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The History of Wingate Lodge #161 F&AM

               

In attempting to compile and summarize the history of Wingate Lodge 161 F&AM, of Simpsonville, Kentucky, it was found that a great many of the old records had been lost. Therefore, the early part of this history is taken more from a mouth-to-ear record as summarized and handed down by word-of-mouth from the old residents that have lived in the community adjacent to this lodge. Some of these old families that have settled in and surrounding this Lodge whom have related the early history are the Walters family, who settled on property adjacent to this in the year of 1807, the Oliver family that settled in this community in the early 1800's, the Hollinger and the Byars families, and much of this early history has come from these older settlers.

The first charter for Wingate Lodge was issued on September 2, 1847 by the Grand Lodge in convocation in Lexington, Kentucky, and upon that same day there were three other Lodges in Kentucky chartered, namely the Brooksville Lodge in Bracken County, the Devotion Lodge in Lexington, and Bedford Lodge in Trimble County. The records show that under the first charter issued the Wingate Lodge was issued by the following Grand Lodge Officers:

H.B. Allen, Worshipful Grand Master
I.H. Davies, Worshipful Deputy Grand Master
Charles Tilden, Grand Senior Warden
John McClure, Grand Junior Warden
Phillip Swigert, Grand Secretary

Wingate Lodge was named for Past Grand Master Henry Wingate, who was a member of Hiram Lodge #4 of Frankfort. In the early minutes of Hiram Lodge there are two names that often appear as officers in that Lodge - Past Grand Master Henry Wingate and Phillip Swigert, for whom our sister and neighboring Lodge in Fisherville is named.

We find that the first officers presiding over this Lodge were:

Horace B. Oliver, Worshipful Master
Walter E. Powers, Senior Warden
Michael G. Alexander, Junior Warden

Horace Oliver resided immediately across the road from the home of Wingate Lodge. Walter E. Powers was a farmer, one of the oldest Baptist ministers, and lived north of Simpsonville at what now is the Todds Point community. Michael G. Alexander lived immediately north of Simpsonville on the land recently sold by the Jacob L. Smith Estate.

There no longer any of the Oliver family in this community. However, Mr. Ferd and Miss Francis Elston are direct descendents of that family. Walter E. Powers lived to the ripe old age of 90 odd years and probably was better known than any other Baptist minister that ever lived in the western part of the county. There are no known members left of the Alexander family, although, early county history tells us that their mother or grandmother was murdered by a Negro slave by being thrown down the steps, breaking her neck. This Negro was tried and hang. This is believed to be the only woman ever executed in Shelby County.

Wingate Lodge is probably one of the few Masonic institutions 100 years old in the state of Kentucky that has had only one home or Lodge building. Soon after this Lodge was organized about the year 1848 or 1849, the brick was burned in a field adjacent to the Lodge room and hauled to the present site and the building was erected, completed just prior to 1850.

This Lodge had grown greatly in number by the outbreak of the Civil War, Many of the members of Wingate enlisted in both the Confederate and Union Armies, and it was said that the fraternal friendship that they held for their brothers kept the feeling of strife in this community in check and had it not been for Wingate Lodge the times would have been more turbulent than they were, which was indeed bad enough.

At one time during the Civil War there was a detachment of Union soldiers going down the state road conducting a great caravan of wagons loaded with supplies and cattle being driven and taken to Louisville for the use of the Union Army. The rear of this caravan was guarded by fifty Negro troops, officered by white officers, and as the weather was exceedingly cold the white officers were warming at a store located just across the road from where the Shell filling station now stands. Sue Monday, a Confederate gorilla leader, came into Simpsonville with 20 or 25 rebel gorillas. The officers upon approach of the gorillas ran out from the store and crawled under the porch to hide. When the gorillas learned that the detachment had gone through they mounted their horses and with that wild rebel yell, charged over the hill where Wingate Lodge is now located, opened fire upon and killed 49 out of 50 Negro troops. The only one escaping happened to have had a wagon turn over on him pinning him underneath and thereby hiding him from the gorillas. These Negroes were all buried in one trench upon the land now owned by Ferd Elston, just west of the viaduct on Highway #60. It has been told by eyewitnesses that when the gorillas charged up the hill a good many citizens, witnessing the Union soldiers conducting the supplies and seeing that a battle was imminent, rushed into the lower floor of the Lodge room, thereby securing protection from the bullets that were flying thick and fast.

Probably the worst move ever made by the members of this Lodge was when they agreed to take over the cemetery for maintenance that had been started and laid out by the Odd Fellows Lodge in this community. The Odd Fellows had had a disastrous fire, destroying their building and records, and also the blueprint for the cemetery. They begged the Masons to take over this cemetery, which they did, for civic pride, same being deeded to Wingate Lodge by the Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows, meeting in Maysville for their annual convention in the year of 1872. What made this so bad was the fact that practically all of the lots had been sold and there was no money retained for an endowment fund for the maintenance of the cemetery. The blueprint had burned and a new blueprint had to be made from memory, and it has been found in later years in many instances to be incorrect.

Wingate Lodge has had spasmodic growth from period to period and then would have a slackening off of work. However from the records it has been found that at no time were there fewer than twenty members, nor at any time has it had one hundred members. The lower floor of this old Lodge building was used for many years as an educational institution, having been used part of the time as a room to hold certain grades placed there by your public school system, and at other periods many noted educators conducted private schools in this building.

The records show that the best ritualistic work done in this part of the state was done by a team from Wingate Lodge that worked together about 1896 to around 1910. Some of the members of this team were Brothers W.T. Martin, W.P. Johnson, George Finley, H.E. Jones, and many others. Brother George Finley was considered one of the best ritualists ever known in this locality, being able to perform the work in any station from the first degree up through and including the Commandery. He could do this work whenever called upon at any time and was nearer letter perfect than any man ever known around here.

In the last few years it has been our misfortune to lose some of the men that have been the pillars of this Lodge, namely W.T. Martin, who was initiated in Campbellsburg Lodge previous to 1890, W.P. Johnson initiated in Wingate in 1893, J.J. McMurray initiated in Wingate in 1893, H.E. Jones initiated in Wingate in 1892, and W.A. Brooke, our beloved Secretary who passed on this year. These men were all outstanding citizens and Masons, and a credit to this fraternity and their community.

We have at this time in the membership of our Lodge many young men who should take pride in their Lodge membership, and should organize a good working team and make their lives, both in and out of the Lodge, a shining example of what Masonry should mean in a community, thereby interesting the many young men in our community, that they might also desire to become members of this great and honorable fraternity.

The Holy Bible now used in this Lodge was presented to the Lodge by Past Grand Master Wingate, for whom the Lodge was named, at the time the Lodge received it's charter. This Bible has been the only one used by the Lodge during all of this period.

               

This history compilation was prepared on January 3, 1948, by Bro. Harry F. Walters, PM. We will be compiling and adding more additional history soon.

               
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