The history of Good Samaritan Lodge #336 is interesting on various levels as it is full of influential members of the local community, takes place in one of the nation’s most written about, visited, and historically significant areas, and spans such a significant amount of time. This page is only to touch on some of the more significant events in our history, and is by no means complete.
Masonry had been established in Pennsylvania for about a century before the organization of the first Good Samaritan Lodge in Gettysburg. We know this, due to the fact, that the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was created under English Masonic authority in 1730, but there were already Lodges, such as St. John’s Lodge in Philadelphia, that were established and active. After American independence had been won in the Revolutionary War, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania declared its independence from English control in 1786.
Therefore, by the time Brother Robert G. Harper petitioned the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania (through George Washington Lodge #143 in Chambersburg,) for a Charter and permission to form Good Samaritan Lodge #200 in Gettysburg, there had already been much Masonic activity and growth in the area. The petition Brother Harper filed was dated October 29, 1824, and the Lodge’s warrant of constitution was issued at the quarterly Grand Communication held on December 20, 1824 in Philadelphia. The first officers of the Lodge were Brother Sampson L. King as Worshipful Master, Brother Robert G. Harper as Senior Warden, and Brother Thomas Reed as Junior Warden, and the Lodge was constituted on January 1, 1825.
This new Lodge had a short period of growth, starting with five warrant members, and reaching a total of thirty-seven members by 1827. Stated meetings were held twice monthly at 6:00pm during the six months when the days were shorter, and once a month at 7:00pm during the rest of the year. Dues were twenty-five cents per stated meeting. During this time, the Lodge was financially stable and was even prosperous enough to loan $80.00, an enormous sum of money at the time, to Brother Sampson S. King P.M. in 1826. It was also able to field various requests for financial aid from the surrounding community. Among the more unusual requests for charity was one from another Lodge for aid to the American Colonization Society, organized to send Negros back to Africa, (which was refused,) and another for the Methodist Episcopal Sunday School in Gettysburg, which was given three dollars. However, even though this prosperous time, the Lodge had some trying times to work its way through. One brother was admonished for “irregular intemperance” and given six weeks in which to prove his reform to the Lodge, and another was suspended for defrauding some of the members of their property. A third was asked to withdraw his membership from the Lodge because he had expressed unorthodox views concerning the divine inspiration of some parts of the Bible. Failing to secure his withdrawal, the member was suspended for a time and then he later withdrew.
After the first two years of otherwise healthy growth, difficulties seem to have developed all too soon preventing the development of a strong organization capable of survival in trying times. Sixteen withdrawals and three suspensions highlight a deficiency in the Lodge for the years of 1827-1829, and by 1832, only twenty-eight out of fifty-six admissions remained on the membership roll. Even these figures are misleading though, for during these last years there were only a handful of active members. According to Lodge records, it became increasingly difficult to open the Lodge due to the absence of both officers and members. In 1829, the funds were placed in the hands of the Worshipful Master, because of the treasurer’s failure to attend stated meetings. By today’s standards, it seems strange that Brother Robert G. Harper should become Worshipful Master in 1826 and continue to hold that office for seven years, but these factors suggest a weakness and lack of harmony that go far as to explain why the Lodge was dissolved on December 6, 1832, and the warrant vacated on February 6, 1837. This time also coincided with a period when Masonry was under political attack led by Thaddeus Stevens from the halls of the state house through to the church pulpits. Neighboring Lodges at Hanover, Lancaster, Harrisburg, and Chambersburg survived the anti-Masonic attacks, but a great many Lodges in the state suffered the same fate as that of Gettysburg.
Loyal Masons must have bitterly resented the misrepresentation of Masonic purposes and ideals by disgruntled former Masons and by Anti-Masons and some of the members of the disbanded Lodge remained devoted and loyal to Masonry in the years that followed. Three of them, Brother Robert Harper, Brother Joel B. Danner, and Bother John Geiselman, were among the warrant members of the new Good Samaritan Lodge #336, which was constituted February 23, 1860. Brother Harper was the first Worshipful Master of this second Good Samaritan Lodge in Gettysburg, Brother Danner was the Treasurer, and Brother Geiselman was Tyler.
There were eight warrant members of this second Lodge present at the first meeting in 1860, and each of them filled an office. From that small beginning, the membership roll grew slowly during the Civil War, but at the close of the war, the membership grew rapidly. One hundred and eighteen signed the by-laws in the first decade, and the number of new members continued to grow in the succeeding decades. More than 1,300+ members have now joined the Lodge since its re-founding in1860.
From these same membership records throughout the history of the Lodge, we see that there was a large growth in the period following the Civil War, and then the additions to the roll dropped off sharply. Each succeeding decade show a steady growth until the depression of the 1930s when the trend temporarily reversed itself. Economic conditions undoubtedly played an important part in the rate of membership growth from the beginning of 1860.
The first meeting of Good Samaritan Lodge #336 in 1860 was held in the Odd Fellows Hall on Chambersburg Street and the District Deputy Grand Master dedicated and consecrated the Lodge room there. A “hall” was shortly rented from John Rupp at an annual rental of $19.00. After five years in the first hall, another hall was rented in January, 1865. The new hall was in the Hartley building at the corner of Carlisle and Railroad streets. The hall was leased for ten years. The new hall was fitted for “Masonic purposes” at a considerable expense. Specific items listed included: gas lighting, a clock, two stoves. One dozen palm leaf fans, a table for the anteroom, a registration book for visitors and a mirror for the preparing room. As a result the Lodge debt mounted to over a thousand dollars. This did not deter the members from subscribing for six shares in the Gettysburg Building Association. This proved to be a good investment, fully justifying their financial optimism.
Within those first few years of being re-established, the Civil War broke out and both the Lodge and the Country itself were put to a test of perseverance. This also gave numerous opportunities for thoughts on the meaning of true charity and humanity. One example of this occurred a few days after the battle of Pickett’s charge (July 4th or 5th). A Confederate officer, probably a member of Wright’s or Perry’s brigade, First Mississippi, Armisted’s Division, was found killed near the Codori farm buildings on the Emmittsburg road. Several days later, upon burying the body on the south side of the Codori barn, they found on his person identification that listed him as a member of the Masonic Fraternity. The local Masonic Lodge, Good Samaritan #336, heard of the dead Confederate officer and the location of the grave and came to help. They cared for the grave on the farm by enclosing it in a fence, putting up a headstone, and trimming the grass for their fallen brother. This is just one example highlighting the fact that for the Masons there was no division of the North and South, they were brothers, no matter what the circumstances. Some years later, the Lodge was instrumental in having the remains of the officer returned to his family in the south.
The establishment of a Lodge room entailed some expense and the Lodge began to fall behind in the payment of the dues to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. By the close of 1867, the Lodge was in arrears for two years. The officers were not disturbed about this, for they had explained their financial problems to some of the Grand Officers and they consequently expected they would not be pressed for payment. However, the Grand Master considered this improper under Masonic Law and the warrant was suspended effective December 4, 1867. The arrears were quickly paid and the warrant was restored February 28, 1868. A communication to this effect from the Grand Master was read in a special meeting held April 2, 1868. This was the first mention of the situation in the minutes. A protest was later sent to the Grand Master, who replied in detail sustaining his action. A request that the protest be presented to the Grand Lodge at its next meeting closed the local record of the unfortunate incident. The following October the treasurer was ordered to pay the Grand Lodge dues for that year – an action taken in plenty of time to prevent falling in arrears again on the next St. John’s Day. The continued existence of the Lodge was never again jeopardized.
The Lodge moved to its present quarters in late March, 1899. Nine months before it had accepted a proposal from Brother Samuel M. Bushman that the Lodge rent the second floor of the building he intended to construct. If the Lodge wished to buy the building after five years, it would pay the original investment in the building plus five percent interest. It was built to meet Masonic requirements and a building committee was appointed. The plan was enlarged and a three-story building was constructed instead of the two stories originally planned. September 12, 1899 the new Lodge room was dedicated.
A resolution to take an option on the building was adopted in July 1900, and early the next year the By-Laws were amended to provide for three trustees. The purchase of the building was considered in 1904, and again in 1909, but the lease was continued instead. In 1915 the lease was extended. R.P. Funkhouser having become the owner of the building in the meantime. A year later a committee was appointed to choose a site for a Masonic building. Again in 1922 and 1923, the same proposal was being considered, and the building committee reported in January, 1923, that the Methodist Church property was suitable for Masonic purposes. They also reported that the Funkhouser property was to be sold and the Lodge would have the first chance to purchase the property.
A special meeting authorized the purchase of the Funkhouser building at 9 Lincoln Square, Gettysburg, and in February, 1924, the purchase was approved. To assist in the purchase, Brother Chester N. Gitt P.M. had withdrawn his offer to buy the building. Irvin L. Taylor of the Gettysburg National Bank strongly backed the project in critical moments. Two other key figures were Brother Charles W. Myers P.M., the treasurer, and Brother W. Preston hull, the Worshipful Master. The title to the property was subject to an agreement between P.W. Stallsmith and R.P Funkhouser concerning the use of the “Passageway.” Loans were secured and the Lodge’s stocks and Bonds were sold, and with this financing the transaction was completed. Fifteen years after the purchase of the building, in January, 1938, the building was finally free of debt, the Lodge having made the final payment on the note on the building. Two years later the rents of the Chapter and the Commandery were reduced in consideration of the canceling of the notes held by these two bodies. Good Samaritan Lodge had successfully achieved its long-sought goal of owning its own hall, and at the same time, had acquired a valuable income producing property.
It is impractical to try to enumerate all of the interesting matters recorded after the present quarters were occupied, but during all the years of its existence, Good Samaritan Lodge has been privileged to share its fellowship with visiting brethren from near and far. It has had many opportunities to render aid and assistance to brethren and their families, widely dispersed. Such acts of charity and many other interesting events might be related in detail. But Good Samaritan Lodge, and Freemasonry in general, is more concerned about the services it can render and the good it can do, rather in proclaiming its deeds and accomplishments.