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History of W.K. Bray Lodge

Records of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania codify that an initial lodge had existed, located in the Beans Tavern in Warminster County, known as the Philanthropy Lodge No. 195. “Located on the West side of York Road, a couple of hundred yards south of Street Road…” this short-lived lodge permanently went dark (closed) during the Anti-Masonic agitations of the 1830’s. It served long enough, however, to lay down a solid Masonic foundation in the region.

After the Anti-Masonic agitations of the 1830’s had passed, Doylestown Lodge No. 245 was constituted on August 27, 1850. Prior to the establishment of a lodge in Hatboro, Masonic brethren who resided in Hatboro had to travel all the way to Doylestown Lodge, a 13 mile trip. Poor roads, inclement weather and the inherent perils of horse traveling in the dark of night made this a very dangerous expedition. But being the only Lodge in the immediate region, Freemasons residing in Hatboro and the surrounding communities had no viable alternatives.

In the spring of 1867 the initial plans for the erection of a Lodge in Hatboro were formulated and in November 8 of that same year, eight (8) brothers formally resigned from the Doylestown Lodge No. 245 with the intention of erecting a new lodge in Hatboro. On March 30, 1868 a Dispensation was granted by the Right Worshipful Grand Master Richard Vaux to constitute a Lodge in Hatboro. On Thursday, April 9th 1868 the Ceremony of Installation of Officers took place at Hatboro. Interestingly, the name of this new Lodge was to have been “Hatboro Lodge”, but that name was crossed out in the original petition and the name “W.K. Bray” was inserted. Brother William Kirk Bray was at the time serving as District Deputy Grand Master (1868-1869) for the 26th Masonic District, which contained Bucks and Montgomery counties. His support and assistance in the establishing of this new lodge had proved to be the keystone to the effort. The name change was a recognition and time-anchored salute to the successful results of his untiring labor. Brother Bray died in 1872 at the age of forty two (42) and was buried at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia on September 26.

Originally, W.K. Bray Lodge No. 410 was what is called a Moon Lodge, meeting every Wednesday on or before the full moon. This schedule was reflective of worldly realities, rather than some esoteric, astrological or mystical raison d'être. In the late 1800’s the roads were generally poor and unlit and travel was considerably safer by the light of the full moon. It was also popularly believed that the weather was best at that time of the month. W.K. Bray remained a Moon Lodge until 1917, when the meeting night was changed to its current schedule, the third Wednesday of the month.

The first meeting place of the W.K. Bray Lodge was at Jones' Hotel located on South York Road in Hatboro. The proprietor was John B. Jones, a Warrant Member of the Lodge, and it's first Treasurer. In 1891, the hotel was sold to Harry Wilson and became known as Wilson's Hall. The Lodge continued to meet there until the building was destroyed by fire in 1897.

The second meeting place for the Lodge was “Wilgus Hall”, a building that housed the “town's largest grocery store” and a focal point for Borough activities. The Lodge continued meeting in the third floor of Wilgus Hall until, in the early morning hours of December 22, 1914 the Wilgus Building was completely destroyed in a conflagration that was described as “…the largest and most destructive fire that has happened in Hatboro since the installation of the Borough water mains fifteen or twenty years ago.” The building was a total loss with only the stone walls left standing, but as the building cooled down the walls buckled and had to be torn down. All Masonic records to that date were lost in the fire. Not one to be checkmated by a fire, Brother Willis W. Wilgus, owner of the Wilgus Building immediately started rebuilding the facility and in October 20, 1915, the lodge held its first meeting in the newly constructed Wilgus Hall.

On September of 1945 W.K. Bray Lodge #410 entered into an agreement to purchase the Wilgus property and on September 19, 1962 the Lodge made the final payment on the purchase of the property from Willis W. Wilgus and Golda B. Wilgus and the title to the property was placed in the hands of the Lodge’s Trustees. W.K. Bray Lodge #410 meets in this facility to this day.

From the very inception of Masonry in the region, members of W.K. Bray Lodge No. 410 have consistently demonstrated a deep-felt interest and dedication to their community and nation that remains unexcelled. This record of public service speaks for itself and is truly an example of freemasonry “Keeping the Promise of America.”

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