PINE GROVE MASON LODGE # 226
Pine Grove Mason Lodge #226 (the Hall) was constructed by the elders of
the community known as Pine Grove. The
Hall sat southwest of the present Pine Grove Baptist Church.
The Masons, Oddfellows, Ruths, and Heroines met in the Hall.
No children were allowed to enter.
In the beginning children were not allowed inside the Hall, because of
the secrets and passwords of the organizations.
On one occasion in 1917, a member of the Ruth organization was allowed to
bring in her 2-year old child. The
child MONNIE LEE RAYSON-THOMPSON, born April 19, 1915, was allowed in only
because there was no one to care for her, and it was important that her mother
be present. The Ruths thought the child was too young to understand what was
going on. The child played on the floor as the ladies went about their
activities. As the child played,
her eyes watched, and her ears listened to everything.
Later that night at home while sitting around the fireplace with her
young sibling, the young child revealed one of the Ruths’ secrets. She was never allowed in the Hall again.
In 1943, the Old Masonic Hall moved behind Pine Grove Baptist Church
adjacent to the Holland Quarters Cemetery.
By now the Oddfellows and Ruths had dispersed.
The Masons and Heroines were still active.
The Masons held high regards for the Hall.
Their privacy and independence were very important.
Only the Masons were allowed upstairs, no one else was ever given
permission to go upstairs.
Elderly male citizens of the “Quarters” who at one time were Masonic
brethren, would only smile and shake their heads when I asked the question, what
was the big secret about the upstairs in the Hall? and what does the saying
“ride the goat” mean?
On October 6, 1947, Pinnie Westmoreland deeded to Pine Grove Lodge #26
Negro Masons and Beauty Lady (presently known as Beautiful Ladies) Court #8
Heroines for $50.00, the land for the hall.
1954/1-1955 - OPEN
Now with the incompletion of West Side Elementary School, the children of
the fifties made a difference. The
Old Masonic Hall was now open to teach the children.
Professor Andrew Jackson “A. J.” Hudson, and Mrs. Annie Lou
Rayson-Lister were allowed to take their classes inside the Hall. Mr. Hudson taught 3rd and 7th grade on the west side of the
lower level. His roll top desk sat
in the far west corner of the room.
Even though Mr. Hudson was much older and larger in size than Mrs.
Lister, she had the largest number of children to teach.
Mrs. Lister stands only 5’1” tall, and most of the 40+ students of
the 5th and 6th grade were larger in size than she was. She was small in size,
but big on teaching.
When the heavy rains came in November of 1954, Mrs. Lister took her
students to the church to join Mrs. Johns and Mrs. Lucas.
Mr. Hudson remained in the Hall with his students.
- REMAIN OPEN
The Old Masonic Hall remained open to a very active community, where
meetings and special activities took place.
were no modern facilities other than electricity in the Hall, but there was more
life than life itself, thanks to the people of this great community.
- GREAT TIMES
Smiles reveal a very active community, enjoying activities in the lower
level of the Old Masonic Hall.
- SHUT DOWN
Worshipful Master Oscar McWilliams died. The Masons carried on, but no other meetings were ever held
in the Hall again. At last, the
Hall closed its doors to the community.
Through the years the building was never vandalized.
That could be because of the old wives’ tale the forty- and
fifty-year-old children of today remember and why they feared the building.
The children misunderstood “goat” for “ghost”.
The old saying was, you have to “ride-the-goat” to become a member.
The students’ desks were left in the Hall by the teachers, because they
were there when they entered the Hall. The
roll-top desk was the original desk that Andrew Jackson “A. J.” Hudson used.
The windows were broken out from age; there were no rocks inside to show
If walls could talk, this old building would ramble on for years telling
of our ancestors’ dreams.
THE OLD MASONIC
Research into the Old Masonic Lodge (the Hall) was like walking on
grounds paved in gold. I found the Hall to be one of the most important links into
the pass, because of the respect the community held for it.
With the completion of the research on the Hall I talked with citizens in
the community. I wanted to get a
feel from the people, I wanted to know how they felt about restoring the Old
Hall into a useful Culture Center for the children and the community.
Everyone I talked to was in favor of doing something with the Old Hall.
If it was possible, they wanted the Hall restored, because most of them
remembered when the Hall was open and full of life. The question they all wanted
answered was “where is the money coming from”? I told them I had been looking into getting a grant.
They looked at me sort of strange, and said “okay”.
With the stores and school shut down, the only activities being viewed
were automobiles passing as the head of the household went to work. The school buses carried the children away from the
“Quarters” to attend school. On
Sunday morning, as a tradition, you have a choice of six churches to attend.
Pictures reveal the Old Hall as it peeked up into the horizon making its
presence known. Shining like a
beacon in the sky reflecting the history and lives of great people who once
entered its doors. The spirits of
the ancestors have protected the Old Hall with
their strong arms, the same as the descendants are
protecting the land. The Old Hall
stood tall, hidden within the trees, watching over the descendants as sun light
reflected against it. As the baby
boomers make ready for retirement, the Old Hall held on to life waiting for the
next generation to improve upon its looks.
With the prospect of restoring the Old Hall, the children of the baby
boomers would have taken the next step in the tracks of their ancestors. These steps added to the footprints where their parents left
off would be the steps for the next generation to pick up.
After consulting with members of the community, I then went back to the
deacons of the community’s first church and discussed the possibility of a
grant to restore the Old Hall.
On February 25th, to enhance public awareness of African American
historic and endangered sites, I made a video tape of the Hall to make local
officials aware of the Old Masonic Hall, and to show even in the rain how well
preserved the building was.
After lunch and a brief meeting, we viewed the video tape. Inside the Hall revealed no holes in the floor and no damage
from vandalism. The antique student
double desks were in good shape with no sign of broken tops. Weather had not destroyed the desks. Even though it had rained the day before, dust proved that it
did not rain inside the Hall. There
was no fear that the structure was unstable.
The officials asked “how much matching money do you have”?
Money, we don’t have any money, I replied.
They asked, “what do you have to offer”?
I told the group that we have the will and the determination to see this
project completed. Instead of
someone to do the labor, we would do it ourselves.
As the meeting came to an end, the presence of God was within our hearts. As we spoke of the need to restore the Old Masonic Hall,
several of the officials spoke of ways they could help. In closing we spoke of how the entire county could benefit
from restoring the old site.
I worked to complete the grant proposal, I called upon several people from the
community for suggestions. Official’s
like County Judge John Cordray, Mrs. Leila Bell LaGrone-founder of Carthage’s
Historical Center, Chamber of Commerce, Tommy Ritter Smith, William E. Edward
(president of the Heritage Foundation), and others prepared letters to accompany
The Hall was being viewed by many as I prepared a grant proposal for
$25,000.00 to restore the Old Masonic Hall back to its original state with some
modern improvements, to be used as a Culture
In late March, I completed the grant proposal with thirteen (13)
supporting concerned citizen’s letters and submitted the entire packet by mail
to a foundation in Dallas, Texas.
The first response from the foundation was received the following week
dated April 4, 1997. The letter
stated that after a preliminary review they would notify me if any additional
information was needed.
In the meanwhile, concerned citizens called offering their help; material
was being donated. Additional
information was being gathered to be placed in the upper historical level of the
Hall. Those who were too frail and
too weak from age to help, would call just to say they were praying for hope.
You could hear the joy in their voices
as they spoke of days-gone-by when the Hall was open.
On Monday, July 21, 1997, around 8:30 p.m. I received a call informing me
that the Old Masonic Hall was on the ground.
With no regard for the history surrounding the Old Hall, nor for the
descendants of this great community, the 14th Pastor of Pine Grove Baptist
Church, Earnest O. Springs, Jr., a non-descendant of the “Quarters”, a
person who doesn’t live in, work in, or care about the progress of the
community, decided to take it upon himself to change history. If he had roots in this community, there is no way he would
have destroyed this historical site.
Now demolished was the most elegant place to see standing in the
“Quarters”. It was “highly
unlikely” that the Old Hall would have fallen to the ground on its own.
This violent attack against the Hall took man-made machinery to pull, not
push, the Old Hall to the ground. The
spirits of those who had gone on before cry out, making their presence known,
pleading, speaking through the ground, mourning as they held on to the old Hall.
He tied on to the inside beams, it took several attempts to bring the Old
Hall down. Ancestors have watched
over the Old Hall for nearly a hundred years.
For the last 54 years, the structure stood next to their gravesites, with
their arms around the old building holding it up.
It was as though they were begging and pleading not to destroy what they
had struggled so hard to leave for their children.
As strength gave way, it came straight down, taking care especially not
to disturb the gravesites of the caretakers.
Tragically, the end of an era came when the Old Masonic Hall was put to
death, the foundation still intact. The
roll top desk that was on the lower level can still be seen through the rubble.
The blocks on which the Hall stood still stand in place, months later.
His hate broke the circle, people from near and far can only wonder why!
why! a person would destroy a building with such sentimental value. People who
destroyed footprints into history simply because of their hate for others, have
no dreams nor visions. May God
forgive him, because I will never understand why a man that was paid a salary to
preach the gospel, could use his hate in such a hellish way.
Being a historian, dreams are sweet ones, when angels are watching over
you. Even though we face
difficulties of today and tomorrow, I have a dream, that one day all African
Americans shall unite together as one, and stop the hate among themselves. I never claimed to own the Hall, or any other building I do
research on. But I am a direct
descendant of the original 43 slaves that settled here in 1842.
That gives me more than the right to love and care about the well being
of a community that my ancestors developed.
Embarrassed and greatly dissatisfied by the senseless act of destroying
public property, I notified city officers and the foundation of the destruction.
An elder of 101 years old remembered the Old Hall back in 1909 when she
was only 13 years old. Her parents
would carry her by wagon to the “Quarters”.
In a very solemn voice she asked, “what gave him the right to tear down
the Old Hall? It’s nothing else left now”.
A third letter, dated Wednesday - July 23, 1997, was received from the
foundation: The letter ended by
saying “However, you are welcome to submit a new request after a year.
Although we cannot assist you at this time, we encourage you to continue
your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community and wish you well
in all your endeavors”.