Eureka – West Shore Lodge No. 302
Address: 910 South Market St and Cedar Ave., Mechanicsburg, PA. 17055
History and Formation of Eureka West-shore Lodge No. 302
Eureka Lodge No. 302 Formation
The years of 1830 to 1850 were dark ones for the Masonic fraternity. Religious, political and social prejudice, a result of increasing suspicions about the nature and influence of Freemasons, had done significant damage to Freemasonry nationwide. In Pennsylvania our numbers dwindled from 109 subordinate lodges in 1827 to only 38 in 1839. In Central Pennsylvania, all of the lodges went dark in Cumberland, Dauphin, and Perry counties. During this somber period, even the Pennsylvania state government became involved.
On the heels of the nationally publicized trials – and acquittals – of Masons involved in the suspected murder of William Morgan, a former Mason who had planned to publish a damaging expose of Freemasonry, members of the Pennsylvania Grand Lodge were summoned to appear before House of Representatives of the General Assembly of Pennsylvania for an examination of the activities of
the Craft. On Jan. 21, 1836, some potential witnesses appeared, but their spokesman gave compelling reasons for them not to testify and a motion was then made for them to be discharged. After numerous dilatory tactics by the investigating panel, the witnesses were
discharged, but not until after vigorous opposition was made by one of the leading anti-Masonic figures of the time, Thaddeus Stevens of Lancaster County. But after weathering that sad time, the clouds began to clear, and our fraternity again began to prosper within the state.
Life returned to some of the dormant lodges and new lodges were chartered. Records indicate that five years before the Civil War, the number of lodges in the Commonwealth had risen to 128, and membership in the fraternity was showing a steady upward trend. It was in early 1856, during this time of the rebirth of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania, that several Freemasons living in the Mechanicsburg area assembled in the stationery store of Brother Jacob Dorsheimer at 56 West Main Street to formalize an application to the Grand Lodge of 25 Pennsylvania Free and Accepted Masons.
At that time the town of Mechanicsburg had been a chartered borough for nearly three decades and had a population of 1,000. These Mechanicsburg Masons had come together for a simple purpose – to establish a new lodge in their growing town. Besides Brother Dorsheimer, others signing the application for the warrant included: Brothers John Palmer P.M., William H. Coover, M.D., Ira Day, M.D., John F. Yingst, John Halbert, Abraham Rich, and George Weise, Jr. On June 16, 1856, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania issued a warrant granting Brother Dorsheimer and the other applicants the authority to organize a Lodge in Mechanicsburg, to be known as Eureka Lodge No. 302. Three months later on the morning of Sept. 23, Right Worshipful Grand Master Bro. Peter Williamson and his Grand Lodge officers departed from Philadelphia for Mechanicsburg to constitute Eureka Lodge No. 302, F. & A. M. The minutes of the first meeting of Eureka Lodge No. 302 as originally recorded reflect the R.W. Grand Master’s visit and the lodge’s constitution under his watch.
West Shore Lodge No. 681 Formation
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 Masons 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.
Eureka-West Shore Lodge No. 302 Merger
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 Masters 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 Johns 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.
Eureka-West Shore Lodge No. 302 Legacy of 150 Years
Read the entire 150-year history of Eureka-West Shore lodge No. 302 below.