I hope you are having a great Labor Day so far. Today we tend to think of the day as summer’s last hurrah with one more trip to the
beach, barbeques, and parades, but there’s more to it.
Early citizens of Douglasville would have known about the meaning behind Labor Day since it became a federal holiday in 1894, but it
would be a few years before labor unrest touched Douglas County. The passage of legislation creating the official holiday was a political overture by President Grover Cleveland’s administration. They were responding to public outcry after the U.S. military and U.S. Marshall’s fired upon workers during the Pullman Strike killing thirteen and wounding fifty-seven. The legislation creating Labor Day passed unanimously to reconcile the government and labor.
As I put this column together there is talk that the 48th annual Labor Day parade sponsored by the Sweetwater Shrine Club might be rained out. I know we need the rain, but it would be the first time the Shriners would fail to lead the parade down Broad Street since 1958.
Even if tropical storm Lee literally rains on our parade the barbeque sponsored by Douglasville Masonic Lodge No. 289 will still go on at the Hunter Park Community Center on Gurley Road. You can get a plate of Hudson’s barbeque and all the trimmings for $7 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. The purpose of the event is to raise money for local charities. There will also be funnel cakes, snow cones and other kid friendly things including pony rides.
The involvement of Douglasville’s Shrine and Mason groups for Labor Day festivities got me to thinking about their place in our history. One of the first questions I put to rest for myself happened to be the relationship between the two groups. They are two distinct groups, but Shriners have to be Master Masons in good standing before applying for membership.
Douglasville Lodge No. 289 F. & A.M. was granted a charter by the Grand Lodge of Georgia on October 30, 1873. If we go back as far as possible the Masons’ original lodge was located on a 12 x 50 foot lot on Broad Street owned by E.H. Camp. In the 1880s, J.A. Pittman erected a 2-story building, and sold the upper story to the lodge, together with the stairway. Fannie Mae Davis’s history isn’t very clear if the Camp and Pittman properties were one and the same.
If you stand along Broad Street at the Campbellton intersection the building Pittman built is the third building towards the west from the corner.
At some point the first floor of the building was occupied by Thomas A. Duke Drug Company. Later Dorsett Drug Company was there and was owned by , a prominent doctor and surgeon in Douglasville.
The Sanborn Fire Insurance maps bear this out since the map for Broad Street for 1895 indicates a two-story wooden structure on the lot and by 1900 the revised map shows the building had been improved with brick as it is now. At some point the Douglasville Café was located there and between the late 30s and early 40s the building burned. I have been told when the building was rebuilt the second floor was not replaced. I’ve also been advised this particular building was the location of Sim’s Five and Dime during the 1960s owned by Jesse and Lamar Smith. One of the unique factors regarding Sim’s was they had toy bins rather than packaging their items.
In 1909, Dr. James R. McKoy and R.E. James erected a new building at the corner of Price and Church Streets. Today you would recognize the building as the one behind the Irish Bred Pub and is the building owned by Dr. Clark Robinson. When it was first built the Masons used the top floor as their meeting place and the post office was located on the first level. The Sanborn map for 1911 lists the location as a lodge Hall, grocery and post office.
Fanny Mae Davis indicates in her history of Douglas County, “In moving their furniture and regalia to the new place, Mr. Hiram Gurley, the [Tyler] of the lodge, drove a real goat (representing the legendary goat which the lodge was reported to have in those days) up the main street and around the corner to the new location.”
I guess it could be argued the move could actually be the first sponsored Mason parade up Broad Street. Can you imagine the spectacle of the goat being driven by Mr. Gurley moving up Broad Street and turning the corner at Price where O’Neal Plaza is today?
If you take a quick Internet search regarding goats and Mason history you find all sorts of speculation and myths mixed in with facts here and there. Eventually the goat reference morphed from a malicious attack to something humorous. Many Mason groups embraced the humor hence the reason for Douglasville’s Masons using a goat publically in their move.
Fanny Mae Davis also advises, "The [Tyler] of the lodge was a combination of doorman and custodian of the hall and, this same Gurley had a cow's horn which he blew like a bugle out through a window, about a half hour before each meeting to remind lodge members it was lodge night since half of the members lived within hearing distance."
It seems to me the Tyler of the lodge had the most interesting and fun-filled responsibility in those days. I guess today’s members are reminded about meetings through text messages and emails though I’d enjoy hearing that horn!
Back in February I took a Sunday walk around the downtown commercial district taking pictures here and here. I zeroed in on and the old lodge building. When you walk around it you can’t help but notice the interesting brick work and of course, the Masonic imagery stands out as well.
Check out my pictures with this column. Notice the three links presented underneath the Mason symbol. The three links are not Mason symbols at all. The three links identify another fraternal service organization referred to as the Oddfellows who are a separate organization. Some sources explain their name comes from the fact that ordinary folks could join where the Masons tended to be more professional in membership during the turn of the century. Fannie Mae Davis refers to the Oddfellows in her book briefly her and there and advises was a member, and he was certainly no ordinary citizen.
The Oddfellows are still a viable fraternal service organization in the United States, but as far as I'm aware they are no longer active in Douglasville. I have to assume since their symbol is also on the building they also used it as a meeting location, but I have not verified the fact yet. The third symbol is also a mystery to me. I thought it might be the symbol of the Order of the Eastern Star, but it doesn't match up. At some point in my research I reach brick walls, but I'm always willing to climb over them and gather more information. I always welcome comments and e-mails from you if you have additional information you can share.
Later during the 1940s, Hoke Bearden and Dave Gurley operated a grocery store from the lower floor. Doctor Hamilton, an M.D., and Dr. Turk, a dentist, had offices there as well at some point. When I first moved to Douglasville in the late 1980s, I remember a shoe repair shop in one of the stores along the O'Neal Plaza side.
Today, the Masons own a building located at 8519 Bowden Street on a lot purchased from F.M. Winn and continue to make productive contributions to our society here in Douglasville.