© Liberty Lodge #31 F & A M

Liberty Lodge #31

Ancient Free and Accepted Masons


10 E. Franklin St. Liberty, MO  64068 (816) 781-3775

In the decade from 1840 to 1850 there were many notable events which strongly influenced the material, social and spiritual life of Liberty.

In that period the Liberty Male and Female Seminary was opened and closed; there was a long and bitter winter when buffalo were seen in the streets and wolves foraged around the houses, there was a great flood in the Missouri river such as has not been seen since; chloroform was used as an anesthetic for the first time in Clay County; a company of soldiers was organized and left for the Mexican War with Col. Alexander W. Doniphan at its head: After history making exploits in Mexico they returned and were given a great public reception; a great temperance movement swept over the country and Liberty had a Good Templars organization 100 strong; here Thos. H. Benton spoke and in this county for several years lived David R. Atchison, United States Senator for twelve years and President of the United States for one day, gold was discovered in California and many from this vicinity joined the rush. In this time William Jewell College was founded, the Liberty Tribune was established, the Second Baptist Church was organized and a Masonic Lodge was chartered.

Most of these events served their day and generation and ceased to be. Only the lodge, the church, the newspaper and the college are with us now and continue to exert their benign influence on the life of the community.

In the year 1840 a number of Master Masons residing in Liberty and its vicinity petitioned the Grand Lodge A.F. & A M. of Missouri for a charter for a lodge to be located in Liberty, and, pending the granting of the charter, for permission to organize a lodge under dispensation. The permission was granted June 26th and on Saturday July l8fh the brethren met in a room in the Courthouse in Liberty and opened the lodge with the following officers: Worshipful Master, Josiah C. Parker, Senior Warden pro. tem, Thos. A. Case, Junior Warden, Henry C. Malone,

Secretary, Thos. M. Bacon, Treasurer, Henry Coleman, Senior Deacon Anderson McLain, Junior Deacon, Edward M. Spence, Stewart and Tyler, pro. tem Henry Fisher. Also present were Lewis Scott and Bartley Estes, an entered apprentice.

Acting under instructions from the Grand Master, Bros. Case, Malone and Spence then installed Josiah C. Parker as Worshipful Master, and he, in turn appointed and installed Bro. Malone as Junior Warden, Bro. Bacon as Secretary, Bro. Coleman as Treasurer, Bro. McLain as Senior Deacon and Bro. Spence as Junior Deacon.

At the first regular meeting August lst petitions for the degrees were received from John S. Lightburne, John Browning, Jonathan D. Skaggs and Jno. Edwards, Jr., and from Bartley Estes a petition for advancement to the degree of Fellowcraft. Bros. John Ferril, John Gordon and John Halbert, Master Masons, were admitted to membership on motion. Bro. Jno. Gordon was appointed Steward and Tyler and was duly installed. A committee was appointed to draft by-laws for the government of the lodge and this committee did its work promptly and well. But time and experience always bring changes, and it is not surprising that during the next several years many committees were appointed to revise the by-laws. And so it has been all through the years, as indeed it is with all organizations. By-laws are meant for Time and not for Eternity.

By the time of the next meeting, August l5th, the lodge had secured a room on the second floor of the Berry building which was situated about the middle of the south side of the first block east of the square on Kansas Street. Here at a meeting called for 3:00 P.M. Bartley Estes was passed to the degree of Fellow-craft, and at the regular meeting on that same day "at early candle light," Jno. S. Lightburne, Jno. Browning, and Jonathan D. Skaggs were initiated.

For the remainder of the year the lodge was busy receiving petitions and conferring degrees, one week meeting every night except Sunday.

We have no copy of the by-laws of those early years but it is certain they permitted some procedures that seem strange to us now. There was an "associate membership", whatever that was, and Master Masons were taken into membership on motion with no mention of application or demit.

Frequently the examination for proficiency was dispensed with the Worshipful Master declaring the existence of an "emergency". Before conferring any of the degrees the record shows that the secretary was satisfied, meaning the fee had been paid. In some grand jurisdiction today the Worshipful Master still asks the secretary that question. On one occasion a petition was received, voted on and the candidate was initiated all at one meeting under suspension of the rules.

On November 2nd the charter from the Grand Lodge dated October 9th, 1840, was received and thereafter the lodge, which had been called Liberty Union Lodge, was known as Liberty Lodge No, 31.

This being the first year of the lodge's existence it will not be out of place to mention a few "firsts." .

On December lst, 1840, Bro. John A. Gordon died and was buried with Masonic honors.

The first election of officers under charter was held December 26th. This was for a term of six months and resulted in the election of Alvin Lightburne, W.M.; Isaac P. Frost, S.W.; B. M. Hughes, J. W ; Henry Coleman, Treasurer; Thos. M. Bacon, Secretary.

Bro. Alvin Lightburne, the first elected Worshipful Master, was probably the most outstanding Mason of those early days. Nine years he served the lodge as W.M. and filled in at every other station as occasion required. He was constant in attendance. faithful in service and liberal in material contributions toward every effort to advance the cause of Masonry. He seems

to have exemplified to a high degree the tenets of his profession as a Mason. He died in 1890 and was buried with Masonic honors having been a Mason 64 years and a member of Liberty Lodge for 50 years.

January 4th, 1841, there occurred the first rejection of a petition, and on January 7th, there was the first appropriation from the treasury for the relief of distress.

February 4th, 1841, the lodge endorsed a petition of a number of brethren in Jackson County to the Grand Lodge for a lodge in Independence, and March 20th the same action was taken for a lodge at Sparta in Buchanon County.

At this time the jurisdiction of the lodge extended for many miles on every side and there were frequent calls to endorse such petitions. In the course of time other lodges were organized and the jurisdiction of the Liberty lodge was reduced until now it is restricted to the city of Liberty and a few miles around. This formation of new lodges accounts, in part at least, for the great number of demits granted in the early years of the lodge.

The lodge had been in its rented quarters in the Berry Building only a few months when the desire to own its own hall began to manifest itself. On February 1st, 1841, a committee was appointed to inquire into the probable cost of building a hall. April 24ththe committee reported that the Liberty Insurance Company had offered, for $500.00, to build a room over their building on the southwest corner of Main and Franklin Streets. This offer was accepted and on completion of the building a committee was appointed to furnish the hall and prepare it for use.

The records do not say when the lodge moved to its new home, but it must have been on or before November 2fth, 1841, for on that date the lodge voted to allow the use of the hall to the Royal Arch Chapter, if and when it should be organized. (The Chapter was organized under dispensation from the General Grand Royal Arch Chapter of the United States of America on May 23, 1842, but did not receive its charter until 1844, that being the first meeting of the General Grand Chapter after the Grand High Priest had granted the dispensation.) .

About this time a question arose among the members as to whether the officers appointed by the Grand Lodge for organization purposes had been properly installed and it was decided to ask the Grand Lodge to issue a new charter, to recognize the present officers and to validate all records of the lodge made heretofore. This was done, and, on the authority of the Grand Master, Bros. H. C. Malone and F. Garlich duly installed the officers at the meeting on November 20, 1841. These officers were: A. Lightburne, W.M.; J. P. Frost, S.W.; B. M. Hughes, J. W., P. N. Edward, Secretary; H. Coleman, Treasurer; A. Dougherty, S D.; J. S. Lightburne, J. D.; S. O. Beryr, Stewart and Tyler.

On June lst, 1842, M.W. Bro. Alex T. Douglas, Grand Visitor, held what seems to be the first school of instruction. For three and one-half days, morning, afternoon and night the lodge worked in the degrees and listened to lectures by the Grand Visitor.

At this meeting the attention of the brethren was called to the proposed amendment to the Constitution and the resolution of the Grand Lodge looking toward the establishment of a school for the sons and an asylum for the daughters of indigent Masons. Pledges for various sums to be paid annually for five years were made by a number of brethren. This movement of the Grand Lodge eventually resulted in the establishment of a Masonic College at Marion, Missouri. Thus early in its history Liberty Lodge No. 3l manifested that interest in education which was to persist in an active form until the founding of William Jewell College in 1849. And, in fact, that interest has never died, for today the college has many ardent supporters in the lodge.

In 1846 the Grand Lodge proposed the removal of the Masonic College from Marion and on December 4 of that year a meeting of the lodge was called for the purpose of starting a campaign to have the college located in Liberty. Some $2,030.00 was subscribed and offered to the Grand Lodge if the school was brought to Liberty. In the event the college was taken elsewhere the money was to be used to build in Liberty "a Literary Institution under control of this lodge." These well meant efforts were of no avail however for the college was moved to Lexington and the subscription money was never used.

The minutes of January 9, 1847, state that a petition for the degrees was received from "Coleman Younger, a farmer." One wonders if the secretary was inspired to designate him as "a farmer" to distinguish him from the Coleman Younger, 'bandit" of later years. He was initiated April 13, 1847. There is no record of his Passing or Raising, but exactly two years later the minutes show that the committee appointed to investigate charges of un-masonic conduct against Coleman Younger reported and the report was filed.

In July, 7847, the Doniphan Company of Missouri Volunteers returned from the Mexican War and were given a hearty welcome by the whole community. The lodge, together with members of other Masonic lodges in the vicinity, took part in the parade.

In this same month the lodge, on invitation of the Second Baptist Church, laid the cornerstone of their new building at the northwest corner of Water and Mississippi Streets, and since then has performed a like service for most of the public buildings erected in Liberty.

We cannot read the records of these first ten years without getting the impression that all was not peace and harmony within the lodge. Gambling, drunkenness and un-circumspect conversation were all too prevalent and it was even necessary to appoint a Vigilance Committee to round up the erring brethren. The minutes are full of charges and trials, but our fathers had the right conception of discipline. To them it meant correction and not punishment; so we find that while there were many reprimands and suspensions, there were only three expulsions; for an unprovoked homicide; rape of a slave girl; and bigamy and embezzlement.

Thus the first decade closed in a cloud of unrest and discontent within the lodge that almost caused its undoing, but the faithful ones were patient and considerate and were rewarded by a return of peace and harmony.

FROM 1840 TO 1850

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1850 - 1860