History of Pleasant Hill Lodge # 304 A.F. & A.M.

A lodge born in the depths of Reconstruction Days, following the disastrous Civil War; moved twice, split up, barely surviving the depression and finally emerging into a strong, able lodge is the story of Pleasant Hill lodge No. 304.

On October 1, 1870 ten Master Masons with a dispensation dated September 24, 1870 from Most Worshipful Brother R.B. Vance, Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina, met in the home of J. H. Kinsey. This house, still standing today, was located about one mile from Pleasant Hill Church. This first meeting was held upstairs in the west room of the Kinsey Home, which was built in 1845. Today it is in still remarkable state and preservation. Parts of the planks in the wall are fifteen inches wide, long-leaf heart pine, materials impossible to find today. Of the ten brethren that obtained the dispensation, seven had originally be-longed to Zion Lodge No. 81 in Trenton. According to Zion’s minutes, in the spring of 1870, there several brethren; A.B Kinsey, C.C. Fordham, A.J. Fordham, F.M. Dixon, J.H. Kinsey, L.P. Fordham and Cyrus Brown had tried unsuccessfully to remove Zion Lodge from Trenton to Pleasant Hill. Then, uniting with Brother H.S. Nunn, W.A Jones and S.W. Noble of St. John’s Lodge of Kinston, they were able to get their dispensation for a new lodge.

In a special communication, on January 6, 1871 Pleasant Hill Lodge No. 304 was constituted and dedicated by Right Worshipful Brother S.W. Rountree, Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. The following brethren were installed as officers of the new lodge: Brother H.S. Nunn, Worshipful Master; Brother A.B. Kinsey, Senior Warden; Brother C.C. Fordham, Junior Warden; Brother W.A. Jones, Treasure; Brother A.J. Fordham, Secretary; Brother F.M. Dixon, Junior Deacon, Brother J.H. Kinsey, Tyler: Brother L.P. Fordham, Steward; Brother Cyrus Brown, Steward.

An interesting thing to note about this installation was the fact that Brother W.B. Nunn, installed as Senior Deacon on January 6, was on January 7, raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason. Incidentally, Secretary’s books, containing complete minutes of all the meetings are the proud possessions of the lodge today.

Pleasant Hill Lodge was located on the northwestern edge of Jones County, and it was originally planned that the lodge should have jurisdiction over this area plus the southern part of Lenoir County, and probably a small part of Duplin County.

In 1873, the J.H. Kinsey Home and Farm, where the lodge was meeting, were bought by Martin Noble, who moved there and made it his for the rest of his life. Mr. Noble a non-mason, let the masons continue to meet there. His son George G. Nobles, now ninety nine years young, and retired Registrar of Deeds of Jones County, still owns the property. I talking with Mr. Noble recently he told us that as a small boy of three or four, he remembers the meetings being held upstairs. Mr. Noble was raised in Pleasant Hill Lodge in 1920 and was secretary for two years during his the twenties. In 1930, after moving to Trenton, he demitted to Zion Lodge No. 81 in Trenton, where today he is still an active brother.

  By 1874, it was decided that the lodge was on its feet sufficiently to build its own building. Since the new lodge had grown to fifteen brethren, a larger meeting place was needed. It was decided to move to a more central point for the members, as well as the jurisdiction of the lodge. Accordingly, through the efforts of all the brethren, but especially Brother J.M Noble and S.W. Noble, a lodge building was built near Nobles Mill in Lenoir County, actually in the yard of J.M. noble. This was five miles from the first meeting place at the Kinsey Home.

  The Noble Mill Home of Pleasant Hill lodge was used for twenty-nine years. During this period, the lodge made steady growth and progress. This building later burned to the ground, after the lodge moved again.

  At this time, it is interesting to note that during the period from 1870 through 1906, thirty-seven years, Pleasant Hill Lodge had only five Worshipful Masters. Their names and the lengths of their tenure in the East are as follows: Bros. H.S. Nunn – 4 years, A.B. Kinsey – 2 years, William B. Nunn – 16 years, C.C. Fordham – 10 years, Henry Cunningham – 5 years. Since 1906, Masters have usually served only one or two years.

  In the history of St. John’s No. 4 of Kinston, it is interesting to note that on August 3, 1881; the Grand Lodge convened in Kinston, NC and laid the cornerstone of the monument to Richard Caswell, who had been both Governor and Grand Master of North Carolina. Among the lodges represented was Pleasant Hill. Brother C.C. Fordham acted as Grand Steward for the occasion.

  As the number of masons had increased to thirty-six in 1903, after much discussion, it was decided to build a new lodge building at a new location. Since part of the brethren were from Pink Hill, the new lodge needed to be closer to them. Accordingly the present location, which is between US 258 and NC 11, about 8 miles from Jonestown and 4 miles from the old location at Nobles Mill was selected.

  A building committee consisting of Isaac Stroud, Jr., J.B. Smith, George turner, W.A. Jones and F.M. Smith was appointed. The size of the lodge was to be forty feet long, twenty-six feet wide and sixteen feet between joints. To help finance the building, each brother was taxed $4.00.

  Lumber and services were donated to the building. Among others, Brothers James B. Smith paid $5.00 for the building site. The total cost of the building, as recorded in the minutes, was $351.76.

  From 1903 until 1918, we find a period of steady growth in Pleasant Hill Lodge. The number of brethren increased from 36 to 73.

  It is interesting to note that on September 10, 1908 at a regular communication, a public installation of officers and a picnic were held. It was estimated that a thousand people were present. By 1910, this became a yearly event, held on the Second Thursday in September, largely attended by both Masonic and Non-Masonic families from the surrounding areas. Many came from Kinston on a train and walked the last couple of miles from the railroad. These picnics continued for many years, finally a few years ago, succumbing to modern-day living.

  Another interesting thing was the fact that from the beginning of the lodge in 1870 until early nineteen-twenties, at practically every meeting, there were or more request received from other lodges for aid for a widow or an unfortunate brother. It appears to have been a regular practice of the times, and seldom were the request turned down.

  On June 12, 1919 twenty-one of the brethren of Pleasant Hill Lodge were given provisional demits to establish a new lodge in Pink Hill. This lodge became Victory lodge No. 642, however about ten years later it surrendered its charter. Some of the brethren there went to St. John’s No. 13, in Kenansville, some went to St. John’s No. 4 in Kinston and the others returned to Pleasant Hill No. 304.

  The depression hit Pleasant Hill lodge a heavy blow. From a membership in the seventies, during the middle twenties, it gradually dwindled to thirty by the middle nineteen-thirties. In addition to this, the funds of the lodge were lost in one of the Kinston banks when it closed. It looked for a while as if the charter would be lost. Lodges all over the state were surrendering their charters. But the few brethren that were left were the strongest, and they were determined to keep their lodge active. Pleasant Hill held on and weathered the crisis.

  In 1946 there were only forty-five brethren. By 1950 the lodge had grown to one hundred and two. Since then, the growth has been less rapid, but at present we have 128 brethren.

  In 1948 Eastern Star Chapter No. 102 was chartered and has since grown into an active and able chapter with a present membership of sixty members. They have cooperated beautifully with the Masonic lodge and have done much to make the lodge more comfortable and convenient.

  The lodge building has been improved over the years. The upstairs and down-stairs have been sealed, waterworks installed, two bathrooms, a fully equipped kitchen, tables built to seat seventy, carpet put on the lodge room floor, a gas heater system, piano, air-conditioning unit upstairs and a blower system to change the air, are the major improvements achieved through the years. These have been a slow and hard to get because fees and dues have been held to a minimum, which prevents any sizable sum accumulating in the treasury.

  Pleasant Hill Lodge is proud of its building and facilities. Very important to us, is the fact that the lodge debt free. It would be different for us to build now. We are grateful to our predecessors who so thoughtfully provided us with the building we now have.

  Pleasant Hill Lodge now serves the territory composed of Pleasant Hill Community in Jones County, Pink Hill and Deep Run in Lenoir, and part of Albertson Community in Duplin County. It is one of the Lodges located in the middle of the county.

  Stated Communications are held on Second and Fourth Thursday in each month with emergent communication called whenever necessary. Supper is served each Second Thursday, and this creates added fellowship among the brethren.

  As well as increasing in numbers, Pleasant Hill Lodge has improved in other ways. There was a time when it was difficult to conduct the ritualistic work, without outside help. Today the lodge can confer any degree with credit to themselves, as well as the other rituals, including funerals. We have one certified lecture in the lodge, and several other brethren who could become certified with a little more work.

  Pleasant Hill Lodge is ninety years old this year. There have been many lean years, there have been many trials and tribulations, there have been many times when even the lodge’s survival was threatened. But a dogged persistence developed through a belief in the basic tenets of Masonry, has strengthened and helped the brethren overcome the obstacles so that today Pleasant Hill Lodge No. 304 stands proud of its past, humble in its present accomplishments, and looks with confidence to the future.