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Saturday, March 7, 2009

The Lodges Solomon

Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M. of Georgia, recently celebrated the 275th anniversary of its founding in the city of Savannah. This lodge provides two possible dates of organization – 21 February 1733 or 21 February 1734 – and claims the title of the Oldest Continuously Operating English Constituted Lodge in the Western Hemisphere.

Whenever the topic of this old lodge in Savannah enters a conversation on the northern side of the Savannah River in South Carolina, Palmetto State Freemasons cannot but help to think of another old lodge in another historic Southeastern city. Located just a couple of driving hours north of Savannah, one can find Solomon’s Lodge No. 1, A.F.M. of South Carolina, located in Charleston. This lodge was warranted in 1735 by the Grand Lodge of England. Albert G. Mackey, in the course of his research published in 1861, had this to say.
In a roll of Lodges under the jurisdiction of England, appended to Hutchinson’s “Spirit of Freemasonry,” with the following title: “List of Lodges, (with their numbers,) as altered by the Grand Lodge, April 18, 1792,” I find the number 45 is marked as having been warranted in 1735, under the name of Solomon’s Lodge, Charleston, South Carolina, which is followed by number 46, in the same year, designated as Solomon’s Lodge, No. 1, Savannah, Georgia.[i]
The reader that paid attention to the previous quote will undoubtedly raise an eyebrow or two and ask the obvious question. How can Solomon’s Lodge in Savannah claim to be “oldest” when there is documentation of a slightly older Solomon’s Lodge in Charleston, which also continues to operate? The arrival to the answer of that question requires some interesting further investigation.

Before proceeding further, it should be pointed out that there are other old lodges worthy of mentioning. At least two of the following lodges claim an “oldest” designation.[ii]

* Saint John’s Lodge No. 1 in Boston, Massachusetts, was organized on 30 July 1733.
* Norfolk Lodge No. 1 in Norfolk, Virginia, was constituted on 22 December 1733.
* St. John’s Lodge No. 1 in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, was organized on 24 June 1736.

In the case of the Lodges Solomon in Charleston and Savannah, the friendly debate between Masons on both sides of the Savannah River revolve around two terms – organized and warranted – and which of the terms establishes a lodge’s true birth date. It has been established that Solomon’s No. 1 in Charleston was warranted prior to Solomon’s No. 1 in Savannah – though it may have been only by mere moments and by the accident of which warrant was chosen to be issued first. If one uses the warrants to establish birthdays, then the Charleston lodge is the eldest of the two.

The dates of organization provide different dates of birth, however. Solomon’s Lodge No. 1 in Charleston did not officially meet for the first time – on 29 October 1736 – until, presumably, after its warrant had arrived from England.[iii] Solomon’s No 1 in Savannah, however, was meeting as a Time Immemorial lodge prior to the issuance of a warrant.[iv] Though some questions remain as to whether or not Time Immemorial lodges were still considered as proper in the 1730s, the Grand Lodge of London may have been unaware of the activities of the lodge in Savannah or “looked the other way” when it issued a warrant in 1735. Regardless, if one uses the dates of organization then Solomon’s No. 1 in Savannah predates its counterpart in Charleston by approximately two years and eight months.

The friendly debate continues.

[i] Mackey, Albert G., M.D., The History of Freemasonry in South Carolina. Columbia, S.C.: South Carolina Steam Power Press, 1861, p. 3.
[ii] Porter, Robert S. II. Historian’s Apse, http://www.solomonslodge.com/historiansapse.html (Accessed March 7, 2009).
[iii] Mackey, pp. 2 and 4.
[iv] Porter (accessed March 7, 2009).

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