Volume LVIIIFebruary 2011Number 1

Opening the Cornerstone of the Keystone State

Bro. and President George Washington once said, "Associate yourself with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation, for 'tis better to be alone than in bad company." Freemasons in Greene, Fayette, Washington and Westmoreland Counties have been heeding this advice for decades, and even centuries. Southwestern Pennsylvania still bears the influence of this great man and others of his time.

Take a step back in time to explore the lodges in this region of Pennsylvania and the significant impact the area has played in our national history.

Greene County

As the southwestern-most county in Pennsylvania, Greene County is known as the cornerstone of the Keystone State. It boasts historic buildings, the Greene River Trail through old coal fields and the Monongahela River to the east, which helped the local economy.

Settlers from Virginia and Maryland first claimed the Greene County area, even while the Warrior Trail, now used for hiking, originally provided a trade route for Native Americans. Named in honor of Gen. Nathaniel Greene, the county was created in 1796, after settling debates for the property between Virginia and Pennsylvania and sectioning land from Washington County.

Waynesburg, the county seat, rests in the center of the county and is home to Waynesburg Lodge No. 153, which was constituted in 1817. Both are named in honor of Bro. and Gen. Anthony Wayne, whose victory over Native Americans at Fallen Timbers (in Ohio) made it possible to settle to the west of the Ohio River.

Waynesburg Lodge takes pride that it has never gone dark. During a period of local anti-Masonic sentiments, its members persevered by meeting on the upper floor of a downtown building where they could pull the ladder up into the ceiling after all of the members had arrived.

Now with 290 members, this lodge donates to the Masonic Villages, its local Toys for Tots affiliate and the Blue Riot motorcycle club, and helps members when needs arise. In past years, the lodge has averaged zero to two new members a year, but in 2010, with the additional interest stirred by the 21st Century Masonic Renaissance, Waynesburg Lodge gained seven new members and has multiple new prospects.

Fayette County

When 22-year-old Bro. and Lt. Col. George Washington led an expedition of colonial militia in a surprise attack on a detachment of French soldiers in what is now Jumonville, Pa., in Fayette County, on May 28, 1754, the skirmish started the French and Indian War.

Approximately six miles northwest of the battle site rests present-day Uniontown, where Fayette Lodge No. 228 was constituted April 10, 1848. The county was named in honor of Bro. the Marquis de Lafayette, in tribute to his bravery and influence during the Revolutionary War.

The 250 members of Fayette Lodge have recently focused their efforts on participating in walks to benefit local organizations and in community blood drives. Like the Founding Fathers, "We try to be better men and help move our country in the right direction," Bro. Will E. Scarlett, Secretary, said.

Laurel Lodge No. 651, Uniontown, was constituted June 20, 1907. That year, Bro. Theodore Roosevelt was President, Bro. Charles W. Fairbanks was Vice President and Bro. Samuel W. Pennypacker was Governor of Pennsylvania. The town shares a birthday with the nation - July 4, 1776.

Brownsville Lodge No. 60, Brownsville

Uniontown sits along the old National Road, present-day U.S. Route 40, running from Cumberland, Md., to Wheeling, W. Va., which provided a means to travel west and increased prosperity, commerce and settlers along it. As a gateway to the rest of America, Fayette County fueled the Industrial Revolution with its coal and coke industry, which drove steel manufacturing. The area maintains a work ethic that takes pride in a hard day's work for fair wages.

Journeying north on U.S. Route 40 leads to Brownsville, and over Dunlap Creek Bridge, the oldest cast iron bridge in America. A Mason owned the foundry which helped to build the bridge in 1839.

A block and a half away rests Brownsville Lodge No. 60, constituted in 1794. The first Worshipful Master of the lodge was Bro. Chade Chalfant, whose grandfather emigrated to America in 1690 from England and was given a large tract of land by William Penn.

The brothers in this lodge reflect the work ethic of the area. Several years ago, the lodge had fallen on hard times. It met in an old church building which desperately needed repairs, and membership fell to 130 at one point. "We were able to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps," Bro. Eddie T. Stevenson, P.M., Secretary, said. The 150 current members have made improvements to the lodge building and participate in community celebrations and numerous parades.

Pleasant Valley Masonic Center, Connellsville

East of Uniontown, Connellsville was founded in 1806 along the Youghiogheny River and made into the county's first city in 1911. At the time, about 22,000 residents, ample railroads, streetcars and a booming coal and coke industry made the city prosperous. James Cochran Lodge No. 614, constituted April 28, 1897; King Solomon's Lodge No. 346, constituted Dec. 8, 1864; and Marion Lodge No. 562, constituted Dec. 20, 1882, all meet at the new Pleasant Valley Masonic Center in Connellsville.

Marion Lodge has helped the country through many historic events, having given donations to sufferers of the Charleston, S.C., earthquake of 1886, the Johnstown Flood of 1889 and the San Francisco disaster of 1906. Members supported World War I by donating to the Red Cross and Grand Lodge War Relief fund and investing in Liberty Bonds. The brethren of Marion Lodge still serve the community today.

Westmoreland County

In 1773, Westmoreland was the last county created by the proprietary government in Pennsylvania which intended to obtain control of western Pennsylvania so Virginia would not seize the land for itself. Westmoreland is called the "Mother County of Western Pennsylvania" because so many counties were formed from its territory.

Greensburg Masonic Center, Greensburg

Westmoreland Lodge No. 518, constituted Dec. 27, 1872, and Philanthropy Lodge No. 225, constituted Oct. 18, 1847, both meet in the Greensburg Masonic Center. Noteworthy members of Westmoreland Lodge include Bros. John S. Sell and James L. Ernette, who both had the honor of serving as R. W. Grand Master.

East of Greensburg, Ligonier heralds an impressive history. At Fort Ligonier, Gen. John Forbes built a fortification to support 5,000 troops as they seized Fort Duquesne, a French citadel at the fork where the Allegheny and Monogahela Rivers join to form the Ohio River. On Oct. 12, 1758, the French and Native Americans attacked Fort Ligonier, met defeat and retreated to Fort Duquesne, which they burned and abandoned. This occupation on Nov. 25, 1758, reopened the gateway to the west.

Ligonier Lodge No. 331, constituted May 13, 1859, celebrated its 115th anniversary in 2009. The lodge's first Worshipful Master, Bro. George S. Kemble, was a local doctor who later served in the Civil War. He donated his officer's sword to the lodge and the Tyler used it for about 50 years. More than 50 other members of the lodge fought in the Civil War.

With 330 members in 2010, the lodge has become one of the fastest growing in the state. "Freemasonry is a great opportunity for men to come together and put their minds together to make a difference in their communities," Bro. Joshua S. Freeman, then-W.M., said. The lodge's main charities in 2010 included participating in the Adopt a Resident Program and donating to the Masonic Villages.

In northern Westmoreland County, Lower Burrell, chartered Jan. 12, 1959, is home to Bethel Lodge No. 789 and Tyrian Lodge No. 644. Tyrian Lodge predates the city by more than 50 years, with a constitution date of June 22, 1906.

The 46 warrant members of Bethel Lodge, constituted Dec. 17, 1960, met in the social hall of the Bethel United Methodist Church, giving the lodge its name. Two years later, the lodge moved into its current building. The 246 members help with the local CHIP program, host an annual gun raffle through the Masonic Hall Association, organize a bike ride and car cruise and honor their ladies with an appreciation dinner.

Irwin, a community with strong ties to the mining industry, is located southwest of Bushy Run Battlefield. During Pontiac's War, Native Americans revolted against the colonies and controlled the frontier. In August 1763, when Native Americans attacked Col. Henry Bouquet's Army in Bushy Run fields, Bouquet's victory led to the colonists regaining control of the land west of the Allegheny Mountains.

Shidle Lodge No. 601 was constituted in Irwin Nov. 29, 1893, and named after prominent Pittsburgh Mason, Bro. Geter C. Shidle. That year, Bro. Shidle's widow presented the lodge with a Bible which is still in its library. As the largest lodge in the 30th Masonic District with 560 members, Shidle Lodge has not had a repeat Worshipful Master since 1899.

"As the outgoing Worshipful Master, any time I needed help, if I asked, it was given unquestioningly above and beyond my expectations. [Shidle Lodge] is a great band of brothers who give everything they can to each other and the community," Bro. Vince Grudowski, then-W.M., said.

Shidle Lodge strongly supports the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation, particularly the Rainbow Girls. They host an annual spaghetti dinner which raises about $3,000 to support local food banks and Meals on Wheels, a Christmas party and the Rainbow Scramble Golf Tournament.

West Newton, located south of Irwin and incorporated in 1842, was the scene of massacres by Native Americans during Pontiac's War. Blythe Lodge No. 593 was constituted there on June 27, 1892.

The industrial city of Monessen sits on a curve of the Monongahela River in southwest Westmoreland County. Monessen Lodge No. 638, constituted Nov. 23, 1905, boasts 140 active and passionate members. They participate in the Uniontown May Day Parade and the Monessen Veterans Parade. With two spaghetti dinners, the members raised more than $15 per member to donate to the Masonic Villages.

Washington County

Originally part of Virginia, Washington County was formed from Westmoreland County on March 28, 1781, as the first county organized after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The county has borne the name of Bro. and Gen. George Washington since eight years before he was president.

When Bro. and President Washington imposed a tax on whiskey, frontier communities - like the county seat, Washington - saw it as a direct insult to their way of life, resulting in the Whiskey Rebellion from 1791 to 1794. Eventually, Bro. Washington sent 13,000 troops to halt the rebellion. David Bradford, a leader in the rebellion whose house is now a tourist attraction in Washington, fled the town to avoid arrest.

Washington Lodge No. 164, constituted January 21, 1820, co-sponsors an annual summer ride for charity with the Blue Knights motorcycle group. More than 500 riders participated this year's ride, which earned money for Masonic and public charities. The lodge's membership currently totals 346, up from 327 at the end of 2009. "I believe that Pennsylvania is providing leadership and innovative approaches to a modern world in respect to our most ancient and honorable fraternity," Bro. John M. Knisely, Secretary, said.

Also in Washington, Sunset Lodge No. 623 was constituted on Oct. 1, 1901, after the oil boom of the 1880s and 1890s more than doubled the population of Washington, contributing to the healthy growth of Freemasonry in the area.

Beallsville, located 15 miles southeast of Washington, is a borough of fewer than 500 people located on the old National Road. Originally constituted as Chandler Lodge No. 237 in Washington on April 17, 1849, the lodge moved to Beallsville on May 10, 1854, and its name changed the next year to Beallsville Lodge No. 237.

North of Washington, Chartiers Lodge No. 297 was constituted May 15, 1856, in Canonsburg. The lodge shares its name with the valley where it is located. Chartered in 1802, Canonsburg is the oldest incorporated municipality in the county. Standard Chemical Company, established in Canonsburg in 1911, was the pioneer plant in the United States for manufacturing radium. When Madame Curie visited the United States, Bro. and President Warren G. Harding presented her with a gram of radium valued at $120,000 which was manufactured at the Standard Chemical Company.

Claysville Lodge No. 447, Claysville

The National Road allowed for the incorporation of Claysville in 1832, which was named for Senator Henry Clay, who was a driving force in creating the road. For many years, Claysville Lodge No. 447 and Curtis Pharmacy shared a stone building on Main Street. "The members have always felt a keen sense of obligation to maintain this relationship with the pharmacy," Bro. Jim Flanigan, District Deputy Grand Master for the 29th Masonic District, said. In February 1977, the building suffered from a fire, and when the members had it rebuilt, they made sure its design could house the lodge and local drug store together.

Other lodges in this region:
Tri-County Lodge No. 252, Donora
Loyalhanna Lodge No. 275, Latrobe
Henry M. Phillips Lodge No. 337, Monongahela
Richard Vaux Lodge No. 454, Burgettstown
Valley Lodge No. 459, Masontown
Monongahela Valley Lodge No. 461, California
La Monte Lodge No. 568, Derry
Charleroi Lodge No. 615, Charleroi
Kiskiminetas Lodge No. 617, Vandergrift
Jeannette Lodge No. 750, Jeannette
Forbes Trail Lodge No. 783, Export

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