What is Prince Hall Masonry?

Special thanks go to W.Bro. A.J. Friesen, Hinton Lodge No. 178 and W.Bro. Stan Wheatly of Jubilee Lodge No. 173 for their answers. R. W.Bro. Bob Shaw, DDGM, District 10 continues with the history of Prince Hall Masonry in Alberta to meet a number of requests for more information. It should be noted that R. W.Bro. Shaw was originally a Prince Hall Mason who was required to repudiate his membership in that Craft to join Alberta Masonry.

Black Freemasonry flourished in the U.S. to the point where most of the 50 states have Prince Hall Grand Lodges, as well as in Liberia, Continental Europe, South America and Canada.

Black Masons came into Canada during the American Civil War days. They came primarily into the Province of Ontario. In that province the 18th Prince Hall Grand Lodge was formed, which has the legal title of "Grand Lodge of Ontario." It has 18 subordinate Lodges on its register. It is interesting to note that while our Grand Lodge is called the Grand Lodge of Alberta, the Regular Grand Lodge in Ontario is not called the Grand Lodge of Ontario. It is called the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario. This is because the Prince Hall Grand Lodge registered the name "Grand Lodge of Ontario" first.

Black farming families trekked into western Canada and settled in the four western provinces.These black people brought Prince Hall Masonry with them. In 1921 there were four Prince Hall Lodges operating in Alberta: Bow River Lodge No. 19 in Calgary; Pride of Alberta No. 20 in Edmonton; Stalwart No. 22 in Drumheller; Time and Patience No. 23 in Judkins.

Many black Masons who were members of these older Lodges have left an impression in Alberta history. Lionel Jones obtained the Charter for Pride of Alberta Lodge. His son, Jesse Jones, became a renowned teacher and athlete and was elected Secretary of his Lodge. Jesse's son, Lionel, is a distinguished judge. Jesse was made a citizen of Sports History by the City of Edmonton.

Some other prominent black Masons in Alberta were Joe "Kid" Cotton, a successful boxer and farmer; Dr. John Cobb; and Dr. Amos Walker. In Ontario, Lincoln Alexander, a prominent Conservative and a Lt. Governor of Ontario, is a 33rd Degree Prince Hall Mason.

During the depression years of 1937,1938 and 1939, the four Prince Hall Lodges in Alberta surrendered their charters to their Grand Lodge due to the economic situation and the decline in their numbers.

In 1967, to celebrate the Canadian Centennial, some of the members of the original Lodges, requested the re-dedication of the charter for Pride of Alberta in Edmonton. The Grand Lodge approved the request and, with Regent Lodge No. 5 of Winnipeg acting as host, the Grand Lodge Officers initiated 25 new Masons and then re-dedicated the charter. The Lodge continues today and has now formed a second lodge in Edmonton and one in Calgary.

  1. The Lodges operate in the York Rite.
  2. They use the Daggett Ritual which is written in cipher.
  3. The signs, grips, words and due-guards are the same as ours.
  4. All other differences are very minor.

These three Alberta Lodges are under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, but the earlier Lodges were under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Washington.

Some of you may say, "If they are regular and legitimate, why don't we recognize them?" It's not that easy. If the Grand Lodge of Alberta were to recognize the Minnesota Prince Hall Grand Lodge, what response would we get from the Grand Lodge of Minnesota? Would they continue to recognize us? Although there are changing conditions, we cannot be sure. Our current position is that Prince Hall Masons would have to sever all ties with Prince Hall Masonry and then take all three degrees in our Lodges.

Whatever your feeling toward black men who are Prince Hall Masons and their Craft, you cannot currently sit in Lodge with a Prince Hall Mason. Our Grand Lodge does not recognize that body of Masons. The traditional view held in Canada is that the situation is wrong but it is an American domestic problem. Fortunately, in Canada there is no Masonic colour barrier. To have one would be a violation of the spirit of Freemasonry and we have many black Masonic brethren in the Craft.

In spite of all the controversy over Prince Hall Masonry and the concern as to how to handle the situation, if you asked Bro. Shaw he would say that he was proud to have sat in Lodge with these brethren and to have called Prince Hall his brother.

Editors Note: The Grand Lodge of Quebec is presently in the preliminary stages of recognizing Prince Hall Masonry, and the Grand Lodge of Canada in Ontario is reviewing its relationship with Prince Hall Masonry. These Grand Lodges together with Nebraska, which has given full recognition, and Connecticut, which has given visiting privileges, are working to joining with Prince Hall rather than destroying this old order.

From Grand Lodge of Alberta Bulletin of June 1990.