From the earliest colonial days to the period of the War Between the States, West Virginia was the transmontane section of Virginia, and is thus a true daughter of the Old Dominion, one of her amid throes of the fratricidal strife of 1861-65. Likewise, our Masonic history as part and parcel of that of Virginia, up to the time of the formation of the grand Lodge of West Virginia in 1865. Consequently our laws, ritual, traditions, and usages and great part came to us by inheritance from Virginia, just as our civil law grew out of and was developed from that of the Mother State.
It is perhaps well to consider briefly some of the political history of the times, in order to better understand the events that led up to the separation of West Virginia from Virginia, Nana formation of the grand Lodge of West Virginia. Even after the session of her portion of the Northwest Territory to the federal government in 1784, and admission of Kentucky is a state in 1792, Virginia was a dominion of nearly 65,000 mi.², extending westward from the Atlantic seaboard to the Ohio and the big Sandy River’s the Allegheny Mountains constituted a physical barrier between the eastern and western sections of the state, and caused a lack of personal contact, and the consequence wanting of good understanding, between the inhabitants of the two sections. The first modern artery of the commerce extending through both sections was the Baltimore and Ohio Railway which was not completed enough to Wheeling until 1852; and it has been thought by some that it’d been built between Richmond and some point further down the Ohio River as one supposed, the state never would have been divided. The people of the Western section came to have more in common with the people of Ohio and Pennsylvania than with those of the eastern section of Virginia, so that a feeling of diversity group up between the peoples of the two sections.
The Virginia Convention passed the Ordinance of Succession April 17, 1861, to take effect when ratified by a majority vote of the people and officially promulgated. The vote was taken on May 23, following. Meantime, on April 26, the Convention ratified the “Constitution of the Provisional Government of the Confederate States of America,” to be effective only in the secession ordinance was ratified by the people. Citizens of the western counties, anticipating a heavy vote for ratification in the eastern section, held mass meetings, which resulted in a call for a convention at Wheeling on May 13, at which there assembled delegates from 26 Western counties, all opposed to secession. This convention provided for a second one, to meet on June 11, in the event the Ordinance of Secession was ratified by the vote. The ordinance was ratified, the Western counties voting heavily against it, and Virginia was declared withdrawn from the union. The second convention met in Wheeling on June 11, and continued in session 2 weeks. Thirty-one counties were represented. This Convention organized the “Restored Government of Virginia” and on June 20, Francis H. Pierpont was elected Governor, and at once assumed the office. This “restored government” was promptly recognized by President Lincoln, and, in July, two United States Senators and three Congressmen were elected, and at once took office. An adjourned session of the Convention on August 6, passed “An ordinance providing for the formation of a new state out of a portion of this State,” which was voted upon by the people on October 24, 1861, and was ratified by an overwhelming majority. At the same time delegates were elected to a Convention to form a constitution, which assembled on November 26. Its work was completed in February, 1862, and the constitution drafted by it was adopted by vote of the people on April 3, following. A special session of the legislation of Virginia (restored government) gave its assent on May 13 to the formation of the proposed new State of West Virginia, to include 48 counties, and providing that the counties of Berkeley, Jefferson and Frederick (the lower Shenandoah Valley) might form a part of the new State whenever the voters thereof should ratify the constitution.
A bill to admit West Virginia to the Union, having passed both Houses of Congress, was signed by President Lincoln on December 31, 1862. A required amendment to the constitution was passed and was certified to the President, April 17, 1863, and on April 20, he issued a proclamation admitting West Virginia as a State, “to be in force from and after 60 days” from date. And so, on June 30, 1863, West Virginia became one of the States of the Union, fully organized, all officials entering at once upon their duties.
On the fourth Tuesday of May, 1863, the people of Berkeley and Jefferson counties voted to become part of the State of West Virginia, and the “restored government” legislature of the State gave its consent to their admission, asked to Berkeley on August 5, and as to Jefferson on November 2, 1863. An act of Congress legalizing the transfer was passed March 10, 1866. But there was bitter opposition in those counties, and litigation over the legality of the transfer was not finally settled until March 6, 1871. The United States Supreme Court held that the vote and proceedings were legal and thus established these two counties as part of West Virginia. The County of Frederick remained in Virginia.
Thus was West Virginia formed and organize as a State; and the formation of the new State ultimately eventuated in the organization of “The Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of West Virginia.”
Early Chartered Lodges
Prior to 1861 the Grand Lodge of Virginia had chartered
nearly two hundred lodges, forty-seven of which were in that part of the
new State of West Virginia other than the contested counties of Berkeley
and Jefferson. There were, however, eight duplications-that is, charters
were issued to the same lodge (or one at the same location) at different
dates. These lodges were: Moorefield No. 80, Morgantown Union No. 93,
Herman No. 98, Kanawha No. 104, Western Star No. 110, Mount Olivet No.
113, Wheeling No. 128, and Clinton No. 139. Thus, prior to the War Between
the States, lodges had been organized a thirty- nine locations in the area
of the new State other than the two counties in the Eastern Panhandle.