100 years of the Friendship Chapter #2, Order of the Eastern Star
Behind-the-Scenes Family
blood or circumstance. People needed to band together to survive in Madison. One of the most important
ways was through the African American church. And one of the outgrowths of the African American church in
Madison — and elsewhere — was the Friendship Chapter #2, Order of the Eastern Star, State of Wisconsin,
Prince Hall affiliation. On some levels, it was a women’s auxiliary to Capitol Lodge #2, the African American
Masonic organization in Madison.
      But the Eastern Star was so much more than that, serving as an extended family or mutual aid society for
many African Americans, providing connection, services and support that the greater Madison community
couldn’t provide.
      “It was in 1910 that the Madison chapter was constituted under Eureka Grand Chapter Order of the
Eastern Star, state of Illinois,” said Cheryl Gettridge-Steele, an Eastern Star. “We became known as
Friendship Chapter #66. Friendship Chapter is the sister chapter to Capital City Lodge #2 here in Madison that
was constituted four years before us. We were constituted August 10, 1910. They were constituted in 1906. We’
re the wives, mothers, daughters and bloodline originally of members of Capital City Lodge #2.”
Since there were so few African Americans in Wisconsin at the time, the affiliation was through the Eureka
Grand Chapter in Illinois. By 1951, the number of African Americans in Wisconsin had grown to the extent that
Wisconsin formed its own Grand Chapter, through the efforts of Past Master Hilton Hannah who went on to
help found the Madison Urban League in 1968.
By Jonathan Gramling

Part 1 of 2

      Back in the early 20th century, the heart of Madison’s African American
community wasn’t in South Madison or even the old Greenbush area. Rather, it was
located in Madison’s First Settlement area near E. Dayton Street. The Miller and Hill
families lived there. Fixtures in the community were the Hill Grocery Store, St. Paul
AME Church and a later on Mt. Zion Baptist Church at 754 E. Johnson Street.
     Back in 1910, only about 140 African Americans lived in Madison. Legal
segregation and Jim Crow were running rampant in the South and de facto
segregation, often imposed through restrictive covenants on land deeds, was in force
in the North. Employment discrimination was also rampant in the North. Madison was
no exception.
     Madison’s African American community back then was composed of nuclear and
extended families. Everyone was a part of someone’s family whether was through
Clockwise from above left: Front - George Greene Past Matron (l-r), Mary Hart, Mary
Grimes, Bennie Mae Johnson, Worthy Matron, Christopher Hart, Worthy Patron, Verona
Morgan, Ruth Grisby, Henry Morgan  Rear - Mildred Greene (l-r), Willie B. Johnson,
Julius Morgan, Gwen Lyles, Mattie Jackson, Gerald Grisby, Rita Smith, Addrena
Squires; Front - Lisa Hassell Worthy Matron (l-r), Samuel Stotts Worthy Patron, Lula Hart
Past Matron, Karen Johnson Past Matron  Rear - Cheryl Gettridge-Steele Past Matron
(l-r), Rosalyn Richmond, Angela Donahue, Norma Shaw, April Mosby- Johnson; Front -
Ann Alexander (l-r), Julius Johnson, Worthy Patron, Beatrice Elvord, Worthy Matron,
John Parrish, Past Patron, Rear - Willie B. Johnson, Past Matron, Lula Hart, Past
Matron, Vivian Curie, Loretta Pope, Cheryl Gettridge Steele, Lenard Curie, Addrena
Squires, Past Matron; Cheryl Gettridge-Steele (l) and Addrena Squires; Effie O. Stamps,
Past Grand Worthy Matron of Unity Grand Chapter; Henry Grimes, Past Patron; Helen
Smith, Past Grand Worthy Matron of Unity Grand Chapter
      Around the time that Friendship Chapter #2 was formed, Addrena Squires became involved. “I became involved in 1951,” Squires
recalled. “I became a member before they were chartered. I’ve been involved for almost 60 years. We gathered at the Mason Hall. We’
ve been gathering there for over 50 years. The Mason Hall used to be a church. It was at 754 E. Johnson Street, the old Mt. Zion Baptist
Church, where I became a member. Mt. Zion owned that church. I think it was 4-5 years that we met at Mt. Zion before the Masons
purchased their building at 100 N. Blair Street. We were just around the corner from the Hill Grocery Store.”
      When Gettridge-Steele moved to Madison as a single mother from her native New Orleans in the 1990s, she arrived in Madison
basically alone. It was the Order of the Eastern Star that became her family.
      “I believe just having the interaction with all of these really good strong women of character, helped me raise my daughter when I
was a single parent,” Gettridge-Steele said. “I could go to these women and ask them questions I would normally ask my mother who
was in New Orleans. These women were raising children. I can remember Sister Charlene Hill had nine children who were all raised in
Madison and they all got through college. Of the nine children, eight were girls and one was a boy. Their son went on to be an alderman
and he became one of the vice presidents at AnchorBank. These women had some really good child-rearing skills. They could give ne
advice no matter what. Just having that kind of friendship was important. I could call them up if I didn’t know how to cook something. If I
needed to know some resources in the community, if I was thinking about a different doctor or wondering where I should take my kid for
any kind of recreation, they were very helpful to me as a single woman raising a child in the community.”
      Gettridge-Steele became an Eastern Star and has been involved in putting on programs for the organization and giving back to the
community. Yet there was one more time when she greatly depended upon her sisters. That time was when Hurricane Katrina struck
New Orleans.
      “My mother had nowhere else to go and she came to Madison to live with me,” Gettridge-Steele said. “I am so grateful and she is
too. She tells people all the time that she doesn’t know why she went back to New Orleans. She went home in 2007. My Eastern Star
sisters were there to help her in whatever she needed. Moving from New Orleans, a tropical warm climate — she came in September —
she needed socks, a flannel nightgown, blankets and things like that. I didn’t ask, but they knew that she didn’t have all of that. Certain
people would show up with these gifts and she got what she needed. She would be on the phone and still talks about it to this day that
she basically had what she needed. There were times when I needed to leave town and go and do something for another organization.
Those sisters were able to come in and check on her and make sure everything was going right. We’re there for each other. Nobody
knows or expects when something happens. We’re there for everyone every day, calling and checking. You become a family. Family
checks on family and when family is in need, family shows up and family helps take care of family.”
      Through the years, the Order of the Eastern Star has been there for the African American community, either as individuals or as an
organization. And when it celebrates its 100th anniversary August 28 at the Sheraton Hotel, the Order of the Eastern Star hopes that
Madison’s African American community will come out to support them.
      “We’re holding a banquet-style program,” Gettridge-Steele said. “We’ll have a guest speaker who is H. Lorraine Jeter who is a past
Grand Worthy Matron from our mother jurisdiction, Eureka Grand Chapter. We will have music and our present Grand Worthy Matron and
our present Grand Master from the Wisconsin jurisdiction will be in attendance along with all of the living members of Friendship
Chapter #2 who are in the Madison area.”
      Friendship Chapter #2 of the Order of the Eastern Star will hold its 100th Anniversary Celebration on Saturday, August 28, 6 p.m. to
12 a.m. Tickets are $50. For information, call Karen Johnson at 608-692-2847.

Next issue: 100 years of service