History of Lodge No. 43
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. Brother Richard Mason spent countless hours tracing through lodge records from the 1700′s.
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.
Lodge No. 43 Information
Lodge No. 43 Meets at The Masonic Center of Lancaster County, 213 West Chesnut Street, Lancaster, PA 17601
Phone 717-202-1002 or 800-513-4480
Web Address: lodge43.org
Facebook Page: facebook.com/masoniclodge43
Google Map to Lodge No. 43 and The Masonic Center of Lancaster County