200 years Local Masons, founded in 1804, celebrate lodge’s bicentennial.
By JUDY JENKINS, Gleaner Columnist September 19, 2004
Both George Bibb and his horse were no doubt exhausted when they finally reached Henderson in September, 1804, but it’s for sure they were royally welcomed by a group of local men whose ideologies were shared by the likes of George Washington and Benjamin Franklin.
Bibb, who was Grand Master of the then-04-year-old Grand Lodge of Kentucky, presented the residents with an elaborately handwritten charter that established Jerusalem Masonic Lodge No. 9, which celebrates its 200th birthday today with a public celebration at the Klutey Park Plaza facility.
The framed charter, which hangs in the building that has been home to Henderson Masons since 1976, begins with the words, “Whereas it hath been fully represented that in the town of Henderson in the county of Henderson, there resides a number of brethren, Free Masons, who are desirous of associating together agreeably to the Constitution of Ancient Masonry….”
Bear in mind this birth of a lodge occurred only seven years after members of the Transylvania Company had laid out the streets of Henderson, and it was six years before the city was incorporated and before a talented painter named John James Audubon moved his family here for a 10-year-stay.
In a national context, the event was a mere 28 years after colonists declared independence from England, and a year after the U.S. purchased 800,000 square miles of land from France at a cost of $15 million in a transaction known as the Louisiana Purchase.
The Henderson Masons were the ninth Masonic Lodge established in the state, with members who embraced the Masonic creed of friendship, morality, truth and brotherly love, as well as allegiance to God.
Washington and Franklin were Masons. Rudy Walker, a 52-year-member of the local lodge, relates that “16 signers of the Declaration of Independence were Masons.” He believes that likely “75 percent” of the nation’s leaders have been Masons.
The list of world famous Masons includes Mozart, Kit Carson, Winston Churchill, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Irving Berlin, folksinger Burl Ives and movie cowboy Gene Autry.
Walker, who has been a Jerusalem Lodge member so long he’s now excused from paying dues, says Gerald Ford was the last president who was also a Mason. He quickly adds that Kentucky Gov. Louis Nunn was a Mason too.
The Jerusalem Lodge members cherish their history, which is evident throughout the lodge. There are, for example, pictures of the many lodge Masters who have served over the last two centuries. Their images evolve from stiff-colored shirts with cravats to contemporary suits, and from long, middle-parted hair to the flat-tops of the 1950s and the styles of the 21st century.
A large book in which minutes of meetings were recorded shows that among other business on Sept. 10, 1900, the members agreed to pay The Gleaner $1.50 for “printing summons.”
An oak altar bearing the familiar square, compass and letter “G” of the Masonic emblem sets in a revered spot and is believed to be the original altar used by the lodge. Flanking the lodge’s Senior Warden’s chair are two ornate columns — also believed to be original to the lodge — that represent the columns of King Solomon’s Temple. “The beginning of Solomon’s Temple was the beginning of the Masons,” says Rudy.
The organization’s lodge roots go back to London, England, where, in June, 1717, the Grand Lodge of England was formed. That creation marks the beginning of Freemasonry as it is known today. By 1730, Freemasonry was practiced in the American colonies.
In Kentucky, Lexington was the site of the first lodge, which was established via a charter from Virginia in 1788, four years before Kentucky became a state. In 1800, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky was formed, and its current Grand Master, Percy Brown, will be here today to join the birthday celebration with lodge Master Dan Andrick and many others.
Lodge No. 9 has given the state four Grand Masters: C.H. Johnson in 1878; B.G. Witt, 1885; Henry Barret, 1907 and Joe McClanahan, 1965.
A number of the lodge Masons, including James Roll, George Combs, Dr. Edward Anderson and Frank Cavanah, met with me Wednesday afternoon and presented me with enough lodge history to fill a book or two. I regret that we can use only a smidgen, including the fact that the lodge for many years met in the Citi-Center building whose facade still bears the Masonic symbols.
Over the decades the lodge — one of three in Henderson and one of 13 in the Tri-county area — has supported numerous worthy causes that today include the Emergency Shelter for Women and Children, St. Anthony’s Hospice, The Children’s Advocacy Center, Riverview School, and scholarships to the Henderson Community College Associate Degree Nursing Program.
A number of the lodge’s Masons are also Shriners and as such raise funds for the famous Shriner hospitals.
The lodge also has the women’s division, the Eastern Star, and a Rainbow Girls unit for youths 11-18 years of age.
The Masons are accustomed to those who think the organization is a “secret society.” They stress that it is not. The only “secret,” Rudy says, is “the modes of recognition. That’s so Masons can recognize each other anywhere we go.”
Nor do they recruit members. Potential members have to ask to join, hence the slogan, “2b1ask1.”
By Frank Boyett, Gleaner Columnist
September 19, 2004
75 years ago
Henderson’s first Masonic organization, Jerusalem Lodge No. 9, celebrated its 125th anniversary on Sept. 19, 1929, according to The Gleaner.
The lodge is 200 years old today. Congratulate a Mason if you know one.