The First Sun
Rising Sun Lodge #2
Free & Accepted Masons
Est. June 15, 1845
This brief lecture is intended to enlighten the old and new alike of the long and proud history of Rising Sun Lodge #2. It is hoped and prayed by those of us, living and dead, who have long labored in the vineyards, that by reading this, you will be moved by a sense of pride to carry on this history. This Lodge is one of the few organizations still active today where you can make history while being a part of history.
Early in 1844, a group of sixteen freemen left the Norfolk area to establish residence in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Once settled, they petitioned a Prince Hall Lodge for the Mysteries of Freemasonry. They were all elected, and were entered, passed, and raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Masons. That same year, they attended the Grand Session of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and petitioned for a charter to create a new Lodge in the Norfolk, Virginia area to be named Rising Sun. On June 15, 1845, that charter was granted. They all returned to the Norfolk area where they practiced their Craft and the Lodge grew rapidly.
During the Civil War (1862-1865), the Lodge played a major role in the Underground Railroad. Along with Harriet Tubman and others, the Lodge assisted many runaway slaves to reach their freedom in the north. The members would hide the slave families in the Great Dismal Swamp and other places around the area at great personal risk to themselves and families. The Lodge also paid secret passages for the slaves on ships whose captains were either Masons or liberals. You have to know that during this time Blacks could only assemble on Sunday evenings to hold Bible study and prayer meetings under bush arbors. However, the Lodge members, composed of leading professionals and tradesmen, and a few Whites, were highly respected and not known as “troublemakers” could move freely to meetings and other places around the city.
In 1865, the Lodge had grown to such a size that the members decided to split and form two other lodges with the idea of becoming a grand lodge in the future.
Morning Star Lodge #3 would be established in the Portsmouth area. It would consist of members from Old Norfolk County and extend southward to include Portsmouth, Nasemond County and what is now Chesapeake to the North Carolina Line.
Eastern Light Lodge #4 would consist of members from Old Norfolk County
extending north to include Hunterville, Titustown, and the Chesapeake Bay.
Rising Sun Lodge would consist of members from Old Norfolk City, Princess
Anne County, and Virginia Beach.
In 1866, the three Lodges met with Universal Lodge of Alexander, Virginia, which was chartered out of Washington, D.C. At this meeting, they formed the first Grand Lodge in Virginia and issued charters. As this Grand Lodge grew across the State, more lodges were added and the Grand Lodge joined the National Compact. Past Master Anthony Portlock of Rising Sun Lodge became the first Grand Master of Virginia. At this time Brother James Williams was Worshipful Master of the Lodge.
As time passed, many lodges across the State became unhappy with the National Compact and felt that Virginia should pull out. Several State lodges met and formed a new Grand Lodge with the lodges in Petersburg, Virginia. On December 8, 1875, the two Grand Lodges met at the First Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia to form the Most Worshipful United Grand Lodge of Virginia. Each lodge carried its charter to Petersburg to be surrender to the new Grand Lodge for a new charter. Thus the forerunner of our present Grand lodge, the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Virginia. Rising Sun took to this meeting, its charter of 1866. Its charter of 1845 was left safely at home. Each charter was torn in half. One half was given to the new Grand Lodge, and the lodge retained the other half The lodges were then numbered in accordance with the date on its old charter. Rising Sun was designated number two and Past Master James E. Fuller of Rising Sun Lodge was elected the first Grand Master. This Lodge has produced five Grand Masters in its long and glorious history, and to date still leads the State with this honor.
Members of Rising Sun Lodge have always been active in the shaping and molding of policies in the First Masonic District, and the Grand Lodge~ Two local lodges are named after Past Masters from Rising Sun Lodge. They ~e Campbell Lodge #67, and J.P. Carter #195. The five Past Grand Masters are: Anthony Portloclç James E. Fuller; AR. Campbell; G. Kelly; and Wilson Foreman. The Great Grandfather of Past Master Gill, Past Master Abraham Carter served as Grand Lecturer. Past Master DJ Mack served several terms as Grand Treasurer. Past Master Robert L. Gill, Sr. has been re-elected to the Grand Board of Directors more times than any other Past Master in recent history. Other Past Masters of recent history who have served with honor on Grand Boards and Committees William A. Edmonds; J Edward Shields, Sr.; Reginald Wright; Elbert L. Cooper; St. Elmo Alston; Robert Jones; Willie I. Bond, and William L. Johnson, Jr.
Rising Sun Lodge has always served as a driving force in the community to better the quality of life and bring about social changes toward that end. The Lodge established a scholarship fund during the Depression to assist members who were unable to send their children for a college education. Long before social service programs, the Lodge would assist its members and the community at large by giving aid in cases of emergencies. In cases where members would become ill, the members would attend to their needs twenty-four hours /seven days a week until they were able to return to work. The Lodge supported Past Master James E. Fuller in his election to become the first Black elected to the Norfolk City Council.
After his election, the Lodge supported his efforts to build the first Black public School; this school was the forerunner of Booker T. Washington School. On behalf of the Lodge, several of the members who were doctors provided the poor with free medical care. They were Drs. Collins, James, Blackwell, Givens, and others. The Lodge is responsible for the laying of the cornerstones for most of the City’s major Black churches. Being aware of the need for all men to be free, Rising Sun was among the first organizations to become Life Member in the NAACP, and supported other programs aimed at upgrading Black citizenship. In an effort to preserve our piece of Black History, the Lodge took leadership in a program that restored the statue and plot of Past Master Fuller at West Point Cemetery, and established a Veterans Memorial at Calvary Cemetery.
Rising Sun has always been rich in faith, as it was proud of having one of the largest memberships of ministers in the area. A few of them are: Bishop Joseph Cauthen, Dr. John B. Henderson, Dr. H.W.B. Walker, Bishop
McCollough, Rev. Roosevelt Joyner, who served for years until his death as Lodge Chaplain, Rev. Eddie Elliott, Sr., and Dr. Richard Council. This Lodge has produced more than nineteen 33rd Degree Masons. On many nights, we were prepared to face the world outside the Lodge by stirring lectures from members like Past Master Robert Jones, 33rd Degree, and the youngest to preside over his Lodge and the “Upper Houses” of Masonry; Past Master Saint Elmo Alston, 33rd Degree; Past Master Leon Thornton, 33rd Degree, Past Master Reginald Wright, Past Master Thomas Frazier, Past Master Walter Bryant, Past Master Thomas Sears, and others.
Although much has been said about some of the outstanding members of this Lodge, let us not forget the members who have labored in the background and added their sweat in an effort to make this Lodge great. For they are the “foundation not built upon sand”. They are the rank and file members of a hearty stock who have kept the Lodge going during good times and bad times. Just like yesterday, we are looking for great contributions from our members today, if we are to keep this glorious Lodge of ours great.
Researched and compiled by: PM Robert L. Gill, Sr.
Edited by: PM J Edward Shields, Sr.
June 12, 1986