In the heart of the Touchet Valley, the Waitsburg Grocery stands as a familiar landmark. However, many might be unaware that this building also houses the Masonic Lodge #16.
Established after the original edifice was consumed by fire, the current lodge was built in 1913 with a budget of $26,000.
The design incorporated a second floor dedicated to Masonic activities, while the ground floor was reserved for local businesses. Over the years, Waitsburg Grocery has occupied this space and is presently under the management of Jamie Allen.
Skip Winchester, the lodge’s “Worshipful Master” – a title equivalent to “President” in Freemasonry, emphasizes the dual purpose of the structure. It not only garners community support but also serves the local populace through the business.
Freemasonry, the world’s oldest fraternal and philanthropic organization, traces its origins back to 14th-century professional guilds of skilled builders. The modern iteration of Freemasonry emerged between the 17th and 18th centuries, with the first Grand Lodge being established in England in 1717.
This period saw Masonry evolve into a more philosophical entity, embracing principles like religious tolerance, free thought, and moral upliftment.
Today, Freemasonry prides itself on being a diverse brotherhood of morally upright men. While it operates as a secret society, its core values revolve around self-improvement and community service. Notably, several of America’s historic figures, such as George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Buzz Aldrin, were Freemasons.
Despite its rich history, membership in organizations like the Masons has seen a decline over the years. Winchester attributes this to the busier lifestyles of today’s generation and the plethora of entertainment options available. However, he also notes that larger cities have witnessed a revival in Masonic participation.
The Waitsburg lodge, in its commitment to community service, supports the Early Life Speech and Language (ELSL) program. This initiative offers diagnostic assessment and treatment for children with significant communication delays.
Furthermore, the lodge has always prioritized maintaining a full-service grocery in Waitsburg. Scott Archer, a member since 1989, emphasizes the importance of the Waitsburg Grocery to the lodge, as it covers the insurance for the building.