In 1865, shortly after the end of the United States Civil War, a small company of cavalry soldiers, who had fought bravely defending their beloved Florida, traveled back to their homes in the lush backwoods of the central lake region to reunite with their families and get back to the business of restarting their livelihoods.
In a small hamlet called Leesburg, a village of around 200 people, seven distinguished men met to discuss the formation of a Masonic Lodge. The seven were Allen J. Cassady, Ira Hardin, A. B. Wallace, Hiram Crenshaw, Charles Conner, John M. Robertson, and the cavalry company's captain, Melton Haynes, who, at this time, was serving as the county's State Senator. They petitioned the Grand Master Mason of Florida for a Charter, and while waiting, received a dispensation to meet.
On December 18, 1867 they held their first official meeting under this dispensation, and on a motion, Brother Ira Hardin took the East and acted as the Worshipful Master protem. He appointed a committee of three, consisting of Brothers Allen Cassady, Melton Haynes and John Robertson, to draft and prepare suitable bylaws for the better government of the lodge. At this meeting, a petition of invitation was prepared for a local business leader and friend, Akin Stivender.
The next meeting, held on Thursday, December 26, Brother R. M. Perry, being present and past master of Orange Creek Lodge, by unanimous consent and request of the Lodge, took the East and acted as Worshipful Master protem. At this second meeting, additional brothers were admitted, including Akin Stivender, Newton Carter, Josiah Lee, W. J. Ward and T.J. Starke, both of whom served in Melton Haynes' Command during the Civil War.
On January 15, 1868, the Leesburg Lodge received their Charter. On March 27, the brothers met to elect and install the officers for their upcoming first year of existence. Brother R. M. Perry, Special Deputy Grand Master, who came to the lodge for the purpose of installing the officers, took the East as Worshipful Master. Melton Haynes as Senior Warden protem, and John Robertson as Junior Warden protem. Sadly, by the time of this meeting to elect officers, the brotherhood had lost several members while awaiting their Charter, including Ira Hardin on March 9, 1868. The first Masonic burial rites were performed at his funeral.
By unanimous consent of the Lodge and permission from the Deputy Grand Master, the lodge proceeded to ballot for officers which resulted in the election of Brother Melton Haynes, who is the man Haynes Creek was named for, as the Lodges first Worshipful Master. John Robertson, whose father was the Leesburg area's first settler in 1843, was elected Senior Warden, Newton Carter as Junior Warden, A. J. Cassady as Secretary, Hiram Crenshaw as Treasurer, and Elbert Swearington as Tyler.
A building erected by John Robertson and Akin Stivender, who also were on the Finance committee, served as a meeting place for the lodge after initially meeting at a log church on the site of Lone Oak Cemetery. The building was bought for $403 dollars on September 5, 1868. This same year, Leesburg became the County Seat of Sumter County. The lodge rented the rooms of this building to the County Commission for meetings and as a courtroom for $8 a month. The money helped to buy a new Masonic building in the 1870's.
Over the past 143 years Leesburg Lodge has had several meeting locations. Several of the buildings still stand on Main Street in downtown Leesburg and house various businesses. Some buildings no longer stand such as the original building at Lone Oak Cemetery or a two story wooden building which served as a school on the first floor, Masonic temple on the second floor and was leased to the City of Leesburg when formed to house City Commissions Meetings, this building set on the site of the present Leesburg City Hall and municipal complex.
A look around the walls of the Leesburg Masonic Lodge one finds a gallery of business and community leaders who were instrumental in the development of the City of Leesburg and Lake County.
A lodge that started with seven close friends back in the days of Florida's small backwoods hamlets, puffing steamboats, and growing citrus plantations, has multiplied through the years with members from all over the country - witnessing the turning of two centuries.
The Free and Accepted Masons of Leesburg Lodge continue to assist and support the community in many service areas, such as working with crippled and burned children, muscular dystrophy, speech impediments and language disorders, eye foundations, medical research, as well as, provide scholarships for young people and much, much more!
The Brothers of Leesburg Lodge No. 58 remain committed to the service of God and humanity.