Masonic marker dedication set for Saturday
Two hundred years ago Sunday, Landmark Masonic Lodge #41 in Versailles was dedicated. This Saturday at 5 p.m., present members will gather at 141 North Main Street - the lodge's third location in two centuries - for a Kentucky State Highway marker dedication. The program is jointly administered by the state Transportation Cabinet and Kentucky Historical Society, and to qualify, members took part in what the latter group called a lengthy application process. A news release from the historical society said, "This process requires documentation verified in writing with numerous regulations and restrictions. Once approval is jointly granted by these two groups, the costs of these bronze markers are borne by the applicant groups. As of 2003, there were 77 of these markers in Woodford County and more than 2,400 of these markers throughout Kentucky now." It will be a proud moment for Gary Finnell, a lodge member for 46 years who's the group's treasurer and former master. "We've been around 200 years. To be a Mason, you've got to be a good man to start with, and it just makes you a better man. You have to believe in the existence of God. It's not a religious organization, but you've got to believe in a supreme being," Finnell said. The news release said the fraternal organization was begun in Europe several hundred years before Landmark Mason Lodge #41 was chartered in Versailles. The original Masonic hall was at 125 Morgan Street, and the group moved to 126 South Main Street (the present Moore Law Office building) in 1881. The organization bought its current building in 1986, the first floor of which is rented by the Woodford County Chamber of Commerce and Shelter Insurance. On the second floor, where the group meets today, are 200 years of ledger books and other bits of lodge memorabilia. Among the better-known past and present lodge members are former Governor, U.S. Senator and Major League Baseball Commissioner A.B. "Happy" Chandler, musician John Conlee Jr., and Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle. Three lodge members, John McKinney Jr., William Brown Jr., and Chris L. Stout, have reached the rank of state grand master. The inner workings of Lodge #41 may not be well known, but its charity work on behalf of young people in Woodford County is. Among them are the annual golf tournament that funds the backpack program and a drawing at every elementary and middle school in which children with perfect attendance have a chance to win a bicycle. "We just carry on the business of the lodge," Finnell said. Asked, tongue-in-cheek, if members, who meet the first and third Monday of each month, have a secret handshake, Finnell said, "We can be in a room that is pitch-black and know whether there is another Mason out there."