Prince Hall Masonic Lodge Picture Research-
African American, Beloit, Wisconsin
by Vicki Ruthe Hahn
15 May 2019
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||Genealogy||GEN 977.588 K811 V.1|
|Beloit Public Library||Genealogy||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
-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