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Freemasonry in Highland County: The first meeting

Lead Summary
Steve Roush-
Ladies and gentlemen, as we mentioned earlier, the first meeting of Highland Lodge No. 38 of Free and Accepted Masons was held in Hillsboro in March of 1817 – March 3 of that year, to be exact.

According to the centennial publication, “History of Highland Lodge No. 38 F&AM Hillsboro, Ohio 1817-1917,” the members present at the first meeting were George Washington Barrere, who was the Worshipful Master, Henry Davis, Samuel Daniel, Joseph McClain, William Thompson, Robert January and Cyrus Baylor. There were also several visiting brethren from Scioto Lodge No. 6 and from St. Clairsville Lodge No. 32.

Before we continue, let’s mention again that the Highland Lodge received its dispensation in 1817 but didn’t receive its charter until 1819. Due to this fact, the lodge will be celebrating its 200th Reconsecration on May 4 from 9 a.m. until noon this year at the venerable Masonic Temple located on the corner of North High Street and Beech Street, along with a gala in September. Any Mason who would like to attend the 200th Reconsecration Ceremony by the Grand Lodge of Ohio is welcome to attend.

Now let’s get back to March of 1817. At that first session, the minutes did not disclose the location where the meeting was held, but officers were elected, a procession was formed and those at the meeting marched to the courthouse.

Of course, the aforementioned courthouse isn’t the same Highland County Courthouse that opened in 1834 and is the oldest courthouse in continuous use in the state of Ohio.

In the “History of Highland Lodge No. 38 F&AM Hillsboro, Ohio 1817-1917,” the courthouse in 1817 is described as a building situated 39 feet from both Main and High streets in uptown Hillsboro and was about 40 square feet. It was built of brick, and the foundation was made of sandstone brought in from Sinking Spring. It was a two-story building and was built in 1808. The Justices’ Seat was in a recess in the west end of the building, and the back of the “bar” was paved with brick for flooring.

George L. Garrett, who was appointed as the historian for the 1917 centennial, wrote, “It would be of interest, were we able to know more as to the character and the business and professional relations of these founders of our Lodge, who through so many trying years preserved our ancient landmarks, and against all discouragements, and in the most critical times, stood true to the order until it was firmly established.”

At this point, Garrett lauded the George Washington Barrere and the Barrere family, writing, “George W. Barrere, who was the Master named in the Dispensation, was destined to be the first of a family which has an illustrious record in Free Masonry, and which, perhaps, has had more of its members in direct descent who have served as Masters than any other Lodge in the State of Ohio. Representatives of four generations have thus served our Lodge in the East, namely: George Washington Barrere, John M. Barrere, Col. George Washington Barrere and our Centennial Master, Granville Barrere (remember, Garrett wrote this back in 1917). Col. George W. Barrere was Master during the semi-centennial year, and his father, John M. Barrere, presided during the 25th year of its history.”

However, as mentioned above, there was a time where Highland Lodge No. 38 was on life support.

“If Masonic tradition is to be believed,” Garrett wrote nearly 100 years ago, “the very existence of our Lodge today is largely due to the zeal of its first Master (George Washington Barrere), for during the time of the great Anti-Masonic agitation, which was finally so intensified as to become a political issue, the records show that Highland Lodge was barely able to keep alive, there being one year in which there are minutes of but two or three meetings; and tradition informs us that at times that Brother Barrere constituted in fact, ‘the principal officers of the Lodge and the constitutional number empowered to work.’ At one period, as shown elsewhere, the surrender of the charter or dispensation was seriously considered, but we are informed this was prevented due to his (Barrere’s) efforts.”

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

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