A strong contingent of Virginia Masons sojourned northward into Pennsylvania – not with torches in hand, but rather Masonic fellowship in mind. Brethren from Freedom 118, Ashburn-Sterling 288, Olive Branch 114, Hamilton-Thompson 37, and Herndon 264 journeyed to Pennsylvania to visit the Brethren of George Washington Lodge No. 143 in Chambersburg. George Washington Lodge is celebrating their bi-centennial this year.
It was jokingly said that the last time so many Virginians were in town, they burned the place. During the summer of 1864, Confederate troops under the direction of General John McCausland moved into Chambersburg seeking retribution for Union looting and destruction of private property in the Shenandoah Valley. A demand for $100,000 in gold or $500,000 in currency was made. The citizens were unwilling to comply, so the order was given to torch the town. Some 550 buildings went up in flames, but not the entire town. The Masonic Temple was spared when an Confederate Officer who was also a Mason posted guards to prevent its burning.
McCausland’s raid would be the last time that Confederate forces entered Pennsylvania during the Civil War. But, the tone and demeanor of this incursion would set the tone for the final months of the war. General Philip Sheridan pushed into the Shenandoah Valley and effectively destroyed the agricultural life of the Valley’s residents by extensive burning of barns and crops. General William Sherman captured the city of Atlanta and then burned it to the ground.
Gladly, this visit to Chambersburg was on a much friendlier note with fellowship and promises of future visits between Lodges. Several of the visiting Brothers were return guests to Chambersburg. Worshipful Fleagle and Right Worshipful Brooks fathers are both members of George Washington 143.