Historic Freemason lodge burns down in Columbiana

Published 12:37 pm Monday, July 17, 2023

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By NOAH WORTHAM | Staff Writer 

COLUMBIANA – The Freemason South Shelby Lodge #140 recently burned down in Columbiana, and its rich history along with it.

Most of the historic South Shelby Lodge #140 in Columbiana is burned down after a fire broke out and consumed it early Saturday morning.

“All of our history is gone,” said John King, secretary of the lodge.

Officers from the Columbiana Police Department were on a routine patrol when they spotted a fire around 2:30 a.m. on July 15 at the South Shelby Lodge in Columbiana.

“When they arrived, they found the south end of the building that was pretty much involved,” Columbiana Fire Chief Johnny Howard said. “At that time, we were dispatched out to try to extinguish it, but it had already been burning long enough for them to spot it, so it been burning in the floor and the attic.”

The fire department found issues trying to ventilate the fire due to the age of the building and its floor plan. The CFD made use of three engine companies and one ladder company to handle the fire.

“We ended up with four pieces of apparatus out there,” Howard said. “It was a total loss in the end.”

The Columbiana Fire Department spent 36 hours overall in handling the fire and was accompanied by help from the Wilsonville Volunteer Fire Department and Fourmile Volunteer Fire Department as well as ambulance crews from Southeast Shelby County Rescue.

“It was very long,” Howard said. “We ended up with a little over 36 hours in the end, we were actually out there until last night (Sunday) sometime. Everything went well as far as what we had to work with.”

King expressed his gratitude for the work the department put forth during the fire.

“The fire department in Columbiana should be commended for the hard work they did, because they worked hard trying to save it,” he said.

The Columbiana Fire Department does not currently suspect foul play, and King shared that he suspects the fire was started by lightning during the storms the previous night.

The lodge is a total loss with the chimney being the only part of the historic building left standing.

“Everything that we had is either destroyed or seriously damaged,” King said.

King shared that he believes that the building was constructed around the 1940s and was purchased by the lodge in the 1980s.

According to Howard, the building was originally a train depot for Standard Oil Company which also aided in the spread of the fire due to oil that had sunken into the floor during those years of use.

“It’s a bad situation,” Howard said. “You hate to lose a piece of history in your town.”

Many items were lost in the lodge, including historic photographs of members of the lodge.

“My grandfather, my father, my brother, mine and many, many more dating back into the 1800s were burned,” King said.

King shared that they have gotten some photos back through photographs various people have taken of the photos of their family members.

“We’ll gather what we can get, but it falls in the irreplaceable category,” King said.

The masonic lodge’s Bible is perhaps the most important piece of history at the lodge and it was finally retrieved from the building after multiple tries by the fire department.

“We managed to get our Bible back yesterday (Sunday) out of the ashes,” King said. “It may be beyond repair.”

The Bible carries heavy sentimental value for King  as it serves as the document upon which the members are sworn in.“We’re not a church, but if you don’t believe in God in some form or other the obligation is not binding to you,” King said.

King shared that members of the South Shelby lodge will continue to meet at the regularly scheduled times at Calera Lodge #445.

“Our membership has to think about what It is our membership wants to do and there are a lot of options that we’ve got to go through,” King said.