Our Lodge's History

History Graphic

"Genesis”

Compiled from the archives of this lodge and written by Past Master Charles S. Baxtrom. and presented at the Lodge's 7th Anniversary Observance in St. Mary's Hall, Upper Marlboro, Maryland September 16, 1982.

In the beginning, there came together 15 or 20 brothers, I don't remember the exact count, who hailed from many sovereign masonic jurisdictions. These traveling brothers, though total strangers in some instances, had these things in common, (1) they were all Prince Hall Masons and (2) all were searching desperately for a lodge close-by to call his masonic home. The aim of this first meeting then, was to "test the waters" to determine, if indeed, there was enough support to bring Prince Hall Masonry to this area of Maryland.

I was privileged to have been present at that first meeting -as were others that are here tonight. As I recall, there was great confusion. Even though all were men of color and Prince Hall Masons, not more than one or two was willing to agree with the other. It was as if each had been smitten to speak a different language from the other -such as what happened at the building of the Tower of Babel. For the present time, that seemed to have been enough.

Responding to the obvious need for an organizer, Brother Stephen H. Starks, Jr. assumed the leadership role. At this meeting, many methods for achieving the main objective were discussed, but for various technical and personal reasons, none would be accepted. The meeting lasted long into the night. Finally, one suggestion did surface that gained immediate and unanimous support. That one and only agreement, after a whole evening of disagreements, was probably the most important decision that body would ever make. To put it simply, it had agreed to meet again. And indeed there were more meetings, first in private homes and later in the Fairmount Lodge No. 92 Masonic Temple. Sometimes once a week, sometimes two or three times a week.

After a while, another important accord was struck. The group recognized that it needed a vehicle to travel down the long road ahead. It had to be sturdy enough to carry those that were already assembled and attractive enough to take on others who were expected to join in on the effort being planned.

And so it happened that the William H. Johnson Masonic Study Club was to be rediscovered. It was once a very active club; but, since November 1971 it had laid dormant, suffering primarily from membership attrition. Its' treasury was $83.07.

After being injected with the life-support fuel of any organization...manpower... the club began to function as before. This time however, it was to have an added mission; for besides its primary objective - studying masonry - it would now need to develop itself into the forerunner of a new era of Prince Hall Masonry in this area of the State. To that end, on August 4, 1975, Brothers Stephen H. Starks, Jr., George E. Moore and Andrew Pryor, serving as emissaries, delivered the following letter to Most Worshipful Grand Master Samuel T. Daniels, of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland:

Quote TO: The Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the State of Maryland GREETINGS: The petitioners humbly show that they are Free and Accepted Master Masons. Having the prosperity of the fraternity at heart, they are willing to exert their best endeavors to pro- mote and diffuse the genuine principles of Masonry. For the convenience of their respective dwellings, and for other good reasons. they are desirous of forming a new Lodge in the town of Oxon Hill, Maryland to be named Roscoe C. Cartwright. In consequence of this desire, and for the good of the Craft, they pray for a charter or warrant to empower them to assemble as a legal Lodge, to discharge the duties of Masonry in the Several Degrees of Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason, in a regular and constitutional manner, according to the ancient form of the fraternity and the laws and regulations of the Grand Lodge. They have nominated and do recommend Stephen H. Starks, Jr. to be the First Worshipful Master, Charles S. Baxtrom to be the First Senior Warden and George E. Moore to be the First Junior Warden of said Lodge. If the prayers of the petitioners should be granted, they promise a strict conformity to all constitutional laws, rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge. Signed, Stephen H. Starks, Jr. Charles S. Baxtrom George E. Moore Andrew Pryor Samuel L. Rosemond James M. Cleveland Eddie Miles Unquote There are others whose names should have been on that historic document, but, for many known and unknown reasons, it was not to be. The day for this submission had arrived and the "sands of time" could not be warded off. The Study Club had completed its added mission. The name Roscoe C. Cartwright belonged to a Retired Army Brigadier General who, in December 1974, together with his wife, perished in an aircraft crash near Washington, D.C. Over the years he had lived and exemplified himself as a good and upright man and Mason and so it was agreed that his name should go on perpetual record as such. Through the efforts of the executor of Brother Cartwright's estate, we were put in communication with his survivors. After clearly and carefully stating our purpose and intentions, the remaining family members gave us their permission to use the family name. Meanwhile, upon hearing of the club's recent actions, the leadership of Fairmount Lodge No. 92 began a vigorous and concerted effort to convince the petitioners to give up their dream and join Fairmount Lodge. By refusing to recant, mixed emotions and misunderstandings developed between the two bodies and the Study Club would be required to relocate to St. Mary's Hall in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. And so it came to pass, that during the 128th Annual Grand Lodge Communication, held at Baltimore, Maryland, August 10-12, 1975, the aforementioned petition was approved. On September 15, 1975 the Charter was received. The first treasury of the lodge, in the amount of $700.00, was established by donations from the Charter Members. The first jewels were donated by Fairmount Lodge No. 92. The first and only "Great Light" that we have ever used (another stirring story in itself) and the first "Lesser Lights" were donated by Brother Herman W. White, Sr. The first "Working Tools" were fashioned by P.M. Charlie Baxtrom. The first and only Wardens' columns, Deacon and Steward rods and holders, and the station and altar coverings were manufactured by Brother George Moore. The basic records-keeping system, which is still in use, was devised by Brothers Andy Pryor and Bill Thomas. The altar and the "Three, Five, & Seven Steps" were donated by Brother Clarence Rowe. The cover page of "Thoughts Of The Craft" was conceived by Bro. Wally Dotson. The first jacks-of-all-trades were Brothers Howard Washington, Willie Miller, Richard Walker, and Harvey Sampson. For sure, there were many other "firsts" just as important as the few already mentioned. I have ran the risk of offending some brothers and if there are any omissions, I sincerely and deeply apologize for my inability for mustering total recall. In just a few short years, this lodge has become widely known and acclaimed as innovative, charitable, progressive, professional, and friendly. Around the State, up and down the eastern seaboard, and indeed across the country and abroad, it has become well known and is looked upon as a model lodge. For this, we must and should be very proud. To whom does all the credit belong? Certainly, you will agree that it should be shared by all of the brethren whose names appear between the covers of the membership ledger - in both the "active" and "inactive" sections. They were the leaders and the followers. Without all of them at one time or another, we may well have failed to climb to the high plateau on which we are now perched. I ask you now to look at the Brother next to you. Now look at him or them across this hall from you. What you see now is the present composition of Roscoe C. Cartwright Lodge and we are all part of the same place and time, all looking to tomorrow. We have enjoyed a solid past together; now, let us pray to God that He will further bless us with an exciting, meaningful, and prosperous future.