The foundation stone of the Freemason building at 125 Munnik Street, Louis Trichardt, was laid on 17 May 1952, which is still used by the local Freemasons for their meeting to this day.
Date: 03 June 2023 By: Andries van Zyl
If you guessed that the answer to the clue in the Zoutpansberger’s photo “treasure hunt” competition that closed on Monday is the Freemasons’ Lodge in Munnik Street, Louis Trichardt, you would have been right. But there can only be one winner and for the second consecutive time the name of Cherise Hamman was drawn as the winner!
The Freemasons’ history in the area dates back more than 100 years. By the late 1800s, early 1900s, the Star of the North Lodge in the then Pietersburg also accommodated members from the Soutpansberg, one of them being Charlie Schlesinger, who regularly travelled by bicycle between Louis Trichardt and Pietersburg to attend meetings. He was one of the pioneer businessmen in the region with ventures such as the well-known Zoutpansberg Hotel.
On 18 April 1913, the Lion of the North Lodge (No 3640) was consecrated in Louis Trichardt and opened by J Venning. Bro Schlesinger was elected as Charter Master. Where the first meeting was held is not recorded, but the meeting on 7 August 1913 was held in the “school room”. One of the first projects was to raise money to build a Temple (a meeting place).
The site where the new Lodge was to be built, was donated by T Kleinenberg, and on 14 May 1914, the first ceremonial stone was laid. The new building, situated in Burger Street, was finished a few months later and the first meeting was held on 3 September 1914.
The Lodge had a strong Jewish bias, with some 30% of the members being of Jewish origin. The Jewish businessmen were at the forefront of development in the region in the early 1900s and were very influential. The names included those of Himmelhoch, Gotlieb, Abramowitch and Cohen. Mr SS Himmelhoch owned the first business in town, a general dealership. The family also owned the mill and butchery.
The local Freemasons clearly played an important role in the management of the early Louis Trichardt. CE Schlesinger was instrumental in getting the first health committee established in 1910, on which ET Stubbs, the assistant magistrate, served. In 1913, another Freemason, B Lewis, became one of the first elected officials to serve on the health committee.
Further north, in the erstwhile Messina, the Freemason membership started to increase and with it the need to have an own Lodge. This ideal was only realised 20 years later, on 25 August 1934, when Messina Lodge was consecrated.
For more than 100 years, the Freemasons of the Soutpansberg included some truly fascinating characters who added colour to the region and made a lasting impact. The names include that of Dr Solomon Kirk-Cohen, who was a driving force in the local medical field and served on the town council. The surname Thompson appears a few times and is testimony to a family that left deep marks in the region. Some were farmers, such as Ridgeway Bristow, and entrepreneurs such as Claude Hanlon, who started one of the biggest garages in the district. Piet Otto was a town clerk, who later became a councillor and mayor of Louis Trichardt.
To discuss all the names that appear in the minute books of the local Freemason Lodge will make for a story much too long to be published in one edition of a newspaper. What is certain, however, is that the region would not have been the same, were it not for the influence of these men.
The Freemason building, with its timber and iron structure and suspect foundations, was eventually discarded as it became too small to accommodate the large number of members who joined after the end of World War II. On 17 May 1952, the foundation stone for the new building at 125 Munnik Street was laid by the District Grand Master JH Vivian. This building still serves as gathering place for the Freemasons today.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.