East Fork Lodge #327: “Looking Back”

Reprinted here by special permission of the author, Cindy Beckman, a retired Conway High School history teacher who writes local history.

If you follow State Highway 25 north of Conway, around Lake Beaverfork, across the East Cadron Creek, and past the Pleasant Valley church and cemetery, you will find the little town of Wooster. Once upon a time, Wooster was a thriving little town with a school, multiple businesses, and a post office.

Today, only the post office remains along with a City Hall, Dollar General, a convenience store and a little rock building. And it is that little rock building on the right that attracts the attention of the curious passerby as they slow down for the four-way stop in the middle of town.

The blue door gives passersby the only clue since the building does not have a sign indicating what is housed there. On the door is the symbol of the Masons. This little rock building is the lodge hall for East Fork Lodge #327. It has been the gathering place for the Christian men of Wooster and Pleasant Valley since the 1940s.

The East Fork Lodge #327 of Free and Accepted Masons is part of a rich tradition that goes back to Europe in the Middle Ages. The first Grand Lodge, the Grand Lodge of London and Westminster, was organized in 1717 and the first in North America was established in the 1730s. The first Grand Lodges in Arkansas were set up in the early 1800s and the Green Grove Lodge #107 was established in the Green Grove community near Cadron settlement in the 1850s.

After the Civil War, the Green Grove Lodge #107 began to meet in Bryant V. King’s gin house near the East Cadron Creek. King, a former Civil War captain who saw action at Corinth and Vicksburg, served as Worshipful Master during those years. He was the postmaster of East Fork and ran a ferry across the East Cadron Creek.

In 1871, James M. Clifton became Worshipful Master and the members decided that Green Grove Lodge should be moved to Conway Station. Three years later, the Most Worshipful Grand Master, Brother G.A. Donnelly, granted a dispensation for the establishment of a new lodge, East Fork Lodge #327, at Pleasant Valley. King became Worshipful Master of the new lodge.

Other charter officers were Hamilton B. Wear, Senior Warden; Wesley C. Watkins, Junior Warden; William A. Loveless, Treasurer; William H. C. Nixon, Secretary; Robert N. Davis, Senior Deacon; and Barzalia Elliot, Junior Deacon. Other charter members were Robert B. Townsend Tyler, Jobe Stone, Miles W. Davis, John W. Reeder, Benjamin M. Stevens, M.D., John Trigg, and R.S. Townsend.

After the election of officers, the members adopted bylaws which stated that the meetings would be held on the first Saturday of each month. The lodge held its meetings in a room above the East Fork Church until the members bought the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South’s church building.

Records indicate that James M. Clifton and his wife, Mary, sold the five acres of land where the current lodge sits to the Methodist Episcopal Church of the South in 1873. Clifton and King were two of the trustees for this church. In January, 1885, the church sold the building to the East Fork Lodge for $75. The lodge then allowed religious services and Sabbath School to be held in the lower room.

The rock building was erected in 1940 and the old lodge building was torn down. The scrap lumber from the old building was sold to help pay the bills. The new lumber was supplied from Harlan Lumber in Conway. Rocks were located and each lodge member donated a bag of cement. On May 16, 1941, lodge members conducted a “Laying of the Cornerstone” ceremony and dedicated their new lodge hall. Percy Matthews was the Worshipful Master during this time.

And so, the little rock building has served the members of East Fork Lodge #327 for 75 years. The lodge members gather there on the first Monday of every month for their regular meeting. But change is coming. The lodge has plans to build a new lodge building when they complete the sale of the rock building. The little rock building may soon be torn down. If you want to see this piece of history, you had better go soon.

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