Patrick Henry Reason

Grand Master, 1861-1867

By Ludwick S. Hall


Patrick H. Reason who was elected Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New York in 1861 (now the MWPH,GL-NY), was born in New York City, on March 17, 1810. His father, Michel Rison, was a native of St. Anne Island, a part of the Caribbean nation of Guadeloupe in the French West Indies, and his mother, Elizabeth Melville, was native of the island of Saint-Domingue (Haiti). His parents immigrated to the United States as refugees in 1893, during the early years of the Haitian Revolution. Patrick was one of four children born to his parents, three boys, Patrick, Charles and Eliver, and one girl, Policarpe. His sister Policarpe died in 1818 at four years of age. The Reason family were members of St. Phillips Episcopal Church, at the time located on Mulberry St., on the lower Eastside of Manhattan. In April of 1816 Patrick was baptized Patrice Rison. Living on the lower East side of Manhattan, he and his two brothers Eliver and Charles, attended the segregated African Free School No. 2, which was run by the St. Phillips Episcopal Church, and located at 135 Mulberry St. in Manhattan. Up to the 1850’s it was common place by the use of both de-Facto and de-Jure methods of discrimination by State and local governments to refuse to provide public education for African American children. To fill this vacuum, the established churches and private citizens were in the forefront in the struggle to provide the facilities and personnel necessary for the education that was being denied black children.

The School’s headmaster/Principal was John Peterson, a Prince Hall Mason, and member of Boyer Lodge No. 1. Some of Reasons schoolmates were; George Allen, Thomas Sidney, Isaac and George Moore, Isaiah Degrasse, James McCune Smith, Henry Highland Garnett and George T. Dowling.[i] They were eventually to become some of the most prominent and influential African Americans in the Nineteenth Century. On June 22, 1862 Reason married Esther (Cunningham), a white woman who was born in Leeds, England. They had one son, Charles Lewis Reason. Patrick Reason in addition to being an artist was one of the earliest African American engravers and lithographers in the United States. Concerned about the plight of their enslaved African brethren, he and his brother Charles were actively involved in the abolitionist movement in the period before the Civil War. Masonically, Reason was a member of Boyer Lodge No. 1. He was entered on December 24, 1855, passed on February 18, 1856 and raised on April 7, 1856. He served as Worshipful Master of Boyer Lodge in 1859 and 1860.[ii] Reason was elected and served as Grand Master of the United Grand Lodge of New York from 1861 to 1867. Notable during PGM Reason’s administration was the Chartering of Adelphic Union Lodge in New York City. When it was originally chartered, Adelphic Union Lodge was listed as No. 7 on the role of the Grand Lodge. The number was subsequently changed to No. 14 on December 27, 1877, when the United Grand Lodge of New York and the National Grand Lodge’s New York subordinate Grand Lodge, the “M.W.  Grand Lodge of New York, F.A.A.Y.M. merged to become what is now the M.W. Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York. Other Lodges chartered during the administration of PGM Reason were: Wethington Lodge No. 8 in San Francisco, California on December 6, 1865, St. John’s Lodge No. 9, in Chatham, Canada, on September 21, 1866 and Eureka Lodge No.10 in Brooklyn, N.Y. on September 25, 1867. Notable during his administration was the establishment of fraternal relations with the Grand Orient of Haiti in 1864. At the Grand Session held on June 6, in that year our Grand Lodge voted to appoint Mons. Finelon Duplessis to be the accredited Representative of the United Grand Lodge of New York to the Grand Orient of Haiti. It was also at that Grand Session that the United Grand Lodge of New York elected its first honorary members for distinguished service to the Grand Lodge. They were: Ill. Alexander C. Peters, M.D., Bro. & Col. Ernest Romaine, Charge d’ Affairs for the Republic of Haiti in Washington, D.C., and the Rev. John Stella Martin.  On July 22, 1864, the first Charity Fund (The Duplessis Charity fund) for indigent members of the Jurisdiction was established. It was named after the Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Orient of Haiti, who as previously mentioned, was also the accredited Representative of the United Grand Lodge of New York to the Grand Orient of Haiti. On March 6, 1867 the Grand Lodge moved to No. 2 Fourth Ave. in Manhattan. It was at this point the first Grand Lodge Trustees were appointed. They were William H. Anthony, Alfred J. Aldridge, John M. Thomas, Arnold Ricks, Dr. Peter Ray, William F. Randall, William A. Mars and James Bavz.

P.G.M. Patrick Reason was also a Charter Member of the Supreme Council of the United States, and served as its First Lieutenant Grand Commander. Established on November 30, 1864, The Supreme Council of the United States was the first Scottish Rite organization established in the State of New York. Reason served as its First Lieutenant Grand Commander from the organization of the Supreme Council, until 1870, and from 1870 to 1879 succeeded Baron Auguste Hugo de’ Bulow, of the Grand Orient of France, as its Sovereign Grand Commander.  At a Consistory held in New York City in February of 1880, the five existing Supreme Councils consisting of African Americans, agreed to merge into two Supreme Councils, one for the Northern Jurisdiction and one for the Southern Jurisdiction, to conform to the Constitution of the Scottish Rite Supreme Grand Council of 1786. In 1881, Reason and the Supreme Council of the United States was prevented from becoming a part of the original organization of the Supreme Council for the Northern Jurisdiction because it was restricted by an injunction filed by the members of the Prince Hall Consistory of Chicago, Illinois, that was issued by the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  Obtained by John G. Jones, it prohibited the Supreme Council of the United States from engaging in activities of the Scottish Rite, because  it had established Occidental Consistory in the City of Chicago, When by October 1, 1881 the injunction had not been removed,  Major Richardson Poole, then the Scottish Rite Deputy for the Orient of New York, allowed those members who were not restricted by the injunction of the Federal Court to form a new Consistory in New York, King David Consistory No. 3. The first Commander in Chief of King David Consistory No. 3 was Ill. John Henry Brown, 33°. By 1883 the injunction that had been obtained by the Prince Hall Consistory in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Chicago, Illinois had been vacated. But because of the ill feelings that had been generated between Dr. Peter Ray the Sovereign Grand Commander, of the Supreme Council of the United States at the time, and the new Supreme Council for the Northern Jurisdiction, Reason, Ray and his officers were not allowed to become a part of the new Supreme Council for the Northern Jurisdiction. Accordingly, they temporarily resuscitated the Supreme Council of the United States as a separate and distinct organization. As a separate Supreme Council, on August 10, 1883, one of the first Scottish Rite bodies they organized was a Chapter of the Rose Croix (Red Rose Chapter) in Cincinnati, Ohio.[iii] The members of the Supreme Council of the United States went on to establish other Scottish Rite organizations over the next Six (6) years.  Among these were: Consistories in Boston, Massachusetts also in 1883 and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1884.[iv] In 1885 they entered into a short relationship with the Supreme Council of Louisiana,[v] which lasted for about four (4) years before the Supreme Council of the United States was completely dissolved about the year 1889.

Reason was also one of the founders of the Grand United Order of the Odd Fellows in America. Originally a member of the New York Philomathean Literary Society, Reason, James Fields and other African Americans members of the Society submitted petitions to the white Manchester Unity Lodge of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows but were denied membership. Undaunted, in 1842,  with the assistance of Peter Ogden, a Seaman, and a  member of Victoria Odd Fellows Lodge No. 448 in Liverpool, England, they petitioned the Grand United Order of the Odd Fellows in Leeds, England and were chartered as Philomathean Lodge No. 646.[vi] Eventually forming the Annual Moveable Committee (an organization similar to a Grand Lodge) of Odd Fellows in New York, On December 19, 1843, Philomathean Lodge No.646, received the authority to establish a Sub-Committee of Management of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows of England, consisting of eight Past Officers if possible, subject to the resolutions and under the control of the Committee of Management of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, in England, to carry out the extension of the Order, and in the granting dispensations to form new Lodges.[vii] Reason subsequently designed the membership certificate, and served as its Grand Master. Also, originally a member of Philomathean Lodge No. 646, was Dr. James McClune Smith, the first person of African descent in the United States to graduate from a Medical School. Dr. Smith served as the Grand Secretary of the Odd Fellows Grand Lodge in New York.

On February 29, 1844, pursuant to an application to the Sub Committee on Management, a dispensation was granted for a new Lodge, Hamilton Lodge No. 710, to also meet in the City of New York.[viii] James McClune Smith, was designated Grand Master.[ix] At the Twelveth Annual Moveable Committee Meeting held at the Hamiliton Lodge No. 710 Lodge room on Cedar St. in New York City on September 3, 1856, Patrick Reason and a committee submitted a proposed ritual for, and requested permission to establish an organization for the female relatives of the Odd Fellows, it was forwarded to the Subcommittee of Management.[x] At the Fourteenth meeting of the Subcommittee of Management, held on July 13, 1857 the proposed ritual for the Ruth Degree was received. On July 23, 1857 it was approved and returned to Annual Moveable Committee. At the Thirteenth Annual meeting of the Annual Moveable Committee, on September 2, 1857, at the Lodge room of Unity Lodge No. 711, South 7th and Market Sts in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the proposed ritual presented by Patrick Reason and his Committee, having been approved by the Sub Committee of Management was received and forwarded to the Committee on Management of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in England.[xi]  The Ritual was subsequently approved by the Committee on Management in England and returned to the Annual Moveable Committee. On July 26, 1858, at the Fifteenth Session of the Sub Committee of Management, the Household of Ruth, the female Order associated with the Odd Fellows was established.[xii] On August 23, 1858, the first person to receive the Household of Ruth degree was P.G.M. Patrick Reason as a mark of honor for having designed the degree. On September 28, 1858, the first Household of Ruth warrant was granted to Brotherly Love Lodge No. 896 of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to establish Household of Ruth Lodge No. 1. On that same day Phoenix Lodge No. 894, of Philadelphia, applied for and received a warrant to established Household of Ruth Lodge No. 2.[xiii] On October 11, 1858, Carthaginian Lodge No. 901 of Philadelphia was granted Household of Ruth Warrant No. 3, on November 8, 1858, Star of Bethlehem Lodge No.  897 of Wilmington, Delaware was granted Household of Ruth Warrant No. 4, and it established the Queen of Sheba Household of Ruth, On June 8, 1863, Victoria Lodge No. 1117, of Toronto, Canada, was granted Household of Ruth Warrant No. 5.

These were the first five Household of Ruth Lodges that were organized for the female relatives of members of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in the United States. Reason also served as the Grand Registrar of the Odd Fellows Grand Lodge in New York from 1857 to 1868.[xiv]

In 1869, he moved his family to Cleveland, Ohio, and joined the firm of Sylvester Hogan, where he designed and made jewelry and plate engravings until 1882 when he opened his own business. Fraternally although he maintained most of his Masonic affiliations in New York including that of the Supreme Council of the United States, after the mergers of the States Rite Grand Lodges  with the Compact Grand Lodges in New York and Ohio, he affiliated with Red Cross Commandery No. 7 Knights Templar in Cleveland, Ohio. Past Grand Master Patrick Reason died in Cleveland, Ohio on August 12, 1898. He is buried in Cleveland’s Lakeview Cemetery.

[i]  Peterson, Carla L., “Black Gotham, A Family History of African Americans in Nineteenth Century New York,”, Pg. 5

[ii]  “New York Age”, newspaper, October 16, 1943, Pg. 12

[iii]  “Cincinnati Commercial Tribune”, newspaper, August 12, 1883

[iv]   “New York Globe,”, newspaper, June 7, 1884

[v]  Walkes, Joseph, ibid, Pg.37

[vi]  Skocpol, Theda; Liazos, Ariane, and Ganz, Marshall. “What a Mighty Power We Can Be”, Pg. 35

[vii]  Brookts, Charles H.,  “Ibid”, Pg. 15

[viii]  Brooks, Charles, H., “Ibid”, Pg. 15

[ix] Brooks, Charles H., “Ibid”, Pg. 24

[x] Brooks, Charles H., “Ibid”, Pg. 75

[xi] Brooks, Charles, H., “Ibid”, Pg. 76

[xii] Brooks, Charles, H., “Ibid”, Pg. 78

[xiii] Brooks, Charles, H., “Ibid”, Pg. 79

[xiv]  “New York Age”, newspaper, October 16, 1943, Pg. 12




Red Rose Chapter, Rose Croix, organized by the Supreme Council

Of the United States, in Cincinnati, Ohio, August 12, 1883

(Cincinnati Commercial Tribune newspaper)