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Jefferson County Masonic History

Masons 1 Presbyterians 0!

 

BY CHARLES DAWKINS

 

        That’s the score from a turn-of-the-century legal battle between the Fayette Presbyterian Church and the Thomas Hinds Masonic Lodge.

        The story of the oldest brick building still standing in Fayette begins in 1825, when the county seat of Jefferson was moved from Old Greenville to Fayette.

Prior to that time, Greenville had served as the county seat since 1802 and had become a center of commerce, with numerous businesses, a post office, a private school and a courthouse.         

        Many prominent Mississippians lived or conducted business in Greenville, in­cluding Andrew Jackson, Thomas Hinds, Thomas Calvit, Joseph Davis, Jefferson Davis, Dr. Rush Nutt, Cowles Mead, Aaron Burr, David Holmes, Seargent Prentiss, George Poindexter, Thomas Marston Green, Abijah Hunt, Cato West, Dr. John Shaw, Tobias Gibson, the Rev. Adam Cloud and Richard Curtis.

        But as the county grew to the north and the east, sentiment spread to move the county seat to a more central location; so in May 1825, a tract of land was purchased from Henry Platner, and Jefferson County's first brick courthouse was begun at the newly named site of Fayette, named after Revolutionary War hero, Marquis de Lafayette.

        The move affected the many businesses in Greenville and the town began to dry up. Also affected was one of the oldest Masonic lodges in Mississippi, Warren Lodge No.4, organized at Greenville in 1821.

        Warren Lodge members met at Greenville until February 1829, at which time, by authority of the Grand Lodge, it was moved to Fayette, and the meetings were held in the second story of a house across . the street from the present lodge build­ing.

        Warren Lodge continued until February 1833, when it voluntarily surrendered its charter and for the next 10 years there was no Masonic lodge in Fayette or in Jefferson County.

        In 1843, the Grand Lodge was petitioned for restoration of the charter for Warren Lodge, which was granted. The name was changed to Thomas Hinds Lodge No. 58 in honor of Gen. Thomas Hinds, a member of the lodge and a hero of the War of 1812.

Gen. Andrew Jackson said of Hinds, "You have this day been the pride of one army and the admiration of the other."

        On Jan. 16, 1846, the lodge purchased a lot from Charles Clark and Ann Eliza Clark. Eight years later, in 1854, lodge members were contem­plating the erection of a two-story building on the lot, with the upper story to be used as a lodge room and the lower to be rented for business purposes.

        At that time there was no Presbyterian church in Fayette, but there was a church at Ebenezer, about six miles east.

        The pastor of that church, Henry McDonald,' wrote a letter to the lodge proposing that the Presbyterians would furnish the 'means to build the first story, which would be used as their church, and the lodge would use the upper building for their meetings, with the right of conducting ceremonial sessions in the church.

        After much negotiation, an agreement was reached whereby the lodge would fur­nish the brick for the building and the church would build the first story and furnish it for use as a church.

        The lease would be for 33 years, at which time the lease would be renewed at the will and pleasure of the lodge, and was contingent upon the church paying one-third of all necessary repairs on the building for that period of time.

        So on Dec. 9, 1859, the Mississippi Presbytery adopted a resolution that authorized the Ebenezer Church to set off a part of its members to be organized into a church at Fayette.    

        The Fayette Presbyterian Church first met on February 25, 1860, in their new building with 33 members and Mr. Mc­Donald as pastor.

        In 1875, the church was in arrears of payments for its’ share of repairs made by the lodge upon the building. On January 1, 1876, a new 33-year lease was executed between the church and the lodge.

        Thirteen years later, the church raised $1,300 to renovate and remodel the inside of the first floor. The old inside galleries were taken down, the pillars replaced with massive columns as supports and the old-fashioned square windows narrowed and fitted with colored panes .

        Then in December 1908, the lodge notified the church that their 33-year lease would soon expire and offered a new 10-year lease with an annual rental fee, first affixed at $75, then $60, and then $36.

        This offer was rejected by the church. Litigation was begun, resulting in the case being reviewed by the Mis­sissippi Supreme Court.

        The court ruled in favor of the lodge, and the church was given notice by the lodge to vacate the premises on June 4, 1909.

        The Presbyterians moved their services to the old Christian Church building and in 1917 a lot on Main Street was purchased and erection of a new church was begun.

        Regular services were held at the new Main Street church for 50 years, until membership began to decline and when the last service was held there on No­vember 24, 2002, only four members remained.

        The Presbyterian Church building was sold in April, 2005 to the Raining Manna Christian Center, which now holds regular services there.

        Membership in the Thomas Hinds Lodge also declined until only four active members were left and the lodge dissolved. The brick building was sold in October 2004 to a Brookhaven lumber company.

        A spokesman for the lumber company said plans for the oldest brick structure still standing in Fayette are indefinite.

 

Click on photo for  larger view

All photos except the Lodge building - courtesy of Tom Harper

 Lodge Photo by Charles Dawkins

Masonic Graphics from Masonic Grand Lodge

 
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