In the decade that followed the conclusion of the War Between the States, the settlement at Dykesboro became the incorporated town of Cochran in Pulaski County, Georgia, in 1869. The development of Cochran into a commercial center was enhanced by the completion of the Macon and Brunswick Railroad which served Cochran and allowed her principal products of lumber and cotton to travel via train to points north and to the Georgia coast for delivery to both foreign and domestic cities.
The seat of Pulaski County being at Hawkinsville on the western banks of the Ocmulgee River, it was necessary for the inhabitants of Cochran to cross the river to reach the county seat where banking and larger retail establishments existed. Masons in Cochran were members of Mt. Hope Lodge #9 at Hawkinsville and in order to attend, it was necessary for them to travel ten miles and cross the river by ferry to reach the Lodge.
It was in this setting that a group of Masons from Cochran met in October, 1874, to seek the creation of a Lodge at Cochran. One writer has indicated that the Cochran Lodge was chartered on October 16, 1874, with Thomas F. Walker, W.M., under dispensation. However, the proceedings of the grand Lodge of Georgia for 1874 state that on Thursday, October 29, 1874, the Committee on Charters and By-Laws made a motion from the floor during the annual meeting of the Grand Lodge that a charter be granted to Cochran Lodge #217 F&AM. The motion was carried and thus was established a Lodge at Cochran which has been in continuous, uninterrupted existence for over 120 years.
During the October, 1874, meetings of the Lodge, the following officers were elected for the year 1875. T.F. Walker, WM; Sol Maas, SW; Y.H. Morgan, JW; W.M. Wynne, Treas.; Virgil Perry, Sec.; D.M. Ryle, SD; John H. Johnson, JD; W.C. McNair, SS; J.E O’Berry, JS; J.E. Booth, Tyler. These officers along with the following men constituted the Charter Members of Cochran Lodge #217 F&AM. Elijah Cook; Daniel N. Fann; Chas. F. Garrett; D.A. Harrell; B. A. Herndon; Jas. N. Jones; E. B. Lennon; Henry Lucas Sam Mayer; P.G. Purser; B.F. Ryle; J.T. Reeves; W.R. Steely; Hugh Smith; David Sapp; and C.W.M. Wynne.
These twenty-six Brothers were faithful to their new Lodge and attendance was good at the regular communications held in Raifford Hall, a wooden two story structure on the corner of 1st and Beech Streets. The personal conduct of these Brothers created good impressions on the minds of men in Cochran and the membership of the Lodge increased. In the early 1890's, a Lodge Hall and store building was constructed on 2nd Street and completed in 1895. The funds were raised by contributions, personal loans, and a bank loan. The annual dues were raised to $5.00 per year and each member was requested to contribute $25.00. Some members dropped out during this time and the total membership fell below seventy members. However, the diligent efforts of Brother T.D. Walker, as Worshipful Master from 1893 to 1901 and of many of the charter members sustained the Lodge during this crucial period and by the turn of the century, Cochran Lodge had met the test of endurance by completing its newest Lodge building and its membership rolls were again increasing.
In 1959 the Lodge Hall was renovated by the addition of a kitchen and restrooms and by increasing the size of the downstairs store which has been rented through the years. The revenue derived from the store has greatly assisted the Lodge in its charitable purposes. Later, the solid oak furnishings of the Lodge were refinished in natural wood and carpet was installed in the Lodge.
Under Worshipful Master James E. Turman in 1980 repairs were made to the dining hall by installing a new floor and floor covering. During this year the Brethren enjoyed several delicious deer stews. We all could have possibly gained a few pounds during this year because of all the good meals. During 1981, under WBro Joe Allen, new carpet was installed in the Lodge Hall and the walls received a face-lift with a new coat of paint. Carpet was also installed on the stairs which was worn and dangerous. The Lodge hosted the 12th District Meeting this year and served a shrimp dinner to 276 Brethren, the largest district meeting in recent years. Some talk was given of building a new Lodge, but no action was taken for lack of funds. In 1984 under the guidance of Worshipful Master Richard G. Smith, the Brethren voted to sell the old two-story Lodge building and to build a new single story Lodge. The old Lodge was built in 1896 and was costing more in insurance than the income from the lower floor was producing. Worshipful Master Smith worked hard to raise the needed remaining funds to build the new Lodge. The cement floor was poured and the donations were almost completed. The blue prints were drawn by WBro. Joe Allen, PM and the Brethren were ready to start to work on the new Lodge.
In 1985 under Worshipful Master Harry Foskey the new Lodge was completed. After much hard work and many sore fingers, a dream had come true. Worshipful Master Foskey, under Special Dispensation from Grand Lodge, moved the Charter from the old Lodge to the new Lodge. This was a very happy occasion showing that all things are possible when Brethren work together. The new lodge is valued at $110,000.00. The cost to us was $64,000.00, not including our labor and donated material. The Lodge had an unpaid balance of only $900.00 at the years end. The Corner Stone was laid by the Grand Master WBro Carl Don in 1986, while WBro. Harold B. Simpson was Worshipful Master. Several small unfinished jobs were completed and the remaining debts were retired. During 1988 under Worshipful Master J.W. Maddox the Lodge completed every project started and each one was a success even though the Lodge took on a very lax attitude. Worshipful Master Maddox took a lot of ribbing from the Brethren because he always seemed to arrive late, but he took it very well and always joked back with something. The Lodge's membership roll increased by nine this year, the largest increase since 1979.
During WBro. George S. Kight, Sr. year as Worshipful Master, 1990, the Lodge was awarded the coveted "Grand Master's Cup" by MWBro. William Daniel, Grand Master, which goes to the "Best of the Best" or the Best Masonic Lodge in the State of Georgia. The Brethren worked hard for this award and it was well deserved.
In 2000, the Worshipful Master and other Officers approached the Cochran City Mayor and requested that our street name be changed to "Masonic Drive" As we are the only building on this street and due to our great community service, this request was granted by the Mayor and City Council. Our new street address is now "217 Masonic Drive".
In 2003 the Lodge was again awarded the “Grand Master’s Cup” by MWBro. Bobby B. Simmons, Grand Master. This was quite a feat for a ‘small country Lodge’ being able to receive the “Grand Master’s Cup” twice. We’re now working on a THIRD time in the future.
We have up to 5 members from Cochran Lodge #217 on different Grand Lodge committees each Grand Lodge year proving that we are extremely active in not only local Masonic activities, but state-wide involvement as well. A member of the Lodge is a member of the Southern California Lodge of Research which allow us to present to each Entered Apprentice Mason his very own copy of “The Craft and its Symbols” by Allen E. Roberts.
Throughout its first 130+ years, Cochran Lodge #217 has engaged in numerous charitable activities. Annual Contributions are made to the Masonic Home of Georgia Endowment Fund, and the Masonic Education Fund of the Grand Lodge of Georgia. Additionally, the Lodge has supported athletic programs in Cochran, programs to offer Masonic services at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Dublin, and various persons in need through the years.
In 2004 WBro. Frank Berryhill, WM designed and had minted a 130 Year Lodge Coin that we present to our Newly Raised Master Masons and other Special Guests of the Lodge. We also sell these custom coins to insure the presented coins don’t become a financial burden upon the Lodge.
Our custom built wooden Masonic Jewelry Box Charity Project has grown into an ongoing ‘business’. We now have an inventory of seven different style Jewelry Boxes, 3 Masonic and 4 non-Masonic. The profits from the Masonic type Jewelry Boxes all go to Masonic Charity and the non-Masonic type Jewelry Boxes go to the Lodge building account to insure the upkeep of our beautiful Lodge building. Our Lodge Secretary also has his little “Masonic pins and trinkets” briefcase that he carries with him with items to sell. He also has an ongoing concern selling Masonic Decals with the profits of these two projects going to our Masonic Widows Fund. This allows us to present our Masonic Widows with various “goodies” and other necessities throughout the year.
Our Quarterly Pancake Breakfasts have become famous in and around Bleckley County and have allowed us to present a full Christmas to up to 6 families per year through our “Joe Lassiter Secret Santa Pancake Breakfast Fund”.
The Lodge allowed a number of its Members to use the facilities when a group of York Rite Masons wished to form a new Chapter, Council and Commandery. Over a years hard work came to being when we received our Middle Georgia Chapter #165, Royal Arch Masons Charter; Dublin Council #12 Charter and St. Michael Commandery #43 Charter. We are now an active and very busy York Rite Body with members from the surrounding counties and Masonic Lodges.
Another annual event is the distributing of Thesaurus’s to all the 6th grade students at Bleckley County Middle School each year. To our knowledge we are the only Masonic Lodge in Georgia to do this for our young people in the community. We wear our Masonic Lodge shirts and insert a sticker with the Lodge’s name and address along with a place for the students name on the inside cover.
The Lodge had a history of building wheel chair ramps for those in the community who showed a need. One year we build 17 ramps for those needy families. The local Pilot Club of Cochran heard of our Wheel Chair Ramp building and donated a sizable amount to be used for the ramps in the community thereby allowing us to use some of our charity money elsewhere in the local area. This has led to the Ladies of the Pilot Club and the men of Cochran Lodge #217 working together on more and more projects.
In October of 2007 the Grand Lodge of Georgia instituted the GACHIP (GeorgiA CHild Identification Program) and Cochran Lodge #217 has taken it to heart. As of 25 April 2008 we have ID’ed 484 children in our local area with two more GACHIP events scheduled. We have partnered with the Pilot Club of Cochran on our GACHIP events and the Ladies are just outstanding with their help. No information is kept by either the Lodge or local officials with all the child’s information going directly to the parent or guardian.
This is just a short history of Cochran Masonic Lodge #217, but it shows how the Brethren of Cochran from October 1874 to the present has always taken the lead in Georgia Masonry. We don’t look for the dark side of a project, we only look at what good it will do and when can we start it.
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