Wlliam Gilmore Simms
The Simms Review (Vol 17: Nos 1-2) >> Simms, Freemasonry, and His ''Epistle to a Brother Mason in Affliction'' >> Page 114

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Secondary Scholarship | 2009
Transcription 114 THE SIMMS REVIEW

September 9, 1865, Simms told his friend James Lawson that he had been
"persuaded to join the Masons" since they last saw one another (Letters
4:517). Lawson last visited Simms in 1859 (Trent 243). In 1860, the last
full listing of all Masons in South Carolina before the war was published
by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina. Simms's name does not appear.
The latest possible date for Simms's Masonic membership is February
1865, when Simms makes it clear in his writings that he was a Mason
during the invasion of Columbia. All references to the Masons in his
published letters appear after this date. Although this provides a five-year
window—sometime between 1860 and 1865—as to when Simms could
have joined the Masonic fraternity, the actual date was probably closer
to 1865. This is suggested by the Lodge Simms joined: Richland Lodge
No. 39, A.F.M. in Columbia. l
According to a 1939 history of Orange Lodge No. 14 of
Charleston the lodge that Simms would later join after the war on
12 February 1866 Simms was "raised [i.e., became a Master Mason]
in Richland Lodge, No. 56" (24).2 This apparently useful information
errs in one vital detail: the lodge number is incorrect. Richland Lodge
of Columbia's number was 39. Initially I assumed this to be a typo-
graphical error, but confirmation came from a surprising source: a letter
sent from the Masons of Columbia to the Masons of the North ("New
Documentation"). One of the original circulars sent throughout New
York by their Grand Master, this document contained the appeal sent by
the Masons of Columbia. A letter likely written by Simms, it was signed
by Simms and six other Columbia Masons. Simms is designated as being
both the chairman of the commission and a member of Richland Lodge.
Because three other members of the commission were also from Richland
Lodge and their membership can be verified independently, we may be
certain that Simms was, indeed, a member of Richland Lodge No. 39.
Not only does this letter confirm Simms's mother lodge, it also
provides further insights into Simms's important trip to solicit aid from
the Masons of the North in November 1865, discussed below. Because it
is fairly well documented that Simms's travels between Woodlands and
Columbia were somewhat regular beginning in May 1864 and that he
was a full-time resident of Columbia by January 1865 (Trent 276-80),
and because Simms was made a Mason in Columbia at Richland Lodge
No. 39, it may be reasonably assumed that Simms became a Mason
sometime between May 1864 and January 1865.