Current Interest: Alabama Lodges Destroyed by April 2011 Tornado Merge and Start Afresh

On April 27, 2011, a tornado ripped through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and destroyed the lodge buildings of Rising Virtue Lodge No. 4 and Von Bayer Lodge No. 699. The members were not inclined to let a little “bad weather” get them down, so they set out a path to recovery. They continued their meetings in J. Collier Foster Lodge No. 906 in Northport, Alabama, and made plans to rebound from this momentary setback.

The two lodges unanimously agreed to merge, to pool their resources, and to build a new and better lodge hall. Rising Virtue Lodge was chartered as No. 30 in 1819 by the Grand Lodge of Tennessee. It was one of the founding lodges of the Grand Lodge of Alabama in 1821 when it became No. 4, and for this reason the two lodges agreed to keep the name and number of Rising Virtue.

On October 22, 2011— not quite six months after the tornado destroyed the original lodge halls, the Grand Lodge of Alabama, F.&A.M., laid the cornerstone for a new lodge hall for the newly revitalized Rising Virtue Lodge No. 4. The destroyed lodge hall was built in 1973, so there were some present who participated in both cornerstone ceremonies! The building will serve not only the brothers of Rising Virtue but also other members of the Masonic family in Tuscaloosa. More than 100 people attended the ceremony as well as State Rep John Merill and State Sen. Gerald Allen, both of whom congratulated the lodge for its prompt recovery from the disaster and for its contributions to the community.

GM Ronald Andress, 33°, presided over the cornerstone ceremony which started at 10:00 am, the same time Bro. George Washington laid the cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol in 1793. This ceremony was particularly significant for MW Andress as he is a Tuscaloosa native and a Past Master of both Rising Virtue and Von Bayer Lodges. Following Masonic tradition, the cornerstone was tried by plumb, square, and level, declared “well formed, true, and trusty,” and anointed with corn, wine, and oil. Following Alabama tradition, the participants adjourned to the fellowship hall of Covenant Presbyterian Church and enjoyed some good ol’ ’Bama Barbecue prepared by Clara Blackmon Chapter No. 167 OES.

You can read more about the cornerstone ceremony at, and see a short video of the ceremony at

—Submitted by Chris Riles, 32°, KSA Valley of Birmingham, Alabama