Why So Many Different Dates?
The facts behind Phoenix Lodge No. 8's various charter dates
Phoenix Lodge traces its geneology to Union Lodge No. __, an old lodge that operated in the Cape Fear region as early as the 1760s. Union Lodge No. __ was likely chartered by a European Grand Lodge or one of the several Provincial Grand Lodges then operating in the Colonies.
After the formation of the second Grand Lodge of North Carolina in 1787, the Brethren of Union Lodge No. __ duly voted to turn in Union's charter, warrant, or dispensation and accept a charter from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina under the name of Phoenix Lodge. Although there are many theories about this change, we don't currently know the reason(s) that prompted this bold and permanent move.
This would have been four years after the end of the Revolutionary War. With a newly-established Grand Lodge in the State, and with the decline of European influence in the area, the prospect of continuing to operate under a European Grand Lodge may not have been appealing. It is possible that Union Lodge had lost or was in danger of losing its sponsorship. The records of the Grand Lodges of England and Scotland contain references to several "Union Lodges." However, these are all accounted for as regular lodges in Europe or elsewhere in the Americas. None of these are recorded as having operated in the Cape Fear region. The Grand Lodge of Scotland is also known to have recalled "Provincial Charters" for various reasons.
It is likely that the Brethren of Union Lodge realized the impracticality of continuing to operate outside the newly-formed Grand Lodge of North Carolina, and took advantage of an opportunity to join this new, local, grand governing body.
Further, the word "Union" might have implied allegience to one or more ideas (loyalty to the English Crown, the Grand Lodge of Scotland, etc.) that the members wanted to change. The word "Phoenix" has always been synonymous with re-birth and starting over, so it could be that this re-naming signified a symbolic re-birth of the Lodge.
We know from contemporary sources that by 1786, Union Lodge No. __ was also known as "Cape-Fear Union Lodge," which may indicate that Union Lodge No. __ merged with another, previously unknown Lodge, possibly known as the "Cape-Fear" Lodge. It could also mean that the Lodge had added "Cape-Fear" to its name to distinguish it from the several "Union Lodges" operating in South Carolina in the 1800s. It is also possible that the incorporation of "Cape-Fear" and "Union Lodge" in the title of the Lodge was informal, as a way to distinguish the locality of the Lodge, and not a formal part of the Lodge's name.
On 17 November 1788, this request from the Brethren of Union Lodge to change its name to Phoenix was granted by the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of North Carolina. However, there was still the problem of the old Union Lodge No. __ charter, warrant, or dispensation. A Lodge of Freemasons cannot operate except when under a dispensation (U.D.), warrant, or charter issued by a grand governing body.
Upon turning in its old Union Lodge No. __ charter, warrant, or dispensation, the newly-named Phoenix Lodge was granted a dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of North Carolina and operated under this dispensation from 1788 to 1793, when it received its first official charter from that grand body.
In 1795, Phoenix Lodge was assigned the number 8 by the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, which it has held since that time.
In December of 1796 the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina issued a new charter to Phoenix Lodge No. 8. The lodge is still in possession of this original document, printed on vellum.
In 1798, Phoenix Lodge applied for a charter as a Corporation from the North Carolina General Assembly, which was granted by that body in 1799. This charter gave Phoenix Lodge No. 8 a professional and civic identity, allowing it to conduct business, sue and be sued, etc., in the State of North Carolina.
Phoenix Lodge received our current charter from the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of North Carolina on 15 October 1801, which is still valid, current, and in posession of the Lodge. This charter has never been surrendered since its date of issue, and it falls upon each successive generation of members to cherish and protect this charter for future generations of Phoenix Lodge members.