UNIVERSAL LODGE NO. 1 HISTORY
A Brief Historical Summation
Universal Lodge No. 1 is privileged to be the first offspring of this honorable and perfectly
legitimate institution, directly descended from the United Grand Lodge of England,
London, United Kingdom, the mother of Freemasonry in the United States. Moreover,
Universal has the great honor and distinction of being the first Prince Hall Masonic Lodge
to be established in the State of Virginia. Its organization on February 5, 1845 is traced to
three citizens of Alexandria.
Early in 1848 John E. Thomas then Master of Social Lodge No. 1 (MWPHGLDC), issued a
call to two other Lodges which had been chartered in this area, namely; Universal No.10 of
Alexandria, Virginia and Felix No. 17 of Washington, D.C., to meet in a special convention
with Social Lodge No. 1 for the purpose of organizing a Grand Lodge for the District of
Columbia. This meeting presided over by District Deputy Grand Master David P. Jones of
the Grand Lodge of Philadelphia resulted in the organization of the present Grand Lodge of
the District of Columbia. Charles Datcher of Social Lodge was elected the first Grand
Master and Francis Datcher, also of Social was elected the Junior Grand Warden. Under the
new Grand Lodge, Social became No. 1, Universal No. 2, and Felix No. 3.
In 1835, William Dudley, Benjamin Crier and Sandy Bryant were made Master Masons in
St. George Lodge, No. 32, Liverpool, England. They were seafaring men, and in 1838 lived
in Alexandria, D.C. They were admitted as members of Social Lodge. Shortly afterward,
these three Brethren along with Reverend John Thomas, also a member of Social Lodge
and living in the same town, applied to Deputy Grand Master Daniel Smith, of Hiram
Grand Lodge, Pennsylvania, for a charter to establish a Lodge in their city. This was
granted to them August 26th, 1845.
The new Lodge, which was the first Lodge in Virginia, was known as Universal Lodge,
No.10, of Alexandria, D.C., with Brother George Sims, W. M.; Edward Evans, S. W.;
Dennis Bourbon, J. W.; James Evans, S. D.; Ephraim Bancroft, J. D.; Richard Garnett,
Treasurer; Joseph L. Gipson, Secretary; William Dudley and Benjamin Crier, Stewards; and
Sanday Bragrant, Tiler. Universal was the only Prince Hall lodge in VA for approximately
20 years. Universal held regular meetings on the second floor of a house on South Royal
Street in the section of Alexandria then known as Haiti, despite routine intimidation and
provocation perpetuated against these Black Masons. In fact, if not for the aid of Brother
John Hancock, a Mason and white police officer, the craft might have been unable to hold
regular communications. The area called Alexandria, D.C. returned from the District of
Columbia to Virginia on July 9, 1846.
Such struggles to achieve basic human rights, to gain the respect of others, to attain a
degree of human dignity and to live in peace and harmony with all our fellow creatures,
have been prevalent throughout black history; in education, in our social life, in our
working hours, in our recreational activities and in every department of life. There was a
time, not too long ago, when every black institution in this country fought desperately for
its mere survival, and freemasonry is no exception!
It is gratifying to note that Universal Lodge No. 1 has played an important role in shaping
Prince Hall Masonry, as we know it today in the state of Virginia. Rising Sun Lodge No. 2
in Norfolk, Virginia received its charter in 1865, and gave us the first Grand Master of
Prince Hall Masonry in Virginia, the late Most Worshipful Past Grand Master Anthony A.
After the abolition of slavery, our lodges began to flourish, and membership grew. New
lodges came into being, and Prince Hall Masonry took permanent root in our society.