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by Bro. S. BRENT MORRIS 33° G.C.

The Formation of American Grand Lodges, 1777–1806


If a Brother should be a Rebel against the State, he is not to be coutenanc’d in his Rebellion, however he may be pitied as an unhappy Man; and, if convicted of no other Crime, though the loyal Brotherhood must and ought to disown his Rebellion, and give no Umbrage or Ground of political Jealousy to the government for the time being; they cannot expel him from the Lodge, and his Relation to it remains indefeasible.


—Charge II. Of the Civil Magistrate supreme and subordinate

The Constitutions of the Free-Masons, 1723


“Conventional wisdom” can sometimes give you a broad understanding of difficult subjects. It can also simplify complex ideas beyond recognition. In the case of Freemasonry and the American Revolution, conventional wisdom tells us that loyalists belonged to lodges of the Moderns and patriots affiliated with the Ancients. After the success of the Revolution the Moderns departed and left the field to the Ancients, who then proceeded to reconstruct the established Masonic organization as they had the political order. This broad-brush summary does not do justice to the details nor to a Masonic revolution that was decidedly polite, as contrasted to the parallel political revolution. The independence of American Freemasonry—as that of the American colonies—established a pattern that has inspired many followers. In the absence of generally recognized procedures for forming new Grand Lodges, American Masons created their own methods, though they often backed into independence.


Freemasonry in Colonial America

Like so many Masonic events, the first appearance of Freemasonry in America is not precisely known. Jonathan Belcher, a native of Cambridge, Massachusetts and later Governor of the Colonies of Massachusetts and New Hampshire from 1730–41 and the Colony of New Jersey from 1747–57, was made a Mason in London around 1704. He is one of the very few Masons known to have joined the Craft before 1717.[i] It is possible he held private Lodges at his residence before time-immemorial or chartered Lodges appeared. On 5 June 1730, the premier Grand Lodge appointed Daniel Coxe Provincial Grand Master for New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, giving the first official Masonic recognition of the English colonies. Bro. Coxe does not seem to have exercised his authority, even though he lived in New Jersey from 1731–39.[ii] The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania possesses a book marked “Liber B” which contains the records of the earliest known Pennsylvania and American Lodge. The first record is for 24 June 1731, and in that month Benjamin Franklin is entered as paying dues five months back. Franklin’s entry implies Lodge activity from at least December 1730 or January 1731.[iii]

No earlier Lodge records exist in the United States, though there are suggestive comments in newspapers. Consider these words from the Boston Gazette for 29 August 1720, about the death of Mr. Benjamin Dowse in a hunting accident: “He was very much beloved and is universally lamented, being a Person of Exemplary Piety and Industry, and Good Temper, and a Widows Only Son.” Mr. Dowse was predeceased by his father and brother, and he left a mother and three sisters. Suggestive though this account is, it is not definitive proof that Masons met in America in 1720.[iv]

We are thus safe in setting 1730 as the date for the beginning of American Masonry.[v] Whatever Masonic meetings may have been held before 1730 were not recorded or the records have been lost, and activity after 1730 rapidly increased and is documented. In addition to Bro. Coxe, England established several other Provincial Grand Lodges and Grand Masters. Coxe’s deputation was unique in granting the authority to Masons to elect the Coxe’s successors. Specifically: Masons “in all of any of the said Provinces, Shall and they are hereby Impowered every other year on the feast of St. John the Baptist to elect a Provincial Grand Master.…”[vi]

The fortunes of these Provincial Grand Lodges waxed and waned during the following decades. Some were blessed with dynamic leaders who nurtured and expanded the Craft, while others had periods without effective administration. Two factors complicated matters for American Masonic leaders: the rivalry between the Ancients and Moderns in England and the growing political turmoil in America. The masonic fraternity overcame these problems in a way that reflects well on the cement of brotherly love that bound their members together. They laid the foundation for an independent American Masonic system with millions of members, tens of thousands of lodges, and scores of retirement homes, orphanages, and national hospitals.


Polite Confusion

American revolutionary Masons fought and died for political independence but still cherished their ties to Great Britain. Their rebellion was political, not Masonic, and here was little bitterness or acrimony on either side as mortal combatants engaged in Masonic matters. This seeming contradiction was wonderfully illustrated by a meeting on 7 February 1780 of American Union Lodge, a military lodge chartered by the Modern (and mostly loyalist) St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and attached to the Connecticut Line of the Continental Army. The war had been fought for five years, and the American forces could not foresee their decisive victory a year away at Yorktown, Virginia. The Americans had done the unthinkable in separating from king and country. They had endured the bitter winter of 1777 in Valley Forge and the onslaughts of the world’s greatest military machine. And yet they assumed a deferential posture in most things Masonic. The rebel soldiers, led by General Mordecai Gist, petitioned the Grand Lodges if the United States to create a General Grand Lodge, but only after obtaining “approbation and confirmation” from their “Grand Mother Lodge.”


To the RIGHT WORSHIPFUL, the Grand Masters of the several Lodges in the Respective United States of America.


We beg leave to recommend the adopting and pursuing the most necessary measures for establishing one Grand Lodge in America, to preside over and govern all other lodges of whatsoever degree or denomination.…

To accomplish this beneficial and essential work, permit us to propose that you, the Right Worshipful Grand Masters of a majority of your number, may nominate as Most Worshipful Grand Master of said lodge, a brother whose merit and capacity may be adequate to a station so important and elevated, and transmitting the name and nomination of such brother, together with the name of the lodge to be established, to our Grand Mother Lodge in Europe for approbation and confirmation.…[vii]


During the war, control of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (Ancients) went from loyalists to patriots, depending on which forces were present. “Lodge No. 3 [of Philadelphia] held the warrant of the Grand Lodge, whose [mostly patriot] members had fled the city. Under that authority, it formed itself into a Grand Lodge—an irregular proceeding—and [in 1778] warranted a military lodge” in the British Army’s Seventeenth Regiment of Foot.[viii] The regiment’s original Irish charter was replaced by a Scottish one, subsequently lost at the battle of Princeton, New Jersey. The lost Scottish charter was replaced by the Pennsylvania warrant for Unity Lodge No. 18 and the new charter was itself lost a year later at the battle of Stony Point, New York. This time, however, the charter and regalia fell into the hands of American General Samuel H. Parsons, a member of American Union Lodge. The captured Masonic material was returned to the British lodge with the following letter.



West Jersey Highlands, July 23, 1779

Brethren: When the ambition of monarchs or jarring interest of contending states, call forth their subjects to war, as Masons we are disarmed of that resentment which stimulates to undistinguished desolation; and however our political sentiments may impel us in the public dispute, we are still Brethren, and (our professional duty apart) ought to promote the happiness and advance the weal of each other. Accept therefore, at the hands of a Brother, the Constitution of the Lodge Unity No. 18, to be held in the 17th British Regiment which your late misfortunes have put in my power to restore to you.


Samuel H. Parsons[ix]


As touching as this fraternal story is, the epilogue says even more about the character of the Masons involved.


In March 1786, Three years after American independence had been achieved, the officers of [Unity Lodge No. 18] wrote to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania to inquire as to the status of its warrant, which they feared had been canceled. They expressed their wish to continue Masonic affiliation with the Grand Lodge and offered to pay all back dues. The Grand Lodge replied that it wished the same result, allowed the regiment to determine its own dues as all records pertaining to it had been misplaced or lost, and promised to search for the missing warrant. It extended its best wishes for the welfare and prosperity of the military lodge. These communications were curiously devoid of any of the bitterness or hostile feeling that one might expect to find between former enemies.[x]


This difficulty in carrying hostilities from the battlefield into the lodge room, was mirrored by American Masons’ difficulty in embracing the Ancients-Moderns dispute with the enthusiasm of the English. There were indeed Ancient and Modern American lodges and Grand Lodges, and they often denied recognition to each other. However, except in South Carolina, this denial was seldom vigorous and often honored in the breach. It was as if the American Ancients and Moderns knew they weren’t supposed to like each other, but they weren’t really sure why. This polite confusion is illustrated by the By-Laws of the lodge at Joppa, Maryland.


Joppa [, Maryland,] November 21st diem A.D. 1765, A.L. 1765 A.M. 5768.

Therefore by and with Consent of the Right Worshipfull Worshipfull Master and the Right Worshipfull Wardens and other Worshipfull Officers and Brethren of this Lodge be It Enacted and it is hereby Enacted that the following Articles be Laws fundamental for the use of this Lodge only subject as by our Warrant Specified.

14th [of 24]. That none who hath been admitted in any Modern Lodge shall be Admitted as a Member of this Lodge without taking the respective Obligations Peculiar to ancient Masons.—[xi]


Joppa Lodge certainly did not want any Ancients joining them, but they seem to have made an oversight when they obtained their charter: they were Number 346 on the Grand Lodge of Moderns, not the Ancients! The lodge eventually obtained an Ancient charted from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, but their confusion is typical of how the Ancients-Moderns dispute muddled along in America.

In 1761 the Moderns’ Provincial Grand Lodge of Massachusetts voted to prohibit its members from attending the Ancient Lodge of St. Andrew (which eventually received its charter from Scotland), even though a list of St. Andrew’s members shows fifteen were made Masons in the Moderns Grand Lodge. A dozen years later in 1773, St. John’s Grand Lodge voted to allow visitors from St. Andrew’s Lodge and their Provincial Grand Lodge. This legislative fiat effectively ended the Ancients-Moderns dispute in Massachusetts, and is typical of how the dispute was settled throughout the states.


Backing into Independence

The shooting started in 1775, and on 4 July 1776 the thirteen united States of America issued their Declaration of Independence from Great Britain. After five years of warfare the combined American and French forces defeated General Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia., on 19 October 1781, which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. The formal end came with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783. During this unsettled period, American Masonry had a precarious existence. Some lodges were virtually unaffected by the war, while others dissolved. Control of some grand lodges swung from patriots to loyalists and back to patriots. The fieriest political revolutionaries could at the same time maintain a firm attachment to their mother grand lodge.

Masonic independence began as necessary actions to insure a stable government of the fraternity; there was often no plan or real desire to permanently sever Masonic ties. Contact with Great Britain was limited and erratic during the war, if not dangerously near to treason, so some Provincial Grand Lodges felt they had little choice but to elect their own Grand Masters. Some of these first steps at self-government were realized only later to be acts of independence. As more states took over their own Masonic governance, and as the revolution moved towards a successful conclusion for the former colonies, the remaining states came to view independent state Grand Lodges as the natural evolution from Provincial Grand Lodges. Dissent to Masonic separation from England became almost nonexistent, and the later votes for independence became unanimous endorsements of the new nation.

In the lists that follow, I have ranked the states by the year I believe a Grand Lodge considered itself independent. It is not intended to challenge which state has the first or oldest Grand Lodge, but to provide yet another way of studying our gentle craft.


1777—South Carolina

“Benjamin Franklin’s private journal for 15 August 1734 contains a charge for 25 Books of Constitutions sent to Carolina,”[xii] which is strongly suggestive of Masonic activity in the colony. In 1735 Lord Weymouth, Grand Master of England, granted a warrant to Solomon’s Lodge in Charleston. The South Carolina Gazette in its issue of 29 October 1736 reported that “Last night lodge of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons was held, for the first time.…”[xiii] John Hammerton was elected Master and had been appointed Provincial Grand Master of South Carolina in 1736 by the Earl of Loudoun.[xiv]

The departure of the loyalist Provincial Grand Master, Sir Egerton Leigh, for England in 1774 because of political tensions had the unintentional effect of launching South Carolina Masons into independence. Leigh’s absence left a void of Masonic leadership in South Carolina that had to be filled. In 1777, after the Declaration of Independence and armed conflict made requests to England impolitic if not impossible, South Carolina Modern Masons elected Barnard Elliot as “Grand Master of Masons,” and an independently functioning Grand Lodge was born.[xv] In 1780 British troops retook Charleston, and loyalist Masons revived the Provincial Grand Lodge, electing John Deas Provincial Grand Master in 1781.[xvi] The next meeting of the Grand Lodge was 1783, from which time on it acted like an independent body.

The Ancients were not idle in South Carolina. In 1760 the Grand Lodge of Scotland warranted one lodge, with others coming from the Ancient Grand Lodge of England and the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Five of these Ancient lodges organized the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of South Carolina on 5 February 1787.[xvii] Thus began the only really bitter Ancients-Moderns rivalry in the United States. There was an attempt at a merger in 1808, but it was not until 28 December 1817—four years after the union in England—that unity was achieved in South Carolina when the quarreling grand lodges merged.



The history of lodges in the Commonwealth of Virginia illustrates well the difficulties of tracing the origins of early American lodges. There were many sources of warrants: the Grand Lodge of Moderns chartered four lodges; Scotland four, Mother Kilwinning Lodge two, the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania 3; the Provincial Grand Lodge of North Carolina one, and the Grand Orient de France one. The complexities are actually greater that indicated in this brief list. The Lodge of Fredericksburg apparently operated as a time-memorial lodge without charter as early as 1752, then received a charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland in1758. In 1757 Fredericksburg chartered Botentourt Lodge in Gloucester, and Botentourt in turn received a charter from the Moderns.[xviii]

Williamsburg Lodge called a convention in 1777 attended by five lodges that voted unanimously to elect a Grand Master. Four more conventions met, and at the fourth meeting in 1778 John Blair was elected Grand Master of Virginia. The idea of Masonic independence for Virginia seems to have followed naturally from the earlier act of political independence. This is not a surprising sentiment from a state that produced revolutionary such leaders as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Patrick Henry, and James Madison. Further, there were doubts about the authority of Cornelius Harnett, Deputy Provincial Grand Master of North America. Harnett had been appointed Deputy to Joseph Montfort of North Carolina whom the Moderns in 1771 appointed Provincial Grand Master of and for America. Montfort’s appointment seems to have been intended originally for North Carolina.

Following the pattern of other states, not all lodges affiliated with the new Grand Lodge. Alexandria Lodge No. 39 of Pennsylvania remained loyal to its Provincial Grand Lodge and later voiced dissent when Pennsylvania debated declaring independence from the Grand Lodge of Ancients. The Ancients-Moderns dispute briefly reared its head on 12 December 1798 when the Grand Lodge, “Resolved, That if any member of a Lodge under the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge, shall visit or work in any Lodge of Masons, commonly called Modern Masons, or any Lodge of Masons not working agreeably to the ancient usages of York Masons, he shall be reprimanded by the Lodge to which he belongs, and if he should afterwards be guilty of a similar offence, he shall be expelled from the Lodge, and be excluded from the benefits of Masonry.”[xix]



On 30 July 1733, the premier Grand Lodge of England appointed Henry Price of Boston Provincial Grand Master of Free and Accepted Masons in New England. From this appointment grew St. John’s Provincial Grand Lodge. Some twenty years later the Grand Lodge of Scotland received a petition from brethren in Boston who requested a charter, which was granted to St. Andrew’s Lodge and dated 30 November 1756, signed in 1759, and delivered in 1760. The Lodge of St. Andrew had an initial tense relationship with the older St. John’s Grand Lodge which on 8 April 1761 “Voted That it be, and it is hereby recommended & Ordered by the Grand Master that no Member of a Regular constituted Lodge in Boston do appear at the Meeting (or Lodge so Call’d) of Scotts Masons in Boston not being regularly constituted in the Opinion of this Lodge.” By 1773 St. John’s Grand Lodge dropped the restrictions when they voted to allow Ancient masons to visit, and thus effectively ended the Ancients-Moderns dispute in Massachusetts.

Eight years later the Lodge of St. Andrew was joined by three military lodges stationed in Boston—Duke of York Lodge No. 106 Scotland, Lodge 58 of England (Ancients), and Lodge 322 of Ireland—in requesting that the Grand Lodge of Scotland appoint Joseph Warren as Provincial Grand Master. This request was granted, and in 1769 Massachusetts saw two rival Grand Lodges competing as in England. It is ironic that the Master of the Lodge of St. Andrew, Joseph Warren, was one of the leading American revolutionaries, and yet he had happily joined with British military lodges in petitioning the Grand Lodge of Scotland for a warrant. This behavior was typical of the day: mortal opposition on the field of battle and fraternal cooperation in the Lodge.

Tensions between the colonists and England continued to grow, especially in Massachusetts, and on 5 March 1770 an angry but unarmed mob confronted a squad of English soldiers in Boston. After enduring taunts, rocks, and clubs, the soldiers fired on the mob, killing five. Revolutionaries quickly dubbed the event “The Boston Massacre,” and the English soldiers were forced to evacuated Boston. On 16 December 1773 St. Andrew’s Lodge had only five its meeting at the Green Dragon Tavern because, as the Secretary wrote, wrote, “Consignees of tea took up the brethren’s time.”[xx] That same evening a group of “Mohawk Indians” left the Green Dragon Tavern and threw consignments of tea from three English ships into Boston Harbor. By 19 April 1775 events reached the point of no return at Lexington, Massachusetts. British troops faced American citizen-soldiers—the legendary “Minute Men”—across Lexington Green and soon thereafter was fired “the shot heard around the world.” The American Revolution had begun.

Provincial Grand Master Joseph Warren embodied the revolutionary sentiments of the Lodge of St. Andrew. On 12 June 1775 he joined hundreds of other patriots at the Battle of Bunker Hill in Boston. The superior British troops eventually won the fight, but had 1,054 casualties, nearly 40% of their ranks. The Americans lost 441, including Joseph Warren, and this incidentally led to the first step towards eventual separation of Massachusetts Masons from their mother Grand Lodges. On 4 July 1776 the colonies took the definitive step towards political separation when they declared their independence from England.

The death of Warren created a quandary for St. Andrews Provincial Grand Lodge: Did they have an existence independent of their Provincial Grand Master? Since the colonies were now at war with Great Britain, could they petition Scotland for another Grand Master? The Provincial Grand Lodge met on three times up to 7 March 1777, with Joseph Webb, Deputy Grand Master, presiding each time. Then on 8 March 1777 they elected Webb Grand Master—not Provincial Grand Master—and generally began acting like an independent Grand Lodge.[xxi] It’s not entirely clear, however, if they thought of themselves as truly independent, because on 10 June 1782, to make things unambiguous, they “Resolved That this Grand Lodge be forever hereafter known and Called by the Name of the Massachusetts Grand Lodge of Ancient Masons, and, that it is free and Independent in its Government and Official Authority of any other Grand Lodge, or Grand Master in the Universe.”

This resolution followed the surrender of General Cornwallis at Yorktown, Virginia, on 19 October 1781, which effectively ended the Revolutionary War. The formal end of the war came with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783. The declaration by the Massachusetts Grand Lodge has no fiery rhetoric or list of grievances; it is a formal and polite statement of fact. The four-year delay between assuming de facto sovereignty and formally declaring independence is surprising since the leaders of St. Andrew’s Lodge, and thus those of Massachusetts Grand Lodge, included such revolutionary firebrands as Paul Revere, whose midnight ride warned the citizens of Lexington, John Hancock, whose signature is the first and largest on the Declaration of Independence, and Major General Joseph Warren, whose heroic death at Bunker Hill inspired wavering patriots. What is nothing short of astonishing is that in response to the Grand Lodge’s declaration of independence, St. Andrew’s Lodge voted 30 to 19 that “The Lodge cou’d not consent to the declaration, supposing it to be inconsistent with the principles of Masonry, necessary to be observ’d for the good of the Craft, amidst all the Variety of circumstances incident to the human affairs.”[xxii] The lodge of political radicals could not bring itself to separate from its Masonic mother. A rump group, including Paul Revere, withdrew and formed a new lodge, Rising States, while St. Andrews remained loyal to the Grand Lodge of Scotland for 27 years until 1809 when it returned its charter to Scotland and united with the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts.

The older St. John’s Grand Lodge seems to have fallen on hard times. There are no records of it meeting between 1775 and 1787, though newspaper, diary, and other accounts indicate continued if somewhat diminished activity. For example, on 15 February 1776 St. John’s chartered American Union Lodge, the first military lodge in the Continental Army.[xxiii] Provincial Grand Master John Rowe has been described as “a merchant and shipper and, while not openly Tory, was, to say the least, not an enthusiastic patriot.”[xxiv] He died on 17 February 1787, but there is no record that St. John’s Grand Lodge elected a successor. First and Second Lodges of Boston had merged as St. John’s Lodge in 1783, and Third and Fourth Lodges of Boston had dissolved. When the British pulled out of Boston many loyalist members of St. John’s left with them for Canada, as did the Grand Secretary, who carried lodge records and the grand lodge jewels.[xxv]

After several years of on-and-off discussions of union, Massachusetts Grand Lodge on 5 December 1791 voted “to Confer with the Officers of St John’s Grand Lodge upon the Subject of a compleat Masonic Union throughout this Commonwealth and that said Committee report as soon as may be convenient.”[xxvi] The committee included Paul Revere and John Warren, brother of Joseph Warren. On 5 March 1792 the two grand lodges united, with the younger Massachusetts Grand Lodge dissolving and merging into the senior St. John’s Grand Lodge.



Daniel Coxe’s jurisdiction as Provincial Grand Master included New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.


Evidence indicates that the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was meeting in Philadelphia as early as 24 June 1731.… No one is certain, however, how this body was established. If Coxe authorized it, it should more properly be referred to as a “Provincial” Grand Lodge, but if organized without the specific approval of the representative of the Grand Lodge of England, which is also possible, it should be termed an “Independent” Grand Lodge.[xxvii]


Incomplete records show that Benjamin Franklin served as Grand Master of this Grand Lodge for at least one year and as Deputy Grand Master for at least three years.[xxviii] The Pennsylvania Moderns chartered four lodges in Philadelphia, and then withered with the advent of the Ancient masonry. “Although apparently inactive after the establishment of the ‘Ancient’ Grand Lodge in 1761, remnants of the ‘Moderns; Masons persisted until the early 1780s.”[xxix] Thus there was little opportunity for Ancients-Moderns disputes in Pennsylvania.

Ancient Masonry began in Pennsylvania with Lodge No. 4 chartered in 1757 by the Modern Provincial Grand Lodge. Most of the original members of the lodge had been made Masons in the Ancient manner, and they soon adopted Ancient working in their lodge. The Moderns revoked their charter after only six months, and in 1758 the lodge received a warrant as No. 69 from the Ancients in London.[xxx] This lodge then petitioned London for a Deputy Grand Master in Pennsylvania, elected their own Grand Master while awaiting a response, and were granted a Provincial Grand Warrant on 15 July 1761.

When the British occupied Philadelphia, the loyalist Masons ran the Grand Lodge. Among their actions was the earlier mentioned chartering of a military lodge in the British Seventeenth Regiment of Foot. When the British departed Philadelphia in 1778, the patriot Masons resumed control. They did not revoke the actions of their loyalist predecessors, but by 1782 they had issued seven military warrants to American units. Thus it was possible for Masons from different Pennsylvania lodges to face each on opposite sides of a battlefield.

The first Pennsylvania Ahiman Rezon was published in 1783, the year of the signing of the Treaty of Paris. Perhaps anticipating eventual Masonic autonomy from England, it said that a Grand Lodge was an “absolute and independent body, with legislative authority” to govern the craft within its jurisdiction.[xxxi] In 1786 the Grand Lodge invited its subordinate lodges to debate independence at the September quarterly communication. The representatives of the twelve lodges in attendance, about one-third of Pennsylvanian lodges, unanimously adopted the following resolution.


That this Grand Lodge is, and ought to be, a Grand Lodge, Independent of Great Britain or any other Authority whatever, and that they are not under any ties to any other Grand Lodge except those of Brotherly Love and Affection, which they will always be happy to cultivate and preserve with all Lodges throughout the Globe.[xxxii]


The Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania closed sine die, and the next day “The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, and Masonic Jurisdiction thereunto belonging,” with the same officers and regulations, began functioning. Yet another revolution through a polite but firm announcement.



James E. Oglethorpe organized the Colony of Georgia as a refuge for debtors, and by tradition opened the first lodge on 10 February 1733/34 in Savannah. This time immemorial lodge was chartered as No. 139 sometime before 1 March 1735/36 and came to be known as Solomon’s Lodge. Two other Modern lodges were chartered in Georgia in 1774 and 1775, but these soon disappeared. In 1784 Pennsylvania chartered an Ancient Lodge, and the next year Solomon’s decided to become Ancient itself. Yet again Modern masonry yielded to Ancients. On 16 December 1786 these two lodges organized the Grand Lodge of the Most Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons according to the Old Institutions in the State of Georgia.[xxxiii]


1786—New Jersey

While Daniel Coxe’s 1730 deputation included the Provinces of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, New Jersey’s first lodge was not established until 1761 by the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York, successor to Coxe. This first lodge, called St. John’s, survived the revolution as did two lodges chartered by the Ancients in Pennsylvania. The formation of the Grand Lodge of New Jersey was unique in that a convention of all New Jersey masons—not lodges—was called for 18 December 1786 for the purpose of creating a Grand Lodge. Then with no hesitation the delegates formed the Grand Lodge of New Jersey and elected officers.[xxxiv]



At the end of the Revolutionary Wary there were eight Ancient lodges in Maryland, all chartered from Pennsylvania. In 1783 representatives of five met to establish and independent Grand Lodge and to receive a charter from Pennsylvania. They elected Dr. John Coats, Past Deputy Grand Master of Pennsylvania, as their new Grand Master. At this time Pennsylvania had not yet declared itself independent and doubted if it had the authority to charter another Grand Lodge. After four years of correspondence, delegates of Maryland lodges voted on 19 April 1787 to form a Grand Lodge regardless of approval from Pennsylvania and reelected Dr. Coats as Grand Master.


1787—New York

The first Provincial Grand Master in America was Daniel Coxe, appointed on 5 June 1730 by the premier Grand Lodge with a jurisdiction of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. Coxe exercised little if any of his authority, but his successors from Richard Riggs, 1737, to John Johnson, 1771, created more than a score of Modern lodges in New York by 1776. The fortunes of the Moderns took a downturn with the outbreak of the revolution. Provincial Grand Master John Johnson fled to Canada and later returned to command the King’s troops in western New York throughout the war.[xxxv] As the war turned in favor of the colonists, Johnson could not return to the state, His Deputy, Dr. Middleton died, and the Moderns appointed no new Provincial Grand Master. Adding to the misfortunes of the Moderns, many of their lodges started accepting charters from the Ancients. The Modern Provincial Grand Lodge was effectively wiped out.[xxxvi]

In 1781 the Articles of Confederation were ratified on 1 March giving the colonies a new form of government with the formal name of the “United States of America.” Seven months later the combined American and French forces defeated Cornwallis’s army at Yorktown, Virginia, and marked the beginning of the end of the war. In January of the same year representatives of six Ancient lodges, including three British military lodges, met in New York City and determined “that for the good of the Antient Craft, it would be highly necessary to appoint a Grand Master for this Province.”[xxxvii] The Ancient Grand Lodge complied with the request and issued a warrant on 5 September 1781, appointing Rev. William Walter Provincial Grand Master of New York. The Provincial Grand Lodge was organized fourteen months later on 5 December 1782, but the New York body, unlike most other Ancient Provincial Grand Lodges, was strongly loyalist. This inclination to the crown was probably due the body’s organization in New York City, which was occupied by British troops; New York country lodges were decidedly more patriotic.

The American Revolution formally ended on 15 April 1783 with the signing of the Treaty of Paris. The remaining British troops along with many loyalists made plans to evacuate New York City. On 19 September 1783 the Provincial Grand Lodge met and adopted the following resolution.


The Propriety of leaving the Grand Warrant, by which this Lodge is established in the Province of New York being fully discussed, it was resolved, that the same should be left and remain in the case of such Brethren as may hereafter be appointed to succeed the present Grand Officers, the most of whom being under the necessity of leaving New York upon the removal of His Majesty’s Troops.[xxxviii]


The Provincial Grand Lodge elected its own officers, and began to function as an independent body. Once again Masonic actions were governed by fraternal courtesy, this time from the departing British troops and loyalists who chose to leave the warrant and Grand Lodge organization intact for the military victors. The Grand Lodge was weakened by the departure of so many of its loyalist members, but in a shrewd move they elected as Grand Master Robert R. Livingston, Chancellor (now Governor) of New York.[xxxix]

While the Grand Lodge of New York acted like an independent body, a few details remained unsettled. Lodge No. 2 in 1786 asked for consideration of “the propriety of Holding a Grand Lodge under the Present Warrant, and the Authority from which it is derived.”[xl] On 6 June 1787 the Grand Lodge of New York definitively settled the question with a self-confirming statement of its independence.


The Grand Lodge of this State is established according to the antient & universal usages of masonry, upon a Constitution formed by the representatives of the regular Lodges, convened under a legal Warrant from the Grand Lodge of England.… And your Committee further beg leave to report , that in their opinion, nothing is necessary or essential in the future proceedings of the Grand Lodge upon the subject matter referred to them but that a committee be appointed to prepare a Draft of the Style of Warrants to be hereafter granted by the Grand Lodge, conformable to the said Constitution.…[xli]


The last detail was settled in 1788 when the Grand Secretary had a new Grand Lodge seal cut with the word Provincial removed from the inscription.


1787—North Carolina

By 1786 the Articles of Confederation were proving to be impractical for governing the new nation, and a convention was held in Philadelphia in 1787 to consider revisions. What emerged was not a mere revision of the Articles, but an entirely new government created by the Constitution. At this time the logic of independent grand lodges in each independent state was overwhelming. There was little remaining debate, and the action in each state was virtually automatic and unanimous. Joseph Montfort of North Carolina, appointed Provincial Grand Master of and for America in 1771, died in 1776. It is debatable whether his warrant was actually intended for all of America, but his death did leave the craft in North Carolina leaderless. Nearly every lodge then went dark during the war, and only revived as soldiers returned home. A convention was held on 24 June 1787, but without a majority of the lodges in the state. Unlike other states, North Carolina masons waited until a majority of their lodges could be present. A convention of eight lodges created the Grand Lodge of North Carolina on12 December 1787.


1789—New Hampshire

Henry Price of Boston chartered St. John’s Lodge at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 24 June 1736. Forty-four years later on 17 March 1780 St. Patrick’s Lodge was established at Portsmouth with a charter from Massachusetts, but this time from the Ancient grand lodge.[xlii] The Ancient and now independent Grand Lodge of Massachusetts then chartered three more lodges in New Hampshire from 1784 to1788. On 8 July 1789 five brethren from two lodges met and resolved, “That there be a Grand Lodge established in the State of New Hampshire, upon principles consistent with and subordinate to the General Regulations and Ancient Constitutions of Free Masonry.”[xliii] The Grand Master and other grand officers were installed on 8 April 1790.



Freemasonry got its start in Connecticut when St. John’s Grand Lodge of Massachusetts chartered Hiram Lodge at New Haven on 12 August 1750. By the end of the Revolution there were sixteen Lodges: six from the Moderns in Massachusetts, four from the Moderns in New York, three from the Ancients in Massachusetts, and three of unknown origin. Thirteen of the lodges met in convention 13 March 1783 to organize a Grand Lodge, but with no results. There was a second convention in 1783, a Grand Master was elected in 1784, a third convention was held in May 1789, and then finally on 8 July 1789 a constitution was adopted, the Grand Master reelected, officers installed, and the present Grand Lodge was formed.[xliv]


1791—Rhode Island

Rhode Island masonry is descended from the Modern St. John’s Provincial Grand Lodge of Boston which chartered St. John’s Lodge at Newport in 1749 and another St. John’s lodge at Providence in 1757. It is curious that the first St. John’s Lodge originally was limited to conferring only the first two degrees, but the members convinced Provincial Grand Master to expand their authority to all three degrees. The two St. John’s Lodges formed the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island on 27 June 1791, which may be the most Modern of American Grand Lodges.[xlv] The coat of arms of the Grand Lodge of Rhode Island is a duplicate of the premier Grand Lodge.



Ancient lodges were the only kind known in Delaware. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania warranted the first Delaware lodge on 27 December 1769, and five more through 1802. The Grand Lodge of Maryland, itself originating from Pennsylvania, chartered two lodges in 1792 and 1806. Representatives of three of these lodges met on 6 June 1806 to form the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania objected to the formation of the new Grand Lodge because Wilmington Lodge owed it dues, the installation and opening of the grand lodge was irregular, and less than five lodges formed the new grand lodge. Pennsylvania did not similarly object when other Grand Lodges were formed with fewer than five lodges. Maryland also objected to the new Grand Lodge. Delaware ignored both objections and stayed the course, eventually gaining recognition as a regular grand lodge.





Bullock, Steven C. Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730–1840. Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1996.

Cheney, Harry M. Symbolic Freemasonry in New Hampshire. New Hampshire: Grand Lodge of New Hampshire, 1934.

Coil, Henry W. et al. Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia. New York: Macoy Masonic Publishing and Supply Co., Inc., 1961.

Crockett, David. First American Born. Bowie, Md.: Heritage books, Inc., 1992.

Dove, John. Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of the State of Virginia from its Organization, in 1778, to 1822. Richmond, Va.: James E. Goode, 1874.

Green, Charles E. History of the M\ W\ Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Delaware. Wilmington, De.: Grand Lodge A.F.&A.M. of Delaware, 1956.

Huss, Wayne A. The Master Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia, Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of Pennsylvania., 1986.

Johnson, Melvin M. The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America. Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1924.

Nash, H. P. “Origins of the Grand Lodge of New York,” Transactions of the American Lodge of Research, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 278–402.

Parramore, Thomas C. Launching the Craft: The First Half Century of Freemasonry in North Carolina. Raleigh, N.C.: Grand Lodge of North Carolina, A.F.&A.M., 1975.

Proceedings in Masonry: St. John’s Grand Lodge 1733–1972, Massachusetts Grand Lodge 1769–1792. Boston: Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1895.

Roy, Thomas S. Stalwart Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, 1733–1978. Boston, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1980.

Rugg, Henry W. History of Freemasonry in Rhode Island. Providence, R.I.: Grand Lodge of Rhode Island, 1895.

Rutyna, Richard A. and Peter S. Stewart. The History of Freemasonry in Virginia. Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1998.

Schultz, Edward T. History of Freemasonry in Maryland of All the Rites introduced into Maryland, from the Earliest Time to the Present. 4 vols. Baltimore: J.H. Mediary & Co., 1884.

Stillson, H. L. and W. J. Hughan, Eds. History of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons and Concordant Orders. Boston & New York, Fraternity Publishing Co., 1891.

Tatsch, J. Hugo. Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies. New York, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1933.



[i] David Crockett, First American Born (Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, Inc., 1992).

[ii] Henry W. Coil et al., Coil’s Masonic Encyclopedia (New York: Macoy Masonic Publishing and Supply Co., Inc., 1961), s.v. “Coxe, Daniel.”

[iii] Coil, s.v. “America, Introduction of Freemasonry into.”

[iv] Melvin M. Johnson, The Beginnings of Freemasonry in America (Kingsport, Tenn.: Southern Publishers, Inc., 1924).

[v] It is worth noting that Massachusetts, Virginia, and some other states have traditions of Masonic meetings earlier than Pennsylvania. To declare dogmatically that Pennsylvania is the source and origin of American Freemasonry is to run the risk of friendly but intense disagreement from other Grand Lodges.

[vi] Huss, p. 19.

[vii] J. Hugo Tatsch, Freemasonry in the Thirteen Colonies (New York, Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Co., 1933), pp. 208–9.

[viii] Wayne A. Huss, The Master Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia, Grand Lodge F.&A.M. of Pennsylvania., 1986), p. 40.

[ix] Tatsch, p. 212–13.

[x] Huss, p. 40.

[xi] Edward T. Schultz, History of Freemasonry in Maryland of All the Rites introduced into Maryland, from the Earliest Time to the Present, 4 vols. (Baltimore: J.H. Mediary & Co., 1884), vol. 1, pp. 38–39, 51.

[xii] Coil, s.v. “South Carolina.”

[xiii] Tatsch, p. 83.

[xiv] Tatsch, p. 84.

[xv] Tatsch, p. 91.

[xvi] Tatsch, p. 92.

[xvii] Coil, s.v. “South Carolina.”

[xviii] Coil, s.v. “Virginia.”

[xix] John Dove, Proceedings of the M.W. Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of the State of Virginia from its Organization, in 1778, to 1822 (Richmond, Va.: James E. Goode, 1874), p. 193

[xx] Steven C. Bullock, Revolutionary Brotherhood: Freemasonry and the Transformation of the American Social Order, 1730–1840 (Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1996), p. 113.

[xxi] Proceedings in Masonry: St. John’s Grand Lodge 1733–1972, Massachusetts Grand Lodge 1769–1792 (Boston: Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1895), p. 259.

[xxii] Proceedings, p. 459.

[xxiii] Thomas S. Roy, Stalwart Builders: A History of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts, 1733–1978 (Boston, Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, 1980), p. 52.

[xxiv] Coil, s.v. “Massachusetts.”

[xxv] Bullock, p. 113.

[xxvi] Proceedings, p. 380.

[xxvii] Huss, p. 18.

[xxviii] Huss, p. 281.

[xxix] Huss, p. 27.

[xxx] Huss, p. 32.

[xxxi] Huss, p. 46.

[xxxii] Huss, p. 56.

[xxxiii] Coil, s.v. “Georgia.”

[xxxiv] Coil, s.v. “New Jersey.”

[xxxv] Coil, s.v. “New York.”

[xxxvi] Tatsch, p. 70.

[xxxvii] H. P. Nash, “Origins of the Grand Lodge of New York,” Transactions of the American Lodge of Research, vol. 3, no. 2, pp. 278–402.

[xxxviii] Nash, p. 291.

[xxxix] Tatsch, p. 70.

[xl] Nash, p. 291.

[xli] Nash, p. 292.

[xlii] Tatsch, p. 196.

[xliii] H. L. Stillson and W. J. Hughan, Eds. History of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons and Concordant Orders (Boston & New York, Fraternity Publishing Co., 1891), p. 231.

[xliv] Stillson & Hughan, p. 253, Tatsch, pp. 184, Coil, s.v. “Connecticut.”

[xlv] Tatsch, p. 168–170, 173.