Masonic Connections in an Early Illinois Masonic Lodge

by Midnight Freemason Emeritus Contributor
Brian L. Pettice, 33˚

As part of last year’s celebration of the 175th Anniversary of the Charter of Olive Branch Lodge 38 in Danville, Illinois, the lodge shared this piece illustrating how connections between the lodge, a few of its members, Abraham Lincoln, and one of those member’s daughters affected each of their lives, as well as the course and history of the nation.

Ward Hill Lamon was the fifth Master of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38. Of Brother Lamon, Brother Gilbert Haven Stephens for the Special Section of the September 29, 1946,  Danville Commercial-News, wrote, “We now come to the next master of Olive Branch lodge and find him a man not only well known in the city and county but really a national character—Ward H. Lamon. He came from Virginia to Illinois in 1847 and practiced law, later becoming a law partner with Lincoln. It is said that the partnership was successful because Lincoln did the work but would never charge for his services, while Lamon always collected liberal fees. It was a notable partnership too, physically as well as mentally, for Lincoln was six-feet four and Lamon was six-feet two. Lincoln was quaint, direct, and practical while Lamon was inclined to be flowery and fervid. Above all other characteristics, Lamon was fearless and for that reason Lincoln chose him as his companion and bodyguard on his trip to Washington in March of 1861 when he knew of the threats and plots to assassinate or lynch him.

There were plots revealed almost daily and Lamon had the responsibility of breaking them up. This was hard because the President often broke away from the protection of those who guarded him and would be found walking alone to the stores or on a visit to his friends. Lamon was not present when the President was assassinated.”

While Brother Stephens gave a wonderful synopsis of Lamon’s relationship with Lincoln given the brevity required by breadth of his overall subject, the 100 year history of the lodge, and the space limits placed on him by the medium he was writing for, a special section of the local paper, there were some things he didn’t mention that are important to the subject we are looking at today.

According to author Michael Burlingame’s book Abraham Lincoln: A Life, Ward Hill Lamon, and fellow Olive Branch Past Master Oliver Davis were among those Eighth Circuit attorneys who descended upon the 1860 Republican convention in Chicago and, directed by Eighth Circuit Judge and future Associate Justice of the Supreme Court David Davis, persuaded the delegates to turn from presumptive nominee William H. Seward and nominate Abraham Lincoln as the Republican candidate for President of the United States. So, Lamon’s connection and, through him and Oliver Davis, Olive Branch Lodge’s connection to Lincoln, in some small part, helped to propel Lincoln to the Presidency and lead to the events that would carry the country into civil war and change the course of its history.

Brother Stephens also didn’t mention that among Lamon’s children would be a daughter who would grow up to be a woman, in many respects, ahead of her time. She would deal with personal tragedy and, with the help of another brother from Olive Branch Lodge, find success, see the world, and live life on her own terms.

Former Danville resident and Commercial-News reporter, Kevin Cullen wrote in an article published in the Commercial-News on June 16, 2019, “When Dorothy Lamon Teillard died in 1953, at age 95, the Commercial-News noted that the last local living link to Abraham Lincoln was broken. Teillard was the last surviving child of Ward Hill Lamon— Lincoln’s law partner in Danville, his bodyguard in Washington and his true friend.”

Born on November 13, 1858 to Ward Hill and Angeline Lamon, Dolly, as she was known lived an incredible life.

According to Linda McCarty in her article, ‘Miss Dolly’ Offers Look at Colorful Life New Book Explores Woman with ‘Grace, Strength, Intelligence’, published in the August 20, 2003 edition of The Winchester Star Winchester, VA, Dolly’s mother died five months after she was born and she was raised in Danville by an aunt and uncle. As a young girl, she visited her father in Washington, DC, and related her memories of a carriage ride with her father and the President. In 1880 she was married to William Carnahan of Danville. The couple would have two children. One child died in infancy and a daughter, Ruth, would die of diphtheria when she was nearly four in 1886. In 1885, Dolly’s husband left her and Ruth. Dolly became a single, working mother at a time when that was very rare. 1885 also marked the year that a brother from Olive Branch Lodge offered her a job that would change her life. That brother, General John Charles Black, was at the time the U.S. Commissioner of Pensions. He offered her a job in Washington, D.C. She was eminently qualified and successful in her government career and it enabled her to maintain her independence and offered her opportunities to travel. She took many trips to Europe and eventually married Xavier Teillard, who had tutored her in French prior to one of her Paris trips. The couple would move to France in 1921. Xavier would pass in 1934, but Dolly would stay there until 1941 when World War II would force her to return to the United States.

Undoubtedly though, her connection to a brother of Olive Branch Lodge and his offer to help the child of his Masonic brother changed the course of her life. Brother Black and Brother Lamon also shared another connection as Brother Black’s actions would also contribute to the Union victory in the Civil War and he too would go on to be a National Figure.

Lottie E. Jones in her book, History of Vermilion County Illinois, A Tale of Its Evolution, Settlement and progress for Nearly a Century Volume 1, would say of that brother, “1847 was the year that John Charles Black came to Vermilion County with his mother. He was but a boy of eight years of age and he made Danville his home during his youth and young manhood. It was from Danville he went to college, and in Danville he lived after the war, in which he distinguished himself, was over.”

According to the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, Brother Black was born in Lexington, Mississippi January 27, 1839. He attended school in Danville and college at Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana, graduating after the close of the Civil War. He served in the Union Army from April 14, 1861, to August 15, 1865. Entering the war as a private he would be promoted to sergeant major, major, lieutenant colonel, and colonel before being brevetted brigadier general. He would receive the Congressional Medal of Honor (he and his brother William would be the first pair of brothers to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor). He studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1867. He served as Commissioner of Pensions from March 17, 1885, to March 27, 1889. He was elected as a Democrat to the Fifty-third Congress serving from March 4, 1893, to January 12, 1895. He was appointed United States Attorney for the northern district of Illinois from 1895-1899. He was commander in chief of the Grand Army of the Republic in 1903 and 1904. He was a member of the United States Civil Service Commission from 1904-1913.

Brother Black also served the Grand Lodge of Illinois as Grand Orator in 1894 and 1895. Brother Black died on August 17, 1915. He is interred in Spring Hill Cemetery, Danville, Illinois.

All of these people lived in the same times and lived formative parts of their lives in the same place, but they also had other connections in common. They had in common Olive Branch 38 and its lessons of integrity and loyalty—the obligation it instilled to care for each other and their fellow men. They lived these lessons as best they could and provided an example for all of us to follow.


Brian L. Pettice, 33° is a Past Master of Anchor Lodge No. 980 and plural member of Olive Branch Lodge No. 38 in Danville, IL and an Honorary Member of a couple of others. He is also an active member of both the York and Scottish Rites. He cherishes the Brothers that have become Friends over the years and is thankful for the opportunities Freemasonry gives and has given him to examine and improve himself, to meet people he might not otherwise have had chance to meet, and to do things he might not otherwise have had a chance to do. He is employed as an electrician at the University of Illinois and lives near Alvin, IL with his wife Janet and their son Aidan. He looks forward to sharing the joy the fraternity brings him with others. His email address is

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