Primarily set in Kansas, “The Lost Empire: Black Freemasonry in the Old West (1867-1906)” is the story of Civil War veteran and Masonic pioneer Captain William Dominick Matthews. The non-fiction account by James R. Morgan III focuses on Mathew’s rise to power within the Masonic fraternity during the Reconstruction Era and decades thereafter. In his debut text, Morgan exposes readers to the importance of the Masonic fraternity in the “Wild West.”
Historians have often painted the Maryland native as a sort of “anti-hero, villainous character” said Morgan. However, as an Underground Railroad station manager in Kansas, Mathews demonstrated his sense of self-reliance when he felt the need to protect himself from pro-slavery forces across the river in Missouri. His response was to organize one hundred mostly African American men to protect his home when fugitive enslaved Americans were hiding there.
Added Morgan, “Mathews used his platform as a Masonic Grand Master to not only defend his community, but also organized for voting rights and advocate for other Africans American veterans of the Civil War.” Morgan, the Grand Historian and Archivist of the Most Worshipful Prince Hall Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia, told Port Of Harlem that he also introduces readers to a cast of other characters whose interactions helped shape African American life in that region.