October 24, 2017
Stone Square Lodge No. 38, PHA, Plainfield, N.J., officially celebrated it’s 100th year on December 23, 1987, having been instituted under the Most Worshipful Grand Master, John H. Teabout, Grand Master of Prince Hall Mason, State of New Jersey, on January 24, 1886.
On December 23, 1887, the incumbent Most Worshipful Grand Master, Frank Chapman, issued a Warrant to Stone Square Lodge UD. The Number 38 was given, thus making Stone Square Lodge the only Prince Hall Lodge instituted In the City of Plainfield, N.J.This Warrant, which empowered Stone Square Lodge to meet, was first issued to Brother Israel Jones, the Worshipful Master; Abram Brown, Senior War. den; William Washington, Junior Warden; William O. Douglas, Treasurer; James Connet, Secretary.
During the first 25 years of the Lodge's existence, only one place was known as a regular meeting place before acquisition of the present day hall located at 722 St. Mary's Avenue, Plainfield, N.J. It has been established that the earlier meetings were held in old "Bone Hall," located at 120 Front St., Plainfield. It was then known as the Pythian Hall, and Is no longer standing. Through the energetic efforts of such leaders as Abram Brown, William O. Douglas, William Washington, Charles C. Irby and others, the Lodge progressed to the point that in 1912 the present site was occupied.
Some of the highlights of this first -25 years of Stone Square Lodge should be noted. First, and most prominently, was the ascendancy of William O. Douglas to the office of the Most Worshipful Grand Master, State of New Jersey, in December, 1888. During the year 1898, Stone Square Lodge had our Brother Abram Brown elected Junior Grand Warden and thus becoming the second Grand Master from Stone Square Lodge, having been elected Grand Master in 1901.
The Illustrious William O. Douglas assumed complete financial responsibility In the progress toward our building. In the year 1909, Stone Square Lodge was reported to have 42 members on roll, and a net worth of $320.40. On a visit to Stone Square by Grand Master Rice, he noted that ""he was met by Past Grand Masters Douglas and Brown and that this Lodge is composed of a bright set of men and they are In Peace and Harmony. They also have a very nice bank account." In the year 1911, the continued progress of the Lodge was reflected In the visitation of Grand Master Murray. He stated "he had a pleasant time. All Brothers were in evening suits and nicely regaled. Surely they have been rightly named as the kid glove Lodge of the State. And, no wonder, when they have such men as PGM's Douglas and Brown. This Lodge has over $4000.00 in its treasury and contemplates building ,a hall on its owr. lot. The Brethren showed they were well acquainted with work."
On the 5th of February, 1907, Stone Square Lodge purchased the orlgfinal lot with Worshipful Robert Stevens as subscriber. In February, 1911, the Lodge deeded the property In trust to MWGM William O. Douglas, to complete the erection of the Temple. Trustees were: William O. Douglas, William Jones, James Connett and Charles C. Irby. On June 13, 1911, the MWGM Douglas secured a loan of $5,000.00 from the Metropolitan Building and Loan Association, thus making it possible to complete the construction of the Temple In the fall of 1912. On February 5, 1912, an Association for the purpose of completing the building had been formed with officers as follows: William O. Douglas, President; William Jones, Treasurer; James Connent, Secretary. The Resolution Committee approved and passed a tax of $5.00 per month or $60.00 per year, which the records show was dutifully paid by a large percentage of the Brothers.
Occupation of the apartment commenced in October, 1912, at a monthly rental fee of $20.00. Rental of the hall commenced in September of 1912. The following organizations were tenant with rental fees as follows: Stone Square Lodge $5.00, Odd Fellows $5.00, Cypress Commandery $5.00, Knightsof Pythias $5.00, Grace Church (now known as St. Marls Episcopal Church) $5.00, Good Samaritans $3.00, House Id of Ruth $3.00, Terrill Tents $3.00, Eastern Stars $L and Order of Moses $3.00.
During the year of 1913, the Lodge was dedicaj6 and the corner stone, which now reposes on our front lain, awaited placement. A quote from Past Grand Master Levi Williams, at the Grand Session, praised Stone Square Lodge for building the Masonic Temple for themselves, which was a credit to the Craft, in as much as It was built by members of the Craftand the only "white" help taking part in the construction were a plumber and his helper.
MWGM Douglas' energy seemed boundless. During the years 1911 through 1914, he established. the Grand Commandery, Douglas Consistory, Holy Royal Arch Masons and Oziel Grand Chapter, Order of Eastern Stars. This great undertaking was gratefully acknowledged by the Grand Lodge in that upon the invitation of MWGM Douglas, the Grand Lodge held Its semi-annual session at 722 St. Mary's Avenue.
For two years, commencing In 1910, a discussion was held pertaining to the establishment of a Grand Chapter of Eastern Stars. A chapter of Eastern Stars was in existence, but working under a charter granted by the Grand Chapter of New York. Through the initiative of Past Grand Master Douglas, a resolution was passed and a Grand Chapter was established under the jurisdiction of New Jersey. Thus Rebecca Chapter No. I was established, and PGM Douglas can be recognized as the Patron of Oziel Grand Chapter, O.E.S. In the year of 1914, Oziel Grand Chapter.was officially established after three years of operating under the jurisdiction of New York.
September 20,1916, was a sad day for Stone Square, for it was the day of passing of MWGM William O. Douglas, after 29 years of dedicated service to the Grand East and Stone Square Lodge.
The mortgage balance of $1400.00, held by the Metropolitan Building and Loan, was assumed in 1917 by PM Robert Stevens. The year of 1918 began to show the beginning of a decline in the membership: from a high of 4.1 In 1913, to a membership of 27 In 1919. It is not recorded in our records, but the Grand Lodge recorded the effect of World War I on the membership as a whole. This could' have been our problem, also. Many good men saw fit to become Brothers during the early 1920's, two of which are still with us today: namely, Brother Fred Dungee and Brother George Kates. They flourished well for the years that led to the depression of 1929. The way was seriously affected by those trying times; and It was only through personal financial contributions, namely by RW Frank Lee, RW W. Hayes Lambert, Charles C. Irby, and others, that the Lodge survived.
Tax liens against the Temple began to exist. RW Bro. Frank Lee, Daughter Mattee Lee and Worshipful Charles C. Irby signed for a loan of $468.00 in 1937, to save the building from foreclosure action. However, that did not improve the situation enough. Tax liens were sold to Frank Decker for the years 1937-38-39. The Garrett family, heirs to MWGM Douglas, unable to cope with the liabilities, deeded the property to Stone Square Lodge.
The year 1940 saw the influx of good times. Some who are with us today, seeing our plight, took up the banner and relieved us of all indebtedness. Three Brothers who were prominent were Trustees RW Louis Humphrey, Bro. Hubert Humphrey and Wor. Richard T. Page. All indebtedness to the Garrett family, City of Plainfield, and Bro. Charles White, who also had assumed a $400.00 obligation, were completed by 1943.
Stone Square was erected with thought and care. Every house in Masonry has found the accommodations of Douglas Hall suitable for the exemplification of all the degrees in the proper manner. The edifice, with the addition of equipment, caused Stone Square Lodge to be one of the most popular and leading Lodges in the State of New Jersey. Many old timers recall pleasant memories of the past years.