Palatka Lodge #34 Free and Accepted Masons


A Warrant to “work” was issued on January 9, 1854 to Palatka Lodge #34 to operate.  The first recorded meeting was conducted at twelve o’clock noon at St Johns House, a local well known Hotel.


The lodge was convened on April 22, 1854 for the purpose of instituting Palatka Lodge #34, F&AM in accordance with the warrant issued by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Florida which had been granted earlier.  The meeting was presided over by Worshipful James W. Bryant, Past Master of Solomon Lodge #20 of Jacksonville, assisted by Worshipful Brother James M. Baker, a PM of Columbia Lodge #12 of Lake City.  Brother Baker read the Warrant of Constitution empowering Palatka Lodge #34 to work as a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.  Worshipful Bryant appointed Brother Calvin Gillis as Worshipful Master, Brother Claudius L. Graves as Senior Warden and Brother George Burt as Junior Warden.


Brother Baker acting as Grand Marshall declared Palatka Lodge #34 duly and legally instituted and the Charter Officers in like manner installed.


Later on the evening of April 22, the Lodge was opened in the Master Mason degree, at “seven and a half o’clock” and conducted business.  Several resolutions were introduced and adopted:  one of which follows,

1 - The fee for initiation was set at $10.50, for Fellow craft and Master Mason the fee would be set at $5.50 each.

2 - The regular communications were set as the first and third Saturdays of each month.

3 – A committee was appointed to secure By-Laws of other Lodges and to formulate and submit for approval of the Lodge.

There being no further business, the first official communication of Palatka Lodge #34 was closed in due form.


On 6 May 1854, in regular Lodge the elections for Senior Deacon, Junior Deacon and Tyler were held and duly elected.

(Note:  These chairs were elected in the early times and later they changed to being appointed officers.)


The committee on By-Laws having assembled several copies of other Lodge By-Laws, formulated a set and presented them to the craft.  They were officially adopted at this meeting.  One interesting By-Law referred to visitors to the Lodge meetings.  It seems that when a Brother from another jurisdiction moved to a local area from a distant jurisdiction, he was welcomed to visit once, on each subsequent visit he was charged 25 cents.  This obviously encouraged him to transfer membership to this Lodge.


Some others are:

          Master Masons after being raised were required to sign the By-Laws;

The treasurer and secretary were required to make “quarterly reports” on their books;

Any vacancies, including elected officers, were filled by appointment of the Worshipful Master


On 16 August 1855, the Lodge mourned the death of Brother and Judge Isaac H. Bronson, a judge of the District 4 for Northern District of Florida.  He was noted as a prominent citizen of Palatka and for his “energetic service he rendered in the organization of this Lodge”


It is not known exactly where the original Lodge Hall was located, but it has been said that in early history of Palatka Lodge #34, their Hall was located on Water Street (presently First street) and was built out over the river.  It is known that the Lodge moved into their building located at First and Lemon Streets (presently St. Johns Avenue) in 1921.  This was their home until the early 1970’s when the Housing and Urban Development Agency acquired the entire city block with the exception of the Presbyterian Church property.  The Lodge property was sold to HUD for $10,000.00, which was a ridicules low sum for the parcel.  When it became evident that we were soon to be without any place to convene and no prospect of anything in sight, the problem became quite critical, at this point in time, negotiations began with the city fathers, and an agreement was made to include the land the Lodge building is now situated on, as an additional payment for our property.  At least we had land on which to erect a Lodge Building.  We secured a loan and built the building we are enjoying being in now.


The cornerstone was laid by the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Florida in 1972.  We moved in before most of the inside of the lodge was finished.  Many of the Brethren accomplished this.


In its 150 year history Palatka Lodge #34 has the distinction of having had three of its members serve as the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Florida.  Those members receiving this single honor were:  Most Worshipful Elmer E. Haskell in 1907 and 1908, Most Worshipful Reginald h. Cooper in 1920 and one whom most of us knew, Most Worshipful Franklin C. Smith in 1979.


Probably the saddest time in our Lodge history was the period between December 1859 and December 1865 when the Lodge was dark during the Civil War.  The minutes for the last meeting in 1859 and the first meeting in 1865 are on consecutive pages in the first minutes record book for Palatka Lodge #34.  This is part of the archival display in the foyer.


Probably one of the brightest in our history was the receipt of a tremendously meaningful and loving gift from Integrity Lodge #187 of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in the year 1867.  The gift consisted of all officer jewels and aprons, working tools, ivory gavels, columns, staffs and everything necessary to conducting a Lodge.  This gift was in token of friendship and brotherly love and was meant to heal and mend the sorrows and hurts suffered by the fraternity, Palatka Lodge in particular during the Civil War.  These are on display and make up a large part of our exhibit.  Copies of correspondence between Integrity Lodge and Palatka Lodge are also part of this exhibit.


Our hope and prayer is that the next 150 years will be as memorable and meaningful as the last 150 years.


It is interesting to note, that in passing, Palatka Lodge #34 is the second oldest continuously active organization serving Palatka and Putnam County, second only to St. Marks Episcopal Church, which was founded two or three weeks earlier in December 1853.  It comes as no surprise that a number of men who founded St. Marks were Masons and were among those who shortly founded Palatka Lodge #34.