A Condensed History of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of
Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Michigan
By: Elmer L. Wallace, Past Grand Master
In the year 1857, M.W. John G. Britton, Grand Master of the State of Indiana granted a dispensation to his Deputy Grand Master, John W. Harrison, and a group of masons residing in the City of Niles, Michigan to open the first lodge of colored masons in this State. To be known as Harrison Lodge, U.D., which was granted a charter-January 13, 1859; and became Harrison Lodge No. 6 on the list of Indiana Lodges. Hart Lodge No. 10, of the City of Ypsilanti, Michigan was granted a Charter by the same authority and was Dedicated and Constituted by James S. Hinton, Grand Master of Indiana, with J. W. Harrison, D.G.M.In the year 1864, M.W. John W. Harrison, who was now Grand Master of Indiana, granted dispensations to open U.D. Lodges in the Cities of Battle Creek and Williamsville. These Lodges later became Strothers Lodge No. 12-Battle Creek, Michigan, and Saint James Lodge No. 14 of Williamsville, Michigan.
The representative of these four lodges (Harrison Lodge No. 6, Hart Lodge No. 10, Strothers Lodge No. 12, and Saint James Lodge No. 14) met in convention, in the City of Niles, Michigan, and after adopting a Constitution, organized this Grand Lodge for the State of Michigan, on April 25, 1865. The following Grand Officers were elected: John W. Harrison, M.W. Grand Master; Daniel Mills, D.G.M., Thomas Jones, S.G.W.; James Hays, J.G.W.; John J. Evans, G. Treasurer; Isaac Burdine, G. Secy.; T. J. Martin, G. Lecturer; J. E. Williams, G. Tyler. The M.W. National Grand Lodge, of the United States of North America, granted a Grand Lodge Warrant to this body, October 18, 1865; bearing the signatures of Paul Drayton, M.W.N.G.G.M.; R. H. Gleaves, M.W.N.D.G.M.; Lewis Hayden, M.W.N.S.G.W.; William Edwin Gipson, M.W.N.J.G.W.; James Needham, M.W.N.G. Treas.; Ezra J. Morris, M.W.N.G. Secy. of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons. This document is still among the archives of our Grand Lodge.
At the sixth Annual Grand Communication of this Grand Lodge held in the City of Detroit, Michigan June 17, 1872, the following lodges were enrolled and represented, with dates of institution: Harrison Lodge No. 1 (1857), Niles; Hart Lodge No. 2 (1863), Ypsilanti; Strothers Lodge No. 3 (1864), Battle Creek; St. Paul Lodge No. 4 (), Detroit; St. James Lodge No. 5 (1864), Williamsville; St. Peters Lodge No. 6 (1865), Kalamazoo; St. John's Lodge No. 7 (1866), Adrian; St. Nicholas Lodge No. 8 (1866), Jackson; St. Mary's Lodge No. 9 (1867) Ann Arbor; Hiram Lodge No. 10 (1869), Detroit; Zion Lodge No. 11 (1870), Pontiac; Salem Lodge No. 12 (1872), Windsor, Ontario; Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 13, (1872), Detroit; Cyrus Lodge No. 14 (1872), Battle Creek; North Star Lodge No. 15 (1872), Grand Rapids. (The last four Lodges were granted Charters, June 20, 1872.)
Following the lead of the Grand Jurisdictions of Pennsylvania and Ohio, our Michigan brethren took the necessary steps to throw off the yoke of tyranny for which they had been burdened for so many years and at a meeting in the City of Detroit, the craft by a vote of 69 to 4 adopted resolutions expressing their views of the illegality and irregularity of the National Compact and declared that henceforth they would consider themselves independent of its authority. Consequently, Hiram and Mt. Pavan Lodges of Detroit, and North Star Lodge of Grand Rapids secured dispensations from the Sovereign Grand Lodge of Ohio, to form these three lodges, looking forward to the organization of an independent Sovereign Grand Lodge. After due time had expired they received their Charters and opened communication with the Craft throughout the State.
A mass convention of masons was called to meet in the City of Detroit, Michigan, on September 23, 1872. Pursuant to the call, representatives of from Strothers Lodge No. 3, Battle Creek; Hiram Lodge No. 10, Detroit; and North Star Lodge No. 15, Grand Rapids; Zion Lodge No. 11, Pontiac, and many other brethren throughout the State, met and organized. These lodges by the virtue of their warrants formed themselves info an Independent Sovereign Grand Lodge under the style and title of Unity Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Michigan, with M.W. Brother Harrison J. Lewis, of Hudson as Grand Master and Brother Wilmot A. Johnson, of Detroit, as Grand Secretary. The first Annual Communication of Unity Grand Lodge convened in the City of Detroit, Michigan, January 13, 1873, the Constitution was adopted and also the Resolutions to form a committee of three to petition the State Legislature to incorporate this Grand Lodge. A committee of five was appointed to draft a petition to the Grand Lodge of Michigan, F. & A.M. (white) for recognition.