|Volume LVII||May 2010||Number 2|
Get Your Masonic Kicks on Route 6
Not quite as famous as Route 66, Route 6, which connects Bishop, Calif., to Provincetown, Mass., is one of the nation's first and longest transcontinental highways.
In 1807, Pennsylvania state officials mandated a road be cut through the Moosic Mountains to enable easier travel to the western parts of the state. The road meandered through 400 miles of wilderness and eventually united all of the county seats in northern Pennsylvania from Erie to Wilkes-Barre. The route became a vital connector between the industry of the west and the railroads in the east, and villages, farming communities and towns cropped up along the roadway.
In 1925, Pennsylvania's Route 6 was incorporated into the national highway system, which follows the Grand Army of the Republic Highway. Fifteen counties encompass the route, and Masons have left their mark in the area with 33 lodges located on or close to Route 6.
Taking a Masonic road trip along Route 6 provides breathtaking sights and a thorough history of the northern part of the state and the fraternity, and how the two are intertwined. Below is a list of sites to see and some of the Masonic lodges found in 12 counties along the route. Pack your bags, because away we go!
Erie County offers a wealth of history including forts, covered bridges and the U.S. Brig Niagara used in the War of 1812. One of the most scenic sunsets on the east coast can be seen at Presque Isle State Park, a peninsula which also provides many recreational opportunities, including fishing, watersports, hiking and picnicking. Other attractions in the area include Lake Erie, the 13th largest lake in the world.
Located along Route 6N in Albion is Western Star Lodge No. 304, constituted in 1857. Despite its small membership, the lodge is very active in the local community. Members support the local Boy Scouts, are known for their food stand at the Albion Fair, sponsor a local fishing derby for kids and hold an annual blood drive.Crawford County
Route 6N becomes Route 6 in Crawford County, continuing east while also heading south. The 8,777-acre Erie National Wildlife Refuge is located in the county along with Conneaut Lake, the state's largest natural lake, and Pymatuning State Park, the largest state park in the Commonwealth.
Close to Route 6 in this area is Covenant Lodge No. 473 in Cambridge Springs, constituted in 1870. Membership of the lodge increased slowly in the first years, but as the town prospered, so did the lodge. In 1889, members erected a twostory Masonic Hall in the heart of the business district, but it was destroyed by fire in 1897. They quickly rebuilt it by 1898 and continue to meet in the second floor lodge room today. The first floor is rented out to a drug store. The front of the building was covered with painted metal in the 1970s as part of a modernization trend. Members are planning to start a fund drive to raise money and restore the front façade to its original condition.Warren County
Attractions in Warren County include the Kinzua Dam along the Allegheny River; the Allegheny National Forest and Reservoir (also located in McKean County), which can be seen from the Rimrock Overlook; the Warren National Historic District; Wild Woods Animal Park; and the Simple Times Museum.
Railroads built during the late 1800s opened rural areas such as Warren County to more commerce. Civil War veterans and others working for the railroad and in factories had time to establish themselves and become involved in community activities.
Constituted in 1876 in Sugar Grove, Stillwater Lodge No. 547 relocated to Youngsville. Members moved into a new lodge building in 2006, and are actively involved with the local middle and elementary schools and the town's revitalization efforts.McKean County
Visitors to McKean County will want to see the National Longhouse Scenic Byways and Eldred World War II Museum. The town of Bradford features the Penn Brad Oil Museum, site of the world's first billion dollar oil field; the Zippo/Case Visitors Center honoring the invention of the Zippo lighter; and the Bradford National Historic District. Also worth a look are the Smethport Mansion District and the Old Jail Museum.
After its constitution as a lodge in 1867, McKean Lodge No. 388 laid the cornerstone for its meeting place in 1922. The building was described in the local "McKean Democrat" as a beautiful new temple, "probably one of the finest edifices of its kind, devoted solely to Masonic purposes, to be found in any town the size of Smethport in the entire country."Potter County
From the late 1800s to the early 1900s, the economic lifeblood of county inhabitants was lumbering and clearing land. As more families arrived, churches and schools were built and communities were formed. Sightseers will want to visit the Pennsylvania Lumber Museum; historical downtown Coudersport; and Cherry Springs State Park, featuring the first dark sky preserve in the state. Ski enthusiasts can attempt the steepest slope in the east, the Avalanche, at Denton Hill State Park.
Masons were some of the earliest settlers of Potter County. Since travel between towns was very difficult due to the dense forests, the brethren in the area who belonged to La Belle Vallee Lodge No. 232, Jersey Shore, established their own lodge in 1861: Eulalia Lodge No. 342. Members meet at the Coudersport Consistory, a former mansion which was transferred to the Lodge of Perfection in 1912 and includes a 50- foot stage, a 1,132-seat auditorium, a pipe organ, a 700-seat dining room, a lounge and a Victorian porch complete with rocking chairs.Tioga County
In 1813, Bro. Hon. John Bannister Gibson, R.W.G.M. (1824) and Chief Justice of Pennsylvania, presided at the county's first term of court. The land was rich in semi-bituminous coal and forests, and the surrounding railroads led to a booming population. Nature lovers will enjoy the county's 150,000-acre Tioga State Forest, 300 miles of streams, 150 miles of trails and the 20,000-year-old Pennsylvania Grand Canyon, which runs for 50 miles. Tioga-Hammond and Cowanesque Lakes, two of the largest lakes in the country, provide recreational and educational opportunities. For a glimpse into the past, visitors will want to stop by historical Wellsboro.
Since 1858, Wellsboro has been home to Ossea Lodge No. 317, with well-known members including Bro. George William Alexis Stone, Governor of Pennsylvania (1899-1903); Bro. Henry W. Williams, Supreme Court Justice and Grand Master for just 29 days, due to his death; and Bro. George Linton, Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army during World War II. In 1976, the home of Ossea Lodge since 1919 was destroyed in a fire. The Lodge Warrant was salvaged and restored as closely as possible to its original condition. In 1978, the cornerstone was laid for the new temple. Lodge members celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2008.Bradford County
Founded in 1810, the county was originally called Ontario, but the name was changed in honor of U.S. Attorney General and Bro. William Bradford, a member of President and Bro. George Washington's cabinet and Lodge No. 2, Philadelphia. The Wyalusing Rocks Lookout provides a beautiful view of the entire valley. The Farm Museum in Troy highlights the area's rich agricultural past, while the Wyalusing Valley Museum includes Indian artifacts, old schoolroom settings and folk art.
Union Lodge No. 108 in Towanda was constituted in 1807. Some of the lodge's earlier meetings were held at the home of Bro. William Myer, which still stands today as an historical landmark between Wysox and Myersburg. The present lodge building, part of which has always generated rental income, was purchased in 1856. Trojan Lodge No. 306, constituted in 1857, has flourished in Troy, despite the town's first newspaper bearing the name "Anti-Masonic Democrat."Wyoming County
Travelers through Wyoming County will want to stop at Stevens Lake, a 62-acre pond, which was once home to the first county Ice Carnival and now serves as a favorite fishing hole. Also worth seeing are the county courthouse and Keystone College, the first higher educational institution in northeastern Pennsylvania, founded in 1868.
Factoryville Lodge No. 341 was constituted in 1860 and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year on Aug. 7.Susquehanna County
Lifestyles of the region's pioneers come to life at Old Mill Village Museum in New Milford. The Susquehanna County Historical Society in Montrose holds a wealth of history and artifacts, which include remnants of the Underground Railroad. Railroad enthusiasts will enjoy the Starrucca Viaduct, a National Civil Engineering Landmark constructed in 1847 in Lanesboro. Salt Springs Park offers a gorge with three magnificent waterfalls surrounded by 842 acres of forests.
Freedom Lodge No. 328 in Thompson was constituted in 1859, and lodge members celebrated their 150th anniversary in 2009. The lodge has 90 members today, many of whom are military veterans. Considering the population of the Borough of Thompson is only 308, Freemasonry has had quite an impact in this area.
Also located in Susquehanna County, but not along Route 6, is Bluestone Lodge No. 338 in Hallstead. The lodge was constituted in 1860 after Great Bend Lodge No. 338 received New Milford Lodge No. 507. To celebrate their 150th anniversary, lodge members gathered for a special meeting on May 1, 2010.Lackawanna County
Lackawanna County, a 17th and 18th century railroad hub, is home to the Steamtown National Historic site, featuring a working rail yard and roundhouse. The Lackawanna Coal Mine tour in Scranton takes visitors 300 feet underground to an actual mine, and is located next to the Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum. The Electric City Trolley Station and Museum remembers America's electric trolley system, which had its beginning in Scranton.
The county is home to eight Masonic lodges located within four miles of Route 6. Union Lodge No. 291 (constituted in 1854), Peter Williamson Lodge No. 323 (1858), Hyde Park Lodge No. 339 (1860), Schiller Lodge No. 345 (1864), and Green Ridge Lodge No. 597 (1892) all meet in one temple. The building, opened in 1930 and listed on the National Registry of Historical Sites, is also home to the Scranton Cultural Center. According to the center's Web site, "Over time, the Masonic fraternity realized the need to utilize the facility in more non-traditional ways. A grass roots effort was launched to form a not-for-profit organization dedicated to both preserving the physical structure of the temple and providing an ongoing programming source for the community. This unique partnership ... has proven successful and beneficial to all parties."
Located in Lackawanna County, but not along Route 6, is Moosic Lodge No. 664. To celebrate their 100th anniversary in 2010, lodge members held a special meeting on May 15.Wayne County
Wayne County is home to the Stourbridge Line, America's first steam locomotive, and visitors can ride a replica of the train from Honesdale to Hawley. The village of Hawley features evidence of the county's prosperous past and industrial legacy, including an 1850s gravity railroad passenger car. The Dorflinger-Suydam Wildlife Sanctuary includes the largest existing public display of Dorflinger glass in the world and 600 acres of preserved woodlands and trails.
Located along Route 6, Waymart Lodge No. 542 was constituted in 1876, during the United States centennial. Members lost two lodge rooms to fires, one in 1879 and one in 1890, but by 1891 were meeting in the lodge's current location. Its largest community service project to date was raising $19,181 for the Waymart Volunteer Fire Company to purchase a new Jaws of Life, which members concluded in 2001 with the help of community organizations and businesses.Pike County
Located in the heart of the Pocono Mountains, Pike County features the 70,000- acre Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area; Pennsylvania Governor Gifford Pinchot's 100-acre estate, Grey Towers; and The Columns Museum, which houses an American flag used to cushion President Abraham Lincoln's head after he was shot.
Milford Lodge No. 344 was constituted in 1862. It had its beginnings in Milford Lodge No. 82, which was created in 1800 and has been called "the parent lodge in Northeastern Pennsylvania." Lodge No. 82 was a casualty of the Morgan Affair. William Morgan was a resident of New York, who disappeared after stating his intention to write a book exposing Freemasonry's "secrets," and ignited a powerful anti-Freemason movement in the United States in the early 19th century. Famous Masons with ties to the area include Bro. Joseph Brant, an Englishman who fought in the American Revolutionary War, and Bro. George Childs, a Pennsylvania publisher and philanthropist and the namesake for the George W. Childs Recreation Site.
For those looking for the full Pennsylvania Route 6 experience, visit http://paroute6.com.
Scranton Masonic Temple, Scranton
Eulalia Lodge 342, Coudersport
Union Lodge No. 108, Towanda
McKean Lodge No. 388, Smethport
Stillwater Lodge No. 547, Youngsville
Ossea Lodge No. 317, Wellsboro
Covenant Lodge Hall, Cambridge Springs
Waymart Lodge No. 542, Hawley
Western Star Lodge No. 304, Albion
Other Masonic Lodges Along Route 6 & Constitution Dates
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