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History of Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M.

There is difficulty in reducing the history of any Masonic Lodge to writing as most of the contribution of Masonry is reflected not in recorded civic  activities as an organization but in the support of worthwhile endeavors such as hospitals, homes for the aged and orphaned, etc., and in the individual involvement of its members in the community, state and national affairs.  The more salient facts of Masonic history are preserved, however, through permanent records and indisputable oral testimony. An even greater problem is encountered in writing a history of Commerce in that most of its early records were destroyed by fire in 1892, but as stated before much of Masonic tradition is preserved through oral testimony, from that we draw a brief history.

There were few Masonic Lodges in this area in 1875, the year Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M. was chartered.  There were three in Hunt County, at Greenville, Lone Oak and Kingston, but the nearest was at Cumby, Hopkins No. 180 A. F. & A. M., and that is where those in Commerce went for help when the need for and desire for a Masonic Lodge was determined, and, at a stated meeting a petition to the Grand Lodge of Texas was read asking for a charter or warrant empowering the signers to constitute and set to work a new Masonic Lodge in the Town of Commerce, Texas to be known as Commerce Lodge No. 439.

The petition was unanimously approved by Hopkins Lodge and the Petitioners recommended as worthy masons. It was signed by the following brethren, Seventeen in number.

B. F. Loving       L. W. Presley    C. J. Hundley       William Jernigin       Robert Sayle
J. T. Neal          J. Dunaway       R. W. Lilly             Wilson Riley            Grabriel Jackson
Sylvester Riley  J. M. Huges      J. Culver               G. G. Julian             G. W. Turley
J. H. Jackson    J. J. Bridgers

Commerce Lodge worked under dispensation from January ninth, 1875, until June fifth, 1875, when the Grand Lodge in its Thirty Ninth Grand Annual Convocation granted a charter to Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M. signed by the following Grand Officers.

Joseph D. Sayers Grand Master

Marcus F. Mott   Deputy Grand Master

Norton Moses   Grand Senior Warden

E. G. Bower  Grand Junior Warden

Benjamin A. Botts  Grand Treasurer

G. H Bringhurst  Grand Secretary

Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M. was chartered on June fifth, 1875. The original charter application shows Ashland as the location, but when the charter was issued, its location is shown as Commerce.  In 1892 fire destroyed the lodge building and charter, and on December 10, 1892 a duplicate charter was issued.  (In 1930 Fairlie Lodge No. 845 merged with this lodge and in 1936 South Sulphur Lodge No. 471 A. F. & A. M. merged with Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M.)

Commerce Lodge was instituted and set to work in the second story of Marsh Goff's Mill then located about were the Baptist Church now stands on Washington Street.

They continued to meet there until they built where the present Masonic lodge now stands.  We don't know when the building was occupied. This building burned some time during the year 1892 together with all records.

The lodge then met over W. W. Rutlands store that stood where Freezia & Steger is now (at the corner of Washington and Main).  From there they moved into the I. O. O. F. Lodge building until they could complete the present building where they have met since.  (Although no dedication or occupant record exists it was about 1894).

The first member to join Commerce Lodge was by affiliation on March 13, 1875, was Brother J. A. Borough, Then W. H. Coats and I. E. Polk on April 10th, 1875.

The first names to be presented for initiation were G. W. Cooper, J. B. Littlepage and I. N. Marshall on March 13th, 1875. They were elected and made Entered Apprentices on April 10th, 1875.

On November 13th, 1875, G. W. Cooper and I. N. Marshall were passed to the degree of Fellowcraft and on December 11th, 1875, they were raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason.

Membership has changed with the times:

1875 Chartered with 17 members, 3 affiliations total 20

1900 growing total 70

1925 prosperity, roaring twenties total 263

1950 post WWII boom total 415

1975 leveling off from post WWII boom total 319

From 1875, with an original 17 members the Lodge grew in membership steadily until 1929, when it reached a then all time high of 278 members. Suspensions for non-payment of dues during the depression years when most had little but enough for food and clothing were high and the Lodge membership reflected it, dropping to 185 members in 1936.  With the economic recovery, young men who reached the lawful age during WWII caused a boom in membership at the close of the war.  Aided by the great number of veterans attending ETSU during those years the Lodge achieved a membership total in excess of 400 during the early 1950s.  During 1949-50 alone 36 new members were added to Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M. Membership growth returned to normal there and has leveled off during recent years with total membership of the Commerce Lodge remaining around the 200 mark.

Among the many prominent individuals who have served as Master of Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M. were two of its more illustrious citizens, W. L. Mayo and A. L. Day. The fact that many streets and plat developments in Commerce today bear the name of many of the Past Masters and members (Jeringin, Mangum, Culver, Mayo, Taylor, Neal streets) (Hundley &  surveys) reflects their involvement in community growth and activities. 

Numerous individuals have served as Secretary to Commerce Lodge No. 439 A. F. & A. M.  during these 100 plus years, and in this capacity contributed invaluable service. Among those serving three or more terms as Secretary are F. N. Sheely and W. Y. Goff.  Herbert Wheeler, however holds the record for continuous service and for total service, having been Secretary from 1942 to 1973, over 30 years.

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