|Volume LVIII||August 2011||Number 3|
Masonic Influence in Central Pennsylvania
In architecture, a keystone is the final piece placed during construction. The wedge-shaped piece positioned at the apex of a masonry arch locks all the stones into position, allowing the arch to bear weight. Just as the keystone is vital to the structure of a building, central Pennsylvania has been critical to the growth of the nation, as well as Pennsylvania Freemasonry.
One of the key battles of the Civil War - the Battle of Gettysburg - took place in the central portion of the state. Coal found in the region ignited America's Industrial Revolution. The area is home to the state capital, as well as more than 65 Masonic lodges across 10 counties.
Adams County was created in 1800 and is named for John Adams, the second president of the United States. The largest producer of apples in Pennsylvania, the county earned the nickname "Apple Capital, USA." James Gettys, the son of early settler Samuel Gettys, laid out the town of Gettysburg. This quiet town changed forever when the Confederate and Union Armies marched into Adams County. The first day of the Battle of Gettysburg was July 1, 1863.
Good Samaritan Lodge No. 336, Gettysburg, was constituted Feb. 23, 1860, and is a successor to Good Samaritan Lodge No. 200 (constituted Jan. 1, 1825), which officially vacated Feb. 6, 1837, after surrendering its warrant Dec. 4, 1832, for lack of attendance during the anti-Masonic era.
Members of Good Samaritan Lodge were involved in the Friend to Friend National Memorial Monument at the Gettysburg National Cemetery. The monument, heralding "Brotherhood Undivided," depicts a mortally wounded Confederate Gen. and Bro. Lewis A. Armistead entrusting his Masonic watch to Union Capt. and Bro. Henry Bingham with regrets and a final gesture of brotherhood. For his years of work on the monument, Bro. John Schwartz, P.M., received citations from the House of Representatives and the Senate "on behalf of the citizens of Gettysburg, Harrisburg, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania."
The lodge's 312 members currently meet in a building constructed by one its members in 1898. Their community involvement includes a very successful Masonic CHIP event they host every year in Fairfield and scholarships awarded to local children. They also help the local Job's Daughters Bethel and sponsor a softball team along with Hebron Lodge No. 465.Berks County
Berks County was created in 1752 and is named for Berkshire, England. An area of both light and heavy industry, the completion of a canal system in 1828 and the extension of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad in 1838 further enhanced the county's influence. Reading, the county seat, is named for Berkshire's county town, the birthplace of William Penn.
Chandler Lodge No. 227, West Reading, was constituted May 4, 1848. It is named for R.W.P.G.M. Joseph Ripley Chandler (1841-1842). The lodge formerly did its work in German for the benefit of its many German-speaking brothers. After 1848, so many Germans arrived, it became necessary to form a German-speaking lodge. Chandler Lodge recommended the granting of a Warrant to the new Teutonia Lodge No. 367 in 1866. Chandler Lodge's membership of around 367 brethren meets in the Masonic Center in West Reading.
Other lodges which meet at the center include: Lodge No. 62, constituted April 9, 1794; St. John's Lodge No. 435, constituted March 1, 1869; Reading Lodge No. 549, constituted Dec. 28, 1876; Teutonia Lodge No. 637, constituted June 5, 1905; and Isaac Hiester Lodge No. 660, constituted Oct. 17, 1908.
Chandler Lodge participates in the annual Reading Hospital garden party and Reading Fair, selling kabobs and introducing people to Masonic District 7. At the fair, they give food to military service members free of charge. Members are currently working on building a portable mini golf course for the Children's Home of Reading.
Beginning in 2011, during their stated meeting, Bro. Richard Parshley, W.M., provides time for everyone meets and greets one another while the Junior Warden hands out 50/50 tickets. At the end of the meeting, a number is pulled and the winner chooses a charity which will receive a $100 donation. Chosen charities have included the American Red Cross, U.S.O. and Salvation Army.
"It's a charitable thing we're trying to do while getting our name out there," Lodge Secretary Bro. John Tumolo, P.M., said. "Out of all things I've done in my life - the [Masonic] fraternity is the one thing that means the most. Once you start to get involved, it sweeps you up and you look for things to volunteer for. It's a feeling I get from nothing else."Cumberland County
Cumberland County, created in 1750, is named for a maritime county in England. "Cumberland" comes from the Keltic, "Kimbriland," after tribes who once inhabited the area. Fertile soil and a good water supply led to farming and early industrial power. Mechanicsburg was incorporated as a borough in 1828 and is named for the many mechanics who lived there and worked in foundry and machine shops.
Eureka Lodge No. 302, Mechanicsburg, was constituted Sept. 23, 1856. With around 600 members and at 155 years old, the lodge has had very few repeat Worshipful Masters. They support and encourage other Masonic groups to meet in their building, including Job's Daughters and the Daughters of the Nile.
In past years, on Jubilee Day, which gathers an estimated crowd of 70,000, the lodge has held a Masonic CHIP event. Members also donate money toward items for the community, such as an AED device, and in support of Masonic Youth Group activities.
"I'm surrounded by men of good character who are out there for the betterment of the community and themselves," Lodge Secretary Bro. William McQuade, P.M., said. "They are good role models for my sons as they grow."
Also in Cumberland County, Shippensburg received its name from Edward Shippen, who founded and laid out the town. It was incorporated as a borough in 1819. Furniture factories, engine and pump works, and other industrial works served as early economic bases.
Cumberland Valley Lodge No. 315, Shippensburg, was constituted Feb. 18, 1858, and is a successor to Silensia Lodge No. 198 (constituted Feb. 17, 1825), which officially vacated Feb. 6, 1837 for lack of attendance during the anti-Masonic era. The lodge is home to Bros. Thomas Jackson, R.W.P.G.S.; Jeffrey W. Coy, R.W.G.T.; and Bro. S. Eugene Herritt, P.M., District Deputy Grand Master for District 3.
The lodge has around 327 members. The membership regularly hosts picnics and a ladies night and sponsors a traveling gavel within the district which appears at a different lodge's stated meeting each month.Dauphin County
Dauphin County, established in 1785, was named in honor of the title of the eldest son of the King of France, who came to the aid of the colonies during the American Revolution. John Harris, Sr., one of the emigrants from England accompanying William Penn, set up trading posts with the Native Americans in the area. He established the first ferry across the Susquehanna River which became so popular, the name of the area changed from its Native American name of Paxtang to Harris' Ferry. His son, John Harris, Jr., later established Harrisburg, which was named the state capital in 1812.
Perseverance Lodge No. 21, Harrisburg, originally constituted Nov. 10, 1779, was reconstituted March 15, 1787, after the independence of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania from the Grand Lodge of England in 1786. At that time, it was not the custom to name a lodge other than with a number, but members felt passionate about designating their beloved organization's lodge. They unanimously chose the name "Perseverance" on June 24, 1803.
With approximately 650 members, the lodge has been a leader in the local community over the last 200 years. In conjunction with the Order of DeMolay, they participate in a peanut brittle fund raiser, community food drive and clothing drive for the Ronald McDonald House. Several individual members serve as DeMolay chapter advisors.
"The more we do with youth, the less chance we'll hear about them on the evening news," Lodge Secretary Bro. Douglas Harms, P.M., said. "It's our chance to help mold future leaders. We take strong pride in helping all youth groups - financially and physically."Franklin County
Named for Bro. Benjamin Franklin, Franklin County was created in 1784. The county was primarily an agricultural area, although the economy also relies on manufacturing of industrial machinery and textiles. Throughout the Civil War, the surrounding Cumberland Valley was the scene of three major Confederate cavalry raids, the Gettysburg Campaign in 1863, and 19 separate military engagements. Joseph and Benjamin Chambers officially founded Chambersburg in 1764. The town was a strategic supply and hospital center for the Union Army. Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and A. P. Hill met in the center of town and decided to proceed to Gettysburg.
The first lodge in Chambersburg, Lodge No. 79 (constituted April 3, 1800), was vacated April 4, 1814. George Washington Lodge No. 143, Chambersburg, was constituted April 23, 1816. Members meet in the Chambersburg Masonic Temple, which carries two historical distinctions: it is the only building left standing after the burning of Chambersburg during the Civil War, and it is the oldest Masonic building in the state of Pennsylvania still used for Masonic purposes only. The building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
In 1864, Confederate Gen. Jubal Early marched into Chambersburg and demanded $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in U.S. currency or he would burn the town. The ransom was not paid, and he burned the town, resulting in an estimated $1.7 million in damage. The buildings in the half block where the Masonic Temple stands were unharmed. According to fairly-well authenticated legend, a Confederate officer of high rank recognized the character of the Masonic Temple. He posted guards nearby who prevented any damage to the Temple and such nearby buildings.
The lodge and its 652 members were recently involved in a 21-day Flag Retreat in which a different organization raises and retreats a flag every day until the Fourth of July, when the community gathers for fireworks. The brethren also support two Boy Scout troops, offering use of their building for meetings and to host a monthly pancake breakfast.
"It's a good way to get involved in the community, and a good solid activity for children," Lodge Secretary Bro. John Cook, P.M., said. "We spend a lot of time developing the youth in Boy Scouts and DeMolay, giving them positive role models.
"A lot of founding fathers of the community have belonged here. We have a long, proud history and tradition of being active in the community and of solid Masonry. We're coming up on our 200th anniversary, which is a major achievement. When you get involved in something good, and it's perceived as good, more people want to get involved."Lancaster County
Lancaster County was created in 1729 and is named for the Shire of Lancaster (Lancashire), England. In addition to being one of the most fertile regions in the country, Lancaster is also home to the Philadelphia and Lancaster Turnpike, the first macadamized road in the country, built in 1792-1794. Also known as U.S. Route 30, it stretches from coast to coast.
Governor and Bro. James Hamilton, who served as Grand Master in 1735, laid out Lancaster (city), and it was incorporated in 1818. Lancaster briefly served as the capital of the United States, when Congress stopped there in September 1777 for one session before moving onto York.
Lodge No. 43, Lancaster, was constituted Sept. 14, 1785. Previously, Lodge No. 9 was located in Lancaster, but surrendered its Warrant in 1779, presumably because of Patriot members serving in the Revolutionary War. The Warrant was re-granted to a number of brethren in Philadelphia on July 27, 1780, to form Lodge No. 9 in its current location. In 2003, Andrew H. Hershey Lodge No. 764 merged with Lodge No. 43.
Distinguished members include President and Bro. James Buchanan (raised in 1817, Worshipful Master 1822-1823, the state's first District Deputy Grand Master and U.S. president 1857-1861) and Bro. John Bannister Gibson, who served as R.W. Grand Master (1824) and Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (1838-1851). The success of the Anti-Masonic Party from 1828 to 1843 resulted in the closing of all lodges in Lancaster County except Lodge No. 43 and Lodge No. 156, Quarryville - a fact the lodge is still very proud of, according to Lodge Secretary Bro. George Sheldon.
"The lodge's history ... it's just really neat. You don't think of it when you join, but the fact that I'm a member of a lodge that the only president from Pennsylvania was a member of, it's really cool," he said. "It's crazy to think 226 years ago, a group of guys got together and formed this lodge. Today, we're working to guarantee the lodge will continue to be here."
The lodge, with a membership of 675, actively supports the Masonic Charities and Big Brothers Big Sisters. They participate in the organization's Bowl for Kids' Sake and donate money. Members also help maintain local parks and sponsor highway clean up.
Lamberton Lodge No. 476, Lancaster, constituted June 23, 1870, was named for Bro. Robert Alexander Lamberton, who served as R.W. Grand Master (1870-1871).
The lodge, and its 371 members, focuses on maintaining a positive, fun atmosphere. At 28 years old, the lodge's Worshipful Master is one of the youngest in the state.
"About 10 years ago, the lodge started encouraging fathers to bring in sons and making sure young members were serving in chairs," Bro. John-Paul W. Meyer, W.M., said. "I was brought in by a friend just out of college. We have a great core group of officers, and all the members are willing to help out when you need it. We encourage a general atmosphere of belonging, of good character men who help in the community and their fellow brethren as well."
Lodge members are coordinating a golf outing to support the Children's Dyslexia Center in Lancaster. They recently participated in a blood drive and are hosting an open house this summer.
"We want to make ourselves more visible and show we're a charitable organization with good people who have a good time," Bro. Meyer said. "We're all working together to lead the lodge in a good direction."York County
York County was formed in 1749 and is named either for the Duke of York, an early patron of the Penn family, or for the city and shire of York in England. The state's first Civil War battle was fought in the county in 1863. Mostly agricultural in the nineteenth century, after World War II, the county concentrated on increasing industrialization.
The city of York was incorporated as a borough in 1887. The Continental Congress met in York from September 1777 to June 1778, during which time they drafted the Articles of the Confederation. The required two-thirds of the colonies ratified the Articles in 1781, establishing the United States of America two years before it won independence from England.
Zeredatha Lodge No. 451, York, was constituted Dec. 7, 1869. With more than 500 members, the lodge is able to actively contribute to its community. They host two chicken barbecues and yard sales a year, with proceeds going to the Children's Home of York. They also donate chicken dinners to on-duty firefighters, police departments and other local care homes, and coordinate a free breakfast for members of the Masonic Center of York (home to Zeredatha Lodge, White Rose Lodge No. 706, York Lodge No. 226, Job's Daughters Bethel #1 and an Order of Eastern Star chapter), family and friends. In 2011, members became active in Habitat for Humanity and held a fishing derby to raise money for local underprivileged children.
"Whenever we have an event ... the members will always rally in support. We never have to worry about coverage or that we won't have enough of members to help!" Bro. Scott Fair, P.M., said.
The lodge also formed the Mortar Committee, which consists of all the Masonic groups that meet at the Masonic Center of York. "We started this committee to get everyone involved, to do good will in our local community, and while doing this, to spark an interest in the Masonic fraternity," Bro. Fair said.
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