A History of The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Iowa
“From Whence We Came”
Every Member in every well governed organization should know that organizations history. The historical linage of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Iowa can be traced from England, Prince Hall in Boston, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri to finally Iowa. Iowa was the thirty-second Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge body assembled. The linage begins with our founder and namesake, Prince Hall.
Prince Hall (c.1735 – December 7, 1807), was a tireless abolitionist and a leader of the free black community in Boston. Hall tried to gain New England’s enslaved and free blacks a place in some of the most crucial spheres of society, Freemasonry, education and the military. He is considered the founder of “Black Freemasonry” in the United States, known today as Prince Hall Freemasonry. Hall formed the African Grand Lodge of North America. Prince Hall was unanimously elected its Grand Master and served until his death in 1807. He also lobbied tirelessly for education rights for black children and a back-to-Africa movement. Many historians regard Prince Hall as one of the more prominent African American leaders throughout the early national-period of the United States.
On March 6, 1775, Prince Hall and fourteen other free colored men were initiated into Masonry in Boston, Massachusetts in a British Army Lodge, No. 441, Irish Register, 38th Regiment of foot. The British Army evacuated Boston on March 17, 1776. To enable the colored brethren to function, the Army granted them a license or permit to meet as a Lodge and to observe certain ceremonies but, but not to confer degrees. In March of 1784, Prince Hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England for a charter. The petition was granted and a Charter issued on September 29, 1784; however, the Charter was not delivered to Prince Hall until April 19th, 1787. This Charter or warrant constituted Prince hall and his brethren into African Lodge No. 459 which was formally organized on May 6, 1787 with Prince Hall as the master. The Charter insured the permanency, stability and future of masonry among colored men.
The death of Cyprus Attucks (the first person killed in the Revolutionary War) spurred Prince Hall into the leadership of the Black community. Prince Hall observed that a Black man had died for a freedom he didn’t even possess. Prince Hall was destined to fight to see to it that Blacks could exercise this freedom.
It is important to note that at this time in 1770, Prince Hall was not a Mason; in fact there were no Black masons in any Lodge in America. He began to go about the town, preaching equal treatment for Blacks, education for Black children and the abolition of slavery and slave trade. But his pleas, it seemed, fell on deaf ears, for the most part, because the community was not disposed to listen to any Black man.
It was during this time that Prince Hall found out about Masons. He observed that all the influential men were Masons—and the citizenry listened to Masons. Prince Hall felt that if he became a Mason, people might start listening to him about his causes.
He made several attempts to join the Masonic Lodges in Boston, but was rejected in every case. Then, early in March 1775, John Batt, the Worshipful Master of Lodge #441 of the Irish Registry, attached to the 38th British Foot Infantry, heard of his plight, and accepted his petition for membership. Prince Hall and fourteen other men of color were made masons on Castle William Island on March 6, 1775. This marked the first time Black men were made Masons in America.
When the British Army left Boston in 1776, this Army Lodge No. 441, granted Prince Hall and his brethren a permit (now known as a dispensation) and authority to meet as African Lodge #1 (under dispensation) to meet as a Lodge, to walk in procession on St. John’s Day, and as a Lodge to bury their dead in due form but they could not confer degrees to make new Masons or perform any other Masonic work.
For nine years the brethren along with the new brethren who received their degrees elsewhere enjoyed their limited privileges. Caucasian brethren in Massachusetts who sympathized with the Black brethren and deplored the attitude of their own craft advised Prince Hall to apply to the Grand Orient of France for recognition; however, Prince Hall deemed it more prudent to apply to the Grand Lodge of England because it was an Irish Lodge that raised he and his brethren and it was the one body which he believed to be the mother of Free Masonry as then organized.
March 2, 1784
In March of 1784, Prince Hall wrote a letter to the Grand Lodge of England requesting a warrant, as he and the other brethren were desirous of exercising all of the powers and privileges of a regular and warranted Lodge. Prince hall petitioned the Grand Lodge of England through a Worshipful Master of a subordinate Lodge in London (William Moody of Brotherly Love Lodge #55) for a warrant or Charter.
The application was fraternally submitted to him on September 29th, 1784. The warrant was duly signed, sealed and attested and granted to Prince Hall and his brethren under the name of African Lodge No. 459 from the Grand Lodge of England.
Delays Receiving the Warrant 1784-1787
Although the warrant was granted to African Lodge No. 459 in 1784 on the register of the Grand Lodge of England by authority of then Grand Master, the Duke of Cumberland. The Lodge did not receive the warrant until April 29th, 1787, due to the failure of Brother Gregory (to whom the matter had been entrusted) to call on the Grand Secretary William White and get it.
In February of 1787, Prince Hall asked Captain James, a seafaring man, Captain of the Neptune, and brother-in-law to founding father John Hancock, to pick up the warrant for his Lodge when he traveled to London. Captain Scott traveled to London and called on Sir William White, paid the required fee, and received the warrant. On April 29th 1787, Captain Scott hand delivered the warrant to Prince Hall.
Subordinate Lodges were later chartered in the State of Pennsylvania by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts
Subordinate Lodges were later chartered in the State Ohio of by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
Subordinate Lodges were later chartered in the State of Missouri by the Grand Lodge of Ohio
In July of 1865, a constitutional number of Prince Hall Lodges in Missouri, which were instituted by the Grand Lodge of Ohio, then united to form the Grand Lodge of Missouri. The Grand Lodge of Missouri instituted a number of Lodges here in Iowa. Our past Grand Master, Alexander Clark Sr. was a charter member of the Grand Lodge of Missouri (Prince Hall Affiliation) at its organization in 1865 and in the year 1870, he was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri.
The Grand Lodge of Missouri later instituted a number of Lodges in State of Iowa. The lodges chartered by Missouri were:
Clark Lodge No 6, Muscatine Iowa
The Lodge was formed in Muscatine on August 6, 1866
York Lodge No. 8, Keokuk, Iowa
The Lodge was formed on October 11, 1866
North Star Lodge No. 31, Des Moines, Iowa
The Lodge was organized on October 6, 1870
Sumner Lodge No. 41, Burlington, Iowa
The Lodge was organized in June 1874
Sims Lodge No. 50, Oskaloosa
The Lodge was organized on November 16, 1875
Star Lodge No. 51
Star Lodge No. 51, Keokuk, Iowa was organized on December 29, 1879
Mitchell Lodge No. 58, Corning
The Lodge was organized by Grand Master Alexander Clark and warranted on August 17th 1876.
Reed Lodge No. 79, Red Oak
The Lodge was organized on January 18, 1878
Golden Star Lodge No. 80, Ottumwa
The Lodge was organized on April 18, 1878
Mount Olive Lodge No. 86, Cedar Rapids
The Lodge was organized on June 5th, 1878,
John G. Jones Lodge No. 91, Council Bluffs
The Lodge was organized on April 27, 1878
C.R. Coleman Lodge No. 101 Boonsborough
The Lodge was organized on February 13, 1880
Newton Lodge, U.D., Newton
The Lodge was organized on June 27, 1882
Garfield Lodge, U.D., Centerville
August 20, 1878
At the Annual Session of the Grand Lodge of Missouri held in Sedalia, Missouri, there was talk that masons in Iowa were growing more discontent with the Grand Lodge of Missouri because they were not being included in the positions of leadership.
August 19th, 1879
At the Annual Session of the Grand Lodge of Missouri held in Macon, Missouri in 1879, the Iowa Lodges were well represented but none were elected to Grand Lodge offices. The discontent among masons Iowa continued to grow especially the Lodges in Ottumwa, Des Moines, Burlington, and Keokuk.
Convention in Ottumwa
As the discontent in Iowa continued to grow, six of the Iowa Lodges convened in Ottumwa for the purpose of forming a Grand Lodge for the State of Iowa. However, Alexander Clark Sr. informed the Iowa Lodges that he came clothed with the power of the Grand Master of Missouri to expel any Iowa masons who attempted to organize their own Grand Lodge. To avoid trouble from Clark, a motion was made to adjourn and meet again at the call of the chairman.
August 9th, 1881
Formation of African Grand Lodge
After two previous attempts to form a Grand Lodge in the State of Iowa failed on October 12, 1880 in Des Moines, and December 20th 1880 in Ottumwa. John Page of Des Moines (Chairman) wrote a letter to the Lodges urging them to meet in the City of Des Moines on August 9, 1881 for the purpose of organizing a Grand Lodge for the State of Iowa. The African Grand Lodge of Iowa was organized in the city of Keokuk on this date and resolved itself into a Grand Body of Masons for the State of Iowa. John Page of Des Moines was elected as its Grand Master. It was warranted under the title of the Most Worshipful African Grand Lodge, A.F. & A.M. for the State of Iowa.
The founding Lodges were as follows:
Sumner Lodge # 41 Burlington
John G. Jones Lodge No. 91 Council Bluffs
Golden Star Lodge No. 80 Ottumwa
North Start Lodge No. 31 Des Moines
York Lodge No. 8 Keokuk.
August 26, 1884
The Formation of Hiram Grand Lodge
Much discontent remained after the African Grand Lodge was formed in 1881. The Lodges still under the jurisdiction of Missouri led by Star Lodge No. 51 believed it was in the best interest of colored masonry to form an Independent Grand Lodge in the State of Iowa for harmonizing the elements in this state. The Hiram Grand Lodge was organized because the remaining Lodges on the Missouri register considered themselves to the only legal and regular Grand Lodge for regular colored Masons in the State of Iowa. The Most Worshipful Hiram Grand Lodge of Iowa was organized on August 26th, 1884 in the Hall of North Start Lodge No. 31 in Des Moines, Iowa. Alexander Clark (Past Grand Master of Missouri, 1870) elected as its first and only Grand Master.
During this period, there was much bickering, backbiting and public discourse between the two Grand Lodges. Both Grand Lodges lobbied other jurisdictions not to recognize the competing Grand Lodge. For almost six years there was chaos between the two Grand Lodges. The disagreements spread to the newspapers, church and the community. Many of the jurisdictions recognized African Grand Lodge but not Hiram Grand Lodge. Missouri recognized Hiram Grand Lodge but not African Grand Lodge. All Masons in both jurisdictions knew something must be done for the good of Black Masonry in the State of Iowa.
June 15, 1885
The Grand secretaries of both Grand Lodges, Miles N. Bell, Hiram Grand Lodge and G.H. Cleggett, African Grand Lodge, wrote a joint letter to both Grand Masters urging them to set aside their differences and work on a plan to unify Masonry in the State of Iowa. Neither of the secretaries signed the letter in their official capacity as Grand Secretary.
Alexander Clark Sr. and Bland wrote a series of letters back and forth on the issue of unification. Both spoke of the proposed union; however, neither wanted to give up their charters and their sovereignty and neither wanted to take the name of the other Grand Lodge.
July 12, 1887
The Formation of the United Grand Lodge of Iowa A. F. & A. M.
Both of the Grand Lodges met on the morning of July 12th 1887 in their respective sessions at 10 in the morning and conducted business. At three o’clock in the afternoon, the joint bodies, totaling 20 Lodges (7 from Hiram Grand Lodge and 13 from African Grand Lodge), met in the Hall of North Star Lodge No. 2 in Des Moines, Iowa. A resolution was made to unite and form the United Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F. & A.M. on July 13, 1887. The vote for the resolution was 58 for and 53 against. On Thursday July 14, 1887 George H. Cleggett was elected as the first Grand Master. Both Grand Lodges dissolved their old Grand Lodge names on this date and took the new name of The Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge of Iowa A.F. & A. M.
July 12, 1944
Resolution made to drop the word Ancient
On July 12th, 1944 at the fifty-seventh Annual Communication in Des Moines, Iowa, the Jurisprudence committee approved a resolution to drop the word “ancient” from the Grand Lodge title. The resolution passed by a vote of twenty-five to seven.
July 9th, 1945
The resolution was formally accepted to drop the A from our name making it read “F. & A. M.” instead of “A. F. & A. M.” The Grand Master announced that the constitution was so amended to reflect the name change and from hereafter the Grand Lodge body would be the known as The United Grand Lodge of F. & A. M. (Prince Hall Affiliation) for Iowa and Jurisdiction. The “A” standing for “Ancient” was dropped as it has no significance to Masons of color.
July 13, 1950
Resolution by H.A. Martin, PGM and C.C. F. C. recommended that the name be changed and the word United dropped and substituted with “Prince Hall.” The resolution passed and the name was changed to The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Iowa, F. & A. M.