The Founding of Corinthian Lodge #18 F&AM-PHA
As with the exploration of any topic of historical inquiry the early history of Corinthian Lodge #18 must be placed into its proper context with regards to the broader history of the world at that time. American Freemasonry was going through many rapid and dynamic changes during the period right before our lodge was officially consecrated on March 22, 1916 and Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasonry in the nation’s capital was not immune from the great fraternal earthquakes which were by 1900 in full swing. Although our current official history only touches briefly on the fact that our lodge was initially birthed in an irregular, self-styled or clandestine masonic organization, we have only begun to fathom the enormous complexities that surrounded our lodge and many others like it at that time.
Our lodge has its earliest roots in two former Prince Hall Freemasons, one of whom had it not been for his epic fall from grace, caused by his own lust for power would have certainly gone down in masonic history as being one of the most prolific African American Freemasons of the 1800’s. I speak of none other than John G. Jones. John G. Jones was a national masonic icon during the reconstruction years after the Civil War. The nephew of Most Worshipful Past Grand Master John Jones of the jurisdiction of Illinois, the younger John G. Jones was initiated; passed and raised in John Jones Lodge #7 (the lodge was named after his uncle). John G. Jones would in 1873 would be elected as Worshipful Master of his lodge then as Right Worshipful Grand Secretary of Illinois and be re-elected to that post in 1874. In 1875 Brother Jones was elected as Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master however was not re-elected the following year. John G. Jones rise to masonic stardom would also lead him to an epic rise and fall in other masonic bodies as well, after having obtained the thirty second and thirty-third degrees of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry Jones would later serve as Lieutenant Grand Commander of what was then known as the United Supreme Council Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of the Southern and Western Masonic Jurisdiction of the U.S.A & Canada (Now known as the PHA Southern Jurisdiction) On June 3, 1893 Jones most prolific act during his time within the Prince Hall Affiliated organization would be when he became the founder and first Imperial Potentate of the Black Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine now known as the Ancient Egyptian Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine or Prince Hall Shriners.
John G. Jones was an imminent lawyer, and one of the best known Freemasons of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. His fall from grace would begin on August 31, 1887 when he was suspended for insubordination and rebellion by then Grand Master J.W. Moore of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Illinois. He was later reinstated after he agreed to drop civil lawsuits against that Grand Lodge and its Grand Master. Jones began creating small, clandestine lodges during his travels and though this was only seen as rumor for a time, his true ambition would be shown in Washington, D.C. in 1895. On October 21, 1895 John G. Jones lost his reelection bid as Lieutenant Grand Commander of the Scottish Rite and would that night begin his own clandestine Supreme Council in the home of a close relative of Dorsey F. Seville who was at that time serving as R.W. Senior Grand Warden of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. Jones would confer on Seville and a small group of rebellious brethren a supposed thirty third degree, an act that would cause the Sovereign Grand Commander, Thornton A. Jackson (founder of Warren Lodge #8 and Pythagoras Lodge #9) to expel Jones and all who stood with him as this was an act of open masonic rebellion. On October 14, 1903 Jones would be permanently expelled from his Grand Lodge by Grand Master Henry Burris, after evidence was found that he had been using his celebrity to misguide Freemasons across the country into thinking that some kind of split had occurred in Prince Hall Masonry and posturing himself as the Grand Secretary of his own Grand Lodge. John G. Jones would later go on to be known as the “Father of Clandestine Black Freemasonry in America” as he would spread his fraternal poison of Black AF&AM Grand Lodges which haunt regular and legitimate Freemasonry until this day.
For his participation in Jones’ activities Dorsey F. Seville, who was at that time serving as R.W. Senior Grand Warden was to be brought to masonic trial but did not show up for this event. This would lead Past Grand Master Hamilton Smith of this Grand Lodge to expel Seville however the story does not end there. Dorsey F. Seville was the editor of the “Washington Bee” newspaper which in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s was the top black newspaper in Washington, DC. A common practice at that time in newspapers was to print the major events, election results and politics of various fraternal orders, Negro or Prince Hall Freemasonry included. After Seville’s expulsion in 1896 he would join John G. Jones and Mr. H.C. Scott in the establishment of their own clandestine Most Worshipful Grand Lodge AF&AM right here in Washington, DC and they would later be party to a major and historic law-suit against the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of D.C. Dorsey F. Seville would use his control with his widely read newspaper to mock and lambast Prince Hall Freemasonry and publish events that would place him and his group in a positive light. The front page of the May 3, 1913 edition of the newspaper cites that on April 7th of that year the so-called “Grand Master H.C. Scott instituted Corinthian Lodge #13 A.F.&A.M. (U.D.). After the usual routine the craft called from labor to refreshments.” It should be noted that following this snippet of information events referring to John G. Jones and Dorsey F. Seville can be seen thus linking that lodge to these controversial masonic figures.
Recent research by this writer in the library and archive of this Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge as well as our holdings at the Moreland Spingarn Research center at Howard University have revealed that many of the original members of our lodge were younger, educated men, many attending or recent graduates from Howard University. Several of these brothers appear to have been originally from Georgia and had been associated with M.W.P.G.M. Henry R. Butler PhD. (most likely through church membership) who served as Grand Master of that jurisdiction from 1901-1932. The proceedings of this Grand Lodge show that Brother Charles W. Lewis and William C. Cody were the initial founders of this clandestine lodge and that Charles W. Lewis served as its Worshipful Master and that they were falsely led to believe that they had been masons in the same order as that of H.R. Butler whom they intended to model themselves after. While on a visit to his home state of Georgia, Brother Lewis attempted to gain entry to Crystal Lodge #112 (now known as W.C. Thomas Lodge #112) which was the home lodge of Grand Master Henry R. Butler. Once it was realized by the brothers of that lodge that Mr. Lewis was not a legitimate Freemason, Grand Master Henry R. Butler made contact with what was then known as the Most Worshipful Acacia Grand Lodge (now MWPHGLDC) and its then Grand Master, Nelson E. Weatherless who saw fit to grant a dispensation to the men of the clandestine lodge who had by April of 1915 resigned their membership with clandestine Freemasonry and been “healed” into Prince Hall Affiliated Freemasonry and been re-organized as Corinthian Lodge “U.D.” and on March 22, 1916 consecrated as Corinthian Lodge #18 F&AM-PHA with its first Worshipful Master as Rev. Emory B. Smith, Senior Warden Robert G. McGuire and Junior Warden Walter T. Dixon (Dean of the Cortez W. Peters Business School). Of note on our rosters we have had two Grand Masters in the form of founder Frank D. McKinney and Arthur E. Brooks, several Grand Lodge officers including one Right Worshipful Grand Trustee Emeritus: Leroy A. Smith (P.M. 1985) , one Grand Inspector Emeritus and Right Worshipful Grand Trustee: James M. Ware Sr. (P.M. 2000-2001), one Associate Grand Worthy Patron and Worshipful Associate Grand Secretary: Riccardo Montague (P.M. 2007-2008), one Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master: David Gordon, Worshipful Assistant Grand Chaplain: Rev. Ahmad Jamal Reed (P.M. 2010-2011), and one Worshipful Associate Grand Historian: James R. Morgan III (P.M. 2015-2016). Corinthian Lodge #18 also has been the masonic home of Bishop Edgar A. Love, a co-founder of Omega Psi-Phi Fraternity Inc. who also served as a charter member our lodge.