Friday, May 10, 2013

Washington State and the Charge against Clandestine Freemasonry Pt. 1

From the very inception of Freemasonry among African Americans in the State of Washington, clandestine freemasonry has attempted to establish a foothold in the region. To better understand the ardent charge exerted by the Prince Hall Free and Accepted Masons against the infection of Clandestine freemasonry, we must start at the beginning.

According to the Official History recorded in the M. W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of WA Code book, "Prince Hall Masons have been in the State of Washington at least since 1870, primarily from Iowa, Missouri, and Illinois Jurisdictions."[1] Although Prince Hall Masons were in the State, "the FIRST lodge of Negro Masons in Washington was started as club in May, 1889, at Roslyn."[2] 

By 1889, the most visible and known irregularity within the Prince Hall Affiliation was the "National Grand Lodge", which originated in 1847, via the existing Grand lodges and subordinate lodges coming into Convention in June of the same year. There are many questions concerning that Convention and the Constitution of that entity, but we will focus on that in a later paper.

According to many members, authors and publications of the day, the end of the "National Grand Lodge" came as it started in convention of Sovereign Grand Lodges, both Compact and Independent, who agreed to end the Body, and later began merging together, leaving the National Grand body inoperative for at least 11 to 12 years; reorganized by remaining factions.[3] Today, the entity entitled, "National Grand Lodge" or "Prince Hall origin" or "National Compact" is today considered to be Irregular, clandestine and unrecognized by any Regular masonic body.

This same "National Grand Lodge", on June 21st, 1891, 2 years later, after the establishment of the first Lodge of Negro Masons in Roslyn, WA, established a Grand Lodge in the city of Seattle, WA.[4] This "grand lodge" was spurious, irregular, and clandestine for multiple reasons:
  1.  It received a warrant to establish a Grand Lodge. Grand Lodge constitutions are vested in the assembly of just and duly constituted lodges, in convention, for the purpose of erecting a grand Lodge in the territory. Grand Lodges aren't warranted by "higher authorities", because Grand Lodges are SOVEREIGN. 
  2. The Cornerstone Grand Lodge was not constituted by just and duly constituted Lodges, but rather, a "constitutional number of master masons"[5].
  3. Cornerstone Grand Lodge was "warranted" by a Body that had been dissolved in 1878, and reorganized and resumed by disgruntled members (i.e., George Levere) who continued the existence of the National Grand Lodge because they could get no seats in the Grand Lodge of their respective states, per merger of the Independent Grand Lodges and the Compact Grand Lodges.
This began a conflict in the state of Washington, where vital members of the Compact began joining the Lodges under the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois. One such Mason was Britian Oxendine, who was one of the founding members of the Cornerstone Grand Lodge[6], and later a member of the the Prince Hall Jurisdiction of Illinois.

In 1891, The Standard Newspaper became the city's first newspaper for African American's. This paper was founded by Britian Oxendine, former member of the Cornerstone Grand Lodge. This paper was the news organ of the city, and when Oxendine left the Cornerstone GL, became the organ for the Prince Hall lodges in the area. We know according to this paper, that Gideon S. Bailey, District Deputy Grand Master for the Jurisdiction of Illinois and member of Washington Lodge #49, that the war between the Clandestine Cornerstone Grands Lodge and the Jurisdiction of Illinois in Washington State began almost immediately.

After the publication of the existence of the Cornerstone Grand Lodge in the Seattle Telegraph, September 3rd, 1891, The Seattle Standard published a statement concerning the "Cornerstone bunch" on November 28th, 1891. It was Gideon S. Bailey who wrote:

"That Masonic Lodge recently organized here among the Afro-Americans[Cornerstone Grand Lodge] is not recognized outside the city of Seattle...It is a bogus affair and in time the people will find out...It was evidently organized by certain parties who duped several of Seattle's citizens into it for the purpose of "flinching" them out of their money...No, it is not the genuine Masonry, and I defy the members thereof to show anything that whatever, that would entitle them to recognition among other Masons...There is no such Masonry in America, nor anywhere else...The National Compact was an organization which one might rightfully call an "old handkerchief-headed" affair...I hope that this is investigated before anymore of Seattle's citizens are duped into the thing."[7]

With the influence of the Standard, Prince Hall Masons, and one Gideon S. Bailey, the Cornerstone Grand Lodge suffered a major blow both in membership and financially, which led to the lawsuit placed with the Superior Court of King County, against Britian Oxendine and Gideon S. Bailey, by the (then) Grand Master of Cornerstone Grand Lodge, Dr. Samuel Burdett:[8]

In the complaint, Cornerstone Grand Lodge leader cited slander and defamatory statements against the Grand Lodge, and reported that due to the paper war ensued by the Prince Hall Masons, through the Standard, the Cornerstone Grand Lodge incurred damages in the amount of $5, 000.00. That is a major financial blow for an upstart Grand Lodge; they were talking in the value of dues lost based on membership leaving Cornerstone to be healed over to PHA lodges. This, the Seattle Panic, and the confrontation with The National Grand Master, "Captain" W.D. Matthews in 1892[9], the Cornerstone Grand Lodge met fate and became defunct in 1893.

This was the States first encounter with Clandestine Masonry, and even with the demise of the Cornerstone Grand Lodge, the renegade nature of the disbanded masons was still an issue at the establishment of the Grand Lodge of Washington and Oregon (PHA) in 1903. According to the Introduction of the First and Second Annual Communication Proceedings (1904-1905), "a rapid increase in the number of renegade Masons in their midst, and their inability to protect themselves from the actions of unscrupulous ex-Masons..."[10] it became necessary to form the Grand Lodge of Washington and Oregon.

As the Grand Lodge became more stable and established in its role as Sovereign and Supreme authority in the region for Prince Hall, we began to witness a more potent movement against clandestine Masonry.

In 1906, The M.W. Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. for Washington issued the following resolution on "Irregular Masonry"[11]:

pg. 21

pg. 22

In the same Proceeding, we find Alabama being reported by the Committee on Foreign Correspondence[12]:

pg. 44

In 1908, we find the Committee on Foreign Correspondence reporting concerning the John G. Jones issue in Alabama[13]:

In 1909, the young Grand Lodge was faced with internal conflicts that she turned her focus on. With the threat of conspiracy against the Grand Lodge[14], disturbance in the harmony of the Craft[15], and the transition of leadership, clandestine masonry could not escape the view of the Grand Jurisdiction of Washington. In the Report on Foreign Correspondence, the Committee reported an interesting development in the Jurisdiction of Arkansas[16]:

pg. 83

pg. 84

From 1910-1911, we find much restoration of the Jurisdiction occurring, and a more established body of Masons, having persevered the Confusion of 1909. With the introduction of the Book of Laws, complied by Code Commissioner, E. H. Holmes, in 1913, Washington now had a more solidified Code, and took a position on BOGUS MASONRY[17]:

pg. 55, Book of Laws

pg. 56, Book of Laws

The above incident is the invasion of territory by Euclid Lodge #47 of the Missouri Jurisdiction. Certain petitioners for degrees had been rejected by the Lodge in Seattle, and were invited by an established lodge in Portland, Oregon, where all three degrees were conferred on them in one night.[18] MWPGM, E. H. Holmes, then Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence, wrote to the MW Grand Lodge of Missouri (GM Coles) and laid out the complaint. After being reprimanded by their own Jurisdiction, Euclid Lodge continued those practices, which brought about the complaint being filed in Multnomah county Oregon. The District Deputy Grand Master dropped the ball, and the case was dismissed. In the 1911 Proceedings of the MW United Grand Lodge of Washington, we find a series of Communications between the Grand Lodge and Euclid Lodge Worshipful Master, C. A. Hughes, in which agreements were reach and the issue resolved.[19] it would be interesting to find out whatever became of Euclid Lodge #47, because at the Institution of the Prince Hall Grand Grand Lodge of Oregon, we find no trace of a Euclid Lodge #47 in the State of Oregon, and when I found a Proceeding from 1998, we still don't find a Euclid Lodge of any kind.[20]

We do have in our possession the Proceedings from 1912-1919, but could not have them available for this article, but we still verify and substantiate the title of the article based on the years we do have.

In 1925, there was a shot hear around the world, it was published in the Foreign Correspondence section of the 1925 Proceedings:

pg. 61 Report of CFC

pg. 66 Report of CFC[20]

By this time, the Compact issue in Washington had all but passed, but a new set of groups loomed on the horizons, John A. Bell Grand Lodge and the MW Universal Grand Lodge. It wouldn't be until 1945 and 1947 respectively, when the John A. Bell and MW Universal Grand Lodge would incorporate in the State of Washington[21]. 

In 1946, the operation of the John A. Bell organization had been spotted and placed on the radar of the Grand Lodge of Washington; The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge recorded the following in their Proceedings:

pg. 28[22]

In 1947, we can recognize that there was a growing sentiment among the Jurisdiction, that Clandestine Masonry should be confronted, and the targets became the John A. Bell and Universal Grand Lodge, who had recently organized and incorporated in the city of Seattle:

pg. 45

pg. 46

In this Proceeding of 1947[23] the history of the John A. Bell group was presented and resolutions passed (pg. 45), the resolution most vital to identifying the permeating stand of the Jurisdiction is found on pg. 46:
"Therefore be it Resolved: That the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and its Jurisdiction LAUNCH AN ALL OUT WAR ON CLANDESTINE MASONRY IN WASHINGTON, WITH THE SPIRIT OF DETERMINATION MUST BE RID OF BOGUS MASONRY."[24]

It is also important to note that, in the same 1947 Annual Communication, a Commission on Clandestine Masonry was appointed "with full power to investigate, negotiate with the proper legal authorities, prepare for litigation or legal action against John A. Bell and other spurious Jurisdictions now operating in Washington holding themselves out as Masons."

Though the 1948 Proceedings were quiet as to clandestine Masonry, we know that there was movement based on the report given in the 1949 Proceedings by the Chairman of the Committee of Grand Publicity and Reporting[25]:

pg. 44

Again, I faced a lack of Proceedings to definitively depict the movement from that point, but we find that there had to have been substantial movement for we find the Commission still in existence in 1960, and Grand Master Johnny Allen leading the charge. September 3, 1959, MW GM Johnny Allen called PGM MW Vernon Scott and requested an emergency meeting with the Commission on Clandestine Masonry[26]. On September 11, 1959, MW Johnny Allen directed DDGM Creal to explore Vancouver, Washington for a lodge and report on Clandestine Masons in his district[27]. On October 20th, 1959, Grand Master Johnny Allen enlisted the assistance of MW Amos T. Hall of The MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, in reference to the refusal of a request made to the Universal Grand Lodge, and initiating a litigation process[28]. We also find in this year an actual Commission with the following members[29]:

Clandestine Commission
W. Vernon Scott, Chrm.
George Jorden, Co-Chrm.
Robert D. Byrd
Fred U. Harris
Russell S. Gideon
T. E. Spearman
Louis R. Solomon
E. A. Douglas, Alternate

And, as well, we find a report given by the same said Commission[30]:

pg. 45

pg. 46

All preparation came to head in the filing of charges against the bogus bodies, and the case in court being heard and judgment rendered; Both the John A. Bell and Universal Grand Lodge could no longer operate in the State of Washington, they became defunct here in our Jurisdiction; here is the a portion of that report[31]:

pg. 72

According to the report, the battle took 5 years to complete and over $12,000[32]. But, despite the sacrifices made, it set a precedent in Washington State, that Clandestine Masonry would not be tolerated. Here is the actual citings of both cases, and the listing of the lodges and chapters under those bodies whom the injunction fell:

Case Citing, can be found online as well.
The Injunction against John A. Bell GL
Further Sanctions imposed on John A. Bell GL
Lodges, Chapters, and members the injunction covered (1)
Lodges, Chapters, and members the injunction covered (2)
All of the above is cited at[33]

And, here is the pieces to the Universal Grand Lodge cease and desist order[34]:

Universal Grand Lodge case citing
Those affected by the Judgment(1)
Those affected by the Judgment(1)

This is part one of a series, which the next series will cover the years 1962-1970.

To be Continued...

Note:*All Subordinate Lodges in the Washington Jurisdiction would like to have a presentation or study class on the History and Proceedings, contact the Grand Historian, WB Rick Sepolen, and we will come to your place of communication and do a study.

Written by Brother John L. Hairston, MPS-Life, Phylaxis Society
J. C. Logan Lodge #53, F. & A.M.
MWPHGL of WA and Jurisdiction

1.       Masonic Code of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, updated 2004, History Section, pg. XI
2.       Ibid. pg. XIII
3.       The Most Worshipful National Grand Lodge, etc., et al v. The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge, etc., et al. Decided, July 19, 1921. Common Pleas Court of Franklin County.

“Upon the question as to whether or not in the year 1877 or 1878 the National Grand Lodge ceased to exist and adjourned sine die, there is a divergence in the evidence. However, this may be, it clearly appears from the weight of the evidence that there was a hiatus of eleven or twelve years in the operations and functioning of said National Grand Lodge.”
4.       Seattle Telegraph, September  3, 1891, pg. 5, “Colored freemasons”
5.       Ibid. Samuel Budett states: “…whereas on the 10th day of June, A CONSTITUIONAL NUMBER OF MASTER MASONS petitioned the National Grand Lodge…which petition was granted June 15th, 1891.”
6.       Seattle Republican, June 8, 1906, “Col. Matthews Dead”, lists Britian Oxendine as founding member of the Cornerstone Grand Lodge.
7.       Seattle Standard, November 28th, 1891, piece written by Gideon S. Bailey, “A Bogus Affair”.
8.       Complaint filed December of 1891 by Samuel Burdett, with the King County Superior Court. Summons served on both Britian Oxendine and Gideon S. Bailey on December 21, 1891; the defendant’s answer came January 12th, 1892. No further action was taken in the case.
9.       Proceedings of MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Arkansas, CCFC report, 1893.
10.    Proceedings of the M. W. Grand Lodge of A. F. & A.M. of the State of Washington and Oregon, 1904-1905, First and Second Annual Communication, Introduction.
11.    Proceedings of the Third Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, 1906, Resolution on Irregular Masonry, pgs. 21-22
12.    Ibid. pg. 44, Report of Foreign Correspondence, Alabama 1906
13.    Proceedings of the Fifth Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, 1908, pg. 60, Report of Foreign Correspondence, Alabama 1907
14.    Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, 1909, pg. 47 “A Conspiracy Detected”.
15.    Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, 1909, pg. 43, “Craft in Confusion
16.    Proceedings of the Sixth Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, 1909, pg. 83-84, Report on Foreign Correspondence, Arkansas, 1907
17.    The Book of Laws, complied by MW PGM, E.H. Holmes, Code Commissioner (1919) pg. 55-56, “Seal of Grand Lodge Changed
18.    Proceedings of the Eighth Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, 1911, pgs. 89-92, “Fraternal Relations
19.    Ibid. “Fraternal Relations” pgs. 89-92
20.    Proceedings of the Twenty-Second Annual Communication of the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Washington, 1925, pgs. 61-66, Report of Foreign Correspondence, District Court decree, affirmed by the Supreme Court, Colorado.
21.    Judgment and Decree No. 532922, Superior Court of the State of Washington for King County, MWPHGL of WA, et. al  V.  MW John A. Bell GL, et. al, (1960)
22.    The article is a reprint from the Masonic Tribune, publication of the MW Grand Lodge of Washington (Mainstream), April 2nd, 1946, and was read by the Craft by Grand Master E. J. Brown. I got the piece from the Proceedings of the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F. & A.M., for the State of Washington and Jurisdiction, 1946, pg. 28, “Negro Masonry
23.    Proceedings of the 44th Annual Communication of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F. & A.M., for the State of Washington and its Jurisdiction, 1947, “Bro. F. B. Davis’ address on Clandestine Masonry”, pg. 45-46
24.    Ibid. pg. 46
25.    Proceedings of the 44th Annual Communication of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F. & A.M., for the State of Washington and its Jurisdiction, 1947, Report of the Chairman of the Committee on Grand Publicity and Reporting, Brother F. Benjamin Davis, pg. 44
26.    Proceedings of the 57th Annual Communication of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F. & A.M., for the State of Washington and its Jurisdiction, 1960, Grand master’s “Official Acts”, pg. 7
27.    Ibid. pg. 8
28.    Ibid. pg. 9
29.    Ibid. pg. 15
30.    Ibid. pg. 45-46 report of the Commission on Clandestine Masonry
31.    Proceedings of the 58th Annual Communication of the MW Prince Hall Grand Lodge, F. & A.M., for the State of Washington and its Jurisdiction, 1961, “Official Report of the commission on Clandestine Masonry”, pg. 72
32.    Ibid. pg. 73
33.    Ibid. pg. 72, 74, 75-77
34.    Ibid. pg. 77-80


  1. Good information Bro. All PHA Brothers should read this Blog. Thanks

  2. You killing them........simple and plain. Keep Shining True Light Brother Mason. We got your back...