About St. John’s Lodge

We have the highest authority, namely the first great light in Freemasonry, for the assertion as that it is eminently proper to erect monuments as workers of epochs, and periods, celebrating events in history. Tonight we are assembled to mark the one hundredth (100) anniversary of our existence in the life of St. Johns Lodge No. 260 Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons of Pennsylvania, and in so doing as faithful children of our Alma Mater, we think it is well to trace briefly the genealogy of our ancestry, the existence of a Lodge of Freemasons in the city of York, England.

The year 926 A.D. is mentioned in old manuscripts and is affirmed in the first paragraph of the Warrants of subordinate lodges, in the jurisdiction of Pennsylvania. When the first lodge was held in Pennsylvania is lost in the accumulation of past years and hence lost to history. In 1680 one John Moore migrated from England to South Carolina, settling there. Before the close of that century he removed to Philadelphia and in 1703 was Collector of the Port of Philadelphia. In a letter he writes in 1715 at Philadelphia he mentioned he had spent a few evenings in festivity with my Masonic Friends. That is the earliest so found. But our Grand Lodge dates her history as a Grand Lodge almost 222 years, and as an independent body 166 years.

A fundamental rule of Freemasonry has been that it required five or more subordinate bodies to constitute a Grand Lodge. So it will be readily perceived that the Fraternity was in existence in this Commonwealth prior to 1730. The records are in existence of this fact.

An early Warrant granted in Pennsylvania, by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and New York, after the evacuation of the British Forces in Philadelphia, January 1778, was a Regimental Warrant to the Pennsylvania Artillery in the service of the Colonies May 18, 1779, and was given number 19. Part of this artillery regiment was ordered to Carlisle Barracks to secure stores and cannon and then proceeded to Fort Pitt to quiet the Indians on the frontier. They left Carlisle June 25, 1780. This was the first time in history that Masonry was conveyed west of the Susquehanna River into Cumberland County. Warrants for Lodges 2, 3, 4 (surrendered 1816), 8 (ceased 1809), two nos. 9 (one of which still exists), two 11s (one surrendered 1781, the other surrendered 1814), 13 (surrendered 1791) were all granted earlier than 19.

The first Petition for a Warrant was presented to Grand Lodge for a lodge in Carlisle dated January 7, 1780, by a number of military and civilian Masons who had located here. The Warrant was granted March 19, 1780, with George North, Worshipful Master; Matthew Atkins, Senior Warden; and Charles Jenkins, Junior Warden. It seems this Lodge did not function according to Grand Lodge records. Brother North, W.M., lived in Juniata Township, Cumberland County (now Perry), and being in the Army and the distance to travel to get to Carlisle, the records show that they never held a regular session, and Grand Lodge called in the Warrant September 25, 1780. The records show that ten (10) names were on this Warrant. This Lodge was No. 26.

The second lodge was constituted in Carlisle October 29, 1792, and was given the number 56. A facsimile of the Warrant is to be seen in Grand Lodge History book No. 2 which is in the book case in our social room. The officers were William Leyburn, Worshipful Master; Hugh McCullough, Senior Warden; and Robert Leyburn, Junior Warden. This lodge flourished until June 7, 1802, when its Warrant was surrendered to Grand Lodge for cause. This lodge met in the Leyburn House, corner of North and East Sts. and later at the Cross Keys Hotel on East Pomfret St., owned by the Treasurer, Robert Taylor.

There are no records of a Masonic Lodge in Carlisle from June, 1802 until January, 1825. On December 6, 1824 a number of Masons of Carlisle and vicinity petitioned Grand Lodge for a lodge in Carlisle, and to be known as Cumberland Star No. 197. On Wednesday, January 12, 1825, at ten (10) A.M. our sister lodge was constituted in the First Presbyterian Church with the following officers: Willis Foulke, Worshipful Master; George Pattison, Senior Warden; John Leas, Junior Warden; William W. Hite, Treasurer; and A. Pattison, Secretary.

From 1820 to 1835 the Anti Masonic crusade was at its height in this country. Read Morgans Raid to understand this subject clearly, and according to records of our late Past Master of St. Johns and also a Past Deputy Grand Master of this District for a number of years, and Major John G. Bobb, who had compiled most of this local history. There were thirty-nine (39) Warrants granted of which only eight (8) survived during this trouble.

A petition for a new lodge to be held in Carlisle was presented to Grand Lodge February 25, 1852. On March 1, 1852 the Warrant was granted by R.W.G.M. Anthony Bouronville. The following names were on the petition: Charles Blumenthal, W.M.; John Heyer, S.W.; George Z. Bretz, J.W., late of Cumberland Star, together with R.K. Burns, Michael Ege and O.H. Tiffany. On Wednesday evening, April 7, 1852 at seven (7) oclock, 100 years ago, St. Johns Lodge No. 260 was constituted with Bro. Benjamin Park of Harrisburg the D.D.G.M. acting as Grand Master; J.P. Lyne acting R.W.D.G.M.; William Porter acting S.G.W.; Samuel Crop acting J.G.W.; Andrew Roberts acting S.G.D.; and George Weise acting J.G.D.; with several other brethren opened a lodge of Master Masons in due form when Brothers Charles E. Blumenthal was duly installed Worshipful Master; John Heyer, Senior Warden; George Z. Bretz, Junior Warden; Michael G. Ege, Secretary, and Otis H. Tiffany, Treasurer.

By virtue of a dispensation, Brother Herman M. Johnson, President of Dickinson College, was entered, passed and raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in ancient form. Bro. Johnson was the first initiate, Wm. J. Collishaw, second, and H.J. Meck was the third. Wm. J. Collishaw was a cabinetmaker, and his place of business was where Denny Hall now stands. It was a one-story stone building, corner Main and West Streets. He made the first furniture for the Lodge. The meeting was held on the second floor of the stone and brick building that stood on the corner of West Main and Pitt Streets, where the Gulf Service Station now operates. Cumberland Star also met in this same room. Lodge closed in harmony at ten (10) P.M. after which the Brethren partook of a collation prepared by St. Johns Lodge. These are the minutes of the institution and first meeting, without any special preparation or demonstration. W.M. Blumenthal had been an officer in the Mexican War and was Professor of Oriental Languages at Dickinson College. He was also a doctor of medicine. S.W. John Heyer conducted a grocery business on the S.E. corner of South Hanover and Liberty Alley. According to Major Bobbs history, Brother Heyers store was protected by a guard from Gen. Ewells Confederate army when they invaded Carlisle July 1, 1863. (Masons) J.W. Betz was a dentist, and later became General Dispatcher for the Cumberland Valley Railroad now the Pennsylvania. Secretary Michael Ege was a gentleman of leisure and lived on West Louther Street where our first Masonic lot was, now owned by the Acme Stores. Treasurer Tiffany was a professor at Dickinson, and some years later became Pastor of the Methodist Church, Broad and Arch Sts., Philadelphia. Bro. Burns was principal of a preparatory school or academy at Plainfield. Bro. Herman M. Johnson, the first initiate, was elected Master of St. Johns December 21, 1854 and on December 17, 1856 Grand Lodge appointed him D.D.G.M. of this District. There were 17 members the first year, 29 members the second.

According to the first by-laws drawn up, the Tyler and Secretary should be compensated at the annual meeting of the election of officers. Dues were fixed at twenty-five cents (.25) per month and fifty (.50) cents per capita additional at the annual meeting. It was customary for the Deacons to collect the dues every meeting night and when paid would call out the name of the payee audibly for the secretary to record the name and amount. A member not paying for six months could not vote or hold office and refusing to pay twelve months dues he was liable for suspension. Fees for initiates were $25.00; $10.00 Entering; $10.00 Crafting; and $5.00 for raising. The applicant made request for each degree which was voted on by the lodge.

On October 6, 1852 the meeting night was changed from the first Tuesday to the third Thursday on or before Full Moon. At the meeting held December 21, 1852, it was voted to move to Marion Hall, now Dr. W.R. Shearer Building. West Main Street. Cumberland Star Lodge also moved into this hall with us.

On September 2, 1855, Right Worshipful Grand Master, Bro. Peter W. Williamson, with his Grand Officers, paid a fraternal visit to the lodge, and was received with the customary honors. There were 45 members present. Grand Secretary Adams commended the Lodge for conformity to rules and ceremony and particularly the great harmony and liberal distribution of aid to the unfortunate.

The Lodge often opened at 6 oclock and closed at 9 oclock.

Nov. 14, 1855, Order drawn for $11.97 to Dr. Haverstick for oil.

July 10, 1857, Order drawn for $2.50 to Moris Scott for scrubbing the Lodge Room and shaking the carpet.

Sept. 17, 1857, Adams Express Co. 0.37 charges on a package from Grand Lodge, and one to J. McCarty for white washing.

No meeting held in January, 1863, on account of the invasion of Confederates.

The minutes of Aug. 6, 1862, are the first recorded minutes signed by the Secretary.

During the Civil War some of the Brethren who were in the military service were Crafted and Raised in Southern Lodge and the same applied to St. Johns Lodge conferring degrees upon Carlislers from other jurisdictions.

Dec. 16, 1864, on notice that the Lodge donated $60.00 for relief to the Brethren of Lodge 143 Chambersburg, who suffered by the Confederates burning the town of Chambersburg 1864.

On July 8, 1857 St. Johns Lodge assisted by Cumberland Star Lodge, laid the cornerstone of Emory Chapel, corner of Pomfret and South West Street where the U. B. Church now stands. St. Johns Lodge had secured the U. S. Garrison Band for this affair and the expenses were $11.25. At the meeting of January 21, 1858, the Stewards were directed to have gas installed in the lodge room, which cost us $6.00 for installation. July 18, 1865, we assisted in constituting Big Spring Lodge No. 361 at Newville; and October 22, 1866 assisted in constituting Adams Lodge No. 319 at New Bloomfield.

At the meeting held May 17, 1866, the Lodge authorized the purchase of two (2) lots in Ashland Cemetery for the sum of $15.00 each. On May 27, 1868, a number of the Members attended the cornerstone laying of the New Masonic Temple, Broad and Filbert Streets, Philadelphia.

On Tuesday, May 24, 1870, the Lodge moved from Marion Hall to the Goodwill Hose Company Hall, South Hanover St., 3rd floor, now owned by Cochran and Allen Hardware Store. At 10 A.M. headed by the U. S. Garrison Band and the following lodges York Springs, Green Castle, Newville, Shippensburg, Singer Band and Mechanicsburg Lodge, Orrstown and Cumberland Star, Carlisle Band, Chambersburg, St. Johns and Grand Lodge. There were Masons here from Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Maine, Ohio, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia. The procession moved down Main St. to Hanover, to Louther to West, to Main, to Bedford, to Pomfret, to Pitt, to the Methodist Church, which stood on the corner of Main and Pitt Sts. (the building now occupied by Wilsons Drug Store and Carlisle Commercial College), where the Right Worshipful Grand Master Robert Lamberton addressed the Brethren, after which the procession formed again and moved down Main St. to Hanover to the Goodwill Hall. About five hundred (500) were in attendance. Grand Lodge opened at high 12:00 and dedicated the room in ancient and solemn form after which the meeting was closed by Grand Lodge. At 7:00 P.M., Grand Lodge opened in ample form and, when a lodge of instruction was held until 9:00 P.M. After lodge was closed, the assembly retired to the second floor to partake in a sumptuously prepared banquet. During the social affair the U. S. Garrison Band discoursed some of its exquisite music until 11:30 P.M. when all the guests left on special trains, both east and west over the Cumberland Valley Railroad. Cumberland Star Lodge did not meet in Goodwill Hall until some years later.

At the meeting held September 15, 1870 St. Johns Chapter and St. Johns Commandry leased the new hall for the sum of $100.00 per annum and 1/3 of the gas and coal consumed.

At a joint committee meeting of St. Johns Lodge and Cumberland Star Lodge held December 17, 1878 to consolidate the two lodges and be known as St. Johns Lodge No. 197, investigation and hard work of the two committees brought it before the lodges, but it did not meet the approval of Cumberland Star Lodge.

Brig. General Richard H. Pratt, founder of the Carlisle Indian School, admitted March, 1880, having been a member of Ancient City Lodge No. 76, St. Augustine, Fla.

Jan. 20, 1889, a donation of $25.00 was sent to our Brethren in Johnstown, Pa., who had suffered by the flood.

Brother John G. Bobb was elected Worshipful Master 1880-1881, and some time later he was appointed District Deputy Grand Master for this district and served in this capacity for many years. It is Major Bobb who has compiled the early history of our lodge.

Cumberland Star Lodge became a renter at Goodwill Hall on November 1, 1880 and has met in the same rooms with St. Johns from that date to the present. In those days, the candidates had to give the work in open lodge before they could be advanced to higher degrees.

On January 19, 1899, all the Masonic bodies moved to the 3rd floor of the Carlisle Opera House Building, now known as the Strand Theatre. At midnight of June 23rd, 1904 a fire was discovered somewhere on the 3rd floor and played havoc with the property of all the bodies. Many books, papers, regalia and other valuable property of the lodges were destroyed. Most of the present day furniture was salvaged and renovated. St. Johns lost some aprons, and two books were badly burned. While the rooms were being renovated and redecorated, the lodges were privileged to meet in the I.O.O.F. Hall No. 91 on West Main St. Our late P.M., Bro. W. Abner Wetzel was Worshipful Master when we met this misfortune, but he brought 260 out into the light again and we have been moving upward to the present.

On July 20, 1918, the Cumberland Valley Memorial at Elizabethtown Masonic Homes was dedicated. It is the 2-story Farmers Cottage and is of Colonial design of red brick with all modern improvements. This building was erected by monies from lodges and individuals of this, the Third District, composing Cumberland Valley. It was no easy task to raise funds for this purpose and it took several years before we were able to go ahead with this project. Today it stands out as one of the first buildings of colonial architecture at the Homes.

For a number of years the members of both Blue Lodges felt we needed a home of our own, so a committee of 14 was appointed, 7 from each lodge, to secure a lot or building. The committee made a report that they had bought a lot on West Louther St. where the site of the Acme store is now for the sum of $3,500.00. This lot never brought in any revenue the years we had it, so on February 27, 1923 the Temple Association sold that lot and purchased the Irvine corner at East Main and Church Alley, in the rear of the Episcopal Church for the sum of $29,000.00. We had expected to erect a Temple on this site, but the Depression came along and the Temple Directors and the Craft knew very well it would work a hardship on the lodges and members to go ahead and build, as it would be a heavy debt for years to come on the Members. One of our temple directors learned of a good building that was about to be sold, so in the fall of 1935, the Irvine building was sold for a profit and bought the Pythian Castle on North Pitt St., now our present Temple.

In November, 1936 all the Masonic bodies moved from the Opera House Building to our new home, which is free of debt and owned jointly by St. Johns Lodge No. 260 and Cumberland Star Lodge No. 197, consisting of over nine hundred (900) members. It is rented to St. Johns Chapter, St. Johns Council, and St. Johns Commandry.

St. Johns Lodge, with the assistance of Cumberland Star Lodge, laid the cornerstones of the following buildings: Emory Chapel, that stood on the site of the Grace United Brethren Church, corner of Pomfret and West Sts. in 1857; the United States Post Office building, July 5, 1909; Carlisle Hospital, June 26, 1915; New County Home, October 1923; Toland Mission, July 31, 1925; and the Stevens Grade School, November 19, 1926.

Our Service Flag contains fifty-nine (59) stars for our Members who served in the armed forces of the United States of World War II. One Brother was killed on the high seas when his ship was blown up. We still have many serving in all corners of the globe.

St. Johns has had Members in every war of the United States since it was constituted in 1852, with rank from Major General to the Private or Seaman, all being true Masons and all on the same level when the Masters gavel speaks.

Grand Lodge issued a Warrant for a School of Instruction and to be known as The Carlisle School of Instruction. It was organized by our D.D.G.M. Bro. Alexander Stewart and Bro. Andrew Schroder, head of G.L. school. It consists of all the lodges in this third district, and is for the benefit of all Officers and the Members who want to perfect the work of the Three Degrees as Grand Lodge has approved. This school will be very much appreciated by a large number of the Craft in this district who are very much interested in getting the Work as nearly perfect as possible.

The 75th anniversary of St. Johns Lodge was on its stated meeting Thursday, April 21, 1927. It was held in the Lodge Room, 3rd floor Opera House building, now Strand Theatre. Bro. Lloyd B. Ganser, W.M.; Harry B. Sipe, S.W.; Wm. G. Snyder, Sr., J.W.; S.S. Houston, Treasurer; and Thomas M. Sener, Secretary. The oldest living Past Master, Dr. Wm. F. Horn, was seated in the East. Lodge was closed, after which the anniversary program was opened.

Music: Masonic Orchestra.

Master of Ceremonies: Bro. Mervin G. Filler, Dean of Dickinson College.

Chaplain T. Bahr Thomas gave the invocation.

History of Lodge: P.M. John M. Rhey, Master in 1902.

Remarks: P.M. Bro. Wm. F. Horn.

Remarks: Bro. Rev. Alexander McMillan, Lodge No. 96 of N.Y.

Benediction: Bro. Rev. Roy E. Leinbach, Reformed Church.

The oldest living and the second oldest Past Master Bro. Benjamin K. Spangler, 95 years, was unable to attend. There were 200 present. Fifteen Lodges from seven other states were present.

Refreshments were served and a large cake with 75 candles on it was cut and given to the Craft.

St. Johns Lodge was 100 years old on the 7th of April and during all these years, the men who petitioned this lodge have come from all walks of life; the rich and the worker alike. St. Johns has had 91 Worshipful Masters of which 61 are deceased and 30 are still with us today. One served as Worshipful Master four years and seven served for two years. Our membership today is 475. Since we were constituted we have initiated 955; admitted 92; resigned 122.

The following is a list of professional men whose names are found on our records:

4 Presidents of colleges

1 President of Theological College

1 Dean of Theological College

4 Deans of Law School

4 Deans of Colleges

18 Professors of Colleges

18 Railroad officials and employees

2 Foreign Diplomats

4 Judges

10 Ex-District Attorneys

2 District Deputy Grand Masters

4 Mayors

5 Army Chaplains

6 Dentists

20 Bankers

36 Doctors

14 Ministers

3 State Senators

2 Assemblymen

1 Major General U.S.A

2 Brig. Generals U.S.A

1 First Superintendent. U.S. Indian School

We have a number of army men ranking from Colonels down to the Privates and Seamen; also hundreds of business men that would fill several pages. And now in closing, let the past be the grand incentive for future zeal and effort, and among us to be no noble contention of who can best work and best agree; and with fear of God, love the brotherhood and reverently honor the GRAND MASTER. So Mote It Be.


John A. Ruggles, P.M. Chairman
Robert E. Lininger, P.M.
Harry B. Sipe, P.M.
John S. Steckbeck
L. Alvin Kern

THE NEXT 50 YEARS – 1952-2002

On April 15, 1952, the 100th Anniversary Dinner was held at Dickinson College Alumni Gymnasium in Carlisle, PA. In attendance were the Right Worshipful Grand Master of Pennsylvania Albert T. Eyler and his party. District Deputy Grand Master for District No. 3 at that time was Alexander Stewart. Worshipful Master of St. Johns Lodge No. 260 was Walter J. McBride. At that time there were 30 living Past Masters. Fifty years later, there is only one of those 30 still living. Chairmen of the Anniversary Committee were Walter J. McBride, Howard W. Sowers, Jr. and Alvin C. Eby.

The first Ladies Night Program was held on the 28th of October 1961 at the Chalet in Dillsburg with more than 300 in attendance. Toastmaster was Vaughn C. King, P.M. Guests of honor were John Lawson, D.D.G.M. and Judge Robert Lee Jacobs, a member of Cumberland Star Lodge 197, who presented a brief history of Masonry. Worshipful Master was Daniel D. Eckenrode. A social hour was held before the dinner and entertainment followed.

In 1975, it was decided to have an award to honor the Mason whose contributions to Freemasonry in general and outstanding service to St. Johns Lodge in particular were noteworthy. The award was to be called the Torch Award. Guidelines were set forth by the Lodge to determine the standards which the recipient had to meet. The first recipient of the award was Brother Lester M. Kern, Steward of the Lodge for that year.

On April 23, 1977, the 125th Anniversary Dinner was held at Fellowship Hall, First United Methodist Church, Carlisle, PA, with Right Worshipful Grand Master John L. McCain and his party attending. Worshipful Master was Orville C. Russell, Jr. The Chairman was Walter D. Heckman. Marshals were Everett L. Swigert, P.M., David G. Arnold, P.M., and John H. Sherman, Jr., P.M. The Third Masonic District Deputy was Brother Richard S. Wood, a Past Master of Cumberland Star Lodge No. 197, Carlisle.

St Johns Lodge is proud over the years to have had many of its Members serve the Masonic community with outstanding service. In 1956 Vaughn C. King, P.M., was elected Secretary of the Lodge and has served continuously through 2001. More recently, an annual Memorial Service was instituted by Brother King. This program has been well received by the Lodge as well as by members of the local community. As far as is known, no similar service is held in any other Lodge under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Brother King was also instrumental in holding Old Timers Night which honors those Brothers who have served the Lodge for thirty-five years. A special pin is given to each recipient.

In 1988 Lester A. Kern, who served this Lodge as Master in 1958, was appointed District Deputy Grand Master for the 3rd Masonic District. He served for a period of six years under Right Worshipful Grand Masters Kurtz, Stoner, and Fowler, Jr. He also served as Personal Aide to Bro. George H. Hohenshildt, during his term as Right Worshipful Grand Master in 1994 and 1995.

In 1970 Edward S. Calaman was appointed Principal of the School of Instruction for the 3rdMasonic District and has continued to serve in that office to the present time.

Our Lodge building at 45 North Pitt was becoming inadequate and it was decided along with our sister lodge, Cumberland Star 197, to purchase ground to erect a new building. Ground was purchased at 1236 Holly Pike. Plans for a new building commenced. The new building was finished and dedication was held on July 31, 1993. Attending was the Right Worshipful Grand Master Edward H. Fowler, Jr. and other Masonic dignitaries who dedicated the building to Freemasonry with the Datestone Ceremony. The Lodge is very proud that this building has no mortgage on it.

Brother Edward S. Guido, a Member, was elected Judge of the Cumberland County Court in 1997. Brother Merle Ebert, Jr., also a Member, serves as the District Attorney of the same county having been elected in 1996. Currently three or four Brothers serve as a Deputy Sheriff. Brother Alvin Eby, P.M., now deceased, was elected Mayor of Carlisle in 1974 and served a full term of three years.

St. Johns Lodge continues to produce Masons who take their positions in life seriously serving as attorneys, police, teachers, educators, administrators, doctors, ministers, and in all other walks of life. This Lodge is proud of these Brethren for having helped to make their community in which they live and work better for having passed by.


Lester A. Kern, PDDGM, Chairman

Lewis E. Burgett, PM
Lester W. Reeder, Jr., PM

Approved by Grand Lodge
February, 2002