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North Bay Black Roots


Leadership in Prince Hall Masons and
Other Fraternal Orders

Equally vital to the development of the early California African American community were the fraternal orders established shortly after statehood. Early North Bay African Americans played key roles in these fraternal and benevolent societies that proliferated throughout Northern Californian from the 1850s on.

Early evidence of the Prince Hall Masonic connection to the North Bay is noted in a June 26, 1865, Elevator newspaper article that noted that masons from the Bay Area converged on Benicia where they celebrated St. John's Day, a Masonic holiday. Members of Olive Branch No. 4, and Werthington Lodge, No. 7 chartered the large and commodious San Antonio steamer for an excursion to Benicia. The celebrants were addressed by William H. Yates and William H. Hall, "the silver tongued orator of California."  Not only were Yates and Hall high ranking masons, they played key leadership roles in California's colored citizens convention movement that met four times between 1855 to 1865. Olive Branch Lodge No. 4, was organized in 1855. Werthington Lodge No. 7 was constituted in 1865. Both lodges are no longer in existence.

On their return from Benicia, the excursion party passed Mare Island, where they were honored by a French freighter laying over at the Navy Yard for repairs. The U.S. Lancaster "gracefully lowered and raised their flags three times, with our flags answering...our bands playing patriotic airs and all hands cheering lustily."

Napa's Edward and Joseph Hatton, both associated with Prince Hall Masons, Laurel Lodge No. 6 in Marysville, were active at the highest levels fraternal order's statewide governing body. In 1902 and 1903 Joseph Hatton served as the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of California.

Simon P. Clarke, a Vallejo businessman who owned a Sacramento Street barbershop in the 1870s, was an active member of Victoria Lodge, No 3. Clarke served as Grand Secretary of Prince Hall Grand Lodge and was a Royal Arch Mason.

Thomas Moore Grove, a longtime Vallejo resident and businessman, served as deputy grand master of the state grand lodge in 1883 and 1884. John R. Landeway, another Vallejo resident and businessman served as worshipful master of Victoria Lodge No. 3 in 1887 and 1888.

Charles H. Tinsley, of Vallejo, served as grand master of Hannibal Lodge, No. 1, San Francisco. Hannibal Lodge, established June 12, 1852, is the oldest lodge in the California Prince Hall Masonic Order and is still in existence. Tinsley served as most worshipful grand master of the state's grand lodge in 1907-1909. Tinsley was on the membership rolls of Firma Lodge No. 27, Vallejo in the early 1900s.

Other fraternal lodges established in the North Bay included the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, which organized around 1913. The Household of Ruth, the women's auxiliary of the Odd Fellows, organized and received its incorporation papers in 1915.


Copyright © 2013 by Sharon McGriff-Payne
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