On January 20, 1879, Hampton Lodge U.D., A.F.M., was granted a dispensation by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina, and at the communication of the Grand Lodge, held December 10, 1879, a charter was granted to Hampton Lodge No. 204, with the following as the warrant officers: Edward W. Lloyd, Worshipful Master; S. A. Robertson, Senior Warden; C. Phillips, Junior Warden.
At that time there was a Masonic Lodge in Florence known as Amity No. 121. In 1878 and 1879, Amity Lodge did not meet regularly, as the old book of minutes discloses. J. A. Law, District Deputy Grand Master of the old 8th Masonic district reported to the Grand Lodge in December 1878, that the work in his district had been hindered by political dissension, that Amity Lodge had not met regularly, and that a petition having a bearing on this situation would be presented to Grand Lodge. Just what was in this petition was not known, but it is a significant fact that not many months after its presentation, Hampton Lodge was granted a dispensation. Hampton and Amity existed together until 1882, and in that year the Grand Lodge recalled Amity's charter.
The first Master of Hampton Lodge was that staunch Mason, Capt. Edward W. Lloyd, a former Master of Amity Lodge. The first Senior Warden and the first Junior Warden were likewise members of, and officers in old Amity. So it clearly appears that Hampton Lodge came out of old Amity Lodge, and that old Amity did not long survive.
The first room occupied by the Lodge was on the second floor of the King and Lake building, which stood on Front street about where the Massey-Hite building now stands. Then the Lodge went to Allen's Hall, which stood at the corner of Dargan and Evans streets, the site being now occupied by Zeigler's Drug store. Next the Lodge occupied the second floor of Lake's Drug store, the location of which is well known.
On January 27, 1893, Hampton Lodge laid the cornerstone of the first graded school building erected in Florence, the Worshipful Master, J. S. Beck, acting as and for the Grand Master. This building still stands on Cheves street, and is still used by the school system. On June 27, 1893, the Lodge laid the cornerstone of the City Hall, Worshipful Master J. S. Beck again acting as Grand Master.
On February 27, 1896, Lake's Drug store burned, and the Lodge lost its charter and all paraphernalia. It seems that Hampton Lodge was paying rent to Harmony Lodge Knights of Pythias. A few days after the fire, that is March 2, 1896, an informal meeting of the Lodge was held in Capt. E. W. Lloyd's office, for he was again Master. He reported that he had adjusted the insurance, which ammounted to $200.00, and that it would soon be paid. A duplicate charter was furnished by the Grand Lodge, new equipment was bought and the Lodge moved into new quarters in Allen's Hall. Later the Lodge moved back to the hall above Lake's Drug store.
Early in 1901, the Lodge moved into a new hall on the third floor of the Hursey building, just east of City Hall, and bought additional equipment from the Knights of Pythias.
The matter of building a Masonic Temple was first brought up in the Lodge in the Spring of 1902, but at that time no definite action was taken. In June, 1903, the valuable lot at the corner of Evans and Irby Street was bought, and under the auspices of the Lodge, a bazaar was held in the Winter of 1903 for the purpose of raising funds to apply to the purchase price of the Lodge. However, it was not until May 8, 1905, that definite action was taken regarding the actual building of the temple. At a meeting held on that day, the Lodge elected a committee to take the whole matter in hand, and lodged with the committee power to act. At the same meeting the Lodge decided to incorporate itself under the State laws, and to issue bond to an amount not exceeding $35,000.00. The Lodge was duly incorporated and bonds were issued. In due time the work of building began, and was pushed forward as rapidly as possible. It is interesting to note that the Lodge held its first meeting in the new temple on March 22, 1907. This meeting was in the North room, facing the court house, on the 3rd floor. That night three men were given the Master Degree, and one of them afterwards became Master of the Lodge.
During the years 1914 and 1915, the matter of selling the Temple property was discussed in the Lodge from time to time. Nothing will be said ere about the reason for such sale. It was deemed the wise thing to do, and a sale was affected in December, 1915. However, under an arrangement with the purchaser, the Lodge continued to use its quarters on the third floor.
As Hampton 204 came out of Amity 121, so many years afterwards, Amity 340 came out of Hampton 204. On March 13, 1924, Amity Lodge 340 was granted a charter by the Grand Lodge of South Carolina with E. M. Matthews as the first Master. This is mentioned because E. M. Matthews served four years as Master of Hampton Lodge. Amity is a flourishing Lodge, and is doing its part to advance Masonry in Florence. The two lodges in Florence work in perfect harmony. Their relations are affectionately fraternal, if it may be so expressed, and Masonry is safe in their hands. Hampton Lodge has given many District Deputy Grand Masters to Masonry.
For some years, the Lodge had had in mind the building of a Masonic home, something it could call its own. The hope of the years is now about to be realized, for the cornerstone of what promises to be a beautiful temple will be laid today. A strong committee has the work of building on hand, and in a few months Hampton will be in its new home - a home given over exclusively to things Masonic, with all the quickening and strengthening influences of a genuine home atmosphere.
In a sketch like this, many details have to be left out, and many things that would be of interest only to Masons. The recent history of the Lodge is well known, and is not dwelt upon here. The Lodge has had its problems and its periods of depression, but it has gone steadily on. It has contributed to worthy causes in the in the community and it has ever been mindful of the needy, especially among its own. It respects and admires the landmarks of Masonry, and in its work and lectures stresses the sublime principals of that wonderful order known to the world as Ancient Free Masonry.
It would be a fine thing to name every man who has been made a Mason in Hampton Lodge, but that cannot be done. It would also be a fine thing to name all the officers of Hampton Lodge since the Lodge came into existence, but that cannot be done. However, it is possible to name all the Masters of the Lodge.
The Master of a Masonic lodge has wonderful power. He not only guides, but he directs. But he is not the whole of the Masonic lodge. The members play a large part. The Master would be handicapped without the sympathy and cooperation of those over whom he presides. And so while the names of the Masters appear herein, yet a word of earnest praise must be spoken for the faithful Lodge members whose names cannot be included, but without whose support the Master would be helpless.
On this bright day Hampton Lodge looks with hope to the future. (June 2, 1932 by H. A. Brunson)
On January 20, 1879, M∴W∴ Bro. Augustine T. Smythe, the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Ancient Free Masons of South Carolina, granted a dispensation authorizing the formation of Hampton Lodge, Under Dispensation (U.D.). The lodge continued working throughout the year completing many efforts, both administrative and Masonic, and was issued its charter, or warrant of constitution, on December 10, 1879.
Hampton Lodge No. 204 has not only added over 140 years to its own distinctive history in Florence, but has also been enriched through its consolidation with two other lodges:
The consolidation of these lodges, joined together in perfect union, constitute Hampton Lodge No. 204, A.F.M. as it exists today.