NameFelix Joseph Dorsey
Birthabt 1821, Maryland
Death10 Apr 1872, Kings Co., New York
FatherMatthias Dorsey (~1790-<1840)
MotherCordelia (~1785-1862)
Misc. Notes

According to the family grapevine, he ran a hardware business in New York City with Adolphes LaMott. The John H. listed here as Isabella’s father was a tinsmith - a bit of a stretch from hardware but not out of the realm of the possible. Also, John’s son was named Adolphes and he too was a tinsmith.

In the 1860 census (New York > Kings > Brooklyn Ward 10 District 3 > 58) he is 38, married to Isabella, a mulatto, working as a barber, worth $3000, and born in Maryland. Maria La Motte, Isabella’s sister, is living with them (she was 15, a mulatto, and born in NY). They also share their dwelling with another family (the father of that family was born in PA and is listed as a mulatto).

In the 1870 census (New York > Kings > Brooklyn Ward 20) he is 50, married to Barbara, white, working as an agent for the Rail Road Co., born in Pennsylvania, his mother was of foreign birth (but not his father). Living with him, and his wife, are Alonzo (16) and Isabella (12). This is the first official document where his name is changed to Dorsay. Every document before this (census, wedding certificate, newspaper articles, city directories, etc) had it as Dorsey.

I can’t find him in the 1850 census

He is listed in the “1842 Street Directory for Harrisburg, PA” by Richard E. Stevens, which states he was a barber at a shop on Strawberry Alley adjoining the Eagle Hotel (which was owned by the Buehler family and located at 21 N. 2nd St.). Felix is not in the 1843 or the 1845 directory. It is interesting to note he was a barber in Brooklyn (1860 census) and according to the article “Black Harrisburg’s Resistance to Slavery,” by M. Houts, almost all of the barbers in Harrisburg were free colored at this time. Another interesting item is that Charles Dickens stayed in the Eagle Hotel in 1842 and mentions it in his “American Notes.”


He is listed in the New York, City Directory, 1862 (New York > Brooklyn > 1862 > Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1862 > 61) on pg 113 as being a clerk and living at 193 Smith, Brooklyn, New York. He is also listed in the 1864 directory (New York > Brooklyn > 1864 > Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1864 > 77) on pg 125 as living at the same address but no profession is given. In the 1870 directory (New York > Brooklyn > 1870 > Brooklyn, New York, City Directory, 1870 > 99) on pg 175 he is stated as living at 112 Carlton Av.

Ref: U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 (Beta). Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

Here is even another twist...the following is a speech honoring an African-American Masonic Lodge in Washington DC...


• Mr. STOKES. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to an esteemed historical institution in the District of Columbia, Felix Lodge No. 3. The Felix Lodge, the second oldest Prince Hall Masonic Lodge in the District, will celebrate its 150th anniversary in 1996.

• The Felix Lodge has traveled a long and distinguished road from its inception, when meetings were held in the loft of a stable just outside Washington. Chartered on April 4, 1846, by the Hiram Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the Felix Lodge was named in honor of Brother Felix Dorsey, who was a deputy grand master of the Hiram Grand Lodge. Brother Dorsey was pivotal in the advent of Masonry for African-Americans in the District of Columbia.

• Through the bravery of men seeking freedom and fraternity, the birth of the Felix Lodge was quite an accomplishment, especially before the Civil War. Several other sites in Washington, including a carpenter's shop and personal residences, became the lodge's surreptitious meeting sites throughout the 19th century and into the 20th. In 1922, the lodge moved to the Masonic Temple on U Street, in Northwest Washington.

• Many prestigious members of the Felix Lodge have served in greater roles of the Masonic hierarchy. George W. Brooks, the first African-American doctor licensed in Washington, became most worshipful grand master in 1878. The Felix Lodge also produced 10 Grand Masters. In addition, the lodge has a proud tradition of trailblazing activities, such as conducting Washington's first black Masonic funeral in 1849, and involvement in civic ceremonies like the opening of Union Station.

• Mr. Speaker, the long and eminent history of Felix Lodge No. 3 deserves our attention and respect. I ask my colleagues to join me in honoring their 150th anniversary and saluting the gentlemen, past and present, of Felix Lodge.

Comments: The Hiram Grand Lodge was located in Philadelphia (it was dissolved in 1847). The name Felix Dorsey is unusual in the free black community and to have two with this name in PA at the same time makes one wonder if they are not the same person. Our Felix would seem to be a bit young for this level of involvement in the Masons in 1845/1846 but I’m not an expert on this to judge one way or another. However, after finding the above I stumbled across the next item...


PAXTON Lodge was first established in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania on February 20, 1843 and entered upon the registry of the Hiram Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons under the title of PAXTON Lodge #5. The Lodge was created around four residents of Harrisburg. They were the Reverend David Stevens, Charles Davis, William B. Smith and Samuel Gray.

During the period of 1843 through 1848 two of PAXTON Lodge's members served the district as Deputy Grand Masters. They were Steven Davis and Felix J. Dorsey. With the approval of the Grand Lodge they used PAXTON Lodge #5 as the Host Lodge to set up other approved subordinate Lodges in Carlisle, Chambersburg, Lancaster, York, Codorus, Mt. Nebo, Conestoga, Bloomsburg, and Lewistown. These Lodges formed the nucleus of the subordinate Lodges of the Hiram Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of Pennsylvania.

On June 24, 1847 a National Grand Lodge was formed by the Prince Hall Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, Boyer Grand Lodge of New York and two Pennsylvania Grand Bodies, namely; the first African Independent Grand Lodge F&AM #1 and the Hiram Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons.

The final union of the Hiram Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons of Pennsylvania and the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons of Pennsylvania occurred on December 26 and 27, 1882 at a convention in Philadelphia. The proceedings show that PAXTON Lodge #16 was represented by William R. Dorsey, Worshipful Master; Patrick Coleman, Senior Warden; and Offord Green, Junior Warden.

Comments redux: Well, it does indeed appear our Felix is the one mentioned earlier and he was up to his ears in the Masons.
Alonzo stories:

1. According to our neighbor in Okoboji, Alonzo liked to celebrate July 4 and to do this he always shot off a small canon to great fanfare. Well, one year he lit the fuse and stepped back only to watch the family dog step in front of the canon. Things didn’t go well for the dog and the incitent was so tramatic that the canon tradition ended that year.

2. Alonzo was a master fisherman and would not think twice about rowing his boat across the lake to fish and then row back when finished. Apparently he was in pretty good shape to do this because the lake is about a mile across.
Birth1835, New York City, New York
Death1 Oct 1863, Kings Co., New York
FatherJohn H. La Motte (1801-<1860)
MotherIsabella Kenlow (-1847)
Marriage17 Jun 1853, New York City, NY
ChildrenAlonzo LaMott (1861-1936)
Birth30 Oct 1820, Harrisburg, Dauphin Co., Pennsylvania
Death20 Nov 1897, Iowa
BurialClarinda Cemetery, Clarinda, Page Co., Iowa
Last Modified 29 May 2012Created 4 Sep 2012 using Reunion for Macintosh