Lodge History

When Chattanooga was still a wilderness and the fertile valleys of the raging Tennessee River were yet a frontier, a group of sturdy Harrison citizens banded themselves together to form a fraternity for their mutual benefit, a lodge destined to serve posterity with the same high-minded purpose for which it was founded. Diversion was a problem in those days and the proposition of making a livelihood for a family was not easy. Though, as ever, when a group of normal able-bodied men situated themselves together to share equally in the fruits of the soil and the forest, there was a strong inclination toward fraternalism.
So, on March 25, 1845, in the little village of Harrison, located about 15 miles from what is now Chattanooga, a group of pioneers met and made plans to organize the first Masonic Lodge in this section of the state.

After some correspondence, the men were granted a dispensation by the Grand Lodge of F. & A.M. of Tennessee. After functioning under the dispensation for a year and seven months, these men molded the first Masonic Lodge in Hamilton County.

Records kept by a secretary who wrote with great flourishes and marked legibility recorded that the first officers who worked under the dispensation were Enoch P. Hale, First Master, William I. Standefer, First Senior Warden, Milton Smith, First Junior Warden, the constituting brethren were Allen Kennedy, John H. Torbett, N.B. Braird, P.H. Butler, Thomas Shirley and Joseph G. Smith. At this first meeting there were present visitors Col. James A. Whiteside and two brothers from Olive Branch No. 53, David Rankin and J.C. Robison.

At this meeting, a committee was appointed to draw up the initial by-laws is quoted because they reflect the Masonry of a hundred years ago and should be a model for us today to guide us along the Masonic way:

“As union and regularity are necessary to perpetuate all human institutions more particularly this of ours. Therefore, to promote the benevolent purposes for which our society was first formed, and is still continued. To reserve morality, to preserve the dignity and harmony of the lodge, and the more firmly to maintain the duties which the Bands of Masonic Union and Brotherly Love prescribe. We, the Members of Harrison Lodge No. 114 of ancient York Masons Working by Dispensation from the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Tennessee Granted and dated the 11th day of March, A.D. 1845, A.L. 5845 do hereby ordain and establish the following articles as a constitutional code of By-Laws for the Government of our Lodge”

The Lodge continued to function under the first dispensation until the meeting of the Grand Lodge and another dispensation was issued dated October 10, 1845, and the lodge, still under dispensation, carried on and contributed to early history of Harrison and Chattanooga. Due to all the officers volunteering for service in the Mexican War the lodge was granted another dispensation dated July 13, 1846, and naming new officers, this Lodge continued to work until the Lodge was granted its Charter on October 6, 1846. This original charter is still in use.

The lodge was responsible for the first school in the county and it was known as the Harrison Masonic Male Academy with the officers of the Lodge acting as the Trustees of this institution of learning.

As the communities nearby began to be settled and land was sold, new lodges were needed. The first of these lodges was Limestone No. 176, chartered in Georgetown on October 2, 1849, several of the brethren demitted to this lodge.

Chattanooga having been incorporated in 1839 was now a thriving river town. Several of the brothers demitted, among them Beriah Frazier, and formed Chattanooga No. 199. This lodge was chartered on October 8, 1850, and Bro. Frazier was installed as the First Junior Warden of this Lodge.

The Lodge continued its work in the town of Harrison. The meetings of the Lodge had always been held in the jury room of the court house, and in 1858 there was a move on foot to build a suitable hall to hold Masonic work in. In the minutes for November 5, 1860, mention is made of the property of the estate of T. Crutchfield. The house and lot was purchased for $300.00.

The minutes of the Lodge stop at this point, mention having been made of the bad attendance. The Lodge was dormant during the period of the Civil War.

The next entry in the minute book is that on September 4, 1865, a committee was appointed to repair and fit up the Lodge room as it has been damaged by the War of the Rebellion.

The first meeting after the reorganization took place was in the Hamilton County court house at Harrison, which was then the county seat, because the Lodge hall had suffered much ill use during the war.

When repair work was finished, the meetings were again held in the little frame building. The building stood in the town of Harrison; it was constructed with pine and oak hewed from the giant trees alongside the river, and put together with wooden pins. It was never painted, but it served it occupants satisfactorily down through the years.

The lodge continued to hold their meetings in the town of Harrison until about the turn of the century at which time a group of the brothers petitioned and had the Lodge moved to the Silverdale Community. On July 23, 1902, the Lodge moved back to its former home at Harrison.

When Chickamauga Dam was proposed by Tennessee Valley Authority and the town of Harrison was flooded, TVA purchased the Lodge. Some of the older members wanted to move the Lodge to new ground, but the younger ones wanted to start anew. Acting on this idea, a new Lodge building was constructed at New Harrison and was dedicated on July 29, 1939. This Lodge building is serving today.