The History of Central Lodge No. 300

Presentation by Wor. Jack Bonniwell on Central Lodge’s 100th Anniversary February 3, 2009

In February, 2009 marked the 100th anniversary of the chartering of Central Lodge #300 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons. How proud we are to be Masons and how proud we are to be members of Central Lodge. Masonry has a long and proud history in our country, in the Commonwealth of Virginia and especially on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Immigrant Masons brought Masonry to our shores. These men gathered together as Masonic brethren in inns and pubs throughout our land. They gathered and met without common lodges but through their desires and efforts many lodges were formed by charters granted by the Grand Lodges of England, Scotland, Ireland, Pennsylvania, and America. Virginia Masonry grew out of those lodges.

The mid- and late- 1700s were a time of political strife and turmoil. Relations with England were deteriorating. Political movements were underway to separate the colonies from English rule, taxation and control. With the ongoing involvement of Masons in these activities, it would only be expected that Masonry would also follow the same course.

In Virginia, representatives of the existing lodges, all holding charters from different Grand Lodges, met in 1777 and began plans to form what became the Grand Lodge of Virginia. In October 1778, the Grand Lodge of Virginia was formed and John Blair was elected to be the first Grand Master of Masons in Virginia.

In 1785 the first lodge chartered on the Eastern Shore by the Grand Lodge of Virginia was Northampton Lodge # 11. Northampton #11 existed until 1856 when it lost its charter. Members from that lodge and other Masons in Accomack County and southern Maryland formed the core of brethren that re-established Masonry on the Eastern Shore and from whose lineage Central Lodge was born.

Masonry formally began again in 1868 with a dispensation to begin meeting in a carpenter’s shop in a town established by members of a temperance organization. The town was Temperanceville. A year later in 1869, Temperanceville Lodge #121 was chartered.

About the same time and with the recommendation of the Masonic brethren in Temperanceville, Ocean Lodge #116 was established and met in a building on Front Street in the Town of Drummondtown now known to us today as Accomac. The creation of Ocean Lodge came about because of the distance that members had to travel to get to the Lodge in Temperanceville. Members from Northampton #11 and Temperanceville #121 helped form the core of brethren needed to establish the Lodge.

In 1885, Ocean Lodge moved from Drummondtown to Wachapreague. While in Wachapreague, Ocean Lodge held meetings in three locations; the final location being that Lodge building that was established in 1928 and hosted meetings until it merged with Central Lodge in 2005. It is from Ocean Lodge that Central Lodge claims is origin.

On February 13, 1908 under dispensation granted by the Most Worshipful Jos W. Enggleton, Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, Central Lodge #300 was formed. Right Worshipful John W. Kellam, Deputy Grand Master of Masons in Virginia convened the first meeting in the Onley Lodge on March 17, 1908. The constituting officers were:

RW John W. Kellam, Worshipful Master
RW John T. Mears, Senior Warden
Wor. James S. Rogers, Junior Warden
Bro. Gilbert F. Stiles, Treasurer
Bro. Barnes F. Sturgis, Senior Deacon
Bro. J. W. Cropper, Junior Deacon
Bro. Levin W. Mason, Tiler

The Master Masons Lodge was opened in due and ancient form, the dispensation for constituting Central lodge read by RW E. H. Bratten, DDGM for the 12th Masonic District. RW Bratten then proceeded to install the officers of Central Lodge as follows:

A.J. McMath, Worshipful Master
J.W. Rogers, Senior Warden
W.A. Burton, Junior Warden
J.C. Core, Treasurer
W.C. Parsons, Secretary
E.W. Scott, Senior Deacon
B.T. Parks, Junior Deacon
John D. Hosier, Chaplain
L.W. Mason, Tiler

On February 2, 1909 a resolution petitioning the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Virginia for a charter was adopted and submitted. On Motion of Bro. C. R. Waters, the Worshipful Master was appointed a committee of one to attend the Grand Lodge of Virginia and to intercede in securing a Charter for Central Lodge. On February 11, 1909 a Charter was issued for permanent establishment of the lodge under the name of Central Lodge Number Three Hundred. Elections of officers followed on March 2, 1909 and the same slate of officers were elected as in the previous year.

Central Lodge met in downtown Onley until December 14, 1969, when the Lodge experienced a fire that destroyed its building. Through the generosity of Chesapeake Lodge #158 and at the invitation of RW Spencer M. Rogers, Central Lodge was offered the use of Chesapeake’s Lodge Hall until permanent arrangements could be made. The charter you see on the wall behind me this evening is the duplicate charter that was requested, our previous charter having been destroyed in the fire.

After countless hours of planning, coordination and work it was determined that rebuilding the original lodge was not practical. A joint meeting was held between representatives of Central and Chesapeake Lodges to discuss the possibility of a joint project that would culminate in the construction of a new lodge building for use by both lodges. In November 1970 after months of research and discussion, Central Lodge elected to enter into a joint venture with Chesapeake Lodge to build a new Lodge to be used solely for Masonic purposes by both lodges. An invitation was sent to Chesapeake Lodge in late 1971 requesting a response to the offer to join Central Lodge in the building and joint ownership of a new Lodge building. In the end, Central Lodge alone took on the project to build a new lodge.

On January 12, 1972 at 1:45 p.m. Central Lodge held a ground breaking for the beginning of construction of its new lodge. The opening prayer was given by RW Paul H. White and Wor. Irvin T. Amadeo welcomed the brethren. Most Worshipful Julian Cooke Roden, Grand Master of Masons in Virginia in 1969 gave an inspiring speech. Most Worshipful Charles M. Lankford, Jr. Grand Master of Masons in Virginia in 1952 broke ground for the new Masonic Temple.

On August 26, 1972 a special communication was held to lay the cornerstone of the new Masonic Temple. If you have ever wondered what is placed in a cornerstone, here a list of what is in ours.

• A Copy of Central Lodge by-laws
• A Copy of the Eastern Shore News dated Aug 24, 1972.
• Pictures of the groundbreaking ceremony and progress of the building.
• A Copy of the plat of land on which the new temple is located
• A list of names of the building committee noting the donation of the cornerstone by CM Williams, Sr.
• A list of Past masters and honorary members of Central Lodge
• A copy of the lodge minutes from Dec 16, 1969 discussing the damage to the old lodge building.
• A Copy of the lodge minutes from March 16, 1971 authorizing the building committee to proceed with the new building.
• A copy of the information return to the Grand Lodge of VA showing officers of Central Lodge for 1972
• A List of living Past Masters and the date Central Lodge was chartered
• A Copy of the letter from the WM dated
• March 8, 1971 to members with reports from the building committee and other information
• A Copy of the floor plan of new lodge hall.
• A 1909 penny representing the year Central Lodge was chartered.
• A 1969 half dollar representing the year Central Lodge building burned.
• A 1972 half dollar representing the year the new lodge was built.
• A 1971 Silver dollar donated by an anonymous donor and a stamped envelope with stamp cancelled by the Onley, VA Post Office on August 26, 1972 with Masonic emblem on the envelope.

Central Lodge, like so many other Masonic Lodges, cares for its members, their families, its community, and Masonic brethren where so ever dispersed. Except for the loss of our lodge in 1969, the lodge has prevailed without serious problems or events in its life. However, in the first decade of this century, we have needed to open our hearts and arms to brethren in three other lodges on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. In October 2005, Ocean Lodge #116 in Wachapreague, merged with Central Lodge, in July 2006, Parksley Lodge #325 in Parksley and in March 2010, Chesapeake Lodge #158 in Onancock merged with Central Lodge. We, as did so many others, felt their pain and sadness at the loss of their lodges. But Central welcomed them and the lodge is now greater and stronger because they are joined with us.

We are proud of this Lodge… we are proud of its members… we are proud of its leadership… we are proud of its heritage… and we are proud to be Masons. May the strength that you all bring to this lodge now and in the future, help it successfully live another long and prosperous 100 years.

Central Lodge No. 300 A.F. & A.M.
20455 Washington St. Rte 1610
P.O. Box 978
Onley, Virginia 23418
Secretary: Wor. Cecil Marshall

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