A Caucasian Prince Hall Lodge

by Joseph A. Walkes, Jr.

Portions of this article were taken from "A Chronological History of Prince Hall Masonry 1788-1932" by Harry A. Williamson, by permission of the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations. Bro. Walkes thanks the foundation for allowing him to use portions of the material.

One of the most interesting facts to come to light, is to be found in the minute book of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, under the proceedings for the year 1871. Here is found a Lodge of German Jews working under the authority of this Prince Hall Grand Lodge.

This Lodge, sometimes designated as both "Downshire" and "Progress" No. 12, was located in New York City and warranted February 3, 1870. Its members were all Hebrews of German extraction. The only American born Black member was Brother Albert Wilson, its Secretary, who at the same time was Secretary of the Grand Lodge.

It is recorded that from February to December of 1870, this Lodge held 12 regular communications. The well-known Prince Hall Masonic scholar, Harry E. Davis, of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio, and author of "A History of Freemasonry Among Negroes in America," states that the warrant was recalled, as these Brethren returned to Europe at the time of the Franco-Prussian War. Harry A. Williamson in his "A Chronological History of Prince Hall Masonry 1784-1932" adds that those members remaining ultimately transferred their membership to the Caucasian Grand Lodge of that state. In support of this statement, Bro. Williamson records the proceedings of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge for 1874 as:

"Progress Lodge No. 12, New York City changed to Shakespear Lodge No. 750 under the Jurisdiction of the New York Grand Lodge (white)."

Williamson and Davis quote in a further record pertaining to the above statement, information was obtained in 1910, through one of these members, B. Le Vene, then a member of Wm. McKinley Lodge 840, under the jurisdiction of the Caucasian Grand Lodge of New York. He stated that he had been a member of the Prince Hall Lodge and that the first two degrees were re-conferred on him when he transferred his membership to the Caucasian body, but not the third as his raising under the Prince Hall Jurisdiction was deemed sufficient.

Williamson states that the records of Downshire No. 12, as noted in the minutes of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge read: "Downshire Lodge No. 12, organized February 3rd (Thursday), 1870. We are in possession of reports from this Lodge under dates of November 30, 1870, September, October, and December, 1871. An appeal addressed to the Grand Lodge September 7, 1870, is signed in the handwriting of the following Brethren: W.M. Abraham Levy; S.W.D. Jones, J.W. Acting, Julius Cohn.

In the Williamson Prince Hall Masonic collection housed in the New York Public Library, is a report sheet submitted to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge in 1870, showing the following named members:

  1. Abraham Levy
  2. Dramin Jones
  3. Abram Newfeldt
  4. Tobias Cohen
  5. Herman Holzwasser
  6. Davis Cerciwitz
  7. Jacob Goldfarb
  8. Henry Rosenthal
  9. Marcus Rosenthal
  10. Zundel Hebstein
  11. Morris Isaacs
  12. Max Levy
  13. Abraham Newmark