Our History

In the beginning...

Oasis Shriners trace their history back to 1894, when Walter Scott "Daddy" Liddell and eight Knights Templer of the Charlotte Commandery No.2 petitioned Acca Temple in Richmond, Va., to organize a Shrine Temple in North Carolina, actually the first in the Carolinas, North and South. Those joining with Liddell were Belk department store founder William Henry Belk, Dr. J.F. Robertson, B. Swift Davis, John Farrier, C.L. Hopkins, W.B. Summersett, D.E. Allen, and George Merideth. The Charter was granted on Oct. 10, 1894, by Imperial Potentate William B. Melish of Cincinnati.

Liddell, a 33rd Degree Scottish Rite Mason, Knight Templer, and past Master of his lodge, Phalanx No.31 in Charlotte, served as Potentate of Oasis for four years and was Grand Master of Masons in 1904 and 1905. He was the Oasis Imperial representative and had Emeritus status until his death in 1940. In addition to Illustrious Sir Walter, the original Divan of the newly-formed temple were: Chief Rabban W.B. Summersett, Assistant Rabban E.E. Allen, High Priest and Profit D.S. Davis, Oriental Guide J.F. Robertson, Recorder John Farrier, Treasurer C.L. Hopkins, First Ceremonial Master J.T. Barron, Second Ceremonial Master J.W. Courtland, Captain of the Guard William Henry Belk, Outer Guard George Merideth and Marshall C.L. Hoffman. Initially, there was no director, but later D.G. Maxwell was named to the post and all the original Divan was appointed by Imperial Potentate Melish.
The very first meeting was held at what was called Shrine Hall in downtown Charlotte on January 18, 1895. The next day, with the formal assistance of Acca Temple representatives, 18 new nobles were initiated into the newly-formed Oasis Temple. That first ceremonial ended with a dinner in the Masonic Hall (A place thought to be the same structure as Shrine Hall).

One of the first applications received after the initial charter membership was formed came from J.M. Belk, W. Henry's brother, and the first Oasis affiliation was F.L. Jacobs, who demitted from Jerusalem Temple in New Orleans. As the Membership grew, it spread across North and South Carolina, with initiates coming from Asheville, Raleigh, and Charleston. The first honorary memberships went to George Street of Acca Temple and Past Acca Potentate Louis Ecken. In the 18 years following, the Shrine organization expanded into Mexico and the Republic of Panama and many of the organization's traditions began, such as the first Shrine Circus in Detroit in 1906 and the expansion of philanthropy.

Shriners contributed $25,000 to earthquake victims in San Francisco in 1906 and gave $10,000 for the relief of European war victims, both considered enormous sums at the time. But what would be known as "The World's Greatest Philanthropy, " the Shriners Hospitals for Children®, emerged as the organization's number one cause in 1920 when the Imperial resolution established the "Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children," supported by a $2 per member assessment.
The Cornerstone was laid for the first hospital in 1922 in Shreveport, Louisiana. Five years later, the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children in Greenville, S.C., opened, and by 1997 a network of 22 hospitals made up the system, now known as Shriners Hospitals for Children®, providing orthopedic, burn and spinal care for children around the world.

Oasis Shriners were also vigilant during wartime, and celebrated with the rest of the world at the end of each conflict. In the October 1945 issue of the Desert Dust, Imperial Potentate William H. Woodfield Jr. said of World War II Shrine veterans: "More than 50,000 fellow Nobles of the Mystic Shrine served their country in the military forces during this worst of wars. Many will not return. Their names are marked by a gold star on our rolls of honor." "To these men whom we all knew and to all who made the supreme sacrifice, and to their families and friends, there are no words to express our humble gratitude and thanks for their deeds," Imperial Sir William said.
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Also during the growth of Shrinedom in the 20th Century came expansion of the organization in the Carolinas. Omar Temple was chartered in Charleston, S.C., in 1907, Sudan Temple in New Burn, N.C., in 1917, Greenville's Hejaz in 1920, Columbia's Jamil in 1974 and Raleigh's Amran in 1976.
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One of the most significant modern milestones for Oasis came in 1987, with the construction of its new headquarters mosque in the University City area of north Charlotte after spending virtually all of its first 90-odd years in downtown Charlotte. Ground was broken at the new building on March 20, 1987, in a ceremony attended by local government, civic and political leaders along with representation for the nobility throughout the Carolinas and on the Imperial level.

A week later a commemorative plaque was installed by the Grand Lodge of AF & AM of N.C. by Grand Master Bud McCall and Oasis Potentate Tommy Arakas. The completed 55,000 square-foot building, complete with its enormous auditorium, practice area, meeting rooms, offices and restaurant, was dedicated in June 1988.
Oasis, with some 5,500 members, still stands as the "Largest" of all the 193 temples in North America. A combined membership of more than one quarter of a million is governed by the Imperial Council, the chief executive officer is the Imperial Potentate, elected each year in July for a one-year term. The Shriners International general offices are in Tampa, Fla.
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Shriners International is a fraternity based on fun, fellowship and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, truth and relief.

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Charlotte Headquarters

OASIS SHRINERS
604 Doug Mayes Place
Charlotte NC 28262
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