CHARLESTON LODGE NO. 44
Charleston is the name of the United States cruiser to which the Spanish garrison on the island of Guam, where this lodge is established, surrendered during the Spanish-American War on June 21, 1898.
The first Masonic meeting held on the Island of Guam under American occupation was in 1903, when some five members of the Order met for dinner. In 1906, there was another meeting during which the proposition of organizing a Masonic lodge in Guam was discussed for the first time. Morris O'Brien took up the matter with the Grand Lodge of California, but it entertained doubts that the limited number of Masons on the Island could support a lodge.
The matter was dropped for the time being and no further steps were taken until 1917, when Charles Lobingier, 33°, Deputy of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, passed through Guam on his way to Shanghai. H. E. Merchant entertained Lobingier during his brief stay, and the possibility of bringing Masonry to the island was discussed. Due to the religious beliefs of the natives it was realized that most of the work would have to be done by transient military personnel. Lobingier suggested that, as a first step, a Masonic Sojourners' Association be organized, and, if successful, a petition be addressed to the Grand Lodge of the Philippine Islands for a dispensation to open a lodge. On January 22, 1918, the petition for dispensation was drawn up signed by 14 Masons who were members of lodges in the United States and one who belonged to Lodge Perla del Oriente in Manila.
Grand Master Manuel L. Quezon issued the dispensation on February 4, 1918. On March 4, the first meeting of Charleston Lodge, UD, was held at 497 Hernan Cortez Street and the following were elected: H. R. Jackson, Master; Wm. M. Hantschke, Senior Warden; H. W. Elliott, Junior Warden; H. E. Merchant, Secretary and W. H. Wolford, Treasurer.
The meetings of the lodge were held in the residence of W. H. Wolford at 1183 Dr. Hester St., San Nicolas. These quarters, however, soon proved too small for their requirements, so in 1918 the members purchased the lot and building at No. 119 Hernan Cortez St., Santa Cruz, which they remodeled for Masonic purposes.
At the Annual Communications of the Grand Lodge held in January 1919 part of the papers of Charlestone Lodge did not arrive owing to the mail service in Guam, nevertheless the Grand Lodge granted it a charter on January 28 "in view of the work done by this lodge." On February 25, 1919, the lodge was informed by cablegram that Deputy Grand Master Rafael Palma would arrive in Guam on March 1 on board the U. S. Army Transport "Sherman" to constitute Charleston Lodge No. 44. It was assumed that everything would be conducted in the normal manner, but the day before the ship arrived the members were informed that because of the extremely short stay of the vessel in port, no passengers would be allowed to go ashore. The members, however, were permitted to board the vessel, so a meeting was held in the Captain's cabin aboard the Sherman and there Charleston Lodge was formally constituted. Its first principal officers under charter were: Wm. H. Hantschke, Master; H. A. Nagle, Senior Warden; H. W. Elliot, Junior Warden; and, 0. S. Bower, Secretary. Between theyears 1918 and 1941 Charleston Lodge progressed steadily althoughnot at a spectacular rate. The lodge labored under one handicap - the Americanpopulation in Guam was a floating one as most Americans were in the naval or military service and their tour of duty in Guam was two years or less. By the time a man could be raised to the sublime degree of a Master Macon he was due to leave, unless he was a permanent resident. About seventy-five percent of the roster of the lodge was non-resident.
The invasion of Guam by the Japanese in December 1941 forced the lodge into darkness until the Island was again re-occupied by the U. S. Marines in July 1944. The reoccupation was preceded by a bombardment that leveled the city of Agana and completely demolished the Masonic lodge hall. Into the ruins came Bro. E. T. Jensen of Oakland, California and a member of the U.S. Landing Forces. His steps led to the demolished lodge hall and there, in the rubble, he found the charter of Charleston Lodge No. 44 still intact and undamaged. Jensen took the charter and brought it with him to the United States for safekeeping until such time as it would be propitious to return it to Guam.
Soon after the liberation of Guam, the usual "Square and Compass" Clubs were established on the Island. One of these, the Masonic Club of Guam, eventually absorbed all the other clubs and laid the foundation for post-war Masonic activities on the island. It was also instrumental in the implementation of the decision of the Grand Master Michael Goldenberg to reactivate Charleston Lodge.
Early in March 1946, WB John Taitano, the first Charnmorro to be made a Master Mason in Guam, recommended the resumption of the activities of Charleston Lodge. Bro. Col. Archibald Tanner transmitted the recommendation-to Grand Master Goldenberg who directed Maj. Robert A. Burri, 33° to effect the reactivation.
At about that same time, the Masonic Club of Guam received a letter from Jensen inquiring about the proper authority to whom he could return the charter. A reply to his letter resulted in the delivery of the charter by airmail on the very day the lodge held its first post-war regular meeting.
Four members of the lodge and a large number from other lodges attended the reactivation meeting. Twenty of the attendees filed petitions for dual membership. Moreover, the Masonic Club of Guam offered the use of a fully equipped lodge hall and regalia sufficient for a lodge of one hundred members.
With these resources on hand, Charleston Lodge was officially reactivated on April 6, 1946. In a matter of weeks its officers were elected and installed. The hall lent to the lodge, however, was for temporary use only. Due to the critical shortage of essential building materials and other factors, Charleston Lodge could not construct a permanent hall so it had to hold meetings in various temporary homes during the decade following its reactivation.
In January 1955, though the combined efforts of all the Masonic Bodies in Guam, a permanent concrete block two-story Scottish Rite Temple was completed. This structure is now the home of Charleston Lodge as well as other active Masonic Bodies.
The future of Charleston Lodge looks bright. It ranks among the largest of subordinate lodges in total membership and is in sound financial condition.
Location: Agana, Guam