Brief Masonic history
The Masons are a secret society that dubs itself the world’s oldest and largest fraternity. Masons rise in rank by performing degree-work.
Prince Hall Masons, made up primarily of black men, began in Massachusetts about 200 years ago as an offshoot of the early Masonic lodges in America. The African Lodge was organized on July 3, 1776, with Prince Hall as the worshipful master.
The African Lodge grew and prospered to such a degree that Prince Hall was appointed a provincial grand master in 1791. Out of this grew the first Black Provincial Grand Lodge.
In 1847, out of respect for their founding father and first grand master, Prince Hall, the three existing African lodges changed their name to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, the name it carries today.
Today, some 5,000 lodges and 47 grand lodges exist that trace their lineage to the Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Jurisdiction of Massachusetts.
The Prince Hall lodge to which Spc. Donald Anthony Wilder belonged in Mannheim, Germany, falls under the purview of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Washington and Jurisdiction. Prince Hall lodges under the state of Washington grand lodge can be found in Germany, Iceland, Japan, Okinawa, South Korea, Turkey and the United Kingdom. The office of the Prince Hall in Kuwait is listed at Camp Arifjan.
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Maryland has jurisdiction over several lodges in Germany that have their meetings on military installations. Installation commanders determine if private groups — such as the Masons — can meet on military facilities, said Air Force Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Department of Defense spokeswoman.
Most scholars believe Masonry arose from the guilds of stonemasons who built castles and cathedrals of the middle ages. In 1717, Masonry created a formal organization when four lodges in London joined to form England’s first Grand Lodge.
The Masons perform charitable services as well. The Shrine Masons (Shriners) operate the largest network of hospitals for burned and orthopedically impaired children in the country, and there is never a fee for treatment. The Scottish Rite Masons maintain a nationwide network of more than 150 Childhood Language Disorder Clinics, Centers, and Programs.