Vol. XXXVI No. 1 — January 1958

Moon Lodges

Warren Fowler Mellny

This Bulletin is abstracted from The Masonic Service Association Digest of the same title, by Warren Fowler Mellny, published January 1954 and reprinted March 1955. The Digest contains many accounts of old and romantic lodge customs of the long ago. Those who find the faint perfume of age and romance in these pages would enjoy the original.

The “Moon Lodge” — meeting on a specified week day “O.B.” (on or before) or “O.A.” (on or after) “Full Moon” — is slowly but surely disappearing from the American Masonic scene. There were more than 3,000 moon lodges in 1908, in 1958 but about five hundred. Thirty-six of the United States forty-nine grand lodges still have moon lodges.

A number of grand lodges have legislated moon lodges out of existence, insisting that all lodges meet upon definite dates. A large number of moon lodges have voluntarily, if perhaps regretfully, yielded to modern conditions and changed from the old “on or before,” or “on or after” full moon to definite dates.

The moon lodges herein represented have clung to the old custom because it is old, preferring the inconvenience — if any — caused by confusion as to just when the moon is full, to sacrificing what has had the force of an “ancient usage and custom.”

Some moon lodges herein described may no longer be such; even as this Bulletin goes to press a lodge “will vote tonight whether it will continue as moon lodge or set a definite meeting date.”[1]

John H. Campbell, secretary of Clermont Social Lodge No. 29, Ohio, wrote in 1958:

Clermont Social Lodge is one of the oldest lodges in the North West Territory.

One of the first items in the treasurer’s book is: "To cash for the jewels to R. Best, $40.00.” Robert Best was a silversmith in Cincinnati and the jewels were of solid silver and are in use to this day.

Among the valued relics of the early days is what was known as the “Old Chest” made of walnut, the lid being one solid walnut board 30 inches wide. The chest was made to hold the lodge possessions between meetings in the old Jury Room. It was later stood on end and made into a locker that is still in use.

One of the oddest incidents in the story of the lodge occurred at the public installation of G. B. Beacham for his first term as master, December 18, 1885, when as that part of the program being ended Brother Isaac N. McAdams accompanied by Mrs. Susan P. Hodges stepped in front of the East while the secretary, Homer McLain, J.P., arose to request a privilege, and to the surprise of the large assembly of Masons and their guests, pronounced the marriage ceremony for the brother and his bride, who had mutually added a fine turkey and much else to the banquet in the lower hall where the company went to what was appropriately called “The lodges Wedding Feast.”

An old receipt reads: “Rec’d of Clermont Social Lodge No. 29, four dollars it being my account against the estate of. . . for making coffin. Jan. 30,1852, another stovewood delivered to Widow McLain.”

Claude F. Nettleton, past master of Accacia Lodge No. 31, Minnesota, writes:

Accacia Lodge No. 51, meets in Cottage Grove, Minnesota. Cottage Grove is a very small village about 15 miles from the city of St. Paul. Our meeting night is the Wednesday closest to the full moon. We have about 110 members, the majority of which are farmers and our lodge is 89 years old. We are told that the old timers picked the light of the moon the better to see to drive to and from lodge. (There were no automobiles when this lodge was formed!)

We are the only lodge in Minnesota that does meet in the light of the moon. The name of our lodge is spelled wrong, but that is the way it is on our charter so we have to govern ourselves accordingly.

The membership of our lodge is bigger than the population of the village in which it is located, which accounts for the membership being mostly farmers.

We have an emblematic carpet that is between 75 and 80 years old. It is cordage carpet, 36" wide and sewed together with carpet warp. Every four feet is alike, woven with all the implements of Masonry — everything including the 3-5-7 steps, pillars, altar, setting maul, etc. This carpet covers the entire lodge room and preparation room and, for its age, it is in very fine shape.

Grand Secretary Alpheus E. Orton of Kentucky writes:

We have 52 Moon Lodges. Ten or twelve years ago, we had 119.[2]

The Grand Lodge of Kentucky, in its Proceedings of 1874, published an Almanac of Full Moons, which showed the full moons in each year, beginning with the year 1869 and closing with the year 1883, showing the day of the week and the month upon which every full moon occurred.

Charity Lodge No. 134, Maryland, chartered May 11, 1868, meets Saturday on or before full moon.

Milton Stuffier, past secretary, writes:

The original name of Charity Lodge No. 134 which meets at Parkton, Maryland, was Bentley Springs Lodge No. 134. We met there for a period of eight years when we moved to Parkton on May 9, 1876. The name was then changed to Charity Lodge.

This was in the horse and buggy days and many of the brethren walked from five to eight miles to and from the meetings. There was no train service after the lodge closed, and one brother, on several occasions, walked from Parkton to Woodberry, a distance of twenty-five miles, in order to be at his place of work by 5 a.m.

When the lodge was located at Parkton it was decided to hold the meetings on the Saturday falling on or preceding full moon so that the members might have moonlight in which to return to their homes. This custom still prevails and the lodge is very well attended.

A. Clyde Harvey, secretary of Mooresville Lodge No. 78, Indiana, writes:

Mooresville Lodge No. 78 has a history of growth and development, covering a period of over one hundred years.

The lodge was instituted in the home of Dr. Heiner, a pioneer physician, and later moved to Black’s Tannery. In the course of time the lodge moved to the second story of a merchants storeroom and, for the rent of this room, they paid $40.00 per year and allowed the Order of Odd Fellows to use the room for $20.00 per year. The owner of the building donated $5.00 per year to the lodge making our net rent per year $15.00.

Many old time oyster suppers and ice cream socials were held there for the benefit of the treasury and they were considered social events of much importance in their seasons. Today our light and water bill will amount to approximately as much per month as the rent for the hall did in 1860 for a year.

On one occasion, a motion was made and carried to spend fifteen cents on a new dipper for the water bucket. On June 16, 1848, dues were paid and receipts were issued to eight members amounting to fifteen cents each.

F. E. Cody, secretary of Freedom Lodge No. 194, Illinois, writes:

On March 5, 1856, a group of Masons met in a brother’s house in Harding, Illinois, to form a lodge. On March 22, 1856, Most Worshipful Grand Master W. W. Herrick granted us a Dispensation to form a lodge. Freedom Lodge No. 194, I presume, was named from our Freedom Township.

The first meeting of the lodge was held April 26, 1856. A motion was made and carried at the meeting to meet on Saturday night on or after the full moon; but that has been changed since then and we now meet on the Saturday night on or before the full moon.

At the present time we have 102 members, which is the largest membership we have ever had.

Freedom is a small place, no post office, but it is the center of our Masonic heart. While the members live in surrounding towns, yet Freedom means our Freemasonry. We are very proud of the meeting date and will hold it as long as we can possibly do so.

DeSoto Lodge No. 105, Florida, chartered January 17, 1889, still clings to the old custom of meeting on the Saturday night on or before the full moon, and Tuesday night on or before the new moon, which was started in the early history of the lodge so that the members would have moonlight to travel on horseback or by wagon and buggy. Today, DeSoto lodge is fraternally known as the “Moonshine lodge.”

John C. Morris, secretary of County Line Lodge No. 373, Arkansas, writes:

County Line Lodge No. 373, was chartered in 1879 with sixteen charter members. The lodge still holds its meetings in the same old building located in Fulton County, Arkansas, between Baxter and Fulton County lines, about four miles from Bakersfield, Missouri, which is our mailing address.

Most of the lumber was hand planed and the framing was put together with wooden pegs. At one time there were two churches and a store and a post office in the community. All have been moved but one church that meets in the first story of the lodge building. Early minutes show that:

Resolved that a committee of three be appointed to visit the widows and orphans of deceased Master Masons and report their need. A resolution was passed to empower the Secretary to pay 25¢ for a broom.

It was moved, seconded and passed, to pay the Secretary 50¢ for each days work at lodge.

Resolved that the regular stated meetings be held on each Saturday on or before the Full Moon.

Appropriated $34.25 for Grand Lodge dues and to pay for the charter.

Resolution authorizing the Secretary to write to the grand master of Arkansas, to know if they could rent the hall to the Odd Fellows for $2.00 per month.

Resolved that County Line lodge loan the sum of $40.00 until the first day of November 1883, at 2 percent per annum until paid. Treasurer to take note and good security for payment.

Brother paid 15¢ for four months dues.

Grand Secretary Charles H. Stubinger of Alabama, writes:

There is one full moon lodge in Alabama. Blacksher Lodge No. 593, Uriah, Alabama, meets Saturday before the full moon, each month.

The dispensation for this lodge was issued by M.W. Brother Robert J. Redden, grand master, on September 3, 1902, and the lodge was chartered on December 3, 1902.

Thirty years ago, Penick Lodge No. 161, at Eclectic, Alabama, met on Saturday afternoon at 2 o’clock, on or before the full moon. The lodge room was over a crossroads store and there was a woody grove alongside of the place where members left their horses, mules and wagons. The members’ families accompanied them. The men went upstairs to lodge, came down at about 4 o’clock and after lunch, visiting and trading, went back to lodge and finished their business.

Grand Secretary Joseph A. E. Ivey of Arizona writes:

When I was a young Mason, nearly fifty years ago, some of our old brothers told how they hitched up a buckboard and rode many miles to lodge on a Saturday afternoon on or before the full moon.

When they arrived, they would unhitch old Dobbin, and let him feed on hay that they had put in the buckboard. They would hold their meeting in the afternoon, call off for a bite to eat, which they brought with them, spreading it out on an improvised table downstairs, pot-luck fashion, swap a few yarns, enjoy an hour of real fellowship, afterwards returning upstairs to complete the conferring of the degree, or finding out what brother was indisposed or needed a load of wood hauled or a little ploughing done or a crop gathered or anything else to be helpful.

We now have only one Moon lodge in Arizona. This is Gila Valley No. 9, at Florence, which was chartered November 20, 1890.

J. Houston Allen, its secretary, states:

Gila Valley Lodge No. 9, is an old lodge. It meets on Monday on or before the full moon. Our membership is slightly above one hundred and we are noted for having members in a large number of the states throughout the Union.

Within the last four years we have survived two fires and now have a new hall of which the members can be proud. We are situated in a small community county seat of Pinal County and have one lodge within ten miles of us.

James V. Greenhalgh, Historian of Friendship Lodge in Rhode Island writes:

Friendship Lodge, No. 7, worked under dispensation until 1805. The first meeting was held at the stagecoach tavern of Jesse Smith on March 13, 1800. Monthly meetings were held in hotels, taverns and in private homes until 1802. Masonic lodge building was erected in 1802; meetings have been held in this building until the present time, a matter of 150 years.

The following by-laws of Friendship lodge, dated June 16,1800, are of interest:

Article 1. On every Entered Apprentice of the Fellowcraft lodge, the brethren will assemble at Masons’ Hall, Glocester, in such place as the lodge shall direct, the Tuesday preceding the full moon in every month except July and August, and on every master’s lodge they shall assemble as above on every Tuesday preceding the full moon in the months of September, December, March and June, provided always that if the moon fulls on the above date that shall be considered the time of meeting.

Article 14. No brother shall be admitted within the lodge the least disquied [sic] with liquor and should it be discovered afterwards the master or wardens shall order him to retire.

Article 28. After the lodge is closed every brother shall decently and immediately depart. At a meeting held July 3, 1800, the following vote was taken: "Voted that each victor pay for himself and horse 23 or 37½ cents and without a horse 25 cents.”

G. Raymond Shrader, secretary of Huntersville Lodge No. 65, of West Virginia, writes:

The first meeting of Huntersville Lodge U.D. was held August 11, 1875, on the second floor of the Huntersville Court House. The charter was granted on November 11, 1875.

The present lodge hall was dedicated June 18, 1896. It is over the Presbyterian Church, which was used as a hospital during the Civil War.

The furniture of the lodge is all handmade and all working tools are handmade from black walnut and are used today. The lodge has an organ that plays rolls of music, perhaps the only one in the state. The age is unknown.

The lodge meets on or before the full moon that its members could have the light of the moon to travel by, either on horseback or on foot, from the distance of one to fifteen miles.

Brother B. T. Winiecki of Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 11, of Washington state (chartered November 1864), writes:

The varied history of one of the oldest lodges in the state shows only two outstanding features: the first, its age and the second that it is a "Moon Lodge.”

Older brothers in the lodge state that meeting by the moon was dictated by practical considerations.

The geography of the terrain comprising the jurisdiction of Mt. Moriah is unusual. It is cut up by fairly large bodies of salt water, it has many streams and lakes, and is very hilly.

In the early days, the land mass was covered entirely with dense virgin forest. Nearly all the members were woodsmen who had to travel considerable distances to attend lodge. In addition to utilizing the light of the moon for night travel on foot, horseback, and by boat in this region the weather was generally more clement during the full phase of the moon than at any other time during the lunar cycle.

Coupled with the full moon our predecessors met on Saturday night so that those who journeyed great distances might have an opportunity to return home leisurely on Sunday without having the trip interfere with their working days.

Many times in recent years groups of brethren have sought to change the meeting night from Saturday to some other night in the week. It has always been the consensus of a majority that the date be not changed.

It has been argued that Saturday is just as important a part of the tradition as is the phase of the moon even though the necessity for having more time to travel has been removed by modern means of transportation and the development of a fine road system.

Note: In 2015 the website for Accacia Lodge No. 51 of Minnesota,, lists 125 U.S. and 3 Canadian moon lodges.

Question Box

This column will attempt to answer questions about Freemasonry

What are the “beasts of the field”?

Superstition in the Middle Ages maintained that a man’s body must be buried while perfect, if his soul was to go to heaven. Hence, the destroyed (eaten) flesh of a body prevented resurrection. “Beasts of the field” are not the familiar horses and cows, but the wild beasts of Leviticus 26:22, “I will also send wild beasts among you,” etc. These are bears, wild bulls, hyenas, jackals, leopards and wolves, all Old Testament animals.

Is there further information to be obtained of the working tools of a Fellowcraft than is to be found in the ritual?

Decidedly so; it is half concealed, half revealed in the association of the level with the senior warden, the plumb with the junior warden and the square with the master, particularly in the ceremonies of closing a lodge. In a lodge all brethren meet on a level of exact equality, which is not concerned with brains, or education, or wealth, or position; men are equal in a lodge in manhood, and in Masonic right and Masonic character. “We meet upon the level” means just what it says; Masons trust each other, believe in each other, help each other because they are, Masonically, level with each other.

We “act by the plumb” in accord with Amos VII — the plumbline God said He would place “in the midst of my people Israel.” In other words, they were to be judged by their own plumbline, not another’s. Masons are to judge their fellows, if at all, by their fellows’ plumblines, not their own. One brother must not condemn another by personal standards; only when a brother is false to his own standards can he judge him.

To “part upon the square” signifies that while a square points in different directions, and men “part” to go each his own way, it is a known way, not a devious way, a wrong way, a bad way, but a “square” way. The Mason who goes his own way, so it is the square way, is never alone, even if out of sight of his lodge and his brethren.

The square is the fundamental tool of the operative Mason; without its use no building would stand. It is the fundamental tool of the Speculative Mason; without square thoughts and actions, no spiritual building can stand.

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  1. In 201$, Cleremont Social, Accacia, Blacksher, Penick, Gila Valley, Friendship, and Huntersville Lodges are still moon lodges. Moorseville, Freedom, DeSoto, and County Line Lodges are no longer moon lodges.
  2. Only two remain in 2015.

The Masonic Service Association of North America