Established 1734 - Solomon's Lodge at Savannah, Georgia is the "Oldest Continuously Operating English Constituted Lodge Of Freemasons In The Western Hemisphere".
First Lodge 1733/4 - 2009
Freemasonry has existed in this State and still exits on an timeless "Modern" establishment since the year 1733/4, and is coeval with the settlement of the British Colony of Georgia. The first Masonic Lodge instituted in Georgia, now know as Solomon's Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M. at Savannah (the Lodge having received the name "Solomon's Lodge" sometime prior to 1771), was established on February 21, 1734 and was entered upon the official engraved lists of the Premier Grand Lodge of England as Lodge "No. 139 Savannah in Ye Province of Georgia" and was constituted in 1735. Solomon's Lodge No. 1, F. & A. M. at Savannah, Georgia is the "Oldest Continiously Operating English Constituted Lodge of Freemasons in the Western Hemisphere."
On February 21, 1734 a small band of British-Georgia Freemasons gathered in the mystic tie beneath the extensive branches of a magnificent oak-tree, then flourishing on the sea-coast bluff, in the area now known as Sunbury, Liberty County, Georgia. For centuries Masonic history as recalled that it was there beneath the "Sunbury Oak" that the gentle and kind founder of Georgia, Brother James Edward Oglethorpe (1696-1785) instituted the first Lodge of Freemasons in this State. Fired by their zeal for the institution those early Brethren gathered despite the freezing winds that blew then and blow now over the bluffs of Sunbury in winter. From that small gathering of Masons at the first meeting 275 years ago come the 47,000 Freemasons laboring in Georgia today.
Savannah Masonic history relates that the earliest meetings of Solomon's Lodge following the first meeting at Sunbury, were held in Savannah in a building which stood on the present site of the Custom House near what is now the intersection of Bull and Bay Streets. At that time the only public building in the area was the "Tabernacle Courthouse" which was used as a meeting house for Church, Court, and general purposes. The earliest recorded Masonic initiations in Georgia took place during the first three months of 1734 when Noble Jones, Daniel Nunes, John Farmus, Moses Nunes and Charles Pryce entered the first Lodge. Of these initiates Brothers Moses Nunes and Daniel Nunes were the first Jews made Freemasons in America.
Among the relics of Solomon's Lodge there still remains a 1733 John Baskett Bible, long venerated as the "Oglethorpe Bible". There is also a gavel made from a piece of the Sunbury Oak presented by Perla Sheftall Solomons on February 10, 1859. This gavel is now known as the "Sunbury Gavel". The original Sunbury Oak stood near the site upon which grew the great oaks that furnished timbers used to build the U. S. S. Constitution known as "Old Ironsides". Perla Sheftall Solomons (1812-1897) was the neice of Bro. Sheftall Sheftall (1762-1847) who is recorded as a member of Solomon's Lodge at Savannah in 1795.
The "Sunbury Gavel" presentation letter from Perla Sheftall Solomon's to Solomon's Lodge records the following "...General James Oglethorpe opened the first Lodge of Masons in the State of Georgia. I think there can be no mistake about this being so, the late Sheftall Sheftall, Esq., (my uncle) has often told me this, he having heard it from his father Mr. Mordecai Sheftall." Mordecai Sheftall (1736-1797) was a member of Solomon's Lodge as early as 1764 and his father Benjamin Sheftall was Worshipful Master of the first Lodge in 1758. Bro. Benjamin Sheftall's original white leather masonic apron is preserved in the archives of the Lodge, and Bro. Sheftall Sheftall's autographed 1818 Masonic Handbook is preserved (as of 2007) in the archives of the AASR, Orient of Georgia, Valley of Savannah at 341 Bull Street in Savannah.
The rolls of Solomon's Lodge contain the names of many members notable in the history of this State and Nation. Bro. James Oglethorpe was the founder of the Georgia Colony, Bro. Archibald Bulloch was the first Revolutionary President of Georgia, Bro. John Adam Treutlen was the first Constitutional Governor of Georgia, Bro. George Walton was one of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence, Gen. James Jackson received the surrender of the British at Savannah during the Revolutionary War, Gen. Josiah Tattnall served under "Mad" Anthony Wayne, Gen. Samuell Elbert was thrice hailed as the "Father of Independent Masonry" in Georgia, and Bro. William Stephens was the first Grand Master of the first Independent Grand Lodge of Georgia.
Brother Oliver Bowen was named the first Admiral of the American Navy, Bro. Joseph Habersham was appointed by Bro. Washington as the first Postmaster General of the United States, Bro. Samuel Hammond was the first Territorial Governor of Missouri, Bro. James Paris was the first public educator and school teacher in Georgia, Bro. John Berrien was the "Cicero" of the American Congress, Gen. Narisco Lopez the Venezuelan patriot who died in defense of Cuban liberty, Gen. Lafayette McLaws the warrior of the peach orchards at Gettysburg, and John Holbrook Estill the builder of the Savannah Morning News who was called the greatest man in Georgia during the 19th century.
On the 200th Anniversary of the founding of Solomon's Lodge held on February 21, 1934 Bro. Lafayette McLaws P. M., of Solomon's Lodge spoke of the progress her sons have made in human history when he stated that "We celebrate the birth of Georgia's oldest institution, the 200th Anniversary of Solomon's Lodge. Age itself does not call for veneration, antiquity alone does not merit adoration, the passage of time is not the test of fame; a million years does not give glory to a worthless cause, nor sanctify and unholy name. It is the use of time, the purpose of the origin, the beauty woven in the design, the service written in the plan that builds monuments and creates hallowed shrines. I revere Solomon's not for its age, but for its progress, for the service that it has rendered mankind, for its uplifting influence in the political upheavals; for two centuries of activity in the interest of free thought, free speech and free conscience; for the continuity of its opposition to mental tyranny; its championship of human liberty. I commemorate the founding of Solomon's Lodge because it gave to the new Colony of Georgia, the institution of Masonry."