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Liberty Lodge celebrates 200 years

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By John Barnhart

    Liberty Lodge, Bedford’s Masonic Lodge, will celebrate its founding, Saturday. There won’t be any charter members, however. That’s because the Lodge was chartered in 1813, 200 years ago. It got its name because Bedford was named Liberty back then.

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    The Lodge was organized on July 6, 1813, and received its official charter on Dec. 14, 1813. It met in the home of Charles Mitchell which, Carl Wells, the Lodge’s chaplain, believes was located at the corner of East Main Street and Otey Street.
    The Lodge continued meeting in private homes, depending on members who had a house with a room big enough to host a meeting.
    The members continued to meet in private homes until the building that now houses the Bedford Museum was built.
    “This was the first, actual designated Lodge building,” Wells said.
    That’s where the Lodge was when Wells joined in 1961. The third floor, with its big room, was the only part of the building the Masons used. The rest was rented. Wells recalled lawyers, bookkeepers, insurance agents and a surveyor using the building.
    The Lodge’s bicentennial will be different from the centennial on July 4, 1913, when Lodge members gathered outside the  Lodge  for  a group picture, then followed the Bedford City Band to the fairgrounds, located where Longwood Cemetery is today. There the Mason’s past state grand master, R. T. W. Duke proclaimed that the world was getting better every day. A little more than a year later, World War I, the bloodiest, most destructive war in the history of the world up to that point, broke out. That war’s sequel, World War II, would be even worse, leaving much of Europe in ruins and introducing the atomic bomb.
    The bicentennial will begin at noon, Saturday, with an open house until 4:30 p.m. This will be followed by a dinner at 6:30 p.m. Wayne Flora, the Mason’s Virginia Grand Master, will come for the event and Bedford Mayor Bob Wandrei will  present a proclamation from Town Council.
    Anyone who has questions may call Wells at (540) 875-7301 or James Bowyer, Liberty Lodge’s worshipful master, at (540) 610-9925.