The History of Excelsior Lodge No. 11

Excelsior Lodge No. 11 F.&.A.M. was warranted on June 20th, 1865, and while it has the oldest continuous charter existence in Cleveland, it is not the first establishment of our Grand Lodge in the city of Cleveland,Oh. Eureka Lodge No. 14 was chartered in 1855. At that time our Grand Lodge was affiliated with the National Grand Lodge or Compact organized in 1847 in an attempt to unify Prince Hall Masonry through the median of a general Grand Lodge  of North America. Its attempts to make itself a supreme authority and to subordinate Grand Lodges to it control brought it into disfavor, and caused a wide schism in lodges and Grand Lodges. The majority of Eureka Lodge No. 14 adhered to the Compact, and a minority under the late William T. Boyd withdrew and formed Excelsior Lodge No. 11. In 1868 our Grand Lodge formally severe all connection with the Compact, Eureka, still persisting in its allegiance, had its warrant revoked and all, except four of its member indefinitely suspended. By this circumstance Excelsior became the senior Lodge of the jurisdiction in Cleveland.

The Compact, after thirty years of hectic existence, voted its own dissolution in 1877. It is pleasant to record that in 1884 Eureka resumed its first allegiance, and our Grand Lodge gladly re-warranted it as No. 52 on the roll.

Excelsior Lodge was erected on firm foundations by an early membership comprising a large part of Cleveland’s Old Families who where imbued with the rugged qualities of the pioneer spirit. They have long since passed from this earthly scene.

Excelsior Lodge has contributed a large number of vigorous personalities who exercised a deep influence in craft. However, Only a few of these can be mentioned in the narrow limits of this article.

William Theodore Boyd, a charter member of Eureka Lodge and first Master of Excelsior Lodge, was Grand Master of six years, 1869 - 1874, and for the thirty-two years was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence. His voluminous reports and reviews during this period are still classics in Prince Hall literature. During his long and useful career, he acquired a larger Masonic library, probably the largest individual collection of its kind. Brother Boyd’s presentation apron, given to him at his initiation in 1850, has been place in the archives of Excelsior Lodge #11 as a silent link with the past, and our silent tribute to one who wrought diligently on the Trestle Board for over a half-century.

Justin M. Holland, who was educated at Oberlin, served two terms as Deputy Grand Master (1882-1883). He was Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence for Three years, and from 1871-1883 had sole Charge of the Important work of Foreign Recognitions. To Him is due the major credit for securing formal recognition of our Grand Lodge in Europe, Dominican Republic and Peru. His translations of foreign communications indicated his scholarly attainments.

Jeremiah A. Brown Was the thirteenth Grand Master of Ohio and served for ten connective years, (1888-1897). Prior to this, He was Grand Secretary for eight years, 1880-1887. Later he was associated with Grand Master William H. Parham as Historian, and completed the printed history 

of our Grand Lodge in 1906, after Brother Parham’s death.

Harry E. Davis, Past Master of Excelsior Lodge, a member of the Grand Lodge’s Committee on Masonic Jurisprudence, and an attorney, was, in 1954, singularly honored by being exalted to the rank of Honorary Past Grand Master. Brother Davis did his greatest service in history and research. Among his publications are the following: “The Cathedral”, “The Scottish Rite in the Prince Hall Fraternity”, “Extracts Relating to Negro Masonry in America”, “Alpha Lodge#16 of New Jersey”, and “Prince Hall Masonry”, His Book, “Masonry Among Negroes in North America”, has had a wide circulation throughout the nation, as well as in foreign countries.

Charles Franklin Casterman, the 26th Grand Master in the State of Ohio, served the craft in that  capacity for four years, 1940-1944. When Brother Casterman retired as Grand Master, he was elected Grand Secretary, which office he served with rare distinction for fourteen years, 1944-1958. From 1958 to 1970, Brother Casterman served the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge in the capacity of Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Correspondence.

The early meeting Place of Excelsior Lodge No. 11 before relocating to 14402 East 144th Street, were: Shaffer Memorial United Methodist Church 12002 Miles Avenue; El Hasa 10004 Union Avenue; 1624-28 East 55th Street; the South side of the Public Square where the Terminal Tower now stands; the North Side of Superior Avenue, the old Gas Building, now the site of the Cleveland Public Library; the East side of Ontario, where Richmond Bros. store once stood, opposite the old Wheeling & Lake Erie Depot, Royal Hall, located on the North side of Woodland Avenue, near East 55th Street; the West Side of East 55th Street, South of Central Avenue, which is now the location of the Metropolitan Housing Project and the South side of Quincy Avenue at East 90th Street, now occupied by Union Grove Baptist Church.