Monday, January 9, 2012

Cypress Masonic Lodge

In the late 1950s, C.K. Wright dedicated a short publication to past brethren of Cypress Lodge No. 89. A copy of the publication tells the history of the lodge that was organized in 1849 in Benton, Louisiana.

Cypress Lodge No. 89 was the first Masonic Lodge established in Bossier Parish. When the charter for the lodge was issued in 1850, twenty-three men were members.

On June 3, 1850 James Blair Gilmer donated a one-acre lot in Collinsburg to Cypress Lodge of A.Y. Masons and the Sons of Temperance. Lodge minutes do not record that a building was ever erected on this property, so the title reverted to Gilmer, a pioneer settler of Bossier Parish.

Some of the events that are recorded in the minutes of the early lodge were the death of worthy brother Henry Clay, for whom a motion was carried appropriating ten dollars to erect a suitable monument over his remains; the annual return to the Grand Lodge on January 31, 1863 could not be forwarded by the secretary because the Grand Lodge Hall was in the hands of Union soldiers; and on February 20, 1864 the minutes noted that the Grand Lodge was still in the hands of the enemy and no communication could be established.

Minutes for September 7, 1867 noted that a motion was carried to change the meeting place of the lodge to Quality Hill in the upper story of Doles and Lambright’s store, and on October 1, 1867 a committee was appointed to make arrangements with Brother Lambright to rent that room. Even though a subsequent communication from the Grand Lodge authorized the removal of the lodge to Quality Hill, no action was ever taken. On April 4, 1868 permission was granted to move the lodge to Benton and on July 4, 1868 the Deputy District Grand Master was contacted for permission to move. Permission was given and the first meeting was held in Benton on August 29, 1868.

A site for the construction of a lodge building was acquired on April 12, 1876, and the new hall, the first home owned by the lodge itself, was completed on June 23, 1877. The lodge prospered between 1877 and 1884 but, because of a sharp decline in attendance from 1884 to 1887, the charter was forfeited on February 16, 1887. When a new charter was granted on February 12, 1890 meetings were held in a building used jointly by the Woodmen of the World, the public school, and the lodge. That building was ultimately replaced by the former location of the Benton Branch of the Bossier Parish Library. Sometime between 1890 and 1901 the lodge occupied a building located adjacent to the 1958 site. When a fire destroyed that building, communication was held in the lodge of the Knights of Pythias in Alden Bridge while a new building was being constructed. The 1958 site was acquired in 1901. From 1902 through 1952 the new building was used until a windstorm damaged it so badly that it was demolished.

The cornerstone to a new building was laid on April 11, 1953. The dedication was held on August 23, 1953. Five years later, in 1958, the funds for the final payment on the mortgage were paid. Besides being the oldest lodge in Bossier Parish, Cypress Lodge is presently the 22nd oldest active lodge in the state of Louisiana.

For more about Cypress Lodge #89 and other Bossier Parish history, visit the Bossier Parish Library Historical Center.

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