It started with high ideals and principals, and 150 years later, the Masonic Lodge 165 in Athens is 200 members strong and continues to reinforce those same ideals and principals.

Athens’s lodge was established in April 1854 — just 17 years after the first lodge in Texas was started — and chartered in 1856.

“Our lodge is actually older than the city of Dallas,” said Athens Mason Greg Phillips, with a laugh.

Athens Mayor and fellow Mason Randy Daniel signed a proclamation Friday, May 19, declaring May 27 ‘Masonic Lodge 165 Day’ in Athens.

“The first lodge was actually located across the highway from where the lodge is now,” Daniel said. The lodge is located at 2030 Hwy. 175, Athens.

Lodge officials said the membership is about 200 right now.

A celebration will be held at the lodge at 6 p.m. Friday, May 27. Texas Mason Grand Master Brian Dodson will present the lodge with an award from the grand lodge.

“Everyone is invited to come out and help us celebrate the occasion,” Daniel said.

According to the Grand Lodge of Texas Web site, www.grandlodgeoftexas.org, the Freemasons of Texas is a fraternity established in 1837 that teaches the importance of helping the less fortunate and is itself supported wholly by donations.

The group supports charities including the Shriners, the Order of the Eastern Star, and the Scottish Rite. In the U.S. alone, all branches of Masonry combined provide over of $1.5 million of charitable aid per day.

Masonry developed from lodges of operative or stone masons. The Masonry of today is distinguished from the stone masonry of old by being referred to as “Speculative” Masonry. Speculative or Freemasonry does not work with stone but instead works on the lives of men. Its teachings take the imagery of carpentry and architecture and use that imagery to teach by symbols about building a good character.

The group requires its adherents to believe in God and in life after death, but is not a religion. All faiths and denominations are a part of the worldwide Masonic fraternity. Politics and religion are not allowed to be discussed when a lodge is in session.

Sharing masonry secrets is also forbidden — not because Masonry is ashamed of anything. It is because an element of secrecy serves to heighten interest in Masonic teaching. It is also because most people would not benefit from being introduced to Masonic teachings out of the context of the Masonic degree system.

Historical figures Paul Revere, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston were all Masons.

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e-mail cross@athensreview.com

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