Moses Dickson and The Knights of Liberty

Pictured here is Moses Dickson, from the frontispiece illustration of the 1879 book A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle. In 1872, the Rev. Moses Dickson founded the International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor, an African-American fraternal order focused on benevolence and financial programs. Dickson was born a free man in Cincinnati in 1824, was a Union soldier during the Civil War, and afterwards became a prominent clergyman in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. Dickson showed an interest in progressive fraternal organizations early on – in 1846 Dickson, with others, founded a society known as the Knights of Liberty, whose objective was to overthrow slavery; the group did not get beyond the organizing stages. Dickson was also involved in Freemasonry – he was the second Grand Master of the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri.

Dickson’s International Order of Twelve of Knights and Daughters of Tabor – or Order of Twelve, as it’s more commonly know – accepted men and women on equal terms. Men and women met together in higher level groups and in the governance of the organization, although at the local level they met separately – the men in “temples” and the women in “tabernacles” (akin to “lodges” in Freemasonry). The Order of Twelve was most prominent in the South and the lower Midwest. The major benefits to members – similar to many fraternal orders of the time – was a burial policy and weekly cash payments for the sick.

What many people today remember about the Order of Twelve is an institution founded in Mound Bayou, Misssissippi in 1942 – the Taborian Hospital. Michael Premo, a Story Corps facilitator, posted his appreciation for the impact that the Taborian Hospital had on the lives of African-Americans living in the Mississippi Delta from the 1940s-1960s. The Taborian Hospital was on the Mississippi Heritage Trust’s 10 Most Endangered List of 2000, and an update to that list indicates that the hospital still stands vacant and seeks funding for renovation. Here are some photos of the Taborian Hospital today.

Want to learn more about the Order of Twelve? Here are a few primary and secondary sources that we have here in our collection (with primary sources listed first):

Dickson, Moses. A Manual of the Knights of Tabor and Daughters of the Tabernacle, including the Ceremonies of the Order, Constitutions, Installations, Dedications, and Funerals, with Forms, and the Taborian Drill and Tactics. St. Louis, Mo. : G. I. Jones [printer], 1879.
Call number: RARE HS 2259 .T3 D5 1879

—-. Ritual of Taborian Knighthood, including : the Uniform Rank. St. Louis, Mo. : A. R. Fleming & Co., printers, 1889.
Call number: RARE HS 2230 .T3 D5 1889

Beito, David. From Mutual Aid to the Welfare State: Fraternal Societies and Social services, 1890-1967. Chapel Hill, N.C. : University of North Carolina Press, 2000.
Call number: 44 .B423 2000

Skocpol, Theda, Ariane Liazos, Marshall Ganz. What a Mighty Power We Can Be : African American Fraternal Groups and the Struggle for Racial Equality. Princeton : Princeton University Press, 2006.
Call number: 90 .S616 2006 (1)

(1)  From The National Heritage Museum -


Moses Dickson, prior to the Civil War was a traveling barber.  Later he became an AME minister and was known as Father Dickson.

He was one of the Founders of the Lincoln Institute, now Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Misouri.

In 1879 along with othes shuch as James Milton turner, John Wheeler and John Turner he helped create the Committee of Twenty Five, organized to set up temporary housing for the more than 10,000 travelers who passed through St. Louis each year.

He was President of the Refugee Relief Board in St. Louis which helped to shelter and feed 16,000 former slaves who relocated to Kansas.

Moses Dickson was the first Grand Lecturer of the Most Worhipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Missouri upon its foundation in 1865.  He was the second Grand Master of this Grand Lodge and the Grand Secretary in 1869.

In 1876 Companion Moses dickson was elected Deputy Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Holy Royal Arch Masons of Missouri and Jurisdiction.

Moses Dickson wrote the Ritual of Heroines of Jericho penning the “Master Mason’s Daughter,” the “True Kinsman,” and “Heroines of Jericho” degrees. It was sold and distributed by the Moses Dickson Regalia and Supply Co., Kansas City, Missouri and entered into the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. in the year 1895.

The Knights of Liberty was organized by 12 Black Men in secret in August, 1846 in St. Louis, Missouri.  They were also known as the Knights of Tabor or the International Order of Twelve. Tabor is a Biblical mountain in Israel where the Israelites won a big victory over the Canaanites.

Moses Dickson was a leader of the Underground Railroad.  He and 47,000 other Knights enlisted in the Union Army as soon as Linclon authorized Black men to sign up.

Disbanded by the Civil War many of the Knights of Liberty reformed after the War was over into a benevolent fraternal society named the International Order of the Twelve Knights and Daughters of Tabor. Moses Dickson authored “International Order of Twelve 333 of Knights and Daughters of Tabor,” a book outlining the Constitution, Rules and Regulations of the Temples of the Uniform Rank of Tabor and Taborian Division.

Moses Dickson died on November 28, 1901. A truly remarkable man!

Originally published at the National Heritage Museum’s blog. The National Heritage Museum is an American history museum founded and supported by 32° Scottish Rite Freemasons in the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction of the United States of America.





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