Our History

HISTORY OF ARAB LODGE 663

CHAPTER I
The Lodge Under Dispensation

Arab Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama, was instituted under a dispensation from the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama at 2:00 P. M. on November 17,1906, at Arab, Alabama. The Lodge was sponsored by Warrenton Lodge No. 320. Worshipful Brother W. E. Gibson, Worshipful Master of Warrenton Lodge, was deputized by the Most Worshipful Grand Master to be the Instituting Officer.

Arab Lodge, U.D. was instituted with the following officers:

Brother Joseph W. Hyatt, ............. Worshipful Master

Brother William W. Gregg, ............... Senior Warden

Brother William F. Thompson, ............ Junior Warden

Brother Pickens Butler, ....................... Treasurer

Brother Austin M. Hinds, ...................... Secretary

Brother Elijah P. Pesnell, ....................... Chaplain

Brother Daniel P. Horton, .................. Senior Deacon

Brother Matt A. Boyd, ..................... Junior Deacon

And Brother Thomas Benton Cox, member.

The Lodge under dispensation met in regular communication once each month. During the year fourteen communications, regular and special, were held (usually beginning at one o'clock on Saturdays). Twenty new members were received into the Lodge, including twelve by affiliation, seven who received the three degrees and one Entered Apprentice [who was passed and raised after the Lodge was chartered]. One Brother died, Brother William R. Barnard, the day before the Lodge received its charter leaving a total membership of twenty-seven Master Masons and one Entered Apprentice.

The minutes do not specify where the Lodge meetings were held; just that it met in Arab (Oral information gives the location as the Methodist Church on Main Street).
The Lodge had visitors from some neighbor lodges almost every time it met and the visitors often filled stations in the Lodge. Some of the lodges represented were: Warrenton No. 320, Baileyton No. 472, Davis No. 518 and Marshall No. 209.

CHAPTER II
The Charter - First Decade

Lodge No. 663, F.& A.M.was chartered under the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Alabama on December 4, 1907. The Grand Officers signing the Charter were:

Hugh S. D. Mallory --- Grand Master
Lawrence H. Lee --- Deputy Grand Master
Daniel A. Green --- Senior Grand Warden
Henry Clanton Miller --- Junior Grand Warden
George A Beauchamp --- Grand Secretary

The members of Arab Lodge named in the Charter were:

Bro. Joseph W. Hyatt
Bro. Pickens Butler
Bro. William W. Gregg
Bro. Elijah P. Pesnell
Bro. William F. Thompson
Bro. Austin M. Hinds
Bro. Daniel P. Hoiton
Bro. Matt A. Boyd
Bro. Thomas Benton Cox

Other Charter Members [not named on the Charter ] were:

Bro. J. P. Barnard
Bro. Jefferson P. Goodson
Bro. T. H. Barnard
Bro. John J. Hutchison
Bro. W. E. Barnard
Bro. James A. King
Bro. William Bolding
Bro. Andrew Miller
Bro. J. E. Cannon
Bro. William S. Norrell
Bro. Will Huse Carter
Bro. Thomas Noble
Bro. John Forster
Bro. John R. Poole
Bro. Tom Forster
Bro. Hiram Wright
Bro. W. S. Solley
Bro. Jackson Smith
Bro. Loving U. Slaton [EA┬░]

The first election of officers of Arab Lodge No. 663 was held on December 14, 1907 with the following officers elected and appointed:

Joseph W. Hyatt --- Worshipful Master
T. H. Barnard --- Senior Warden
William F. Thompson --- Junior Warden
Andrew Miller --- Senior Deacon
Matt A. Boyd --- Junior Deacon
James A. King --- Tiler
Pickens Butler --- Treasurer
J. E. Cannon --- Chaplain
Hiram L. Wright --- Secretary

The Officers were installed in Special Communication on January 15, 1908.

The Lodge minutes during the decade after it was chartered reflect the dedication of the members to the welfare of the Lodge and their concern for each other. Instances are recorded where the Lodge loaned a Brother money to replace the loss of a mule or other livestock or plowed his crop when he was ill. Efforts to do the work of the Lodge are noted; the Lodge met in regular communication once a month and called several special meetings. Sometimes these meetings were all-day sessions, meeting in the morning for work and calling to refreshment at noon; then calling to labor after lunch and continuing work sometimes into the night.

During the period from December 4, 1907 to June 15, 1917, twenty-seven candidates were initiated, passed and raised and eight members were received by affiliation from other lodges.

The following served as Worshipful Master of Arab Lodge during the decade:

Joseph W. Hyatt, from Dispensation tol 908;
William W. Gregg. 1908 -1909;
Thomas H. Barnard 1909 -1910;
Gaines W. Burden, 1910 -1913;
Andrew J. Miller, 1913 -1914;
Gaines W. Burden, 1914 -1915;
Alonza Q. McDonald 1915 - 1917.

Also, during the decade, difficulties arose among the members of the Lodge resulting in the trials of three members. The members of the Lodge were very reluctant to become involved in personal differences between members. This is shown where a committee to investigate the charges in one case had not reached a decision as to the admissibility of the charges for over four months. Then one of the principals in the case wrote the Grand Master and the Grand Master directed that the Lodge proceed with the trial. After that the trial was not completed for another five months.

CHAPTER III
The Effects of World War I
(1917-1920)

Our nation became actively engaged in World War I in April of 1917. The effect of the war on the Lodge is apparent by a rapid increase in the number of membership petitions received by the Lodge and its hectic efforts to work candidates in short periods of time.

The increase began in 1917 but the veritable deluge of petitions came in the Masonic Year of 1918 - 1919. In that year forty-three candidates were initiated, passed and raised, and five members were received by affiliation. That was a greater number of members than the total membership since the Lodge was instituted.

The minutes show six instances where the Lodge, by special dispensation of the Grand Lodge, conferred two or all three degrees on a candidate in a single communication. In addition many special communications were called and a candidate was given all three degrees in one week. This hectic schedule of work was an effort to confer the degrees on candidates who had only a few days of leave from military duty.

During the three years from June 1917 to June 1920 the Lodge gained 66 members by raising and affiliation. The growth and prosperity of the Lodge was at an all-time high, but this was not altogether an unmixed blessing. This mass production of Master Masons resulted in many who had little, if any, understanding of the true meaning of the ceremonies they went through. The shallowness of their experience deprived them of the valuable lessons taught in Symbolic Masonry and few of them made the effort to study those precepts later. This is vividly illustrated by the number of those who demitted or were dropped from the rolls for non-payment of dues in the years following the war. By the middle of 1929 the Lodge membership was reduced to fifty-five dues-paying members.


CHAPTER IV
The Other Side of the Trestle Board

This chapter departs from the chronological account in an attempt to portray some of the background scenery of the Lodge. The physical and non-physical environment in which the Lodge worked is only hinted at in the minutes. This is an effort to reconstruct them.

LODGE HALLS

There is no written record of where the Lodge met while under dispensation and early 1908; except that it met in Arab or Joppa.

The earliest mention in the minutes of Arab Lodge having a hall is in May 1908. This minute reference may be the hall mentioned in an undated note inserted in the minute book in which a committee contracted with R. J. Riddle to build a hall over a store for $350.00, which would give the Lodge one-half interest in the building, and the lot on which it stood. The committee reported that the building was complete and they had accepted it.

The Masonic Hall in 1908 was a wooden frame building, two stories high, located on a lot 32 feet wide and 228 feet deep fronting on North Main Street and extending back to Linn Street (now 2 nd St. N.E. ). Entrance to the Lodge room was by an outside stair on the side of the building ending in a covered stoop at the door to the second floor.

In 1908 Arab Lodge acquired the chart and furniture of the defunct Cotaco Lodge No. 366, located at Skidmore's Chapel in Morgan County . Arab Lodge was heated by a wood-burning heater [as indicated by firewood bills ranging from 35 cents to $1.50]. Seating in the Lodge was by benches along the walls and some chairs [bought in 1909]. When the Independent Order of Odd Fellows began sharing the building they purchased more chairs and the benches were donated to Eddy School .

The Lodge bought gasoline mantle lamps and installed them along the walls in 1919. The altar lights continued to be wax candles until the building was destroyed by fire in 1952. Other improvements were; electric wiring in 1928, a coal heater in 1929, an indoor toilet in 1945 and an oil heater in 1947.

The ground floor was rented to W. L. Gregory and Bro. J. G. Burden for use as a clothing store with rents ranging from $19.00 per month in 1919 to $50.00 per month in 1952.

Arab Lodge has been damaged by two fires; one about the first of the year in 1948 and the other in May 1952. The damage by the first fire was not extensive and the building was repaired. During the repair the Lodge met one time in Baileyton Lodge and another time in Marshall Lodge.

The Lodge made several attempts to build a new Masonic Hall prior to 1952. In June 1919 a committee was authorized to build a new Masonic Hall but no agreement was reached with the builder. At that time, the Lodge bought the interest in the building on North Main Street from R. J. Riddle and Jim Hyatt.

Plans to build a Masonic Hall were discussed in February 1928 and again in September 1929 to build with concrete blocks at the same site as the existing building. The Lodge asked the Grand Lodge for a dispensation to build and the concrete blocks were bought. The Hall was never built and in September 1930 the building committee sold the concrete blocks. Again in February 1942 the Lodge proposed to mortgage the Lodge property and build a new Lodge Hall or make improvements on the existing Hall. This was never done.

The fire in May 1952 destroyed the building and some of the records of the Lodge. After the fire, Arab Lodge began to meet in the old High School Auditorium and continued to meet there until January 7, 1954, when it moved to a building on Linn Street, owned by Bro. J. M. Crawford.

On May 29, 1952 , the Worshipful Master appointed Dr. J. M Crawford, Bro. Earl Hollaway, Bro. Elton Spruiel and Bro.Curtis Williams as a Planning Committee for a new building. They were to locate the corners of the Lodge property and have an abstract deed prepared. The plan was to find a better location for the new Lodge and sell the property. After considering several properties and plans for a new Hall [for almost two years] the committee chose and the Lodge acquired the property at 115 South Main Street The new building was financed by a bond issue and donations from members. Most of the work in construction of the new building was done by members in their spare time and it was completed in about six months. The first communication of the Lodge in the new building was on September 2, 1954.

OTHER ORGANIZATIONS

Several fraternal and civic organizations rented or shared the Masonic Hall on North Main Street during the period from 1909 to 1952.

The Eddy Lodge No. 571, Independent Order of Odd Fellows organized at the Hall in 1909 and shared the hall until 1922.

A chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star was active in the Hall in 1916 but became defunct. After several attempts, it was reorganized as Amanda King Chapter No. 472 in 1946. This Chapter still shares the present Hall.

The Junior Order of United American Mechanics is first mentioned in the minutes of March 25, 1911. In January 1922 the Marshton Council No. 34 rented the Hall and continued to meet there until March 1929. This was a benefit type organization. Their emblem was a shield bearing the Square and Compasses with an arm and hammer in the center.

The Woodmen of the World rented the Hall in 1919 and apparently continued until May 1948.

The Lodge gave the Junior Chamber of Commerce permission to use the Hall to organize in February 1947 and to hold their meetings.

CHAPTER V
Between the World Wars
(1920-1941)

The years from 1920 to 1926 show a rapid decline in the number of candidates worked in the Lodge. In 1920 through 1922 The Lodge raised sixteen to Master Mason. In the next three years only four were raised, however, the decline in new members was only a foreshadow of the lean times to follow. From 1926 to 1939 only three candidates were raised to the Master Mason degree.

Supposedly, the primary reason for the lack of petitions was the severe depression which began in 1929 and continued into the next decade. In 1939 the number of petitions for Masonry began to increase and five candidates were raised in the 1939-1940 Masonic Year.

Copyright © 2017 Arab Lodge 663. All Rights Reserved.
Joomla! is Free Software released under the GNU General Public License.