A Brief History of Prince Hall Masonry in Virginia

Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia

During the institution of slavery in Virginia, it was declared that Black men could not be Freemasons. Desiring to be masons, they went to Philadelphia where it was permissible. Being of good report and meeting the necessary qualifications, they were initiated into the Craft. The best information obtainable on this subject warrants us in saying that this was the way in which the first masons in Virginia received “Light.”

The first Prince Hall lodge in Virginia, Universal Lodge #1, was organized in Alexandria on February 5, 1845. Afterwards, three additional lodges were formed: Rising Sun Lodge #2, Morning Star Lodge #3, and Eastern Light Lodge #4. These lodges were working under the authority of the National Grand Lodge. The brothers of these lodges desired a state Grand Lodge which more closely aligned with their ideals. In two meetings, the first on December 28, 1865 and the second February 17, 1866, they organized the Union Grand Lodge. It was the first Grand Lodge in the state of Virginia.

In 1867, a second Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons, was organized. Rev. Brother J. B. Trusty, a Methodist minister and a Philadelphia mason, organized a club of 72 men for the purpose of being made masons. Brother Trusty forwarded their application to his lodge. On August 1866, a committee from Philadelphia came to Petersburg to initiate, pass, and raise the members of this club. After the members of the club were made, they divided themselves into three lodges. In October 1867, these three lodges procured Charters from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and after proper formalities, organized the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons.

The two Grand Lodges (Union Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons) operated separately. However, as their membership increased and members commingled in social and friendly ways, the desire for a union manifested itself. On December 9, 1873, a conference was held at St. Luke’s Hall on Franklin street in Richmond to discuss merging the two Grand Lodges.

Meeting at Harrison Street Baptist Church in Petersburg, under the plan provided by the conference of 1873, the Union Grand Lodge and the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons merged. They officially created the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge on December 15, 1875. Today, the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge is called the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia.