The oldest fraternal organization for men, the Free Masons, is 150 years young here in Hinesville. The Hinesville Masonic Lodge No. 271 celebrated its 150th anniversary Aug. 18.
“My brothers kid me as the Grand Lodge of England, from whom we descend, is 301 years old,” said Charles Rogers, Worshipful Master for Lodge No. 271. “At 150 we are half its age and I am 75, half the age of our Hinesville Lodge.”
Lodge members and their spouses attended a formal anniversary dinner last Saturday. Three prominent Masons spoke about the past, present and future of Freemasonry. Clyde E. Griffin, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Georgia F & AM (Free and Accepted Masons), the Reverend Donald Combs, Grand Senior Deacon Grand Lodge of Georgia, and William Shepherd, Grand Third Steward Grand Lodge of Georgia Masonry, offered their perspectives on where the organization has been, where it is today and where it is headed.
The Hinesville Lodge currently has about 125 members, Rogers said, with some living out of state due to military service.
“Our membership remains constant, which is good,” he said. “A positive note is that we are attracting younger men who want to be active in the Lodge.”
The Hinesville Lodge strives to “bring light” to its community, and is active in charitable efforts. Lodge No. 271 supports the Georgia Masonic Home for Children in Macon, a nonsectarian home, according to Rogers.
“We assist the Red Cross with blood drives,” he said. “We offer parents the opportunity through our Child Identification Program (GACHIP) to receive a disc with a picture of the child’s pertinent information and a DNA swab to be used if the child becomes missing. We send two Boy Scouts to camp each summer. We support DeMolay, Order of Rainbow, and Job’s Daughters which are Masonic sponsored youth organizations. Many of our brothers are also Shriners, and so we support the Shriner’s Hospitals for Children. We have provided assistance to Manna House. Lastly, we provide relief to brothers who may be in need. It is reported that U.S. masons give $2,000 daily though our various charitable endeavors.”
Rogers explained that the Masons also have masonic-related organizations for women and youth. “Button Gwinnett Chapter No. 497 Order of the Eastern Star is an appendant body of Freemasonry for female relatives of Masons,” Rogers said. “They meet in our lodge building and many of our brothers and their wives and daughters belong.” Rogers said he is also a member, as Masons can be members of the Order.
Rogers told his brothers and their spouses he never thought he would “be afforded an honor like this,” when he was appointed Worshipful Master last year. “I really, really love it,” he said.
The 75-year old began his journey as a free mason during his teen years.
“I was born and raised in Kearny, N.J.,” he said. “I joined the Order of DeMolay when I was 14, which was a great experience for me. This was in 1957; Freemasonry was at its height. My father, uncles, cousins and brother-in-law were all Masons. As far back as I can remember, I wanted to be a Mason, and did so in 1966. So I have been a member for 52 years. I never expected to be the Worshipful Master of this Lodge.”
Free masonry is thought to have started in the Middle Ages, with the stonemasons’ guilds, according to msana.com, the Masonic Service Association of North America website. The first lodges were formed in England in the mid-1700s. Freemasonry soon spread to the American colonies. Numerous founding fathers were Masons, including Georgia Washington, Benjamin Franklin and Paul Revere.
In Savannah, the first masonic lodge in Georgia was formed in 1734. It was called Solomon’s Lodge, according to the Grand Lodge of Georgia website. General James Edward Oglethorpe, who helped establish the colony of Georgia, was a Free Mason and was instrumental in organizing a lodge in Savannah, according to glofga.org.
According to Rogers and other Hinesville Masons, Oglethorpe held the first Masonic meeting in Georgia under the branches of an old oak tree at Sunbury, in Liberty County.
“He also laid out Savannah using cubits because it Masonic,” Rogers said. “Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, in Savannah is the oldest Masonic Lodge in continuous operation in the U.S. They have a Bible given to them by General Oglethorpe.”
For more information on Hinesville Masonic Lodge No. 271, call 912-977-1362 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.