In 1847, a dispensation was issued for formation of a Lodge of Masons in Oktibbeha County to be known as Oktibbeha Lodge #89. On February 22, 1848, a charter was issued to Abert Lodge #89 in honor of Col. Charles Abert.
Col. Abert was the son of John Abert, who came to the United States in 1780 with Rochambeau and joined Lafayette in the Battle for Independence from Great Britain. After the United States of America won the Revolutionary War, John Abert settled in Virginia.
Col. Abert was on the commission appointed to set the permanent seats of justices in Lowndes County in 1830 and served in the Civil War starting at the rank of Captain of the Columbus Rifleman Company K, 14th Mississippi Infantry.
Col. Abert was Worshipful Master of Columbus Lodge #5 for 13 years and District Deputy Grand Lecturer for 10 years. Col. Abert took a deep interest in the formation of Abert Lodge in its early years. Original members were:
- William R. Cannor – Worshipful Master
- Pearson Smith – Senior Warden
- A. Lampkin – Junior Warden
- John H. Gay
- A. Thompson
- Thomas E. Cannon
At this time The Lodge was located on Main Street in what is known as the Katz Property. Present information suggests 120 E. Main Street, present location of the Book Mart. This location was destroyed in the 1875 fire which destroyed 52 buildings. An unknown member saved the Lodge Charter. All other records were lost.
According to Bro. James N. McKell, following the 1875 fire, the Masons and Oddfellows jointly purchased a lot at 108-114 Main Street. A two story brick building was erected with the ground floor being rental space and the second floor consisting of the two Lodges and two additional office spaces for rent. Entrance to the second story gallery and the two Lodges was by an outside stairway. Abert Lodge #89 remained in this location until a fire destroyed this building and three others in 1893. Our Charter and all records were lost.
The Masons and Oddfellows rebuild on the same location using the same design. More detail is given on the outer décor. The second building on this site was of red pressed brick with decorated tin over the windows, doors, and eaves. This building’s cornerstone can be seen bearing dates of June 26, 1894 for the Masonic Lodge and June 24 for the Oddfellows Lodge. Both Lodges soon began discussing new locations.
In 1906, the Masons bought the present day site on the southwest corner of Main and Washington Streets. The first Lodge erected on this site was destroyed by fire in 1929. Abert Lodge #89 was rebuilt on this site in 1930-31.
A theater was constructed on the ground floor and leased for $175 per month for 10 years. The building was financed by Peoples Savings and Bank against the expected income. This is rumored to be the first air conditioned building in Starkville. The theater was later known as the Rex Theater. Since the closing of the theater, Abert Lodge #89 has managed to keep its downstairs rental properties leased providing a modest income allowing the lodge to keep dues from being excessive. Abert Lodge #89 is debt free.
Abert Lodge #89 has been fortunate to have two of its members as Mississippi Grand Masters. John M. Ware served in 1891 and H. Fred McCrory in 1978. Brothers N. C. Oakes, James N. McKell, and H. Fred McCrory also have served as Senior Grand Deacons.
Special thanks to Bros. James N. McKell, Walter Oliver Page, Fred Blocker, and Ernest E. Bailey who, together, provided and presented this information on the 150th Anniversary of the Lodge.