125 Years of Brotherhood – Catonsville, Maryland
Palestine Lodge is a premier lodge within the jurisdiction of the Maryland Grand Lodge.
125 Years of Brotherhood – Catonsville, Maryland
The mother lodge of Palestine Lodge was Patmos Lodge No. 70 in Ellicott City. After the War Between the States, the Most Worshipful Grand Master ordered Patmos Lodge to hold one meeting monthly in Catonsville as a means of protecting their jurisdiction. In the ensuing 25 years, one native of Catonsville joined Patmos Lodge.
In 1883 Brother J. H. Inglehart received his demit from Palestine, Texas and was received by Patmos Lodge, becoming its Senior Warden in 1885 and its Worshipful Master in 1886, 1887, 1888, 1889 and 1890. He headed a group, four from Patmos Lodge, which applied for a dispensation to form a lodge in Catonsville. Grand Master Shryock’s report to the Grand Lodge November 17, 1891, recorded the granting of such a dispensation on July 21, 1891, to Past Master J.H. Inglehart, Charles L. Hartley, James McNab, John S. Wilson, John Hubner, and others. The lodge was to be named “Palestine”.
The first meeting was held in Newburg Hall, which is the present site of Salem Lutheran Church, on August 13, 1891. Meetings were held “under dispensation” in Newburg Hall until November 17, 1891, when the charter was issued and the number “189” assigned. The lodge membership at that time was 15. By 1892 it had grown to 19. By 1900 there were 31 Master Masons and 2 Entered Apprentices. A membership of 497 is recorded as of November 1, 1950, and 535 at the time of the 60th anniversary. At the close of the 75th year, Palestine’s membership was 776.
Viewed historically, Palestine Lodge has passed through six phases of growth
- A small struggling county lodge
- A fairly affluent and growing county lodge
- A formerly affluent and growing county lodge
- A lodge changing from a county complex to a suburban complex
- A suburban lodge struggling to respond to record-breaking numbers of applicants
- A maturing suburban lodge seeking to teach the practice of Freemasonry to its members in breadth and depth.
Most of the early history of Palestine Lodge was researched by Bro. P.M. F. Bowie Smith, who studied records of the lodge and of the Grand Lodge in preparing a speech for the sixtieth-anniversary celebration held on November 17, 1951. His work shows clearly the struggle faced by the neophyte group, which met in Newburg Hall, until 1902. In that year the Lutheran congregation purchased the building for the purpose of erecting a church. The lodge moved to Library Hall and shared this home with the I.O.O.F. until the formation of the “Masonic Temple Association” in July 1902. This group sold 331 shares in the association at $25 each, realizing a net return of $8,275 with which the property on the southeast corner of Frederick Avenue and Newburg Avenue was purchased. Meetings were then held in Patmos Lodge until the new temple was completed on September 10, 1903, at a cost of $22,000. It remained as erected until 1929 when enlargements and improvements were made at a cost of approximately $30,000.
On April 7, 1914, the Masonic Temple Association was legally dissolved and the present operation under a Board of Trustees was instituted. During the years of the First World War, the Lodge initiated several men who played prominent roles in its later history: Rev. John C. Bowers, B. Compton Graham, George J. Grim, Conrad C Rabbe, and Fielder Bowie Smith. It should be noted that during these years the lodge was quite liberal in granting waivers of jurisdiction.
It is recorded that on November 11, 1920, Brother H. Clay Suter presented the lodge with a chest of silver “on account of his recent marriage”. In 1921 the initiation fee rose to $60 and the records show that at the January 13th communication six applicants were received. In 1923 a life membership was established for the sum of $100. There were 177 Master Masons belonging at that time. In 1926 the initiation fee was raised to $75 for anyone living in Baltimore City who wished to join.
The year 1929 saw a membership 201 Master Masons and a program of enlargement and renovation of the temple at a cost of about $30,000. As late as December 1930 the lodge had a membership of 211 Master Masons. However, shortly thereafter the effects of the depression were felt and in 1932 Worshipful Master J. Lawrence Hildebrandt saw the lodge roll drop to 203. By 1937 membership had dropped to 182 with no applicants in sight.
During the second half of the 1930s, a campaign developed to persuade greater numbers of the brethren to become life members, and thus increase the revenue of the lodge. This was supplemented by a campaign to induce Masons living in Catonsville who were members of other lodges to attend Palestine Lodge regularly.
THE CHANGING LODGE AND A RESURGENCE OF MASONRY IN POST-WAR AMERICA
There came a time when the fortunes of Palestine Lodge ebbed so low that the lodge was threatened with the loss of its position among its sister lodges. Only timely effort and sacrifice by key members prevented the loss of voting rights in the Grand Lodge of Maryland. However, with the advent of World War II, the situation in Catonsville and in the lodge began to change. The story is told briefly by membership statistics. In 1943 there were 231 and by 1951 the total had grown to 534.
During the 1940-49 decade, increasing numbers of petitions were received. Fewer waivers of territorial jurisdiction were granted. Saturday afternoon and evening sessions of the lodge at which 8 to 14 Master Masons were raised became common.
On November 10, 1949, Worshipful Master Gustav Brandt presided at the official burning of the mortgage, which had been created in 1929. Ladies Night was celebrated regularly in the temple. A wonderful 50th-anniversary celebration occurred in 1941. Ten years later a 60th-anniversary celebration was held and between those two dates, the lodge membership had risen from less than 200 to 534.
A remarkable set of circumstances operated during the years of World War II. While many other Masonic lodges were hard put to maintain a line of officers because of the demands of military service, Palestine Lodge did not lose one of its line officers during the war years. Simultaneously, the lodge was changing in outlook and self-image. It was no longer the small, struggling rural lodge. It took its rightful place in the affairs of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. Its Past Masters filled elective and appointive posts in Grand Lodge. Increasing numbers of its members received advanced York and Scottish Rite Degrees.
The remarkable growth in membership, which had characterized the 1940-49 period, continued with little abatement in the years between 1950 and 1959.
In 1953 membership stood at 592. By 1956 it had reached 630. Two years later there were 706 dues-paying members. The following decade opened with a membership of 735.
These were pleasant years. There was no diminishing of special meetings at which several lines of officers worked steadily to raise the maximum number of brethren permitted under the many dispensations granted. Despite increasing the initiation fee to $100 and raising dues, the lodge still received petitions in large numbers. Financially, the records were all kept in black ink. Obligations were discharged promptly and the reserve funds of the lodge increased.
The 1960s onward
In 1966 Palestine lodge was 75 years young and looking better every day. Ladies Night was celebrated at Boumi Temple and those who wished seats at Installation usually arrived somewhat in advance of 8 pm. Its cadre of Past Masters is most faithful in response to a call from the Worshipful Master of the lodge. Two of its members received the 33rd Degree of Masonry by reason of their outstanding service and exemplification of Masonic teaching. The membership as of November 1969 was 806.
In 1991 Palestine Lodge celebrated its 100th year, and received many congratulations from distinguished Masons who have roles in public office, entertainment, and other fields.
Much has happened, in our lodge and in our world, since we received our charter in 1891 and even since Brother Past Master John G. Freudenberger wrote this brief history of our Lodge in 1970. Palestine Lodge still strives to confer the degrees of Masonry in a dignified and meaningful manner and instill in the members of our great fraternity the true lessons belonging to those degrees. Our over 120 years in existence have brought challenge and opportunity. Recent years have witnessed real efforts on the part of the lodge to set aside periods of time for Masonic study and discussion. In 2015, Palestine sponsored and became the mother lodge of the Maryland Masonic Lodge of Research No. 239.
Yet with all the foregoing, Palestine still practices the basic tenets of the profession. The sick are visited. The deceased are laid to rest and memorialized. The widow and orphan are not forgotten. Those in need of service or blood may obtain it. The members of Palestine continue to reach out to the community, both in the lodge and individually. Palestine supports the development of our future leaders and is the home of the Catonsville-Palestine DeMolay Chapter.
Our members continue to participate in the many bodies of Freemasonry and spread the light of Freemasonry to the world around them. Many of our members have gone on to work diligently in the Grand Lodge of Maryland and the other bodies of Freemasonry. Many have gained honors for their labors and many have labored relatively unheralded.
As with all institutions, the future of Palestine Lodge lies wrapped in the mists of years yet unborn. Who can discern this mystery? There is a credo, a faith, and a light that shines in the darkness and has not been extinguished.
The year 2016 marked our 125th year anniversary of fellowship and brotherhood in Catonsville, Maryland.
-This history was adapted and updated from the Lodge’s history originally published on our previous website in 2007.