Scottish Rite Masons Celebrate 200th Anniversary By: Ill. Brother McDonald “Don” Burbidge, 33° and Brother Eric Andrew Meace, 32°, K.C.C.H. Shepheard's Tavern in Charleston, South Carolina, is the birthplace of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the United States of America. Of all the public houses in early Charleston, Shepheard’s Tavern has the richest and most significant history. Charles Shepheard built his four-story establishment around 1720 on a lot at the corner of Broad and Church Streets located near the center of Charles-Town, as it was then called. In those early days the term tavern was used to describe an establishment that served a number of social and civic purposes. In 1734, a notice appeared in the South Carolina Gazette, a weekly journal printed in "Charles-Town." It announced tickets would go on sale for a play "The Orphan or the Unhappy Marriage" which was to be held at Shepheard’s Tavern at the intersection of Broad and Church Street on October 17th. This was the first season that plays of any type were presented in Charleston. In the October 28, 1736, issue of the Gazette, the following paragraph appeared: "Last night a lodge of the Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Masons, was held, for the first time, at Mr. Charles Shepheard's, Broad Street, when John Hammerton, Esq. Secretary and Receiver General for this Province, was unanimously chosen Master, he was pleased to appoint Mr. Thomas Denne, Senior Warden, Mr. Tho. Harbin, Junior Warden, and Mr. James Gorden, Secretary of the new lodge." A fire destroyed Shepheard’s Tavern in 1740. After the ashes had cooled, it was rebuilt in the same spot using as many materials as could be saved from the original building. On May 31, 1801, Colonel John Mitchell and the Rev. Dr. Fredrick Dalcho along with nine other gentlemen of Charleston opened "The Supreme Council of the 33° and last degree for the United States of America in Shepheard’s Tavern." Rev. Dr. Dalcho had received the 33° degree from Colonel John Mitchell six days previously. Col. John Mitchell was a native of Ireland and an officer of the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War. Rev. Dr. Dalcho, a native of England, was elected Grand Commander of the Council and in 1816 was appointed to serve as Assistant Rector of St. Michael's Episcopal Church in Charleston, an office he held with distinction for many years. The original Eleven Gentlemen of Charleston who established the Scottish Rite Supreme Council were: Col. John Mitchell, Sov. Grand Commander (Born Near Glenarm, County Antrim, Ireland, 1740, Died: Charleston Jan. 25, 1816?) Rev. Dr. Fredrick Dalcho, Lt. Grand Commander (Born: London, England October 1770- Died: Charleston November 24, 1836) Emanuel de La Motta, Treasurer General of the Holy Empire (Born: St. Croix, Danish West Indies Nov. 2, 1760- Died: Charleston May 17, 1821) Abraham Alexander, Secretary General of the Holy Empire (Born: London, England, 1743- Died: Charleston, Feb. 21, 1816) Major T. B. Bowen, Grand Master of Ceremonies (Born: Ireland, 1742- Died: Near Charleston, July 12, 1805) Israel de Lieben, Sov Gr Inspector-General (Born: Prague, Czechoslovakia- Died: Charleston, Jan. 28, 1807) Dr. Issac Auld, Sov Gr Inspector-General (Born: Norristown, Pennsylvania Feb. 25, 1770- Died: Edisto, S.C. October 17,1826) Moses C. Levy, Sov Gr Inspector-General (Born: Poland 1749- Died: Charleston March 1839) Dr. James Moultrie, Sov Gr Inspector-General (Born: Charleston, S.C. Sept. 1766-Died: Charleston, S.C. Nov. 20, 1836) Jean Baptiste Delahouge (Born: France 1744- Died: Paris France, April 13, 1822) Comte De Grasse (Born: Versailles, France, Feb. 14, 1756- Died: Paris, France, June 10, 1845) It is unusual that the first meeting of the Supreme Council took place on May 31, 1801, as this was a Sunday and not a week day when Lodges would normally meet. If we trace the date of May 31 in history, we find it was the date of the ascension to the throne in 1740 of Fredrick the Great of Prussia (1712–1786) which his country men celebrated each year. Rev. Dr. Dalcho, a founder of the Supreme Council was the son of an officer in the Prussian army and must have been familiar from childhood with the observance of that anniversary. What was more natural than that he should suggest the date to his colleagues (if they did not already know of it) as a fitting occasion upon which to inaugurate the new Supreme Council? Since Frederick the Great was an active Mason and a world renowned monarch, what was more natural than that Dalcho's colleagues should agree? Some strong reason must have induced the inauguration of the Supreme Council on Sunday, and that reason, these authors speculate, was the desire to render tribute to a famous man and Freemason. Shepheard’s Tavern served Charles-Town as a Courthouse, Town Meeting Hall, Post Office, Theater, Tavern, and home of Solomon’s Lodge No. 1 (chartered in 1735). It also served as the first Public Hall for the city. Around 1761 “Shepheard’s Tavern” was sold and renamed “Tavern of John Gorden”. The Supreme Council whose headquarters is located in Washington, D.C. asked permission of the Citizens and Southern National Bank to place a commemorative bronze tablet on the outside wall. Permission was granted and the bronze plaque was placed on the stone wall of the bank that now occupies the site were Shepheard’s Tavern once stood with the following inscription on it: On this site stood the building in which the Supreme Council, 33 degree, Mother Council of the World, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, was founded May 31, 1801, A.D., corresponding to Sivan 19, 5561, A.M. From September 30, 2001 until October 3, 2001 Scottish Rite Masons will be celebrating their 200th Anniversary on the founding of the Supreme Council. It is estimated that 6,000 Masons will be in Charleston with Masonic Leaders from around the world attending this important event. A formal exhibit will be on display at the Charleston Museum commemorating this special occasion. Monuments will be permanently placed at the Shepheard’s Tavern site, Jewish Cemetery on Coming Street, and on Ill. Bro. Rev. Frederick Dalcho’s grave located at St. Michael’s Churchyard. An Obelisk at the Scottish Rite center at 1051 Sam Rittenburg Blvd will also be dedicated.
Reprinted with permission of the Scottish Rite Journal, June 1999
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