A Brief History of Springfield Lodge No. 217
Springfield Square Club (1955-57)
Springfield Lodge No. 217 was chartered on February 12, 1958. But its origins go back three years further, to the formation of the Springfield Square Club. In early 1955 there were discussions among several ushers at the Springfield Methodist Church about forming a social club for Masons in Springfield. These discussions eventually led to the forming of the Springfield Square Club, which was formally organized at a meeting on March 10, 1955, attended by 10 Master Masons. Those 10 Masons belonged to a variety of lodges from throughout the United States and overseas: Present were two brothers from Elmer Timberman Lodge No. 54 (Virginia), one brother from Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (Virginia), two brothers from lodges in the District of Columbia, and brothers from lodges in Missouri, Indiana, New Jersey, Maine, and Japan. Temporary officers were selected at this meeting and a Bylaws Committee appointed.
The first open meeting of the Springfield Square Club was held on April 14, 1955, at the Hunter Motel, with 42 Masons attending. At this meeting the first officers of the Square Club were elected, with Bro. Ray A. Doyle as the first President. The Square Club continued to meet throughout 1955 and 1956 at the Hunter Motel. Bro. Roy T. Bowman was elected President for 1956. Brother Bowman, who would serve as Worshipful Master of Springfield Lodge in 1960, was the Postmaster in Springfield, and he did much to inform local Masons of the Square Club’s activities. Also in 1956, the Square Club formed a School of Instruction to assist the brethren to learn Virginia ritual. The Square Club held numerous social functions, hosted guest speakers at its meetings, and attended the meetings of lodges in the area.
At a meeting of the Square Club on June 27, 1956, the members discussed forming a Masonic Lodge in Springfield. The members voted to attempt to become incorporated with the Commonwealth of Virginia, so that the Club could own property and conduct financing drives. To that end, at a meeting on August 27, 1956, the necessary Certificates of Incorporation were drawn up to be submitted to Virginia, which issued a Corporation Charter to the Square Club on September 11, 1956. The first meeting of the Springfield Square Club, Inc. was held on September 26, 1956.
From April 1955 through December 1956, the Club held its meetings at the Hunter Hotel. But in December 1956, the Club entered into agreement with the Grace Presbyterian Church to hold its future meetings in the Church’s Fellowship Hall. The first meeting there was held on January 23, 1957. This was a momentous meeting because it was then that members signed a Petition for Dispensation to the Grand Master to form a lodge in Springfield. Bro. Bowman took the Petition to the Springfield Post Office so that it would be available for signing by all Master Masons in the area.
Two District Deputy Grand Masters of Masonic District 1 were instrumental in helping to form Springfield Lodge: RWB Charles A. Cornell, who was DDGM in 1956-57, and RWB Charles E. Wallace, DDGM in 1957-58. RWB Wallace assisted in circulating the Petition for Dispensation and on June 19, 1957, he officially forwarded it with its supporting documentation to the Grand Master. Of the 89 Master Masons who belonged to the Springfield Square Club, 60 signed the Petition.
Springfield Lodge UD (1957-58)
On September 5, 1957, MWB Archer Bailey Gay, Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, signed the Dispensation empowering the signers of the Petition to function as Springfield Lodge Under Dispensation (UD). On October 23, 1957, at 7:30 p.m., in the Fellowship Hall of Grace Presbyterian Church, Springfield Lodge UD held its first meeting. The meeting was opened by RWB Wallace, DDGM for Masonic District 1. He instituted the Lodge, then presented the Dispensation to WB John A. Tilley, who was named in the Dispensation as Worshipful Master. (In 1956, WB Tilley had served as Worshipful Master of Elmer Timberman Lodge No. 54.) RWB Wallace then turned the meeting over to the new Worshipful Master, who proceeded with the election and appointment of the other lodge officers. RWB Cornell, immediate Past District Deputy Grand Master of Masonic District 1, installed the new officers.
At the meeting held on November 27, 1957, two Master Masons became affiliated with Springfield Lodge UD, the first two Master Masons to do so. The Lodge conducted its first work in the Entered Apprentice Degree on December 11, 1957, and conducted its first work in the Fellow Craft’s Degree on January 15, 1958. And on January 29, 1958, for the first time the Lodge raised candidates to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, raising two Master Masons that night. Worshipful Master John Tilley raised the first candidate.
Springfield Lodge No. 217
Springfield Lodge was “born” on February 12, 1958, when MWB Archer Bailey Gay, Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, affixed his signature to the Charter of the lodge and assigned it Number 217. The Grand Secretary, James Noah Hillman, also signed the Charter. MWB Gay himself had hand lettered the Charter.
The Lodge was consecrated, dedicated, and constituted on March 26, 1958, in the North Room of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. MWB Archer Bailey Gay, immediate Past Grand Master, served as Worshipful Master of the Provisional Lodge for the ceremony. His distinguished team of officers for the ceremony included the Grand Junior Warden, the Grand Senior and Junior Deacons, Grand Pursuivant, and the immediate Past District Deputy Grand Master for Masonic District 1.
WB John Tilley was installed as the Lodge’s Chartering Worshipful Master. Among the eleven Chartering Officers installed that night, five others would also eventually serve as Worshipful Master: Elwyn G. Raiden (WM 1959), Roy T. Bowman (WM 1960), Ray A. Doyle (WM 1961), Cecil S. Barksdale (WM 1962), and Robert H. Impey (WM 1967).
On April 9, 1958, Victor W. Sinclair became the first candidate that the newly-chartered Lodge raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason. Brother Sinclair would go on to serve as the Lodge’s Worshipful Master in 1968.