Grand Lodge, Virginia Knights of Pythias, Meets in Suffolk (1897)

John Mitchell, Jr., Grand Chancellor, Virginia Knights of Pythias (1897)

“The 12th Annual Session of the Grand Lodge of Virginia convened at Suffolk Tuesday May 11th with the Suffolk Lodge, 5, at the Old Armory on Bank Street.

Promptly at 10 o’clock, the Grand Chancellor John Mitchell, Jr., called the Grand Lodge to order. The roll of Grand Lodge Officers was called and vacant offices filled by appointment.


Grave of John Mitchell, Jr., and his mother, Roberta. Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, April 6, 2013. All rights reserved.
Grave of John Mitchell, Jr., Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, April 6, 2013. All rights reserved.

Most of the delegates reached the city Monday night and the committee met the several trains and greeted the delegates in a fraternal manner. The best homes available were provided and the visitors retired in comfortable quarters for the night.

Across the front of the old Armory building was a canvass on which was printed in large letters the words “Welcome Grand Lodge.” The Sir Knights greeted each other with a heavy handshake and expressed themselves as being glad of the opportunity to meet once more.

Committee on Credentials and Returns as follows: R. R. Motley, J. O. Brinkley and T. W. Mitchell. The Grand Lodge adjourned for a twenty minutes’ recess which allowed the committee on credentials to report.

The Grand Lodge re-assembled at 11:30 and committee on obituary was appointed.

After the appointment of the several committees the Grand Chancellor submitted his report which was beyond a doubt a very encouraging one. It was unanimously adopted. The Grand Lodge adjourned to meet at 8 p. m.

During which time the Uniform Rank under the command of Adjutant John Mitchell, Jr., of Richmond headed by Tidewater Band of Suffolk and National Band of Norfolk paraded the principal streets.

The following ranks participated in the parade: National Division of Norfolk, Captain M. V. Dixon, commanding; Hannibal Division of Portsmouth, Captain Jon Winslow commanding; Roanoke Division of Newport News, Captain G. L. Pugh commanding; Planet Division of Richmond, Captain Thomas M. Crump commanding; Norfolk Division of Norfolk, Captain James Edward Bright, commanding.


Thomas M. Crump
Grave of Thomas M. Crump, Woodland Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, April 6, 2013. All rights reserved.

The delegates and the Sir Knights of Suffolk Lodge Number 5, brought up the rear. The parade was reviewed by the people of Suffolk, both white and colored in the most enthusiastic manner, and compliments could be heard on all sides.

This was the greatest demonstration ever made in Suffolk by any organization and the meeting of the Grand Lodge proves a blessing to the order’s interest in Suffolk.

At night the Grand Lodge and uniformed Sir Knights were rendered a banquet by Suffolk Lodge Number 5. Informal addresses were made by several dignitaries of the order including Grand Keeper of Records and Seal, William Troy, M. D.; and Grand Chancellor John Mitchell, Jr. The speech of the Grand Chancellor was one of his vest efforts and was full of inspiration and very pathetic throughout. His speech was enthusiastically received and applauded throughout at intervals. His high tribute to the Negro and his metaphorical description of the principles of the order was the occasion for an outburst of applause. Lawyer W. H. Arrington of Suffolk made an excellent speech and received round after round of applause.

Wednesday, May 12th

The Grand Lodge, of Virginia, was called to order by Grand Chancellor, John Mitchell, Jr., at 10 a.m. Expressions from the several delegates and the Deputies on the field were very encouraging and showed a marked increase over last year, both in numbers and finance. The lodges not withstanding the severe hard times are all in a prosperous condition and the numbers are generally interested throughout the State.

The committees were all put to work on their reports and a recess of 3 hours was taken to allow the committees time to report.

The time of meeting of the Grand Lodge was changed from the Second Tuesday in May to the Third Tuesday in May.

The result of the election of officers for the ensuring term was as follows:

John Mitchell, Jr., Grand Chancellor, Richmond;

W. W. Manns, Vice Chancellor, Danville;

P. C. Corringan, Prelate, Newport News;

William M. Reid, Grand Master of Exchequer, Portsmouth;


William M. Reid, Lawyer
Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2010. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.
Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.
Mt. Calvary Cemetery, Portsmouth, Virginia, 2010. Photo: Nadia K. Orton. All rights reserved.
Photo: Nadia K. Orton, 2010. All rights reserved.

Thomas M. Crump, Grand Keeper of Records and Seal, Richmond;

William Ellis, Jr., Grand Inner Guard, Richmond;

L. S. Luton, Grand Outer Guard, Norfolk;

Jesse Scruggs, Grand Master of Arms, Richmond;

John A. Whidbee, Grand Master of Work, Norfolk

Dr. S. H. Dismond, Grand Medical Register, Richmond;

N. A. Twitty, Supreme Representative, Suffolk;


Grave of Nelson Alston Twitty

Oak Lawn Cemetery

Suffolk, Virginia

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 7, 2012.

All rights reserved.

Oak Lawn Cemetery, Suffolk, Virginia

Photo: Nadia K. Orton, January 7, 2012. All rights reserved.


Jesse Scruggs, Alternate, Richmond.

After the election of officers the Grand Lodge took a recess for 30 minutes.

Appointments by the Grand Chancellor

Grand Marshal, Sir Alexander Moses; Grand 1st Attendant, James L. Thompson, Grand 3d Attendant, I. Powell; Grand 4th Attendant, C. H. Green.

Endowment Advisory Board

John Clinton, Jr., W. A. Millner, M. D. Meekins, J W. Wells, William Troy, W. L. Willis, Ernest Edmonds, C. Brinkley, Isaiah Christian.

Committee on Returns and Credentials

E. F. Robinson, L. N. Colthrop, Achilles Williams.

Committee on Law and Supervision

G. A. Melvin, R. L. Motley, J. J. Corprew.

Finance Committee

N. A. Twitty, L. Bynum, L. W. Holbrook

Printing and Supplies

T. W. Mitchell, John R. Chiles, S. S. Gwaltney


Col. Thomas “Tom” William Mitchell

Burial: Evergreen Cemetery, Richmond, Virginia.


Deputy Grand Chancellors

Norfolk, R. E. Kindred;

Portsmouth, W. H. Ballentine;

Newport News, C. H. Green;

Richmond, T. W. Mitchell;

Petersburg, Jacob Coleman;

Manchester, Alexander Brooks;

Danville, W. A. Millner;

Smithfield, Jacob Wilkerson;

Special Deputy

Richmond, Isaiah Christian;

Danville, L. W. Holbrook.

A vote of thanks was tendered to the citizens of Suffolk, the committee and the daily papers of Norfolk for courtesies extended.

The Uniform Rank of Tidewater Section, embracing the Division of Suffolk, Portsmouth, and Newport News met with Acting Brigadier General John Mitchell, Jr., presiding for the purpose of forming a Battalion and electing a Major.  Major M. D. Meekins, of the Brigadier-General’s Staff was selected as Major.

On Wednesday night an entertainment was given at the Armory on Bank St., by Court, No. 99, I. O. O. C. A handsome quilt was to be given to the person holding the lucky number. The lucky number (100) was held by Sir Thomas W. Mitchell of Planet Lodge, Richmond, Va., who bore the trophy to the city of Seven Hills.”1


Nelson Alston Twitty, past Grand Chancellor of the Virginia Knights of Pythias, was born in the Manson District of Warren County, North Carolina.2 I’ve studied his genealogy with great interest, as Warren County is the seat of my maternal ancestry in North Carolina. Most of Nelson’s immediate family, his wife Cora L. Williams Twitty, and daughter Robbie A. Twitty (1900-1922), are buried in historic Oak Lawn Cemetery, Suffolk, Virginia, and we’ve just finished identifying their gravesites.

The location of certain graves of Nelson’s family in Warren County remain stubbornly elusive. We’re still searching for the last resting place of his parents, Richard Twitty (ca. 1825-1898), and Amanda Carroll, who was born about 1830, possibly in Alabama.3 Against all odds, I “re-discovered” the gravestone of one of Nelson’s brothers, Cpl. William Parks, of the 135th U. S. Colored Infantry, in 2018. Here’s hoping that we’ll have similar luck finding Richard and Amanda’s graves in 2021.

An unknown grave in Manson, Warren County, North Carolina. Photo: Nadia K. Orton, October 7, 2017. All rights reserved.
  1. Source available upon request to the Friends of Oak Lawn Cemetery, or the Sacred Grounds Project, Inc.
  2. “1870 U. S. Census,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 2 February 2007), North Carolina, Warren County, Nutbush; p. 44, citing, “Year: 1870; Census Place: Nutbush, Warren, North Carolina; Roll: M593_1164; Page: 540B; Family History Library Film: 552663.”
  3. Richard Twitty and Amanda Carroll were both enslaved, and had cohabitated as husband and wife beginning in 1853.

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