History of Lodge 45

Lodge 45 is the oldest continuously operating Masonic Lodge in the United States west of the Appalachian Mountains. Lodge 45 recently celebrated it’s 220th anniversary! Below are two writings concerning the lodge’s history. In addition, we will be posting photos of lodge memorabilia as well as more lodge history writings.

Lodges that Merged into Lodge 45
James I. Buchanan Lodge No. 757 Merged Nov. 1, 1978
Col. Henry Bouquet Lodge No. 787 Merged Nov. 1, 1978
Pittsburgh Lodge No. 484 Merged Mar. 30, 1983
Bellefield Lodge No. 680 Merged Dec. 27, 1983
Geter C. Shidle Lodge No. 650 Merged Dec. 27, 1983
Tipton-Henderson Lodge No. 760 Merged Dec. 27, 1990
Washington Lodge No. 253 Merged June. 3, 1992
The Oldest True Masonic Secret by Richard G. Johnson, P.M

It’s high time someone set the record straight. Let’s do it now, and let’s get it right, once and for all. Who has the oldest Lodge in the Valley? Is it really Lodge 45?

Before I reveal to you the shocking truth, I want to set the stage for you. With all this hub-bub about so-called “Masonic Secrecy,” everyone I talk with seems a little afraid to discuss this issue openly. Instead of vigorous debate using the traditional tools of reason, decorum (and copia), and proof, most of us have been exposed only to rumor, propaganda, conjecture, and bias. And the members of Lodge 45 want almost desperately for the answer to be, “Lodge 45 is the eldest!!!”

As a member of Lodge 45, I have been variously told that Lodge 45 is the “oldest Lodge in the country,” or the “oldest Lodge west of the Alleghenies (the most popular of these catechisms),” or the “oldest permanent Lodge west of the Alleghenies,” and even the “oldest continuous Lodge west of the Alleghenies.” Someone once even went so far as to tell me that Lodge 45 is the “oldest Lodge west of the Mississippi,” but I feel rather certain this particular claim cannot withstand rigorous scrutiny.

It has also been heartily suggested and widely published that Lodge 45 was originally one of those very-prestigious sounding revolutionary war era “Military Lodges,” presumably meeting beneath the cloak of darkness and within the confines of mildewed canvas tents and under the tyle of actually sharpened swords. I wonder what size tent Lodge 45 would now need to meet?

Others insist that Lodge 45 was the first Lodge to open in the “new” Masonic Temple (at that mouthful of an address, “Fifth, Lytton, & Tennyson”) back in the 1910’s. Still others bumptiously proclaim that Lodge 45 “will be” the first Lodge to open in the new-“new” Masonic building in the North Hills. [ed. We Were]

There is, of course, some countervailing opinion. The leading contender for the older-than-Lodge-45-wannabees is that famous lodge “in Ohio,” whose true name nobody knows (another Masonic Secret?). This Lodge is rumored to have met outside in the same stone-quarry for several centuries, during which time not one single rock has been removed or even slightly disturbed.

There are other contenders, but only fly-weights. I have been assured that there is an older Lodge “on the Kentucky/Virginia border.” I have been told that a few elderly but extremely sagacious Masons have heard “something about a Lodge in Detroit,” but, of course, no-one remembers just what it is there is to know about that Lodge. Perhaps it has something to do with the their Warrant…

So, I ask, how much of this is true? How much is mere guesswork? And how much of this is simply lost knowledge, known only within the recesses of the someplaces-hollow but soon to be book-filled walls of our Oakland Temple?

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has derived its authority from several sources. During the early 1700’s, both the English “Antients” (formed in 1751) and “Moderns” (formed in 1717) have warranted Lodges in Pennsylvania. On 5 June 1730, the Grand Lodge of England (Moderns) granted a “Deputation” to Brother Daniel Coxe appointing Daniel Cox [sic] as “Provincial Grand Master of New York, New Jersey, and Pensilvania [sic].” In 1765, Pennsylvania received its third Warrant (Antient), the first (1761, Antient) having been captured by the French, and the second (1763, Antient) having issued from London but never having reached Pennsylvania. The Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania declared its independence in 1786 (with the dedicated assistance and steadfast loyalty of Lodge 45, whose Warrant was granted on 27 December 1785).

The Grand Lodge — as it exists today — follows of course the Ancient York Craft, and has chartered at least 68 Lodges outside Pennsylvania (“Masonic Jurisdiction Thereunto Belonging”) but west of Pittsburgh’s Lodge 45 (at 80° longitude), in addition to Lodges in Santo Domingo (nine Lodges) (70°); Buenos Aires, Argentina (58°); Montevideo, Uruguay (56°); “Kaskaskia;” and Alverado, Mexico.

As a Military Lodge, Lodge 45 lacks a certain measure of the right military “stuff.” As early as 1759, Freemasons at Fort Pitt (then a part of Virginia known as “Fort Dunmore”) are known to have passed and raised brothers. Regimental Lodge #19 (warranted in May 1779 by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania) met as early as 25 June 1780 also at Fort Pitt. The last known WM of Regimental Lodge #19 became a charter member of Lodge 45. Alas, there is no further record of a direct line from Regimental Lodge #19 to Lodge 45. In fact, Grand Lodge records show that its Warrant was actually surrendered (in 1784, called in along with those of all the travelling lodges).

The truth, my dear brothers (and readers): Lodge 45 can legitimately make claim to being (and I choose my words here carefully) the oldest permanent Lodge west of the Allegheny mountains, and that only with a few caveats. We were never a Military Lodge. Our original Warrant, as granted by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, is lost to history. Even the date of our first actual meeting is lost. We have not met continuously. During the Anti-Masonic period, we were dark for six months in 1835, we met only occasionally in 1836, and our Warrant was temporarily suspended in 1837. Lodge 45 was, however, the only lodge in Pittsburgh to have survived that era.

We can lay claim to being the first Lodge to have opened in the Oakland Temple. And with intrepidity, we can claim to be the first Lodge to open in the North Hills facility if it is built, and if we move there, and if no other Lodge is first. Of course, we probably will be. [ed. We were]

The mysteries lurking behind the blue and scarlet veils of “Ohio” and “Detroit” and “Kentucky” are these: The “Ohio” Lodge is “American Union Lodge #1” of Marietta, Ohio. It was first warranted by the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in February 1776, but ceased labor from 1783 until 1791 (at which time this lodge was munificently recognized by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania). The “Detroit” Lodge is Zion Lodge #1, but, reminiscent of the old southern tradition of “rejuvenated virgins,” it is a much-rejuvenated Lodge: although warranted by the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York (Moderns) in 1764, it ceased its labor in 1768. It was rejuvenated first in September 1794 by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Canada (Antient) as “Zion Lodge #10,” then again in 1806 by the Grand Lodge of New York as “Zion Lodge #1,” then again in June 1826 by the Grand Lodge of Michigan as “Zion Lodge #1,” and then but again by the Grand Lodge of New York in June 1844, after having ceased labor for 15 years during the Anti-Masonic Period. The “Kentucky” Lodge is Lexington Lodge #25, and was warranted by the Grand Lodge of Virginia, but not until 1788.

Brethren, you are now armed with the truth. What I have told you is accurate, reliable, and provable by citation to eminent authority. While the limitations of space for this article have prevented me from giving you the complete bibliography, if you ask me, I will send you them (thus divesting me of my apparent vice of uncited plagiarism and superfluity of quotation, thank you), or better yet, attend a meeting of Lodge 45 (last Wednesdays, 7:30 PM, at the Masonic Temple).

If you are passing by the wayside (wherever that is), and meet a brother of the Ohio or Detroit or Kentucky Lodges, and he should throw you some of that “older-than-thou” verbiage, you are now in duty bound to disagree!
Copyright © 1994-2005

Fifty-Year Emblem Acceptance Speech – 25 June 1997 by Walter E. Koch, Jr., P.M.

I was initiated, passed, and raised in 1947, and was appointed as an officer of Lodge No. 45 the same year by Worshipful Master, Brother Harry A. Vinton, Jr. 33rd and I was Worshipful Master in 1958, and later served as Secretary for a total of 23 years. After serving as Worshipful Master of Lodge No. 45, Brother Vinton demitted and became the Warrant Master of Whitehall Lodge.

The following is from the speech I gave on June 25, 1997 when I received my 50 year Emblem of Gold from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, which was presented by Brother George Hott, District Deputy Grand Master.

As I contemplated this night, I realized I am the only member of Lodge No. 45, here tonight, who remembers what happened in Lodge No. 45 in the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s.

I would, therefore, like to take you back through the past 50 years and relate some interesting stories and events.

Let’s start with the Warrant of Constitution. For years the Grand Lodge wanted our Warrant of Constitution for their Historic Museum and was going to take it from us because it was not displayed in the body of the open Lodge. It was rolled up and contained in a metal canister, which was placed on the Master’s pedestal. It was the belief of everyone at that time that it was so old and dry, that if taken from the canister it would crumble into a million pieces. Worshipful Master Brother Harry A. Vinton, Jr., made the decision to secure our Warrant of Constitution and make sure it would remain in the possession of Lodge No. 45. The Warrant was taken to the Old Document Department of the Carnegie Museum and Library where it was treated and the faded lettering was re-inscribed. It was then taken to Carnegie Mellon Institute where the stainless steel case was made, the Warrant was placed between two pieces of shatter proof plate glass and hermetically sealed, and then fitted into the steel case, as you now see it. At all times it was under the case of Brother Master Mason and always supervised by Brothers Andrew A. Brault and Williard G. Spencer, bother were officers of Lodge No. 45. The Warrant was out of the possession of Brother Vinton for about three weeks.

During my years as an officer, there existed a “Club 45,” eligibility was membership in Lodge No. 45 and a $5.00 a year membership fee. The only activity of this Club, which incidentally received no funds from the Lodge, was a family picnic, held at “The Lodge” in South Park. Back in those days a permit had to be obtained to reserve this facility, by appearing in person at the City County Building in downtown Pittsburgh to obtain said permit. The Officers took 4 hour shifts around the clock in the City County Building starting on the evening of December 31 with the Secretary taking the 4 hour shift at the start of business on January 2nd. This was a sign of true dedication and commitment. We would have about 250 to 300 children and adults attend this picnic.

Lodge No. 45 was honored to be able to confer a degree upon one of our candidates (the name I cannot recall), in one of the Grand Lodge Rooms. We took our own paraphernalia and traveled by train as a part of a group of Masons called the Pittsburgh Visitation Club.

I am sure many of you must be wondering what kind of attendance we had back I those days. The area in front of the Secretary’s desk, was “reserved” for the Past Master’s of which we usually had about 25 to 35 present. They listened to every word spoken and noticed every move the officers made and were not a bit shy in telling them what they did wrong. Of course, there was an occasional compliment as well. There were also an equal amount of brethren in attendance. So we always had 50 to 70 members plus visitors. Since Lodge No. 45 has never called off from labor during the summer months, we have had many interesting and important visitors from both Foreign and Domestic Jurisdictions attend our summer meetings. All our meetings were well attended and our stated meetings included interesting programs. Our families were included in many of our functions, and, of course, good food was often times prepared and served by our wives, mothers, or sisters.

Some of our outstanding meetings include the “Celebration of Landmark Night.” The evening started with a catered dinner, complete with printed menus and included cigars. The Master and his elected Officers would occupy the head table. Menus were circulated and everyone signed them. I have several in my Lodge No. 45 memorabilia file. Then there was a “Father and Son Night,” and a “Warrant of Constitution Night.” This was the night our restored Warrant was presented to the membership. Our “Veteran’s Night” and “Past Masters’ Night” always went over well with many of our Past Masters in attendance. We had a “Masonic Temple Open House” to which all Masons and their Ladies were invited to tour the building including Lodge Rooms. Our “Junior Officers’ Night” was a night when the Junior Officers of the Lodge took over the meeting and conducted the business of the Lodge. Wednesday, December 25, 1957, I was elected and installed as the Worshipful Master of Lodge No. 45, a night I still remember. I think I was the last Master to be installed on Christmas Day, there was only one other that I know of and that was Frederick W. Arnold, Jr., who was installed in 1931. He and I held this distinction until he passed away several years ago.

Lodge No. 45 had a reputation of being one of the outstanding Lodges in Western Pennsylvania. We did excellent degree work thanks to Brothers Andrew A. Brault and Willard G. Spencer who in addition to being officers of our Lodge were instructors in the Pittsburgh School of Instruction.

There were, and are today, several members of Lodge No. 45 who made Masonry a way of life. They were dedicated and committed to this Lodge and influenced my Masonic way of life. I will attempt to name a few, some you may know, Brother Robert S. Johnson, Worshipful Master in 1949, traveled from Oil City, Pennsa., never missed a meeting or a funeral service. His wife traveled with him to make sure he didn’t fall asleep on the way home. Brother James Jones, 33rd, Past Master, was Secretary for 33 years never missed a meeting or funeral service. He was dedicated to Lodge No. 45 as well as to many other Masonic Bodies. Brother Harry A. Vinton, Jr. 33rd, Past Master whom I mentioned earlier, kept our Warrant of Constitution here in Lodge No. 45 and did not allow our Grand Lodge to make it a part of their Historic Memorabilia. Brother W. Edward Sell, 33rd, Past Master, who along with Past Grand Master Hiram P. Ball 33rd made it possible for us to enjoy our beautiful Greater Pittsburgh Masonic Center. There are many others whom I will never forget and it is unfortunate that you did not have the opportunity to know them as I did.

The above is a compilation of information as best remembered by one who is proud to be a Mason and more proud to be a Member of Lodge No. 45. I would like to dedicate this article to all the outstanding Masons of Lodge No. 45 living and deceased.

By: Walter E. Koch, Jr., PM

Masonic Talk — Symbolism of the Officers of the Lodge and the Cardinal Directions
by Bro.: Christian James Kriegeskotte, 3°
Wednesday, June 27, 2012 Stated Communication of Lodge 45 F&AM, Pittsburgh, PA 

Many of the statements contained within this lecture were gathered from W. L. Wilmhurst’s “The Meaning of Masonry” and supplemented with writings on Masonry, astrology and occultism by Manly P. Hall, Franz Bardon and Prentiss Tucker. My Brothers, we are all aware of the seemingly limitless symbols and meanings concealed within the great Mysteries of our ancient Order. The word “symbol,” however, often draws our attention to the many images, pictures and diagrams we see peppered throughout countless apocryphal Masonic books and pamphlets. In this short program, it is my intention to draw us away from what is written, and illuminate the symbolism of the very Lodge Room in which we are called to work, and the various roles it plays in our Masonic journey. Our spiritual ancestors, the alchemists of antiquity, drew their plans of the Universe from their knowledge of what they termed the Macrocosm, and its corporeal analogy, the Microcosm. The Macrocosm, or Divine Universe, is the very Universe within which we live and dwell and have our being. These same words, my Brothers, are quoted from the final charge in the ritual of Raising in the State of New York and refers, of course, to the G.A.O.T.U. in whom we live and dwell and have our being and from whom we issue. As you each may have already deduced, having been created in God’s own image, the Microcosm refers to Man and his physical body, and suggests quite profoundly that we ourselves are each a scale model of the Universe. Therefore, as our ancient brethren discovered, understanding our own minds, bodies and potential, will yield to us that Divine knowledge of the Universe, or God, which is the ultimate goal or quintessence of every school of Mystery Initiation, in which Freemasonry includes itself. It is no mystery, then, why the phrase “Know Thyself” was inscribed above the entrance to every hallowed hall of learning in the ancient world. Even the arcane secrets of the Oracles were distilled from the hidden keys within this phrase, for as is so often wrongly articulated, the Sybils (female prophets who uttered divine messages in entranced frenzies) and Priests of the Ancient Oracles did not predict the future or vulgarly tell fortunes, but provided a mirror into the human soul, within which could be seen the true nature of the spirit. This secret, my Brothers, is contained by the very same lock, which the lost keys of Freemasonry are intended to open. It should now be most illuminating to point out how sensitive the authors of modern Freemasonry were to these truths when they designed our physical Lodges and meticulously scripted our initiations. Every Masonic Lodge Room represents the physical man, and its occupants (that is, the officers and brethren in attendance) his mind and spirit. Each time we enter the Lodge, we are, symbolically, entering into our own consciousness. As we progress along our individual Masonic journeys, we are each traveling along a path of self-betterment and introspection, the goal of which is to ultimately know ourselves, and therefore our Universe. My Brothers, while the Stated Meeting may at times seem monotonous and boring, the authors of modern Freemasonry have impregnated even the most mundane activities of the Lodge with profound meaning. Pay careful attention to the business of the Lodge and the role you play within it, for where we often hear only ritualized dialogue repeated meticulously as per the guidelines, greater natural, biological and psychological processes are being represented. For example, it is important that each of us learn what aspect of the mind the various officers of the Lodge represent. This will not only help each Brother in attendance take away something meaningful to his own self-improvement, but should also greatly illuminate the officers’ roles to the gentlemen occupying those chairs and assist them in vitalizing the functions of the Lodge, just as we may be concerned with maintaining our own physical health. Put simply, the W.M., occupying the East (from which the purest spiritual wisdom issues) represents our Spirit. The S.W. in the West, who reflects this spiritual sunlight and manifests it at the command of the W.M., represents our Soul and Consciousness. It should be no surprise why the Moon was chosen as the symbol of the S.W., as the Moon reflects the light of the Sun. The J.W., in the South, represents the Mind, and rationalizes the interactions between the Soul and Spirit. The various appointed officers naturally serve more detailed functions as conduits between these three pillars or Lesser Lights, which I will leave up to your own investigations. Each time the Lodge is called to Work, the W.M. raps his gavel and calls the brethren to order, just as we ourselves calm our minds before entering into an important task, calling to order our mental faculties. The W.M. then instructs his officers to inspect the brethren in attendance, being sure that each of them has achieved the appropriate level of initiation. This is analogous to inspecting one’s own thoughts, and casting out the ones that do not belong or are not suited to ensuring success in the task at hand. Moving ahead, the Spirit consults with the Soul and the rational Mind, and the organism of the Lodge enters into a heightened state of consciousness as we leave the normal world to engage in the business Freemasonry. This is analogous to the individual clearing his mind and entering into a state of prayer or meditation. I can assure you, my Brothers, while the routine of the Stated Meeting may seem rather hum-drum, our actions when called to work are no less profound than when we are engaged in the most complex drama or solemn ritual Masonry has devised. To this point, one should also take careful notice of the layout of the Lodge, and the strategic positioning of the various stations therein. Perhaps most profound, is the use of the cardinal directions in the journey of each initiate. As I have already described, and as each M.M. well knows, the W.M. (the Spiritual Sun) occupies the East, the S.W. (the Reflector of the Spirit or the Soul) occupies the West and the J.W. (the Rational Mind) occupies the South. This arc literally depicts the journey the material Sun makes across the sky each day, traveling along what is called the Ecliptic Plane from East to West and through the Southern sky. In the Lodge Room, the North is dark and is not occupied by any officer, just as in our material Universe the Sun never enters the Northern Sky. I should also remark that all the planets of our Solar System, to which ancient astronomers attributed the various dispositions of the human psyche, also travel exclusively along the Ecliptic Plane. This is no mistake, my Brothers, and the careful study of Scientific Astrology will yield many personal revelations to the introspective individual. It is also quite intentional, my Brothers, that toward the conclusion of each of our degrees the candidate is positioned in the North-East corner of the Lodge Room, which is symbolic of the terminus or meridian of total darkness (from which he has emerged) and illumination. The word “meridian” here has a dual meaning as well, as the traditional medicine of the Orient utilizes this term to identify the twelve special pathways in the body, along which vital energy is believed to travel. The number twelve itself, may also be associated with the Solar Year (in months) and the signs of the Zodiac, through which the Sun and planets travel. This further illustrates the relationship between the Macrocosm and the Microcosm, which has already been explained. I would expect the phrase “From darkness to light,” now to hold a much greater meaning to each of us, when we witness a candidate receiving instruction from this North-Eastern vantage. On a more profound level, as our Masonic journey represents our symbolic birth onto the path toward spiritual enlightenment, it is in the North-East corner of the Lodge that we emerge from the darkness of the womb into the light of our new spiritual Universe. It is for this reason that in many traditional English Lodges, the more experienced brethren are often seated in the South, while the newly initiated members are seated in the North. My Brothers, each time you enter the Lodge, please remember these few points, as they will surely unlock truths within your own being with very little effort, as they were intended to do. As the great Masonic writer W. L. Wilmhurst, author of “The Meaning of Masonry,” points out: we should not seek merely what it is that Masonry means, but what Masonry is capable of teaching us.