Our History

    Below is the history of Covington Lodge #188. I have included the typewritten history, composed about ten years ago, along with an addendum. To see a simplified timeline of our Lodge's history, please click below.

History of Covington Lodge #188, F&AM

The Beginnings

    In July 1867, a little more than two years after the close of the Civil War, a small group of Freemasons petitioned the Grand Lodge of Louisiana to form a Lodge in Covington. They petitioned through Mount Moriah #59 in New Orleans.            

    There is no record showing where the petitioners had been made Masons, except that one of them, W.B. Hosmer, was a member of Rising Glory Lodge #215, Osyka, Mississippi. Some of them were probably members of Franklinton Lodge #101 and Livingston Lodge #160, which was located in Ponchatoula at the time. At any rate, these members were accepted by the Grand Lodge. Other records show that they all served in the Army of the Confederacy during the Civil War.

The First Meeting

            The dispensation was granted and presented at a special meeting of the Lodge under Dispensation in the Town of Covington. On August 5, 1867, a meeting was held presided over by Brother John W. Anderson, Worshipful Master of Mount Moriah Lodge, acting as Deputy Grand Master for Louisiana in the absence of Most Worshipful Brother A.J. Norwood, Grand Master of Louisiana, who was unable to attend. The officers named for the Lodge under dispensation were named. They were: 

Worshipful Master: Robert F. Clute, minister and Rector of Christ Episcopal Church
Senior Warden: James M. Thompson, lawyer.
Junior Warden: Henry F. Spring, farmer
Secretary: William B. Hosmer
Senior Deacon: James M. Ford
Junior Deacon: W.H.R. Hangen
Tyler: Charles Heintz

            At this meeting, a committee composed of Brothers Thompson, Spring, and Ford was appointed to draw up a set of by-laws for the Lodge. These must have been previously drawn, for they were presented and adopted at this meeting. At this first meeting, three new petitions for degrees in Masonry were received. The time of future meetings was fixed at the first Saturday of each month, commencing at the hour of four o’clock p.m. The first officers for the newly chartered Lodge were then elected and installed. They were:

Worshipful Master: Robert F. Clute
Senior Warden: James M. Thompson
Junior Warden: Fenelon B. Martindale
Secretary: Alonzo Given
Treasurer: Charles Heintz
Junior Deacon: W.H.R. Hangen
Senior Deacon: J.M. Ford
Tyler: John Theobold

    An official charter was granted by the Grand Lodge on February 13, 1868. The Lodge was consecrated on March 2, 1868 at a regular meeting at “Candle Light.” The Grand Master of Louisiana Masons, Henry W. Swazey, presided, with other officers of the Grand Lodge assisting him. At that time, the Lodge had eighteen members.

The Temple Building

            There is no record showing where the first meeting was held except that it was in Covington. The minutes do show that after the installation of officers, the Lodge was closed and the officers, members, and guests departed to the boarding house of Mrs. Sterling “next door,” where all enjoyed a fine meal ending with Masonic Songs. The old building known as the Sterling Hotel was still standing in the year 1909, and with it being “next door” to the Lodge, it is evident that the Lodge met in some building next to the site of the present Temple.

            From the time the Lodge was first organized, it occupied a rented quarters for a meeting place until November 21, 1871, when it purchased from Mrs. Emma Afroux the property described as Lot 4 in Square 7, Division of St. John, Town of Covington, and which is on the South side of and adjacent to the lot on which the present temple is now located. On the lot purchased from Mrs. Afroux, there was a wooden frame building. This structure was remodeled and used as the Temple until it was destroyed by fire on October 29, 1909. 

        The fire originated in a small wooden structure adjoining the south side of a brick building on the corner of Columbia and Boston Streets, owned by Emile Frederick. Frederick's brick building and all others down to the Bogue Falaya River, including the Covington Masonic Temple, were destroyed. After this fire, the Lodge had to miss one of its regular meetings but, after securing a dispensation, soon secured new quarters for a meeting place. It rented the second floor of P.J. Lacroix's general store, which was on the corner of Columbia and Boston Streets. The Lodge occupied this rented space until late in the summer of 1910. They immediately began construction of a new building and occupied it upon completion.

            However, another catastrophe was to befall Covington Lodge. In September 1915, a large hurricane struck portions of Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana. This hurricane was preceded by excessive rains for twelve hours or more, causing all streams to flood. The roof of the Temple was severely damaged by wind, which caused many of the Lodge records to be ruined by rain or rendered unreadable. However, damage to the Lodge building was soon repaired and meetings continued regularly.

            However, the building burned early one morning in the Spring of 1923. The Presbyterian Church offered the use of its Sunday School rooms for a meeting place. Undaunted by the fire, the lodge members immediately commenced with preparations to construct a new Temple. With a history of fires behind them, the Lodge purchased two more lots from the St. Tammany Light and Ice Manufacturing Company in January 1924. The property is described as Lots 5 and 6 in Square 7, Division of St. John, Town of Covington. By this act, it became the owner of all the property from its own original lot out to Rutland Street. This additional property has been kept vacant for reasons of safety as well as appearance, and Covington can now boast having one of the most attractive Lodge grounds in the state.

            The present Temple of Covington Lodge was built in 1924 and was dedicated on September 14 by the Grand Lodge of the State of Louisiana, with Prentiss B. Carter, Grand Master, presiding.

            Ever since the dedication of the present Lodge building in 1924, the Lodge has functioned continually, but not without obstacles. For instance, when the Lodge building burned in 1923, some insurance money was collected, but the amount was insignificant when compared to the cost of the new brick building planned. In response, a large sum was borrowed from the old Covington Bank and Trust Company and a mortgage was given on the property.

            This loan was being gradually paid, but in November 1929, the stock market crash posed threats to our organization. The bank holding the mortgage was closed by the State Banking Department and placed in liquidation. In order to make payments on the mortgage loan, the Lodge rented the ground floor of the Temple to the Parish for office space, which was used by the Welfare Department. In 1946, a small group of Lodge members each gave from their personal funds and paid the full indebtedness of the Lodge. It has remained free of debt ever since.

            The stately façade of our Lodge building is a landmark in Covington. Its architectural style has weathered the years with grace and beauty. The cost of the rebuilding and refurbishing was $40,000 in 1923. Its value today is significantly more in both economic and spiritual terms.

Lodge Furnishings

            Many of the present furnishings were given in memory of loved ones. Some singular and impressive gifts are worth noting. The Altar was given by Robert W. Badon in memory of his father, a member of the Lodge since 1881. The Burns brothers donated one hundred arm chairs. Many other items are identified with metal tags attached, and visitors may find familiar names on these tags. 

Relationship with Other Lodges

            When Covington Lodge #188 was chartered, it was the first and only Masonic Lodge in St. Tammany Parish, and its membership was made up of men residing in all parts of the parish. With the organization of Slidell Lodge #311 in 1907, Covington Lodge lost several of its members who demitted to become members of that Lodge, as it was nearer to them.

            The Lodge also lost several of its potential members when Center Lodge #244 was organized in 1864, as many members of the Covington Lodge resided in the northern part of St. Tammany Parish. After Center Lodge was organized, it was much easier for them to travel to that Lodge, despite its location in Washington Parish at Lees Creek, two miles south of Bogalusa. In those days, travel over country roads at night made distance a major factor. Several demitted from Covington Lodge and became affiliated with Center Lodge when it moved to Bogalusa, Louisiana in 1909.

Other Uses of the Building

Other bodies that have met in Covington’s Lodge are:

Southern Pines Chapter O.E.S.
Blanc Magnolia Chapter #250 O.E.S.
Order of Amarinth
Covington Chapter Royal Arch Masons
Rainbow Girls
Order of De Molay
Covington Scottish Rite Club
Council of Royal and Select Masters
Northlake Shrine Club
Royal Arch Masons

In the past, the lower floor of the Lodge building has been used by several organizations, such as Woodmen of the World, Chapter of Druids, and the Baptist Church. For a time, during the remodeling of the St. Tammany Parish Courthouse, the lower floor was used as a courtroom.

            The Lodge also hosts the annual Secretary’s Workshop each year.
Notable Lodge Members, Past and Present

            The membership of Covington Lodge has consisted of men from all professions, trades, and callings: lawyers, doctors, ministers, teachers, blacksmiths, merchants, bankers, and others.

            James M. Thompson, one of the original charter members, became Judge of the District Court, which at one time covered the parishes of Washington, St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, St. Helena, and Livingston. He traveled from parish to parish by horse and buggy. Later, he was elected to the Court of Appeals and became noted throughout the state as a Jurist.

            Lewis L. Morgan was a member of Covington Lodge when elected to Congress in 1912, where he served two consecutive terms, retiring voluntarily.

            Of those who have served the Lodge as Master, four have served at different times as Clerk of the District Court for St. Tammany Parish: Fenelon B. Martindale, W.E. Kennedy, Harrison R. Warren, and Andrew L. Erwin, who served both as Clerk of Court and Sheriff. Two other members, W.C. Morgan and E.J. Frederick, also served as Clerk of Court. W.B. Cook and Thomas Doherty each served as Sheriff.

Recently, Charles F. Williams served the St. Tammany Parish School Board as President. R.G. “Bob” Wiggins served as Justice of the Peace for St. Tammany’s Third Ward District Court.

Looking Ahead

            For one hundred and forty-two years, Covington Lodge has been a mainstay in the character of Covington. Our building is used as a United States Geological Survey Landmark. Its location in the Division of St. John makes it a historic landmark, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among buildings in the Division, our Lodge building has been judged as “contributing greatly” to the historic nature of the district.
            Hurricane Katrina caused roof damage to our Lodge, but through the efforts of W.  Bro. Bob Gilhaus and the officers of 2006, the damage was quickly repaired and paid through the Lodge’s own funds. The lower level floor was replaced in 2007, the kitchen with all its fixtures was removed for rental purposes, and a handicapped-accessible bathroom was built there.
            Through the years, dedicated brethren have worked to maintain the building. An interior renovation project was undertaken in 1993 and 1994. Many man-hours were spent in restoring our Lodge to its original splendor. Many members assisted by donations, not only of their funds, but their time. All who took part in this work are greatly appreciated by their brethren. We can be very proud of what they have achieved.

The “Bob White” Library had fallen into disuse in previous years. In 2009, several brethren began a process of renovation for that room. However, when the paneling was removed, severe water damage was found to the stucco underneath, as well as termite damage. Covington Lodge is currently involved in solving termite issues and planning a library/museum that will serve as homage to our heritage and a showcase for our lodge and the 14th Masonic District.

As brethren search the hidden corners of the Lodge building, we constantly find artifacts of our history, from lost records to books dating to the 1870’s. Several photographs and documents have been found, some unidentifiable by age but obviously antique. Old aprons, certificates, and artifacts surface almost every time a Brother opens a door. Even the original Lodge minutes, dating from 1867, have been found by the widow of a deceased Brother and returned to the Lodge. Hopefully, with a speedy completion of the library/museum renovations, we will be able to showcase these finds that all who visit our Lodge may enjoy them as much as we do.

With a history such as ours and a dedicated body of brethren preserving our traditions and ensuring our success, our Lodge looks forward to a bright future.