With the assistance of a Masonic Lodge in Nahunta, a small community east of Kenly, a new lodge was chartered on December 6, 1866 as the J. B. Person Lodge No. 257 (View the Charter). The Lodge was named in honor of the Master of Nahunta Lodge, J. B. Person, who was instrumental in its establishment. The first official meeting of J. B. Person Lodge was held on August 9, 1866. The by-laws of the lodge were written and soon approved by the Grand Lodge and the charter was issued. The first Master of this lodge was Ray Phillips. Ironically, no other Phillips served the lodge as Master for the next 100 years. In 1966, Charles Phillips served as the Master of the lodge, exactly 100 years later. The Lodge has been through several name changes: J. B. Person Lodge (1866), Beulah Lodge (1873), and finally to Kenly Lodge on December 27, 1900. The lodge first held its communications in the Holly Springs Church in the Beulah community.
When the Free Will Baptist Church was founded in 1890 with twelve members of the Holly Springs Church as charter members, the Lodge soon followed and began meeting at the Free Will Baptist Church. In 1894, a windstorm blew the Free Will Baptist Church off its foundation and the church was rebuilt. The lodge helped to finance the rebuilding and helped add a second story for the use of the lodge. The second floor of the church was owned by Kenly Lodge and was sold back to the church in 1934. On March 23, 1901, a picture of the members of the lodge was taken (view this picture). This is the only existing picture of the lodge known from that period.
Around 1915, a new lodge named Perfection No 628 was charted. It was composed of the business men in Kenly who were unable to meet on Saturday morning and met monthly on a weeknight. The other remained Kenly Lodge No. 257 and was made up of those members from the surrounding area, basically farmers and laborers, and met on Saturday morning. These members met in a Pecan Grove near Cash Corner so that they would not have to tie their horses in town. Eventually these lodges merged on July 26, 1929 as Kenly Lodge No. 257.
The meeting place of the lodge has frequently changed for various reasons. As noted, the Lodge first met in the Holly Springs Church in the Beulah Community, then to the Pecan Grove and the Free Will Baptist Church, briefly in the basement of the Methodist Church, then at the Finch homeplace near Bagley, then in a room over what is now Jimmy Whitley's Store in the Pharaoh Godwin building, then in a room over what is now Goldcraft Jewelry, and finally to the new Lodge Building on highway 222.
The new lodge was constructed by the members of the lodge under the direction of George Pope who was appointed great architect of the building. The master during the construction was Julius Corbett who served two years, 1980 and 1981, during this important period. The cornerstone for the Lodge was laid on May 23, 1981 (view pictures here and here) by Nelson Banks, Grand Master of Masons in North Carolina for 1981. Eight other members of the Grand Lodge Line were in attendance at this event. The lodge was completed in later 1981 and was dedicated on December 8, 1981 by Nelson Banks.
This history of Kenly Lodge No. 257 is a compilation of several historical sources. Col. Bob Boyette, a Johnston County history buff and author, researched the lodge history in the Johnston County Archives and furnish many valuable tidbits of information. Brother Percell Rose furnished the complete listing of the people in the 1901 picture and other valuable information for the North Carolina Archives and from his family history. No history of Kenly Lodge would be complete with mentioning Brother Elwin Watson who was secretary of the Lodge for fifty years. His personal memories and a short history of the lodge he composed in 1981 were immensely valuable sources of information.
This compilation by Brother Tom Jackson is considered ongoing and will be be corrected and added to by Brother Jackson and Brother Brandon Scott.