paper presents an overview of the
early history of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania based on published material (See
me begin by drawing an image of Philadelphia in the early 1700's.
1700 the population of Philadelphia 1,i was about 4200 and grew to 8500 inhabitants by 1730. According
to then Governor Gordon the city contained about one thousand houses up from
about 700 in 1700. The Province of Pennsylvania, on the other hand were 65,000.
An influx of German, Irish, Welsh and Scots in the late 1720's of about 6200
souls helped to increase the population. The City itself extended from the Docks
in the east to not much further than 4th Street in the west and South
Street in the south to Race Street in the North. Roughly a mile square.
1703 the King of England commissioned John Moore as collector of the Port of
letter by John Moore, a Mason, indicates that Masons were meeting as early
Hannah Penn 1,iii appointed Sir William
Keith Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. He served from 1717 to 1726 and he
was a Mason. Major Patrick Gordon who served as Governor from 1726 until his
death in 1736 succeeded him, he too was a Mason.
some of these events occurred concurrent with or before the formation of the
Grand Lodge of England in 1717, what governed the Masonic behavior in
Pennsylvania between the dates of 1715 and 1730?
appears that 1,iv “the formation of a Lodge in the pre-Grand Lodge
period must have been a very simple, elementary, and informal affair, probably
arising from the habitual meeting of brethren at some eatery they favored.”
Clearly they used those occasions to initiate new members and conduct business.
They no doubt used the “Old Charges” as their governing law.
meetings were held in accordance with the “Old Charges,” which according to
William James Hughan,1,v who researched the matter,
were employed by Masons of some two to five centuries ago. They were read
to the Apprentices and together with some esoteric information constituted the
initiation into the fraternity.
S. Borneman 1,vi in an address commemorating the 200th
anniversary of the Grand Lodge of Pa (1931) cites 14 manuscripts (MSS) as the
“cherished possession of the older Lodges and which formed the backbone of
Ancient Masonry up to the end of the eighteenth century.”
of these documents of the “Old Charges”, now known as the “Carmick
Manuscript”1,vii dated 1727, is said to have been “The
Constitutions of St. John’s Lodge” and is in the possession of the Grand
Lodge of Pa. It is thought that it was the governing document for the St.
John’s Lodge of Philadelphia, although this can not be conclusively proven.
us look at the involvement of Benjamin Franklin in Masonry since his publishing
presents one of the earliest surviving records of early Freemasonry in the
who had traveled to London in 1724-26 had become interested in Freemasonry. In
his Pennsylvania Gazette no.108 (Dec 5th to 8th 1730) he
wrote: 2,i “As there
are several Lodges of Free-Masons erected in this Province, and People have
lately been much amus’d with Conjectures concerning them; we think the
following account of Freemasonry from London, will not be unacceptable to our
Readers....” This followed with
an article from London describing the Fraternity in England, which includes the
“Their Grand Secret is That they have no Secret at all.”1,viii
this article caused it or not, Franklin became a Mason shortly after.1,ix
Franklin at the time became 25 years of age (being born Jan 17, 1706) which made
him eligible under the “Anderson Constitutions” of 1723.
He was entered in 1731.
we come to Col. Daniel Coxe. Coxe had arrived in New York with Lord Cornbury on
May 3, 1702.1,x He came by his title of Colonel when he was appointed
Commander of military forces in West New Jersey. He adopted the Province of New Jersey as his home.
Coxe had strong ties with the Sovereigns of England, which he never
hesitated to use.
Duke of Norfolk then Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of England issued him the
Deputation as Provincial Grand Master for the Provinces of New York, New Jersey
and Pennsylvania on June 5, 1730. This was valid for two years “from the Feast
of St. John the Baptist next following,” namely, June 24, 1730.2,ii
deputation he received as Provincial Grand Master was broad and unequaled.
Further it is shown 1,xi that Coxe was present in New Jersey
both before and after the date of the deputation but with sufficient absence to
have been in England on the date the deputation was given him, even allowing for
sailing ship times. However, no written record exists today of his having done
anything on his return with that deputation.
has led to some controversy.
early as June 24, 1731 William Allen was Grand Master3,i as written
in the account books of St. John’s Lodge of Philadelphia a.k.a. “Liber B,”
which is the ledger for that lodge. It is in the possession of the Historical
Society of Pennsylvania and dates from June 24, 1731. Past dues entries3,ii
indicate it was in operation from at least the end of 1730, which agrees with
Franklin’s Gazette article of December 1730.
few years afterwards the earliest definite recognition in print of a registered
lodge in Pennsylvania is to be found in ‘The Pocket Companion for Freemasons,
published with the approbation of the Grand Lodge of Ireland in Dublin in 1734.
The famous entry ‘116 & Hoop in Water Street in Philadelphia, 1st
Monday,’ occurs in the appended list of the Warranted Lodges in the Kingdom of
Ireland, Great Britain, Spain, Germany, East and West Indies.”1,xii
Crawley wrote to Julius F. Sachese (curator
of the Grand Lodge of Pa Library), a letter residing today in the Library of the
Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania the following which is abstracted:1,xiii
original Grand Lodge in Pennsylvania was formed by immemorial right, just as the
Grand Lodge of England was formed, by the cohesion of subordinate Lodges,
similarly formed by immemorial right; not otherwise. Your latter day usages have
begotten an instinctive rather than a logical assumption that there ought to
have been a Warrant, that is, a Charter. To my mind, your Grand Lodge, formed by
ancient, indefeasible right, stands on far other ground than if it had been
formed by a dubious warrant, that is, permission from any outside power that had
itself been formed in the higher way.”
the Grand Lodge if constituted by Coxe is a Daughter of the Grand Lodge of
England or if derived from the “old Charges” it is a sister.
Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania recognizes Coxe as its first Grand Master.
other nine Grand Masters of Pa “Moderns” are:2,iii
William Allen 1731-1732,
Humphrey Murray 1733,
Benjamin Franklin 1734,
James Hamilton 1735,
Thomas Hopkinson 1736,
William Plumsted, 1737,
Joseph Shippen 1738-1740,
Philip Syng 1741,
William Allen 1747-1765 Provincial Grand Master
Lodges were established under this Grand Lodge.
St. John’s or “First” Lodge3,iv
Second Lodge of the “Moderns” -Philadelphia Lodge #2.3,v
The Third or Tun Tavern Lodge of “Moderns”3,vi
The Fourth Lodge of the “Moderns” This was the last warrant granted
by Provincial `Grand Master Allen in June 24, 1757. 3,vii
July 1751 a group of Masons of the Grand Lodge of England, unhappy with its
policies, broke away and in 1753 established a new Grand Lodge of England
“Ancients” also called Atholl Masons. 4i
Fourth Lodge of Pennsylvania operated in the “Ancient” way.3,viii
When the Grand Lodge found out, it suspended their warrant. The Lodge no.
4 on January 3, 1758 petitioned the Grand Lodge of England “Ancients”
requesting a warrant from them. They received the warrant in January 1759, dated
June 7, 1758. In the interim they had continued working in the “Ancient”
severed their connection with the “Moderns” Grand Lodge and the three other
Lodge became the nucleus from which the present Grand Lodge and its hundreds of
subordinates gradually evolved. This Lodge (old #4) became for a time the Grand
Lodge. After a successful effort they obtained a warrant for a Provincial Grand
Warrant (July 15, 1761) - vacated its claim as no. 1 and accepted no.2.
It is still operating today. Number
1 became the Grand Lodge of Pa “Ancients”.
a time both Grand Lodges continued to operate in Pennsylvania, although the
“Ancients” was the most active.
that on September 3, 1783 a definite Treaty of Peace had been signed at Paris
between Great Britain and the United States with Bro. Benjamin Franklin one of
the American Commissioners and ratified by the Executive Council of Pennsylvania
on January 14, 1784.3,ix
September 25, 1786 the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania “Ancients” and its
subordinates declared their independence of the Mother Grand Lodge of England
it proceeded to issue warrants in other states, it assumed the title “Grand
Lodge of Pennsylvania and Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging.”3,xi
time the Grand Lodge “Moderns” withered away and disappeared.
“Articles of Confederation” of 1777, having proved worthless, the
Constitutional Convention of 1787 met in Philadelphia resulting in our present
system of government. Thirteen of
the thirty-nine signers were Freemasons.
wasn’t until 1813 that the two Grand Lodges of England reconciled their
differences and became the “United Grand Lodge of England”.4ii
Borneman, Henry S. “Early Freemasonry in Pennsylvania”, 1931 Kessinger
i pg 39-43
ii pg. 15
v pg 16
vi pg 21
Huss, Wayne A. “The MASTER BUILDERS A
History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Pennsylvania Vol.
1”, 1986 The Winchell Co.
ii pg 18
Sachese, Julius F. “Old Masonic Lodges of Pennsylvania: Moderns and Ancients
1730 to 1800 Part 1", 1912 Kessinger Publishing’s
iv pg 23
viii pg 110-113
ix pg 120
x pg 126
Newton, Joseph Fort “The Builders” 1921 The Torch Press
i pg 216
ii pg 221