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Masonry in Madison County

John Willoughby: Greene Publishing, Inc.

The world's largest and oldest-running fraternity, Freemasonry is quite a phenomenon veiled in allegories, symbolism and brotherly love, so old that no one knows for certain how or when the fraternity was formed. Over multiple centuries, freemasonry has grown into a brotherhood comprised of four million men striving to be better and help others do the same.

Freemasonry was once restricted to actual stonemasons but as the building industry in the 17th century declined, non-stonemasons were accepted as members, keeping the fraternity alive and true to what it is today. Freemasonry has become so well-known worldwide because of the need for a belief in a God among members. The belief in a deity is not limited to one denomination, however, allowing any and all people of different religions to be accepted.

Many politicians, actors and other notable figures of the public were masons, including John Wayne, Mark Twain, Colonel Harland Sanders and fourteen United States Presidents including George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Andrew Jackson and Harry Truman.

Of the seven masonic lodges that once stood in Madison County, only two lodges remain: Madison Lodge No. 11 and Greenville Lodge No. 28. In 1976, the late Edwin Bailey “Booze” Browning Sr. wrote a small history book entitled “History of Freemasonry,” outlining the history of masonic lodges and their members in Madison County.

Madison Lodge No. 11 was chartered on Jan. 16, 1845 and is considered one of five lodges in the state of Florida which has been open since before Florida received statehood. Located at the corner of Range Ave. and Rutledge St., in Madison, the lodge is currently comprised of 161 members. The lodge is governed by Worshipful Master (President of the lodge) Coleman Raines Jr., with Jim Stanley serving his 38th consecutive year as secretary.

Once a member of Madison Lodge No. 11, the late Angus Paterson, a native of Scotland, served as the Grand Master of Masons of Florida from 1891 to 1892. Paterson was rejected 21 times before becoming a member of Madison Lodge No. 11 at the age of 42. Notably, Paterson had a foot deformity hence why Paterson was “black-balled” and denied entry so many times. Nothing was wrong with his character, however, masons originally could not accept a man with a major deformity.

Before taking a spot as the Most Worshipful Grand Master, Paterson served as Worshipful Master of Madison Lodge No. 11 from 1884 until 1888. He also served as Worshipful Master in 1905 before his death in August of that year. Paterson was the first Madison lawyer to appear before the United States Supreme Court and served as the Mayor of Madison at one time.

Peyton Smith, who was the first Worshipful Master of Madison Lodge No. 11, also served in the Grand Line as the Grand Chaplain of Masons of Florida from 1845 to 1847.

13 years after the charter for Madison Lodge No. 11 was filed, Mosley Hall Lodge No. 43 began operating under the laws of the Grand Lodge of Masons of Florida on Jan. 12, 1858. Its life as a function lodge was short lived when it closed in 1863, possible due to the early shock of the Civil War, according to Browning's recollection. Members of Mosley Hall Lodge No. 43 met on the first and third Saturday of each month and the lodge reported $65 worth of dues to the Grand Lodge each year.

After one year of being defunct, the lodge reopened on Jan. 1, 1864 as Stephens Lodge No. 43 with approximately 48 members by the time the lodge closed in 1880. Angus Paterson was also a member of Stephens Lodge No. 43, where he served as the lodge's treasurer, according to records.

Before the reopening, however, Shiloh Lodge No. 50, located in the community of Hamburg, was chartered on Jan. 16, 1861. The lodge was located near the present Shiloh Methodist Church, according to Browning's records. Shiloh Lodge No. 50 was comprised of approximately 38 members and met on the second Wednesday of each month. The destiny of this lodge is currently unknown and the Grand Lodge reports that the last returns from Shiloh Lodge No. 50 were received in 1883.

Hayward Lodge No. 45 was chartered in Ellaville on Feb. 17, 1871. Unfortunately, there was not much recorded by Browning about Hayward Lodge No. 45. However, it is known that past Florida Governor George F. Drew, who owned a mansion and saw mill in Ellaville, was a member of Hayward Lodge No. 45. Drew served as treasurer of the lodge from 1877 to 1881, the same years he served as Governor.

Near the turn of the 20th century, Pinetta Lodge No. 184 was chartered on Jan. 21, 1909 and members, who were comprised on many lodges in the County and from Georgia, filed into the lodge for meetings for 27 years until its closure on March 3, 1936, which was during the Great Depression. According to Browning's recording, the lodge was located on the second floor of the J.T. Woodward building, built by W.H. Terry. The building was acquired by R.M. Allen and S.T. Corbett when Terry moved south. It later became the headquarters of the Pinetta Supply Company for a number of years. Uniquely enough, the masonic furnishings within the lodge room were stored in an adjoining room during the daytime as Dr. J.P. Kinsey utilized the room for his professional office.

Lastly, Greenville Lodge No. 28, which is still in operation today, was chartered on Jan. 22, 1903. It was common practice to have lodges close to home. The building it occupies to this day has served the Greenville community for decades. It has been used for an elementary school, city hall, chapter room for the Order of the Eastern Star (a masonic appendant body for women: wives, sisters, daughters, etc. of masons) and for the woodsmen of the World Camp, according to Browning's recollection. A local cub scout chapter utilizes the bottom portion of the lodge today.

Today, Greenville Lodge holds their meetings on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Governing the lodge and its 48 members is Right Worshipful Roy Hibbs. John Sirmon is the lodge's secretary. The first worshipful master of Greenville Lodge No. 28 was Council Bush, who served from 1903 to 1907, and was the President of the Bank of Greenville for multiple years. Other notable community leaders who were members of Greenville Lodge No. 28 include Charles Leggett, a Florida senator, and James T. Phillips, a Greenville postmaster.

It would be impolite not to mention A.D. Reams, who served as Worshipful Master over Greenville Lodge No. 28 approximately 14 years (1923, 1924, 1928 to 1932 and 1936 to 1942). Reams, a public figure in Greenville, was the driving force that kept Greenville Lodge No. 28 open in the face of closure. In Browning's recollection, many lodges lost their charter during the Great Depression and Greenville's lodge was facing adversity until Reams stated “If they get our charter, they'll have to come and take it.” The lodge never closed even once. Reams also served as the District Deputy Grand Master from 1946 to 1947, representing the district his lodge was in at the time.

Reams, born in 1895, was a veteran of World War I  and owned Reams Department store in Greenville. He served as President of the Bank of Greenville from 1945 until his death on Feb. 28, 1961.

The masonic lodge may freely accept good men who meet certain requirements after asking to join. No mason can ask a non-mason to join, hence the term “free and accepted mason.” Additionally, Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is its purpose to substitute or take a man away from his religious beliefs. However, it is a requirement that a man have a belief in a deity, be it what it may be.

Though membership into the masonic lodge is strictly for men, there are appendant organizations for women and youth, allowing masons to participate. The Order of the Eastern Star, a masonic fraternity for men and women, was formed in 1885 and is based on teachings from the bible, however, it is open to people of all religious beliefs as well. To become a member, candidates must be 18 years or older, men must be masons and women must have specific relations to a mason. Madison Lodge No. 11 was host to the Madison Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star until its closure in 2014.

One of the most well-known appendant masonic body is Shriners International. With nearly 200 Shrine clubs across North America, South America, Europe, and Southeast Asia, Shriners International is a fraternal bond, specifically for masons, for the purpose of supporting the 22 Shriners Hospitals for Children. The Marzuq Shrine Temple, located in Tallahassee, is one of the chapters that specifically support the Shriners Hospital for Children, in Tampa, and a transportation fund to transport children who are in need of medical attention, at no cost. The Marzuq Shriners, who have a club in Madison, participate in fundraisers throughout the year, such as: gun raffles, auctions, steak dinners, 50/50 drawings, 5k races and much more.

Other appendant bodies for masons include the Scottish Rite and the York Rite, among many others. Additionally appendant bodies for women include Jobs Daughters and and Daughters of the Nile. There are also masonic youth organizations: DeMolay International for boys and young men ages 12 to 21, and the Rainbow Girls organization for girls and young women ages 11 to 20.

Madison Lodge No. 11 F.& A.M., located at 301 S Range St., in Madison, meets on the second and fourth Monday of each month, at 7:30 p.m. Greenville Lodge No. 28 F.& A.M., located at 163 SW Church Ave., in Greenville, meets on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month, at 7:30 p.m.

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