Minutes of Regular Communication for Monday, November 15th, 1858, Philanthropic Masonic Lodge #32: "a number of Freemasons residing near Fort Mills in this District, presented a petition this evening to the Grand Lodge for a Charter, and applied for the sanction of this lodge. On motion the sanction was given with but one dissenting vote."
Five days later, The Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina approved the petition. A Lodge of Ancient Free Masons was to be established in the town of Fort Mills, SC. It would be called, "Catawba", named after the Indians whom had given the 4,535 acres of land, upon which Fort Mill sits, to Thomas Spratt in 1787. It's number would be 56, which had previously belonged to Fellowship Lodge in St. George's Parish. Fellowship Lodge would later re-emerge as Harmony Lodge #61.
The Lodge was to operate under dispensation for one year. The Master would be Isaac Spencer. His Senior Warden was B. M. Cobb, who would be Junior Warden in 1859, and Senior Warden again in 1860. The Junior Warden was B. Frank Powell, who would go on to be Master of this Lodge nine times over a sixteen year span.
About one year later, on November 18th, 1859, the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina granted Catawba Lodge #56 it's charter. It's first chartered Master was John Mackemie White, who would be Master of this Lodge for a total of five years. His Senior Warden was J. E. Jeffries, Junior Warden was B. M. Cobb, Secretary was B. Frank Powell, Treasurer was Thomas B. Withers, who would be Treasurer a total of five years, but not consecutively. Senior Deacon was F. E. Moore, Junior Deacon was John H. Stewart. The Stewards were B. J. Patterson and James H. Stewart, and the Tyler was T. G. Culp, who would continue to hold that office more or less continuously until 1879.
That was one hundred and fifty years ago. In 1859, Catawba Lodge laid claim on about twenty brothers in membership. Today, we claim two hundred and thirty-six Brothers in our membership.
We began holding Lodge on the second floor of a one room school house at the corner of Monroe-White St., and Tom Hall St. When we out-grew that building, we built a new building on Academy St. in 1876. When we out-grew that building, we made the decision to move "up-town" to a room above Massey's General Store on Main St. in 1888. Two years later, we moved to the bottom of Main St. in 1890. Due to a fire that destroyed the Lodge in March of 1947, we were forced to move again. All that survives from our Lodge on Main St. are the Lodge's Charter, the Altar Bible, the bell and a few records. This time we moved to the old Massey house, which is on our current site in 1949. The house was in disrepair, not to mention, we had once again out-grown our facility, so in 1976 the old Massey house was deconstructed, and our current Lodge Hall was built in 1977. Many artifacts from the old Massey house survive in the new Lodge Hall, including the columns in the Lodge room and dining hall, the antique coat tree, the light globe that hangs in the dining hall, and some of the stair railing was made into picture frames. Five locations, six buildings in all.
Eighty Worshipful Masters have presided in the East. Twenty-five of whom still walk among us today. Among our ranks, we can find farmers, mill workers, lawyers, doctors, soldiers; from Private to General, ministers, business owners and politicians. Several of our brothers have been appointed to Grand Lodge offices, mostly that of District Deputy Grant Master, and Grand Chaplain.
In 1866, members of this Lodge petitioned for a Lodge in Rock Hill, which would go on to become Rock Hill Lodge #111. Again, in 1970, members from this Lodge petitioned for a Lodge in Indian Land, which would go on to become Indian Land Lodge #414. Both of these Lodges continue to thrive to this day, and we continue to rely on and be of assistance to them and the other Lodges in our district.
In one hundred fifty years, we have gone from a rented second floor of a school house with a little over twenty members to having our own Lodge Hall on our own property, with a roster of over two hundred members. What will the next one hundred fifty years hold for Catawba #56? Our membership is strong, our leaders wise, our Brethren dedicated. We will continue on as we have in the past. We will continue to grow, continue to make good men better.
We have lasted through the Civil War, the Spanish American War, two World Wars, the Great Depression, two building fires, one minor, the other destroying nearly everything, the Korean War, Vietnam, Desert Storm, and the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each has come as a blow to the Lodge, and each time the Lodge has come back.
What makes us strong? The tenants of Masonry, of course. Brotherly love, truth and charity. Brotherly love is what holds us together. It has been said before, "We don't always agree, but we always get along." Truth. Without truth, you cannot have knowledge, and without knowledge, all is lost. And charity. This Lodge was a major benefactor to the Fort Mill Schools in the early days of the Lodge. Our first two Lodge Halls were shared with the school, in fact. Our records indicate that we have contributed to disasters worldwide since our inception. From an earthquake in Charleston in 1886 to a yellow fever outbreak in Jacksonville, FL in 1888, the Gavelston hurricaine in 1900, the San Francisco earthquake in 1905, Hurricane Hazel in Myrtle Beach in 1954, Hurricaine Hugo in Charleston in 1989, and many others through the years. The Lodge continues, on a monthly basis, to make contributions to large organizations and individuals alike. From monumental disasters to minor bumps in the road of life.
What has made us strong in the past is what makes us strong today and will keep us strong in the future. It has for one hundred fifty years, and I am convinced that it will continue to do so for centuries to come.
Written by: Joe Collins, Secretary Catawba Lodge No. 56 A.F.M.