Missouri's Little Dixie African American History Tour

Arrow Rock Brown Lodge #22

Brown's Lodge #22 of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons was one of four lodge halls that were built by the African American community in Arrow Rock around 1887. The lodge was named for the first minister to lead the African American Baptists in the town. These lodges were created as a way for the Black community to assert their freedom and autonomy following emancipation. They provided means for the community to organize and provide agency for Black families.

The founding of these Black fraternal and sororal lodges traced their beginnings to Prince Hall, who founded the first all-Black Masonic lodge in Boston, Massachusetts in the mid-1870s. Hall believed that the fraternity of Black Masons helped erase the memories of descending from slaves, and instead provide a new heritage where Black men were not poor or trivial. Members would pay their dues and create a relief fund for members in need. When someone needed support, the members would step in and assist. They commonly helped those who were widowed, orphaned, or experiencing hard times. In Arrow Rock, they regularly provided funding for burials in the African American Sappington Cemetery.

Members were also required to follow a code of behavior in order to counter the often-ripe accusations and stereotypes put upon them by the white community. Conduct that was considered 'unmasonic' included drunkenness, gambling, or frequently going to liquor stores or houses known for prostitution. Members could be expelled for this behavior after several infractions.

Brown's Lodge #22 provided the Black community with a place to socialize. In the early 1900s, a restaurant was run on the first floor, and a social room was used on the second floor for social gatherings, dances, and meetings. This lodge provided community for many within Arrow Rock before its closing in 1931.