HISTORY OF THE MWPHGL OF ILLINOIS
by Right Worshipful Brother Daryl L. Andrews

The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois was formed in 1867 from Lodges within the State of Illinois that were chartered by the Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodge of Ohio namely:

  • North Star Lodge #12 of Chicago, Illinois - Chartered in 1852
  • Griffin T. Watson Lodge #16 of Alton, Illinois - Chartered in 1856
  • Central Lodge #19 of Springfield, Illinois - Chartered in 1857

The three Lodges met in Springfield on February 15, 1867 to resolve to form a Grand Lodge for the State of Illinois. Brother Harrison D. King of North Star Lodge #12 was unanimously elected as chairman of the convention. The resolution which resulted from the convention was submitted to the National Grand Lodge through Most Worshipful Brother John Jones, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ohio. With the prayer granted, the three Lodges convened in Springfield to hold a special session of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted York Masons, State of Illinois on May 6, 1867 to announce her formation. Central Lodge was opened in due form by Most Worshipful Brother Jones who conducted the election of the first officers which ended with the following results:

  • Grand Master - Brother Benjamin Franklin Rogers of Springfield
  • Deputy Grand Master - Brother Harrison D. King of Chicago
  • Senior Grand Warden - Brother E. White of Alton
  • Junior Grand Warden - Brother William Lyman Darrow of Chicago
  • Grand Treasurer - Brother Isaac H. Kelley of Alton
  • Grand Secretary - Brother George L. Thomas of Chicago

After the installation of the officers, the Lodges were renumbered according to their dates of original charter with North Star Lodge as #1, Griffin T. Watson Lodge as #2 and Central Lodge as #3. In addition to renumbering of the first three Lodges, three additional Lodges which had previously been warranted in the State of Illinois by the Grand Lodge of Ohio were also chartered - Evening Star Lodge #4 of Bloomington, Lincoln Lodge #5 of Cairo and Freemont Lodge #6 of Shawneetown. The following officers were also appointed and installed by Most Worshipful Brother Rogers on May 7, 1867:

  • Grand Chaplain - Brother L.A. Coleman of Springfield
  • Grand Senior Deacon - Brother Samuel Witherspoon of Bloomington
  • Grand Junior Deacon - Brother William K. Donegan of Springfield
  • Grand Lecturer - Brother Edwin R. Williams of Chicago
  • Grand Steward - Brother H. Hicklin of Springfield
  • Grand Pursuivant - Brother C.C. Richardson of Alton
  • Grand Tyler - Brother John S.D. Lee of Springfield

From 1867 to 1877, the Grand Lodge of Illinois remained in amity with the National Grand Lodge and grew at a tremendous rate. By 1877, the Illinois Jurisdiction had a strong presence in each of the hemispheres of the state. While growth would continue internally, the bond with the National Grand Lodge would deteriorate. The National Grand Lodge was never meant to be a national governing body but an organization through which the spirit of Freemasonry could be extended through the establishment of Grand Lodges at local levels. With the understanding that each Grand Lodge is sovereign in its own jurisdiction, attempts by another to usurp its authority would certainly meet with resistance. As such, the Grand Lodge of Illinois dissolved amity with the National Grand Lodge in 1877 like the Grand Lodge of Ohio did years earlier.

From 1882 to 1922 to Grand Lodge of Illinois took steps to protect itself as an independent entity in the eyes of the law and to further align itself with the Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodges in America:

  • By the hands of Most Worshipful Brother James J. Hollinger, Grand Master and Right Worshipful Brother Richard E. Moore, Grand Secretary, the Grand Lodge incorporated in 1882 as a legal corporation.

  • The articles of incorporation were amended in 1885 by the hands of Most Worshipful Brother Joseph W. Moore, Grand Master and Right Worshipful Brother Richard E. Moore, Grand Secretary to remove York from the name to reflect the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, State of Illinois. This was done to distinguish itself from irregular York Masons of America that were unaffiliated with the Grand Lodge of England.

  • To solidify the linkage of the Grand Lodge to the other Prince Hall Affiliated Grand Lodges in America, the Grand Lodge was renamed and incorporated as the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois in 1909 by the hands of Most Worshipful Brother George E. Jesse, Grand Master and Right Worshipful Brother Richard E. Moore, Grand Secretary.

  • To distinguish itself from other organizations bearing the name Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Grand Lodge was renamed and incorporated as the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, State of Illinois in 1922 by the hands of Most Worshipful Brother Thomas H. Samuels, Grand Master and Right Worshipful Brother Baker De Pugh, Grand Secretary. This is the name that the Grand Lodge bears to this date.

Since inception, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, State of Illinois has extended herself in the causes of social activism and community improvement. This is documented by their efforts before, during and after the formation of the Grand Lodge of Illinois:

  • The bulk of the founding members of the Grand Lodge of Illinois were abolitionists during Slavery.

  • PGM John Jones fought to remove the Illinois Black Codes and to gain passage of the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the United States Constitution. He became the first black elected official in Illinois in 1871 as Cook County Commissioner.

  • The brethren of the City of Chicago and Aurora contributed to relief during the Chicago Fire of 1871. This led to the formation of Keystone Lodge #15 in the City of Aurora in 1874.

  • Many brethren served their country during the Spanish American War in 1898 and World War One. Many of the officers of the Eighth Illinois Regiment were Prince Hall Masons.

  • The Order of the Bees for Boys and Girls was formed as the first youth initiative in 1922. The Order of the Junior Craftsmen was the second initiative formed in 1938 to focus on the development of young men. PGM Henry G. Fort partnered with the National Urban League in the 1950s and 60s to provide job training for the youths. The Order remains in existence to this date.

  • The Grand Lodge offered relief during the Great Depression and service during World War Two and successive wars and conflicts endured by the country.

The Grand Lodge continues to offer relief and service to distressed citizens and to our country through service and educational donations. The current efforts were clearly sourced by the labors of the past. By the grace of God, these efforts will continue well into the future.

Sources:
  1. Proceedings, Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted York Masons, State of Illinois, 1867-69
  2. The Beginnings of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons in Illinois by Obed E. Vanderburg
  3. History of Prince Hall Masonry in Illinois by William Hardy
  4. Masonic Abolitionists: Freemasonry and the Underground Railroad in Illinois by Daryl Lamar Andrews