From MasonicGenealogy
Revision as of 22:26, 20 January 2017 by Hotc1733 (Talk | contribs)

(diff) ← Older revision | Latest revision (diff) | Newer revision → (diff)
Jump to: navigation, search


Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Chartered By: Henry Price

Charter Date: 06/24/1734 I-2

Precedence Date: 06/24/1734

Current Status: subsequently returned



From TROWEL, Winter 2008, Page 11:

The First Masonic Step in North America
Pennsylvania Warrant Uncovered in Massachusetts Archives
by Aimee E. Newell

The debate has raged for decades. Is the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts the third oldest Grand Lodge in the world? Or does the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania hold that title?

A handwritten warrant for Philadelphia’s Lodge No. 4 of Ancient Masons was recently discovered in the Samuel Crocker Lawrence Library. Dating from 1772, the document tells us quite a bit about the history of Freemasonry in Philadelphia. It presents information about an 18th century lodge that met in that city and identifies several officers. But, it also presents a story of conflict amongst Pennsylvania’s Masons and, potentially, offers a new piece of evidence in the debate over which Grand Lodge is older — Massachusetts or Pennsylvania.

The document states that the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was established on June 20, 1764, by the Grand Lodge of the Ancient Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in London.

But, wait, doesn’t the dispute between Massachusetts and Pennsylvania center on a deputation issued to Daniel Coxe in 1730? This deputation appointed him Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania three years before Henry Price of Massachusetts received his own deputation in 1733.

Evidence from the 1720s shows that groups of Freemasons actively met in both Boston and Philadelphia prior to the formation of any authorized Grand Lodges in either colony. And while the Grand Lodge of England did issue a deputation to Daniel Coxe in 1730, there is little hard evidence to show that Coxe did anything to fulfill the conditions of his deputation. According to historian and Past Grand Master of Massachusetts Melvin Johnson, this meant that the lodges formed in Pennsylvania during the early 1730s were not recognized, or duly constituted. In his opinion the title of third oldest Grand Lodge in the world belonged to Massachusetts — which was duly constituted and took steps almost immediately to formally establish a local lodge in Boston. Added support for this interpretation is Pennsylvania Grand Master Benjamin Franklin’s 1734 letter to Most Wor. Henry Price requesting that a charter be approved for his Grand Lodge under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

Scholars of Pennsylvania Freemasonry, like Wayne A. Huss, dismiss this argument explaining that the state’s Grand Lodge “antedated by at least two years any other lodge on record in the American colonies. These organizations were established within the first Masonic district . . . as officially recognized by the Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was thus the third oldest Masonic supervisory body in the world, antedated only by the Grand Lodges of England (1717) and Ireland (1725).” Huss’s interpretation rests, in part, on his belief that because Coxe was honored by the Grand Lodge of England in January 1730/31, he must have made a “valuable contribution” to Freemasonry, such as formally establishing it in the colonies.

Further complicating the issue in Pennsylvania is the conflict between “Ancient” and “Modern” Freemasons. This split initially caused a schism in England in 1751. The disagreement spread to the colonies by 1760. The “Ancients” sought to preserve older rituals connected to operative, or working, stonemasonry. In contrast, the “Moderns” championed speculative Freemasonry, which focused on philosophical ideals and employed masonry’s tools as symbols. In Boston, the “Ancient” and the “Modern” Grand Lodges co-existed for about 30 years, eventually uniting in 1792. In Pennsylvania, the original “Modern” Grand Lodge, the one supposedly established in 1730, died out in the early 1760s. The “Ancient” Grand Lodge, the one referred to on the pictured document as dating to 1764, prospers to the present day.

So, although this document does not prove Massachusetts precedence once and for all, it does tell an interesting story about conflict within the fraternity in Philadelphia in the decade before the American Revolution — as dissent between England and the American colonies was growing. Lodge No. 4 was originally warranted by Pennsylvania’s “Modern” Grand Lodge in June 1757. But, they followed the “Ancient” traditions, defying requests from the Grand Lodge to switch to “Modern” ways. Members of Philadelphia’s Lodge No. 1 were sent to investigate, and Lodge No. 4 minutes record, “All {the visitors} behaved as spies from an enemys camp.”

Less than six months after their warrant was issued, it was recalled. Lodge No. 4 then petitioned the “Ancient” Grand Lodge in England for a new warrant, which was issued in June 1758. Lodge members followed up by asking for a warrant to establish a Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The Grand Lodge of England granted it in July 1761, but the document was lost when the French captured the ship carrying the warrant to America. A second document, issued in 1763, was also lost. The third warrant, signed on June 20, 1764, successfully made it to Philadelphia in early 1765. This is the origin of the date on the warrant printed below.

While the history of the “Ancient” Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (the second one to be established in the state) is well-documented, in part by this warrant, questions remain about whether the Grand Lodge established in Pennsylvania in 1730 is officially the third oldest. What do you think? Is Melvin Johnson’s reasoning persuasive? Or does the existence of Coxe’s 1730 deputation hold sway? Perhaps more evidence will come to light someday, to help us answer these questions. Nevertheless, the documentation of Henry Price’s deputation and actions is solid — and the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts looks forward to beginning its 276th year in 2009.


Warrant of Lodge No. 4 Ancient Masons, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

To whom it may concern:

We the Grand Lodge held in the City of Philadelphia found Province of Pennsylvania, according to the old Constitution and by virtue of a Provincial Grand Warrant to us granted under the hands and Seal of the Right Worshipfull and Right Honourable Grand Lodge of the Ancient Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in London (Great Britain) whereof the Right Worshipfull and Right Hon’ble Thomas Erskin, Earl of Kelly Viscount Fenton Barren of Patten Ween was then Grand Master of Masons [and other officers] and bearing date the Twentieth day of June in the Year of Our Lord One Thous’d, Seven h’d, & Sixty four Constituting and appointing the Rt. Worshipfull William Ball Esqr Grand Master for the Province of Pennsylvania and Territories thereunto belonging {and other officers} with full power to them and their Successors to grant Dispensations, Warrants or Constitutions for the forming, holding and well governing of Lodges by them Authorized as may more fully appear by said Warrant reference being thereunto had.

Now We the Grand Lodge held at Philadelphia, legal and Constitutional Successors to the above Named Grand Officers as by the Grand Lodge Books refference being thereto had may appear, together with the Consent of all the regular Lodges under our constitution by Virtue of the above Warrant, do hereby Nominate, Constitute, and appoint our Dearly beloved and Worthy Brother Stephen Cronin Master of Lodge No. 4 to be held in the City of Philadelphia {and other officers} with full power to hold their Lodge, to make and admit free Masons according to the most Ancient and Hon’ble Custom of the Royal Craft ages and Nations throughout the known world. We do further Impower the present officers as also those who may succeed them as officers of said Lodge Number Four under this Warrant, together with the members thereof, to hear & determine all matters matters concerning Masons or Masonry within the Limits or Jurisdiction of this Warrant, strictly requiring every Brother as Member of s’d Lodge to be conformable to all and every the good Rules of the same, all the good Rules and orders that shall or may from time to time be decreed by the Rt. Wor’full Grand Lodge afores’d.

And lastly we do hereby further Order, Authorize and Impower our dearly beloved Brothers Stephen Cronin, Daniel Topham and Robert Bunbury together with the Members of said Lodge to Nominate, Chuse and Install their Successors to whom they shall deliver this Warrant, invest them with all their powers & dignities as free Masons, and such successors shall in like manner Nominate, chuse & install their Successors, etc., etc., etc. Such Installation to be upon or near every St. Johns day during the continuance of s’d lodge for ever, Provided the above named Brethren and all their Successors pay due Respect to the Rt. Wor’full Grand Lodge from whom they have this authority. Otherwise this Warrant to be of no force or Virtue.

Given under the hands and seal of the Grand Lodge in the City of Philadelphia and Province of Pennsylvania the twenty eighth day of December in the Year of our Lord One Thousand Seven hundred and Seventy Two and in the Year of Masonry Five Thousand Seven hundred and Seventy two. 5772.

James Fullton, Grand Sec’y


Massachusetts Lodges