A group of past and present members of Elijah S. Betts Lodge #23, F&AM, PHA, Bloomington, IL decided to form their own lodge in Chicago, IL. Most of the membership of ESB #23 consisted of several men who were either students at Illinois State University or employed at State Farm Insurance Corporate Headquarters in Bloomington, IL. Several of the ESB #23 members who moved back to their hometown of Chicago decided to form a new lodge to continue their close bond and practice Masonry. The idea was initially thought of in 2001. It took several to get enough serious members to actually carry out the plan.
The first informal meeting was February 15, 2007. All the informal meetings took place in the home of Bro. Christopher “Juice” Calhoun. The Brothers came up with a lodge name, mission statement, and ideas for social and service projects. To pay homage to ESB #23, the group decided the lodge name would be “Union”. Elijah S. Betts #23 was originally Union #23 before being renamed of P.M. Elijah S. Betts.
With the creativity of Bro. Erwin Staples and input from the Brothers, the mission statement was decided to be:
“to be recognized as a lodge of enthusiastic, innovative, and forward thinking men – united in God, fellowship and service, dedicated to mutual self-improvement, and committed to making a positive difference within our communities.”
The group decided to first form a social club. This would serve two purposes. We needed to get re-acquainted with one another and get used to functioning as a unit again. Also, to start building track record of activities to show the Grand Lodge that we were serious about being active in the community. Bro. Calhoun said the name of the social club would be “Men of Vision”. Bro. Cooley added “Excellence” at the end. The acronym would be “M.O.V.E.”
The first group activity was to participate in the March of the Dimes “WalkAmerica” on April 29, 2007. The next was to attend the Mason of the Year Banquet honoring R.W. Bro. Aubrey K. Barlow. Bro. Barlow was their good friend and also a member of ESB #23.
In June 2007, the members decided that the proposed meeting date and time of lodge meetings would be every 2nd Thursdays at 7:30pm. There was a vote that the first principal officers of Union Lodge would be:
Worshipful Master, Michael T. Humphrey
Senior Warden, Adrian V. Cooley
Junior Warden, Christopher “Juice” Calhoun
On July 18, 2007 the members of the M.O.V.E. interest club met with Grandmaster Jones and discussed their interest and reason for starting a new lodge. (Coincidentally, P.M. Michael T. Humphrey had the leave this meeting early to witness the birth of his daughter) Grandmaster Jones approved their request. Plans were immediately put into motion to acquire the necessary items and materials to have their first meeting as a lodge.
October 11, 2007, First lodge meeting of Union Lodge U.D.
(Seated: S.W. Adrian V. Cooley, W.M. Michael T. Humphrey P.M., J.W. Christopher M. Calhoun. Standing: S.D. Thomas J. Revish P.M., Treas. Erwin L. Staples, Tyler Abdulrahim M. Ali, Maurice Walton)
October 11, 2007 was the first official meeting of Union Lodge U.D. Over the next several months the Brothers got busy working as Masons. During the time of its dispensation, Union was present during all major Grand Lodge events including the
- The MWPHGL of Illinois “Feed The Needy” Thanksgiving project serving food to the homeless.
- On December 29, 2007 the lodge was in attendance for the 1st District annual Public Installation ceremony in Chicago. They were recognized as one of the newest lodges under dispensation.
- Mid-Year session in Schaumburg, February 29, 2008 – March 2, 2008
- 1st District St. John’s Day in Chicago – June 22, 2008
- 142nd Grand Lodge Session in Springfield, Il – August 7-8, 2008
At the Grand Lodge Session in Springfield, IL on August 8, 2008 (8-8-8), R.W. Brother Dwayne A. Smith, Grand Lecturer recommended that Union Lodge U.D. be granted a charter. The Grand Lodge voted favorably and Union Lodge U.D. was officially Union Lodge #155. M.W. Angelo W. Jones, Grandmaster, praised Union for its work and encouraged to keep up the good work and grow.
(Brothers of Union Lodge listening to good and wholesome instruction from MW Bro. Angelo W. Jones, Grandmaster at Grand Session)
(Front Row: Bro. Abdulrahim M. Ali, Tyler, Bro. Adrian V. Cooley, S.W., W. Bro. Michael T. Humphrey, W.M., Bro. Christopher Calhoun, J.W., W. Bro. Thomas Revish P.M., S.D. Standing: Honorary Union Brother – R.W. Bro. Aubrey K. Barlow – Grand Auditor , Bro. Louis Clay, Chaplain, Bro. Latee Bauswell, Marshall, Bro. Art Ciegotura, S.S., Bro. Surajadeen Adebayo, J.S.)
The constitution ceremony took place on November 8, 2008 at the Prince Hall Temple in Chicago, IL. The ceremony was performed by the R.W. Grand Lecturer. The M.W. Grandmaster again encouraged Union Lodge to keep up the good work.
Union has pledged to continue to performing the work of Masons upon the constitution of its charter and for years beyond.
Submitted by Bro. Adrian V. Cooley, April 1, 2009
On January 18, 2008 , Latee Bauswell, Vernell Bryd, and Artur Ciegotura were initiated as Entered Apprentices during the Grand Lodge Statewide Initiation. They were passed as Fellowcrafts on February 8, 2008 in Normal, IL by the Grand Lecturer’s degree team at the lodge home of Union’s Mother Lodge, Elijah S. Betts #23. Bro. Bauswell and Bro. Byrd were raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on March 1, 2008. The Grand Lecturer’s degree team also performed the degree work during the annual Grand Lodge Mid-Year Session.
Bro. Ciegotura was eventually raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on March 13, 2008. This date also marks the first time Union Lodge performed degree work under its own “lights”. We were assisted by District Deputy Grand Lecturer, Bro. Glen Pickett (Richard E. Moore #109). Bro. Ciegotura membership brings an “international flair” to Union Lodge, as he is a native of Poland.
(Class “T.U.G.B.O.A.T.”: Bro. Latee Bauswell, Bro Artur Ciegotura, Bro. Vernell Bryd)
On July 12, 2008, Union Lodge raised three men, Bro. Surajadeen Adebayo, Bro. Louis Clay, and Bro. Ronn-Vey Price to the sublime degree of a Master Mason. Union Lodge were assisted by the following Brothers of Elijah S. Betts #23: W. Bro. James R. Jones II – Past Grand Auditor (W. Bro. Jones performed the role of Worshipful Master), R.W. Bro. Aubrey K. Barlow – Grand Auditor, W. Bro. Ronald C. Bell II – District Deputy Grand Lecturer, and W. Bro. Brad Johnson – W.M. Elijah S. Betts #23. Also in attendance was Past Grandmaster, M.W. Bro. Clarence Trotter, Lone Star #18.
(On the left Bro. Surajadeen Adebayo, 2nd from Right Bro. Louis Clay, on the Right Bro. Ronn-Vey Price)
On June 12, 2008 the lodge voted several Brothers as honorary members because of their assistance to the lodge. The following Brothers from Elijah S. Betts #23 were deemed honorary members of Union Lodge:
- R.W. Bro. Aubrey Barlow, Grand Junior Warden
- R.W. Bro. James R. Jones II, Grand Auditor
- W. Bro. Ronald C. Bell II, District Deputy Grand Lecturer
- W. Bro. Timothy Howell, Pastmaster
COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES AND FUNDRAISING
During its dispensation, Union kept very busy serving its community and raising funds to support its endeavors.
On February 21, 2008 Union Lodge adopted Emmett L. Till Math & Science Academy on Chicago’s South Side. On this day Till Academy held a program honoring Black History month. At the Black History program the members of Union Lodge announced the adoption of this public school located in the Woodlawn community. Union Lodge’s Worshipful Master, Michael T. Humphrey P.M., presented Principal Mary Rodgers with a plaque commemorating the event.
Bro. Adrian Cooley gave a brief historical presentation on the man Prince Hall, the founder of “African-American Freemasonry” in the United States of America. The presentation also touched on Prince Hall’s place in Black history month as the founder of the first public school for African-American children in America. Union Lodge’s Adopt-A-School coordinator, Bro. Christopher Calhoun, presented student Dontrelle Duncan with two tickets to a Chicago Bulls game. The members of Union Lodge expect to be role models to the students as a group of positive African-American men working in the community.
(Pictured: S.W. Adrian V. Cooley, student Dontrell Duncan, W.M. Michael T. Humphrey P.M., and Adopt-A-School Coordinator J.W. Christopher Calhoun.)
UNION SPONSORS BULLS TICKET FOR STUDENT
On March 22nd Union Lodge gave Emmett Till Academy’s top male student two tickets to the Chicago Bulls game. Four Union Brothers also attended the game with the student.
(Pictured: W. Bro. Thomas Revish P.M., Donnell Duncan (Brother of student), Student Dontrell Duncan of Emmett Till Math and Science Academy, Bro. Erwin Staples, Jonathan Purnell, Bro. Patrick Purnell, and Bro. Adrian Cooley)
EASTER BASKET DONATION
Also, on March 22, 2008, the Brothers of Union Lodge donated fruit baskets to the residents of the Washington Heights Nursing Home. The residents were very happy that Brothers personally delivered the baskets to their rooms.
(Bro. Purnell shakes a resident’s hand after delivering an Easter Basket.)
Union’s first social fundraiser was a bowling party at the Park Manor Bowling alley on March 15, 2008. The lodge was able to raise money to help support its endeavor in getting necessary items to help the lodge function in its infancy. A great time was had by all.
50/50 RAFFLE PRIZE WINNERS
* Haircut compliments of Mr. Riley Thompson – Nikki Bobboett
* Haircut compliments of Mr. Riley Thompson – Christine Byrd
* Wash and Set Hairstyle compliments of Ms. Ericka Hinton – Nikki Bobbett
* 50/50 Raffle – Veloria Murphy-Jordan
HIGHEST SCORING BOWLER
* Women – Nikki Bobbett
* Men – Bel Foster
(Pictured Front: Patrick Purnell, W.M. Michael Humphrey P.M., Erwin Staples, Vernell Byrd. Rear: Art Ciegotura, Rahim Ali, Adrian Cooley, Latee Bauswell, Chris “Juice” Calhoun”, Tom Revish P.M.)
REAL MEN READ
Brothers Christopher Calhoun, Erwin Staples, and Latee Bauswell participated in Emmett Till Academy’s annual “Real Men Read” program.
“The genesis of Real Mean Read was a program at McCosh Elementary School, now Emmett Till School, where then-new principal Barbara Eason-Watkins launched a similar program in 1988. The school at that time was one of the lowest achieving schools in the city, particularly among African-American male students. The school also had no male teachers from kindergarten through third grade.
Eason-Watkins invited men from churches, businesses and universities to read to students, who until then had few positive male role models in their lives.”
(Bro. Chris “Juice” Calhoun, Bro. Latee Bauswell, Bro. Erwin Staples)
VIOLENCE PREVENTION WALK
On May 16, 2008 Union Lodge’s Adopt-A-School coordinator Bro. Chris “Juice” Calhoun participated in the National Safe Kids Campaign-Violence Prevention Walk Held in the Greater Woodlawn Community. The aim was to identify problem areas and provide possible solutions to the increased violence that has plagued our communities. Bro. Calhoun led a group of concerned parents, community activist and Chicago Public School faculty members through the streets of the community in order to get a more in depth view of the problem our youth face. The event was well attended and the concerns of the community forwarded to the respective elected and appointed city officials.
ANNUAL PICNIC & SOFTBALL GAME
Saturday July 19, 2008
Martin Luther King Park
161st & Park ave.
Union Lodge U.D. beat Stone Temple Lodge #137 in their softball game.
October 25, 2008
8020 S. King Dr
UNION LODGE #155 CHARTER CONSECRATION CEREMONY
November 8, 2008
Prince Hall Masonic Temple
809 E. 42nd Place
Chicago, IL 60653
EMMETT TILL ACADEMY THANKSGIVING CHARITY EFFORT
November 24, 2008
Emmett Till Math & Science Academy
Union Lodge assisted the faculty at Till Academy with its annual Thanksgiving charity effort. The men of Union assisted the male faculty by provided the muscle to unload 600 turkeys from a truck and then the Worshipful Master relieved the Principal and handed individual turkeys to the residents of the low-income Woodlawn community. The turkeys were donated by a Muslim community group for the school to give out to surrounding residents. The event was covered by ABC News Channel 7. For story and video CLICK HERE
W.M. Humphrey passes a turkey to a resident
THE MOTHER LODGE: Elijah S. Betts #23
All of the members who petitioned the Grandmaster for a charter to start a new lodge were past members of Elijah S. Betts #23, Bloomington, IL. Previously E.S.B. #23 was called Union Lodge #23 before it was re-named in honor of the late Worshipful Brother Elijah S. Betts, P.M. The current Union Lodge is named in honor of our “mother” lodge.
You may visit the Elijah S. Betts Lodge #23 website at http://esb23.org/
Here is the history of Elijah S. Betts #23
Prince Hall Freemasonry in
Prince Hall Freemasonry in Bloomington, Illinois traces its heritage back to African Lodge No. 459. The “African Grand Lodge of North America” formed in 1791 is now known as the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, F&AM.
The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts became the Mother Grand Lodge for the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania chartered three lodges in the state of Ohio which led to the formation of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio. In likewise manner, the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Ohio chartered three lodge in Illinois which led to the formation of what is now known as the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons, State of Illinois and Jurisdiction in 1867.
At the first annual communication on June 20,1867 “Evening Star No. 4” of Bloomington was granted a warrant. The warrant for Evening Star No. 4 was suspended in 1877 and Union Lodge was organized under dispensation that same year. The reasons for the suspension of Evening Star’s warrant were not available but on October 9, 1877, Union Lodge No. 23 received its warrant.
Worshipful Masters George A. Hill of Evening Star No. 4 and Edward Smith of Tyre No. 23 submitted a joint resolution in 1879 to:
- Consolidate both lodges under No. 23 because both lodges struggled with membership issues.
- Change the name from Tyre to Union because “In union there is strength” – George A. Hill.
This lodge also stopped functioning during 1969, in which the charter was forfeited at the 95th Annual Communication on October 10, 1961. Union Lodge #23’s charter was revived in 1981 by Most Worshipful Bro. Edward Sykes, Grand Master and due to the large influence by a brother named Elijah Sherman Betts. Shortly after Betts death in 1982, Union Lodge #23’s was changed to Elijah S. Betts Lodge #23 in 1984 in his honor.
Elijah S. Betts Lodge #23 is still continuing the tradition and legacy of Prince Hall Freemasonry in Bloomington today. Also, joining the Prince Hall Masonic family and residing in Bloomington area is Anwar Chapter #149 , Order of the Eastern Star, Prince Hall Affiliation.