West Indies. His father, Thomas Prince Hall, was an Englishman and his mother a free colored woman of French extraction. In 1765 he worked his passage on a ship to Boston, where he worked as a leather worker, a trade learned from his father. Eight years later he had acquired real estate and was qualified to vote. Religiously inclined, he later became a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church with a charge in Cambridge." This account, paraphrased from the generally discredited Grimshaw book of 1903, is suspect in many areas.2

Black Freemasonry began when Prince Hall and fourteen other free black men were initiated into Lodge No. 441, Irish Constitution, attached to the 38th Regiment of Foot, British Army Garrisoned at Castle William (now Fort Independence) Boston Harbor on March  6, 1775. The Master of the Lodge was Sergeant John Batt. Along with Prince Hall, the other newly made masons were Cyrus Jonbus, Bensten Slinger, Prince Rees, John Canton, Peter Freeman, Benjamin Tiler, Duff Ruform, Thomas Santerson, Prince Rayden, Cato Speain, Boston Smith, Peter Best, Forten Howard and Richard Titley.

When the British Army left Boston in 1776, this Lodge, No 441, granted Prince Hall and his brethren authority to meet as African Lodge #1 (Under Dispensation), to go in procession on St. John's Day, and as a Lodge to bury their dead; but they could not confer degrees nor perform any other Masonic "work". For nine years these brethren, together with others who had received their degrees elsewhere, assembled and enjoyed their limited privileges as Masons. Thirty-three masons were listed on the rolls of African Lodge #1 on January 14th, 1779.  Finally on March 2, 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England, through a Worshipful Master of a subordinate Lodge in London (William Moody of Brotherly Love Lodge No. 55) for a warrant or charter.

The Warrant to African Lodge No. 459 of Boston is the most significant and highly prized document known to the Prince Hall Mason Fraternity. Through it our legitimacy is traced, and on it more than any other factor, our case rests. It was granted on September 29, 1784, delivered in Boston on April 29, 1787 by Captain James Scott, brother-in-law of John Hancock and master of the Neptune, under its authority African Lodge No. 459 was organized one week later, May 6, 1787.

Prince Hall was appointed a Provincial Grand Master in 1791 by H.R.H., the Prince of Wales. The question of extending Masonry arose when Absalom Jones of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania appeared in Boston. He was an ordained Episcopal priest and a mason who was interested in establishing a Masonic lodge in Philadelphia. Under the authority of the charter of African Lodge #459, Prince Hall established African Lodge #459 of Philadelphia on March 22, 1797 and Hiram Lodge #3 in Providence, Rhode Island on June 25, 1797.  African Lodge of Boston became the "Mother Lodge" of the Prince Hall Family.  It was typical for new lodges to be established in this manner in those days.  The African Grand Lodge was not organized until 1808 when representatives of African Lodge #459 of Boston, African Lodge #459 of Philadelphia and Hiram Lodge #3 of Providence met in New York City. 

Upon Prince Hall's death on December 4, 1807, Nero Prince became Master. When Nero Prince sailed to Russia in 1808, George Middleton succeeded him. After Middleton, Petrert Lew, Samuel H. Moody and then, John T. Hilton became Grand Master. In 1827, Hilton recommended a Declaration of Independence from the English Grand Lodge.

In 1869 a fire destroyed Massachusetts' Grand Lodge headquarters and a number of its priceless records. The charter in its metal tube was in the Grand Lodge chest. The tube saved the charter from the flames, but the intense heat charred the paper. It was at this time that Grand Master S.T. Kendall crawled into the burning building and in peril of his life, saved the charter from complete destruction. Thus a Grand Master's devotion and heroism further consecrated this parchment to us, and added a further detail to its already interesting history. The original Charter No. 459 has long since been made secure between heavy plate glass and is kept in a fire-proof vault in a downtown Boston bank.

Today, the Prince Hall fraternity has over 4,500 lodges worldwide, forming 45 independent jurisdictions with a membership of over 300,000 masons.


1. Prince Hall Masonic Directory, 4th Edition 1992. Conference of Grand Masters, Prince Hall Masons.

2. Black Square and Compass - 200 years of Prince Hall Freemasonry. Page 8. Joseph A. Walkes, Jr. 1979. Macoy Publishing & Masonic Supply Co. Richmond, Virginia


 

What is Freemasonry?


Introduction:

Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest secular fraternal societies. Freemasonry is a society of men concerned with moral and spiritual values. Its members are taught its precepts by a series of ritual dramas, which follow ancient forms and use stonemasons' customs and tools as allegorical guides.

The Essential Qualification for Membership:

The essential qualification for admission into and continuing membership is a belief in a Supreme Being. Membership is open to men of any race or religion who can fulfill this essential qualification and are of good repute.

Freemasonry and Religion:

Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. Its essential qualification opens it to men of many religions and it expects them to continue to follow their own faith. It does not allow religion to be discussed at its meetings.

The Three Great Principles:

For many years Freemasons have followed three great principles:

  • Brotherly Love
    Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
  • Relief
    Freemasons are taught to practice charity, and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving, and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
  • Truth
    Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.

    Freemasons believe that these principles represent a way of achieving higher standards in life.

Charity:

From its earliest days, Freemasonry has been concerned with the care of orphans, the sick and the aged. This work continues today. In addition, large sums are given to national and local charities.

Freemasonry and Society:

Freemasonry demands from its members a respect for the law of the country in which a man works and lives. Its principles do not in ay way conflict with its members' duties as citizens, but should strengthen them in fulfilling their private and public responsibilities. The use by a Freemason of their membership to promote his own or anyone else's business, professional or personal interests is condemned, and is contrary to the conditions on which he sought admission to Freemasonry. His duty as a citizen must always prevail over any obligation to other Freemasons, and any attempt to shield a Freemason who has acted dishonorably or unlawfully is contrary to this prime duty.

Secrecy:

The secrets of Freemasonry are concerned with its traditional modes of recognition. It is not a secret society, since all members are free to acknowledge their membership and will do so in response to inquiries for respectable reasons. Its constitutions and rules are available to the public. There is no secret about any of its aims and principles. Like many other societies, it regards some of its internal affairs as private matters for its members.

Freemasonry and Politics:

Freemasonry is non-political, and the discussion of politics at Masonic meetings is forbidden.

Other Masonic Bodies:

Freemasonry is practiced under many independent Grand Lodges with standards similar to those set by the United Grand Lodge of England. There are some Grand Lodges and other apparently Masonic bodies which do not meet these standards, e.g. which do not require a belief in a Supreme Being, or which allow or encourage their members to participate in political matters. These Grand Lodges and bodies are not recognized by the United Grand Lodge of England as being Masonic ally regular, and Masonic contact with them is forbidden.

Conclusion:

A Freemason is encouraged to do his duty first to God (by whatever name he is known) through his faith and religious practice; and then, without detriment to his family and those dependent on him, to his neighbor through charity and service. None of these ideas is exclusively Masonic, but all should be universally acceptable. Freemasons are expected to follow them.


This is the text of a leaflet published by the Board of General Purposes of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1984.


The Historical Account

1815 -- 1975

According to the existing records, the first warranted Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons among men of color in Pennsylvania, was erected by the Right Worshipful Grand Master Prince Hall, assisted by the Grand Wardens Cyrus Forbes and George Middleton of the African Grand Lodge of Massachusetts on September 22, 1797, in Philadelphia. This Lodge was known as the African Lodge No. 459 of Philadelphia.

This action came as the result of a communication, dated March 2, 1797, from Peter Matore of Philadelphia to Prince Hall of Boston, Massachusetts, requesting a dispensation to open and hold a lodge among free masons of color residing In the city of Phila.

absom.jpg (4429316 bytes)The Reverend Absalom Jones of the African Church of Philadelphia was elected Worshipful Master and Richard Allen, founder and first Bishop of the A.M.E. Church, was elected the first Treasurer.  The pioneering spirit which led to the establishment of these great institutions of responsibility and service to the black community of yester year was fostered in the organization of the Free African Society, a beneficial and moral reform society among free blacks, on April 12, 1787, in Philadelphia. The first insurance beneficial society among free blacks also came as a result of the activities of the Free African Society, as well as the movement for the establishment of schools for the education of free black children. The success of the latter movement is owed largely to the generous aid and support given by the Society of Friends (Quaker) community in the city of Phila.

The laudable activities of the brethren of African Lodge of Philadelphia spurred a keen interest in the affairs of Freemasonry to the extent that more lodges were erected in Philadelphia by the Massachusetts Grand Body, i.e., Union Lodge (1810), Laurel Lodge No. 5 (1811), and Phoenix Lodge No. 6 (1814).  Acting in accordance with masonic custom and tradition, the Past Masters of these four lodges met in solemn session on December 27, 1815, in the city of Philadelphia with unanimous consent of the brethren and erected the "First African Independent Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, for and in the Jurisdiction of North America," with the following Grand Lodge Officers elected:

Rev. Absalom Jones, Right Worshipful Grand Master; Peter Richmond,
Deputy Grand Master; Alexander Logan, Senior Grand Warden; Matthew Black, Junior Grand Warden; Anthony Clain, Grand Treasurer; William Coleman, Grand Secretary.

This enlightenment began to spread westward with the appointment of Richard Howell Gleaves as District Deputy Grand Master by the Grand Lodge and assigning him the territory west of the Allegheny Mountains.  It was largely through his efforts and those of the Rev. Thomas W. Stringer that Freemasonry among men of color was spread West and South of the Commonwealth of Penna. In 1846, Gleaves erected St. Cyprian Lodge in Pittsburgh and in 1847, he established Corinthian Lodge in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Schisms and fractures in the structure of the masonic institution existent among our number have played a deep and challenging role.  Union Lodge, after bitter dissension, began to set in, declared itself independent and in July, 1837, formed Hiram Grand Lodge.  However, these two diverging groups re-united in 1847 as -- the Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons of Pennsylvania under the newly organized National Compact of Grand Lodges.  Pennsylvania freemasons played a leading role in the establishment of the National Grand Lodge.  James Byrd of First African Independent Grand Lodge was its first Deputy Grand Master and Enos A. Hall, Redman Faucerts and Richard H. Gleaves were its National Grand Masters, hailing from Pennsylvania.

However, dissension again set in among the Craft with the establishment of the Colored Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, with Emory Cronkin as Grand Master.

These Grand Bodies maintained a co-existence until 1882 when they were brought together by Grand Master William H. Miller of the Ancient York Masons, under  the name and style of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Pennsylvania.  But, through all of the trials and tribulations of the early days, with the blessings of divine providence, we have prevailed and the Union of the craft has been preserved.  For all of the efforts expended by the saints and sages, we are proud to report, the direct parentage of six Grand Lodges (Maryland--1846, District of Columbia--1848, New Jersey--1848, Ohio--1849, Delaware--1849, and Virginia--1866) and Lodges in California, Georgia and Louisiana which came constituent lodges that formed the Grand Lodges of their respective Jurisdictions. The triennial session of the Grand Lodge (1900-1901-1902) saw the Grand Lodge take on an international character, with the erection of Ethiopia Lodge, #75 and Coppin Lodge, #76 in South Africa.  These lodges are still in existence today as Southern Cross Lodge No. 75 and St. Patrick Lodge No. 76.  The 181 years old heritage of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania has provided a rich legacy of dedication and service for which we are justly proud.

''... NOW THAT WE HAVE MASONRY, WHAT ARE WE GOING TO DO WITH IT?"

 

GRAND EAST 1975

Cornerstone - January 19, 1975

Dedicated - May 25, 1975

Mortgage Liquidation - April 21, 1979

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