Skip to main content

Freemasonry in Highland County: Building the Lodge

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, as we examine 200 years of Freemasonry in Highland County, let’s take a look at the venerable Masonic Temple located on the corner of North High Street and Beech Street in uptown Hillsboro.

Speaking of the home of Highland Lodge No. 38 of Free and Accepted Masons, there will be a 200th Reconsec-ration Ceremony May 4 from 9 a.m. until noon at the Temple. Any Mason who would like to attend the 200th Reconsecration Ceremony by the Grand Lodge of Ohio is welcome to attend.

The Temple has been the Lodge’s meeting place since the 1870s. According to the centennial publication, “History of Highland Lodge No. 38 F&AM Hillsboro, Ohio 1817-1917,” George L. Garrett, who was appointed historian for the publication, wrote, “It is unfortunate that the Lodge has not a complete history of its various meeting places from the date of its organization to the present.

"From what can be gleaned from its records, it had no fixed and established lodge room for many years, and it was as much troubled with this problem as were our ancient brethren who met only ‘on high hill and low valleys.’ The minutes show that the obtaining of a permanent lodge room was the one great source of annoyance for at least the first half century of its existence.”

Garrett wrote that the Lodge met at times in the residences of various of its brethren, at intervals at the courthouse and for a long time at “Captain Roads’ Inn” and at “other and many leased quarters.”

In 1842, a Lodge committee was appointed to confer with the county commissioners to see if they would give the Masons some land for the purpose to build a combined town hall and Masonic Temple.

The commissioners said no.

Then, in 1846, a Lodge committee conferred with the Hillsboro School District on the subject of building a hall on the schoolhouse grounds in connection with the school building in process of erection.

“This also came to naught,” Garrett wrote.

Then in the 1850s, Brother B.H. Johnson died. In his will, he left $10,000 that after six years would be paid (with interest) to a potential Hillsboro college for the “education of young men,” but if that failed, it would go to erect a Masonic Hall.

Well, the college didn’t pan out, so the money went to the Masons to build the Masonic Temple – eventually.

“Unfortunately, that fund got badly entangled, a great deal of litigation ensued, being carried to the Supreme Court, and it was years until the Masons got the benefit of the legacy,” Garrett wrote.

Now, 10 thousand bucks was a bunch of money back then. According to the CPI Inflation Calculator, 10 grand in 1850 is worth more than $325,000 now. Probate court journals show that in October of 1861, the principal sum of $10,000 was to be turned over under bond to James M. Thompson, under the condition that within three years from the first day of January of 1862, there should be completed a Masonic Lodge “from foundation to top.” John C. Gregg was named architect.

“What became of this contract the writer cannot say, but it evidently was not carried out,” Garrett wrote in 1917. “Of the fifth day of March, 1874, a resolution was passed by the Lodge, ratifying a settlement of the suit in the Supreme Court in which it and the Chapter were plaintiffs, and the Lodge agreeing in said resolution that the Chapter Trustees should expand the fund in the erection of a temple.

“The minutes show that the Temple was dedicated in 1876, so that at that time the various Masonic bodies realized the benefit of the generous benefaction of Brother B.M. Johnson and secured a splendid building with sufficient income to provide for its upkeep. The Temple as first built was afterward improved by an addition added at the rear. This Temple was beautifully frescoed, the walls of the Lodge Room being especially well decorated.”

So after all that legal wrangling, the Temple was finally built in uptown Hillsboro – it only took 20-plus years.

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next week.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company, is vice chairman of the Highland County Historical Society Board of Trustees and is a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at

Add new comment

This is not for publication.
This is not for publication.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.
Article comments are not posted immediately to the Web site. Each submission must be approved by the Web site editor, who may edit content for appropriateness. There may be a delay of 24-48 hours for any submission while the web site editor reviews and approves it. Note: All information on this form is required. Your telephone number and email address is for our use only, and will not be attached to your comment.