Freemasonry – often referred to as “Masonry” — is the world’s oldest fraternal organization, with records dating back to 1390. Nine separate Virginia Lodges came together to establish The Grand Lodge of Virginia in 1778. Its current website states that its mission is to “teach and perpetuate a way of life that promotes the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God and to assist Lodges to grow and prosper,” with the vision of being a “premier organization composed of men of integrity and character, who are honest, true to their word, believe in God, are devoted to family, charitable in their community, and courteous and helpful to each other.”
The first record of Masons living in Northern Virginia dates back to 1769, with a record of two Masons who lived in Prince William County and were members of a Fredericksburg Masonic Lodge, which had existed since 1752. The first Lodge in Prince William County was chartered in 1797 as the Dumfries Lodge #50.
Herndon’s Masonic Lodge was first organized as Freedom Lodge #264 in 1896. A year later it was officially chartered as Herndon Lodge #264 on December 9, 1897.
There were 27 charter members of the Herndon Lodge. According to the Lodge’s website, six of those members were active physicians, including doctors Detweiler, Johnson, Leigh, Russell, Tebbs and Warner.
The first Master of the Lodge (or presiding officer) was Dr. Henry A. Johnson who served as Master for the years 1896-1898, 1901-1902, and 1905-1906. Johnson died in 1935 at the age of 90. In his will, Johnson left a trust fund in the amount of $1,000.00 — a significant amount of money for that time — from which the Herndon Lodge earned interest for years.
Edgar E. Gillette – a former Herndon Mayor from 1925-1929 — became a Mason in June 1898 and was the Herndon Lodge’s first representative to Virginia’s Grand Lodge Communication, an annual meeting for the transaction of business or work. Gillette brought back the Charter that had been granted to the Herndon Lodge the previous year.
For seventy years, meetings of the Herndon Lodge were conducted in a variety of places around town. The first meeting room for the Lodge in 1896 was in the Garrett building (formerly located on the corner of Elden and Center Streets).
In 1907 the Lodge moved to the Walker Building (formerly located at the corner of Station and Pine Streets), which burned in 1917 in a big fire in Herndon’s downtown business district, destroying many Lodge records. They then moved to the Reed building in 1918.
The Herndon Lodge was dormant during the 1918 time period, as the Master and all of the officers of the Lodge were at war during WWI. Later, the years 1920-1923 became a very active time period in which 35 new members became Masons. The Lodge moved to Chamblin’s Drug Store (formerly located at the corner of Station and Lynn Streets) in 1921. There was another membership surge in 1928 with 113 new members.
One former Mason also remembers that they moved again in 1935 to the Thompson Building, which was also known as the Murphy and Ames lumber building (formerly located behind the Ice House Café). They met there on the upper floor for over 30 years.
Some members of the Lodge lost their lives in WWII, including Thomas J. Kitchen and Harry R. Stutsman. Not long after WWII, a banquet was held in 1947 at Herndon High School in celebration of Herndon Lodge’s 50th anniversary. Over 150 Masons attended.
In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Lodge continued to have hopes that they would one day have a permanent home. Dues were raised, fundraisers were held and, in 1955, the Lodge sold a lot of land to the telephone company for $15,000. The Lodge’s Building Fund continued to grow.
In 1969 the Masons passed a resolution to purchase St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, located at 820 Elden Street at the northwest corner of Elden and Grace Streets. Although the St. Timothy Mission started in 1871, the church trustees purchased a half-acre lot in 1876, and then the church was later built on that lot and consecrated in 1881.
St. Timothy’s occupied the building for 87 years up until 1969. Needing a larger church for its growing parish, St. Timothy’s sold the old church to the Herndon Masonic Lodge and moved to a new location. The Lodge needed $10,000 to finalize the purchase. A report from the Mason’s Building Committee stated that the Lodge,
“…purchased this building at a cost of $16,000.00. It was necessary that we pay this amount in full at the time of settlement. One of our Good Brethren who wishes to remain unnamed at present, loaned us $10,000.00 in order to make that settlement.”
The Herndon Mason’s website further explains:
“Bro. [brother] Joseph Murray, and active member of St. Timothy’s was at that time the Treasurer of Herndon Lodge and also Chief of Police in Herndon, Virginia. He and Rt. Wor. [Right Worshipful] Al Shaffer played an important part in acquiring this building for Herndon Lodge. By deed dated March 24, 1969, the trustees of the Herndon Masonic Lodge No. 264, F.W. Robinson, Harry M. Middleton, Sr., and E. Russell Gillette, purchased the property from the trustees of St. Timothy’s and after some renovations Herndon Lodge met in the building for the first time on August 4, 1969.”
In the early years, several members of St. Timothy’s Church were also on the membership list of the Herndon’s Masonic Lodge, including Ara Daniels, William Dawson, Dr. Dan Detweiler, Wayne Gochenour, Stanley Hanes, Frederic Hubert, W. Frank Humme, Tom Kite, Henry Mann, Joseph Murray, Richard Peck, Dr. William Robey, Fred W. Robinson, Ed Reed, Dr. Ernest Shull, and Homer Stutsman.
The first Communication was held in the Herndon Lodge’s new building in August of 1969. A dedication ceremony was held in 1971.
In 1997 a ceremony was held to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Lodge, with a special lapel pin being created for the occasion.
The Herndon Masonic Lodge continues to occupy the former St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church building today, with a membership of over 200 members. Other related Masonic originations – such as the Order of DeMolay, the Order of Eastern Star and the Order of Job’s Daughters — also meet at the Masonic Lodge.
About this column: “Remembering Herndon’s History” is a regular Herndon Patch feature offering stories and anecdotes about Herndon’s past. The articles are written by members of the Herndon Historical Society. Barbara Glakas is a member. A complete list of “Remembering Herndon’s History” columns is available on the Historical Society website at www.herndonhistoricalsociety.org.
The Herndon Historical Society operates a small museum that focuses on local history. It is housed in the Herndon Depot in downtown Herndon on Lynn Street and is open every Sunday from noon until 3:00. Visit the Society’s website at for more information.