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Moses Dickson and the Order of Twelve

Moses_dickson_web 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



Hi Jolene.

That's great. Thanks for sharing!


I found a old headstone with the symbol 777 and the words International order of KNIGHT'S and daughter of Tabor. The name was Susan Foster 1851 to May 31 1922..


Hi Tim.

The book contains the initiation ceremonies of the Taborian Knighthood and would have been used by members of the group to memorize the ritual and for guidance on how to set up their lodge room, etc. In certain ways, you can think of it like the script of a play.

As for learning more about the group, not a lot has been written about them. I refer you to the two sources listed at the end of the blog post, which will point you to some more information. I hope that helps.

Do you know if your great great grandmother might have been a member? Was there any other material related to the group that you found?



Hi I have a copy of the hard cover of the 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

I wanted to learn more about it. Great Great grandmother born in 1907 had it in her belongs as we are going through it now.


Is this book a hard find? I have a pretty old book that bears this name.


Hi Lynn.

Thanks for reading our blog. According to the 1889 ritual, it stood for “Uniform Knight of Tabor,” or “Uniform Knights of Tabor,” which is a reference to the organization’s fourth degree, called “The Uniform Rank.” The description of the “full dress uniform,” which is noted as used “for public turn-outs” of Uniform Rank members, includes a description of “a shield of yellow metal, with letters U.K.T.” which would have been worn on the dress coat. The description of the dress uniform is similar to that of a Masonic Knights Templar uniform, or other quasi-military uniform.



Lynette O'Quinn

Do you know what the UKT stood for on their medal?


I'm glad you liked the story - and thanks for pointing out the typo so that I could fix it!


Fascinating story!

Check the spelling of Mississippi in the link, "Missississippi Heritage Trust's 10 Most Endangered List of 2000."

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