Georgians loved the social life, and very quickly after the founding of the colony began starting clubs and organizations in which they both socialize as well as undertake civic projects to help those less fortunate than they.
As reported in F.D. Lee and J.L. Agnew's “Historical Record of the City of Savannah,” the first society to take root in the new colony was that of the Masons. Lee wrote “Early in 1733. a number of Masons while stationed in Sunbury with General Oglethorpe organized a Lodge.”
Known first as “The Savannah Lodge,” it was renamed “Solomon's Lodge #1.” This, the first chartered Masonic Lodge in the United States, was located on President Street near St. James Square. Their second Hall was located on Broughton Street at the northeast corner of Bull Street.
The next group of social organizations were formed along cultural lines. Founded in 1750, the “St. George's Society” was formed in Savannah by members of the colony's English first settlers. In 1786 the society was renamed the “Union Society.”
The Scottish and Irish groups that settled the Georgia wilderness quickly established their own organizations. Around 1790, the sons of Scotland formed the “St. Andrews Society,” led by General Lachlan Mclntosh and Sir George Houstoun.
Savannah's Irish leaders founded two societies of their own. The first, the “Hibernian Society”, was created in 1812 and charged with keeping Irish culture alive in America.
Savannah's second Irish society, the “Irish Union Society” was organized in 1847 in order to assist the many poor Irish families who were arriving in Georgia.
After Master Tradesmen set up new “Guilds,” the early version of labor unions in America, members of smaller and less prosperous trades set up their own “Guilds of Odd Fellows” so that they too might earn better wages and working conditions. The first such group in Georgia was the “Oglethorpe Lodge,” chartered in 1843.
Two more cultural organizations were established between 1850 and 1851: the “Hebrew Benevolent Society of Savannah (or Ladies Hebrew Benevolent Society)”; and the “Ladies German Benevolent Society of Savannah.”
They were joined by two more societies between 1865 and 1866: the “Harmonie Club,” which staged elaborate 'debutante” balls; and “Josephs Lodge, No. 75, of the International Order of the B'nai B'rith (or Sons of the Covenant).”
Finally, the “Young Mens Library Association of Savannah” was begun in 1866 by Methodist preacher A. M. Wynn. At first limited just to Methodists, its doors were soon open to those of all faiths.
After more than 100 years of cultivation, Georgia's “High Society” was now in full bloom. New Lodges, Halls, and chapters sprung up in all the surrounding counties, as the westward migration continued.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. Allen provides a brief look at Bulloch County's historical past. E-mail Roger at roger firstname.lastname@example.org