One of the things that puzzled me upon moving to the South in 1970 was the presence of a Masonic lodge right next door to city hall in Statesville, NC. Given the religious nature of the South, it seemed anachronistic, especially the imposing building (since moved a few blocks away). Statesville at the time had a population of about 20,000 people.
From time to time, the local newspaper would mention the local Demolay chapter. As near as I could make it out as a teenager, Demolay seems to be a recruiting arm of Freemasonry, to filter out potential candidates for joining the Masonic lodge as adults.
Looking around Cramerton NC, which is a much smaller town, I couldn’t help but notice there is a Masonic lodge right across the street from the fire department and a block from city hall.
One thing Statesville and Cramerton share is they are located on important railroad lines. Cramerton was a textile mill “company town” located on the Catawba River where it was crossed by the Southern Railroad. These days, it is a suburban commuter enclave filling up with subdivisions oblivious to the history of the town, just enjoying the pubs with their great selection of craft beers.
That got me wondering if Freemasons are here because they played a role in Reconstruction after the Civil War. Here is an interesting article, including the little detail that Andrew Johnson, who became President after Lincoln was assisinated, was a Freemason.