Sunday, November 09, 2008

Masonic Lodges (Caswell County)

The fraternal society of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons was one of the earliest such organizations in Caswell County. The first lodge was chartered on November 20, 1788, as Caswell Brotherhood Lodge, No. 11, A.F. and A.M. it held its meetings in Leasburg, then the county seat. The Lodge ceased to function late in 1799; perhaps the formation of Person County in 1792 from the western half of old Caswell weakened the membership.

A Lodge was organized at Milton in 1818 and in 1820 Golden Fleece Lodge, No. 74, was chartered. In 1824 the General Assembly authorized the lodge to raise $3,000 by one or more lotteries. The earliest members are unknown, but in 1830 the following were active: Thomas L. Stevens, W. M. Malbon, Stephen Dodson, Samuel Watkins, M. P. Huntington, Samuel Holden, Josiah Dixon, Samuel A. Douglas, John E. Lewis, George W. Kent, Mumford Stanfield, Isaac Jones, Henry I. Foster, James M. Gunn, Nathaniel M. Roan, James H. White, Bennett Lea, Richard A. Yarborough, William B. Graves, and Charles D. Donoho. The original charter was revoked in 1837, but the lodge was rechartered in 1848 and continued its work until 1918, when the charter was arrested.

Clinton Lodge, No. 107, meeting in Yanceyville, was chartered in December, 1842, and among its members were Junius Dillworth, Richard Ferguson, James L. Graves, William P. Womack, William A. Lea, Henry Willis, James H. Atkinson, William R. Neal, James Clark, Moses Clark, N. M. Roan, Virgil M. Rainey, John A. Graves, Alfred A. Mitchell, and Alfred M. Ellington. Roan had previously been a member of the Golden Fleece in Milton and he was soon joined in the Yanceyville Lodge by Franklin A. Liley who had also belonged to the Golden Fleece. The charter of the Lode was surrendered in 1896 or 1897 and a new Lodge, John A. Graves Lodge, No 494, was chartered in 1898. B. S. Graves presided at the initial meeting of the new lodge. On May 20, 1935, this lodge ceased to function when the local Masons resumed the original name and number of the first Yanceyville lodge: Caswell Brotherhood Lodge, No. 11. This was the only lodge in the county in 1977.

In 1855, the LaFayette Lodge, No. 179, at Leasburg was chartered but its charter was surrendered in 1873. In 1876 an attempt was made to organize another lodge there but work ceased the following year. Caswell Lodge, No. 539, located at Tony (or Baynes, as the community is also known), was chartered in 1906, but in 1924 it was consolidated with John A. Graves Lodge. The building erected at Tony was still standing in 1977.

Source: When the Past Refused to Die: A History of Caswell County North Carolina 1777-1977, William S. Powell (1977) at 425-426.
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Following is the history included in Caswell Brotherhood Lodge #11 A.F. & A.M. 100th Anniversary 1898-1998:

We are celebrating our official one hundredth anniversary of Caswell Brotherhood Lodge #11 in 1998. Records at the Grand Lodge indicate that an original Caswell Brotherhood Lodge #11 was first chartered on November 18, 1791. This lodge ceased work and declared dissolved by the Grand Lodge on December 3, 1799. Not much is known of Masonic activity during the period that Caswell Brotherhood ceased work and when John A. Graves Lodge #434 was chartered by the Grand Lodge during the Annual Communication on January 12, 1898. We know that Golden Fleece Lodge was working in Milton, North Carolina, and there is a little information available, but could not be included at this time. We hope to have an update in the future to address the complete history of Masonry in Caswell County.

Caswell Lodge #539 at Tony, Caswell County, North Carolina, was chartered on January 10, 1906. It lost its charter in 1924. Grand Lodge records indicated that "It consolidated with John A. Graves Lodge $494 (April 1934) and the name changed to Caswell Brotherhood #11."

At the Grand Lodge Annual Communication on April 17, 1935, all lodge numbers were reassigned. It was at this time that John A. Graves Lodge #494 was renumbered to Caswell Brotherhood Lodge #11. Getting the number 11 restored to Caswell County was due largely to the efforts of Bro. John O. Gunn, Bro. Sam Bason, and Bro. C. C. Cole.

The "direct line" of Caswell Brotherhood #11 as it is today is through John A. Graves Lodge $494. This is and has been a very active lodge over the past century. Many notable citizens of Caswell County have had their names spread upon the minutes as officers and very active members. The minutes reflect a time line of events that members were active in that helped shape our county. Several members have distinguished themselves as Masonic leaders beyond the recesses of our lodge and have served on the district and state level. Others have served as public officials and workers in various trades. All have promoted Masonry by example.

The following lists are names of the officers that have served John A. Graves and Caswell Brotherhood Lodges over the past 100 years. These names are a result of research done to complete the plaque that was placed in the present lodge when it was dedicated in 1976 honoring those who have served as past Masters. As the history in written form progresses, plans are to include full names instead of initials. Also, work has been done on a list of everyone that has been a member of the Lodge from the formation to the present. Hopefully, this may be of some assistance to future generations in genealogical research or for other purposes.

C. L. McGee, P.M.
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To see the entire brochure from which the foregoing was excerpted, including the list of officers since 1897 see: Caswell Brotherhood Lodge #11 100th Anniversary.

Note that the Yanceyville Masonic Lodge once was housed on the second floor of the building that eventually became the Crowell/Caswell Motor Company. It subsequently held its meetings on the second floor of the building that had on the first floor of the Hooper Building (corner of Greensboro Street and Main Street), which eventually became Prices Super Market and then was demolished to make way for the new Yanceyville Drug Store.
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For a summary of the history of all the Masonic lodges in North Carolina see Masonic Lodges History. Note that the Caswell Brotherhood Lodge #11, formed in 1788, was one of the first Masonic lodges chartered in the United States. As of November 2008, this lodge remained active, but had gone through a few name changes before reverting to its original name and status. It was appropriate in several respects for the Caswell lodge to be so named. Not only was it located in Caswell County, but the county was named for Richard Caswell, who in 1788 was the Grand Master of the Grand Masonic Lodge of North Carolina. Caswell would die the next year. See: Grand Lodge

See also: Grand Masonic Lodge of North Carolina

At one time known as The John A. Graves Lodge, it apparently had changed its name to honor Caswell County Civil War Lieutenant Colonel John Azariah Graves (1822-1864), who died at the Union's Johnson Island Prison in Ohio. Note that the above link is believed to be to a photograph of John Azariah Graves (or a photograph of his portrait), but this has not been confirmed. It did at one time hang in the Masonic Lodge in Yanceyville that at one time had been named for John A. Graves.

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