The History of Marine Lodge No. 38, Charleston, S.C.By: Ill. Bro. McDonald "Don" Burbidge,
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, exerted its influence for many Freemasons took leading roles
in the stirring events, which resulted in establishing our self-governing
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 Charleston.
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 name.
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 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
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 cane heads, one of which was given
to Thomas Jefferson.
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
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
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
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 England.
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
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 historic preservationists.
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