Freemasonry in New Smyrna Beach, Florida

It is believed that organized Freemasonry in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, may be dated from January 22nd, 1896 as it was on that date that a Charter was granted for the formation of New Smyrna Lodge #149. The names of the original charter members are not known for certain as all records were burned a few years later when fire destroyed the lodge hall and records in 1905, but from a list of members paying dues in the year 1903, we find the following names and it is quit certain that several of these brothers were charter members:

W.S. Hart; C.L.Dohn; R.J.McCarthy; B.F. Chilton; M.A. Brunson; J.P. Turner; Gus Spleiss; A. Whitaker; A.C. McCall; H.C. Waldrun; E.K. Anders; A.W. Shattuck; L.B. Bouchelle; M.A. Galbreath; D.P. Smith; W.A. Fitts; F.N. Holly; H.C. Bell; R.S. Nelson; H.W. Enos; R.H. Stokes; A. Moeller; A.Q. Brooks.

In the Charter, George H. Count was named as the Worshipful Master; Alex A. Berry as Senior Warden; and Fred. A. Barrett as Junior Warden.¬†Meetings of the newly organized lodge were held in a room above the C.L. Dohn’s feed store at the corner of Canal and Faulkner streets.

On October 13th, 1905 the feed store and lodge room above were wiped out by fire, together with practically all the lodge records up to that time. the next meeting place of the lodge was in a building near the corner of North Orange and Julia streets. For some reason, meetings here were not practical and a change was immediately made to a school building near the FEC railroad track crossing on Mary Avenue. We find that as early as February 5th, 1906 there were plans and discussion of the building of a permanent lodge hall. On that date a committee was appointed to report on how large a building could be erected for the sum of $300.00. Which seemed to have been all the money available for that purpose.

By April 2nd, 1906, C.L. Dohn had rebuilt his feed store and livery stable on Faulkner street and space was available for meeting upstairs in that building, so it was decided that the lodge should again meet there (upstairs). On February 18th, 1907 the lodge bought a building lot from brother B.F. Chilton, at the corner of Orange and Canal streets, for the sum of $600.00. This site is at present occupied by the McCrory store. In 1912 George H. Werfelman offered to exchange the lot across the street, plus $600.00 for the lot then owned. This trade was made and for the next 14 years the lodge owned the lot at the corner of Canal and Orange streets, now occupied by a filling station. Mr Werfelman immediately erected a building on this site just sold him and made the upper floor into a lodge room, and was used as a meeting place by this lodge until April 1st, 1927. During those 14 years the idea of a permanent Masonic Temple building was frequently discussed. In 1923 the lodge started to erect a 3-story building on it’s lot and spent about $4,000.00 in laying the foundation , but due to the difficulty in raising money, the building was stopped. From 1907 to 1916 the growth in number of members was gradual, and there were many obstacles and problems to overcome.

In those early days money was always a scarce commodity. Dues were $3.00 per year. Fees for each degree were $10.00. The annual income from dues and fees seldom exceeded $500.00 A rental of $30.00 per month was paid for the upper floor of the Werfelman building. The lodge room was sub-rented to various other organizations and the net cost of rental was quite modest. There was no running water in the building and no electric lights. Kerosene lights were used in the lodge room. Electric lights and running water were installed in 1917. There were very few automobiles in those days and the lodge minuets carry frequent references to the use of horse-drawn surreys being rented to carry mourners to the cemetery at the burial of a brother. The charge for a 2-horse surrey to the cemetery in Edgewater was $3.00 Considerable charity work was done in those early days. Sometimes the lodge was called upon to pay the funeral and burial expense of a brother or brothers wife. It is noted that the cost of a funeral in those days was around $200.00 At nearly every meeting letters would be read from other lodges requesting financial aid for worthy brothers in need. Generally a donation of $2.00 would be sent the lodge requesting such aid. This lodge tried many schemes to raise money for a building fund. One effort which failed might be noted:

In January 1908 the Worshipful Master arranged for a Miss Gifford, a concert singer, to give a concert in the Methodist Church, with the lodge guaranteeing her $100.00 Tickets were priced at $1.00 each and only 43 tickets were sold leaving the lodge to make good the deficient of $57.00.From about 1917 to 1929 the lodge enjoyed a more rapid growth in numbers. In 1929 there were 260 members. It might be noted that the membership of the lodge increased as the population of the community increased. The growth of the community was somewhat geared to the growth and increase in business of the Florida East Coast railroad. Probably more than one half the members of the lodge always have been employees of the railroad, (since our town has long been a railroad terminal). The pioneer Masons of the community were God-fearing men and also civic minded. They not only helped develop Freemasonry but all other good features of community life, as well.The same men who organized and worked for Freemasonry here, also took a prominent part in the development of local churches, particularly the Methodist and Baptist churches. They were good citizens and some of their best work was in the civic and social life of the community.

The lodge benefited immensely from the so called real estate boom beginning in 1924. The lot owned by the lodge had become high priced and valuable. Many different offers to buy the lot were received at constantly increasing prices. Finally, in August 1925, the lodge sold the vacant lot at the corner of North Orange and Canal streets, for the sum of $55,500.00 with this money the lodge immediately bought 3 lots at the corner of Hillsboro and Washington streets for the sum of $15,000.00. This is the site of our present Masonic Temple building.

On April 1st, 1927 the lodge was forced to vacate the Werfelman building since it had been sold to the McCrory corporation. A few meetings were held in the Smith building on Canal street, since torn down. We then moved to the Live Oak St. school where meetings were held until December 1st, 1927 when the lodge held it’s first meeting in the present Masonic Temple. This building was erected during the summer of 1927, by brother D. F. Douglas, at a cost of $51,400.00. Furnishings cost an additional $4,000.00. The original cost of land, building and furniture was approximately $70,000.00.

The cornerstone was laid by Most Worshipful Benjamin E. Dyson, Grand Master of Florida, July 14th, 1927. The dedication was held on December 30th, 1927 by the Grand Lodge of Florida, with the Right Worshipful Stafford Caldwell, Senior Grand Warden, delivering the dedicatory address. Brother F.R. Brannon was the Master of the lodge during 1927 when the lodge was engaged with the construction of the building. Brother L. Guy Jordan was the first Worshipful Master to be installed in the new Temple.

Brother M.A. Brunson, has the honor of serving as Master for the greatest number of years, having served 6 different years, brother William S. Hart was next with 5, and several others have served for more than 1. The History page will be continually updated.

This History page was submitted by Brothers: F.R. Brannon, W.S. Settle, V.D. Wilder and W.I. Athearn on January 1st 1950.