Prince Hall Origin

Prince Hall Origin

Letter To PNGM Matthew Brock

The following is a letter from Grand Lodge of NY Historian Edward Cusick to NGL Past Grand Historian PGM Matthew Brock



April 15, 1957


Ill. Matthew Brock

831 St. Claire Avenue

Columbus, 3, Ohio


Dear Friend Brock:


Your letter of April 12, 1957 has reached me and I am glad to hear from you. Thanks you for assuring me that the Eureka Grand Lodge of Ohio was established October 14, 1896 by the late Captain William D. Matthews and that Lorenzo D. Woods was the first Grand Master. Have you the Grand Lodge records intact from October 14, 1896? Please let me know.

As you expressed a desire to have the facts to prove that the National Grand Lodge was not dissolved in 1877 I shall in summary present them to you.

William H. Grimshaw in his book “official History of Freemasonry Among Colored People in North America”, page 192 writes: “Resolved, that the National or Compact Grand Lodge is, and the same is hereby declared forever void.” Grimshaw did not state where the original resolution could be found and to the best of my knowledge it is not to be found. But the so-called Resolution on examination produces grave suspicion. Any fraternal body might dissolve itself, but it is inconceivable that any organiozed  body of thirty years standing is deliberately going to declare itself as “irregular and unheard of body in Masonry”. Grimshaw says that this so-called action was taken in Wilmington Delaware in 1877.

After long investigation we can report that Grimshaw’s statement will not stand the light of research and the known facts. It is known that the National Grand Lodge held a Convention , not in Wilmington Delaware in 1877, but in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, it was held from Tuesday, May 15, 1877 to Friday May 18, 1877. Fortunately a Pittsburgh Newspaper reported on the Convention. In the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette of May 18, 1877, page 4, column three, is reported this ver valuable news:

The Masonic Brotherhood

The Most Worshipful National Grand Lodge of

  1. And A. A. Y. M. of North America

Seventh Triennial Session


The colored Masons who work under the “National Compact” have been hold interesting sessions for the two or three days in Masonic Hall, Fulton Street. Hon. Richard H. Gleaves, Most Worshipful National Grand Master, late Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, who was expected to preside at the session, was prevented by sickness from attending. The acting Most Worshipful Grand Master is Brother Samuel Vanbrakel, of Philadelphi, whose age was eighty-one years yesterday. He is one of the original founders of the National Compact which was organized in the city of Boston, Mass., June 1847, and is the oldest Past Grand Master in the United States. The following officers were elected for the ensuing term: M. W. N. G. M. Dr. George W. Levere, Tennessee; M. W. N. D. G. M., Lemuel Googins, Penna.; M. W. N. G. S. W. , William D. Matthews, Kansas; M. W. N. G. J. W. William H. Caldwell, Delaware; M. W. G. G. T., Absalom Black, Delaware; M. W. N. G. S., Allen Garner, Tenn.


The most remarkable man in this group mentioned in the Pittsburgh newspaper is Samuel Van Brakel. It has been said that he received the degree in 1818. There is no doubt that hje was one of the founders of the National Grand Lodge in Boston in June 1847. Thus his presence at this Pittsburgh Convention of May 1877 and his presiding over the sesion gives it a validity that the so-called state rights or independent Prince Hall bodies cannot refute. This newspaper item alone should forever silence the proponents and advocates of the claim that National Grand Lodge was dissolved in 1877. But we will present further proof that the National Grand Lodge was NOT dissolved in 1877.

One of the most hostile enemies of the National Grand Lodge was the colored Grand Lodge of Ohio(Now known as the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio). In its transactions for 1878 and 1880 we find the conclusive proof that the National Grand Lodge  was NOT dissolved in 1877. From the Grand Master’s Address of the Colored Grand Lodge of Ohio (Now the Prince Hall Grand Lodge) Delivered in Dayton, Ohio, on August 21, 1878 we extract:

“In my last annual address I called your attention to two calls for conventions of Colored Masons, in the interest of union and greater fraternity of feeling between the Grand Lodges  of this country. The first call was signed by about seventy Brethren, representing nearly every State in the Union; Chicago being selected as the place of meeting , and September 4, 1877, second call, as you remember, was upon the authority of and officially by the National Grand Lodge; the convention to be held at Wilmington, Del. May 8, 1878. Both of these meeting were held pursuant to call.”

(Transactions of the Colored Grand Lodge of Ohio, now Prine Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, Dayton, Ohio, August 21, 1878, page 10.)

In the same Ohio transactions, page 25 to 30, the Deputy Grand Master, William T. Boyd, renders his report which deals largely with his attendance at the convention in Wilmington, Delaware on May 8, 1878. William T. Boyd’s report definitely proves that the national Grand Lodge was very much alive on May 8, 1878, and remember that William T. Boyd was no great admirer of the National Grand Lodge. So his statements that the National Grand Lodge was functioning in 1878 are extremely important in proving that the National Grand Lodge was not dissolved in 1878.

From the August 18, 1880 transactions of the Colored Grand Lodge of Ohio (Now the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio) we present this extract:

“DELAWARE- This Grand Lodge (Independent) has failed, for some years to print her proceedings, therefore we are unable to say very much of or for her. Our verteran Bro. Grand Secretary, E. H. Anderson, is still at his post, and has given us what information we have. He informs us that the Grand Lodge is pursuing the even tenor of her way; that by act of Legislature the Grand Lodge has been incorporated; that they are at peace with the Philistines[The nationals]. We would think, that it would be a worthy object for the Masons of Delaware, to labor for a union in their own state, as very nearly all the states have united. We opine for the present that no worthier an object presents itself for the action of our Brethren in this State. Soon we shall begin to tell the Compact Grand Lodges by small numbers: to the best of our knowledge, Penn, Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware and Tennessee, with a few isolated Lodges in other jurisdictions, are about the sum total of the strength of the Compact Grand Lodges and Lodges. If Delaware will but go to work and unify the Masons of her own state, there will be one more hiding place less for the national Grand Lodge. We hope the Grand Lodge of Delaware will buckle on her armour, and go forth to do hostile battle for the freedom of Colored Masons, as of old. First by keeping herself before the Masonic world in her true light, and then by waging war against the National Compact, until every Mason within her borders, shall have been brought to light, in the right”

(Transactions of the Colored Grand Lodge of Ohio, now Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, Circleville, Ohio; report of Foreign Correspondence Committee, pp. 66-67).

What irony from the mouth of one of its most hostile opponents do we obtain the proof that the National Grand Lodge was operating on May 8, 1878 and still operating in 1880. Not only operating in 1880 but appearently with active Grand Lodges in Pennsylvania, Kansas, South Carolina, Delaware and Tennessee, and with a few isolated Lodges in other jurisdictions, meaning that the national Grand Lodge was operating in 1880 with at least five state Grand Lodges under its authority.

In the Wilmington, Delaware newspapers of May 13, May 14, May 15, May 17 and May 18, 1880 are excellent reports of a National Convention held in that city by the National Grand Lodge Dr. George W. Levere of Tennessee is reported as the National Grand Master which confirms the report in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania Commercial Gazette of may 18th, 1877 that he was elected as National Grand master for the ensuing term. Captain William D. Matthews is reported as the Senior Grand Warden which conforms the Pittsburgh Commercial Gazette of May 18, 1877.

In the proceedings of the Colored Grand  Lodge of Missouri (Now the Prince Hall grand Lodge of Missouri) for 1880 at page 34 is reprinted the proclamation of Dr. Georgew W. Levere, National Grand Master of the National Grand Lodge for this national Convention to be held in Wilmington, Delaware in May 1880. The proclamation bears the name of Geo. W. Levere, National Grand Master, and issued at Knoxville, Tennessee, on December 1, 1879. This does another “enemy” of the National grand Lodge help prove that it was never dissolved in 1877.

From the newspaper, The Colored Citizen, Fort Scott, Kansas, Friday, May 17, 1878 Page Four, Column One, we extract:

“Captain W. D. Matthews Grand Master of A. Y. F. Masons in Kansas, has gone to Wilmington, Delaware(sic!) to attend the National Grand Lodge of North America.”

In an announcement of a coming convention of the King Solomon grand Lodge of Ancient and Free and Accepted York Masons in the state of Kansas to be held in Leavenworth, Kansas on October 6th, 1879 that appeared in The Colored Citizen, Topeka, Kansas, Saturday, August 30, 1879, page two, column three, it is stated:

“The Most Worshipful national grand Master of the United States of North America, Dr. Geo. W. Levere of Knoxville, Tenn. and the National D. G. M. Lemuel Googins of Pennsylvania will be present on their national grand visitation.”

There is much more that I could present to prove that the National Grand Lodge did NOT dissolve in 1877. Perhaps those extracts from the transactions of the so-called Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio will give you the greatest satisfaction. Your opponents cannot give the “LIE” to their own records.


I would appreciate your prompt acknowledging this letter and also giving me your reaction to the contents so write me by return mail, please


Sincerely Yours,

Edward R. Cusick Research Historian

68 East 94th St.,

New York, 28, N. Y.

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