A 1936 newspaper clipping commented on the activities of the Ray City Masonic lodge No. 553,
Atlanta Daily World
July 8, 1936 Pg 2
St. John’s Day was held at Ray City last Sunday. Prof. C.O. Davis was the speaker. Prof. Davis is the Deputy Grand Master of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Georgia.
Masons have been a part of Ray City, GA history since the beginning of the town. The lodge in Ray City was constituted in 1909. In 1910, as the Methodist church was being organized in Ray City, a revival was held in the Masonic hall.
Ray City founder Thomas M. Ray was a Mason, as were Perry Thomas Knight, A. J. Pert, James Henry Swindle, Caswell Yawn, Dr. Pierce Hubert, Hod Clements, D. Edwin Griner and Lucius Jordan Clements among others. In 1909, Lacy Lester Shaw served treasurer of Ray City lodge No. 553. From 1858 to 1878 Hardeman Sirmans was a member Butler Lodge, No. 211 in Milltown.
At the time of his death in 1907 Judge A. H. Hansell, of the Southern Circuit, was the oldest living Mason in the state of Georgia.
A marble stone set in the only remaining commercial brick building in Ray City, designates it as the “Masonic Building,” one time home of the Free & Accepted Masons Lodge No. 553. At Brian Brown’s Vanishing South Georgia blog, Ray City residents have commented on the history of this building, which once was home to the Ray City drugstore and later, the Victory Soda Shop.
The Free and Accepted Masons were active in the Wiregrass long before the formation of the lodge at Ray City in 1909. Lodge No. 211 was incorporated 50 years earlier at Milltown (nka Lakeland, GA) in 1858. Somewhat earlier, St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was constituted at Troupville on November 2, 1854. Circuit riding Methodist reverend John Slade was a member there, as were Norman Campbell, and William C. Newbern. Andrew J. Liles, postmaster of Milltown, was a member. The Masonic lodge at old Troupville met on the first and third Tuesday nights upstairs in Swains Hotel, situated on the banks of Little River and owned by Morgan G. Swain.
According to the History of Lowndes County, GA, the officers of St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 were:
Reverend Thomas W. Ellis, Worshipful Master;
Ephriam H. Platt, Senior Warden;
Benjamin C. Clay, Junior Warden;
Charles H. Howell, Secretary;
John Brown, Treasurer;
William H. Dasher, Senior Deacon;
J. T. C. Adams, Junior Deacon;
John B. Cashan, Tyler.
Other founding members in addition to those mentioned above were:
William T. Roberts, James H. Carroll, Adam Graham, Thomas Moore, William Dees, Daniel Mathis, Thomas D. Wilkes, S. D. Smith, James Harrell, J. N. Waddy. William J. Mabry, George Brown, William Jones, J. C. Pautelle, J. R. M. Smith, Reverend F. R. C. Ellis, Robert B. Hester, , William Godfrey, W. D. M. Howell, Hustice Moore, J. Harris, W. H. Carter, William A. Sanford, Willis Allen, Jeremiah Williams, William A. Carter, John R. Walker, William D. Martin, J. E. Stephens, R. W. Leverett, L. M. Ayers, S. Manning, James Carter, Willis Roland, John W. Clark, James A. Darsey, the Entered Apprentices Judge Richard A. Peeples, William Ashley, J. J. Goldwire, snd Fellowcrafts William T. Roberts and Moses Smith.
Troupville lodge member William J. Mabry, moved in 1856 to Nashville, GA, seat of the newly created Berrien County, where he built the first Berrien court house in 1857 and also became the first Worshipful Master of Duncan Lodge No. 3. Later, the St. John the Baptist Lodge No. 184 was moved from Troupville to Valdosta, GA.
A post on the Masonic Traveler Blog by mason and artist, Greg Stewart explains the significance of Saint John the Baptist Day.
The Saint’s Johns appear to Freemasons in several places in our catechisms. Their proximity and use in our rituals have been questioned for many years as to their use and placement. Looked at together, saint John the Baptist and St. John the Evangelist serve to represent the balance in Masonry between zeal for the fraternity and learned equilibrium. The Saints John, stand in perfect parallel harmony representing that balance.
From a historical approach, The Saint John’s festival is said to be a widely celebrated Masonic holiday. Traditionally June 24th (or the summer Solstice) is taken to be John the Baptist’s day, which is celebrated in many cultures around the world. According to McCoy’s Masonic Dictionary, the Festival of St. John in summer is a duty of every Mason to participate in, and should serve to be a renewal and strengthening of fraternal ties and a celebration of Masonry from “olden-times”. It functions as a connection between the past and the future.
More on St. John’s Day via Masonic Traveler: Saint John the Baptist Day, Duality in One. June 24th.
Other Ray City Masons:
- Eddie D. Boyette
- Philip Dewitt Carter
- Lorenzo D. Carter
- William I. Barker
- Dr. B. F. Julian
- Kate Nobles ~ Supreme Forest Woodmen Circle
- Thomas M Ray Founded Ray’s Mill in 1863
- Biographical Sketch of John T. Ray ~ Ray’s Mill Foundling
- James Henry Swindle and the Georgia Official and Statistical Register
- James Henry Gaskins – Clerk of the Superior Court