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The Masonic lodge in Halifax, known as the Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2, is significant to the history of Freemasonry and to the history of North Carolina, largely owing to its association with Joseph Montfort, Masonic Grand Master. The founders of the lodge began meeting in homes and rooms rented from innkeepers in April 1765. The first meeting was held at the home of Daniel Lovel, Deputy Master of the lodge that year. Among the early meeting sites was a tavern operated by Mason William Martin known as the “Sign of the Thistle.” Other early officers included Frederick Schulzer, Robert Goodloe, James Mathews, William Wilson, and John Geddy. Within North Carolina, the lodge at Halifax was the second oldest, after St. John’s in Wilmington.
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Joseph Montfort was appointed “Provincial Grand Master of and for America” in 1771 by the Duke of Beaufort, Grand Master of England. He and other local leaders had moved into the budding town of Halifax in 1764 and built residences. Active in civic affairs, Montfort represented Halifax in the colonial assembly from 1766 to 1774.
The Royal White Hart Lodge was chartered in August 1767 and was reorganized under that charter in May 1768. The lodge hall was constructed in 1823, contrary to the date of 1769 indicated on the marker. Editors of the Guide to Historic Architecture in Eastern North Carolina confirm a construction date of 1820s and describe the structure as a “tall, dignified, plain building of weatherboarded frame.” Montfort, who died in March 1776, is buried about 500 yards east of the lodge building. A monument in his honor stands on the lodge grounds.
Marshall DeLancey Haywood, The Beginnings of Freemasonry in North Carolina and Tennessee (1906)
W. C. Allen, History of Halifax County (1918)
Thomas C. Parramore, Launching the Craft: The First Half-Century of Freemasonry in North Carolina (1975)
William James Hughan and Henry Leonard Stillson, History of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, and Concordant Orders (1890)
William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography, IV, 289-290—sketch by George Stevenson
Jerry L. Cross, “Royal White Hart Lodge, Halifax, North Carolina: A Brief History” (manuscript report, 2000, copy in Research Branch files, North Carolina Office of Archives and History)
Grand Lodge of North Carolina website:
Masonic Sites, “Joseph Montfort’s Warrant,” online at: http://www.masonicsites.org/blue/MontfortWarrant.htm
Floor cloth presented by Joseph Montfort to the Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2, Halifax, North Carolina, ca. 1765. (Courtesy, Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2, A.F. & A.M.; photo, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.)