Knap of Reeds #158 Lodge History

It is my understanding that the current location of the Lodge is the fourth (4th) such location. The Lodge was originally named Union Hall Lodge according to the minute book for the Lodge. I have been unable to determine the origin of the name "Union Hall" and the Grand Lodge of North Carolina has no record of the existence of Union Hall Lodge.

The location of Union Hall Lodge was, according to Bro. Umstead’s compilation, on or about the plantation known as Fairntosh. The construction of Fairntosh began around 1810 by Duncan Cameron. Duncan was the son-in-law of Richard Bennehan who owned the Stagville Plantation which was adjacent to Fairntosh. Richard Bennehan had been a partner with William Johnston as the owner of Stagg’s Tavern and was later the owner of Stagg’s Store (located on the Indian Trading Path).

Duncan Cameron died in 1853 which, incidentally, was around the time of the founding of the Lodge. Following Duncan’s death, Fairntosh was owned by Paul Cameron. Paul Cameron was, according to some sources, the wealthiest man in the State of North Carolina at the outbreak of the War Between the States.

It is unclear why the Lodge met at Fairntosh. I have been unable to determine whether Richard Bennehan, Duncan Cameron or Paul Cameron were Masons. It is well known that Richard Bennehan was a close personal friend of William Davie who was both Governor of North Carolina as well as Grandmaster from 1792-1798. I was also able to determine that Duncan Cameron’s brother, John Adams Cameron, was not only a Master Mason but was Grandmaster from 1820-1821. Therefore, it seems at least reasonable that one or more of the owners of Fairntosh and/or Stagville may have been a Mason.

According to Bro. Umstead’s compilation, the Lodge moved from Fairntosh to the area known as Knap of Reeds in southern Granville County around 1853. This was roughly the same time that the founding brothers were issued a charter by the Grand Lodge of North Carolina. Prior to that date, it would appear the Lodge met without a Charter. For unknown reasons, the name changed from Union Hall Lodge to Knap of Reeds Lodge at or around the time the Charter(s) was/were issued.

The Lodge is in possession of two (2) Charters issued by the Grand Lodge. It is unknown as to why there are two Charters. According to Grand Secretary Walt Clapp, the Grand Lodge only has records of the one for Knap of Reeds # 158 issued December 8, 1853 for a lodge located at "Knap O’Reeds" in Granville County. One Charter (which now hangs over the Master’s chair) lists the original Master and Wardens as Joseph Woods, LT Burton and Dennis Tilley while the other (which now hangs over the Senior Warden’s chair) lists C. W. McCally, Joseph Woods and LT Burton.

Knap of Reeds is, of course, the name of the creek which now feeds into Falls Lake. Around 1853, Knap of Reeds was also a small community which eventually had a Baptist Church, a post office (according to the 1877 edition of The North Carolina Business Office Companion) and, as of 1895, a population of 46 (according to the 1895 United States Census). It is my understanding that Knap of Reeds continued as a community until the creation of Camp Butner around World War II.

Interestingly, a carpet bagger / author / lawyer / judge named Albion Tourgee authored a novel entitled Bricks Without Straw which was published in 1880 and which takes place at a plantation named Knapp of Reeds. The plantation is, of course, fictional. However, my reading of portions of the novel indicates that the Knapp of Reeds Plantation was in all likelihood a fictional version of Fairntosh. Tourgee was a well known anti Ku Klux Klan activist and the book centers on the evils of the Klan. Tourgee was also Plessy’s lawyer in the landmark Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) case which set the standard for the "separate but equal" doctrine which was struck down by Brown v. Board of Education in 1954.

Knap of Reeds and the other land around the Lodge at that time was, according to Bro. Mangum, located at or near the land known as "Veazey Ridge". Veazey Ridge was owned by Squire Alfred Moore Veazey until the War Between the States. Squire Veazey was a Justice of the Peace who attended Knap of Reeds Baptist Church and who lived from 1818 to 1895.

One of the earliest members of the Lodge to receive the degrees was a relative of Squire Veazey’s named Squire D. Umstead who, according to Bro. Umstead’s compilation, was initiated June 26, 1854. Squire D. Umstead was the grandfather to Governor William B. Umstead who was elected as Governor of North Carolina in 1952 but who was not a member of the Lodge. Squire D. Umstead was also a 1845 delegate of the Round Hill Temperance Society (along with Richard Peed who was Master of the Lodge in 1862-1863).

Round Hill was the name of the community which was located near the present site of the Bahama Ruritan Club. There was a private school founded by D. C. Parrish (who was Julian S. Carr’s father-in-law) in 1848 known as Round Hill Female Academy. John Peed, who was Master of the Lodge in 1853, again from 1858-1859, in 1867, and again from 1869-1872, was a member of the Round Hill school committee.

When the railroad line for the Durham-Lynchburg line came through the area around 1887, Round Hill became a station and the name was changed to Bahama. At that time, there was a migration towards the area of the depot and the area around the depot and Mount Bethel church experienced a period of growth from 1910-1925. It is Bro. Alton Mangum’s opinion that the growth in the area was the reason behind the move of the Lodge to Bahama. The date of the move and the growth of the area around that time certainly give credence to Bro. Mangum’s opinion. Whatever the reason, in 1915, the Lodge moved to its third (3rd) location at the building owned by the Lodge located on the main street of Bahama. The building had two stories and the downstairs was rented to Bro. Alfred Wilkins who ran the store until around 1950. The Lodge remained in "downtown" Bahama until the Lodge moved to its current location in 1981-1982. The presentation of Bro. Mangum will, among other topics, speak to the decision to move the Lodge to its current location on land sold to the Lodge by Dr. Marie Roberts.