T.W. Stringer Lodge of Prince Hall Masons to honor founder, connection with Bethel A.M.E. in Vicksburg

Published 4:00 am Sunday, August 13, 2023

Members of the T.W. Stringer Lodge of the Prince Hall Masons will join the rest of their brother masons nationwide on Sept. 9 in observing Founder’s Day to honor the men who established the masonic order in 1776.

Richard Hudson, past worshipful master of the Stringer Lodge, said Founder’s Day is held every odd year. Besides the national order, the members in Vicksburg will honor the lodge’s namesake, the Rev. T.W. Stringer, who is known, according to the lodge’s history, as the father of Black Masonry in the South and who was instrumental in bringing masonry to free Black people in Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi.

“We go to Cedar Hill Cemetery to recognize and pay homage to the Rev. Thomas W. Stringer, and Cedar Hill is where he was buried,” Hudson said.

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He said visitors from other states come to learn about Stringer and visit his grave.

“We go there to let the majority of the people (masons) who may not have ever known where his headstone is or anything about Vicksburg,” Hudson said. “Some of them have never been to Vicksburg and they come from other states. Louisiana, Arkansas, Alabama and Tennessee come and visit when we do this.”

Although the Prince Hall Masons are not a religious organization, the Stringer Lodge has a connection with a local church, Bethel A.M.E., which was the first A.M.E. church in Mississippi. Stringer, who was the pastor at Bethel, founded the lodge 156 years ago in 1867.

The current presiding grand master is Maurice F. Lucas Sr.

“We formed and started at Bethel A.M.E. Church, which was where we met in the beginning,” Hudson said. “Rev. Stringer was an A.M.E. minister; not only did he start masonry but he started a lot of A.M.E. churches.”

According to the lodge’s history, Stringer grew up in Ohio. He joined the African Methodist Church and was later in the Ohio Conference in September 1846, and became a prominent preacher in African Methodism in Ohio and Canada.

He came to Vicksburg in 1867 and established Bethel A.M.E and the masonic lodge, which was the first Masonic lodge in Mississippi, with the assistance of James D. Lynch and Hiram R. Revels, who later became Bethel’s pastor.

Stringer added lodges at Jackson and Natchez and later chartered the Most Worshipful Stringer Grand Lodge at Vicksburg on March 20, 1873.

He was also a state senator from 1870-71.

Because of Bethel’s connection with the lodge’s founding, Hudson said the Bethel will have a program at the church recognizing Stringer.

“What’s going to happen on Sept. 9 is, once we go there (the cemetery), we’ll recognize all he did (with the lodge) along with the other organizations that he started here in Vicksburg and we’re Masonic Rite, and we’ll go back to the church,” Hudson said.  “Once we go back to the church, where we’ll have a program pretty much again recognizing the things that he has done and what we have progressed to as of today.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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