History of the North Dakota Grand Lodge

We trace our Masonic lineage back through the Grand Lodge of Dakota to that of Iowa, Missouri, Tennessee to the parent lodge of North Carolina. In this closely knit group of Grand Lodges to which we belong, one of them, Tennessee, has the distinction of numbering among its members, three presidents of the United States, Jackson, Polk and Johnson.

Only one other Grand Lodge in the Mississippi Valley, Ohio, can claim presidents among its members (four-Garfield, Harding, McKinley and Taft). This group of states, of which North Carolina is the oldest, received very early in their history, important migrations of English, German and Scotch-Irish population.  Those in Tennessee came principally from three sources, Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina. Missouri, under the guidance of the U.S. Senator Thomas H. Benton, took a leading part in the occupation of the Great Plains, and its principal city, St. Louis, was long a center for the fur trade in the upper Missouri River region. Senator Benton was also influential in promoting the settlement of Oregon Territory and the setting up of permanent government there. From St. Louis, the Lewis and Clark expedition set out for their famous trip to the Columbia Valley on the Pacific Coast in 1804.

The first recorded lodge of Masons in North Carolina was Solomon Lodge in the Cape Fear Settlement, near the present city of Wilmington, and it was chartered in 1735, by Thomas Thynne, second viscount of Weymouth, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England. The Solomon Lodge at Charleston was also chartered as for the date 1735.

Other North Carolina lodges chartered later were:

  1. St. John’s Lodge in Wilmington (taking the place of Solomon Lodge, after it ceased to exist in 1754) chartered by the Grand Lodge of England in 1755, as No. 213.
  2. Hanover Lodge, near Wilmington, supposed to have been derived from an army lodge chartered by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, May 13, 1756, among the North Carolina soldiers operating against Crown Point.
  3. Royal White Hart Lodge, Halifax. This lodge was first organized in 1764, by authority from Cornelius Hartnett, W.M. of St. John’s Lodge at Wilmington. On August 12, 1767, this lodge was chartered by John Salter, Dep. Gr. Master of Grand Lodge of England. Its number was 403.
  4. “First Lodge in Pitt Co.” (real name) chartered as early as 1766, by Jeremy Gridley, Mass., Provincial Grand Master appointed in 1753. “over parts of North America where such official had not been appointed previously.” Thos. Cooper was W.M. of this lodge, according to a communication sent to the Grand Lodge of Mass, June 24, 1767. On October 23, 1767 Henry Price, Past Provincial Grand Master as acting Grand Master in lieu of Jeremy Gridley, deceased, commissioned Thos. Cooper as Deputy Provincial Grand Master of North Carolina.
  5. Union Lodge No. 8 at Fayetteville. Its record is uncertain but it seems to have been chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland, 1760. In 1766, there were some 30 English lodges on the so-called Roll of the “Province of America”, outside of Boston. The first appearance of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina came with the appointment on January 4, 1771 of Joseph Montfort of Halifax, NC as Provincial Grand Master of the Province of North Carolina with jurisdiction over all North America wherever no other Grand Lodge had authority (recalling the title of Jeremy Gridley, just mentioned). The appointment was made by Grand Master of England, Henry Somerset, 5th Duke of Beaufort. His commission as Provincial Grand Master gave Montfort full power to make Masons and to constitute and regulate in the province of North Carolina — an authority he exercised until his death in 1776. He at once appointed Jas. Milner as Deputy Provincial Grand Master and after the latter’s death, he named as his successor Cornelius Hartnett. William Brimage was named as Grand Secretary. The Grand Lodge met regularly at either Halifax, New Bern or Edenton, until the outbreak of the Revolutionary War, and the death of the Prov. Grand Master suspended further activity until 1786.

The earliest lodges chartered by this first Grand Lodge of North Carolina were as follows:

  1. St. John’s Lodge No. 3 at New Bern, January 10, 1772.
  2. St. John’s Lodge No. 4 at Kinston, January 10, 1772.
  3. Royal Edwin Lodge No. 5 at Windsor.
  4. Royal William Lodge No. 6 at Winton.
  5. Unanimity Lodge No. 7 at Edenton.  In their lodge room, this lodge still retains the chair in which George Washington sat during his visits to the lodge.

At the close of the Revolutionary War, the separation from England left the lodges of North Carolina without any central authority. Nor were there still living, any of the Masonic officers, who had held authority previously under the Provincial Grand Lodge of North Carolina. The first step toward the formation of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina was taken by Union Lodge of Fayetteville, which was still working under dispensation of the Grand Lodge of Scotland. A letter was sent from this lodge to all lodges of the state(14) on January 1, 1787, asking them to send delegates to Fayetteville for the purpose of naming a Grand Master.

The convention met at Fayetteville on June 24, 1787 but as there were not enough lodges represented to form a quorum, the convention adjourned to meet at arboro. On December 9, 1787 the convention met pursuant to call and a Masonic declaration of independence was made and a form of government was adopted. On December 11, 1787, the following officers were elected: Samuel Johnston, Grand Master; Richard Caswell, Deputy Grand Master; Richard Ellis, Senior Grand Warden; Michael Payne, Junior Grand Warden; Abner Neale, Grand Treasurer; and Jas. Glasgow, Grand Secretary.

These officers were installed December 12, 1787, and with their induction into office, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina began its Masonic existence. It seems fitting at this time to suggest that each Grand Lodge, since created under the authority of North Carolina or other Grand Lodges in the lineal series, have as a part of their Masonic records, an official list of these first North Carolina Grand Lodge officers with suitable photographs, accompanying each of them. This will include the Grand Lodges of Tennessee, Missouri, Iowa, South Dakota and North Dakota.

At a called meeting of the Grand Lodge at New Bern on June 25, 1791, a list of 18 lodges was made up and they received charters in the order of their established claims of precedence. Seven of these original lodges have passed out of existence, but eleven of the original number are still carrying on their Masonic duties.

In 1797, the Grand Lodge of North Carolina was duly incorporated under the laws of the state. After the admission to the Union of the State of Tennessee, the title of the lodge was changed to the Grand Lodge of North Carolina and Tennessee, which began to be commonly used by 1801, although the legal title remained as at first. The first lodge charter outside of North Carolina was granted to St. Tammany Lodge at Nashville, TN, December 17, 1796.

In 1800, the name of this lodge was changed to Harmony Lodge No. 1. The charter was revoked December 16, 1808, but on June 24, 1812, the oldest Past Master of this lodge secured a dispensation from Grand Master Robert Williams and re-organized the old lodge as Cumberland Lodge No. 8. Altogether the Grand Lodge of North Carolina chartered nine lodges in what is now the State of Tennessee.

On September 18, 1805, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky chartered a lodge known as Philanthropic Lodge No. 12, within the jurisdiction of North Carolina at Clover Bottom, part of the famous plantation, the “Hermitage” of Andrew Jackson. The subsequent controversy carried on by Henry Clay, representing Kentucky, led to the cancelling of this charter.

On December 2, 1811, the eight existing lodges in Tennessee petitioned the Grand Lodge of North Carolina for a charter as a separate state Grand Lodge. In November, 1812, Robert Williams, Grand Master, presided over the last joint session of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina and Tennessee. The Tennessee Grand Lodge charter was granted September 30, 1813, and it has the distinction of being the only charter ever issued in America, establishing a Grand Lodge.

Andrew Jackson was Grand Master in Tennessee, 1822-23. The influence of his name, later during the stormy anti-Masonic period, did much to re-establish confidence in Masonry in the western states (1828-37). In 1825, the Grand Lodge of Tennessee was honored by a visit from LaFayette, who at that time was on a tour in the United States. On May 4th, he was introduced by Andrew Jackson at a special session of the Grand Lodge. And he was made an honorary member of the lodge at that time. Before the Grand Lodge of Tennessee had chartered any lodges in what is now Missouri, a number of lodges had been authorized in that territory. From Kaskaskia, the old capital of Illinois, a group of French traders crossed the Mississippi River and formed a lodge at St. Genevieve, 1807, the first Masonic lodge in the Louisiana Purchase.

In 1808, St. Louis Lodge No. 111 was organized in St. Louis and the first Master was Meriwether Lewis, then territorial governor. Both these lodges were chartered by Pennsylvania Grand Lodge. Potosi Lodge No. 31 was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky. From Indiana came, about the same time, Andrew Buckner, first Grand Master of Indiana, and he brought, 1820, a dispensation for a lodge at Jackson, known later as Unity Lodge No. 6.

The Grand Lodge of Tennessee chartered three lodges in Missouri Territory, St. Louis lodge (earlier known as No. 111) and Joachim and St. Charles lodges, both Octobers, 1819. The St. Louis lodge issued a call to the other two lodges above named to meet in convention at St. Louis, February 22, 1821. The three lodges met, elected their Grand Lodge officers and adopted a constitution. On May 4, 1821, these officers were installed and the Grand Lodge of Missouri was formally established.

The Grand Lodge of Missouri chartered four lodges in Illinois, all of which eased to exist by 1824, in order to accept charters from the newly organized Grand Lodge of Illinois. By 1837, Illinois had lost its charter and the Missouri Grand Lodge had chartered five more lodges in that state which did not become affiliated with the Illinois Grand Lodge until 1842.

The year 1826 marks the low water stage of Missouri Masonry, for at that time, but four lodges remained under charter out of the 13 which had been chartered up to that date. By 1837, the tide had turned and Missouri Masonry soon recovered its lost ground and continued to grow at that time. While it is not possible to recount the many Masonic under takings for which this Grand Lodge was responsible in its pioneer days, a few will be mentioned as typical of this phase of its Masonic activity.

During the Mexican War, it chartered two military lodges. On October 10, 1846, the Grand Lodge granted a charter for Multnomah Lodge at Oregon City, Oregon Territory, but owing to the difficulties of communication, it did not reach the petitioners until September 11, 1848. Three years later, this lodge passed under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Oregon Territory.

On March 6, 1859, the Grand Lodge granted a dispensation authorizing the organization of Rocky Mountain Lodge at the U.S. Military Post known as Camp Floyd, Utah Territory. Their charter was granted in 1860, and this lodge continued to function until 1862, when the charter was given up, principally, to the recall of the troops from the post.

On November 12, 1840, 12 Masons met on call in Burlington, Des Moines Co., the capital of Iowa Territory. Among them were Robert Lucas, just appointed by Pres. Van Buren as Territorial Governor and his private secretary, Theodore S. Parvin. A petition was drawn up at this meeting and presented to the Grand Lodge of Missouri for a dispensation to form a lodge at Burlington. On the granting of the petition, the first lodge in Iowa Territory was organized on November 30, 1840. Hiram C. Bennett was elected Worshipful Master. On October 20, 1841, this lodge was given a charter as Des Moines Lodge No. 41.

Three more Iowa lodges were chartered by the Grand Lodge of Missouri, Iowa Lodge, No. 42 on December 27, 1841 and Iowa City Lodge No.63 and Dubuque Lodge No. 62. on October 10, 1843. On May 9, 1843, a convention of representatives of the above four Iowa lodges met at Iowa City to consider the formation of a separate Grand Lodge. It was agreed to hold a special convention at the next regular session of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, which was to meet October 10, 1843.

Pursuant to call, delegates from the four Iowa lodges met in convention on October 11, 1843. At this convention, it was agreed to hold a Masonic convention at Iowa City, Iowa, on January 2, 1844, for the purpose of organizing a Grand Lodge. This convention met at the time and place agreed upon and chose as president, Ansel Humphreys, District Deputy Grand Master of Missouri, representing Iowa Lodge No. 42.

After adopting the constitution for a new Grand Lodge, W.M. Oliver Cock of Des Moines Lodge, was chosen the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Iowa. The installation of officers took place on January 1844, and on October 18, the Missouri Grand Lodge recognized the Iowa Grand Lodge as an independent organization. With the creation of the territory of Dakota in 1861, population began to move into the new wheat lands of the Dakotas, west of the Mississippi and Red Rivers. The Iowa Grand Lodge was soon called upon to issue charters for the new lodges in the southern part of Dakota Territory.

Six charters were issued altogether to lodges in: Yankton, June 3, 1863; Vermillion, June 2, 1869; Elk Point, June 3, 1875; Sioux Falls, June 3, 1863; Springfield, June 3, 1875; and Canton, June 3, 1875. On July 21, 1875, delegations from the six just named lodges met in a convention at Vermillion, SD. Here the Grand Lodge of Dakota was organized with the aid of Past Grand Master of Iowa Grand Lodge, Theo. S. Parvin of Iowa City, Iowa.

The Grand Lodge officers elected at this time were as follows:

Grand Master……………….. Thos. H. Brown, Sioux Falls
Deputy Grand Master ………………. F.J. DeWitt, Yankton
Grand Senior Warden …………. Calvin G. Shaw, Vermillion
Grand Junior Warden……………….. H.H. Blair, Elk Point
Grand Treasurer…………………. Geo. H. Hand, Yankton
Grand Secretary ………………… Mark W. Bailey, Canton

While this development was taking place in the south, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota had begun to issue charters to lodges in the northern part of Dakota Territory. The first of these was Northern Light Lodge at Fort Pembina on the Red River, an army post established by the U.S. Government in November, 1863. An officer in Hatch’s Battalion of Calvary stationed here, Capt. C.W. Nash, had received a dispensation for a lodge at Pembina while he was still at Fort Abercrombie. On arriving at Fort Pembina, he secured the cooperation of a group of Masons in the garrison and applied to Minnesota Grand Lodge for a charter. In January, 1864, while still under dispensation, the lodge was transferred to Fort Garry, or Winnipeg, upon the recall of the garrison from Fort Pembina the same year.

Northern Light Lodge continued its existence (U.D.) in Manitoba, Canada, under the jurisdiction of the Minnesota Grand Lodge for some years. The second lodge to be organized by the Minnesota Grand Lodge in Dakota Territory was Yellowstone Lodge, at Fort Buford, a U.S. Army Post on the upper Missouri River near the Montana line. This lodge was chartered January 6, 1872, and was composed largely of the officers and soldiers of the garrison. On account of the transfer of the regiment to another point, the lodge surrendered the charter June 6, 1874. The records were transferred to Bismarck where they were destroyed by fire many years later.

The first permanent Masonic lodge to be established in northern Dakota Territory was at Fargo on the Red River. The charter was secured from the Minnesota Grand Lodge, January 14, 1874. The officers were installed and the lodge formally constituted February 9, 1874, by Benj. L Perry, W.M. of Aurora Lodge (100) of Brainerd.

The second permanent lodge to be set up by Minnesota Grand Lodge in northern Dakota Territory was the Bismarck Grand Lodge at the territorial capital. The charter was granted on January 12, 1876. When the Grand Forks Lodge of Dakota was organized, invitations were sent to Fargo and Bismarck to join in the creation of the new Grand Lodge. By some misunderstanding or oversight, neither of these lodges accepted the invitation and, after the Grand Lodge of Dakota had assumed jurisdiction, the Minnesota Grand Lodge was asked to cooperate in having Fargo and Bismarck join the new organization. This was finally effected at the cost of some sharp exchanges between the officers of the two organizations. Fargo had its charter re-issued by the Grand Lodge of Dakota on June 7, 1879, and Bismarck on June 9.