Grand Chapter History

Petition and Establishment

Royal Arch Masonry began in the State of Florida in 1881 when a group of Master Masons petitioned the Grand Chapter of the District of Columbia to send a rep-resentative to our State for the purpose of establishing a Royal Arch Chapter. The petition was made to M. Ex. J. Brooker Hutchings, Grand High Priest of the District of Columbia. The requested representative came and brought with him a sufficient number of Royal Arch Masons to confer the capitular degrees properly. The Degrees were conferred, the officers were elected. The Chapter was established and was named Zerubbabel Chapter No. 15, U D. Zerubbabel Chapter worked as a U.D. Chapter for nearly two years. Having been pleased with the work of the Chapter, the Grand Chapter of the District of Co¬lumbia granted to Zerubbabel Chapter its Warrant. The Warrant was granted August 12, 1883 and was signed by M. Ex. John H. Burrill, Grand High Priest and Rt. Ex J. B. Washington, Grand Secretary. Having received the war¬rant, Zerubbabel Chapter became the mother Chapter of Royal Arch Masonry in Florida. The nucleus of the mem¬bership lived in Jacksonville but there were other mem¬bers of this Chapter who lived in other cities in the State, and they encouraged Master Masons to aspire and petition for the advance degrees.

These Royal Arch Chapters were also established and chartered under the authority of the Grand Chapter of District of Columbia. Hiram Chapter No. 17 at Jacksonville in 1884; Aaron Chapter No. 18 at Key West in 1884; King Hiram Chapter No. 20 at Fernandina in 1887; Mt. Pleasant Chapter No. 26 at Palatka in 1894; Keystone Chapter No. 30 at St. Augustine in 1895. These six chapters being in obedience to the Grand Chapter of the District of Columbia petitioned that Grand Chapter to be released for the purpose of establishing a Grand Chapter in and for the State of Florida. The peti¬tion was granted by M. Ex. John M. Dorster, Grand High Priest and Rt. Ex. J. H. Burrill, Grand Secretary to be effective on the day and date of the establishment of the Florida Grand Chapter. A convention of Royal Arch Masons was called to meet in the City of Jackson¬ville in the month of August 1897.

The Convention was held Wednesday, August 29, 1897, at which time the Grand Officers were elected, the Jurisdiction was declared. The chapters surrendered their Charters to the Grand Chapter of the District of Columbia. The Grand Chapter was named Union Grand Chapter Holy Royal Arch Masons of Florida and the subordinate Chapters were re-chartered and re¬numbered thus: Zerubbabel Chapter No. 1 at Jacksonville; Hiram Chapter No. 2 at Jacksonville; Keystone Chapter No. 3 at St. Augustine; Aaron Chapter No. 4 at Key West; Mt. Pleasant Chapter No. 5 at Palatka, and King Hiram Chapter No. 6 at Fernandina. The first Officers elected for the Grand Chapter in 1897 were Most. Ex. Reuben S. Mitchell, Grand High Priest, Rt. Ex. Elias Sellers, Deputy Grand High Priest Rt. Ex. Lucius B. H. Littles, Grand King Rt. Ex. Benjamin Dilworth, Grand Scribe, Rt. Ex. Joseph Williams, Grand Secretary and Rt. Ex. William J. Henry, Grand Treasurer.

On August 29, 1897 The Grand Chapter of Holy Royal Arch Masons for the State of Florida and its Jurisdiction launched upon its career of usefulness, to become strong and vigorous in disseminating and perpetuating the tenets of Royal Arch Masonry. The records for the Grand Chapter for 1898-1899 have not been found and may be lost forever, but the record for 1900
shows a change in some of the Grand Officers elected in 1900. Most Ex. Reuben S. Mitchell, Grand High Priest; Rt. Ex. James R. Shackleford, Deputy Grand High Priest; Rt. Ex. H. B. Jordan, Grand King; Rt. Ex. W. A. Glover, Grand Scribe; Rt. Ex. Benjamin Dilworth, Grand Treasurer and Rt. Ex. Michael J. Preston, Grand Secretary. There was no Annual Convocation held in these years: 1901, 1903, 1905, 1907, 1933 and 1936. Because of the lack of readable records it cannot be determined why the Grand Chapter did not meet in the odd numbered years from 1901 to 1907, but it is believed that the Annual Convocations in 1933 and 1936 were deferred because of the national economic depression. Those who had jobs could not leave their jobs. The Chapters sent in their small reports but there were no meetings held.