Masonic History

Freemasonry District Of Columbia 1825-1848

On January 1, 1823, Lloyd Nicholas, William C. Costin, Francis Datcher, Sr., William Jackson and William Wormley were initiated, passed and raised to the sublime degree of Master Masons, in due form, in Laurel Lodge, No. 2, of Philadelphia, Pa. John W. Prout was made a Master Mason January 4, 1816 in Union Lodge, Philadelphia, PA. In 1825 these brothers petitioned the African Grand Lodge of North America, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a warrant to work a Masters’ Lodge in the District of Columbia, as follows:

PETITION

“Know ye that whereas your petitioning brethren have by long experience found it greatly inconvenient and sometimes impossible to attend our Lodge in Philadelphia, by which we are deprived of the society, fellowship and instructions,
“THEREFORE, we, the subscribers, having the good of Masonry entirely at heart, and from no other motive, have ventured to address the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge, praying for their consent, approbation and assistance, to found and erect a Lodge of Master Masons in this place, there being none for colored men this side of Mason and Dixon’s Line. We hope to be a great help to mankind. Enclosed find fee for charter.

“Fraternally yours, (Signed)

JOHN W. PROUT,
FRANCIS DATCHER, SR.,
WILLIAM JACKSON,
WILLIAM C. COSTIN,
WILLIAM WORMLEY

January 4th, A. D. 1825, Washington, D.C.

Their Prayer was granted by the African Grand Lodge of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on January 7th, A. D. 1825 when the Lodge was placed under Dispensation. The Lodge was duly chartered and constituted June 6th, A. D. 1825 under a Charter issued by the African Grand Lodge of Philadelphia.

In 1956, the following was said concerning the formation and activities of Social Lodge No. 1 in the Mortgage Burning Program:

The introduction of Prince Hall Freemasonry in the District of Columbia came about through the organization and character of Social Lodge in 1825. Among 1400 freedmen, who were residents of the county of Washington [in the District of Columbia], were 29 men, 4 of who had been made Masons in England and 6 others in Laurel Lodge of Philadelphia. PA. Because of the inconvenience of attending their respective lodges this group petitioned the African Grand Lodge of North America located in Philadelphia on January 4, 1825 praying for its consent and assistance to found and erect a lodge of Master Masons in the District of Columbia. This petition was granted on January 7, 1825 and the Lodge was chartered and duly constituted on June 6, 1825 under the title and denomination of Social Lodge No. 7 of Washington, D.C. The Grand Lodge of Philadelphia appointed the following officers: John W. Prout, W.M., Francis Datcher, S.W., William Jackson, J.W., Moses Liverpool, Treasurer, William C. Costin, Secretary, William Wormley, S.D. Lloyd Wormley, S.D., and Lloyd Nichols, J.D.

Early in 1848 John E. Thomas then Master of Social Lodge, issued a call to two other Lodges which had been chartered in this area, namely; Universal No. 10 of Alexandria, Virginia and Felix No. 17 of Washington, D.C., to meet in a special convention with Social Lodge No. 1 for the purpose of organizing a Grand Lodge for the District of Columbia. This meeting presided over by District Deputy Grand Master David P. Jones of the Grand Lodge of Philadelphia resulted in the organization of the present Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. Charles Datcher of Social Lodge was elected the first Grand Master and Francis Datcher, also of Social was elected the Junior Grand Warden. Under the new Grand Lodge, Social became No. 1, Universal No. 2, and Felix No. 3. Through the 108 years of the existence of the Grand Lodge nine other members of Social Lodge have graced the Grand East: Francis Datcher, Charles H. Lemon, Henry C. Coleman, W.H. Judd Malvin, William H. Grimshaw, Jesse Mitchell, John Edgar Smith, Royal W. Bailey and Lawrence Hawkins. From a humble beginning, through many years of adversity, Social Lodge has survived to enjoy and celebrate its 131st anniversary. It has 330 members enrolled, makes charitable expenditures of more than $1500 per year and has a present net worth of approximately $1500 including $8,500 invested in stock of the Hall Association.

In 1835, William Dudley, Benjamin Crier and Sandy Bryant were made Master Masons in St. George Lodge, No. 32, Liverpool, England. They were seafaring men, and in 1838 lived in Alexandria, D.C. They were admitted as members of Social Lodge. Shortly afterward, these three Brethren along with Reverend John Thomas, also a member of Social Lodge and living in the same town, applied to Deputy Grand Master Daniel Smith, of Hiram Grand Lodge, Pennsylvania, for a charter to establish a Lodge in their city. This was granted to them August 26th, 1845.



The new Lodge, which was the first Lodge in Virginia, was known as Universal Lodge, No.10, of Alexandria, D.C., with Brother George Sims, W. M.; Edward Evans, S. W.; Dennis Bourbon, J. W.; James Evans, S. D.; Ephraim Bancroft, J. D.; Richard Garnett, Treasurer; Joseph L. Gipson, Secretary; William Dudley and Benjamin Crier, Stewards; and Sanday Bragrant, Tiler. The area called Alexandria, D.C. returned from the District of Columbia to Virginia on July 9, 1846.

Early in the year of 1846, a meeting was held in the barber shop of Augustus and John T. Costin, on Pennsylvania Avenue, near Third Street, N.W., DC. At this meeting were William Dudley, Benjamin Crier, Daniel Smith, John Thomas and William H. Bruce, all of Alexandria, D.C. The result of this meeting was the forming of Felix Lodge, No. 17, which was constituted April 4, 1846, under a charter granted by Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, with Augustus Costin, W. M.; Richard H. Phiske, S.W.; John Massey, J.W.; John T. Costin, Secretary; Benjamin Newton, Treasurer; Basil Sims, S. D., and Charles Hunt. J. D. The following was said in the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge 1956 Mortgage Burning Program concerning Felix Lodge:

In the year 1846 the Charter Members of Felix Lodge, August B. Costin and John Massea, met at a barber shop of Messrs, Augustus B. Costin and John T. Costin on Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. (DC) between 3rd & 4th Streets with Brother Felix Dorsey, a Deputy from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. In conference and thereafter Brother Dorsey secured for the above-name brothers a dispensation and finally their warrant and on the 4th day of April, 1846, Felix Lodge was duly constituted by Brother Daniel Smith and William H. Bruce who were deputized to perform that duty. The following were the first regular officers under warrant: Augustus B. Costin, W.M.; John Massia, S.W.; John C. Thomas, J.W.; Benjamin Newton, Treas.; and John T. Costin, Sec.; Abraham Powell, S.D.; Leonide Scott, J.D.; William Briscoe, Tiler.

The first meetings of Felix Lodge was apparently in the loft of a stable owned by Ben F. French, a white Mason, at the corner of Second and East Capitol Street, S.E. who granted permission to Brother Isaac Fleetwood, his coachman, for that purpose. Afterwards meetings were held at Scott’s Carpenter Shop at 5th Street, S.E. between B and C Streets; in Jackson Hall Alley; then on E Street; between 13th and 14th Streets, N.W., Union Building; then on 7th Street, near D; then on D Street, between 9th and 10th; again, on 7th Street, between I and K Streets; then on 11th St., near Pennsylvania Ave.; then at 13½ and E Sts., N.W., 5th and Virginia Avenue, S.E. but, now, thanks to God and the intrepid vision and foresight of our Grand Masters and Brethren we meet under our own vine and fig tree at 10th and U Streets, N.W.

There have been over 500 members initiated into Felix Lodge. Felix Lodge conducted the First Masonic funeral held among Colored Masons in the District of Columbia, the funeral being that of Brother Barsyl Sims at Old Israel A.M.E. Church then located at the corner of South Capitol and B Streets, S.W. in the year 1849. Felix has had seven (7) Grand Masters, six (6) Deputy Grand Masters and numerous other elective and appointed Grand Lodge officers. Felix Lodge has had over 105 Worshipful Masters. Today the brothers of Felix Lodge are actively engaged in numerous works for the benefit of the Craft.