CHARITY LODGE NO. 134 A.F. & A.M
Maryland’s Only Remaining “Moon Lodge”
Founding and Early History
On January 15, 1868, on the recommendation of
Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 116, of Towson, Maryland, Most Worshipful Grand
Master John Coates issued a dispensation for the formation of Bentley
Springs Lodge No. 134 at Bentley Springs, Maryland.
And on May 111, 1868 the Lodge was formally chartered.
The Proceedings of
the Grand Lodge of Maryland
shows Bentley Springs Lodge as having a membership of twenty-one
Master Masons, two Fellow Crafts and five Entered Apprentices.
These records indicate that the Lodge met on the first and third
Saturdays of the month.
officers for 1868 were:
Henry Wilhelm Senior Warden
John C. Little
Brother Bentley served at Master of the Lodge
from 1868 to 1873.
On October 3, 1875 the Lodge laid the cornerstone with due Masonic ceremony for the Grace Methodist church that is now known as Bentley Springs United Methodist Church.
In 1858 the estate of James Calder sold land in what was to become Bentley Springs to Charles William Bentley and his wife Ann. In the late 1700’s Captain James Calder purchased large tracts of land in the Parkton area. It is interesting to note how he came to Northern Baltimore County. At the age of 17, James Calder was made a captain in the forces raised by his father Sir Thomas Calder, chief of the Clan Calder, in support of the pretender to the Scottish crown, Prince Charles Stuart, The English defeated the claimant’s forces at the Battle of Culloden in 1745. The young man left Scotland with a price on his head for Maryland where he became a successful surveyor. . His wealth came from his invention of a vertical steam boiler and its manufacture at the Baltimore Steam Boiler Works. He retired to the country due to ill health as the result of a sickness acquired while working in the South.
The Lodge Moves to Parkton and becomes Charity
Meetings were held in the Boarding House in Bentley Springs until May 9, 1888, when by Dispensation of the Most Worshipful Grand Master Thomas J. Shryock, it was moved to Parkton, Maryland and its named Changes to Charity Lodge. Meetings were held in the Presbyterian Church which stood on the hill by the railroad.
On December 19, 1896 a motion was made and passed to present each newly
raised brother of Charity Lodge with a “lambskin or white leather
On May 21, 1889, the Lodge was opened in due form and the brethren
marched in procession to the train station and proceeded by train to
Monkton for a burial service for Brother Robb G. Merryman.
100th Anniversary – Hurricane Agnes Damages Lodge - Burglars
Strike the Lodge
A discussion was held on September 29, 1914 on selling a portion of the
land owned by the Lodge – the sale was rejected.
A discussion was held on September 29, 1914 on selling a portion of the
land owned by the Lodge – the sale was rejected.
In 1968 Charity Lodge began celebrating of its centennial. On May 11, 1968, the anniversary of the Lodge’s charter, Brother Stephen Kearney was made a Master Mason on May 11, 1968. (Brother Kearney was installed as Worshipful Master in 1974.) On June 1, 1968, Charity Lodge celebrated its 100th anniversary with a gala event in the Hereford Fire Hall. Most Worshipful Grand Master Thomas Middleton and the Grand Line were invited to this event by Worshipful Master Roy Calk. Over 300 guests attended this auspicious occasion. Later Grand Master Thomas Middleton granted permission to Worshipful Master Roy Calk to preside over the Cornerstone Ceremonies at the educational building in the Methodist Church in Bentley Springs. Grand Master Middleton furnished Worshipful Master Calk with grand lodge tools that were well over 100 years old for this special occasion.
In June of 1972, Charity Lodge's building in Parkton sustained considerable water damage from Hurricane Agnes. Water reached halfway up the first floor wall. Worshipful Master Ed Berry headed up a crew of members to repair the extensive damage. Many records and other historical items were damaged beyond salvation during this storm. Much of Charity Lodge’s history was lost in the flood.
In 1979 Brother Attwood R. Wynn, Past Master, had the appointed by Most Worshipful Grand Master William M Koenig to be a Grand Inspector for Baltimore City and County. He is reputed to be the first member of Charity Lodge to be so honored and he served as such until 1982.
In 1980 the building was improved with a new septic system, a new heating plant, and the structure was insulated.
Unfortunately, in 1981 burglars entered the lodge building and stole several items including top hats, the working tools and many other items that were never recovered.
On October 2, 1982, Worshipful Master George E. Lang, III, arranged a bus trip to the George Washington Memorial in Alexandra, Virginia, where he and his line conferred the Third Degree and raised Brother William Harrison. Later that year he conferred an Entered Apprentice degree at Bonnie Blink. On October 30, 1982 the Most Worshipful Grand Master Bernard Rothman and the Grand Line attended Past Masters Night.
The Search for a New Location Begins
Since the damage incurred during the 1972 hurricane, many in the Lodge were interested in relocating as the area surrounding the Lodge had been declared a flood plain. Surrounding residential properties in the flood plane were purchased by the State of Maryland, however, the State refused to purchase Charity Lodge’s property.
In 1988, Bill Hughes initiated discussions with Brother Norris W. Tingle, an attorney and Lay Minister of the Methodist Church located at Freeland and Middletown Roads, for the purchase of the church as a new home for Charity Lodge. Worshipful Master Les Orlidge submitted the necessary paper work to the Grand Lodge and its committee on lodge buildings.
Concurrently, several other properties were available during this period of time, but the Lodge eventually voted to pursue the Methodist Church property at the intersection of Middletown and Freeland Roads. In May of 1988 Lodge members signed an option to purchase the property. On January 31, 1989 the Lodge signed the contract to purchase the property. In February of 1989 the Lodge made application for rezoning the property for use as a "Community Building". Specific zoning for use as a Masonic Lodge was not in the code. This became a lengthy process which included the necessary planning for conversion from a church to a lodge layout, architectural drawings and permits. In February the building and lot officially became Lodge property with a purchase price of $65,000 paid at settlement.
Freeland was named for the Freeland family who purchased land in the area from an early settler Isaac Morris. Long ago the village included a station on the Northern Central Railroad, a general store, a hotel and a Redman’s Lodge.
Several years of delay occurred while the Lodge waited impatiently for the State to declare the property adjacent to the old Lodge excess.
At the January 1989 communication Brother R. Frederick Lunn was installed as Worshipful Master. On February 18, 1989, Charity Lodge held its regular communication in Fraternity Hall at the Maryland Masonic Homes and an Entered Apprentice Degree was performed for the Brothers living at the home.
The year 1989 was a busy one for the Lodge with visits to Shrewsbury Lodge No. 423, F&AM, for their Strawberry Night in the spring and a November visit to demonstrate the Hiramic Legend. There was a visit to Pythagoras Lodge No. 123, AF&AM, for their Annual Picnic and their Low Vale Lodge, and a visit to Hagerstown Lodge No. 217, AF&AM, for their steak dinner and Low Vale Lodge. Continuing the activity the Lodge had presentations on York Rite Masonry, on the Shrine, and on the Masonic charities, The Lodge also had a St. Johns’ Day service and Country Breakfast, a Family Picnic, and a Ladies/Widows Night at Friendly Farm Restaurant with a Barber Shop Quartet for entertainment. And, the 121st Anniversary was celebrated with a Master Mason Degree Day featuring the raising of four brothers to the Third Degree.
As a result of the many activities in 1989, the Lodge received the Grand Master’s Award with Distinction for the first time. The Lodge also received a plaque once again attesting to its having the highest percentage of members at the Grand Lodge’s Harvest Day.
At the Grand Lodge Annual Communication on November 20, 1989, Worshipful Master, Bro. R. Frederick Lunn, was appointed to serve as a Grand Inspector for Baltimore City and County. He would serve in that post for nine years. This is the second time in the history of our Lodge that we have been so honored.
In August of 1990, Charity Lodge and Pythagoras Lodge No. 123, AF&AM, traveled to Eblen’s Cave in Tennessee with Most Worshipful Grand Master B. Hope Harrison for the annual "Cave Degree", where under dispensation, they conferred the Maryland third degree and Worshipful Master Karl Knouse raised Brother Peter Tinley. Union Lodge No. 38 F&AM of Kingston, Tennessee hosts the "Caves Degree" each year with a different Masonic Jurisdiction invited to confer the degree.
In 1991 Worshipful Master George E. Lang III, Past Master started the actual demolition and construction of the new Lodge building. The bell and bell tower were removed from the front of the building. Friends of Brother John R. Biggs, Jr., at U.S. Tower Service provided the crane and operators for the removal. The bell is on loan to the nearby Morris Meadows Museum. Also, removed was an interior wall extending from "North to South" and about 20’ from the East.
Among the Brothers who worked to bring about the transition of Charity Lodge to its new home to two individuals seem to have worked tirelessly: Brother George E. Lang, Jr., Past Master, was called the Grand Architect because of his devoted work to get the design right. Brother James L. Rosier, Past Master, as Chairman of the Building Committee, put in many long days’ work to get the job done.
Finally in the spring of 1992 the State sent appraisers to evaluate the property adjacent to the old Parkton Lodge. In June of 1992 the State decided on the price of $18,700 for the property. This was more than members were willing to spend and efforts to sell the building continued with the thought to allow the new owners the responsibility of dealing with the State.
Charity Lodge Moves to Freeland
On May 6, 1992, Worshipful Master John R. Biggs, Jr., invited Brother John Smith, Most Worshipful Grand Master and his Grand Line to Charity's new Temple to conduct a "Corner Stone" ceremony. The Boumi Temple Highlanders drum and bagpipe corps "piped" the Grand Master and the Grand Lodge Line accompanied by the Worshipful Master and the Charity Lodge Line across the property to the Cornerstone. The Hereford High band provided appropriate patriotic music for the festivities. The Commander of the Parkton Chapter of the American Legion, presented Charity Lodge with an American Flag. Local residents also attended the ceremonies and press coverage was provided by several local newspapers.
The following items were placed in the "time capsule" within the cornerstone:
• Charity Lodge Communications for 1992
• A picture of the new building prior to renovation.
• Three pictures of the old building in Parkton, Md.
• Pictures of the 1992 line officers, Charity Lodge Past Masters present at the 1992 Installation of officers.
• A glass from the Cornerstone Ceremony
• Charity Lodge By-laws from 1991
• A directory of Lodges and concordant Masonic bodies
• A 1992 Grand Lodge Directory of Officers, Lodges and Worshipful Masters
• A Bible
• A picture of Grand Master Smith
• 1991 Grand Lodge Proceedings
• A 1991 Commemorative coin from the Ground Breaking Ceremony at Bonnie Blink
• A 1991 Commemorative coin from Harvest Home Day
• Cornerstone Ceremony Program
• Vol. XXXVIII number 4 of the Knight Templar, the Spring 1992 issue of the Royal Arch magazine
• The June 1992 issue of the Scottish Rite Journal
• The "Star Spangled Banner" issue of the Scottish Rite magazine.
The Cornerstone was donated by Joseph and Ronald Silbaugh of Silbaughs' Memorial Stones in Shrewsbury, Pa. Arrangements for this were handled by Morris Bohlayer, Senior Warden. Additionally, the Silbaugh’s donated the marble squares used by the Deacons during degree work.
In 1992 worshipful Master Biggs made arrangements for Charity Lodge. along with brethren from Waverly, Howard and Mt. Moriah Lodge, to travel to New York by a chartered bus to visit Garibaldi Lodge in the Grand Lodge building in New York City. They witnessed the Entered Apprentice degree conferred on several candidates. Garibaldi Lodge confers this degree under disposition of the Grand Lodge of Italy and it is done exactly as it is done in Italy. This is the Italian Lodge’s main degree and it is quite different than anything known to the visiting Brethren.
W.M. Biggs invited the members of Virginia’s Springfield Lodge No. 217 who gave a most interesting and informative presentation on Cleopatra’s Needle, the missing link in Masonry.
During degree work in 1992 Brother Theodore Harding, P.M., of Waverly Lodge #152, amused the Brethren and delighted the candidates by presenting them with miniature working tools of each degree along with “Wages of a Fellow Craft”. In addition during the installation of officers that year he presented the Worshipful Master Biggs with three gavels: One for large decisions, one for small decisions, and a regular gavel for the rest of time. The first two gavels are on display in the Lodge.
In September of 1992, W.M. Biggs held a Worshipful Master's Night in Charity Lodge with visiting Worshipful Master's from six surrounding Lodges occupying the chairs and conferred a Fellow Craft Degree upon Brother Gary Edwin Murphy.
Additionally in 1992, Charity Lodge again received the Grand Master’s Award with Distinction.
On Past Masters night, October 30, 1993, Past Master John Dell raised future Worshipful Master Jon Thompson who was the last member to be raised in the old Temple in Parkton. That evening Worshipful Master Morris Bohlayer was the last Worshipful Master to close the Lodge in the old Temple.
In November of 1992 Brother R. Frederick Lunn, Past Master, was appointed to the M.W. Brother Bill Clark's Grand Line as Senior Grand Steward. Brother Lunn was the first member of Charity Lodge appointed to the Grand Line.
In January of 1993, Brother John R. Biggs, Jr., Past Master, was appointed Deputy Grand Lecturer, a position he held with the Grand Lodge for 6 years when he was then made Deputy Grand Lecturer at Large where he served for the next 5 years, and was then appointed Grand Lecturer in 2004.
November 20, 1993 was moving day from Parkton to Freeland. A large rental truck was on hand for the large items and a number of Brothers came with pickup trucks. By noon the Lodge was on the move. Members of the Eastern Star were on hand to provide a lunch of beef barbecue, pork barbecue, cakes, cookies and assorted drinks. Once at the new site it was observed that it took longer to decide the configuration of the benches in the new Lodge Room than it did to move them.
On November 27, 1993, Worshipful Master Morris Bohlayer opened Lodge in the new building for the very first time. The weather did not treat the Lodge kindly, dumping five inches of rain that weekend. It did not deter many Masons however, as approximately 100 brethren braved the elements and attended that long awaited meeting.
On March 26, 1994 Brother Art Stika conferred the Entered Apprentice degree work in the new Temple. Brother Stika presided in the East and passed Brother Paul Edgar Neal to the degree of Fellow Craft.
On May 14, 1994 Worshipful Master George E. Lang III, Past Master, hosted The Most Worshipful Grand Master William M. Clark and his Grand Line. Grand Master Clark presided over the "Dedication Ceremony" for the new Charity Lodge building. On June 4, 1994, Worshipful Master George E. Lang III, Past Master, initiated the first candidates in the new Temple. The new Entered Apprentices were Brothers David Buckingham, Barry Ditto and Stephen Zemanek. And on June 22, 1994 Brother Paul Neal was raised to the Third Degree. And in November four brothers were raised to the Third Degree.
In 1995 Charity Lodge received fourteen petitions and Worshipful Master Arthur R. Stika performed the degree work at almost every communication.
In January 1998 Brother John R. Biggs, Jr., Past Master, was appointed Senior Grand Deacon of M.W. Brother John Naquin's Grand Line of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. Also, in January 1998, Worshipful Master elect Jon A. Thompson, Sr., invited Most Worshipful Grand Master John C. Naquin and the Grand Line to conduct the installation ceremonies and 102 masons attended the festivities.
In April 1999 Charity Lodge sponsored nineteen candidates for the Grand Master’s first "one-day" class to receive the three degrees of Masonry. Seventeen of those Brothers completed their catechism and stood proficiency in the Master Mason degree at the Regular Communication in February of 2000. In 2006, one member of the class, Brother Eric Sopp, was installed in the East as Worshipful Master of Charity Lodge.
In November of 1999, Brother John R. Biggs, Jr., Past Master, was elected Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. Brother Biggs became the first Charity Lodge member to hold an elected position in the Grand Line of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. Brother George Lacey, Past Master, was appointed Grand Tyler. In the history of the Maryland Grand Lodge It is a rare occurrence for a non-Past Master to be appointed as a Grand Line Officer. M.W. Brother Francis E. Larrimore was Grand Master.
In January of 2000, Worshipful Master (elect) Frederick Laser, Jr., invited Most Worshipful Grand Master Francis E. Larrimore and the Grand Line to conduct the installation ceremonies for Charity Lodge. The first "open lodge" (which allowed non-masons to attend Lodge) in Charity's history was opened "in due form" by Worshipful Master James L. McLaughlin. There were 130 present, including the 20 month old granddaughter of the new Worshipful Master, Miss Samantha Laser, who became the first non-mason family member to present the WM with his gavel. Brother George W. Lacey, III, was appointed Grand Tyler.Brother Lacy had served in the line at Charity Lodge since being raised in 1995 and was, on this night, was installed as Charity Lodge's Senior Warden.
During the November 18, 2006 Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, Brother John R. Biggs, Jr., was elected to become the next Most Worshipful Grand Master. He was installed the following day. The Maryland State Police Color Guard presented the colors, and the Boumi Shrine Highlanders piped the new Grand Master, with his Grand Line as honor guards, to the Grand East.
Presentations to the new Grand Master were made by his wife, presenting him with a replica of the George Washington gavel, and other gifts were given by his family. Charity Lodge’s Worshipful Master Eric Sopp and Brother Greg Hudnet also made presentations.
In 2007 Brother Greg Hudnet was appointed Grand Tyler by M.W. Grand Master Biggs thereby adding another to the list of Charity Lodge members who have served in the Grand Line of the Grand Lodge of Maryland.
Suffice it to say that after a long and distinquished career with the Maryland State Police it wasn't surprising that he chose a replica of the state police badge to remake into his Grand Master's pin.
During Brother Fred Laser's tenure as Worshipful Master in 2007 and 2008 the Lodge was blessed with opportunities: The delivery of over 300 pounds of Christmas care packages to Iraq during '07 gathered by the Lodge and the whole community.
Charity Lodge had its first Table Lodge with an Oktoberfest dinner and meeting with Germania Lodge Number 160.
Honorary Past Master Jack Kroh, Shrewsbury Number 423, received his second degree in German at that meeting.
n December of 2008 Brother Fred Laser requested that a motion be made to have M.W.P.G.M. Biggs' picture hung on the north side of the lodge, that his presence be with the Lodge in perpetuity - this was unanimously agreed upon by the brothers present and the picture so installed.
To date Brother Laser is the only Master to
have had all open Installations and in those years his
grandchildren, oldest to youngest, presented him his gavel. A freak ice
storm prevented him from raising his son Adam to the third degree until
after his two terms. Brother
Laser served as Junior Warden in June of 2009 for Adam's raising by the
Freestate Shield and Square Club.
Again, in 2010, Charity Lodge added another plaque to the twenty-four on the wall of the Lodge received award for having the first or second largest percentage of members in attendance at the Harvest Home Day.
In January of 2011, Brother George
E. Lang, III, Past Master was installed as Worshipful Master for the
fourth time. On April 2,
2011 he presided over the Lodge’s first Open House inviting the
community to come and learn more about Masonry and Charity Lodge as a
part of the statewide Ask a Mason membership program instituted by the Grand Lodge.