In 1914, Brother Henry M. Bowman, a member and Past Master (1867) of Eureka Lodge No. 302, Mechanicsburg, PA conceived an idea to form a new Lodge in Camp Hill, PA. He discussed this with Harry Askin, 302 and Elwyn Strode 322, West Chester, PA, both of whom lived in Camp Hill. Many meetings were held in the home of Brother Bowman who was a Justice of Peace.
Brother Askin wrote a letter to the District Deputy Grand Master to seek advice on procedure. The idea was favorable and moved forward. Many things were discussed; for example, a meeting place. Building a Temple or renting space was considered and the best course seemed to be rental. Rental won the day and the Holler Building, where a business enterprise was conducted was chosen. The third floor of the building was renovated and furnished as a Lodge room meeting the requirements of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Rent was $40.00 per month. This was far less costly than building which at the time would have been $13,000.00.
On July 16, 1915, good news arrived from The Right Worshipful Grand Master Brother J. Henry Williams, notifying the Camp Hill petitioners that their petition was granted and that arrangements should be made for the constitution of the new Lodge with the number 681. On September 16, 1915, the ceremonies commenced at high noon and were concluded at 1:30 P.M. It was a 97 degree day and back then there was no such thing as “air conditioning” in those early days of the Twentieth Century. There were 24 Master Masons who attended most of the meetings from conception to the birth of West Shore Lodge No. 681, F. & A. M.
The Lodge met in the Holler Building for 21 years. A lot was purchased for $1,500.00 on which to build a Temple but the idea fell by the wayside and the lot was sold for $1573.00. However, the idea was still alive and a new lot was bought for $5,000.00 and a committee appointed to build the Temple. Twenty-one years after the first meeting to form the Lodge, the Cornerstone for the building was laid by Past Right Worshipful Grand Master, Samuel M. Goodyear, who was RWGM when the Lodge was constituted.
The gavel fell on the first meeting of the Lodge and was called to order by Brother Fred C. Beecher, (1915-16), the first Worshipful Master of the Lodge, on the third Friday of the month, the day after the Constitution of the Lodge in 1915, and was attended by 24 warrant Members and three visitors. Twenty-two petitions were presented and read. By-Laws were read and laid over for adoption. Other business was also conducted. Over the past 98 years, the meetings were conducted that attended to all matters of business and the purpose of the Lodge and Freemasonry, making better men out of good men and promoting brotherly love.
Many petitioners were considered over the years since the founding of the Lodge. The first petitioner, who had the distinction of having the first Entered Apprentice Mason’s Degree conferred upon him by the Lodge, was Edward Nelson Cooper who was also destined to become a Worshipful Master of the Lodge. The Last degree conferred by West Shore Lodge No. 681, F. & A. M. Was to Chris Alan Hoover who was Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason on November 19, 2012. Brother Douglas W. Hitz, P. M. Was the Degree Master and Brother Donald R. Harner, P. M. presented the Charge.
The West Shore Lodge, No. 681, F. & A. M. has a rich history of service to the community by promoting friendship and brotherly love. We shall all miss the fellowship of our Brethren, living and dead, who met in this Temple for ninety-eight years.
In 1942, the Lodge instituted a flag ceremony honoring the men serving in World War II as directed by the Right Worshipful Grand Master, It has been practiced ever since.
The West Shore Lodge, like so many Lodges across the state and nation, has had difficulty maintaining a flow of Brothers through the Chairs since the year 2000. In the year 2007, the first movement toward a merger with another Lodge began. At first, there was not much interest. However, by the year 2011, there were no Brethren in the line prepared to ascend to the Master’s Chair and Brother Donald L. Shuler, Jr., P. M., (1999 and 2002) was elected Worshipful Master for the year 2012, his third term of service. Each Stated and Extra Meetings saw the need for several Past Masters to assume the Chairs.
It was decided to seek a merger with another Lodge that did have a steady flow of Brethren through the Chairs. Douglas W. Hitz, W. M. was selected to chair the committee and he did an excellent service to move this venture forward. The most promising opportunity was with Eureka Lodge No. 302 in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. With the blessing and leadership of the District Deputy Grand Masters, Brother Scott T. Matincheck, Second Masonic District and Brother John D. Cook, P. M. Third Masonic District the work was completed and the merger was consummated on Saint John’s Day, Next, December 27, 2012. On that day, we all became members of Eureka-West Shore Lodge No. 302, F & A. M. We essentially returned home to the Mother Lodge that created the Masonic work in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania, Eureka Lodge, No. 302, F. & A. M., Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania.