In 1858, Grand Master of Masons in Florida, Most Worshipful Thomas Y. Henry, who of interest was the grandson of one of our founding fathers Patrick Henry, issued a dispensation to form a new lodge in Fernandina. And, on January 11, 1859, 150 years ago, Amelia Lodge Free and Accepted Masons was issued a charter by Most Worshipful Henry under authority and guidance of the Grand Lodge of Florida. With this chartering, life was given an institution which was to serve the community of Fernandina and the State of Florida well. Amelia Lodge has provided a means for men from all stations of life to serve humanity——State Senators, civil employees, key figures from the world of business, ministers of the gospel and humble servants.
Records tell us that Brother George W. Call served Amelia Lodge as its first Master in 1859, as well as, for three successive years. George W. Call was the son of Dr. George W. and Lucinda L. Call. He was born in Kentucky and moved to Florida with his parents. They settled in Tallahassee, the home of Dr. Call's brother, Richard Keith Call. (of note here is that Richard Keith Call, George’s uncle was appointed the 3rd civil territorial Governor of Florida by his long time friend President Andrew Jackson and served in that office from 1836 to 1839 and again from 1841 to 1844 and also served this great state as our Grand Master in 1850.
George W. Call became a successful lawyer and businessman. He was Secretary-Treasurer of the Florida railroad. He was also active in politics as an extreme states' rights democrat, as contrasted with his brother, Wilkinson Call, later United States Senator from Florida, who was a Whig in antebellum politics. George Call was a Democratic Presidential elector in 1856 and was State Senator from Nassau County from 1858 – 1860.
Worshipful Brother Call married Sarah Stark Mays, daughter of Rhydon G. Mays of Orange Mills in Putnam County. They had two daughters and a son, Rhydon Mays Call, who served as judge of the U.S. District Court for the southern district of Florida from 1913 until his death in 1928.
George W. Call resigned from the legislature to volunteer for military service. He was elected captain of the Davis Guards of Nassau County, which was mustered into the 2nd Florida infantry at Jacksonville on July 13, 1861. The 2nd Florida was sent to Virginia.
After the death of its Colonel, George T. Ward, at Williamsburg, the regiment was reorganized on May 10, 1862, with Edward A. Perry as colonel and George W. Call as Major. Major call was killed at the battle of Seven Pines, May 31, 1862.
The battle of seven pines, also known as Fair Oaks, took place May 31 - June 1, 1862, in Henrico County, Virginia. One of the bloodiest battles of the war, in two days, there were 13,736 casualties spread over the battlefield of seven pines; 5,739 Union and 7,997 Confederates. Perhaps the most significant result of the battle, Commander Joseph Johnston, at which time, commanded of the Army of Northern Virginia, was seriously wounded. A day later, the job fell to Gen. Robert E. Lee. After the battle, Brother Call was buried in Greenwood Cemetery, in Richmond, Virginia.
Brother Call not only was the first Worshipful Master of Amelia Lodge but was also the first High Priest of Jacksonville Chapter No.12 Royal Arch Masons. He also served as Grand Sword Bearer for Most Worshipful Thomas Brown, Grand Master of Florida in 1859. It was during that great and bloody conflict, the Civil War, Amelia Lodge experienced some of its darkest moments. Finally in 1863 it became necessary to close the doors for a period of 4 years, until 1867, when under the guidance and direction of Wor. Bro. D. R. Beatty, breath was again breathed into Amelia Lodge. Since that time Amelia Lodge has sent many of her members to serve on the battlefield, fighting to preserve that freedom and justice which American and Freemasonry guards so zealously. The Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Desert Storm, Desert Shield and many other Police Actions throughout the world have sent members of Amelia Lodge into harms way.
Since its inception in 1859, Amelia Lodge has had 97 different duly elected men preside over its regular communications. Two men have worn the title of Worshipful Master a total of 21 times, T. B. Lasserre 12 years, and W. F. Scott 9 years. I would like to relate an amusing story about Brother Lasserre that I found in my research. Brother Lasserre was a very devout member of St Michaels Catholic Church. It was apparent that Masonry impressed him very much and with that impression, he called on Father Kilcorn, the Parrish Priest and discussed it with him. The Priest, after listening carefully to his plea, said, Tom, don't you know that you cannot be a Catholic and a Mason at the same time and cautioned him to be very careful. He again returned with the same plea and again he was cautioned to be careful. He returned for the third time and the Priest warned him that if he joined the Masonic Fraternity he would be ex-communicated from the Church. He then turned to the Priest and said, Father I accept the verdict and immediately filed a petition for membership in Amelia Lodge and he lived, loved and promoted Masonry until he passed away. Thus we see that proper conduct by members of the Fraternity outside the Lodge room does create a favorable impression, and this impression was made on another of our Past Masters, Louis Goldstein former Postmaster, when he observed time after time Bro. Fred V. Hoyt, President and founder of the First National Bank and Bro. Lee who was custodian of Nassau County Court House, both members of Amelia Lodge, the former, neatly and immaculately dressed and the other dressed in dungarees, sweeping the side walk in front of the Court House, extending morning greetings with a friendly hand shake. Wor. Goldstein was then in his late teens and that impression was indelibly stamped on his mind and he pledged to become a Mason. He submitted a petition in December 1913 and was Raised March 17, 1914.
Amelia Lodge has had several different homes since those early days. However, on March 2nd, 1876, fire destroyed all records, jewels and buildings. Following this catastrophe, various places were used and buildings built. Regular meetings were scheduled and held on the first Monday on or before Full Moon with provisions for called meetings when necessary. The scheduled meetings were changed to the second and fourth Tuesdays on or before the Full Moon. The adoption of the Full Moon served as a ready reminder to the Craft of scheduled, regular meetings.
In the early years, the Masonic Hall was located on North Second Street which was later torn down. New meeting facilities were acquired again on North Second Street. However, on March 24, 1877, fire destroyed the building, including the charter and all records. A duplicate charter was presented by the Grand Lodge. and the Masonic Publishing Company of New York donated a set of jewels to cover the loss.
The record does not show where meetings were held following the fire. Beginning July 11, 1877, regular scheduled meetings were held on the second and fourth Wednesday except during June, July and August. Meetings during that period were held only on second Wednesday. We are proud to learn from the records that the Honorable David C. Yulee, the first United State Senator elected from Florida was a resident of our community and filed a petition for membership in Amelia Lodge #47 on May 1st, 1880 and was elected June 21, 1880 and raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on June 6, 1881.
The necessity for permanent quarters to meet the needs of Amelia Lodge, a Committee was appointed to select a suitable site for a Masonic Temple. Accordingly, a Temple was erected on the corner 5th and Alachua Streets and it stood out as a monument and reflected credit to the Fraternity. However, this building, erected by a contractor under a low bid and who was a member of the Fraternity in the Jurisdiction of Alabama, either took advantage of his affiliation or was not qualified as a builder. The foundation was found too weak for the structure, the walls began to crack and the building began to settle. After a careful survey the edifice was condemned and torn down.
About 1941, through the thoughtfulness and generosity of Brother Quinn, Owner and Operator of Quinn Menhaden Fisheries, that the Red Brick School House on Center St. was made available to Amelia Lodge for the price of $1500.00. This building, originally designed and constructed as "THE PUBLIC SCHOOL" in Fernandina in 1886, had its cornerstone laid by Masons of Amelia Lodge. Amelia Lodge will forever be grateful to Bro. Quinn. The Lodge remained in that location until 1972 when this present facility was built.
Members of Amelia Lodge have participated in many important and historical events in this community. On April 12, 1892, the cornerstone to our beloved courthouse was laid by Amelia Lodge. It was on April 7, 1904, that Wor. Bro. W. J. Davis, Worshipful Master of Amelia Lodge, took mortar and trowel in hand and with appropriate remarks, set the cornerstone of our City Hall in place.
Amelia Lodge has served this community well. We contribute to many state, local, and national charities each year. For many years our scholarships have provided opportunities for high school seniors to continue their education. Our members are well respected and come from all walks of life, Doctors, Lawyers, Teachers, Politicians, Clergy White Collar, Blue Collar, Military and that is the way it has always been because that is what Freemasonry is.
Amelia Lodge has experienced a period of growth in membership of which it can be, and is, proud. Our current membership is now over 200. On this day representing its 150th birthday, Amelia Lodge No.47 Free and Accepted Masons can look back upon many years of satisfaction gained through the promotion of law and order, justice, peace and brotherly love.
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