RSL29 History - pg. 2

“The Lost Garden of Forest Home”

“The Lost Garden of Forest Home”

A Watercolor Illustrated and painted by M.D. Henry in 1950

 A Watercolor Illustrated and painted by M.D. Henry in 1950 


Absalom Leonidas Davis (1833-1922) was Rising Sun Lodge’s Chaplin in 1867 as well as the son-in-law of James Fennel, the 2nd Worshipful Master of this Lodge. Davis was a Methodist Minister.

Forest Home was a 500-acre, 19th century plantation, where Ann Fennel Davis and her husband, Absalom Leonidas Davis, a scholarly academic, lived and she gardened with their free and enslaved workers.

The main house at Forest Home, completed in 1857, had not been inhabited for many years before it burned to the ground one hot, dry weekend in October 1991.

The land is now an upscale, 21st century, residential development named Forest Home Estates. The surrounding community was and is Trinity, Alabama.

CLICK HERE to be re-directed to his Find A Grave Memorial #14985358 and additional biographical information. 

John B. Stuart (1825-1903) was Junior Warden in 1872.  He was born in Morgan County, learned the carpenter’s trade while a young man, and at the age of eighteen years embarked in mercantile business.  He came to Decatur in 1842, and two years later, moved to Somerville.
In 1851 he was elected Clerk of the Circuit Court; in 1858 he was a traveling man and, in 1861, resumed the mercantile business at Somerville.
In the spring of 1862 he joined Company H, Twenty-seventh Alabama, and was soon afterward made its Captain.  At Fort Donelson he fell into the hands of the enemy and was held many months as a prisoner of war at Camp Chase, and at Johnson’s Island.  After his exchange, which took place in September following his capture, he took part in the battles of Corinth, Baker’s Creek, Resaca, Cassville, Lost Mountain and Atlanta.  During General John Bell Hood’s raid into Tennessee, he had charge of a scouting party, and at the head of about one hundred rangers met General James H. Wilson at Elyton (now part of Birmingham).  This engagement proved decidedly unfortunate, as he lost all his command.
After the war he returned to Decatur, where he has since been one of the most successful merchants of this place
The following are excerpts from newly discovered letters from Camp Chase prisoners:
From 1st Lt. Peter Barker, Mess 58, Prison 8, April 21st 1862:
Dear Brother
     I am in very good helth 15 of ous in a mess all tolerabel well with the exception of Capt John Stuart of Morgan Co.
    I have had mups I was vaxenated it had vary good effect we have sinc the first of this mont 4 cases of small pox but……
  From Capt. J. B. Stuart, Mess 58, Prison 3, April 21st 1862:
Dear Sarah
……I am quite lame yet from an attack of Rheumatism.
......I think if I could get out of this prison and a bed to sleep on in place of a hard plank I will improve fast. Our prison is verry damp and the house we are in leaks verry bad. It rains all night and the floor is wet all over there is nothing but a plank rood on it…….
……I have a list of all that are dead that I know of……
……You must take good care of your self & send the children to school……
……We have bin unlucky to some extent but live in hope. My mess is all verry cleaver to me in my sickness. As kind as brothers and the ties made here cannot be loosed until death……
……Tell all my friends to write me as this life is verry monotonous. My respects to all inquiring friends. Kiss the children for me & accept one your self.

In 1888, Capt. J. B. Stuart contracted Yellow Jack (as yellow fever was commonly called) while attending his son who died of the dreaded disease. Capt. Stuart’s case is light and he is expected to recover.

CLICK HERE to be re-directed to his Find A Grave Memorial # 59306687 and additional biographical information.


Joseph S. Sugars (1845-1892) served as Senior Warden from 1872-1874, and as Worshipful Master 1875, 1876 and again in 1887.
He was born in Decatur, May 12, 1845, and was reared and received his education at the common schools of this place.
In the fall of 1862 he enlisted in the Confederate Army, in Company E, First Alabama Cavalry,and was detailed on special duty in General Roddy's Escort. He was in the engagements at Pond Springs and continuous skirmishes in front of Wilson. He was present at the battles of Harrisburg and Tupelo, Miss., East Point, Ga., and the siege of Atlanta, which was his last battle in the war. He was at Montgomery at the time it surrendered, and at once returned to his father's farm, where he remained about two years.
He then came to Decatur, and as a member of the firm of Levy, Sugars & Son, Jewelers, met with good success.
He is a director in the North Alabama Oil and Asphalt Company, of Birmingham, Ala., and owns considerable property in Decatur.
CLICK HERE to be re-directed to his Find A Grave Memorial #66875189 and additional biographical information.


John T. Banks (1837-1900) served RSL29 as Treasurer and Secretary in 1873 and 1874 respectively. The son of John F. and Frances E. (Roberts) Banks, was born in Somerville, Morgan County, Ala., March 28, 1837; was reared in Somerville, lived with and was educated by his uncle, John T. Rather, (who was a captain in the War of 1812): received his education in Decatur, and at the age of sixteen entered the drug business with J. W. Cain, and afterward with T. F. Scruggs. In 1858 he purchased the business and conducted it until 186l, when he was broken up by the war. The first Federal force which entered Decatur burned the bridge, and destroyed his stock. He enlisted in the Sixth Alabama Regiment soon after the battle of Shiloh, and was immediately detailed on duty in the hospital department as a pharmacist. He spent his first eighteen months at Okolona, Miss., thence was sent to Meridian, and just before the close of the war, was returned to Okolona, where he surrendered in 1865. He walked home and opened another drug store in Decatur, and has followed the business there ever since, excepting two years.
Mr. Banks was appointed Notary Public and ex-officio Justice of the Peace. In May, 1887, he sold his drug store to Dr. T. H. Hughes, and is now erecting a handsome three-story building for a drug store, on the corner of Oak and Cain streets. He is a stockholder in the Decatur Land, Furnace & Improvement Company.
Mr. Banks was married in December, 1868, to Miss Maria L. Long, at Tuscumbia. They have four children, viz. - Fannie Lee, John Ellis, Margaret L. and Mary Fields.

Mr. Banks and wife are members of the Presbyterian Church, and he is a Free Mason and a member of the City Council.
In November, 1886, Mr. Banks was a prime mover in locating and obtaining stock for the Decatur Charcoal and Chemical Works.

CLICK HERE to be re-directed to his Find A Grave Memorial #92509887 and additional biographical information.

Prior to the early 1870’s, it is not known exactly where meetings were held.  It has been discovered that meetings were held in several different places, most likely ranging from individual members homes, to other buildings as they became available. Records do reveal that sometime around 1873, however, a Lodge was built on the northwest corner of Bank Street and Pond Street, (Pond Street is now Wilson Street), and this is where regular meetings occurred until approximately 1876, when that building caught fire and burned to the ground.

Brother James M. Brundidge offered the following resolution during the proceedings of the annual communications of the Grand Lodge in 1876 and it was adopted;
Relief of Rising Sun Lodge, No. 29: Reached, That Rising Sun Lodge, No. 29, at Decatur, having, on the 7th of November, lost by fire it's charter, jewels and furniture; a new charter is hereby granted to said Lodge, free of charge and it's dues for the present year remitted.

After this Lodge burned down, Rising Sun Lodge moved it’s location to a two-story building owned by Brother R. P. Baker, which was just down the block on the corner of Bank Street and Market Street. This building was closer to the river, and served as Rising Sun’s designated Lodge for several years.

In 1877 James M. Brundidge represented Rising Sun Lodge 29 at Grand Lodge in Montgomery, Ala.

John T. Banks Building 402 Oak Street (Above Left) - Civil War veteran, druggist and early city leader John T. Banks built the brick structure in 1887 and shortly thereafter it became the home of Rising Sun Lodge #29.

The building was at the center of a political storm in Morgan County in 1891. When a vote declared Decatur as the county seat, residents moved records surreptitiously by horse and buggy at night from Somerville. Originally three stories, the Banks Building housed the courthouse for two years while a permanent courthouse on Ferry Street was being built. Later, the building housed a hospital and retail store. After a fire in 1915, the third story was removed and the building was mainly used for apartments and boarding rooms until the 1970’s. Restored in 2002, this historic building is now office space.

George D. Mentz  (1845-1909) was Worshipful Master of RSL29 in 1877 and 1878. He was also elected Mayor of Decatur in 1878 by 31 votes.

His tenure of both offices was especially challenging because of the deadly yellow fever outbreak of 1878.

CLICK HERE to be re-directed to his Find A Grave Memorial #189809742 and additional biographical information.


The first of two major yellow fever epidemics struck Decatur in 1878 with 58 confirmed deaths and the membership of Rising Sun Lodge 29 escaped not.
The November 23, 1878 edition of the Decatur News published the following:
Masonic Tribute - Rising Sun Lodge No. 29 Free and Accepted Masons, mourns the loss of an honored and highly esteemed member, The Rev. Joel W. Whitten (right), late pastor of the Methodist Church, South, in Decatur, died of yellow fever on Sunday morning, October 28th.
CLICK HERE to be redirected to his Find A Grave Memorial #52999250 and additional biographical information.

On December 2, 1878, it was resolved at Grand Lodge "That The Dues of Rising Sun Lodge No. 29 be remitted for the present year, that lodge having suffered severely on account of the yellow fever."  

P. J. Edwards (1847-1916) was Junior Warden in 1877 and 1878.  Perry Jackson Edwards was born at Milledgeville, GA.  In May, 1861, he enlisted, at the age of thirteen, in Company A, Sixteenth Georgia Battalion, Stewart's Brigade, Walker's Division.  Both Stewart and Walker were killed in the Battle of Atlanta in 1864.
He was in the service about two years and nine months and participated in the battles of Kennesaw, and in the Atlanta campaign, was with General Hood at Franklin and Nashville.
He was never wounded but was captured in April, 1864 and held as a prisoner of war.  He was paroled on the 23rd day of April, 1865 at Macon, Ga.
After attending the University of Georgia for two years, he was employed by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad Company.  In 1873 he moved to Decatur, Alabama where he was a car inspector.
For the sum of $3,500, a deed was filed in the Morgan County Probate Court, transferring the 50-foot lot at the corner of Bank and Walnut Streets to the Decatur Lodge I. O. O. F.  The property was owned by a combine of local men, who bought it during the boom days.  The deed was signed by Col. C. C. Harris and P. J. Edwards, trustees.
It is understood the Odd Fellows will, in the near future erect a handsome two story double brick store building on the lot.
CLICK HERE to be re-directed to his Find A Grave Memorial #39805373 and additional biographical information.

John Wesley Jones (1827-1884) was Worshipful Master of Rising Sun Lodge No. 29 for 6 years from 1879 until his death in 1884.

From the January 17, 1883 edition of The Huntsville Advocate: The impressive Masonic ceremonies over the remains of Dr. F. W. Sykes were conducted by Capt. J. W. Jones, Worshipful Master of Rising Sun Lodge 29. Members of the Trinity and Town Creek Lodges were present.  Dr. Sykes was a member of the Town Creek Lodge.
John W. Jones had been in the railroad service at Decatur for 31 years.
Being one of the most prominent Masons in the state, He had gone to Elkmont to deliver a Masonic Lecture.

Ironically he was boarding a train back to Decatur when he stepped onto the oncoming track and at that very instant an unscheduled train coming from the opposite direction struck him and crushed his head killing him instantly.

He is the only Worshipful Master of Rising Sun Lodge to be killed while sitting in the East.
There were ten Masonic Lodges represented at his funeral.
CLICK HERE to be re-directed to his Find A Grave Memorial #39896369 and additional biographical information. .