History of Recovery Lodge No. 31
Origins of the Grand Lodge
A Masonic lodge first met in the Province of South Carolina in 1836 under auspices of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England (London). In the following year the Provincial Grand Lodge of South Carolina was formed. After American Independence the Grand Lodge in 1777 “threw off its Provincial and subordinate character” by declaring itself the Independent Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of South Carolina.
Ten years later an additional grand lodge, the Grand Lodge of South Carolina Ancient York Masons was formed when four lodges chartered by various bodies derived from the Athol Grand Lodge of England (a.k.a. Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons) joined together with a fifth lodge of SC Free and Accepted Masons, or “Moderns” that had switched. When the Ancients formed their Grand Lodge, they approached the Moderns and proposed a joint Grand Lodge, but neither side was willing change any of their landmarks or constitutions. At this time there were 11 lodges of Moderns and 5 Ancients.
MOS Citation: This history is summarized from The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina written by Albert G Mackey, M.D. Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge in 1861.
Membership in the Ancients exploded, so by 1891, just four years later, there were 35 Ancient lodges and only 12 Moderns. Despite their name, the Ancients did have some “innovations” in their practices such as requiring two “black balls” to reject in place of one. No doubt, this contributed to their rapid growth.
In 1808 the two Grand Lodges in South Carolina came to believe that to continue to have Masonry divided in the state would be to the detriment of both, so they worked out a plan to merge. Even though the Ancients greatly outnumbered the Moderns, the fraternity would now be called “Free and Accepted Masons.” This merger was short lived however as most of the Ancients rebelled against the union claiming that allowing Moderns into their lodges would violate their oaths. In 1809 these Ancients banded together and formed a new Ancient Grand Lodge. In 1813 the Athol Grand Lodge of England and the Grand Lodge of England united leaving South Carolina the last place with Masonry divided against itself. Finally, in 1817 the two Grand Lodges in South Carolina combined to form our current Grand Lodge. It is of interest to note, that neither grand lodge had to compromise on the ritual since in the first merger, the Moderns had agreed to use the ritual of the more numerous Ancients. This meant that essentially the merger at this point was between two Ancient grand lodges.
As well as the ritual, the jurisprudence or code adopted by the new Grand Lodge came from the Ancients as well. Some of this code was unpopular and was fixed decades later by making changes that brought the code more in line with the previous Moderns. So what we have today is essentially Ancient ritual coupled with Modern code.
History of Recovery Lodge No.31
In his appendix, Dr. Mackey explores the origins of each of the lodges that existed in 1861. His entry for Recovery 31 is shown here.
As stated, Recovery Lodge was originally one of the Modern lodges and numbered 57 chartered by the South Carolina Grand Lodge formed in 1808. It is interesting that Mackey characterizes it as a Modern lodge as it was formed after the time that Mackey himself states that all lodges were in fact observing the Ancient practices at this point. Nothing is known about the origin of the name “Recovery.” In Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary, the first two entries are 1) … regaining, retaking or obtaining possession of anything lost; 2) Restoration from sickness or apparent death. Either of the definitions might apply. The first could be a reference to events that take place in “the Legend of the Third Degree.” The second might reference recovery from the strife that had plagued Masonry in South Carolina in the years leading up to the formation of the lodge. Given the wit and education of masons in that day, it is also likely to have a double meaning. Shortly after the final union in 1817, all the lodges are renumbered so Recovery No. 31 first appears in Grand Lodge annual notes in 1820.
In these years Greenville was not yet incorporated and served as a summer home for many in the low country and midlands. One such visitor was the diplomat, statesman, and Mason Joel Poinsett, who in addition to being a frequent visitor, spent a great deal of time in the Greenville area in his work to build a road connecting the upstate and the midlands. Based on the timeline of his activities in the upstate, it is probable that during this time was when he was Master of Recovery Lodge and may have even been involved in the formation of the lodge in Greenville. In 1821, Poinsett was the Deputy Grand Master, but owing to his obligations in State and Federal government, was not able to take up the position of Grand Master.
In 1826 Recovery 31 failed to make a return (pay dues) to the Grand Lodge so in 1827 it was suspended. Although it is not known why the lodge was inactive for 21 years, there may have been two contributing factors. First, during this time Poinsett was out of the country in Mexico attending to his duties on behalf of the federal government. Assuming he had great influence in the lodge, his absence may have contributed to its decline. Another event that took place in 1826 was an unfortunate incident in New York that fomented an anti-masonic movement across the country. It’s worth noting that in 1827 the Grand Lodge reported 13 lodges as suspended and 11 as extinct.