Mention of Freemasonry in Virginia occurs in the Freemason's Pocket Companion by Auld and Smellie, published in 1765. Two Lodges are mentioned therein; Royal Exchange, No. 172, at Norfolk, and No. 204, in Yorktown, and they are said to have met "1st Thursday, Dec. 1733" and "lst and 3d Wednesday; (from Aug. 1, 1755" respectively. It has been said that the cartier date is a mistake for 1753, hut probably 1733 is correct. Records also show that Norfolk Lodge was chartered on June l, 1741, for the same place and to hold its meetings at the same times as Royal Exchange Lodge. It is therefore probable that Norfolk Lodge was instituted in place of Royal Exchange Lodge. At the instigation of Williamshurg Lodge, No. 6, a Convention was held on May 6, 1777, to arrange the formation of 3 Grand Lodge of Virginia. On October 13, 1778, the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons was Constituted and John Blair was elected Grand Master.
The meetings were held in Williamsburg until 1784, when the Grand Lodge removed to Richmond. That same year, General LaFayette visited Washington at Mount Vernon and took with him as a present an apron worked by Madame LaFayette herself. This apron is now in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.
Royal Arch Degrees were probably worked first in Virginia under the Lodge Charters. Some think that Brother Joseph Myers introduced the system when he settled in Richmond and began the Holy Royal Arch of the .Ancient and Accepted Rite which was taught in the State until 1820, when the English Degree was adopted. Brother John Dove said that substitutes had been in constant use since 1792 without evil results. It is therefore certain that Royal Arch Masonry was practiced in Virginia at that date. From 1820 until 1841 the Council Degrees were under the control of a Grand Council. December 17, 1841, by general agreement, they came under the Grand Chapter.
The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Virginia was established May 1, 1808, following a suggestion from a Convention of the "Grand United Chapter of Excellent and Super Excellent Masons of Norfolk."
The new Chapter had no connection with the General Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the United States. At the annual Convocation of the Grand Chapter of Maryland in 1827 Grand High Priest J. K. Stapleton introduced the subject of the granting of the Select Degree independent of the Grand Royal Arch Chapter. Circulars were sent out to the Grand Chapters and South Carolina in her reply mentioned a Grand Council of Princes of Jerusalem, established February 20, 1788, by Brothers Joseph Myers, Barend M. Spitzes, and A. Forst, and that the first named before his return to Europe had handed on his knowledge of the Degrees in the Cities of Virgillia and Maryland. In 1817 Companion Jeremy L. Cross established a Council of Select Masters in Richmond in December. The Grand Council of Virginia, formed in December, 1820, failed to flourish during the decade 1829-39, the time of the Morgan excitements In I841 it was dissolved and the degrees were once again under the control of the Chapters.
The first Ecampment to be constituted in Virginia was Richmond, chattered May 5, 1823. No Dispensation had been issued. On September 17, 1847, this Charter and those of two other Encampments were annulled. This left Wheeling, No. 1, chartered ,September 16, 1841, the first existing Encampment of Virginia. There was, however, according to a memorial from Virginia to the 18th Triennial Convocation in 1871, an Encampment at Winchester as early as 1812 which worked under the protection of the Lodge there.
The Richmond Encampment was also established at an early date and continued its work without a Charter until 1823. Sir J. G. Hankins, Grand Recorder of the Grand Commandery of Virginia states that either Jeremy L. Cross or Jarnes Cushman proclaimed the Winchester body as the Grand Encampment of Virginia in 1823. It did not last very long and probably when it ceased to exist authority over the Encampments in the State reverted to the General Grand Encampment. In 1845 it was resolved to form a new one but the consent of the General Grand Encampment was not obtained, which was somewhat irregular. In 1871, however, application to withdraw from the General Grand Encampment was refused.
On December 18, 1874, the McDaniel Lodge of Perfection, No. 3, was granted a Charter at Norfolk. At Richmond three other bellies of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern .Jurisdiction, were chartered: Pelican Chapter of Rose Croix, No. 9, April 10, 1884; Saint Omar Council of Kadosh No. 1, May 22, 1889, and Dalcho Consistory, No. 1, at Richmond, September 6, 1889.
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