Prince Hall Masonic Lodge Picture Research-
African American, Beloit, Wisconsin
by Vicki Ruthe Hahn
15 May 2019
I was very happy and honored to be given the photograph below (as the Beloit Public Library genealogist and historian), so that it could be preserved and more people could see it. After researching the photograph, I donated both the photo and the research to the BHS Beloit Historical Society, Beloit Wisconsin to fulfill their request for more Beloit African American photographs and artifacts.
“…your gift (photo) to the BHS…wow! what a piece of history for us to have! Thank you!”
That photograph has the best chance of being preserved and properly displayed at BHS, (especially after it’s rough physical history – story below) .
1925 Prince Hall Masonic Lodge African American Convention in Milwaukee Wisconsin
I had to scan the 36 x 8 photograph (and back) in 2 sections on the Library photocopier (free for the public
). The panoramic picture above is after I “stitched” the 2 overlapping photographs/scans into one on my computer. I used the free Microsoft App Image Composite Editor
(more information and download here) https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/search?q=image+composite+editor
There is an initiative to gather and to archive more materials from Beloit
families related to the Black Great Migration to Beloit
1910-1970, and the history of the black community in Beloit
. Beloit College
students under Professor Beatrice McKenzie and the Beloit Historical Society
are collaborating to find items that can be digitally photographed and returned.
There was a History Harvest Community Collection event on March 22, 2019 at New Zion Baptist Church Beloit, Wisconsin. Attendees shared letters, photos, objects, and/or stories of their own or their family member’s migration from the South to work in Beloit’s factories. Students digitally captured the artifacts that community members brought to the harvest and are making a digital exhibit that will be housed on the Beloit College and Beloit Historical Society websites.
The 1925 Prince Hall Masonic Lodge African American Convention in Milwaukee Wisconsin photo (copy) and research will also be filed in the Beloit Public Library Local History Collection Pamphlet File under – GEN – Organizations and Clubs (The Prince Hall Masonic W.B. Kennedy Lodge No. 106 (later #3)
Here is the story of that photograph, which was ironically found in a Beloit African American church!:
Beloit African American Organization Convention Photograph
May 9, 2018
“This photograph comes from the estate of Richard J Walsh, delivered by his trustee and sister Bridget Walsh (to Beloit Public Library.)
Richard found the photo in the rubble of a church being torn down, the old Emmanuel Baptist Church, at Athletic and E. Grand in Beloit. The photo had slid down a wall.
James Caldwell copied this photo when his family visited our farm (Walsh Family Farm, was Walsh Brothers Farm). His wife Cheryl Johnson was related to the Ben Gordon family, who lived and worked on our farm for decades. The Gordon’s had moved here from Alabama.” Bridget Walsh
– Ben Gordon’s son Jerry Gordon, California, has done his family’s genealogy, per Bridget Walsh. The Walsh children played with the Gordon children on the farm.
Bridget Walsh identified Ben in the photographs from the Beloit Oral History Project by Louis Koch – African American Up North – Fairbanks Flats (1976). (Note – the photograph numbers on the on-line Index don’t seem to match the numbers on the photographs now.) Photographs are available world-wide on-line on the Beloit Public Library homepage https://beloitlibrary.org/edgewater/ , and in two Blue notebooks in the Library Local History Collection:
|Beloit Public Library
||GEN 977.588 K811 V.1
|Beloit Public Library
||GEN 977.588 K881 V.2
Bridget Walsh told me the story of Ben Gordon’s first wife Etta May. Etta May died from a chicken scratch infection that the doctor mis-treated. . They lived (in a house provided by) and worked on Walsh Brothers Farm. Ben moved to Fairbanks Flats and worked for Fairbanks Morse after Etta May died. He remarried later.
The 134 photo caption says, “Ben Gordon holding photograph of himself & his first wife from Ross Hill 1921” (near Houston, Mississippi)
– On the back of the panoramic 1925 Prince Hall Masonic Lodge African American Convention in Milwaukee Wisconsin photo is written in pencil – an O symbol with 2 lines through it, the number “380”and “Mr. Creighton”. (Hint – look at the back of historic photographs for clues to their origin or identification.)
-The Prince Hall Masonic W.B. Kennedy Lodge No. 106 (later #3) Beloit Wisconsin was chartered by the Grand Lodge in Milwaukee Wisconsin on September 1, 1925. Maybe the 1925 Prince Hall Masonic Lodge African American Convention photograph documents the men that attended that charter ceremony. Bridget mentioned that she had been told that there were men from several states at this convention.
– Beloit Oral History Project by Louis Koch – African American Up North – Fairbanks Flats (1976) photographs show a similar (later?) Beloit African American Organization photograph with fancier aprons and vestments in photograph 110.
The caption is “Odd Fellows Lodge, including Revered Ogiss Dillon; ca 1940. (AB) This looks like Prince Hall Masonic Organization (see the aprons & white gloves), rather than Odd Fellows, added by K. Simmons 08-01-2006”
I looked at both the 1925 and the 1940 photos to see if I could see any men that were the same, but could not see any resemblances. The clothing for each year does match the fashion for that year. (Hint – look at people’s eyes, ears, noses, foreheads, other facial features, and stances to see the same person of a different age.)
How about this for a little known fact? – “In March, 1775, Prince Hall and fourteen other free Negroes of Boston Massachusetts were made Master Masons in an Army Lodge attached to one of General Gage’s regiments, then stationed near Boston.” (This was the beginning of of the Masonic organization that led to the Beloit Chapter.)
MOST WORSHIPFUL PRINCE HALL GRAND LODGE F. & A. M. OF WISCONSIN, INC
“https://www.mwphglofwisconsin.com/” and “https://www.mwphglofwisconsin.com/about-1”
-James Caldwell may have used the panoramic Organization Convention photograph in their DVD. “Through their eyes: the history of African Americans in Beloit, WI from 1836 – 1970”, [videorecording (DVD)] Author Caldwell, Jim. Caldwell, Cheryl. Harris, Paulette Ivy. Lamont, Tony. Publisher Jim and Cheryl Caldwell Foundation, Publication Date 2011; Shelf Location – Beloit Public Library Non-fiction DVD 977.588 THROUGH