HISTORY OF PRINCE HALL MASONRY IN KENTUCKY
Masonry among Negroes in Kentucky had its origin in the year 1850, in Louisville, Kentucky, when Reverend Bird Parker, pastor of Quinn Chapel A. M. E. Church and a number of other colored men, with Jesse Meriwether as their leader, met at his house on West Walnut Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets. They had become interested in Masonry through contact with colored Masons who were on steamers plying between Cincinnati, Ohio, and Louisville, Kentucky. Their inquiry was how they might become Masons. After several meetings had been held, a pro tem body was formed.
The question was raised as to whether it would be safe for a lodge of colored men to be organized in the State. The question was discussed at length, and a vote taken whether the Lodge should be established in Louisville, or across the river in new Albany, Indiana. It was decided that New Albany would be the safer place for meeting at that time. This vote caused several members of the pro tem body to withdraw. Among that number was the venerable Jesse Meriwether, who, in later years became our first Grand Master.
A petition was forwared to the Grand Master of Ohio for a Warrant. It was granted, and on June 12, 1850, in the city of New Albany, Indiana, Mt. Moriah Lodge No.1, F & A. M., was duly organized. The Lodge room was leased for three years from the Caucasian Masons, they having built a new hall and moved into it. Their furniture was also turned over to M. Moriah. For three years, the Lodge remaining at New Albany. The member labored under many disadvantages, such as crossing the Ohio River in skiffs at mid-night, sometimes amid high waters and heavy drifts, at the risk of their lives, and then walking five miles up to the city.
At the expiration of the three-year lease, the Lodge moved to Louisville, Kentucky. A house was rented from Washington Spradling, Sr., on Walnut Street, between Ninth and Tenth Streets. The roll of Mt. Moriah increased t over 100 members. Finally, the group divided and organized St. Thomas and Meriwether Lodges.
Among free Negros of this period who were Masons and leaders in the churches, schools and various vocations were Jesse Meriwether, W. H. Gibson, John Evans, Washington Spradling, Berry Evans, Barlett Taylor, Green Smith, Henry Cousens, John Morris, Austin Hubbard, J. C. N. Fowles, and William Butcher. These men exercised precaution in a slave state and made great contributions to Negro fraternities and businesses among Negroes in the City of Louisville.
The advent of Masonry in Kentucky had many forebodings, but the lodges wee not molested until 1869, about the time of “John Brown’s Raid”. The excitement that prevailed in Virginia extended to Kentucky, and all assemblies of free Negroes were closely watched. At one meeting of a Lodge, held secretly, the police made a raid and ordered the men jailed. However, the police judge was quite “understanding” and dismissed the case.
On August 16, 1866, under a Warrant granted by the Grand Lodge of Ohio, with Richard H. Gleaves as Grand Master, and still a member of the National Compact, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky was organized by Mr. Moriah, St. Thomas, and Meriwether Lodges. Jesse Meriwether was elected Grand Master, and Andrew Shafer, Grand Secretary. This action was taken under the National Compact. The Masons of Kentucky established State Sovereignty in 1875.
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The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Kentucky has prospered from its humble beginnings. We now boast of sixty nine subordinate Lodges; a one hundred unit apartment complex in Frankfort, Kentucky’ the Grand East in Louisville, Kentucky and printing equipment located therein which will make us self reliant in accomplishing our time honored goals.