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History of Prince Hall Lodge # 1

Est. 1864

Lodge History,

Prince Hall Lodge #1 has had a long and glorious history of service to the Masonic Community in Tennessee for over 100 years.  We celebrated the 100th anniversary of the signing of our present charter on June 23, 1898. We were granted the name Prince Hall Lodge #1 on that date. Prince Hall Lodge #1 had its beginning as Rock City Lodge #17 in 1866. We were one of the original 3 lodges to create and form the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Tennessee on Aug.31, 1870. At the formation of the new Grand Lodge, one of our own, PM Rev. Nelson McGavock was chosen as the first Grand Master. Making the first of many Grand Lodge officers to come from our Lodge. We were renumbered at that time to Rock City Lodge #1.  The first officers of Rock City Lodge #1 were WM Ben J. Hadley, SW Thompson Z. Tolbert and JW Richard Morgan.  We enjoyed numerous years of growth through the rest of the decade, led by great men such as PM James Wilson, PM Joseph P. Gregory and Bros. Rev. N.G. Merry and Littleton Jones. These were the great men who took the seeds of Freemasonry and helped to sow them all across Nashville and Tennessee.  As the Lodge continued through the end of the century, another Brother from Prince Hall #1 made his impact on the Grand Lodge. Our own PM. Bro. W.S. Thompson was elected Grand Master in 1893.  He served as Grand Master for 7 years taking the Grand Lodge through the new millennium.  What a time that must have been. Nashville was at the forefront of steering the Grand Lodge through this most delicate time. Then after serving those 7 years, he then was elected as the Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge. A position he served capably for 14 years, under direction of a Masonic giant, PGM James A. Henry after whom the Scottish Rite Consistory in Nashville was named.

At the close of the century, the Grand Lodge undertook the changing of names and numbers for its subordinate Lodges.  On the date of June 23, 1898, we were renamed Prince Hall Lodge. This took place as other changes were being made around the state. I am pretty sure that having the sitting GM from our Lodge helped us being granted the name of our illustrious founder, Prince Hall, who was the first man of color to receive the degrees of Freemasonry in the United States. Now, as the Grand Lodge entered the 1900's we kept up the principles of Freemasonry to our usual standards.  By this time we are already graced on every 2nd & 4th Monday with the wisdom of 2 Past Grand Masters sitting in the East.  This only helped strengthen our Lodge as we approached the Great Depression. After this time, another Masonic leader emerged from our Lodge.  Another PM from Prince Hall Lodge #1 was elected to the highest Masonic office in our Jurisdiction, Most Worshipful Grand Master. Bro. James A . Guthrie served as Grand Master from 1926 to 1940. So as you can see, with 3 PGMs from our midst, Prince Hall Lodge #1 had very high standards for Masonic excellence.

As we now approached the Fabulous 50's, Prince Hall #1 continued to have its influence felt in our city and state as our numbers were increasing, so was our presence in the community.  On the Grand Lodge level, our members were again placed in positions of leadership.  Great brothers such as PM's R.B.J. Campbelle, A.B. Strickland, L.H. Bradley, Rufus Wilkins, M.T. Osborne and others were held in high esteem by their peers.  Around this time another one our members was making his presence felt on the Grand Lodge level. He moved through the Grand Lodge ranks serving as Grand Chorister, Grand Senior Warden and various committee appointments, culminating with his election to the second highest office in Prince Hall Masonry, Deputy Grand Master.  PM James L. Dobson, Sr. served as DGM for 8 years.  We were one step away from our 4th M.W.G.M., which would have been unprecedented.  Prince Hall Lodge #1, has a long and glorious history here in Tennessee.  We continue to this day upholding the very high standards set by our forefathers.  The Masonic excellence taught in our Lodge has filtered throughout the various bodies of Freemasonry.  There have been and still are many of our members in positions of leadership in other organizations. Prince Hall Lodge #1 members have become standard bearers in the Nashville district.  The largest percentage of the 1st class of Ill. Companions of Mt. Ararat Council R&SM were from Prince Hall #1.  One of the two brothers who made Masonic history in Nashville by becoming members of the Knight York Court of Honor, PM Ronald Pillow, is a member of our great Lodge. And as we close the 21st Century and head into the new millennium, there is no shortage of great men to continue the legacy of Prince Hall Lodge #1. Great Masonic men as PM Fred Cawthon, PM LeBrone Roberts, PM Alfred Bennett, PM Charles McHenry and PM Willie Foster  will continue to offer wisdom and knowledge to a new generation of Masons. I am humbled and honored to be a member of such an august body of men. And the next generation of Prince Hall men, pledge to uphold the great history of the greatest Lodge in the great city Nashville, in the great state of TN. and in the world.

PM Ronnie Pillow & PM Tony Smith

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