The History of Marine Lodge No. 38, Charleston,
By: Ill. Bro. McDonald “Don” Burbidge, 33º
The Marine Lodge of
Masons, which is the “Junior” in this Town, is the First that is possessed of a
Lodge Room, having lately purchased a very convenient one.
The South Carolina
Gazette May 31, 1773
Why did men leave comparative security and comfort of
established homes in Europe and England to endure the dangers and hardships of a
primitive land? The answer is that man will dare any hardship to obtain freedom.
Most of our pioneers came to America to escape religious persecution. The desire
to worship in their own manner, to establish homes, businesses, and to achieve
security is always strong. Unfortunately, many early settlements were composed
of Colonists interested only in freedom for themselves.
No doubt, Freemasonry, the exponent of liberty and
justice, exterted its influence for many Freemasons took leading roles in the
stirring events, which resulted in establishing our self-governing nation.
Located within the most ancient confines of Charleston,
an area well inside of the town’s old walls, in a section where the French
Huguenots once lived and worked was “Simmon’s Alley,” which later was renamed
“Lodge Alley” in reference to the Masonic Lodge located there. It was a thruway
for merchants working at the docks on East Bay Street during the 1750’s.
One of the oldest streets in
Charleston, Lodge Alley is a visual example of Charleston Old World Ties,
exemplifying the definition of an alley as a street but not a main thoroughfare.
Such alleys, a narrow and without walkways and usually with the drain running
down the middle, were usual in European cities. The paving of Lodge Alley,
formed of small regularly shaped granite blocks of uniform size, observes this
pattern- two horizontal rows with a course of “Belgian Block” laid vertically
down the middle. Just so were alleys placed in old English towns, like York, and
many towns in Normandy.
The ten-foot width and the
construction of Lodge Alley makes it typical of early 18th Century
In Charles Town the mechanics were always an important
and numerous class. As the Colony grew and prospered their influence became
significant and many of them became leading figures of the Revolutionary War.
Between 1760-1774 one of the most valuable and vigorous mechanic industries in
Charleston was shipbuilding and related “Marine” work, which had a reputation
for excellence throughout the colonies and in Europe.
The tasks of the shipwrights (or Marine) were manifold. In addition to constructing new vessels, there were endless alterations and repairs to be made on the ocean carriers. When a ship came to port “her cargo was unloaded, her sails and rigging stored in some nearby loft and her crew lodged at the various ordinaries. She was then conducted to shallow water and careened by the aid of fall and blocks. Next a lighter, with steaming kettles of pitch and tar, was run up beside her bottom, so that the workers could caulk up every leaky seam.
After this the various groups of artisans had their turn,
for glaziers were needed to replace the broken glass, iron workers to fit in new
bolts, cooper to repair damaged hogs-heads, sail makers to patch the torn
canvass, carpenters to make new hatches or replace masts or spars which had gone
overboard, painters cleaned and painted the weathered woods of the ship. If the
shipwrights were not thus busied, they made parts for sale or sometimes prepared
lumber for exportation. This is the origin of the word “Marine” as an artisan
Lodge Alley also illustrates
Charleston’s distinction as one of the cradles of Freemasonry in America. The
Alley takes its name from the Marine Lodge No. 38 that is situated on its course
about midway from East Bay Street to State Street. This site was acquired as
early as 1773, making it one of the oldest Masonic Lodges in the country and the
most important lodge room in Charleston today.
It was from Lodge Alley that Charlestonians openly defied the British government in the early days before the Revolutionary War. On November 7, 1777, as a means of protesting the harsh treatment shown to Boston, Charleston’s Sons of Liberty Boys met in the Masonic Lodge-Room in Lodge Alley and constructed a “rolling stage” or parade float. Upon it effigies of the Pope, the Devil, Lord North, and Governor Thomas Hutchinson of Massachusetts and floated it in the Bay.
The Sons of Liberty also meet
here and under a live oak tree in the pasture of Mr. Mazyck’s property, which
they named on October 1,1768, “The Liberty Tree.” Under this tree Christopher
Gadsden first advocated colonial independence in 1766, and where 10 years later
the Declaration of Independence was first heard and applauded by South
Carolinians. Gadsden and his fellow revolutionaries, who led public meetings
protested the British Stamp Act and later the Tea Tax.
The list of people at the meeting at the Liberty Tree, in
1766, was drawn up by George Flagg, also these meetings at the Liberty Tree were
public meetings and continued as such during the Revolutionary period. In the
South Carolina Gazette the following was published about a meeting held by the
“Club 45” members.
About 5 o’clock they all removed to a most noble “LIVE
OAK” tree, in Mr. Mazyk’s pasture, which they formally dedicated to
LIBERTY, where many loyal, patriotic, and constitutional toasts were drank,
beginning with the glorious “NINETY-TWO” Anti-Rescinds of Massachusetts-Bay, and
ending with, unanimity among the members of our ensuing Assembly not to rescind
from the said resolution (to boycott England), each succeeded by three huzzahs.
In the evening, the tree was decorated with 45 lights,
and 45 skyrockets were fired.
About 8 o’clock, the whole company, preceded by 45 of
their number, marched in regular procession to town, down King-Street and Broad
Street, to Mr. Robert Dillion’s tavern; where the 45 lights being placed upon
the table, with 45 bowls of punch, 45 bottles of wine, and 92 glasses, they
spent a few hours in a new round of toasts, among which, scarce a celebrated
Patriot of Britain or America was omitted; and preserving the same good order
and regularity as had been observed throughout the day, at 10 they retired.
Seeking to prevent the tree
from becoming a Patriot shrine, the British cut it down and burned the stump,
during their occupation of the city in 1780-82. The root was later retrieved by
Judge William Johnson, who had it made into caneheads, one of which was given to
Amid celebrations in Charleston over the repeal of the
Stamp Act, the Declaratory Act went nearly unnoticed. Couched in the same
sweeping terms as the Irish Declaratory Act of 1719, it pronounced the American
Colonies subordinate to and dependant upon the Crown and Parliament. While
Charleston rang with cheers and huzzahs, a more sober meeting at the Liberty
Tree was taking place. There Gadsden and the mechanics gathered privately, and
in the words of George Flagg the painter, “Gadsden harangued them at
considerable length, on the folly of relaxing their opposition and vigilance, or
of indulging the fallacious hope that Great Britain would relinquish her designs
and pretensions. He drew their attention to the preamble of the act, forcibly
pressed upon the folly of rejoicing at a law that still asserted and maintained
the absolute dominion of Great Britain over them. Then reviewing all the chances
of succeeding in a struggle to break the fetters whenever again imposed on
them,” the mechanics joined hands and swore their defense against tyranny,” but,
like the silversmith Grimke, some must have thought, “Thank God” the province
was “now again, the land of Liberty.”
Generally speaking however,
the vast majority of South Carolinians including the business community had been
largely loyal and peaceful until they were driven to despair by the continuing
high handed actions of the English parliament. For example, following the repeal
of the Stamp Act on March 18th, 1766, the Colonial Assembly at
Charles Town sent written thanks to London and voted to erect a marble statue of
William Pitt who had fought so persistently for the welfare of the Colonists.
The stature was completed and placed at the intersection of Broad and Meeting
Street. This was hardly the action of a rebellious population at this time.
During the summer of 1768
Brother Edward Weyman of Charles Town journeyed to Philadelphia for personal
family reasons and during his stay attempted to visit one of the City Lodges. He
was refused entry and this experience triggered a significant change in his
Masonic career. He had, as a member of a “Modern” subordinate Lodge of the Grand
Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of South Carolina, evidently approached a
Lodge of Ancient York Masons, whose policy was one of non fraternization.
Edward went to Philadelphia
in the summer of 1782 as stated above where he obtained a dispensation from DGM
Alexander Rutherford of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of
Pennsylvania. This he presented to Lodge No. 2 Ancient York Masons in
Philadelphia and requested that he be entered passed and raised in the “Ancient”
way. In July 1782, an emergent meeting of Marine Lodge No. 2 in Philadelphia
which was opened in due form, on the first degree of Masonry with 7 members and
5 visitors present, when Edward was balloted for and accepted. The Lodge
reconvened on July 25th, 1782 at 5PM, when in compliance with the
dispensation, all three degrees were conferred in succession the same evening.
Upon Edward’s return to
Charles Town, he immediately began to sell the idea of AYM to the brethren in
his former “Modern” lodge.
At the Grand Communication of
the Right Worshipful Grand Lodge of AYM of Pennsylvania a petition signed by
Brother Edward Weyman, Brother David Hamilton and seven recently made AYM
brethren was read and granted on December 23, 1782. This set in motion for the
formation of Marine Lodge No. 38, which was to meet in the City of Charles Town,
South Carolina, at the Lodge room in Lodge Alley. Brother Weyman and Hamilton
then demitted from Lodge No. 2 of Pennsylvania. Master Richard Wistar, dated
December 26, 1782 signed a demitted and an endorsement of the same from the
Grand Lodge dated January 25, 1783. The appearance of Worshipful Brother
Wistar’s name in the South Carolina record of August 1783 indicates that he took
up residence in this state shortly thereafter.
The seven petitioners
mentioned above were “made” by courtesy of the only existing AYM Lodge then in
South Carolina, Lodge No. 190, operating under the Grand Athol Lodge of
When the “Grand Lodge of
South Carolina, Ancient York Masons,” was formed by the five “Ancient: Lodges in
Charleston, January 1, 1787, Marine Lodge, No. 38, was a prominent factor. It is
a noteworthy fact, that at least three of the principal officers were
Pennsylvania Masons, viz. Hon. William Drayton, Grand Master; Hon. Mordecai
Gist, Deputy Grand Master; Edward Weyman, Esq., Senior Grand Warden.
Marine Lodge No. 38 appears
to have been represented by proxy upon the September 25, 1786, when the Grand
Lodge asserted its Independence. No returns or further reports from this Lodge
have been found in the Archives of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. It is known,
however that Marine Lodge, No. 38 (in Charleston), became an active body,
spreading Masonic light and charity in the town wherein it was located, and in
1787, became one of the five “Ancient” Lodges that formed the Grand Lodge of
South Carolina Ancient York Masons.
The Lodge Alley Inn located in Charleston, South
Carolina is named after the adjoining ten-foot wide alley, Lodge Alley. Located
within strolling distance to the City Market, Rainbow Row, High Battery,
Waterfront Park, Museum, Theaters, Galleries, and much more. The Lodge Alley
Inn in 1983, along with 15 separate warehouse buildings were incorporated
into the design, allowing many of the Inn's rooms to retain their original 18th
century pine floors and brick walls. The Inn gained immediate approval from
The South Carolina Gazette
Editor: Lewis Timothy
Dated: May 31, 1773
The South Carolina Historical Magazine
Editor: Joseph I. Waring
Charleston’s Sons of Liberty
By: Richard Walsh
National Register of Historic Places Inventory
Charleston, South Carolina
Date: September 1973
The Charleston News and
Courier (locale newspaper)
August 20, 1973
The Lodge Alley Inn
Various Pamphlet’s concerning their establishment
Old Masonic Lodges of Pennsylvania
“Moderns” and “Ancients” 1730-1800
By: Julius F. Sachse, Ltt. D.
Covering Period 1779-1791
Josh Silver: Librarian to Archivist & Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia
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