1847 - Present
Freemasonry as we know it today, came to this country in the year of 1800. Forty-seven years later, the Masonic Lodge of Shepherdsville, Kentucky was the first Lodge to be chartered in Bullitt County. Bullitt Lodge # 155 was chartered on September 2, 1847 with Rev. George L. Rogers serving as the first Master of the Lodge. We know that the Grand Lodge Officers were Wm. B. Allen as Grand Master, James H. Davies as Deputy Grand Master, Charles Tilden as Grand Senior Warden, John D. McClure as Grand Junior Warden, Albert G. Hodges as Grand Treasurer, and Phillip Swigert as Grand Secretary. It is unknown where Bullitt Lodge met for their meetings during the years of 1847 through 1849.
The following image is captured from Proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky at a Grand Annual Communication in the City of Lexington, Commencing August 25, 1851.
History shows that on September 1, 1849, while under the leadership of pastor Preston B. Samuels of the Baptist Church, together with Francis Maraman, the Master of Bullitt Lodge # 155 F. & A.M., bought a piece of land. The property they purchased together was the property where the present church is located today and the adjacent corner. The ninety-five dollar purchase price of the land was to be shared equally by both parties. The property purchased were two lots, measuring 40' wide x 199'-5" deep, (this is recorded in Deed Book A under "m" Deed Book LP. 493 at the Bullitt County Court House.) A building was to be erected of brick, forty feet by sixty feet. The Lodge was to use the upper floor and also two rooms on the main floor, measuring about eight feet deep. Both parties were to share equally in expense of fencing the property and keeping in good repair.
According to a statement by Rev. Bruce Hartsell in a booklet of 1950: "We must assume that the building was erected according to the description given in the deed. There were only one or two persons living in 1950 in Shepherdsville who could recall the building and they said it was one of the most imposing structures in the little town." There were three archways at the front of the building, which served as a porch and also housed the stairway, on the north side, leading to the upper floor. It was said that the church could seat 400 people and was valued at $1,200.00.
A request by a joint committee from the church and the Masonic Fraternity at Shepherdsville, Ky. to inform Brother Thomas J. Fisher that he was invited to preach the dedication sermon of the Baptist Church on December 25th, 1850. Worshipful Master, Lorenzo Hogland also requested him to deliver an address to the Bullitt Lodge # 155 on December 24th, 1850. The Grand Lodge Officers that year were; John D. McClure as Grand Master, J.M.S. McCorkle as Deputy Grand Master, C.G. Wintersmith as Grand Senior Warden, Thomas Ware as Grand Junior Warden, Albert G. Hodges as Grand Treasurer, and Phillip Swigert as Grand Secretary. (* Brother Lorenzo Hogland, Master of 1850 died on November 8, 1880, and along with his three wives and daughter are buried in the Old Shepherdsville Cemetery, located in Shepherdsville, west of Plum Street between 1st & 2nd Streets.)
During the Civil War, Shepherdsville was "captured" by the confederates in September 1861 and was held for three days. During the early part of the war, many Bullitt County men joined in the fray and cast their lot with the North or South. This, no doubt, had an effect on the church and the lodge because, though it may not be proved, it would be safe to say that the sentiments ran at a fevered pitch, hard feelings may have resulted, and "fellowship" at best was probably difficult.
Rev. Hartsell went on to state "It had been recalled that the church building and the Lodge Hall and the Methodist Church building were used either to billet Union Troops or as hospital space during and immediately following the Battle of Perryville." A directory of the church printed in 1913 declared that the "old building was occupied by Federal Troops in the Civil War." It would appear then, that if troops occupied the church house, worship could not be conducted, unless the members met elsewhere. It must have been a particularly bleak period because even the association did not meet in 1862 as it had up to this time. No communications from the church were sent during the years of 1863, 1865 or 1866, and from records at Bullitt Lodge, there were no minutes reported from April 1861 through July 1865. I would assume that was the period of time the Union Army had taken over the building.
For some unknown reason, the church had become dormant from 1883 through 1884 and into 1885. During this time there was no pastor and no meetings of the church were held for more than a year. "Shepherdsville Baptist Church was dead."
The Lodge of Masons who had been sharing the building with the Shepherdsville Baptist moved on and began to meet elsewhere. The building was in bad state and in need of extensive repairs. "Sheep and goats roamed at will through the building. Children also played in it. The walls were severely cracked as results of a lighting storm and many heavy winds and rains.
From this information, I would have to assume that the Lodge met at the Baptist Church from 1850 through 1885.
We don't know the situation that caused the Church and Lodge to separate, other than the despair of the old building, but the old minutes show that in 1886 rent was paid to the Troutman Brothers of Shepherdsville. The firm of the Troutman Brothers Mercantile was formed in 1873 and was the largest store in Shepherdsville until it burned sometime around 1923. The store became known as the Troutman Brothers Mammoth Department Store. It was said that it housed everything from the "cradle to the grave", the Bullitt County Bank, post office, dry goods, funeral supplies, hardware and many other items.
Bullitt Lodge met there at the Troutman Brother's store for a period of twenty-years, from 1886 through November 1906. It is stated in our lodge minutes that during the era of time the lodge met at the Troutman Bros. Store, many functions were held at the Old American Hotel.
The American Hotel was located on the west side of Main Street, across from the Troutman Bros. Store. The hotel had a dining room where the lodge held family nights, Christmas parties and banquets.
During the year of 1894, the members of Bullitt Lodge where looking for a different place to conduct their meetings, so Worshipful Master, R.F. Hayes appointed a committee to confer with the Fiscal Court to rent the upper story of the first Bullitt County Court House, built in 1804.
The Old Court House was built in the middle of the square formed by the crossing of Second Street and Buckman (Main) Street. It is said that when Shepherdsville was made the county seat, owners of the lots that bordered the square were asked to give up forty square feet of their lots, which formed the Public Square.
The said committee was directed not to offer more than thirty-six dollars per year for said upper story of the courthouse. The committee reported back to the lodge that the judge was to rent to the highest bidder and that F.P.Straus, an attorney of Shepherdsville, had made a higher bid. This being the case, the committee continued to rent their present Hall from the Troutman Brothers for a fee of thirty-six dollars per year, and continued to meet there until November 6, 1906.
In 1846, on the north side of Salt River stood a poorly constructed brick structure. From this poorly staffed building, Shepherdsville High School had its beginning. We have no records of the founders or its teachers. If records were kept they were probably destroyed in October 1862, when a sharp battle occurred at Shepherdsville between the Union forces and the Confederated forces of General Braxton Bragg. This is probably the reason we have no records or minutes of Bullitt Lodge from 1862 through 1865. In 1905, this old outmoded and unsatisfactory building was torn down and replaced with a red brick building, containing four classrooms and two halls. This was at that time known as the Graded Common School District # 4. Shortly after Professor J.H.Sanders became principal in 1913, the four-room schoolhouse was completely remodeled and enlarged to 8-large classrooms, 3 halls and an office. Electric lights and modern heating plant were installed at the same time and a laboratory and library were available.
In October of 1906, Bullitt Lodge moved from its meeting place at the Troutman Brothers Store to the four-room Graded Common School District # 4. There the lodge leased the upper east room of the building from November 1, 1906 through September 1, 1907 for a fee of five-dollars per month. The lodge was to furnish the fuel for the said room when the furnace was installed. After spending only one year at the school, the lodge made yet another move and went back to the Troutman Brothers Mammoth Department Store in October of 1907.
The lodge had signed a contract to meet there, starting October 1,1907 and running for a period of five-years at a cost of $125.00 per year. That period of time would have taken them through October 1,1912, but the contract was extended to March 31,1914, at which time they would move into their brand new Masonic Temple, located on the corner of Main Street and Highway # 44 in Shepherdsville. (*The Troutman Brothers, whom were also Fraternal Brothers, saw that Bullitt Lodge members had a place to hold their meetings for some twenty-eight-years.)
In September of 1912, under the guidance of Worshipful Master, Robert H. Roe, a committee on plans and specifications for a new Masonic Temple was appointed. On March 3rd, 1913, the building committee brought before the lodge, pencil sketches of their ideas as to the size, formation, etc. of the Masonic Temple to be built on the property already purchased in 1910. And on August 18th, 1913, a contract was granted to Mr. S.A. Hornbeck, a member of this lodge, to construct the Masonic Temple at a cost of $9,000.00. Just eight months later, on April 6th, 1914, the building committee submitted their approval of completion on the new Masonic Temple. The first stated communications in the new Hall was held on April 20th, 1914 and on May 15th, 1914, the Graduating Class of the Shepherdsville High School used the auditorium of the Masonic Temple in which to hold its Commencement exercises.
Under the direction of Worshipful Master, Harry H. Combs, the New Masonic Temple was dedicated on June 6th, 1914 in accordance to the ancient form and usages in the name of the Grand Architect of heaven and earth to Freemasonry, Virtue and Universal Benevolence. Orie S. Ware was Grand Master; George B. Winslow, Deputy Grand Master; T.J.Adams, Grand Senior Warden; James N.Saunders, Grand Junior Warden; John H. Leathers, Grand Treasurer, and Dave Jackson as Grand Secretary. After the lodge was closed, the brethren retired to the Bullitt County Fair Grounds and partook of a bountiful basket dinner prepared and spread by the ladies of the Star of Hope Chapter # 183 O.E.S. Bullitt Lodge continued to meet in this beautiful Temple for eighty-one-years, until October 16th, 1995.
During the years from 1914 through 1995, several different groups occupied the lower floor of the lodge hall located on the corner of Buckman and Hwy. 44. A movie house, drug store, and florist, just to name a few. At times from the small basement kitchen at the rear of the building, they would hold fish fries and on the first Saturday of each month, fellowship and breakfast would be served at a donation price. Around the Christmas Season each year, lodge members would gather for fellowship and would prepare and deliver fruits and candies baskets to the widows and needy. The Temple served as a refuge for many people during the 1937 flood, when many families were homeless due to their homes flooded. The water level on the Masonic Lodge reached to just below the bottoms of the windows of the first floor. Meals were prepared on the front porch of the lodge hall and the people were fed and housed on the upper floor.
With the building that housed Bullitt Lodge # 155 for over eighty-one years needing on-going costly repairs, it was the decision of the members of the lodge that we should look into selling the building and erecting a new Lodge on the property purchased approximately four-years before.
The old Temple built in 1914 for a cost of $9000.00 was now appraised at $200,000.00. The Temple was sold in September of 1995 and under the leadership of James McClure, Master 1995, the last Stated Communications were held in this building on October 16, 1995.
Out of the kindness of Master Lee Hunt and the brothers of McNeil Lodge # 586, located in Lebanon Jct. Kentucky, Bullitt Lodge met at McNeil Lodge # 586 from November 1995 through September 1996, while a new Masonic Lodge Hall was being built.
In January 1995, Worshipful Master, Jim McClure appointed a Building and Research Committee, to research the design architectural plans for a possible new lodge building. Brother C.L. Lane would chair this committee, with five other committeemen. After visiting other lodges, such as Crescent Hill, Robinson and Taylorsville, Chairman C.L.Lane submitted preliminary line drawings and design to the craft for approval. The Building and Research committee had the Talefero Brothers Architects to submit drawings for the new lodge hall for the member's discussions and approval. With the Talefero Brothers bid package being much more than the lodge could afford, a set of drawings where purchased and the lodge hall would be built by subcontracted builders, guided by the Building and Research Committee.
On December 9th, 1995 groundbreaking ceremonies took place at the new lodge site. With the spring of 1996 being very cold and wet and a tornado on May 28th that hit northern Bullitt County, construction on the lodge hall was slowed. But the dedicated Building and Research Committee had set a date for Saturday, September 7, 1996 for the dedication of the new 5,900 square foot Masonic Hall, and they intended to see it happen.
Under the leadership of Worshipful Master, George Jetter and the appointed Building and Research Committee, the new Lodge Hall was complete and Dedication Ceremonies were held on Sunday, September 15,1996, just one week later than planned. The minutes of the Dedication Ceremonies read: "The Most Worshipful Grand Master, L.C. Harper proceeded with the dedication of the lodge hall. Prayer was offered and the Grand Chaplain presented Scripture lessons. The Grand Marshall called upon the Grand Lodge Officers to proceed with the dedication. The lodge was consecrated with corn, wine, and oil and the accompanying charges presented by the Grand Lodge Officers. The Most Worshipful Grand Master then called upon the Grand Chaplain to present the invocation. Upon close of prayer, the Grand Master directed the Grand Marshall to proclaim the Lodge hall dedicated. The Most Worshipful Grand Master presented a Certificate of Dedication from the Grand Lodge of Kentucky F&AM, and the silver dedication cup to Worshipful Master George Jetter. After the Dedication Ceremonies, the brothers, families and guests, retired to the dining room for refreshments that were being served by the ladies of the Star of Hope, Chapter # 183 O.E.S."
Bullitt Lodge has come a long way since it's birth in 1847. From a two story, 40'x 60' brick building, built and dedicated in 1850, valued at $1,200.00 and shared equally by the Lodge and the United Baptist Church of Shepherdsville in which they stayed for some 38 years, that was recalled to be one of the most imposing structures in town, to one of the most elegant buildings in Shepherdsville built in 1914 when Bullitt Lodge built a two story Masonic Temple at a cost of $9,000.00 on the corner of 4th & Main Streets and remained there for 81 years. And finally moving in 1996 to the new Masonic Hall, located at 376 High School Drive in Shepherdsville. This beautiful 5,900 square foot building has approx. 2,500 square foot dining room, which is used extensively, a large Lodge Room and Library with ample parking, at a cost of approximately $226,000.00.
In the early years, from around 1886 through the mid 1900's, petitions for memberships were read at almost every stated communication. Membership continued to grow throughout those years.
As the years passed, television became one of the greatest tools in receiving news, sports and entertainment in the 1940's. Wars tore apart our Country, taking our young men and women away from their homes, their families, friends and the fraternity. Death has laid a heavy hand upon our membership. All of these things have taken a toll on our membership in Freemasonry. But as dedicated men in Freemasonry, we will continue to keep this Fraternity alive and growing into the future.
Bullitt Lodge # 155
Past Master, 1995
Information for this article, were taken from:
Minutes of Bullitt Lodge # 155
Articles of Tom Pack; Bullitt County Historian
History of First Baptist Church of Shepherdsville, 1837-1987
A History of Bullitt County; copyright 1974
Pioneer News Articles
Ridgway Memorial Library
This article is copyright 2008 by Jim McClure, and is presented here with his kind permission.
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