Lodge No. 43 History

This brief summary of Lodge No. 43 was prepared by Brother John W. W. Loose, Editor, Historian, and President Emeritus of the Lancaster County Historical Society. Lodge No. 43 is honored to have Brothers John Loose and Richard Mason as members. Brother Mason spent countless hours tracing through lodge records from the 1700’s. A summarized presentation series is broken into ten years of Lodge No. 43’s history. Each decade was presented to the members, starting at the January 2007 Stated Meeting. Brother Mason is to complete his series in 2011 around our 225th anniversary.

There was Masonic activity in Lancaster County as early as 1734, three years after Bro. James Hamilton laid out the town of Lancaster. The founder of Lancaster was raised in St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in Philadelphia in 1734, and in 1737 he was elected Right Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (Moderns). Hamilton served in the Pennsylvania Assembly from Lancaster County (1734-1739). In those days England had two Grand Lodges, the Moderns and the Ancients. The “Moderns” had their beginning in Pennsylvania in 1727, and the “Ancients” in 1758. During the Revolutionary War, the “Moderns” seemed reluctant to become independent of England, while the “Ancients” not only supported the Revolution enthusiastically, but organized numerous Lodges of patriots. Many American military officers joined military lodges as did Lancaster’s General Edward Hand.

In 1786, one year after Lodge No. 43 was constituted and warranted, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania became independent of the English Grand Lodges. In 1734 the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania ordered Benjamin Franklin to send copies of the “Constitutions” to Bros. John Catherwood and John Reynolds of Lancaster County for their use in establishing local Lodges. Wilton Atkinson of Lancaster was raised (became a Master Mason) in 1766 at Lodge No. 2 in Philadelphia so he could acquire a warrant for a Lodge to be held in Lancaster.

The first Lodge was designated Lodge No. 9, and was warranted and constituted sometime between June 24, 1766 and August 17, 1768. Who those early Masons were, we can only speculate because those records were lost. We do know that they were active patriots because the Lodge was “darkened” during the Revolution. Most of the members serving in the American forces caused Lodge No. 9’s warrant to be surrendered in 1779.

One of the members of Lodge No. 9 in Lancaster was Captain Stephen Chambers, an attorney. After the war, Bro. Chambers moved to Sunbury where he secured a warrant for Lodge No. 22 in that town. After a year in Sunbury, he returned to Lancaster, and in 1785 became a charter member of Lodge No. 43. He was elected its first Worshipful Master, serving in the East from September 14, 1785 to June 24, 1787.

Other charter members of Lodge No. 43 included Major John Doyle, gunsmith and innkeeper, and active member of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church; Solomon Etting, Indian trader and merchant; Henry Dering, burgess, legislator, innkeeper; Lt. Col. Adam Hubley, Jr., legislator; and Lt. William Feltman, innkeeper. Lodge No. 43 met in local public houses (hotels) during the 18th century. In 1798 the Lodge arranged with the Borough of Lancaster to erect a lodge hall over the public market the borough planned to build along West King Street adjacent to Market Square. While construction was taking place, the Pennsylvania state government moved to Lancaster, and took over the new county office building (“Old City Hall”), the County Courthouse in the center of Penn Square, and leased space in the intended Lodge Hall, During the 1790s the Lodge membership grew rapidly. They were able to occupy the new Lodge Hall in 1808, and meetings were held in that structure until 1973. Lodge No. 43 moved to greatly expanded facilities in the Masonic Center of Lancaster County, 213 West Chestnut Street. The original Lodge building was expanded during the 19th century by acquiring adjacent buildings. The original Lodge now houses the Heritage Center Museum. The state government remained in Lancaster from 1799 to 1812 during which time some of the most influential political leaders were raised or attended Lodge No. 43, among whom were John Bannister Gibson, later to become R.W. Grand Master (1824) and Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court (1838-1851).

Other distinguished lawyers raised in Lodge No. 43 were James Buchanan (raised in 1817; Worshipful Master 1822-1823; U.S. President 1857-1861), George B. Porter; Molton C. Rogers (Justice, Pennsylvania Supreme Court); Charles Smith (President Judge, 9th Judicial District); Jasper Slaymaker; and Ebenezer Wright. From 1828 to 1843 the Anti-Mason Party flourished.

The Democratic Party did not have any significant opposition at this time, so those opposed to Bro. Andrew Jackson’s administration formed a political party to oppose secret societies among other matters. The success of this anti-Democratic movement caused all lodges in Lancaster County except Lodge No. 43 and Lodge No. 156 (Quarryville) to close. Leaders of the Anti-Masonic Party condemned Masons because so many of them held high positions. As soon as the new Whig Party gained enough support to win elections, the Anti-Masonic Party gradually disappeared.

Freemasonry developed rapidly in the decade prior to Civil War, and Lodge No. 43 raised many fine gentlemen. During the Civil War many soldiers saw how Masons on both sides cared for each other, and exemplified universal brotherhood at its best. Veterans increased the ranks on Masonry to a high degree. Petitioners included Lancaster’s leading professional and business men, and political leaders. Lodge No. 43 raised 192 members during the war. Freemasonry, always supportive of public education, attracted most school administrators. Dr. James Pyle Wickersham, a leading educator, began the tradition of Millersville State Normal School presidents becoming members of Lodge No. 43. By 1870 the Lodge had grown so large that Lamberton Lodge No. 476 was “spun off.”

World War I saw a resurgence of petitions that continued during the 1920s. Fewer petitions were received during the “Depression.” Following World War II the number of petitions again increased, and a third city Lodge, Andrew H. Hershey Lodge No. 764, was constituted.

In 2003, Lodge No. 43 assimilated the members of Andrew H. Hershey Lodge No. 764, leaving two lodges in the city working under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. The Honorable James Buchanan was Worshipful Master of Lodge No. 43 in 1822-1823 during which time he served Lancaster County in the U.S. Congress. Travel from Lancaster to the Grand Lodge in Philadelphia was so difficult that the country lodges grew quite remote from the Grand Lodge, creating the feeling among the lodges in the hinterlands that the Grand Lodge was ignoring them. Bro. Buchanan and his “brother lawyers” in Lodge No. 43 set about to improve the situation by taking action against the Grand Lodge. Faced with what appeared to be rebellion by the country lodges, The Grand Lodge agreed to improve the relationship, and appointed Bro. Buchanan as the first District Deputy Grand Master. Bro. Buchanan ever after has been celebrated and honored by his Lodge No. 43. He was one of the fourteen U.S. Presidents that were Masons.

The death of Bro. Buchanan on June 1, 1868 was the occasion for a Masonic funeral and procession to Woodward Hill cemetery where Masonic brethren came in great numbers to pay their respects to a fellow Mason. The brethren of Lodge No. 43 provided Masonic funeral services for Bro. William Reynolds, admiral of the U.S. Navy and brother of Major General John Fulton Reynolds; and for General James Reynolds of the Pennsylvania National Guard, another Reynolds brother. When Bro. Daniel S. Keller made the supreme sacrifice in World War I, the only death among the 90 members of the Lodge who served in that war, a Memorial Service was held inasmuch as Bro. Keller was buried in France. When former U.S. President, Bro. William Howard Taft, visited Lancaster in 1917, he was received by Lodge No. 43 with Masonic Honors. Always cognizant of its illustrious heritage, the brethren of Lodge No. 43 observed with memorable celebration the 100th anniversary of the Lodge in 1885, and in 1910, 1935, 1960, and 1985 each milestone of the Lodge history was remembered with appropriate activities.

The roll of members of Lodge No.43 reads like a “Who’s Who” of Lancaster’s most illustrious citizens as well as its outstanding and reputable men in every walk of life.

United States Presidents who were Freemasons
Patrick Clarke
March 10, 2010

The list of brethren who have served in the highest office of our nation is impressive to say the least. Indeed, this list of Freemasons represents a broad sweep of some of the most intriguing history of the United States of America. With fourteen U.S. Presidents to address I have chosen to separate the group in two equal presentations. As I present each Mason I will provide a description of their presidency, legacy and impact on the nation. Tonight’s comments will be reserved to the first seven brethren who were elected President of the United States.

The first Freemason elected to the presidency was popularly known as the “Father of his Country;” George Washington became a member of the Masonic Lodge at age 20 in 1753. As our first President of the United States Washington established many precedents that have endured the test of time. Additionally, his actions and decisions helped flesh-out the skeleton of the presidential office as we know it today. The Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia notes, “…he invented tradition as he went along. His actions, more than those of any other Founding Father, became a part of the unwritten Constitution.”

Among the many precedents he established George Washington:

  • Relied on the counsel of his cabinet to govern the nascent nation
  • Set the standard for a president to serve two terms
  • Selected the Supreme Court Chief Justice from an external pool of talent
  • Invoked executive privilege when he refused to release records associated with the Jay Treaty
  • Vetoed bills he disagreed with unless there were constitutional questions and set a precedent of executive restraint
  • Kept his Vice President at arm’s length and out of cabinet meetings establishing it as a ceremonial office

Twenty years would pass before the next brother would be elected to serve as the chief executive. Known as the “Era of Good Feeling President,” James Monroe was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason during the same year that our founding fathers declared independence for our new union, 1776. Monroe is considered to have been one of the most qualified candidates elected to the office of president. His tenure guided the nation through a transitional time where U.S. domestic matters were moved to the front burner. As president, James Monroe assembled a very strong cabinet; the secretary upon whom he most relied was John Quincy Adams, his Secretary of State. Through the pen of Adams and Monroe’s own signature his name remains permanently yoked to our most enduring foreign policy – the Monroe Doctrine.

The controversial three way tie for the presidency in 1824 resulted in John Quincy Adams’ ascent to the presidency. However, four years later one of those three contenders from 1824, Old Hickory, would secure the White House under the newly formed Democratic Party. The seventh president, whose name would become synonymous with an era of American political history, is the next Freemason to occupy the Executive Mansion, Andrew Jackson. It is unclear exactly what year Andrew Jackson was raised to the degree of Master Mason, possibly as early as the year 1800; we do know that he was a member of Federal Lodge #1 in 1830. The Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia notes that, “the Democratic Party was Jackson’s child and the national two-party system was his legacy.” Additionally, Jackson changed the presidency so that the office became the champion for the American people, effectively reversing the long-standing tradition of executive deference to legislative supremacy.

Nearly a full decade would pass before “Young Hickory,” James K. Polk, would take office as President of the United States. Raised to the 3rd degree in 1820 Polk is best known as the “Expansionist President.” Many scholars agree that President Polk accomplished “nearly everything” he said he wanted to accomplish as President and “everything” he had promised in his party’s platform; among these many achievements we include:

  • Acquisition of the Oregon Territory, California, and the Territory of New Mexico
  • Settlement of the Texas border dispute
  • Lower tariff rates
  • Establishment of a new federal depository system
  • Strengthening the executive office

Although Polk rarely agreed with his Secretary of State on issues facing the nation, his expansionist reputation was gained largely through James Buchanan’s efforts as the administration’s chief diplomat. Buchanan despised his role as the top diplomat referring to his position as “a galley slave.”

James Buchanan is our next Freemason to serve as President of the United States. Brother Buchanan, a member of Lodge No. 43, was raised to the degree of Master Mason in 1817. During his political career James Buchanan was tagged with several nicknames, but the one that best describes his legacy of public service was the “Old Public Functionary;” he held nearly every elected position there was to hold during his career. As President-elect in 1856 Buchanan declared that, “The great object of my administration will be to arrest, if possible, the agitation of the slavery question at the North, and to destroy sectional parties. Should a kind Providence enable me to succeed in my efforts to restore harmony to the Union, I shall feel that I have not lived in vain.” Unfortunately Buchanan’s diplomatic skills were not enough to restore harmony and had little effect to shift the tide of hatred and intolerance that had been festering in our nation since the adoption of the United States Constitution. In my opinion James Buchanan’s greatest legacy occurred during his chairmanship of the House Judiciary Committee. As Chair, he succeeded in defeating an attempt to repeal the twenty-fifth section of the Judiciary Act of 1789, which gave the Supreme Court appellate jurisdiction by writ of error to the state courts in cases where federal laws and treaties are in question.

Four years after President Buchanan handed the reigns of the presidency to Abraham Lincoln the nation’s first Republican president was assassinated and the tailor from Tennessee, Vice President Andrew Johnson ascended to the presidency. Brother Andrew Johnson was raised to Master Mason in 1851. As a United States Senator, Johnson broke with his State of Tennessee when it seceded, becoming the only Southern senator to retain his seat in the U.S. Senate. During his term as president, Andrew Johnson managed to undermine the office when he demonstrated a commitment to obstructing political and civil rights for blacks. Many historians consider Johnson as principally responsible for the failure of Reconstruction. He often acted as if he were a legend in his own mind; in the end it was his arrogance, stubborn disregard for political realities, and his blatant racism that enabled congressional activists to impose presidential restraint upon the chief executive, thus giving Congress the power to set national policy for the next thirty-five years.

Twelve more years would pass before we would see another Freemason in the White House. Brother James Garfield became a Master Mason in 1864 and is the first U.S. President associated with the Gilded Age of American history. The 20th President of the United States did not serve long enough to develop a legacy; he was shot in the back in Washington’s Baltimore and Potomac train station by Charles J. Guiteau, an emotionally disturbed man who had failed to gain an appointment in Garfield’s administration. President Garfield died of blood poisoning and complications from the shooting in his New Jersey hospital room while his wife lay in a room down the hall struggling with malaria. His presidential election was one of the closest on record. According to the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, had it not been for Garfield’s agreement with New York political boss Roscoe Conkling he would have surely lost the race. Due to Garfield’s admiration for President Hayes many scholars feel he would have pursued a course toward civil service reform and carried on Hayes’ reputation for clean government. Garfield was also a proponent of hard money and a laissez-faire economy; therefore speculators doubt that he could have coped with the recession that began in 1881.

The final seven brothers on our presidential list include:

  • William McKinley
  • Theodore Roosevelt
  • William H. Taft
  • Warren G. Harding
  • Franklin D. Roosevelt
  • Harry S. Truman
  • Gerald R. Ford

My next section will describe the presidencies of these gentlemen.