The following history of Pleasants Lodge was written June 1988 by Most Wor. William T. Watkins, MW Watkins was Master of the Lodge in 1955 and served the craft as Grand Master in 1970 and during 1988 was serving as Lodge Historian under Wor. Albert Earl Richardson for the 100 year celebration of the establishment of the Lodge . The centennial was 1989 and RW Wayne Culver Stanton was the Master of the Lodge that year.
A Brief History of the Lodge
On May 2, 1889, Pleasants Lodge was placed under dispensation at Roanoke, Virginia by Grand Master Robert Templeman Craighill of Lynchburg, Virginia. The Lodge was under dispensation until December 20, 1889 at which time it was placed under charter by Grand Master Craighill, with the assistance of the Grand Junior Warden, Rt. Wor. William Henry Pleasants, when the Grand Lodge of Virginia opened at the Masonic Temple (Lakeland) on the corner of Jefferson Street and Campbell Avenue at 8:00PM for the purpose of setting the Lodge to work in due and ancient form. The Lodge was duly constituted and the Grand Lodge then closed in ample form.
Pleasants Lodge was named after William Henry Pleasants (Uncle Billy) Dean of Hollins College (then Botetourt Springs). William Henry Pleasants would become Grand Master in 1891 and 1892, and he served as Grand High Priest (Royal Arch) from 1885 through 1889.
Pleasants Lodge was assigned the number ‘63’, which was vacant at the time, having being previously assigned to Fredericksburg American Lodge on December 15, 1801, and later to New Hope Lodge in Augusta County, Virginia on December 13, 1870. In due time each of these lodges became extinct.
Pleasants Lodge was chartered with 22 members, 15 of whom were members of Lakeland No. 190. The charter officers were:
- Horace M. Claxton, Worshipful Master
- John Chalmers, Senior Warden
- George C. McCahan, Junior Warden
The Town of Big Lick was chartered in 1874, and with the coming of the railroad in 1881, the town changed its name to Roanoke in 1882. It received a charter as a city in 1884. The making of Roanoke City was the result of the railroad’s headquarters being established in Roanoke, and overnight a boom town was in the making. Roanoke was three years old in 1855 when Pleasants Lodge first made its petition for a lodge. The first request of the brethren to form a new lodge in the City of Roanoke was denied by Lakeland Lodge, but they would try again in 1889, in the 7th year of the new community, and after much discussion by the members of Lakeland Lodge permission was granted on April 9, 1889.
Masonic activity in the Roanoke Valley in 1889 consisted of one Masonic Lodge in Roanoke (Lakeland #190). Taylor Lodge No. 23 was operating in Salem, having moved to that hamlet in the late 1850’s from Roanoke county. Friendship Lodge was working in Fincastle, Virginia, and James Evans No. 72 was working in Buchanan, Virginia, and Turner Lodge #139 was located at Botetourt Springs, (Hollins) Virginia. Pleasants Lodge would be the new baby in the Valley they called Roanoke, and Lakeland No. 190 would take her by the hand and give good guidance and counsel through the year 1957.
Pleasants Lodge would meet with Lakeland Lodge at her Temple, starting with the first Temple on Jefferson Street and Campbell Avenue in 1889 until 1912. In 1912 Lakeland would move to her new Temple on the corner of First Street and Kirk Avenue in downtown Roanoke, and Pleasants Lodge would meet at that location with Lakeland Lodge until the year 1957, when she would take residence at the new Scottish Rite Temple at 622 Campbell Avenue, where the lodge continues to meet today (1988). The beginning and future of Pleasants Lodge, starting in 1889, would be good, and the boom days started in 1882 in the city, which brought to the new Roanoke a cosmopolitan population and filled it with so many elements that its was said to resemble a frontier town of the ‘wild west’. Roanoke and Pleasants Lodge would have tough times with disease, floods, mobrule and violence, and the reputation of Roanoke’s “red-light-district’ would be known far and wide. Pleasants Lodge membership would start with 22, and rise to 279 in the year 1928. Starting in 1928 the lodge would lose 123 members through the depression years, but would rise to a peak membership of 412 in the year 1963, due in large measure to the “joining-up” of America following World War II. Starting again in the mid seventies, lodge membership began to decline and now stands at 274 in June, 1988. Pleasants Lodge is not alone in membership losses, for in the eighties America is not “joining-up”, and this factor includes all of America’s great organizations. Pleasants Lodge has done well through its first one hundred years, with its Trustee’s account over $150,000.00 and getting ready for its Centennial in 1989, when Cabell F. Cobbs will be the Grand Master of Masons in Virginia. Approximately 1500 men have been raised or affiliated in Pleasants Lodge No. 63 at Roanoke, Virginia since May 2, 1889.
William T. Watkins, Historian