The family of John Gideon Lewis immigrated to Natchitoches late in the 19th century from Toronto, Canada, following the Civil War. His parents stressed the importance of education to him and his siblings and he passed that message on to his five children. One of the most important things Lewis did was establish the Prince Hall Masons of Louisiana in Natchitoches.
The Prince Hall Masons had a long and interesting history that actually started in New England even before the Revolutionary War. It is the oldest and largest group of Masons of African origin in the world. He was the Worshipful Grand Master of Louisiana until his death at 81 in 1931.
After his death, his sons, Scott Lewis and John Gideon Lewis Jr., were both Grand Masters of Louisiana until their deaths. Both were instrumental in advancing the cause of Free Masonry among African Americans, especially in the South. During the years of Reconstruction and continuing to 1900, Prince Hall Masonry remained a highly prestigious but small fraternity.
By the early 20th century the membership rapidly expanded, lessening its exclusivity.
•The Times will publish Black History profiles in every February edition.