The Council’s colorful history began on February 28, 1904, when a group of 32 charter members met for the purpose of conducting the first meeting under the name of Jackson Council 848.
Brother Knight W. A. McQuaid was the Council’s first grand knight, serving in that capacity until 1906. Since then the Council has had an array of grand knights guiding its destiny, some of them having the distinction of serving more than one term.
Following the chartering of the new council, Chaplain C. A. Oliver, a new Knight and Pastor of St. Peter’s church assisted the council in getting off to a good start. He relied on his Brother Knights to assist with the collections, ushering, church maintenance, and with the preparation for religious celebrations. In those days the Knights of Columbus were almost exclusively depended on to conduct church and school fund raising drives.
Even in the earliest days, John T. Savage Council was recognized as one of the foremost fraternal organizations in the city of Jackson. Its members included city and county judges, legislators, and city, county and state officials.
When the city of Jackson purchased land on which to build the new Central High School, the Council purchased a house on the site and moved it to the corner of Lamar and Amite streets. The Council met in this house for many years. It became affectionately known as “The Old Gray Castle”. Following the construction of a new Council Home in 1955, the “Old Gray Castle” accommodated several classrooms to supplement the overcrowded St. Joseph High School.
The Great Depression days spared no one, as many can attest. Many Knights found themselves unemployed and these years were a true testing ground for the Order’s principals- Charity, Unity, Fraternity and Patriotism. During this time, the Council put forth one of its greatest efforts, uniting as one, to assist those who were needy.
World War II saw our Council again become active in the war effort. It promoted the sale of War Bonds and itself purchased over $19,000 in bonds.
During one of the worst fires to hit the city of Jackson, a local theatre crowded with moviegoers burned to the ground. Brother Joseph Kuriger, an employee of the theatre, lost his life while saving others. The City of Jackson, Council 848 and the Supreme Council all cited his bravery with posthumous awards for heroism.
From the late teens until his untimely death on April 24, 1942, there was a member of the Council who did so much work for the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Church, and the City of Jackson that we felt special recognition must be given him. John T. Savage was an outstanding citizen, a credit to his church and community, loved and respected by everyone who knew him.
He served as State Advocate during the formative years of the State Council, and was a dynamic orator at State and Supreme Conventions for over 35 years. He advocated a 4-year medical school, building of a catholic hospital in Jackson, and a driving force in moving the convention around the state rather than staying in the bigger cities.
In recognition of his outstanding accomplishments, the Jackson Council, in special ceremonies held in April 1949, had its name changed to the John T. Savage Council 848. Even in death, John T. Savage continued to help the Knights of Columbus to the extent that he and his wife bequeathed the Council a substantial amount of money for the purpose of building a new Council home. In 1955, this money and the interest it had earned since its receipt, was used to purchase land.
The year 1946 was a banner year for membership. That year Brother Harry Dolton was chairman of the Membership Committee and under his leadership our membership rose from 104 to 419, a feat which has not been duplicated. For this splendid work, the Council won the Contest of Champions Award, the Century Award, and the Star Council Award
In 1952, the John T. Savage Council purchased and donated to the Carmelite nuns, just cloistered in Jackson, a statue of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This statue was, with proper ceremony, placed and dedicated in the public chapel at the monastery on Terry Road in Jackson.
In 1948, our Council pledged $3,000 to St. Dominic’s Hospital to help build a Chaplain’s Quarters at the new St. Dominic’s-Jackson Memorial Hospital. The Council continued support of this project until it was completed. The Council was a leader in raising funds to build the hospital located on Lakeland Drive.
One of the Council’s finest continuing programs is the Priest Education Fund, which, through Monsignor James Hannon’s efforts, was brought back into focus in 1954. In August of that year, members of the John T. Savage Council voted to discontinue support of the Chaplain’s Quarters at St. Dominic –Jackson Memorial Hospital and contribute instead to the Priest Education Fund. Ultimately, the Priest Education Fund became statewide.
Through the years, the Council has firmly supported the Boy Scout Program. Most active in this area of youth activities were Brother Knights V. J. LaRocca, John Rietti, Bishop R. O. Gerow, and General Harry Dolton. Brother Dolton had the distinction of having been an advisor and scout commissioner for more than 40 years. In recognition for their outstanding contributions to Scouting, Bishop Gerow and General Dolton received the Silver Beaver Award the highest honor conferred by the Boy Scouts of America.
In 1974, the John T. Savage Council 848 established the Knights of Columbus Memorial Scholarship Fund in honor of C. Medric Warren (deceased), Past Grand Knight of this Council and Past State Warden. For several years our Council conducted a Memorial Scholarship Football Bowl to which local elementary schools were invited to participate. The proceeds from the Bowl game were used for the purpose of assisting some young person with his or her college tuition. A Basketball Tournament over the Christmas Holidays took its place.
A more recent activity in which this Council participates on a national level with other Council is the annual Tootsie Roll Drive for the Mentally Retarded. This project has involved more personnel than any other Council project to the extent that its success has been assured, year after year, through the participation of not only our Brother Knights, but members of their families, the Ladies Auxiliary, relatives, friends, and various youth organizations as well. Brother Jerry Graham headed this project for the past 10 years and was planning the 2003 campaign at the time of his death. The Council uses its monies for Special Olympic programs, the County Associations for Retarded Adults and Children, mental health services, special education schools, and day care facilities.
It can be said that our Council ‘s existence covered two eras each a span of fifty years. Each experienced good times and bad times. The first fifty were good because the Order offered Catholic men a showcase for the good that can be done when men with like objectives work together. The Catholic population experienced great growth with the return of men from the military. For a number of years the Council flourished and membership thrived.
As the city grew and expanded so did the number of parishes. There was a gradual but noticeable erosion of membership. Councils were chartered at some of the new parishes creating a further dilution of Council membership and cash flow from dues. The final blow was the banning of Bingo and then it’s return on a commercial basis. The realization that we were no longer able to maintain the facility forced a tough decision. We had to sell the Hall.
After relinquishing the facilities, items were sold, donated to other Councils, or stored in a variety of places. You might say, we became Gypsies. The Council met at St. Richard for several years and began to lose its prominence in the parishes, still doing many good works but no longer visible, and attracting very few new men. We began to look for surroundings better suited to our needs.