Nestled atop an Ozarks hill along Route KK in rural Webster County, Missouri, stands a beacon-like structure with a history that spans more than 150 years. Mt. Olive Lodge No. 439 AF & AM, a Masonic lodge with deep roots in the local community, is not only a landmark but also a testament to the enduring legacy of Freemasonry in the region.
Established in the early 1870s, Mt. Olive Lodge has the distinction of being one of the oldest Masonic lodges operating in its original building west of the Mississippi River. What began as both a church and a lodge has evolved into a cherished institution that continues to serve its members and the broader community.
The building that houses Mt. Olive Lodge has a history as rich and varied as the Masonic order itself. Originally constructed as a Masonic Lodge and a Methodist Episcopal Church, the structure was completed in 1872 with lumber that was hauled by oxcart from Arkansas. The lodge was officially chartered in the same year, and an adjacent cemetery, which dates back to 1862, became part of the property.
Freemasonry, often shrouded in secrecy and ritual, is a society with origins dating back to the Middle Ages. Its members, known collectively as the brethren, are often bound by oaths of fellowship, moral discipline, and mutual assistance. Mt. Olive Lodge exemplifies these principles, serving as a hub for both friendship and service to others.
Over the years, many Masonic lodges have relocated to more central locations within cities and towns, but Mt. Olive Lodge has remained steadfast in its original rural setting. In contrast to modern Masonic buildings, Mt. Olive Lodge retains its historical character, complete with square nails and well-worn floorboards. Indoor plumbing was installed only recently; for many years, an outhouse served the needs of lodge members and visitors.
Today, Mt. Olive Lodge meets monthly on the third Monday, providing an opportunity for members to come together for dinner and fellowship. The sense of history is palpable, with ceremonial tools such as the original trowel and gavel serving as tangible links to the past. A sign out front, made with rocks from the original foundation, further reminds visitors of the lodge’s storied history.
Despite its rural location, Mt. Olive Lodge boasts a membership of around 115 Masons, some of whom travel from outside the immediate area to attend meetings. The lodge’s commitment to community service is evident in activities such as a special Christmas dinner for retired and elderly individuals, a tradition that was started in the mid-1990s by a lodge member and continues to this day.
As Mt. Olive Lodge looks toward the future, it does so with a deep sense of reverence for its past. Its members take pride in the lodge’s heritage and rural values, and the bonds of brotherhood and service that define the Masonic order remain as strong as ever. In a world of constant change, Mt. Olive Lodge stands as a timeless beacon of history and fellowship in the Ozarks.
by Kaitlyn McConnell Daily Citizen, 8th April 2023