Early Masonry in the Colonies

The first lodge meeting of Free Masons in Pennsylvania must have been opened prior to 1730; as Daniel Cox received a deputation at that time constituting him as Grand Master of New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey, therefore there must have been sufficient numbers of Masons to have formed at least one lodge in each of those States, or there would have been no reason to have a Grand Master. From an old ledger discovered in 1908, it shows that there was a lodge established in Philadelphia about the later part of 1730, or first part of 1731. It met on the first monday of each month and had thirteen members. This ledger entitled "Libre B" was the Secretary's ledger, and entries date from June 24, 1731 til June 24, 1738, and shows a list of 50 members. "Libre B" indicates that there was a "Libre A" an even older ledger used by an older lodge.

It was in "Libre B", that it mentions Benjamin Franklin. It shows that Franklin was charged on June 24, 1731. "To the remainder of your £3. entered is £2". Franklin had apparently paid the sum of £1, five months before or some time during that period, as he was also charged with five months dues, which would indicate he had been made a Mason in February 1731, (the first degree). Oddly the last entries in "Libre B" were made by Franklin, it consists of a report drawn up on June 5, 1731, by a committee of the members, and was in his own handwriting. NOTE: Feb 1731 under the old calendar was the birthdate of George Washington, under the new calendar it would be February 1732. It may be assumed that they were using the new calendar, but there is no proof. However if it were so then we could say that Benjamin Franklin was made a Mason one year before George Washington was born. From the Philadelphia Gazette, dated June 27, 1734, "Monday last a Grand Lodge of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free Masons in this Province, was held at the Sun Tavern, in Water Street, when Benjamin Franklin, being elected Grand Master for the ensuing year, appointed Mr. John Crap to be his deputy; and James Hamilton, Esq., and Thomas Hopkins, Gent. to be his wardens. After which a very elegant entertainment was provided and the Proprietor (Thomas Penn) the Governor, and several other persons of distinction honored the Society with their presence." Franklin went on to serve a second term as Grand Master, and by that time the Meeting was held in the "Royal Standard" on Market Street near Second. During his diplomatic career, Franklin while in France, joined the "Lodge of the Nine Muses" in which LaLander and other literary celebrities were members. Franklin took an active part in the initiation of Voltaire, and at his death, Franklin served as S.W. of the lodge of sorrow held to celebrate his memory. Oddly when we speak of early Masonry in the Colonies, we always get conflicting statements as to who was first, or when was the first lodge meeting. Masons for some reason always interested in the first of anything and everything. Yet here is a first which very few pay any attention too, and it can be validated.

"In 1715, John Moore, Collector for the port of Philadelphia, in a letter to a friend, mentions having spent some evenings with his Masonic Brethren" Although this reference may be located in the Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, 1882, page 152, there is no mention of it being a Lodge meeting. With the end of the War for Independence, there was that desire to be independent from England in other ways, and thus on September 25, 1786, in Lodge No. 25 which met in a little room in Vidall's Alley, near Second and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, Lodges Nos. 2, 3, 5, 9, 12, 14, 18, 33, 44, and 45 met. They disolved the Provincial Grand Lodge, and formed the "Independent Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction there unto belonging". Although they had formed their Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, there had only been eleven Lodges at this meeting, not present were some seventeen lodges which held warrants under the old provincial Grand Lodge, to which they were still very much attached.

Five months passed, and in February of 1787 the Independent Grand Lodge wrote letters and notified all lodges outstanding to return their warrant and they would be issued new Charters under the new Grand Lodge. As an example; Alexandria Lodge No. 39 received their letter on February 23, 1787, requesting the return of the warrant issued February 3, 1783, and a new charter would be issued placing them under the Independent Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Unlike some of the other lodges. The Alexandria Lodge No. 39 did not reply but hesitated. The Revolutionary War now at an end, the Grand Lodge of Virginia was once more in session; and at a meeting of the Lodge No. 39 they decided that rather than go with Pennsylvania it would request membership with the Grand Lodge of Virginia. A Committee consisting of Robert McCrea, William Hunter, and John Allison approched General Washington to ascertain if it was agreeable to him to be named in the Charter as Master of the newly proposed lodge. Washington gave his consent to the use of his name, and a Letter was sent on October 25, 1787 to the Grand Lodge of Virginia requesting to be admitted and that a charter naming George Washington as its Charter Master be granted at the next regular communication of the Grand Lodge in Richmond. The Petiton of the lodge was granted,the number was changed to 22, and dated April 28, 1788, and signed by Edmund Randolph Esq. Grand Master and William Waddell, Grand Secretary. What may have happened to the other sixteen lodges under the Provincial Grand Lodge? What did they do? How did they respond to the request for the return of their warrants? I can only say, There must have been other lodges like our Alexandria Lodge which were outside the Pennsylvania jurisdiction, at the time of the establishment of the Independent Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.