The USA Mother’s Day and National Preservation Month in May. Also, May is the month that we celebrate preservation of our historical treasures. Furthermore, May is National Military Appreciation Month, a month when citizens are encouraged to celebrate the unity of the citizens of our wonderful country.
On May 14, we celebrate National Armed Forces Day and on May 31, we will celebrate Memorial Day. Under a beautiful spring sun, May is a time when USA’s citizens come together in a collective appreciation and understanding of the tremendous sacrifices made by our ancestors to create this magnificent country we call home.
The building known as Chickamauga Lodge Hall No. 221 in rural Walker County is in great peril. It is Georgia’s first Masonic Lodge hall building listed on the National Register of Historic Places and Georgia’s second Masonic Lodge hall listed on the Georgia Register of Historic Places.
However, due to spring storms’ damages (roof blew off, siding dislodged, etc.), decreasing membership, years of aging and lack of funding, this building is in peril and needs financial assistance for emergency and immediate repairs. Lodge Hall No. 221 is possibly the only A-frame, Prince Hall Blue Lodge building, circa early 1900s, in fairly good condition in the state of Georgia.
Chickamauga Masonic Lodge No. 221, Free and Accepted Masons, Prince Hall Affiliate, Blue Lodge was originally organized in the District Hill School on Cove Road, S. Hwy 341, by once enslaved and first generation born-free African Americans of Walker County. This was on the Haslerig Dairy Farm’s property.
The lodge received its first charter in 1915, and a short time after that, a lodge hall was erected joining District Hill School. The founding members were C. D. Haslerig, Cleveland Shellman, John Daniel, Archie Haslerig, Sam Dodson, Rev. Kendall, Hudon Henderson, Raymond Smith, Evant Glenn, Eddie Brown, George Haslerig, George Jones, G.W. Jones, William White, J.C. Bearden, Eddie Kilgore, Joseph T. Suttles, Obie Holland, Arthur Mathis, John B. Shrosphire, Bluitt Collins, Clarence Esters, Joe Marsh, John Stamper and William Haslerig. The first charter was burned when the home of C.D. Haslerig was burned, and a new charter was issued on June 11, 1926.
District Hill School is the first free-standing (not a part of a church) school for African Americans in the greater Chickamauga area. Also, District Hill Cemetery is located in this area.
District Hill Cemetery was donated to the African American communities of Wallaceville and unincorporated Chickamauga, circa 1899-1910, by Congressman Gordon Lee. Also, Congressman Gordon Lee donated land for the African American church known as Scuffle-Nuffle (organized circa 1885) to move from the Peavine community of Walker County to Chickamauga.
At that time (circa late 1800s to early 1900s), the church’s name was changed from Scuffle-Nuffle to Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. I believe the donations were greatly influenced by Congressman Gordon Lee’s relationship with once enslaved Dick Glenn who was a treasured servant of the Gordon and Lee families and deacon of Scuffle-Nuffle Church (Friendship Missionary Baptist Church).
In that era, the District Hill community consisted of the Haslerig Diary (organized circa 1905), a Masonic Lodge Hall, a school, a cemetery and several African American homes. The District Hill community is also known as “The Glades” community.
Circa 1921, the school and lodge hall were mysteriously burned. Also, circa 1921/1922, construction began on the present day lodge hall building, and it was completed in 1924.
The property was purchased from Joe Shrosphire. The building was extensively renovated in 1952 and thus holds a 1952 cornerstone.
After the mysterious burning of District Hill School, the school met in Friendship Missionary Baptist Church and became the predecessor of Wallaceville Elementary and Junior High schools that were located in the “Black Folks Alley” and the present Wallaceville School building on Highway 341 North. The original Wallaceville School, located in the “Black Folks Alley,” is believed to have been a Rosenwald School.
During segregation, “Jim Crow” and the lynching era, African American Masons continued to assist the churches and community in supplying segregated schools with fuel for heat and money for books.
The Masons have a strong legacy of assisting with the building of schools and churches, burial rites and insurance, the laying of cornerstones for churches, developing businesses and providing entertainment in the African American communities of Walker County. When Masonic Lodges Empire No. 100 of LaFayette and Naomi Lodge No. 388 closed, those members joined Chickamauga Masonic Lodge No. 221.
During his life, Willie A. Haslerig was recognized as District Deputy Grand Master Emeritus, 33rd Degree, Gold Member from 1984 to his death. Worship Masters of Chickamauga Masonic Lodge No. 221 were C.D. Haslerig, C.W. Haslerig, W.A. Haslerig, Joseph McGinitis, Louis Moss, Raymond Smith, Bill Madden, Ray Hinton, Moses Cleveland, LaFayette Daniel, Joseph T. Suttle, Sam Mitchell, David Myers, Eddie Foster Sr. and others.
Additional members were Joseph “Joe” Foster, Lener McGinitis, Roosevelt Mitchell, Shannon Mitchell, Robert Appling, William White, Hubert Marsh, Charles Pender (Ponder), Johnny Shrosphire, Paul A. Suttle, Ken Carson, Larry Wheeler, Gene Suttle, Charles Marsh, Reuben Suttle, Michael Council, Charles Morrison and others.
Furthermore, Chickamauga Masonic Lodge Hall No. 221 has served as the meeting place for Walker County’s first and only African American Veterans of Foreign Wars Camp (VFW), circa 1946. It was founded by Willie Haslerig (Montford Point, Marine veteran), Ray Marsh, James Shrosphire, Johnny Allgood and others.
Additionally, the hall served as the meeting place for the Esther Chapter No. 476 Order of Eastern Star, chartered on June 28, 1944. Their first officers were Mrs. Odessa Haslerig, Mr. Raymond Smith, Ms. Rugh Jones and Ms. Sally Shrosphire.
Other members of the Eastern Stars who have met at the lodge are Glenda Clemons, Alberta Mitchell, Wanda Baldwin, Caroline Pritchett, Louise Favors, Josephine Foster, Dorothy Haslerig, Janet Adams, Margarette Foster, Sol C. Johnson, Mary L. Ayers, Gladys Wiggins, Belle Johnson, Martha Wyatt, Lener McGinitis, Isabelle Jones, Charlotte Haslerig, Romona Hambrick and others.
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