WV Freemasonry and the Civil War

The following story was told by the late Jack McGinnis, Past Master and former Secretary of Minerva Lodge No.13 located in Barboursville, West Virginia.  Jack related this story during a visit to Western Star Lodge #11 in early 1995.  Some of the details of this account have been historically verified, while some cannot.  Jack’s intent was to demonstrate the historically strong bond between the two Lodges.  To this day, they still refer to each other as “sister” lodges.  This is a story which demonstrates (then and now) the bond of brotherhood and friendship which defines Freemasonry.

Likely, to quell Confederate sympathies in the area; the 9th West Virginia Infantry Regiment established a Union recruiting office and training camp at Guyandotte, West Virginia in October of 1861.  The Union recruiting office was in a building on Main Street across from the existing V.F.W. building.  On November 10, 1861 a combined force of Confederate Cavalry and local confederate militia (called Border Rangers) led by Col. John Clarkson and Cabell County native Col Albert Jenkins, surrounded the town of Guyandotte and attacked this camp.  During the battle, 10 Union and 3 Confederate soldiers were killed.  A total of 98 Union troops and Civilian Union collaborators were arrested and eventually marched to imprisonment in Richmond, Virginia.  

                  One of those who died in the battle was identified as a Mason.  The members of Western Star Lodge (then chartered by the Common Wealth of Virginia Grand Lodge as Western Star Lodge #110) had much influence in the community and decided to perform Masonic Rites.  However, the Worshipful Master of the Lodge, Henry Carter, was away in service due to the war.  The Master of Minerva Lodge No. 57, in Barboursville, West Virginia, agreed to conduct the services. 

                  The brother’s body was taken to a funeral home in Barboursville where it was quickly prepared in the usual fashion.  The body was then transported on a river barge, down the Guyandotte River to Western Star Lodge, which at that time, was located near Water Street and 6th Avenue along the Guyandotte River.  Freemasons from Minerva Lodge as well as both Confederate forces and Union prisoners, and a few citizens of Guyandotte entered the building where they conducted “a lodge of sorrow” led by the Worshipful Master of Minerva Lodge. 

The Masonic record is not clear, so while it is not known for certain, it is believed the assembly then proceeded to the most likely place of internment, the cemetery located just a block and a half away, on 5th Avenue between Water Street and Main Street in Guyandotte.  There the assembly conducted grave side rites and retired.

There are 31 markers in the cemetery most of which are weathered and worn to the point of being illegible.  It is also likely that several graves lay unmarked, the stones having been broken, removed or buried in the more than 150 years since. No map of the cemetery exists therefore it is impossible to say where this Masonic Brother is buried.

On the following day, most of the Confederate forces (led by Col Jenkins) left Guyandotte with prisoners in tow, inroute to Richmond, Virginia.   Some of the 130-150 Union soldiers and recruits managed to escape the initial attack and made their way to a Union encampment at town of Ceredo, down the Ohio River Just West of Guyandotte.

 Having been advised of what was described to them as a “massacre”, Members of the 5th West Virginia Infantry Regiment marched from Ceredo toward Guyandotte. 

A large number of Union troops boarded a steamer, which travelled up the Ohio River to the mouth of the Guyandotte River, where they fired their rifles and a small deck gun at Confederate forces.  However, realizing they did not have the strength of numbers, these troops withdrew and crossed to the Ohio side of the Ohio River, where they assembled additional reinforcements from a local Ohio militia.  These soldiers and militia, together with the main body of troops advancing from Ceredo attacked and entered Guyandotte, driving out the remaining Confederate forces.

Almost immediately, the Union troops began to set fire to the town.  Virtually the entire business district of downtown and most of the homes on the Western side of Guyandotte were set ablaze and burned to the ground.  A few homes were spared and still stand today.  The Masonic Temple of Western Star Lodge was also set ablaze.  One of the Union Soldiers was himself a freemason.  This soldier rushed into the masonic temple while his companions were moving about setting the building afire.  This soldier, being a Mason, knew the importance of certain items and could remove the Jewels, Virginia Charter and a minute’s book before the building was consumed.

Although this soldier’s identity is unknown, it is known that he found a local farmer to whom he entrusted these precious items.  Some years after the war, this masonic soldier returned to Guyandotte and sought out members of Western Star Lodge which now held its meetings in a room above a drug store in Guyandotte.  This soldier did not recall the name of the farmer or know where he lived, but was able to describe him to the assembled members.   Piecing together his identity they proceeded towards the Lesage area which is on the Ohio River North of Guyandotte, where they were able to locate the jewels, Charter and, Minutes restoring them to Western Star Lodge.

The identity of the farmer and location of his farm have been lost to the fog of history.  What is known today is that the story has been repeated many times down through the years.  The Lodge Jewels, original Virginia Charter and minutes were kept in the loft of a barn for several years during and after the war.  Although “outside” the barn protected these items from the elements and allowed them to be preserved until they were finally recovered.

Although the Lodge is now chartered by the Grand Lodge of West Virginia as “Western Star Lodge No.11, the recovery of Its original Virginia Charter, jewels and minutes obviously meant a great deal to the grateful brothers of this Lodge.  To this day, those jewels, the original Virginia Charter and the recovered Minute book are safely housed inside a glass case where they are displayed just outside the lodge room within the present Masonic Temple now located at 222 Richmond Street in Guyandotte, West Virginia.

At the conclusion of dinner on “Past Master’s Night”, the Lodge proudly points out the saved Jewels Charter and Minutes to visitors.  The members of Western Star No.11 then recount the story of how they were saved and use the occasion to impress on their visitors the strong bond that exists in Freemasonry.


-Charles E. Kingery; WM, Western Star #11

April 5, 2017.

Opportunities for Schools of Instruction in May

The Grand Lodge highly recommends that all officers from each lodge attend as many schools of instruction as possible. It is required that at least one officer attend one school annually. This months opportunities are:


May 7 at Clarksburg & Lewisburg

We, the Grand Lodge Officers, hope to see you there for instruction and a day of fellowship.

Submit your Educational Talks

From Darkness to Light through Education.

Lodge education officers and all brother Master Masons,

      Brethren, if you have a masonic educational talk, either one you have authored or if you source your talk from another’s writings and conceptual ideas, and think it would benefit the craft in general, use the contact us section of this site or email them to wvgrandlodge@gmail.com to submit your article(s) please include proper sourcing.  We will review the talk and place it in the educational talk section of the site for others to utilize within their lodges.  We will also chose talks to include with our monthly newsletter, so subscribe to the newsletter and you may see one of your talks included in a future month’s e-mailings.


Opportunities for Schools of Instruction in April

The Grand Lodge highly recommends that all officers from each lodge attend as many schools of instruction as possible. It is required that at least one officer attend one school annually. This months opportunities are:

April 2 at Weston & Princeton

April 9 at Crum & Summersville

April 23 at Beckley & Wheeling

April 30@ South Charleston & Beverly

We, the Grand Lodge Officers, hope to see you there for instruction and a day of fellowship.

So Mote It Be

A Masonic Education Moment

Submitted by Larry Long – Littleton Lodge No. 131

Why do Masons end their prayers with the phrase “So mote it be”? It is customary in contemporary English to end prayers with a hearty “Amen,” a word meaning ‘So be it’. It is a Latin word derived from the Hebrew word meaning ‘certainly’. Thus a congregation saying “Amen” is literally saying “So be it”. The word mote is an archaic verb that means ‘may’ or ‘might’ and traces back to Old English. The phrase “So mote it be” means ‘So may it be’, which is the same as ‘So be it ‘. So why do Masons end their prayer this way? The answer goes back to the Regius Poem of about 1390 AD, the oldest know Masonic document (now housed in the British Museum, London). It is one of the Old Charges or Gothic Constitution used by early Freemasons to regulate their trade. It has a legendary history, regulations to guide the Mason trade and ruse of manners and moral conduct. The poem ends famously with this couplet: Amen! Amen! So mote it be! So say we all for charity. Thus Freemasons today end their prayers the same way they did in 1390. The next time you’re in lodge and say “So mote it be” after the chaplain finishes a prayer , remember that you are continuing a 600 year old Masonic Tradition.


Opportunities for Schools of Instruction in March

The Grand Lodge highly recommends that all officers from each lodge attend as many schools of instruction as possible. It is required that at least one officer attend one school annually. This months opportunities are:

March 5 at Shinnston

March 12 at Kingwood & Charleston

March 26 at Weirton & Barboursville

We, the Grand Lodge Officers, hope to see you there for instruction and a day of fellowship.

Open Letter from the Grand Secretary


Today we live in a world where a permanent indiscretion only takes a fleeting moment. Have you placed something on Youtube, tweeted or shared a thought through a post on Face book and wished you had not? Even if we don’t say something we regret, there is an issue of image both personal and Masonic. Masonic post should only contain things proper to be written. Once something is put publicly on the internet, there is always a digital presence of which can not be taken back nor deleted. This reason could be why some of us want nothing to do with social media. But. can we ignore it? It is said that the main form of communication today is social media. So, should your Lodge have a website or social media presence? Your members don’t use it you say, that’s fine, but most every person considering the Craft does and several times a day. Brethren in every corner of our Grand Jurisdiction are actively using social media each and every day. We are realizing that this is the case just from the number of requests for information we digitally receive. Social media could be the primary place of discovery for those who seek light. It has taken me a very long time to embrace at least a portion of social media and how it is used. Yes we are confronted with the choice of embracing and witnessing these new com­munication tools, but they are not the total answer for masonry. These coupled with personal contact an Education Program and most of all a good plan to improve your Lodge, makes success possible. Back to these new tools, what you post and the way you communicate is a reflection both upon the Craft and yourself. As it is said, and I’ll paraphrase, “you never know who is listening, reading or watching”. It is very easy to disrespect another opinion from the keyboard. A previous Grand Master set the standard for using social media. On line and off, we are charged in all regards to be upright, never forgetting that we are Freemasons. What we say and experience should impress the mind and not disrespect others opinions. What if anything should you post on social media? Make it a clear and conscious decision. Whatever tools you use, use them well and with wisdom. Remember you represent yourself and the craft.

William R. French P.G.M,
Grand Secretary

Many thanks to Brother Kenneth Stuczynski for his thoughts and words of wisdom.

First Newsletter

We are pleased to send out the first automatic newsletter generated from our blog section of our new site.  This is the first monthly email that you have received by signing up to receive them.   This first email reflects all post made to the site as a starting point.  Subsequent emails will only contain new material added to the site.  Thank you for signing up!

Opportunities for Schools of Instruction in February

It is highly recommended by the Grand Lecturer that all officers, coaches, and all interested brethren attend as many schools of instruction as possible.  The perennial goal of the committee on work has been that every lodge be represented.  Since 1987, 100% of our lodges have met this goal by  at least one stationed officer being in attendance of a school of instruction.

This months opportunities are:

February 12 at Pennsboro

February 19 at Rowlesburg

We, the Grand Lodge Officers, hope to see you there for instruction and a day of brotherly fellowship.

Opportunities for Schools of Instruction for January

The Grand Lodge highly recommends that all officers from each lodge attend as many schools of instruction as possible. It is required that at least one officer attend one school annually. This months opportunities are:

January 8 at Buckhanon

January 29 at Vienna

We, the Grand Lodge Officers, hope to see you there for instruction and a day of fellowship.