History of Person Lodge
From Whence We Came
While there exists mainly anecdotal evidence that Freemasons were found throughout colonial North Carolina and Virginia, the existence of a Masonic lodge in Person County is confirmed in the early 1800s through Masonic and public documents. Additional hints are found in the names of business, civic, and political leaders who are intertwined with names in Masonic records from the early days of Person County to the present.
Early North Carolina counties were large and sparsely populated. Originally part of Edgecombe County in 1746, successive divisions and sub-divisions placed the area known today as Person County in Granville County from 1746-1752, in Orange County until 1778, and part of Caswell County until 1791/1792 when Caswell County was divided into present-day Caswell and Person Counties, two side-by-side, 400 square mile counties. Person and Caswell Counties are proximate to our neighbor to the north; the northern edges of these counties form part of the North Carolina/Virginia border.
The first lodge in Roxboro for which there is a record was Temple Lodge, U. D. (Under Dispensation), AF & AM. On October 18, 1816, a dispensation for a lodge was granted by Grand Master John L. Tyler of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Although the circumstances are unknown, the dispensation was surrendered in December 1819, and Temple Lodge never was chartered.
It is entirely possible that some of the members of this first lodge became charter members of Person Lodge some 28 years later, when Grand Master Phineas W. Fanning granted a dispensation to the lodge in the summer of 1847. A charter was granted to Person Lodge No. 113 on December 7, 1847. C. S. Winstead was the Master when the lodge was chartered. Rev B. M. Williams, a prominent preacher in Person County, was the first elected Master after the lodge was chartered, serving during 1848. Edwin G. Reade, a young and upcoming lawyer and mayor of Roxboro was elected Senior Warden; William R. Denny was elected Junior Warden; James Drumwright was elected Treasurer; William R. Webb was elected Secretary; L.C. Edwards and Chesley Hamlin were appointed Senior and Junior Deacon, respectively. W.O. Bowes was appointed Tyler.
In the proceedings for 1860, Grand Master Lewis S. Williams reported that he received a letter from Brother J. A. Bailey, Master of Person Lodge No. 113 stating that on March 17, 1860 the temple was destroyed by fire. The Lodge records, charter, and contents of the building were lost in the blaze. A dispensation to assemble and resume labor was granted by the Grand Master. On December 7, 1869, the Grand Lodge granted a new charter with Person Lodge’s original date and number.
The lodge was a victim of fire again in the 1920s, with only the charter being saved, and a third time in the 1950s, when most of the furniture and charter were saved. This is the charter now in use.
Dormancy and revival
Person Lodge became dormant in 1872 and was revived in 1890. The original charter of the time was returned.
Other lodges in Person County
Records exist of two other lodges in Person County: Mill Creek Lodge U. D. , AF & AM and Woodsdale Lodge, No. 625, AF & AM. A dispensation from Grand Master Francis M. Moye was granted to Mill Creek Lodge in 1895, but Mill Creek Lodge never was chartered, and the dispensation was revoked in1897. Woodsdale Lodge No. 625 was granted a dispensation by Grand Master F. P. Hobgood on February 22, 1915. Woodsdale Lodge received its charter from the Grand Lodge on January 19, 1916. This lodge was consolidated with Person Lodge No. 113 on January 9, 1925.
GRAND MASTERS FROM PERSON LODGE
Person Lodge numbers among its membership three men who have served North Carolina as Grand Master of Masons. Perhaps no other lodge in the state of similar size or in a town of similar population can boast of this record. The three Grand Masters of Masons were Clement Hobson Jordan, MD, who served two terms, 1853 and 1854; Edwin Godwin Reade, also two terms, 1865 and 1866; and, Charles A. Harris in 1957.
Clement Hobson Jordan, MD
Dr. Clement Jordan was a physician and surgeon who lived in the Oak Grove community in the 1800s in what is now north central Person County between Hyco and Mayo Lakes. He is buried in the Edwards family cemetery near the Oak Grove Church. It was said that, “he was always a step ahead of his profession,” and that he was intensely interested in other activities in addition to the practice of medicine. He predicted the possibility of a wireless telegraph some 45 years before the discovery by Marconi and described how it could be done.
Brother Jordan learned the workings of the Grand Lodge during three terms as Deputy Grand Master, 1847, 1848, and 1849. He was one of the staunch supporters of the establishment of Saint John College which later became Oxford Orphanage. He laid the cornerstone for the first building erected at that institution. At the death of Dr. Jordan on July 11, 1875, Masonry in North Carolina lost an ardent supporter and valuable member.
Edwin Godwin Reade
Judge Edwin Reade began the practice of law in Roxboro in late 1835, when he was 23 years of age. In writing of Judge Reade many years ago, Judge J. Wallace Winborne, former Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, told of Judge Reade's nomination by the Whig-American party to run for Congress in 1855 without his knowledge or solicitation. He was elected and served one term, after which he returned to his Roxboro law practice. Although he opposed the division, in 1861 when North Carolina seceded from the Union, Judge Reade threw his whole loyalty to the Confederacy and was appointed to the Confederate Senate in 1863 by Governor Vance. Just before this appointment he had been elected to the Superior Court bench, which seat he assumed after one year in the Senate. He was continued on the Superior Court bench by Provisional Governor Holden, and in the winter of 1865, he was elected to the Supreme Court of North Carolina by the General Assembly.
In preparation for his terms as Grand Master, Brother Reade served two terms as Deputy Grand Master, 1862 and 1863.
The towering stature of this man who rose above political differences was revealed in 1868 when he was nominated by both parties and elected by the people to the Supreme Court. Judge Winborne said that Judge Reade was the only Justice of the N.C. Supreme Court to serve both the United States and Confederate Congresses. Brother Reade died in Raleigh on October 18, 1894 and is buried at Mount Tirzah in Person County. North Carolina masonry may be proud that such a man rose to leadership in the fraternity.
Charles Anderson Harris
Brother Charles Harris was born July 27, 1900 at Roxboro, N.C. He attended Roxboro schools and old Trinity College which is now Duke University. He first was employed by a Roxboro bank and later by a Roxboro textile plant of which he became president and a major stock holder. Brother Harris was a member of Long Memorial United Methodist Church for many years and served as board chairman and church school superintendent. His lifelong interest in the youth of America was evidenced by his many years of service to the Boy Scouts of America and by his support of the Order of DeMolay. He was honored by each of these organizations.
Charles A. Harris became a Master Mason on February 5, 1924 in Person Lodge No. 113. He served Person Lodge five terms as Master and for many years as Secretary. He labored in the Grand Lodge as a Certified Lecturer and as District Deputy Grand Master. Brother Harris' service, reputation, and character were such that in 1949 he was selected by Grand Master Wilkins P. Horton to be Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge. Progressing steadily through the line of Grand Lodge offices, Brother Harris was elected Grand Junior Warden in 1954, Grand Senior Warden in 1955, and Deputy Grand Master in 1956. Brother Harris was elected Grand Master on April 5, 1957 and served Masonry with honor and distinction in the Grand East.
In 1959 his brethren elected him Grand Secretary, and for the next 15 years, he served diligently in that post. Following his retirement, he was elected Grand Secretary Emeritus.
In 1977, during the twilight of his Masonic career, Brother Harris became a dual member, being one of the masons chartering Masters Lodge No. 754 in Raleigh. He was then perhaps the only North Carolina mason ever to simultaneously hold life membership in two lodges and to be issued the number one dues card by each lodge.
Further evidence of the esteem in which Brother Harris' brethren held him are the scores of honorary memberships to which he was elected by lodges throughout North Carolina, in other states, and abroad. His love of and generosity to Person Lodge are evident by the many books, pictures, and masonic items donated by him and his family to our lodge. Brother Harris died on November 26, 1980 and was returned to Roxboro for interment with full Masonic Honors by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of North Carolina. His Grand Master jewel and apron are in a display case situated in the Lodge foyer. The display case was crafted by Kenneth Paith, Past Master of Person Lodge (1985) and Past District Deputy Grand Master.
HEROES, CURIOSITIES, AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Oscar Scott Woody: Roxboro native, postman on the Titanic, and Master Mason
Oscar Scott Woody was one of five postal clerks who perished on the Titanic when the luxury liner hit an iceberg on its maiden voyage and sank on April 15, 1912. He was a native of Roxboro and the son of J. Frank Woody, also of Roxboro. Brother Woody was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in Acacia Lodge No. 16 in Clifton, VA on August 30, 1903. While not a member of Person Lodge, Brother Woody’s ties to his hometown remain strong. The United States Postal Service located at 223 South Main Street in Roxboro is named the "Oscar Scott Woody Post Office Building," one of few to be named after a postal employee and the only Post Office building to be named after a postal employee who served aboard the Titanic.
Brother Woody had been a postal clerk for 15 years on trains between Greensboro, NC and Washington, D.C. prior to joining the crew of the R.M.S. Titanic at the age of 43. Edwin Sands, Assistant Superintendent of Foreign Mails, New York City, issued Brother Woody’s fateful travel orders dated April 1st, 1912:
“You are hereby instructed to proceed from New York as a clerk in the sea post office on the SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, sailing April 2nd; and upon reaching Plymouth, you will disembark and travel to Southampton; whence you will return to New York as a clerk in the sea post office on the SS Titanic, sailing from Southampton, on April 10th.”
Brother Woody complied with the orders. All went well, and on board the ship, Brother Woody happily was celebrating the approach of his 44th birthday with his colleagues at the stern of the ship when the Titanic struck the iceberg. On that dreadful night of April 14, 1912, Brother Woody and four other postal clerks were among the first to suffer from the impact with the iceberg. These men refused to leave their posts and struggled to save the mail in their charge. They were last seen carrying sacks of mail from G Deck to C Deck. All five men perished in the line of duty. Only two bodies were recovered, those of Brother Woody and Mr. John Starr March, both Americans.
"I urged them to leave their work. They shook their heads and continued at their work. It might have been an inrush of water later that cut off their escape, or it may have been the explosion. I saw them no more."
- Albert Theissinger, Steward aboard R.M.S. Titanic and survivor
Brother Woody died on his 44th birthday.
In November 2003, Governor Mike Easley declared November 24th "Oscar Scott Woody Day" in North Carolina, and in 2004, Roxboro Mayor Steve Joyner proclaimed July 12 as Oscar Scott Woody Day. Raleigh Congressman Brad Miller introduced a bill to honor Brother Woody with a named building.
In a statement, the congressman said, "I believe recognition of Oscar Scott Woody's heroic efforts is long overdue. This legislation names the Roxboro NC. Post Office in honor of a native son who gave his life upholding his duties to the U.S. Postal Service."
On June 25, 2004, President George W. Bush signed Public Law 108-253, a Bill designating the facility of the United States Postal Service located at 223 South Main Street in Roxboro, as the "Oscar Scott Woody Post Office Building."
And now, as Brother Paul Harvey says, “Here is the rest of the story,” a link between past and present. A Mr. Cassem also was a passenger on the Titanic. He was returning from Lebanon to his home in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He helped save a mother and three children as well as a lone boy. After seeing that all were lowered to and secured in a lifeboat, he floated with a life vest until being rescued. Two years later, Mr. Cassem moved to Roxboro to work with Brother Toufielk Ameen's father in his diner, the forerunner of the Eatwell Cafe. Brother Toufie was an active member of Person Lodge until his death on January 1, 2011.
One master, two lodges
Brother Ernest Bailey had the distinction of being the only known member to serve as Master of Woodsdale Lodge No. 625 AF & AM before it consolidated with Person Lodge No. 113 in 1925 and later as Master of Person Lodge No. 113. It is not known when Brother Bailey was Master of Woodsdale Lodge, but he was Master of Person Lodge in 1935.
The beautiful furniture that adorns the East, West, and South was procured from a Methodist Church in Danville, Virginia by Brother Charles Harris. These chairs were salvaged from a fire in the 1950's, refinished, and remain a prized possession of our Lodge.
Legacies, land, and temples
In 1948, Brother Rhyland T. Snapp, a dedicated Mason, died and bequeathed a generous legacy to Person Lodge No. 113. This, along with portions of land given on Leasburg Street by the William H. Harris family adjoining the lot purchased by the lodge from the Peace family, became a beginning for the construction of a new temple.
Although we specifically recognize Brothers Snapp and Harris for their generosity, many others made significant contributions toward the building of the current temple. Construction began in 1963. Brother Samuel A. Oliver, Jr. was Master of the lodge and also an employee of the George W. Kane Construction Co. which was awarded the contract for the construction. Brother Oliver supervised the construction and used the best materials and workmanship that he could muster with the full support of his employer.
The cornerstone was laid on November 22, 1963, the same day that President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Samuel A. Oliver was Master. Brother Edward Bradsher fabricated the copper box traditionally placed inside cornerstones to contain mementoes and articles left for posterity. On the following day, the Grand Master granted permission to reopen the cornerstone, and copies of the Courier-Times (Roxboro and Person County) and Durham Morning Herald newspapers containing the headline news of President Kennedy’s death were added to the copper box.
On April 15, 1964, Grand Master W. H. Burrier returned to dedicate the temple. He was accompanied by a number of Grand Lodge officers. About 250 people attended including distinguished visitors from 13 other North Carolina lodges. The event was a proud occasion for Charlie F. Gentry, Master, his officers and members.
On October 1, 1974, Samuel A. Oliver, Master when the cornerstone was laid in 1963 and Master again in 1974, burned the temple mortgage in a celebration during Past Masters & Ladies Night. The successful retirement of the debt in ten years was celebrated by Sam Oliver Jr., Master, who recognized Brothers W. F. Timberlake and A. H. Rimmer for their outstanding fund-raising efforts.
The original building committee members were Brothers W. F. Timberlake, J. W. Green, A. H. Rimmer, S. A. Oliver, and W. B. Mewborne.
The original finance committee members were Brothers M. Banks Berry, O. C. Hull, C. A. Harris, Emory Foushee, O. T. Kirby, D. R. Taylor, and Manley Whitfield.
Brother Robert D. Cleveland was the first to be raised to Master Mason in the new temple. He served two terms as Master and was elected as Secretary for twelve consecutive years.
Poetry, proficiency, and philanthropy
For many years our members and guests enjoyed outstanding poems with Masonic themes written by Brother J. W. Green. His poetry and Masonic lectures were an inspiration to all of us who had the opportunity to be in attendance during his presentations. The poems titled Our Departed Brethren, When we walk into the Temple, and Masters and Tools are the most familiar and appeared on our Past Masters & Ladies Night and Installation of Officers programs for many years.
Brother Green served four terms as Master of Person Lodge. He was an outstanding Mason and pillar of his community, serving his church, civic organizations, and as Mayor of Roxboro.
Brother Nathaniel W. Whitfield, a dedicated Mason, served his lodge and the 33rd Masonic district with distinction for many years. He was in the East at Person Lodge twice, first in 1968 and again in 1980. His proficiency in the work is admirable and can be attested to by the many requests he received to give lectures, install officers, and officiate at Masonic funerals. Beginning in 1970 and continuing in an unbroken chain every year into the new century, Brother Whitfield installed the officers of Person Lodge. He also installed the officers of Oxford Lodge No.122 in 31 of those years. He served the Grand Lodge as District Deputy Grand Master and District Deputy Grand Lecturer for three years and 12 years respectively and continued to maintain his certified lecturer certificate.
The North Carolina Grand Lodge records of service as District Deputy Grand Master and District Deputy Grand Lecturer reach back to 1906 and 1950, respectively, when the Grand Lodge created the offices. Several members of Person Lodge have served in district offices. When the districts were created, Person Lodge was in the 33rd Masonic District; in 2001, Person Lodge moved to the 19th Masonic District.
District Deputy Grand Masters from Person Lodge
James W. Green, (1948, 1949, 1950)
William B. Hicks, (1957, 1958, 1959)
Nathan W. Whitfield, (1969, 1970, 1971)
George W. McDowell, (1975, 1976, 1978)
Calvin C. Hall, (1984, 1985, 1986)
Kenneth E. Paith, (1987, 1988, 1989)
Donald R. Long, (1999, 2000, 2001)
District Deputy Grand Lecturers from Person Lodge
William B. Hicks (1953, 1954, 1955)
Nathan W. Whitfield (1972, 1973, 1974, 1988, 1989, 1990, 1994)
George W. McDowell (1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1985, 1986, 1987)
Calvin C. Hall (1991, 1992, 1993)
Worshipful Brother William B. Hicks served as Secretary of the lodge for twenty years and two terms as Master. He was proficient in the work and gave the degree lectures for many years.
The comfortable seats that line the north and south sides of the lodge were purchased from Duke University by Brother Robert L. Dixon, PM. The mounting bases were made by Brother Kenneth E. Paith, PM and installed with help from the brethren. The Secretary's desk was contributed by Eaton Corporation through Kenneth E. Paith, PM, who was an Eaton employee.
The outside shelter used during Person Lodge's annual Fish Fry and for other social occasions was built from funds starting with a bequest from Brother G. Prillman. Many other generous brothers contributed until sufficient funds were available to begin and complete construction. Brothers R. L. Dixon, PM and R. S. Shackleford, PM were the leaders and driving force in the erection of the shelter in 1998.
In June 2014, winds from a severe thunderstorm blew down a large tree that fell on and destroyed the shelter. Brother Derwin Charles led the team that replaced the shelter with a larger pavilion complete with modern lighting and a covered walkway to the temple dining room. The new pavilion is visible on the left side of the image on the lodge home page.
The beautiful floor in the lodge representing the mosaic pavement or ground floor of King Solomon's Temple, the Indented Tessel which surrounds it, and the Blazing Star were great improvements in the appearance of our lodge room. Brothers Curtis A. Williamson and Chelves L. Ashby, both Past Masters, are credited with overseeing the selection and installation of this worthy project.
History of Person Lodge consolidation and continuity
This brief history is a consolidation of writings spanning the beginning of Person Lodge through approximately 1964 by Charles A. Harris, PGM. Brother J. W. Green, PM continued the history through 1974. Brother Kennneth E. Paith, PM, PDDGM continued the record through 2004 drawing on interviews with Past Masters Samuel A. Oliver, Charlie Gentry, Nathaniel Whitfield, and Edward Bradsher with contributions from many well informed brethren. Brother William J. Baumbach II, of Acacia Lodge No. 16, Clifton, Virginia, contributed portions of the section about Brother Oscar Scott Woody. Brother Dion Viventi contributed several photographs and placed the history on the lodge’s first website. Brother Anderson White, Person Lodge Assistant Secretary, past Secretary, and Webmaster, edited the history for style and continuity, and reformatted it for the website in 2009 and again in 2017. This is the version you now are viewing.