History of Hart Lodge #61 Free and Accepted Masons
by Glen Teater, Lodge Historian
Brother J. Winston Coleman, Jr., famous Kentucky historian, wrote, “The history of the human race does not record a more amazing episode than the deluge of emigrants, who, pouring through the Cumberland Gap at the close of the eighteenth century, spread over all the boundaries of the present State of Kentucky, and within the short period of twenty years converted a boundless wilderness into prosperous farms and commodious villages.”
Many of these immigrants were Freemasons from the eastern states of Virginia, Pennsylvania and North Carolina. It was only natural for them to want to create Masonic Lodges in this District of Virginia called Kentucky. And so they did, first at Lexington Lodge, No. 25 in 1788, then at Paris Lodge, No. 35 in 1791, Georgetown No. 46 in 1796, Hiram Lodge, No. 57 at Frankfort in 1799, and Abraham’s Lodge at Shelbyville in 1800. These five lodges were established by the Grand Lodge of Virginia.
Masonic Lodges were beginning to flourish in what would become central Kentucky, but they were all far removed from their home Grand Lodge in Virginia. Brother Coleman writes, “Distances and dangers coupled with the unsatisfactory means of communication suggested the desirability of asking permission from Virginia to sever connections and to establish a Grand Lodge of Kentucky.”
Permission was sought by these lodges to create a Grand Lodge of Kentucky and the Grand Lodge of Virginia consented. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky was created in October of 1800.
Under the newly created Grand Lodge of Kentucky, Lexington Lodge, No. 25 being the oldest lodge in Kentucky became known as Lexington Lodge, No. 1. Likewise, the other lodges took new charters and numbers: Paris Lodge, No. 2; Georgetown Lodge, No. 3; Hiram Lodge, No. 4 at Frankfort, and Solomon’s Lodge No. 5 at Shelbyville.
During the first two decades of the nineteenth century fifty or so more lodges were created.
On April 22, 1820, Daniel Bradford, the Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, issued a dispensation to Jessamine Lodge, naming Robert Crockett, Master; John H. Hanley, Senior Warden; and Thomas E. West, Junior Warden.
Henry Clay and Robert Crockett, both members of Lexington Lodge, No. 1, recommended that the name Jessamine Lodge be changed to that of Hart Lodge in honor of Captain Nathaniel Gray Smith Hart, a slain war of 1812 hero. Hart, was a friend of Crockett and a brother-in-law of Henry Clay.
This recommendation for the name change was accepted by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, and on August 28, 1820, Grand Master Samuel Hughes Woodson issued a Charter to Hart Lodge, No. 61. Henry Clay, Master of Lexington Lodge, No.1, became Grand Master the very next day. This famous Kentuckian is the only person ever to hold both the title of Grand Master of Kentucky, and Master of a subordinate lodge, simultaneously! Henry Clay attended Hart Lodge, No. 61 on numerous occasions.
Hart Lodge, No. 61, was the first Masonic Lodge in Jessamine County, Kentucky, and is the oldest fraternal or business organization in the county.