Saturday, December 15, 2007
Port Tobacco Freemasonry
Monument erected on the village green in memory of the St. Columba Lodge No. 10, Port Tobacco.
Port Tobacco was more than a collection of homes and businesses. It had a variety of institutions on which the people built a community, including churches and schools, most of which were racially segregated. One of those institutions was the Masonic Lodge about which we have been able to get some information from Edward Schultz’s 1884 history of the Craft in Maryland.
In 1792, a number of members of the George Town Lodge No. 9 (in present day Washington, DC) petitioned to create a branch lodge in Port Tobacco, to which they had moved. They received a charter from the Grand Lodge of Maryland and sustained St. Columba Lodge No. 10 at least until 1798.
Schultz noted that the proceedings of the Lodge were full and well-kept, and that they included the names, occupations, and residences of initiates. He published the names, which appear below.
A number of St. Columba members, because of the distance of the Lodge from their respective homes, similarly petitioned to create Hiram Lodge No. 27 in Leonard Town, St. Mary’s County, in 1798, which was chartered that year. St. Columba may have disbanded shortly thereafter, as did Hiram.
Ironically, a Lodge existed in Leonard Town between 1759 and 1764. The surviving proceedings for the Lodge include the following entry dated November 4, 1761: “Ordered also that Brother [Ebenezer] Fisher write to Mr. James Mills for the Jewells belonging to the Portobacco Lodge which are now in the possession of the said Mills.” In short, one of the earliest Lodges in Maryland, and in the colonies, had formed in Port Tobacco by 1760, disbanded with members going to George Town and Leonard Town, then revived in 1792 only to disband again with at least some members reviving the Leonard Town Lodge.
Apart from celebrating the feast days of St. John the Baptist (June 24) and St. John the Evangelist (December 27), often with a church service followed by a dinner and ball, it isn’t clear what these Lodges did. Likely they were very different in some respects from Masonic Lodges of the present. Certainly they helped cement good relations among competing merchants, and also between the native born, largely English planters, and the newly arrived Scots merchants.
The project team will be studying institutions at Port Tobacco, including those of post-emancipation African Americans and Colonial and Antebellum European Americans.
List of members of St. Columba Lodge No. 10 of the Society of Free and Accepted York Masons, 1792-1798
Alexander Greer (or Grier), Worshipful Master
Robert Fergusson (or Furgusson), Senior Warden
Judson M. Clagett, Junior Warden
Robert E. Scott
Gustavus Richard Brown
Samuel B. Turner
Samuel T. Dyson
Michael Jenifer Stone
Thomas Andreis Dyson
Philip Barton Key
John Rousby Plater
William Dent Briscoe
Dr. H. William Graham
Dr. John F. Hawkins
Stephen Cawood IV
Reverend John Weems
Robert Fergusson, Jr.
Charles Sommervell Smith
Charles Calvert Egerton
Major Philip Stewart
John Edward Ford
John Monceur Daniel
Dr. John Dyson
George Ph. Greenfield
Jonathan Lewis Briscoe
George W. Campbell
Source: Schultz, Edward T., 32°. History of Freemasonry in Maryland, of All the Rites introduced into Maryland, from the Earliest Time to the Present. Volume I. (J. H. Medairy, Baltimore, 1884).