C. W. Torrence was born in St. Marys, Ohio, Nov. 14, 1871, and attended school at New Bremen, and Wapakoneta, Ohio. From the latter of which he was graduated May 18th, 1888 standing second in his class. In 1880 he moved with his family to Wapakoneta, Ohio. After his graduation from the public schools he served a year or two in his father’s office of County Auditor and enrolled for a course in the Ohio University at Columbus, Ohio, from which he graduated with honors two years later.
There followed a five years service in the Peoples National Bank of Wapakoneta, as Teller and confidential advisor to the President of that institution. He severed his connection with the bank two years later, to accept a position with the Union Pacific Coal Company in Hanna, Wyoming, as cashier and pay master of that institution, which position he filled for three years. During the time he was employed by that company, he met and married Eva R. Bostwick, making his home in Hanna, Wyoming. To this union one child, whom they named Koneta, was born. He left Hanna to accept a managerial position with the Dayton Brass and Cornice Company in Dayton, Ohio. Two years later he was called to Cincinnati, Ohio, to fill a position in the offices of the Breese Bros. Co.
He entered the Masonic fraternity during the year 1896, joining Hamer Lodge No. 167 of Wapakoneta, Ohio in which he held his membership until the year 1917 when he demitted to Ely Lodge No. 29. He entered the Grand Lodge of Nevada in the year 1924, ten years later he was appointed Grand Historian by Grand Master H. R. Amens, and at once started to gather data for the history of the constituent lodges of the Jurisdiction of Nevada. The task was finished in 1941. The illustrations appearing in the book are from the collection of Past Masters Herman Davis and W. M. David who kindly loaned their volume of views collected during their terms as Grand Masters. Other views were taken by Chas. D. Gallagher or were furnished by the lodges as named.
In 1939 Mr. Torrence joined Reno Consistory No. 1 A. A. S. Rite.
In 1942 he was elected Worthy Grand Patron O. E. S.
In 1943 he joined Kerak Temple A. A. O. N. M. S.
He is also a member of St. Marys Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, which he joined in 1896.
Always interested in writing, and a profound student of Masonic lore, his devotion to the cause of Masonry makes him an outstanding member of the Craft, and a logical person to write the History of the constituent lodges of Nevada, which is hereby submitted for your criticism.
MASONIC RAMBLES IN NEVADA
NEVADA–“Home of the sage and the pine,” of sand covered plains, of rugged sun-kissed hills and mountains, a state of mystery and charm.
Buried ‘neath its desert sands, and hidden in its canyons, the bones of hundreds lie, victims to the lure of its hidden wealth, and only the Great Architect of the Universe knows through what untold years its magic call has beckoned and enticed the adventurer with the lure of its mystic trails.
Remains of a long forgotten people have been uncovered by the geologist or their activities traced in pictured writings on bluffs, which ages ago were smoothed by erosive action of wind and sand. A race of beings who may have been strong and powerful, long before Noah launched his ark, long before the pyramids were built, or before the Ming dynasty of the flowery kingdom laid claim to power and prestige.
But, though Nevada has witchery and allurement, she has long since yielded to the spell of the white man’s magic. Down her dim trails, first came the pioneer; the rumble of his prairie schooner disturbing the primeval silence of a rock bound wilderness, and widening the trail made by the hurrying fret of countless red men. For years, in an unbroken stream, this tide swept on, into the golden west, or, loitering by the side of trickling streams, gambled with the elements or diced with mother nature in quest of fickle fortune. Then came the locomotive, its shrieking whistle and clanging bell issuing a challenge to the howling defiance of the wolf and coyote, bearings its burden of humanity to distant fields, lured by the hope or promise of a golden hoard.
Today, motor cars and rumbling trucks flash over broad smooth roads, which were once dangerous wagon trails infested by prowling denizens of the mountains and plains, where traveling caravans were beset and harassed by cunning, blood thirsty Indians. High in the azure blue of the skies, the airplane roars its savage song, an evidence of mans inventive genius, an emblem of man’s progression. From its dizzy height, it passes over mute evidences of decay, a deserted mining shaft, a decaying mill, where once the tide of golden fortune ebbed and flowed. It passes high above a town, whose once populous streets are overgrown with sage or mesquite bush, whose sagging roofs and battered walls are mute attestants to the remorseless hand of time, and the fickle tide of fortune. A town whose grandeur is gone, whose hum of industry has long since been silenced, and whose treasure is seemingly exhausted. And there are many such in Nevada. And yet, Nevada remains, and probably always will remain, a land of mystery and magic. Man may dynamite her mountains, he may pan her streams and rivers for its gold, he may bridge her chasms and build his cities, but he cannot chain that charm which lies in her mountains and hills; he cannot overcome the lure that haunts her ancient trails, nor can he silence the ceaseless echo of those spirit voices which sigh among the pine and balsam, and whisper her derision and contempt for his futile attempt to conquer her.
The following historical manuscript, prepared by D. E. W. Williamson, was presented and read before the sixty-sixth annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, Free and Accepted Masons of Nevada, convened in the city of Reno, in the Masonic Temple, on the 12th day of June, 1930.
It was published in the Annual Proceedings of that year, and is produced here in full. The text follows:
MORMONS AND MASONRY IN NEVADA
In speaking of the old town of Genoa in this state several months ago, the editor of the Carson Appeal said that the first gathering of Masons ever held in Nevada took place there, but inquiry as to his sources of information led to nothing definite, because the man who had told him, a former postmaster of Carson City, had long been dead. If any meeting of so-called Masons occurred at Genoa, it must have been a gathering of those who first saw the light in Illinois in lodges that on October 7, 1844, were declared by the Grand Lodge of Illinois to be clandestine. The first known informal meeting of Masons in Nevada of which there is any note took place in Virginia City in 1860. (Proceedings of G. L. of Nevada, 1928, Report of History Committee.)
But the fact that a meeting of clandestine Masons may have taken place at Genoa, which prior to the survey of Orson Hyde in 1855 was known as Mormon Station and was settled by Mormons almost exclusively, makes the relations of Mormons to Masonry in general and the attitude of Masonry in Nevada toward Mormons of especial interest to the Fraternity. Some of those Mormons, under a ruling of the Grand Lodge of Illinois in 1846, may even have been Masons in good standing, since little attention was then paid to non-payment of dues, and few if any jurisdictions required documentary evidence or a card such as now is demanded.
There is no denying that most of the Mormons who came West from Nauvoo in 1847 had been made Masons in what were at the time regularly constituted lodges. On October 15, 1841, a dispensation was issued by Grand Master Jones of the Grand Lodge of Illinois for the organization of a Masonic Lodge at Nauvoo in that state and the lodge was set to work on March 15, 1842 (Goodwin, “Mormonism and Masonry” 4.) Quite a number of the Mormons had been raised in New York and Ohio. The dispensation was suspended on August 11, 1842, but was restored in November, 1842, on the recommendation of a Grand Lodge Committee which found that the chief irregularity had been collective balloting, and two more lodges were granted dispensations in Nauvoo, while one at Montrose, Ill., was given a charter as Rising Sun Lodge, No. 12, and a dispensation was given another in Keokuk. All these were strictly Mormon lodges and they continued to work, virtually unchallenged, until the Grand Lodge convened in October, 1843, when the charter of Rising Sun Lodge, No. 12, was suspended and the dispensations recalled from Nauvoo, Helm and Nye lodges in Nauvoo and Keokuk Lodge, all on the grounds of irregular work, of concealing their records and of disregarding Grand Lodge instructions and resolutions. (Op. cit. ch. v., p. 36.)
The lodges involved paid not the slightest attention to Grand Lodge orders, but continued to work as before, refusing to surrender their books and papers. They even went so far as officially to dedicate the Masonic Hall at Nauvoo on April 5, 1844, with Masonic ceremonies, although at that time they really had no existence as lodges, whatever, under the ruling of the Grand Lodge. Five hundred and fifty men, called Masons in the report of the proceedings, attended. The Grand Lodge of Illinois apparently did not know what to do about such behavior and it was not until its annual communication in 1846 that it at last took drastic action. It adopted a resolution declaring that the suspension of a subordinate Lodge by the Grand Lodge only affects the standing of its individual members so far as they participate in disregarding the edicts of the Grand Lodge after the first information thereof coming to their knowledge and providing such individuals by their act shall not have been the cause of the action of the Grand Lodge declaring such lodge suspended or clandestine. (Op. cit. ch. vi.,p.40,note.) It is said that Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism, was still claimed to be a Mason at the time of his murder by a mob, and it is quite possible to believe that many Mormons, who took little active part in the lodges, imagined that they were still Masons three years later on coming West. Even John Doyle Lee, the leader of the Danites, who conducted the Mountain Meadow massacre in 1857, when he and his men murdered a band of 120 emigrants from Arkansas, laid claim to being a Mason and seemed quite sincere about it. In his confessions, published in 1905 under the title of “The Mormon Menace,” this man, who was found guilty and paid the penalty of death in 1877 for his part in the massacre, tells of a meeting in Tennessee where he preached.
“I had just commenced speaking when one of the men began to swear and use indecent language and made a rush for me with his fist drawn. I made a Masonic sign of distress, when to my relief and yet to my surprise, a planter pushed to my aid. He took the drunken men and led them out of the crowd and then sat by me during the rest of the sermon, thus giving me full protection. That man was a stranger to me but he was a good man and a true Mason.” (P. 169.)
After the killing of Joseph Smith the Mormons remained on at Nauvoo until March, 1846, when they began the westward march that led to the settlement of Utah and the establishment of Salt Lake City.
Returning to the subject of Genoa, Mormon Station was founded by a small party of Mormons in June, 1850, who had a band of cattle and in addition sold supplies to the emigrants to California who passed along the Carson Valley on their way West, but these people did not remain and in the spring of 1851 John Reese and Stephen Kinsey with a larger number of Mormons, reoccupied the station, taking formal possession on July 4 of that year. (Thompson and West, “History of Nevada.”)
They formed quite a settlement and established fine farms in the neighborhood. Three years later, Orson Hyde, president of the apostles of the Mormon Church at Salt Lake City, was appointed probate judge of the newly formed Carson County, of which Genoa was the principal settlement, and led a party of seventy families who settled in and around Genoa and in the southern part of what is now Washoe county. Hyde, who was a close friend of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo and who had acted as missionary in England successfully, was one of the leaders in Mormonism and there cannot be the slightest doubt that he was a member of one of the Masonic Lodges at Nauvoo, for nearly every able-bodied Mormon belonged. With him was Enoch Reese, another active leader, and in his party were men known as Richard Bentley, Russell Kelly, William Nixson, Charles Loveland, Permins Jackman, Seth Dustin and others who afterwards were active in Salt Lake City. At the first election the county officers were all Mormons.
It was not altogether a bed of roses for them and Orson Hyde was busy with fulminations against the Gentiles from time to time. The miners of the territory could not understand why anyone should try to apply Mormon rules to them and they laughed at Hyde’s efforts to introduce the Mormon taxes under the name of tithes. By 1856 there were as many Gentiles as there were Mormons and at one time there was almost a pitched battle between Gentiles and Mormons, but Orson Hyde called the latter off.
Properly to understand the feelings of Masons toward the Mormons in Nevada later, it is necessary to understand that this was only three years before the discovery of the Comstock Lode. The efforts to enforce Mormonism on Gentiles left their mark and about this time other causes increased the hostility of most Americans against the followers of Brigham Young. The records of the United States Court at Salt Lake City were burned and a federal judge was driven out of Utah by the Mormons and finally the intention of Brigham Young to fight the United States became so plain that the President sent General Albert Sydney Johnston with United States troops to Utah to maintain order. Brigham Young took alarm and issued an order to all Mormons in California and Nevada to return at once to Salt Lake City. They obeyed, sacrificing their property for whatever it would bring. P. J. Sessions led the first Mormon train of twenty-one families, which left Eagle Valley on July 16, 1857, and on September 5 another urgent message came by express which was followed by an exodus of 450 persons. Genoa was reduced to a small village, while the Washoe Valley was almost depopulated. (Stenhome, “The Rocky Mountain Saints,” pp. 284, 285.) It is proper to say that some of the Mormon settlers refused to return to Utah and remained in Nevada, where they became fine citizens.
Brigham Young’s clashes with the federal authorities lasted for months and were notorious throughout the United States, both Republican and Democratic parties in their national conventions denouncing the Mormons, and President Buchanan calling attention in a message to Congress to their defiant attitude toward the laws of the country.
Times have changed since then and last year the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Nevada approved a ruling of the Most Worshipful Grand Master that he could see no reason why a Mormon, otherwise qualified should not be made a Mason. But in 1866 the Mormons were distinctly regarded with suspicion by all with whom they came into contact. Proof existed that Brigham Young was hostile in the early years of the Civil war to the Union side and that he hoped for the success of the Confederacy. Besides this, emigrants from the East and Middle West told many stories of the unpleasant way in which they were treated while crossing Utah. In addition to these facts, disclosures of what occurred in the endowment house at Salt Lake City incensed Masons, who felt that the mysteries of Masonry were being profaned. For instance, in one of the grips of the so-called Melchizedek priesthood in the Mormon church, the colloquy is:
“What is this”
“The second grip of the Melchizedek priesthood, patriarchal grip or sure sign of the nail.”
“Has it a name?”
“Will you give it to me?”
“I cannot, for I have not yet received it.” …
“You shall receive it through the five points of fellowship through the veil. These are foot to foot, breast to breast, hand to back, and mouth to ear.”
(Quoted by Goodwin, “Mormonism and Masonry,” P. 59.)
Understanding the ill regard in which Mormons and their faith were held, it is possible to comprehend the remarks of Grand Master Joseph DeBell, at the communication of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Nevada on September 18, 1866. Brother DeBell reported issuing a dispensation for the organization of Mount Moriah lodge in Salt Lake City and said that, when this lodge has been opened and had begun work, the question was submitted to him of how Mormons were to be created who claim to be Masons and ask the privilege of visiting. In issuing the dispensation, he said, he had required a pledge that the petitioners should carefully exclude all persons of the Mormon faith. “The general character of the Mormon people,” Brother DeBell declared, “as it comes to us through the various channels of information, is of such a nature as should forbid their entrance into our fraternity. In answer to the question from Mount Moriah lodge, he replied:
“One known to be living in the daily violation of what is known as the proprieties and decencies of life, setting at naught the moral law as laid down in that Great Light that is ever open on our altars, should by the same rule be excluded from our assemblies. Therefore you will take notice that Mormons, claiming to be Masons, be excluded from the right of visiting; and also that petitions for the degrees of Masonry shall not be received from any person who is known to be a Mormon.”
The committee to which the grand master’s address was referred reported fully concurring in his views and adding: “The man who is not true to his government and faithful to the laws of his country is unworthy the name of Mason and should not be admitted into the great Masonic family.”
Mount Moriah lodge of Salt Lake objected to the ruling, holding that it should be the best judge of whom it should admit to the lodge as visitors or members. The communication of 1867 of the Grand Lodge, therefore, refused to grant a charter and directed that demits be sent to the members. Mount Moriah lodge subsequently obtained a charter from Kansas, which for a time caused some friction between the Grand Lodge of Nevada and that of Kansas, but the Salt Lake lodge changed its views and in Utah now a Mormon is not regarded as eligible to become a Mason. In practice a Mormon is not admitted to a lodge in several other jurisdictions, although they have no printed rules on the subject. (Editor’s note – the above was correct at the time of printing of this book – 1944 – but has since changed; a Mormon – or a man of any faith – may now be admitted to a Utah – or any other – Masonic Lodge.)
The question of admission of Mormons to the Masonic bodies in Nevada remained without discussion in the form in which it had been decided by Brother DeBell until the communication of the Grand Lodge in 1913, when it was again brought up by representatives from the eastern part of the state. At that time arguments for and against the views of Brother DeBell were offered but no action was taken and the ruling remained undisturbed until it was set aside last year.
Carson Lodge #1
Carson City NV
It has been said, “The West would not be the West, were it not for the Covered Wagon of Pioneer Days.” In like manner we might assert that Nevada would not be Nevada, were it not for Carson Valley and the trails which led to the Comstock through the fertile meadows which skirted the Carson River, and the roads which wound their treacherous way over Kingsbury, or down jumbo grades, and by the many devious paths over the rugged hills and mountains which flank the country in which is located Carson City, Capital of the Sagebrush State, and the birthplace of the first Masonic Lodge in Nevada. It has been a much discussed question among the later generations of the fraternity, why Masonry in Nevada should have first found sanctuary in Carson City instead of Virginia City, which, by reason at that time of its greater population and its firmly established mining industry, as well as for its greater number of sojourning Masons, had outdistanced Carson City, and might on that account have been entitled to the honor of having in its midst, the first unit of Masonry to be established in the territory of Nevada, besides which, it is historically certain that the first meeting of a Masonic nature held in Nevada was held in Virginia City in the early summer of 1860, on the occasion of the funeral of Brother Edw. Paris Storey, a captain in the U. S. Army, who was killed in an engagement with the Pah-Ute Indians June 2, 1860. This information is corroborated in a letter received from Brother W. A. VanBokkelen, who served as M. W. Grand Master of Nevada Masons in the year of 1872, and who was thoroughly familiar with Masonic developments in the state. Just why the meeting in Virginia City referred to by Past Grand Master VanBokkelen did not culminate in the establishing of a lodge in Virginia City, Masonic records fail to disclose, for it is known to have been presided over by M. W. Wm. H. Howard, a Past Grand Master from California, who afterward became the first sheriff of Storey County, Nevada. This brother is said to have been an unusually zealous Mason, having performed active Masonic service in various sections of the United States. That he was held in high esteem by the brothers of Virginia City is evidenced by the fact that he was the leading spirit in the formation of the first Masonic lodge in Virginia City on January 15, 1863, which was at first named in his honor but afterwards was changed to Virginia Lodge No. 3. However, the zealous Mason, having performed active Masonic service in various sections of the United States. That he was held in high esteem by the brothers of Virginia City is evidenced by the fact that he was the leading spirit in the formation of the first Masonic lodge in Virginia City on January 15, 1863, which was at first named in his honor, but afterwards was changed to Virginia Lodge No. 3. however, the brethren in Carson City had felt the urge to build Masonically, and had set in motion the machinery which should eventually bring them to a realization of their cherished hopes.
Nevada at this time numbered among its population many Masons of unquestionable zeal who had come across the California border from sections where Masonry had been firmly established after order had been created from chaotic conditions which followed the Gold Rush of 1849. Strengthened by the fraternal support of these brethren, the Masons who had previously found their way into Carson Valley and settled there, met during the early part of January 1862, “to formulate plans for the establishment of a Masonic lodge.” It is said that the movement had its inception as the result of a call for assistance from a member of a storm bound immigrant band en route to the Pacific Coast, who, in her extremity, requested of other members of the band, that they summon relief and aid from any sojourning members of the Masonic fraternity residing in Carson. The Call went out at once, and immediate response was made by the brethren in Carson. It is stated, that among the Masons living in the town were Brothers R. B. Ellis and J. H. Wayman, both physicians, who attended the sick traveler, administering necessary medical aid, and arranged for other attention in the way of supplying food, clothing and medicine.
As a result of this incident, the brethren at Carson City were aroused to the necessity of establishing a unit of Masonry in Carson for the practice of Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, not only for the benefit of their own members, but for the assistance of worthy brethren in need of aid, who might pass through Carson City on their way to the new El Dorado at Virginia City lying at the base of Sun Peak Mountain which held the wealth of the·Comstock Lode in its embrace. The first authentic record made of the outcome of the determination of the brethren of Carson City to establish lodge in their midst, is reflected in the account of a meeting held on the evening of February 13, 1862, when Brother M. D. Larrow presented a dispensation signed by the M. W. Grand Master of California, granting authority to fifteen brethren to establish a lodge of F. & A. Masons in Carson City under dispensation, to be known as Carson Lodge No. 154, and naming M. D. Larrow, Worshipful Master, Phillip Stoner, Sen. Warden, and R. B. Ellis, J.W. The dispensation was officially granted by the Grand Lodge of California February 3, 1862. The records of Carson Lodge disclose the names of the following brethren named in the dispensation, viz; Brothers M. D. Larrow, Phillip Stoner, F. A. Tritle, F. W. Peters, W. C. Phillips, Seymour Pixley, D. L. Brittan, R. B. Ellis, I. H. Wayman, H. Armer, Wellington Steward, W. R. King, Henry Rice, Abraham Curry, and Henry Grice, men who were prominent in the professional and commercial affairs of Carson City at that time.
It is said that the meeting called for the purpose of receiving the dispensation was held in the upper part of the T. G. Smith building, known as Smith Hall, located north of the State Capitol building being a frame structure over what is now (1944) Heiden’s Garage.
On the old visitors’ record under date of February 27, 1862, appears the name of Samuel L. Clemens — known best to American literature as “Mark Twain,” who registered from Polar Star Lodge No. 99 of Missouri, and who paid his first visit to Carson Lodge on that date, subsequent visits were made to Carson lodge by the rising young author, who at that time was connected with the Territorial Enterprise, a weekly newspaper published in Virginia City.
That Brother Clemens was an ardent Mason is evidenced also by the appearance of his name upon the Tyler’s register of Esmeralda Lodge No. 170 at Aurora, Nevada, when that famous old silver camp was in its prime, during which period he was a resident of the town for several months. He is also known to have visited the lodge at Virginia City, Gold Hill, and Silver City, while residing at Virginia. The records of Carson lodge show that Brother Clemens paid dues to the amount of $1.50 upon one occasion, the payment being in the nature of a donation from a visiting, sojourning brother, rather than payment as a member of the lodge.
For some unaccountable reason not readily understood at this remote time, a considerable period of time elapsed before mention is made on the records of the new lodge, of the installation of its first officers.
Unfortunately, the records of the California G. L. are not available, and just when the Grand Lodge met in the year of 1862 is not definitely known to the Nevada brethren; however, it was about the middle of May of that year, if the charter issued Carson City lodge was issued under authority, at the Annual Communication, for on May 15 of that year, a charter was granted Carson Lodge and it was numbered No. 154 on the roster of California lodges. This charter named Marcus D. Larrow, Worshipful Master, Edward J. Smith, S. W., and Henry Rice, J. W. Arrangements were at once made to receive the charter and its distinguished bearer on May 29 of the same year, on which date the ceremony of constituting the lodge and installing its officers was performed by Brother John S. Van Dyke, as Deputy Grand Master, acting under authority of Most Worshipful Wm. C. Belcher, Grand Master of the California Jurisdiction. At this meeting Brother M. D. Larrow, who was also named W. M. of the lodge under dispensation, but who had never been installed into office, was inducted into the oriental chair of K. S. by a convocation of Past Masters, and received the Past Master’s degree.
In the meantime, a new superstructure is said to have been added to the building in which the lodge met, and in this structure, conveniently and comfortably outfitted to accommodate the brethren, Carson lodge continued to expand, performing its work and spreading Masonic light.
It was in this hall too, that the first public installation of officers was held on the evening of December 27, 1862, presided over by Past Grand Master William H. Howard, of the California jurisdiction. It is noted in the minutes of December 18, 1862, that Brother Blasdel, afterward elected governor of Nevada, presented a petition to Carson lodge, signed by twenty-one brethren from Virginia City, asking permission to organize a lodge at that place. Brother Blasdel vouched for the integrity, fitness, and qualification of the petitioners and the request was graciously granted, resulting in authority being granted by the Grand Lodge of California to organize Howard Lodge of Virginia City, U. D., which afterwards became Virginia Lodge No. 162.
The year 1862 was a particularly busy one for Carson lodge. As an example of the work it was called upon to perform, the records of the meeting of February 20 of that year, state that seven petitions for the degrees were received besides three applications for affiliation. There were fourteen members present upon the occasion besides twenty-seven visiting brethren. This condition continued throughout the entire year, with the result that at the beginning of 1863, a splendid membership was enrolled upon the roster of the lodge, while peace and harmony prevailed among the brethren.
The selection of Carson City as the location for the first Masonic lodge in Nevada created some unlooked for situations in Masonry on Nevada soil. In the first place, Nevada had not yet been admitted to statehood. Masonically, it was under the jurisdiction of California, and so, with no Grand Lodge in the territory to direct its destinies, and the parent Grand body, while not inaccessible was, nevertheless, inconveniently placed to be hurriedly communicated with, and so the contention has been made, perhaps deservedly so, that Carson lodge exercised some of the prerogatives of a Grand lodge. Reference is more particularly made to its tendency to exercise its prerogative in granting permission for other lodges to be organized in the Territory, in close proximity to its charter. For instance, Washoe Lodge No. 157 was required to ask permission of Carson Lodge before its petition to organize under dispensation was granted by the Grand Lodge of California. The same was true of Silver Star Lodge No. 165 of Gold Hill, Nevada, approval to organize being twice asked for from Carson lodge, before being granted. Escurial Lodge No. 171, at Virginia City; also requested permission from Carson lodge to organize before its petition to the Grand Lodge of California was granted, and from way over in Lander county, Nevada, the brethren of Austin Lodge No. 172 framed a request to Carson lodge, asking permission to organize before authority was finally received from the Grand Lodge of California, and the dispensation issued. However, it is not to be assumed that in receiving these acknowledgments of its authority Carson lodge was assuming prerogatives not due it, nor levying tribute where tribute was not due. Being the first lodge to be organized in the Territory of Nevada, it held certain territorial jurisdiction under its Charter, by reason of which it might if it chose, prevent the establishment of any other lodges aspiring to organize in the territory from which it drew its membership; and so the several lodges mentioned which asked permission to organize in its territory, were only observing an established precedent and extending Masonic courtesy to Carson lodge, at the same time obeying Masonic law by so doing.
And so, in seeming to adopt some of the prerogatives of a Grand Lodge, as it has been claimed, Carson lodge in no way usurped the authority of the parent Grand Lodge, nor assumed privileges belonging to that body.
It posed, rather, in the capacity of an advisory institution, if at all, deferring to the Grand Lodge of California those questions of law and jurisprudence which might occasionally be brought up, and these occasions were remarkably rare, so on the whole there has never been any justification of the claim that Carson lodge took over some of the privileges of a Grand Lodge, for if it ever acted, even in an advisory manner, it was always with due deference to the Grand lodge under which it was chartered, and with no claim to authority as an individual unit of Masonry.
During the early months of the existence of Carson lodge, owing to the necessity of outfitting its quarters, and the added expense of placing them in order and repair for the comfortable reception of its members, visitors and initiates, the lodge incurred debts amounting to over $1,200.00. Repeated efforts were made to raise the money to liquidate this indebtedness but with no tangible results. By the beginning of the year 1863, the brethren were most deeply concerned because of their inability to free the lodge from its encumbrances, and so levied an assessment of $10.00 per member to assist in reducing their indebtedness. This assessment, together with a donation amounting to $125.00, assisted materially in relieving the situation and eventually clearing the books of all indebtedness.
Along with its financial troubles, Carson lodge is said to have experienced some difficulty in maintaining harmony among some of its members. The Civil War, then in progress between the North and South, was the agent of much bitter feeling between the supporters of both contending factions. In this part of the country were found many Southern sympathizers, who openly voiced their sentiments, antagonizing the citizens who came from north of the Mason and Dixon line. This antagonism culminated at times in physical encounters, and apparently crept into Carson lodge, for we find in the minutes of July 17, 1862, that a committee was appointed to investigate charges of secessionism which had been filed against certain members of the lodge; however, at a later meeting, held some time in August of the same year, the committee so appointed reported it was unable to sustain the charges, and they were withdrawn. Subsequent differences the same year between some of the members were voluntarily aired in the lodge, but under the pacifying efforts of the W. M. and his wardens, these difficulties were adjusted, and brotherly love prevailed. In evidence whereof, it is recorded that at a later meeting that year, several petitions for membership were received, and all were referred for investigation to one committee. Again, at the annual election of officers in December, 1854, to serve for the ensuing year, the officers were declared elected unanimously, indicating that peace and harmony prevailed among the brethren.
During all this period of its existence, Carson lodge had remained domiciled in Smith’s Hall which it had occupied since the date it received its authority from the Grand Lodge of California, to organize under dispensation, February 13, 1862, but with the liquidation of its debts and the dawning of a new era of prosperity and advancement, new and more commodious quarters were desired and it was decided to find a new home. Since a new building recently completed and owned by a brother named Kline was available and met their requirements,the lodge removed to the new location. Several attempts were made to purchase this building, but without success.
On October 24, 1864, Carson lodge received an invitation from the brethren at Genoa, Nevada, to lay the corner stone of a proposed Masonic Temple at that place. The records of the lodge however do not reveal that the lodge participated in these ceremonies. In this connection may we quote from an article written by Past Grand records says: “It is interesting to note that a dispensation to organize at Genoa was not granted until February 22, 1868, while in the history of Nevada it states the lodge occupied the upper story of the County building for some time. We cannot reconcile the discrepancy as to time.”
It is to be assumed, however, that the brethren performed this service. It must likewise be supposed that the Temple at Genoa was ready for occupancy when the lodge was granted its dispensation, and was duly instituted in that building.
As the year 1864 drew to a close, it is recorded that during the two years and more that the lodge had been in existence, frequent discussion had come upon the floor of the lodge in reference to the advisability of organizing a Grand Lodge of Nevada, but no definite action had ever been taken, the movement lacking leadership. But, in other sections of Nevada, notably at Virginia City, the project had been often discussed, and had been weighed from every angle. Accordingly, early in December, 1864, a communication was framed by Virginia City lodge and sent out to the lodges in Nevada operating under a California charter, inviting them to meet in Virginia City on January 15, 1865, and continue in session until the purpose of the meeting should be accomplished, namely, the formation of a Grand Lodge of Nevada. This invitation was read in Carson lodge on the evening of December 15, 1864, and finding no opposition, was approved and accepted, and arrangements were made to attend the meeting. On January 17, the lodges represented at the communication, surrendered their California charters, and received new charters signed by the newly elected officers of the Grand Lodge of Nevada. In the distribution the brethren at Carson were enrolled on the Grand Lodge roster as Carson Lodge No. One.
As might be supposed, the creation of a Masonic lodge at Carson City, being so far removed from the parent jurisdiction, and denied the privilege of holding Masonic intercourse with brethren who were versed in recent rulings of Grand Lodge bodies, and alive to customary practices in vogue in other lodges, led to some unusual practices and developments in lodge procedure. For instance, it is claimed, that following the death of President Lincoln, Carson City decided to pay tribute to his memory on the day of his burial, in Washington, D. C. To this end, factories were to be shut down for the day, business and public houses closed, private homes and business houses appropriately draped in mourning, a funeral procession to form and march through the town, and a funeral oration to be delivered.
In keeping with this decision, and in honor to the martyred President, the lodge called a meeting to arrange for proper representation upon this occasion, and decided to march in the funeral procession in full regalia, and in customary funeral formation.
Accordingly on the day set for the observances, the lodge met, and opened a Grand Lodge in ample form, with a representative attendance of duly deputized Grand Lodge officers. The procession was headed by the Grand Bible, and Grand standard bearers, and all station and altar emblems of the Grand Lodge were appropriately draped.
This action of the lodge was duly reported and approved by the Grand Lodge at its next annual communication.
Reviewing the annals of Free Masonry in Nevada it becomes apparent that the greatest strides Carson lodge had made were between the years immediately following the close of the Civil War, and up to and including the Centennial year 1876. It was during this period that Carson lodge alludes to its own progress as the “Golden age of No. One.” Times and conditions were ripe to usher in such an era. The mines of the Comstock were then at the peak of their fabulous production, and Carson City was the gateway through which passed a mighty throng to woo the fickle goddess of chance, or to engage in the more stable marts of industry, and in the passage of those whose ultimate Mecca was Virginia City, Carson City reaped its harvest, and prospered accordingly. But it was more than a mere record of prosperity which brought wealth and industry to Carson, through which all classes, sects, denominations and societies benefited. It was a record of indomitable energy and perseverance which separated the dress from the gold, and in Masonic circles, built up a membership which not only had its influence upon the destinies of the little city, but manifested itself in the affairs and policies of the state as the years sped by.
At numerous times and places Carson lodge was called upon to participate in the activities of city, county and state. As a particular instance of this, mention is made of the laying of the corner stone of the State Capitol, this ceremony taking place on June 9, 1870, under the supervision of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, presided over by Most Worshipful Grand Master George W. Hopkins, assisted by Deputy Grand Master George Robinson, and the entire corps of elective and appointive Grand Lodge officers.
De Witt Clinton Commandery, Knights Templar acted as escort to the Grand Lodge, and a large procession included civic, military and fraternal societies. The Grand Marshal of the procession was Bro. Fred H. Tritle, while the principal speaker of the day was Robert H. Taylor, Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Nevada.
It is also interesting to note that Carson lodge has been host to the Grand Lodge of Nevada at its Annual Communications upon numerous occasions, extending its good cheer and broad hospitality so generously that there is always the desire to “come again” and bask in the fellowship of this splendid unit of Masonry.
The history of Masonry in Carson City would be incomplete without mention of the meeting arranged by the brethren to constitute a “Lodge of Perfection,” which was effected through the efforts of Deputy Inspector H. I. Hoskins, 32nd Deg. for Nevada. The brethren met in the Senate Chamber of the Capitol, it having been graciously tendered by the State authorities, as the Masonic Hall was occupied by another fraternity. The brethren of the Rose Croix from Virginia City assisted in the ceremonies. Prominent among the new membership appears the names of Chas. E. Laughton and Norris D. Chamberlain. Brother Laughton afterwards became Lieutenant Governor of Nevada and earned the name of “fiddlin’ Governor,” it developing that he carried his violin on his political campaigns, and “fiddled” his way into the good graces of his followers. Trenmore Coffin, whose name ranks high on the roster of Masonry, became a member of the Carson Lodge of Perfection in February, 1875. In 1904, he became Grand Orator of all the Bodies of the Scottish Rite in Reno. Under date of March 25, 1875, the “Official Bulletin” states that Capitolium Chapter of Rose Croix was constituted at Masonic Hall in Carson City by Henry S. Hopkins, “with all the grand and imposing ceremonies of this most ancient fraternity.”
Glancing through the rolls of Carson Lodge No. One, we find the names of many Masons who took a leading part in the affairs of Nevada while it was still a territory, and continued their activities when it was admitted to statehood.
Succeeding registrations reflect the names of many Masons who later became prominent in the social, religious, and political affairs. To follow the lives of these substantial citizens, would be to uncover activities concerning which volumes might be written, and would reveal characters of sterling worth, and fixed integrity. As a sanctuary for such individuals, Carson lodge has become famous in Masonic annals, and has established an enviable reputation among the brethren in Nevada.
Washoe Lodge #2
Washoe City NV
The history of Washoe Lodge begins in the winter of 1860-61, and is cast in that period of glamour and excitement, attendant upon the discovery and development of the Comstock lode, dating from January 28, 1859, when James Finney, or “Old Virginia,” made a rich strike in Gold Hill, and Henry Comstock, Patrick McLaughlin, Peter O’Reilly, Emanuel Penrod and Kentuck Osborne came into the picture, and Sandy Bowers and his wife Eilley Orrum, rose to opulence, whose reckless extravagance and final relapse into almost poverty, is a story of human pity and interest. The story of the blueblack clay, secret of the wealth of the Comstock, at first cursed by the miners and thrown upon the dump as worthless, but afterward by an accident found to contain $1595.00 in silver, and $4790.00 in gold values per ton, precipitating a “rush,” the scenes and excitement of which no pen could hope to portray, for they are deep dyed with the richest color of comedy, pathos and tragedy, acts of heroism, self-denial, intrigue, shame and honor, but inextricably interwoven into the history of Washoe County. For when the great discovery was made on Mt. Davidson, or Sun Peak Mountain, Washoe Valley leaped into prominence for it had fuel and timber for building, plenty of water and fine rich land for farming; and from it the Comstock could be and was supplied. It soon assumed importance and following the necessary location surveys made in the spring of 1861, Washoe City came into being, began to grow and for the next five or six years, enjoyed a substantial and steady expansion. In 1866 it became the county seat of Washoe county. With the coming of the V. & T. Railway, the decline commenced. Reno wanted the county seat, and on August 5, 1868, a petition signed by 750 residents of Reno was sent to the County commissioners asking for the removal of the County seat to Reno. This petition was denied, but another was framed and sent in February 1870. Washoe City made a protest, and sent William Webster and William Boardman to plead their case, while Thomas E. Hayden appeared for Reno. The petition was withdrawn, but another was soon presented. On June 14, 1870, a special election was called to decide the issue. Reno won by a vote of 544 to 362. Washoe then applied to the courts for redress, resulting in a bill being sent to the legislature which was passed, declaring Reno to be the County seat on and after April 3, 1871. It was the doom of the valley city, an early exodus of many of the residents followed, business became stagnant and, while for the next 18 years or more, a settlement continued to exist on the old site of the town, yet its progressive spirit was broken, and one by one its citizens departed to other fields.
It was prior to this period that the urge for Masonic intercourse in Washoe City was felt by the sojourning brethren, resulting in the establishment of a lodge under California registry. It is inconceivable, but it is nevertheless true, that but small attention was paid by the officers of the Grand Lodge of California, to the organization of Washoe lodge, No. 157 chartered under California register in July, 1862.
Two reasons have been assigned for this regrettable neglect. One, Washoe lodge was far removed from the confines of California and the distance to be traveled to assist in its organization and institution led through undeveloped territory and across treacherous mountain trails with lurking danger ever present, and weary unmarked miles and hours demanding days of hardship and toil and privation ahead if the trip should be attempted. Two, it was the second year of the Civil War, the country was in the throes of political and sectional excitement; the attention of the states was focused on the bitter contest, and the sympathies of a harassed people were centered on the faction whose cause and opinions they had espoused. It was natural therefore, that in the excitement of the moment, the importance of properly recording the events of the founding and final establishment of Washoe lodge, No. 157, should be overlooked and utterly neglected, for such was the case. The actual records are almost nil in reference to who was responsible for originating the movement and about the only reference obtainable is from the journal of proceedings of the Grand Lodge for the year it was authorized to organize under dispensation, the names of its first officers, and a list of its membership at the conclusion of its first year of existence. A meagre record upon which to erect a historical structure, but nevertheless, a foundation upon which was constructed a unit of Masonry which flourished during the period of its existence, and grew to be a commanding agent in the fraternal affairs of the Sagebrush state, springing into existence, as previously stated at the time when the blood of the mining world was at red heat due to the discovery of fabulous ore deposits over on the slopes of Sun Peak Mountain, and the rush of excited men and women to this new El Dorado of Nevada. It witnessed from afar all the romance and glamour incident to the development of a new mining district, and absorbed some of the benefits resulting from the creating of wealth, for the resources of Washoe City and surrounding territory were called upon to contribute to the building of the mining center on the Comstock, and in the resultant distribution of wealth, Washoe lodge profited, not so much financially, but rather because there was brought to Washoe city, through commercial and industrial relations, men of means, ability, and fraternal impulse, who eventually became associated with and finally enrolled on the roster of the lodge, and became a forceful part of its existence.
The incidents leading to the establishment of Masonry in Washoe city were similar to those noted in the organization of other Masonic units developed in Nevada at that time. Realization came in response to an urge for Masonic contact with the brethren in a home where the landmarks of the Order might be properly observed, and the practices of the craft might find indulgence in a hall of their own. Unlike many of the early Nevada lodges, the intention to organize was productive of almost instant results, functioning in a series of gatherings called to formulate plans for an immediate organization of the brethren to operate under dispensation. The feasibility of forming a Masonic association to function until a larger charter list could be assembled was considered and is hinted at in a later journal of proceedings of the Grand Lodge, but this possibility of Masonic organization was discouraged, and a petition was framed to the Grand Lodge of California, asking permission to organize U. D. Favorably considered, the prayer of the petitioners was answered, and on July 25, 1862, the dispensation was granted by Wm. C. Belcher, M. W. G. M. of California, naming Geo. W. Brown as W. M., R. R. Johnson as Senior Warden, and Thomas B. Prince as Junior Warden. The following is a list of Master Masons of Washoe lodge, reflected in the proceedings of the Grand lodge of California of 1863 at the close of its first year of existence.
Geo. W. Brown, Geo. C. Cabot, L. D. Chillson, Horace Countryman, A. M. Davidson, Henry A. Gaston, D. T. Gloyd, J. N. M. Haddick, H. M. Holden, R. R. Johnson, P. Keyes, J. K. Lovejoy, Thomas Parker, T. B. Prince, T. A. Read, Henry S. Smith, A. W. Stowe, P. E. Shannon. Fellow Crafts-W. F. Everett and Geo. W. Lameroux. Withdrew–David Lowe, and W. D. McFarland.
Quarters for housing the new lodge were obtained in the upper story of a building occupied by Mears and Knickhead as a mercantile establishment, which, having been appropriately furnished, were in readiness to welcome the distinguished Masons who assembled on the Saturday next preceding the full moon in July, 1862, to open the new lodge, and witness the installation of its officers. (Ed. note – with the meeting day specified as it was, Washoe 157 was a “Lunar Lodge – meeting near the full moon, that its members might have sufficient light to make the trip to and from the Lodge in safety.)
Brethren from Virginia City were present in large numbers to assist the distinguished officers and brethren. A fine banquet preceded the opening of the lodge, and the installing of officers. For the next ten months Washoe lodge continued to function agreeable to the wishes of its sponsors, and the desire of the Grand Lodge of California. So well did it merit the approbation of that Grand Body, that on May 15, 1863, it was moved to authorize a charter to be issued, naming D. J. Gloyd, W. M.; Geo. W. Brown, Senior Warden; James H. Sturtevant, Junior Warden; P. E. Shannon, Secretary; H. W. Stowe, Treasurer; R. R. Johnson, Senior Deacon; J. K. Lovejoy, Junior Deacon.
It is interesting to note, that at that time Washoe lodge had an enrollment of 36 members. Not an unusual numerical list it is true, but among its number were those who were nevertheless sincere and devoted brethren, through whose instrumentalities the lodge grew and spread its Masonic light; men who figured prominently in municipal, county, and state affairs, and brought fame and honor to themselves and the section from which they hailed; some of whom afterward crossed over into California, becoming identified with its commercial, industrial, political, and social life, adding luster to the honor roll of that state. For, the Masons who pioneered the way in Washoe lodge were men of outstanding merit and integrity; they took a leading part not only in Masonic affairs, but in public life as well; some of them attained not only public honor, but also became wealthy. Prominent among those who gained renown in the political field, was Thomas A. Read, elected first County Commissioner of Washoe county, serving with credit to his constituents, and honor to himself. Thomas B. Prince was another member who earned the confidence of the voters of Washoe county, and served them through two different sessions of the legislature. James B. Sturtevant, also prominent in Masonry, and said to have been one of the first to place farming on a secure and profitable basis in Washoe Valley, represented his county in the legislature, and made a name for himself, by reason of his honesty, fairness and forceful argument on the floor of the House. He afterwards removed to California, where he is said to have become a leader, and whose son became a Justice of the Supreme Court of that state. Henry W. Brady was another member of Washoe lodge who became prominent in Masonic circles. He served as Worshipful Master of Washoe lodge for three terms. He was Master of Washoe lodge when the lodges of Nevada met in Virginia City to organize the Grand Lodge of Nevada, and had the honor of presiding over the first lodge opened at the formation of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, and with the organization of that Grand Body became its first Senior Grand Warden, acting as installing officer of the first Grand Lodge officers.
P. E. Shannon, who served as Secretary of Washoe Lodge, was a man of recognized ability, not only in his lodge, but throughout Washoe County. He became Clerk of Washoe County, in which office he served with rare ability. Later he was elected County Recorder, where he once more demonstrated his ability and willingness to serve his constituents with that marked deference and good will which always characterized his association with the public. P. E. Shannon was for many years Secretary of Washoe Lodge. He was also a veteran of the Mexican War, serving in the 2nd Regiment N.Y. Volunteers, at the storming of the Castle Chapultepek at the City of Mexico. In this same company was David E. Scannell, Chief of San Francisco Fire Department, who served his company as a lieutenant. Brother Shannon was also a member of the Masonic Veterans’ Association of the Pacific Coast. He died November 27, 1895.
Henry A. Gaston, a charter member,and active in the affairs of Washoe lodge, was likewise a distinguished attorney and prominent in the affairs of Washoe County, as was Fred D. Stadtmuller, who joined the lodge in 1864, afterwards withdrawing and affiliating with Carson Lodge at Carson City. Later he removed to San Francisco, and engaged in business where he died about 1891. George Robinson, then in the prime of an active business career, also affiliated with Washoe Lodge, filling the various chairs, and serving the lodge as a true and tried Mason. His efficiency and capability was soon recognized by the Grand Lodge of Nevada, with which he became actively associated, and which he served as Most Worshipful Grand Master for two terms 1870-1871.
These are but a few of the members of Washoe lodge who brought honor to that lodge and credit to the Order in Nevada. It was truly a remarkable roll, still, they were only a part and parcel of those remarkable men and Masons who built largely and well in Nevada, and constructed a foundation upon which succeeding generations have continued to build a super-structure which shall endure as long as Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth shall be practiced.
The question of organizing a Grand Lodge of Nevada had long been considered, and attempts had been made upon various occasions to bring the question to issue; during the year 1863 Washoe lodge assumed the responsibility of bringing the constituent lodges of Nevada into convention for the purpose of effecting the long sought for organization and sent out invitations to the seven lodges of Nevada with that object in view. An objection was raised that Nevada was not a state, and that it was not desirable nor provident to organize a Grand Lodge under territorial administration; also that as the number of lodges was small, the question should be held in abeyance. In November, 1861, after Nevada had been admitted to statehood the subject was again renewed.
Referring to the minutes of Washoe lodge of December 10, 1864; a resolution from Virginia and Escurial lodges, inviting the lodge to send delegates to Virginia City to meet January 15, 1865, to the organization of a Grand Lodge was read and the invitation unanimously accepted.
On January 17, 1865, Washoe lodge withdrew from the California Jurisdiction, and united with seven other lodges to form the Grand Lodge of Nevada. At that time there were 35 Master Masons, four Fellow Crafts, and four Entered Apprentices on its membership rolls. Five Master Masons had withdrawn, and two had been suspended for non-payment of dues.
Today, wild grass and sagebrush grow where once stood the Valley City of Washoe. The old Masonic meeting place, its weather-beaten and crumbling sides and curling shingles, mute evidence of the devastating hand of Time, is all that remain of a once thriving and industrious little city. Sunken foundations, overgrown with the dust and erosion of the years mark the place where were once substantial buildings and commodious business blocks stood, for in the days of its affluence Washoe City was a town of some 2500 people, with good sized business houses, hotels, boarding houses, church, and school, and a fine brick courthouse which was built at a cost of between $25,000 and $30,000. It also supported a weekly newspaper, “The Washoe Times,” published and established by G. W. Derickson, who was later killed in a controversy by Horace F. Swazey. The publication then passed into the hands of General Allen, an uncle of Derickson, who continued the publication during the affluent days of the town. Business men came to Washoe City from many points on the Coast, and the commercial affairs of the town multiplied rapidly, for Washoe City was also the center of a wealthy farming district, and the surrounding hills were covered with a growth of virgin balsam and pine. From a thousand mountain rills came a flow of crystal water to quench the thirsty and to water the soil; resources which contributed to the comforts of the city and the valley, but which also were commercialized and brought wealth and increase to the people. The old building which housed the brethren of Washoe Lodge continued as a landmark for many years after the town had passed into decrepitude, but it too, finally went the way of all things perishable. Its decaying walls are all that is left of its one time stability. The lodge surrendered its Charter in 1888 and the brethren drifted to other localities.
During the years of affluence and prosperity, Washoe lodge became a favorite sanctuary at which the brethren of the lodges at Virginia City and Carson City would gather to exchange fraternal greetings, and enjoy the hospitality of the brethren of the Valley city lodge.
It is regrettable that the original Tyler’s register of the lodge was not preserved, for it undoubtedly would have disclosed the names of many distinguished Masons who were identified with the affairs of the district, either as residents or investors and whose habit it was to foregather with the brethren of No. 2 at their special invitation or when prompted through fraternal impulse to visit at regular or stated meetings. For Wm. H. Howard, Jno. C. Currie, Bro. Ellis, Capt. Edw. Faris Storey, W. A. VanBokkelen, Joseph DeBell, Wm. A. Stewart, and many others took an active and important part in Masonic affairs during the peak of Washoe lodge prosperity and are said to have been consistent visitors and attendants at Masonic gatherings held in the district. It is also more than possible that Samuel Clemens’ (Mark Twain) name also appeared upon the old Tyler’s register of this lodge, for during the time he was employed upon the “Territorial Enterprise” of Virginia City, he paid frequent visits to, and enjoyed working with the lodges at Virginia City, Gold Hill, Silver City and Carson City.
With the decline of commercial and industrial activities in Washoe City. Masonry languished, and eventually it became impossible to hold meetings due to no quorum present. On several occasions Washoe lodge attempted to remove to Reno, but on each occasion, Grand Lodge denied the request, with the result that on March 25, 1888, the brethren voted to surrender the charter and on June 12 of that year the lodge was declared extinct.
MASONRY IN VIRGINIA CITY
The history of Nevada mining begins with the invasion of territory by a band of Mormons sent out by Brigham Young in early months of the year 1850 to effect a settlement in the country adjacent to the Truckee river and on the Trail which wound its tortuous course across the rugged slopes of the Sierra mountains in California.
After days of harassing experiences and heartbreaking adventures they penetrated the Valley of the Truckee, and made camp, the location afterwards becoming known as Ragtown. From this base they gradually extended their operations, some penetrating the adjacent hills and mountains in search of gold, others selecting promising locations along the grass-covered banks of the river where they eventually developed valuable agricultural tracts.
Those who ventured into the mountains soon decided that the rocky slopes were barren of mineral values and turned their attention to the mountain streams in the hope that they might be successfully panned for gold. After days of discouraging search they reached a spot near which the present town of Dayton is located, and entered the mouth of what they named “Gold Canyon” where the first recorded discovery of gold in Nevada was made. The amount of gold panned was negligible, but with dogged persistency characteristic of their sect, they continued to pan only miserly returns, for months unmindful of the fabulous wealth which lay just ahead of them, beneath the windswept slopes of Sun Peak mountain, which, within the next decade was to astound the mining world with its richness, and from whose subterranean depths would issue a flow of wealth, compared to which the yield from the fabled mines of Solomon, King of Israel, would be a mere pittance.
The years passed by; occasionally the monotony of their existence was relieved by the arrival of other caravans, pushing westward. The little band of placer miners in Gold Canyon had been augmented by other arrivals and quite a settlement had now been established at that point. But by far, most of the travelers trekking along the trail, wended their way up the steep canyon, sometimes stopping for the night at the foot of Sun Peak mountain at the spot where later huge mining enterprises were to be established, and where a sizeable city should be founded and where in a day in June, 1859, Peter O’Reilly and Patrick McLaughlin cleaned their first rocker of rich ore, which topped the deposits of the fabulous Ophir mine; and where, on the same day, Henry Paige Comstock came riding by, and, sensing the value of the discovery, fraudulently claimed all rights to the ground by reason of previous purchase, and made his claim good. He later formed a company to work the claims, including Peter O’Reilly, Patrick McLaughlin, Emanuel Penrod, Kentuck Osborne and James Finney, or Old Virginia, and gave to this and surrounding district, the name “The Comstock Lode,” a name to be conjured with in mining history, embracing a district which would become the arena of gigantic civic and industrial activities; the spot from which would develop fierce personal and commercial strife, involving millions in capital, creating Napoleons of finance and developing mental and physical giants among whom loom the names of Wm. A. Stewart, afterwards to become U. S. Senator, Philip Deidesheimer, who developed a method of timbering which came into universal use in western mines and made possible the working of soft ground in high stopes. Adolph Sutro was also a developed product of the Comstock whose bulldog persistency completed the Sutro tunnel in spite of financial and political antagonism, which project not only drained the mines of the district, but also became a means for their ventilation, and, upon one occasion, an agent through which food and supplies were conveyed to the starving inhabitants of Virginia City who were snowbound and buried in gigantic drifts and cut off from communication with the outside world.
To this district also came Wm. Sharon, W. C. Ralston, D. O. Mills and Alvinza Hayward, to become prominently allied with the commercial, industrial and financial activities of the camp.
The Comstock was also responsible for the development of Jno. P. Jones, shrewd politician and financier, who was later elected U. S. Senator from Nevada.
The list is long, and wealth, fame and honor came to many who cast their lot and fortune here. Later came John W. Mackay, James Graham Fair, Wm. S. O’Brien, and James C. Flood, destined to rule the Comstock and become its Bonanza Kings; to coax fabulous riches from its depths, and establish immense fortunes, portions of which, as in the case of the Mackay riches, would be set aside for the purpose of contributing to the education of the youth of our state with the endowment of the Mackay School of Mines at the Nevada State University. The wealth of the other bonanza kings found outlet in commercial enterprises, giving employment to thousands, and contributing to the convenience of professional and industrial pursuits.
The romantic and glamorous story of the Comstock is replete with experiences, adventures and situations sufficient in themselves to induce thrills in the most sedate, arouse the interest and attention of the most taciturn and phlegmatic, and quicken the pulses of those who are susceptible to excitement.
While volumes have been written recording the history of this unusual district, penned by such notables as Dan DeQuille, Charles Howard Shinn, Mark Twain, Rollen M. Daggett and Bret Harte, contemporaneous with the growth and development of the Comstock lode, or compiled by authors who in after years devoted months and years to the collection of data for their manuscripts, yet the story of the Comstock has never been completely told, for there is left to the imagination, the real picture of hardship incident to the first months of promotion, the subsequent subjection of the elements, heat and cold, as during the first summer and hard winter when they threatened to depopulate the district, and almost succeeded; but when these forces were overcome, and the breast of Sun Peak yielded up its treasure, there remains to be sensed the thrill of amassing and helping to amass wealth; the departure from the old mode of living – and the resorting to metropolitan and cosmopolitan airs. And, when the final touches had been given to the structural units which made the composite city, the canyon streets sounded to the din of commercial activity, the gulches echoed to the confusion incident to the mining of fabulously rich ore, and an era of prodigality was ushered in unparalleled in the history of any mining camp, and the world looked on in amazement – these are some of the things to be conjured with as we recall the story of the Comstock, for they give us a new slant on those times and people who promoted and developed what was preeminently the greatest mining district the world has ever known.
And so, as the mining history of Nevada was born in territory adjacent to the wind swept slopes of Sun Peak Mountain, and was developed in the fabulously rich bonanza mines of the Comstock, resulting in the founding of new mining camps in the adjoining district, so in like manner Masonry was cradled in the same district and found sanctuary in Gold Hill, Silver City, Dayton and Virginia City. Keeping pace with the development of the metal industry of the district and eventually becoming a factor which aided in shaping the destiny of individuals, Masonry exerted its moral and refining influences on municipal, county and state affairs long before Nevada was admitted to statehood.
Although the first unit of Masonry in the Territory of Nevada was not established in Virginia City, yet it is historically true that the first Masonic gathering in the state was held in that thriving camp in June, 1860, and was called to observe Masonic funeral rites over the body of Capt. Edw. F. Storey, killed in an engagement with hostile Indians, near Pyramid Lake, to which reference has been previously made. Many notables were present at this meeting, prominent among whom was Wm. Henry Howard, Past Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, and a Past Grand Master from California, who was selected to preside over the meeting, and who is said to have pronounced the funeral oration. An old time resident of Virginia City, who later became a member of Virginia City Lodge No. 162, was authority, before his death, for the statement that following the funeral services, Masonic matters were discussed by the brethren which contemplated the establishment of a lodge in Virginia City and the acquiring of suitable quarters in which to house the lodge.
Although this after-meeting stimulated interest in Masonry in the district, it was nevertheless productive of no immediate results. In the meantime the brethren in Carson City had become active, resulting in the organization of Carson lodge No. 154 under California jurisdiction, and having the honor of being the first unit of Masonry to be established on Nevada soil.
However, interest in Masonry in Virginia City had not languished. The organization of the lodge in Carson City served as a stimulus to further activity and not only aroused the resident Masons of Virginia City to action, but was the instrument whereby sojourning Masons living in Gold Hill and Silver City felt the urge to organize in their respective communities to spread Masonic light. The movement in Silver City was started in the early months of 1863, meetings of sojourning brethren being called, to formulate plans for the purpose of organizing and to arrange for suitable quarters in which to perform their Masonic work. The brethren at Gold Hill were led in their undertaking by Bro. Charles E. Ollney and Duane L. Bliss, while Silver City Masons accepted the leadership of Brother J. C. Currie, and in Virginia City Brother William H. Howard, a Past Grand Master from California, but at that time a resident of the premier mining camp in Nevada, was responsible for the inauguration of the movement to found a Masonic unit in that place. However sincere and anxious the brethren in this district may have been to spread Masonic light, a dissenting factor gradually intruded upon their plans, a factor born of sectional animosity induced by the Civil War then in progress between the North and the South, and represented in this section of Nevada by scores of sympathizers who had come from both sides of the Mason and Dixon line, to cast their lot and find pastime in this unique mining center.
From various publications dealing with the history of the Comstock lode, it appears that there was unusual bitterness manifested among the adherents of both the Northern and Southern factions in Virginia City at that time. The Union sympathizers maintained no established headquarters in the town, the whole community being their field of operations, and their following was represented by the majority of the citizens of Virginia City, among whom were found many Masons.
The Secessionists, however, most of whom were of prominent Southern families, had, by either a tacit understanding or mutual agreement congregated at the Virginia House, the leading hotel in Virginia City, and there maintained recognized headquarters. Prominent among those domiciled at that hotel were Judge Reardon, Frank Herford, Frank Denver, Judge Raeborn, and Charles Fairfax, the latter a native of the State of Virginia, and the recognized leader of the Southern sympathizers in Virginia City. Wm. Henry Howard was also a frequent guest of the Virginia House and, being a native of Tennessee, and for many years a resident of Louisiana, had imbibed many of the customs and beliefs of the South, and was an acknowledged supporter of the Confederate cause. His southern sympathies therefore weaned him from the confidence of those northern factionists who were members of the Masonic fraternity, and although Bro. Howard was foremost in the movement to organize a Masonic lodge in Virginia City, and through his endeavors Virginia lodge No. 162 was finally chartered, yet it has been assumed by some that his southern sympathies were instrumental in depriving him of the honor of having the lodge bear his name, although it was originally intended that this honor should go to him. Whether this is so or not, and there is no authentic record to sustain such contention, it is nevertheless true, but likewise inexplicable, that when the Grand Lodge of California issued a charter to the brethren at Virginia City to organize under dispensation, the wishes of the brethren of Virginia City were ignored, and the charter was issued to the brethren of Virginia Lodge No. 162 instead of Howard Lodge No. 162. The authority granting permission to organize under dispensation was issued January 15, 1863, under the hand of Grand Master William C. Belcher, and the Grand Lodge of California on May 24th, 1863, issued to them a charter, with the following officers and members:
William H. Howard, Worshipful Master; Joseph DeBell, Senior Warden; James Z. Kelley, Junior Warden; James Bolan, Treasurer; Charles M. Cornell, Secretary; Hypolite Hugnet, Senior Deacon; Ferdinand Waiter, Junior Deacon; A. S. Olini, Marshal; T. M. Adams and Columbus Walker, Stewards; and John Doyle, Tyler, together with the following Master Masons: Joseph Barnett, Isaac C. Rateman, Harver Beckwith, S. A. Chapin, Orman Crandall, Lewis Goodwin, I. Heilshorn, Charles Tones, Isaac Kraimer, Charles Lintott, Samuel Lubeck, Julius Marsh, W. B. May, W. F. Meyers, Reuben J. Mitchell, John A. Paxton, L. Rawlings, Charles Rawson, Hugh M. Reed, L. Reynolds, F. S. Rising, Richard Rising, John W. Stattler, Samuel Symons, Levi W. Taylor, and Walter Winn. The following Entered Apprentices were also named in the charter: E. W. Adams, , Rufus E. Arrick, Allen M. Cole, Stephen T. Gage, D. M. Hanson, Charles L. Strong and J. Warner.
The receipt of the charter by the brethren at Virginia City, brought with it expressions of disappointment, dissatisfaction, and disapproval of the action of the Grand Lodge of California in its refusal to honor Brother Howard by naming the new Masonic unit for him; but he very graciously accepted their decision and pointed out to the brethren of the lodge, that while their wishes had not been gratified in the bestowal of a name for the new unit, and he had not been honored by having the lodge named for him, yet he had after all, been honored during the period of his incumbency as Grand Master of California, by having had Howard Lodge No. 96 of Yreka, Calif., bear his name, and too, he felt that he had been signally honored by being named as the first worshipful master of Virginia Lodge 162; he asked that the brethren accept the situation with good grace, and that a true Masonic spirit might prevail.
That Brother Howard had believed that the new lodge would bear his name, and that he had been informed of the wishes and intentions of the brethren long before the charter was issued, and received by the brethren is evident, because upon the occasion of the instituting of the lodge, he presented them a complete set of officers jewels, which were wrought from native silver taken from the Comstock lode, and beautifully engraved with the name, “Howard Lodge” on each jewel. This set is said to have cost Brother Howard the sum of five hundred dollars.
Brother Howard continued his activities not only in Virginia Lodge, but throughout the district, attending and working with the various lodges in that section of Nevada.
To him may be accorded the honor of having been instrumental in effecting the organization of the Grand Lodge of Nevada which met in Virginia City in 1865. He died in 1866, a few hours before the second annual convention of the Grand Lodge was convened; his body was borne to the lodge room in which the convention was to be held, and lay in state while the Grand Body assembled, when Grand Honors were paid the distinguished brother. The funeral oration was pronounced by Bro. Jos. DeBell.
Bro. DeBell was assisted in the funeral services by Bro. J. C. Currie, who from that time on until his death, was prominent in Grand Lodge affairs, and who became Grand Master of Nevada Masons in 1860, and was re-elected again in 1867. He was master of his own lodge for ten years, and was mayor of Virginia City at the time of the great fire in 1875, and became chairman of the restoration committee appointed to take charge of reconstruction, following the fire. Later he withdrew from his lodge, and united with Virginia City Lodge.
Urged to intensive action by the accomplishments of the brethren at Virginia City, sojourning Masons living in Silver City, under guidance of Bro. J. M. Currie, expressed their desire to organize a lodge, by framing a petition to the Grand Lodge of California in the early months of 1863, asking authority to organize under dispensation, permission having previously been asked from Carson Lodge No. One, to organize in territory controlled by the latter lodge. Carson Lodge assented, and on March 20, 1863, authority was granted the brethren at Silver City, to establish a lodge under dispensation, naming J. M. Currie, W. M.; T. M. Henry, S.W., and W. B. Hickok, J. W. With the institution of the lodge, and the installing of its officers, the lodge entered upon an intensive year of service, and added a fine membership to its original roll.
On May 15, 1865, it was officially chartered, with its first officers appointed in the dispensation again named to guide its destinies. In addition thereto, August Koneman was named Treasurer, Henry Warnold, Secretary; James Cowden S. D.; Moses T. Burke, J. D.; Henry Lux, Tyler. In its first report to the Grand Lodge of California eleven members were reported in good standing.
With the organization of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, it was chartered as Amity Lodge No. 4 upon Nevada Roster, with the following officers in charge: Richard T. Mullard, W. M.; James M. Kennedy, S. W., and W. J. Burke, J. W.
Brother Mullard was the last master under California jurisdiction; he became Deputy Grand Master of Nevada Masons in 1868.
With the arousing of Masonic interest in both Silver City, and Virginia City, Masons in Gold Hill in the meantime had become aroused to the desirability of forming a Masonic unit in their own locality, and on the 11th of April, 1863, Wm. G. Alban, R. R. Barnes, Levi W. Lee, M. Frankenheimer, Lewis B. Frankel, Sigmund Ettinger, A. C. Hollingshead, Hugh McLeod, Henry Donnelly, N. A. H. Ball, Robert Webber, Charles E. Olney, Duane Bliss, Samuel Robinson, and H. H. Veasy framed a petition to the Grand Lodge of California asking permission to establish a lodge at Gold Hill. On the 20th of June, 1863, the document for which they petitioned was issued, and on July 1lth the dispensation was delivered, and W. G. Alban was installed Worshipful Master; E. R. Barnes, Senior Warden; L. W. Lee, Junior Warden; S. H. Robinson, Treasurer; S. Ettinger, Secretary; L. B. Frankel, Senior Deacon; A. C. Hollingshead, Junior Deacon; H. McLeod and M. Frankenheimer, Stewards; H. N. Veasy, Tyler. On the 13th day of October, 1864, the Grand Lodge of California issued a charter to Silver Star Lodge No. 165, with Chas. E. Olney, W. M.; L. W. Lee, S. W., Duane Bliss, J. W.; S. H. Robinson, Treasurer; S. E. Ettinger, Secretary; L. B. Frankel, Senior Deacon; Sol Neal, Junior Deacon; M. Frankenheimer and Hugh McLeod, Stewards; J. Lockwood, (not a member) Tyler.
There was wild activity on the slopes of Sun Peak Mountain, and in the gulches and canyons which radiated from its wind swept sides. Claims were located in all directions, by a motley aggregation of prospectors, most of them inexperienced miners; they had no knowledge of geology, and cursing, threw away the heavy blue black deposit which clogged their rockers and exhausted their quicksilver, but which was the real secret of the Comstock Lode, the source of the wealth which made the district famous.
To this environment the gold-mad throng continued to stampede, hailing from every section of the land. With them swept into this maelstrom of Humanity, came many Masons, who in the order of things, were eventually enrolled with the membership of Silver City, Gold Hill, and Virginia City lodges. It is said that at the peak of its membership, Amity Lodge had an enrollment of 194 members, but its existence and progress was always more or less hampered by the proximity of the lodges at Gold Hill and Virginia City.
However, the brethren were constant and energetic, which is attested by their effort and determination to carry on with an ever increasing membership, the growth of the lodge being steady, and lodge activities never waning. With a corps of competent officers elected annually to guide its destinies, it has continued to remain as one of the prominent and dominant units of Masonry in the state. Although it suffered a loss of membership with the decline of the metal industry on the Comstock, it has maintained its one time prestige, and is today a forceful factor in Masonic circles.
In the meanwhile, a fourth group of brethren in Virginia City, had felt a Masonic urge, and were ambitious to establish another unit of Masonry in the camp. Headed by Brother W. A. Van Bokkelen, in the late weeks of 1863 a meeting was called to outline plans to organize a new lodge in territory dominated by the brethren of Virginia City, No. 162, Silver Star No. 165 at Gold Hill, and Amity No. 163 at Silver City, many brethren of which are said to have been present at the meeting at the request of Brother Van Bokkelen, and to have voiced their approval of a fourth lodge being established in territory adjacent to their charters. With their approval obtained, and the assurance of fraternal support, the new group was impelled to make application to the Grand Lodge of California to organize under dispensation. Accompanying their application, was a personal letter from Bro. Van Bokkelen directed to the Most Worshipful William C. Belcher, Grand Master of California Masons, requesting that the new lodge be designated by the name “Escurial” and stating that the name had been suggested to him when reading in Prescott’s History of Spain a description of Escurial Palace. This name was deemed singularly appropriate for the new lodge, since the Spanish palace had been; built high in the mountains (Pyrenees) and was located in the vicinity of many mines, and that the name, and its appropriate application to the new lodge had found instant and popular favor with the brethren.
The delay incident to action by the Grand Lodge of California upon this application, was negligible, for, on January 22, 1864, official approval was given, and a dispensation was issued to the petitioning brethren, authorizing them to organize Escurial Lodge under dispensation.
At the 15th annual communication of the Grand Lodge of California, on October 13, 1864, Grand Master Wm. C. Belcher authorized that a charter be issued to the following officers and members of Escurial Lodge, U. D.: Geo. W. Hopkins, Worshipful Master; Wm. A. Van Bokkelen, Senior Warden; Columbus Walker, Junior Warden; Roderick C. Chappel, Treasurer; Erasmus W. Haines, Secretary; Charles V. Anthony, Chaplain; Ellis C. Morton, Senior Deacon; Basil V. Barry, Junior Deacon; John O’Brian, Marshal; Leonard W. Ferris, and Daniel N. Powers, Stewards; Julius Lockwood (of Virginia City Lodge No. 162) Tyler.
Master Masons as follows: Robert Baxter, George W. Birdsell, John C. Bloomer, Chas. B. Brooks, Ovid Chauvel, Clark Churchill, Charles M· Cornell, Josiah Earl, Robert Eichler, Edwin T. Estes, John Fleming, Benj. L. Higbee, Wm. H. Jenkins, Geo. D. Keeny, Alex E. Kennedy, Stephen D. Merchant, Frank A. Parks, Thomas Parker, John V. B. Perry. Thos. H. Pinkerton, David C. Ross, Geo. E. Scammon, Philip Stoner, James Wheeler. Entered Apprentice, John Faull.
Brother Geo. W. Hopkins became Grand Master of Nevada Masons in 1868 and 1869; Bro. Wm. A. Van Bokkelen served as Grand Master of Nevada in 1872, and as Grand Secretary F. & A. M. of Nevada Masons from 1867 to 1870 inclusive.
In the meanwhile, it had become necessary to acquire suitable quarters in which to house the new lodge, and arrangements were made with Virginia City lodge No. 162 whereby Escurial Lodge was to occupy the same quarters, share the necessary running expenses, and enjoy all the privileges that Virginia City lodge enjoyed, and eventually to reimburse Virginia City lodge for one half of all expenses incurred in promoting and acquiring the building. This arrangement proved mutually agreeable, and for years the two 1odges dwelt together in fraternal peace and harmony. When the lodges in Nevada resolved to divorce themselves from the California jurisdiction and establish a Grand Lodge of Nevada Masons, was at the joint invitation of Virginia and Escurial lodges that the eight lodges then operating on Nevada soil met in Virginia City January 15, 1865, and organized the Grand Lodge of Nevada at which Grand Session Virginia lodges became Virginia No. 3, Escurial became No. 7, and Silver Star No. 5.
It has been said that the prosperity and promotion of Virginia City might readily be reflected in the growth of Masonry on the Comstock, for by the end of 1869, Virginia Lodge had 142 members enrolled. Escurial followed with 138 and Silver Star at Gold Hill 123. By the spring of 1875 Virginia boasted of 185, Escurial showed 153 and Silver City 188, and their finances were in a flourishing condition. Then followed a period of disastrous fires, which almost completely wrecked both Virginia and Escurial lodges. On May 19, 1875, a large section of the business district of the city was wiped out, and the building occupied by the Masonic brethren was leveled. Permission was obtained to occupy the Odd Fellows’ Hall, and plans started to raise money to erect a new temple. Work was begun and the Grand Lodge invited to lay the corner stone on October 12, but on September 3 another fire swept over the town destroying the Odd Fellows’ Hall, and all the books, records and regalia saved from the fire of May 19 of both Virginia and Escurial lodges were a total loss. However, the brethren were not discouraged, and work was rushed on the new Temple in process of erection in another part of the city. On October 12, the special Communication of the Grand Lodge was held according to previous plans, the ceremonies being attended by the combined membership of the four lodges in the district, besides many visiting brethren from other sections of the state. The impressiveness of the occasion was heightened by the attendance of De Witt Commandery, Knights Templar, which participated in the ceremonies in full uniform.
It must be remembered that after the fire of May 19, all the records and papers of the Grand Lodge which were saved from the flames, and they were pitifully few, were stored in a brick building owned by Past Grand Master J. C. Currie. Fortunately, this building was not in the line of fire of September 3, and after the ceremonies attendant upon the laying of the corner stone of the new temple on October 12, it was decided as soon as the building was completed, to remove the remaining records of the Grand Lodge to the completed structure, and also to make it permanent headquarters for De Witt Commandery, Knights Templar, and a storage place for their magnificent uniforms, said to have cost between $200 and $300 apiece. These plans, however, failed to mature, for on October 26, barely two weeks from the date of laying the corner stone of the new temple, a fire, known to posterity as the Great Fire of 1875, ravished the city, entailing a loss of approximately $11,000,000 and the framework and foundation of the new temple were destroyed. In this fire the Currie building, containing what was left of the Grand Lodge records, was also consumed with its entire contents. Not a shred nor a leaf of the records of the Grand Lodge remained. However, the jewels presented to Virginia lodge by Past Grand Master W. H. Howard when that lodge was instituted, were found among the cooling embers when the conflagration had subsided. These jewels are now in possession of Carson Valley lodge.
The embers of this destructive blaze were scarcely cool before the Masons of Virginia City were again planning to erect a new temple. Though discouraged, and their lodge finances exhausted, their spirits were not broken and their indomitable pride would not permit the acceptance of fraternal or financial aid from other Masonic lodges either within or without the state. Very shortly their enterprise and determination was visibly manifested in the framework promoted through their own finances, of a new temple which this time became a reality and was ready for occupancy the following June when the Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge was to be held, but which owing to lack of reports from local lodges of the state and from the Grand Bodies of other jurisdictions, originals of which had been consumed in the fire of October 26, the Grand Lodge session was called off, and the Grand Lodge of Nevada did not convene until November, 1876.
The story of Masonry in Virginia City would be incomplete without reference to the meeting held on Mt. Davidson Sept. 8, 1875, following a fire which destroyed the I. O. O. F. building in which the Masonic brethren had been meeting since the fire of May 19, 1875, when the Masonic building was burned to the ground; there was no available hall in town after the fire of Sept. 8th, and since it was desired to hold a meeting to devise plans to carry on the work of erecting a new temple, it was suggested to Grand Master Robert W. Bollen that a meeting be held near the top of Mt. Davidson.
Brother Albert Hires, worshipful master of Virginia Lodge No. 3, when informed of the suggestion, asked: “What shall be done to transact the business of the lodge and provide for the destitute, if that meeting is held at the top of the mountain ?” He was told, “Call the lodge together on the mountain, waiving all signs and ceremonies.” He accordingly issued a call to the brethren to foregather near the top of Mt. Davidson, at the foot of the granite peak which surmounts the summit.
The area selected was a natural amphitheatre surrounded by high crags. In preparing the plot for the meeting, rough boulders had been selected as stations for the Worshipful Master and Wardens, and the enclosure was lined with rough rocks which served as seats for the brethren.
An altar was built of native rock in the center of the improvised lodge room, before which the brethren might approach the East. From a flag pole erected in years gone by, the white flag of Masonry emblazoned with the square and compass and letter G, floated in the breeze. Grand Master Robert W. Bollen was invited to preside over the meeting. Prayer was offered by Rev. I. D. Hammond, a member of the Craft, and Masonic odes were rendered by the local quartette, consisting of Bros. E. I. Passmore, Geo N. Eels, O. L. Foster, and Geo. W. Dorwin. A line of sentinels, distinguished by white bands worn around their arms were stationed around the mountain to prevent intrusion of the curious.
Grand Master Bollen delivered an inspiring address welcoming the local and visiting brethren, stating the object of the meeting, and outlining a campaign which would advance the moral, spiritual and educational uplift of the district and state. Ways and means were discussed to finance and for finishing the new Temple in process of building, and arrangements made for the laying of the corner stone Oct. 12th. Following the Grand Master, Brother Chas. DeLong, Robert H. Taylor, Rollen M. Daggett, and Past Grand Masters John C. Currie and George Hopkins delivered interesting talks, and a number of selections were rendered by the lodge quartette. The meeting was closed and the brethren began the long trek down the steep mountain side.
Historical accounts of the meeting written by brethren who attended, state that 342 members and visitors were present representing every Masonic jurisdiction in America. The meeting was given wide publicity not only in Masonic publications, but accounts of the gathering were printed in many of the leading newspapers of the nation.
It has been maintained that the meeting on Mt. Davidson was the only one of its kind held in America up to that time. While there had been Masonic gatherings in the open, notably one held by the brethren near the settlement of Ragtown, Nevada, and another said to have been promoted by Eureka lodge No. 16, these were more of a recreational nature, promoted more for their novelty, rather than for any actual necessity, and were attended exclusively by local members.
“Mt. Davidson will be known among the craft as ‘The Mountain of the Lord’ and the grandest altar of Freemasonry built by the Supreme Architect. Its solid base girded with bands of gold and silver, and sparkling with gems of crystal quartz; its altar cloth in winter the purest snowy mantle spread on it by heaven itself, while the blazing sun, the silver moon, and the glittering stars, shall be its greater and lesser lights, to shine upon it as long as the earth shall be used as a Trestle Board by the Craft.” (From “50 Years of Masonry in California.” Edwin A. Sherman, 33 Degree.)
By 1880 Virginia City had seen its best days. The story of the Comstock had been largely written, and evil days drew nigh. Ore production was on the wane, and the glory of the bonanza days had passed. The prestige the district had once commanded was gone. The glamour and romance, the prodigality and lavishness of the “sixties,” when silver was King, had disappeared; they existed in memory only, and the exodus began. From a thriving inland city which flaunted its metropolitan and cosmopolitan airs, whose population at the peak of its prosperity numbered far into the thousands, it had dwindled until but a few hundred remained.
The prosperity and progress of Masonry in the Comstock was naturally reflected in the discovery and development of the bonanza mines of the district. With but a few score enrolled on the membership rosters of the three lodges in the district when the Grand lodge was organized January 15, 1865, the craft expanded and grew until twenty years later when ore production began its decline, there were approximately 500 members enrolled in Virginia City. But the end was inevitable, and, as the fortunes of the district and city declined, so, likewise did Masonry suffer and so too, did its once proud membership disperse. Many of the brethren returning to the place from which they came, demitting to the lodges where first they found Masonic light.
Many, of course, remained loyal to the lodge of their adoption in Virginia City and continued their membership for perhaps years, before affiliating elsewhere. Many crossed into California and eventually demitted to lodges in the Golden State, while some remained loyal to the district and to their lodges. To them remains the credit and honor of keeping the Masonic fires burning. Though the brethren remained steadfast and loyal, they could not always continue to stem the tide of discouragement caused by the gradual loss of membership and eventual depletion of their treasuries. Virginia lodge No. 3, the first lodge to be organized on the Comstock, continued until May 14, 1915, when in despair it surrendered its charter.
Silver Star Lodge No. 5 of Gold Hill fought a losing battle until 1919, when it too succumbed to the inevitable, and consolidated with Escurial No. 7.
Valley No. 9 of Dayton, the first lodge in the state to be granted a charter by the Grand Lodge of Nevada (October 12, 1865) maintained its existence until 1926, when it to realized the impossibility of regaining its prestige and one time numerical strength and merged with Amity No. 4.
Second Mountain Top Meeting
An anniversary of the meeting held on Mt. Davidson September 8, 1875, and sponsored by the Grand Lodge of Nevada, though under the auspices of Virginia Lodge No. 3 and Escurial Lodge No. 7, was called for September 11, 1932. It was a replica, so far as possible, of the meeting held on the same spot 57 years before, honoring the pioneers of Nevada Masonry, perpetuating their memory and commemorating the unique meeting of more than a half century gone by.
It was the second meeting held on this Masonically revered spot, and like the meeting held in 1875, was attended by more than 300 members of the order. Nineteen Masonic jurisdictions of the United States were represented, 17 California cities alone sending delegations. Among the distinguished guests present was ex-governor of Nevada, R. K. Colcord, the oldest living Mason in Nevada, who was then 94 years old. Attending was W. R. VanBokkelen of Oakland, California, son of Past Grand Master W. A. Van Bokkelen, who served as Grand Master in 1872, and who was a distinguished guest at the meeting of September 8, 1875. An host of dignitaries representing high officials of the state, besides many of the living Past Grand Masters of Nevada were present. An interesting exhibit was the original jewels of Virginia lodge No. 3, made of Ophir bullion and presented to that lodge by Past Grand Master W. H. Howard of the California jurisdiction, at the institution of Virginia lodge in 1863, which are now in possession of Carson Valley lodge No. 33 of Gardnerville, Nevada. Included in the exhibit was a photograph of Jno. C. Currie, Past Grand Master of Nevada Masons, who was responsible for the organization of Amity Lodge No. 4 of Silver City. There was also a photograph of the stone altar used by Virginia lodge No. 3 at the first meeting on the mountain September 8, 1875.
The only known surviving member of the craft who attended the meeting in 1875 was William Sutherland, 84 years of age, who was prevented from attending by reason of infirmities due to his advanced years. Bro. Sutherland, a printer by profession, was a member the “Territorial Enterprise” staff, a leading publication of Virginia City at the time of the meeting of 1875, and set up a five-column story of the event. So great was the demand for copies, that the type was removed from the forms, and the account printed on paper sheets, handkerchiefs and strips of satin. His past and present activities in Masonry were given due mention at this second meeting and the session paused in its deliberations to send him greetings.
Grand Master Robert H. Parker officiated at the gathering and in a stirring address reviewed the activities and accomplishments of the pioneer Masons of Nevada, extolled their virtues and lauded their stability, integrity and courage.
A portion of the program was given over to the recognition Washington bicentennial observance, Judge Edw. A. Ducker, Past Grand Master of Nevada Masons, and a member of Nevada State Supreme Court, spoke on “Washington, the Man,” while former District Judge George A. Ballard, a Past Master of Escurial lodge No. 7 spoke on “Washington, the Mason.”
During the meeting the Scottish Rite Male Quartette, composed of J. L. Mathews, C. D. Jameson, August Frohlich, Charles Carter, and Tate Williams, rendered several beautiful selections.
The serving of refreshments at the close of the meeting brought to a conclusion one of the most outstanding assemblages in the history of the state.
Wm. W. Stewart, for many years United States Senator from Nevada. Nathaniel Ball, engaged in banking business at Gold Hill, and prominent in Masonry. Wm. B. Hickok, a mill owner and active in Masonic circles. C. N. Noteware, Grand Secretary of Grand Lodge, and first Secretary of State of Nevada. Wm. H. Howard, a Past Grand Master from California, and a citizen by adoption and choice of Virginia City. Samuel A. Chapin, prominent attorney in Virginia City. Charles W. Tozer of Gold Hill, Francis W. Kennedy of Silver City, an active member of the legal fraternity. Henry C. Blasdel, first governor of Nevada, and an active Mason. H. O. Holmes, John Skae, John W. Mackay, one of the bonanza kings, and a one time member of Escurial Lodge No. 7. These were some of the prominent men and Masons whose lives were closely linked with the destinies of the Comstock, and whose social, civic and fraternal activities wrote into the record of that unusual district, pages of dramatic and intensive history and assisted in weaving around the Comstock the romance and glamour that has always centered around its development and existence.
Perhaps one of the best known and most beloved Masons in Virginia City was J. W. Locklin, known to both young and old of the one time premier mining camp, as “Cap” Locklin, which title he gained through his selection as captain of local militia Battery H of Virginia City, in the boom days of the Comstock. He was a member of Escurial lodge No. 7, which he joined in the early days of that organization. He at once became active in its affairs, and for his zeal and enthusiasm in Masonry was advanced through every chair in the lodge. He was a tireless worker, not only in the lodge of his adoption, but was also a frequent attendant at the meetings of other Masonic lodges in his district. Unless sickness or pressing business prevented, he was always in attendance at Grand Lodge sessions, where his advice and counsel could be depended upon. Bro. Locklin remained an active member of Escurial Lodge No. 7 until his death which occurred in San Francisco, California, January 11, 1938. At the time of his passing he was 84 years of age.
Noteworthy among Masonic bodies operating in Virginia City, was Pythagoras Lodge of Perfection No. 1, A. & A. S. R., instituted on September 21, 1867. Seven years later, a short time before the Supreme session of 1874, Silver Lodge was established. Capitular Masonry was also launched in Virginia City in September 1867. All these bodies prospered, and during the affluent days of the Comstock, were active and dominant factors in Masonic activities.
Mention must likewise be made of the organization and perpetuation of De Witt Clinton Commandery, Knights Templar, one of the two mounted commanderies then in existence in America. Their beautiful uniforms and trappings were most attractive, and the troop, mounted on black horses, were an inspiring and spectacular sight when upon Masonic occasions they appeared in public. Miraculously, during the great fire of 1875 in Virginia City, the uniforms and trappings of this Commandery escaped destruction. With the erection of the Masonic Temple in Reno, the Commandery was transferred to new quarters, and at present is a prosperous and thriving unit of the York Rite of America.
Mention has been made in this article of the organization of the Grand Lodge of Nevada in Virginia City, January 15, 1865. With but few exceptions this famous camp continued to be the meeting place of the annual Grand Lodge communications up until the building and dedication of the fine Masonic Temple in Reno in 1914 More than one third of the annual communications held by the Grand Lodge to 1938, were held in Virginia City. During the days of affluence in this remarkable district, the meeting of the Grand Lodge, F. & A. M., was an event visioned with delightful anticipation by Masonic delegations who were selected to attend. It was also an occasion heralded with delight by the residents of the city who vied with one another to make the gathering of “the Masons” delightful and interesting.
Many years have passed since the Masons of Virginia City were hosts at a Grand Lodge session, and with the years, have come great changes to what was once the greatest mining camp upon the western continent. The canyon streets which once re-echoed to the sound of industry and the voice of merriment, which once took on metropolitan and cosmopolitan airs, which saw the production of untold millions in wealth, which gave birth to civic, social, fraternal and military units, which became the pride and admiration of the district – these old avenues are still marked by the same devious course they took in the days when silver was King, and the Comstock was a synonym for wealth, compared to which the riches of Croesus were as a penny. But, gone are the days of romance and glamour which surrounded the busy marts and treasure shafts of the old bonanza mines, gone are the days when speculation was rife and fortunes changed hands every day. Gone too, are the remarkable men who brought fame and honor to this district, who built and established societies and organizations which were noteworthy because of the foundations upon which they were erected. And of these, those dedicated to the practice of fellowship were by no means the least, and among which Masonry looms grand and inspiring. The many hundred Masons who found sanctuary in the lodges in Virginia City district left their imprint upon the lives, destinies, and character of the residents of the old mining camp. The recollection of their virtues, their goodness and their integrity, shall linger to exert its influence long after the old town has crumbled to decay and the excitement and glamour of its halcyon days are but fanciful memories.
ESMERALDA LODGE NO. 6
Today the old mining town of Aurora, Nevada, which at the peak of its productivity had a population estimated from six to nine thousand people, and was one of the large producing silver camps of Nevada, is one of the ranking ghost towns of the west.
Its streets which once echoed to the din of industry and commercial activity, its nearby canyons which resounded to the clatter of almost a score of quartz mills in noisy operation, are hushed and still; the quiet of a deserted camp hang over it, as with decaying tottering walls and sagging roofs, its one time sightly building and comfortable homes reminds of “the remorseless hand of Time, and the fickle tide of fortune.”
Gone are its halcyon days, when the richness of its mines might challenge the wealth of a Croesus. Gone are the excitement, the romance and glamour which lured the reckless and adventurous to its site, enticing them with all the siren voices of a western mining camp in full action.
Gone too, are those who contributed to its notoriety, as well as those who brought it glory and luster by reason of their humanity, their deeds of kindness and forbearance, charity, and outstanding accomplishments.
And yet, as in fancy we linger over the records of those often tense, lawless, yet sometimes mellow days, we are reminded that “The good men do live after them; good deeds we carve upon the rock, their faults we write upon the sand.”
At the peak of Aurora’s prosperity, it distributed into the channels of industry, many millions of dollars, and gave to the world men of genius, and financial and professional ability. Among its fine fraternal organizations, Masonry stood firm, fast and foremost, and during the 38 years of its existence in the town was a forceful factor in the promotion of Morality, Truth and Justice.
For thirty years it triumphantly carried on, and even after the ore supplies of the district were depleted, and one by one the residents of the town departed for other scenes, until there were less than a dozen people left, yet of that number seven were members of the Craft, and bravely held the charter of their lodge for several years longer, but finally some of that number crossed to that bourne from which no traveler has ever returned, and unable to assemble a constitutional quorum to carry on the work of the lodge, the inevitable happened, its charter was surrendered, and that once thriving, influential unit of Masonry passed out of existence.
ESMERALDA LODGE NO. 6
The period embraced between the late fifties and middle sixties in Nevada, witnessed the uncovering and development of many treasure chests of nature, precipitating in most instances, a stampede of gold mad, frenzied mobs to the mineral laden gulches and ledges of those districts.
The romance and excitement attendant upon the discovery of these treasure troves, and the development of the communities which gave them birth, furnished material for books and manuscripts, emanating from the fertile brain and gifted pen of skilled and accomplished writers, and brought prestige and fame, as well as notoriety, to the localities in which these treasures were found.
The wealth of such a locality was brought to light in the year 1858, although the district was not exploited nor developed, and the possible extent of its unusual wealth was not generally known until many months later.
The excitement on the Comstock was at fever heat, when J. M. Vorey, who was prospecting south of where the mining camp of Aurora was later located, on a torrid day in July, 1858, picked up a mineralized rock, decked with particles of virgin silver, and of manifest richness; with Vorey was a companion, James M. Braly, for whom Braly mountain was afterwards named; the twain proceeded at once to search for the ledge from which the piece of rock had been dislodged. Days numbered into weeks, and weeks passed into months, but the location of the mother lode could not be found. With provisions about exhausted and with winter close at hand, the prospectors were forced to give up the search and started across the country for Virginia City, there to recuperate their diminished exchequer, or to seek a grub stake from among the venturesome, who were engaged in the promotion of mining activities on the Comstock.
The distance to be covered between the two points was nearly one hundred and twenty-five miles, and the course lay over a rough forbidding terrain, where sagebrush, greasewood and occasional mesquite blocked the way out from the gulch where they had pursued their unsuccessful search for the elusive mineral; of a sudden as they forged ahead, all vegetation ceased, as if its advance had suddenly been stopped, and all growing forms had looked over into the boulder bristling and rock strewn area ahead, and crouched in fear.
But they kept on, firm in their resolve to seek financial aid, and return to find and develop the rich metal deposit which they believed lay hidden somewhere within the area they had left behind. And so, over the rock ribbed hills and mountains whose tracery on the maps of that section of Nevada resembles a caterpillar crawling across the land, the two continued their weary journey; with provisions and water nearly gone, their strength almost exhausted, and their spirits at low ebb. On the morning of Dec. 1st, 1858, they fought their way up a steep canyon, from the summit of which they beheld below them,smoke belching from a hundred smoke-stacks, and heard the din of a mining camp in full operation. It was the mecca towards which for many weary days they had bent their sagging footsteps, the promised land wherein lay for them success or failure to finance plans which might lead to the finding and development of a new El Dorado, many miles to the southeast.
With their arrival in Virginia City, they at once set about contacting those who might be interested in their story. The quest was long, but eventually financial backing was found, and with plenty of provisions and implements and accessories necessary to continue their search in the mountains, and with a companion, a man by the name of Hicks, to help them in their quest, they began the trek back.
The remainder of the story involves a hazardous return journey across the mountains, battling blizzards and intense cold, until they at last arrived at the gulch where Vorey had picked up the specimen of rich ore. Here a camp was established, a crude shelter erected, and with the coming of Spring, search was resumed for the parent ledge. On a day in May, the find was made; the first location was on a high outcrop at the base of Mt. Braly, and was named The Montauk, later renamed the Old Esmeralda.
As news of the strike spread over the country, the dim trails leading into the district were darkened by hordes of miners, prospectors, and an aggregation, the outscouring of vice ridden districts of blase mining camps of the west; soon the open spaces surrounding the retreat of Vorey and his companions were overrun with this motley assemblage, and a shanty town sprung up at the base of the mineral bearing ledge.
The fleeting weeks witnessed the passing of the shanty town, and out of chaos and confusion order was evolved; irregular lanes were straightened into well laid out streets flanked by commodious business houses and sightly homes, and the new camp was christened Aurora. At the peak of its prosperity, there were in the town some twenty stores, two daily newspapers, a dozen hotels, large and small, and about the same number of boarding houses. It also supported two companies of National Guard housed in their own well equipped commodious Armory Hall; there were also two rival fire companies, whose fire equipment was brought over the mountains, but was of the best obtainable. Of interest also, is the information that there were in the district some sixteen quartz mills to care for the output of the mines, and at the peak of its productivity, the town contained a population estimated from six to nine thousand people.
With the incoming tide of migration, lured by the promise of excitement, adventure and fortune, and hailing from every state in the Union, were many Masons, who when finally established as residents of the camp, soon became acquainted, and as they became better known to one another, and more familiar with prevailing conditions and practices of the town, were appalled by the immorality and impropriety of the rougher element of the town, for this element was already beginning to dominate the camp. Moved to drastic action by these conditions, a meeting of the brethren was held at which the formation of a Masonic Association was urged; first, for the purpose of fraternal contact; second, to attempt to uphold and build up the moral fabric of the community, and to stand as champions of law and order, and right living.
On August 23, 1863, this association framed a petition to the Grand Lodge of California, asking permission to organize a Masonic lodge under dispensation in Aurora. It is said that this petition did not reach the Grand Lodge of Calif. until September, but did receive early attention, and a dispensation was issued to the brethren of Aurora by Grand Master Wm. C. Belcher on September 28, 1863, authorizing the establishment of a lodge to be known as Esmeralda Lodge U. D. and naming James Stark worshipful master; Henry W. Leech. senior warden, and Joseph H. Richardson, junior warden.
The Masons organizing Esmeralda lodge, as reflected in the old official roll of the lodge were: James Stark, Henry W. Leech, Jos. H. Richardson, Albert Mack, James Waiters, Isaac S. Rowman, E. E. L. Meek, A. C. Morse, Hiram Huster, Wm. P. Jones, Wm. Tyler, E. M. Bacon, Clinton H. Patchin, J. W. Deering, A. D. Allen, G. Kaufman, W. S. Stanley, John R. White, E. J. Mathews, Rudolph Shibler, D. H. Haskell, Isaac Harris, Thos. I. Wilbur, George Hacker, Geo. W. Bailey, Joseph P. McCoy, J. M. Barlow, Lewis Hanscomb, Peter Ingrehem, and John Carter.
With the receipt of the dispensation, and the convening of the first Masonic lodge in Aurora on October 10, 1863, Worshipful Master Stark appointed G. Kaufman as treasurer; Geo. W. Bailey as secretary; C. H. Dodds, senior steward; A. C. Morse, junior steward. These officers were installed the same evening.
The records also show that at this meeting, Brother Stark presented to the lodge as a gift from brother John W. Tucker, a manufacturing jeweler of San Francisco, and well known to the brethren of Aurora lodge, a complete set of officers jewels, made from solid silver taken from the Aurora mines.
Under the above dispensation, Esmeralda lodge continued to perform Masonic work for nearly fourteen months, when, at the fifteenth Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of California, on October 13, 1864, a charter was issued to Joseph H. Richardson, as Worshipful Master; John S. Carter, Senior Warden; Arthur A. Green, Junior Warden; Gabriel Kaufman, Treasurer; Geo. W. Bailey, Secretary; Chas. H. Dodd, Senior Deacon; A. C. Morse, Junior Deacon; M. Y. Stewart, Marshal; Thos. J. Wilburn and Isaac Harris, Stewards; M. A. Murphy, Tyler; and in addition, fifty-two Master Masons. This charter was registered, and the lodge named and numbered, Esmeralda Lodge No. 170, on California registry.
On the 15th of January, 1865, at the organization of the Grand Lodge of Nevada at Virginia City, Esmeralda lodge withdrew from the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California, and became Esmeralda Lodge No. Six on Nevada Grand Lodge Registry. At this Communication also, George W. Bailey, a delegate from Esmeralda lodge, was elected Grand Master of Nevada Masons.
The story of Aurora abounds in unique and startling situations; unique, in that for a long pried after it was settled, there was uncertainty as to its geographic situation, California claiming it by within its boundaries and Nevada insisting that it was situated within the confines of Esmeralda County. As a result of this uncertainty and contention, two sets of officers were elected, one to serve under California regime, the other placed in office by their Nevada constituents. Two different district judges held court in two different parts of the town, and assemblymen, elected by the voters, attended the legislature at the same time, both in Sacramento, California, and in Carson City, Nevada; and it is claimed that an Aurora man was elected Lieutenant Governor of California, but was never seated, for two weeks after his election, a joint party of surveyors from both states came into Aurora with the information that the boundary line between the two states had been surveyed, and settled, and Aurora was four miles over from the California line, in Nevada.
The boundary contention had always given rise to both sectional and industrial complications, was the agent by which dishonesty and unfair practices were employed by the political parties, especially when the residents of Aurora went to the polls to vote, at which time bribery and coercion as well as force were dominant factors in determining the result of the vote.
The overwhelming number of both social and moral perverts who had flocked to the district following the new strike on Braly Mountain, made this situation possible; vice and lawlessness ruled the town; dens of iniquity housed both men and women of the lowest type, every other door in the business district was either a saloon, a house of prostitution, or a gambling den, where the simplest forms of law and order were violated, except when in rare moments the sheriff and his deputies would make a raid. But these occasions were rare, and with only a nominal fine imposed upon the offenders, or the lightest of sentences pronounced upon the guilty, the offenders returned to carry on their lawless or unholy practices, and the better element of Aurora groaned at another miscarriage of justice. Law and order soon became a travesty, and with the decadent element in control of the town, a reign of terror ensued; men were openly waylaid and robbed, women were kidnapped and outraged, and murders were of almost nightly occurrence. This situation however was climaxed with the brutal murder of one of the most highly respected citizens of the town, a man by the name of Johnson. Four men known to be implicated in this murder were taken into custody and lodged in the local jail. Among the best citizens righteous indignation was aroused, resulting in the calling of a mass meeting, at which more than six hundred outstanding men of the town gathered, formed themselves into a Vigilante Committee, and under competent leadership, marched to the jail, and without any violence demanded, and received, from the sheriff the keys to the jail, took the four murderers from their cells, and hung them on a gallows they had erected on North Silver Street. This Vigilante Committee is said to have been housed in a building owned by a man by the name of Wingate, and used by the Masonic brethren of Aurora as a meeting place.
There is an incident related in connection with this hanging, which involves Governor Nye, of Nevada, and County Commissioner Samuel Young of Aurora. On the day of the hanging February 9, 1861, Governor Nye, who was in Carson, wired Commissioner Young, “There must be no violence,” to which the commissioner replied, “All quiet and orderly, four men will be hanged in half an hour.” It is of interest to note that not only was justice meted out to the guilty murderers, but all the undesirables in the town were rounded up and required to leave town.
It is likewise of interest to know that the Wingate Hall, in which the Vigilante Committee had assembled and planned their work, was later acquired and occupied by Esmeralda Lodge No. 170. Pending favorable action upon their petition to the Grand Lodge of California to organize a Masonic lodge in Aurora, the petitioners had arranged with the owner of the building to occupy it as their meeting place, should the prayer of their petition be granted. This building was one of the outstanding structures erected in Aurora, the second story containing a large floor space, admirably adapted to the requirements of a dance hall, or with but slight alterations might be made into a commodious lodge room, with necessary ante-rooms at the rear.
These alterations having been made, the hall was rented to the Masonic brethren, and used by them for housing the lodge; they also were given the privilege of purchasing it at a later date, should their finances permit.
It is of interest to record that this purchase was made possible at a much later date, the building being taken over jointly by the Masonic and Oddfellow fraternities. No expense was spared to make the new quarters comfortable; the latest in lodge furniture was installed, and a beautiful carpet, in which was interwoven Masonic emblems, covered the floor. This carpet is said to have had a somewhat eventful history. During the life of the lodge it remained as a covering of the lodge room floor, but with the abandonment of the camp after ore reserves had become exhausted, evil days came upon the lodge, until by 1888 there were only five members living in the town, and it was impossible to hold meetings and it became necessary to surrender the charter. The regalia, furniture and records were passed into the keeping of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Nevada. When Humboldt lodge No. 27 of Lovelock, Nevada, was organized, the paraphernalia and jewels of Esmeralda lodge were sold to that lodge, and brother Thomas C. Sharpe of Esmeralda lodge was authorized to ship them to the Secretary of Humboldt lodge; the old carpet however, was not included in the purchase, it having passed, together with the interest of Esmeralda lodge in the building, to the Grand Lodge, I. O. O. F. of Nevada, and was sometime later removed to the old hall of Reno lodge No. 13, F. & A. M. in Reno.
With the completion of the new Masonic Temple, Reno lodge No. 13 leased the old hall on Sierra Street to the Knights of Columbus, and as that order could not use a carpet covered with Masonic emblems as a floor covering, it was removed, and eventually was restored to the care of the Masonic brethren in Reno, was taken to the Temple and stored in one of the upper chambers, where it remained forgotten for years, but was eventually discovered and brought to light, and is now a cherished historical memento of the once flourishing lodge at Aurora.
A review of the history of Esmeralda lodge discloses a membership roster of unusual interest and importance, but some of its members not only served with distinction in their own lodge, but became prominently identified with the destinies and affairs of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, F. & A. M. Others were drawn into State activities, and were elected to important official positions. Among them was A. N. Wingate, elected to the Assembly in 1866, as was also Brothers John S. Mayhugh, Charles P. Shakespeare, and D. H. Haskell, the latter afterwards moving to California, where he became prominently identified with Masonry; when Reno was founded in 1869, it was Brother Haskell who, as superintendent of the land department of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, laid out the city into streets and conducted the first sale of city lots; he also named the town for General Reno, then a prominent resident of San Francisco.
F. K. Bechtel was another active member of Esmeralda lodge who attained distinction, he joined the lodge in Feb. 1864 and was its secretary for years. He was a member of the first Nevada Constitutional Convention and was County Clerk of Esmeralda County from 1868 to 1871. It was he who fed and housed Samuel Clemens, (Mark Twain) for weeks during his eight months residence in Aurora.
E. W. McKinstry, an attorney, who in later years moved to California and was for twelve years Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of that State, was made an Entered Apprentice in Esmeralda lodge shortly before he left Aurora for California, where he completed his Masonic degrees. Among other prominent members of Esmeralda lodge was M. K. Harkness, brother of Doctor Harkness of the Academy of Science, of San Francisco. Charles C. Dodd, who left Aurora and for many years was a leading merchant of Portland, Oregon. M. Y. Stewart, a well known citizen of Aurora, who moved to Oakland and became prominent in Masonic circles in that city, he demitted from Esmeralda lodge to become a member of Brooklyn lodge No. 225 of Oakland.
Robert M. Howland, protege of ex-Governor, and U. S. Senator Jas. W. Nye, Hon. William Van Vorhies, first Senior Warden of California lodge No. 1, who came with the charter for that lodge from Washington, D. C.
James Stark, the first Master of Esmeralda lodge, was a man of great genius, and unusual mental attainments. The early years of his life were devoted to the Stage, in which profession he took rank among the great tragedians of his day. Following a professional engagement in the old Piper’s theatre in Virginia City, he fell a victim to the lure of the mines, and abandoned the stage to engage in mining activities and promotion. In 1862 he moved to Aurora, took up some mining claims and built and operated a quartz mill while developing his mining property; in addition to these activities, he became very active in the civic, social and fraternal activities of the town. He served as a member of the first Constitutional Convention of Nevada, at which he was a candidate for Delegate to Congress. The last meeting at which Bro. Stark presided as worshipful master, was held on April 24th, 1864. He died soon afterwards.
Joseph H. Richardson, the first Junior Warden of Esmeralda lodge, is known to have acted as Senior Warden in the place of Henry W. Leech from the organization of the lodge until he was advanced to become Master, upon receipt of the charter, Oct. 30th, 1864. He was always a leader, and prominent in the affairs of his town and county. Later in his career, he became County Assessor of Esmeralda County.
Among the residents of Aurora for several months was Samuel Clemens, known in American literature under the nom de plume of “Mark Twain”. He was a member of Polar Star lodge No. 99 of Missouri, and is said to have been upon occasions, a visitor to Esmeralda Lodge No. 6; after he left Aurora and moved to Virginia City, he is known to have taken a keen interest in Masonic affairs frequently visiting the lodges at Canon City, Washoe City and in Virginia City district.
Brother R. K. Colcord, a past master of Silver Star lodge No. 5 of Gold Hill,Nevada, and ex-Governor of Nevada, and over one hundred years of age when he died, was, during the best days of Aurora, and the prosperous era of Esmeralda lodge, actively engaged in mining activities in the camp, principally in the erection and management of quartz mills. For many years he was the only living Mason who had visited Esmeralda lodge and sat with the pioneer embers of that body in session.
The history of Esmeralda lodge would be glaringly incomplete without reference to the outstanding activities of one who held a high place in the fraternal, civic and political life of Nevada. This distinction belongs to Brother Michael A. Murphy, who at the time of his coming to Nevada had attained the degree of Fellowcraft in Clinton Lodge 119 of California. He was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in Esmeralda lodge, June 4th, 1864, and in 1868 was elected worshipful master of that lodge. In 1871 he became junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, Senior Grand Warden in 1872, Deputy Grand Master in 1881, and Grand Master in 1885. It is said his early education was neglected, but by application, perseverance and determination, he accumulated a vast store of practical knowledge, studied law, was admitted to practice, and was elected District judge, State Senator, Attorney General of the State, and finally became Associate justice of the Supreme Court. It was through his efforts that Esmeralda lodge continued to function, even when the old camp was doomed to oblivion, and when the lodge lost its charter through the scattering of its membership, and the decadence of the camp, it was Brother Murphy who had the mortal remains of two members of the defunct lodge: Brothers John Neidy, and Franklin Neal brought over to Carson City, and interred with Masonic honors, Brother Murphy paying for all the cost of burial.
We have recorded the names, and made slight mention of but a few of the men and Masons who brought renown to Esmeralda lodge, surrounded it with a halo of luster and glory and were instrumental in placing it on a footing which endured as long as the mining industry continued to thrive in that section, and, with the depletion of ore supplies and the final abandonment of the mines, departed to other sections of the land, where they became valued citizens, respected for their sterling worth and integrity, and admired for those qualifications acquired in the study and exemplification of those Masonic Virtues, Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love.
It is now more than four score years since the first dating prospectors uncovered virgin riches in that far off section of Nevada where the ghost town of Aurora stands; four score years since among the crowds of humanity which crossed the verdureless, rock strewn hills and boulder bristling areas that flank the approach to that desolate, dreary district, since the torch bearers of Masonry treked their way into Aurora, to find lodgement and to eventually establish another unit of Masonry in that portion of the Sagebrush State.
That early chapter in Masonic development, somewhat fragmentary, it is true, has in more or less disintegrated form been forgotten, for it covered a period of some five years before Masonry took organic form in the embryonic camp, and some of the bright jewels which flashed in the Masonic diadem have been omitted for want of a proper setting. However, there were preserved jewels of rare worth, whose concentrated rays set the fraternal coals in flame in the hearts of those pioneer Masons,causing them to glow with joy and pride for Masonry, “the grandest institution ever devised, inspired and framed for mankind,” and finding full fruition and development in that far off section of the state. When Freemasonry was planted in that district, it came barefooted and poorly shed, with suffering, sorrow and woe in its wake, passing through summers of torrid heat, and winters of bitter cold, through hardships and privations, but with ever before it the promise of Light, and yet more light, it was rocked in the cradle of Reason, and fed by Truth.
LANDER LODGE NO. 8
AND AUSTIN NO. 10
Cradled in the heart of the mountains, the secret of its silver hoard guarded throughout untold ages, the district now embraced in the confines of Lander and Eureka Counties, remained virgin territory long after the rumble of the prairie schooner disturbed the primeval quiet of the western plains, and the ceaseless trek of gold mad men and women, moved toward the land of the setting sun, in search of fortune.
Romantic and glamorous is the pageant that crossed the pages of history during the mad rush of the early sixties to the silver bearing hills and mountains, and the rich gold fields of Nevada. Tales of undreamed wealth had stirred the pulses and fired the imagination of the adventurous in the states East of the Mississippi; the gold rush of ’49 had opened up new trails leading westward from the “Father of Waters” and, out over the rolling prairies, and winding over rugged mountains, and through tortuous canyons, came the hurrying throngs in search of fortune.
Eager to reach the gold fields of California, impatient to pan her limpid streams reported rich in alluvial sands, the gold mad throngs passed by other treasure troves, compared to which the golden flow from California’s streams proved negligible, for Comstock, Aurora, Austin, Eureka, Treasure Hill, and in later years Tonopah and Goldfield yielded the secret of their unbelievable wealth, and their rich ores, not only enriched the coffers of their promoters, but helped to stabilize the credit of our war torn nation.
As might be supposed, many Masons were flung into this maelstrom of humanity, and with the settling of the tide found themselves in the midst of the excitement of some newly discovered mining camp. It was so in the newly established camp of Austin, where were found the high and the low, the rich and the poor, the cultured and the ignorant, the chaste and the uncouth.
Local conditions in all of Nevada’s mining camps during those years were largely the same, where at first the rougher element held sway. So mixed was the flow of humanity from the East that all grades and conditions of mankind were spewed upon the ground, and lawlessness, licentiousness, murder and arson were the order of the day. Into such an environment Masonry in the Austin district was born, for it was found soon after the camp was developed, that Masons from every section of the States had foregathered here, who with the passage of time, knew one another after the fashion of the craft.
If you have followed the history of our early mining camps in Nevada, you have observed that in almost every instance Masonry followed quickly in the wake of such newly settled districts, and almost invariably its progress in these camps was practically the same. First a Masonic Association; then formation under dispensation; then the chartered lodge; its infantile struggles; ultimate financial establishment; numerical progress; the acquiral of its own lodge building: then disaster, usually in the shape of fire; then recovery, and finally partial or total dissolution, due to exhaustion of mineral supply in the districts in which these lodges were established. Not in every instance has this been the case, but in the main, the process of establishment and progress has been as stated. Lander Lodge No. 8 was an exception to this rule.
However, tho Masonry declined as the ore values and supply diminished in a given section, and that section became depopulated, we may conclude that but for its moral and ministering inAuence exerted upon those communities during the period of their existence, the vice and wickedness introduced by the rough element, would have brought early disaster and an ultimate reign of terror to those localities. In fact these conditions actually existed in some: of the camps of Nevada, and we are told that it was nor an uncommon thing for every officer of the lodge to enter the anteroom of his lodge hall, armed, although we may readily assume that no offensive or defensive weapon found its way into the lodge room. The prevalence of crime also, was likewise, eventually the signal for concerted action on the part of those who stood for right, and those mad exciting days, frequently witnessed the action of vigilante committees, formed to suppress and weed out those who evaded or violated the law. We of the present day cannot perhaps look upon such community gestures with any degree of toleration, but we have only to remember that these demonstrations were enacted, not for personal or revengeful motives, but rather to preserve the law, and save the community from what would be termed rank Communism today.
In the report of its Grand Jury of one of Nevada’s mining counties, there appeared in the fall of 1864, the following: “In February 1864, a vigilance committee, composed of more than 600 of our best, most influential and law abiding citizens, rounded up and drove all the rough violent characters out of town. They then proceeded to the County jail, took thence four guilty murderers and hanged them on a wooden gallows previously erected for that purpose. There was no violcnce nor undue excitement, and after the hanging, the crowd dispersed quietly to their homes and places of business. It is noted with a great deal of satisfaction, that the moral effect of that righteous uprising has been of a far reaching effect.”
While it is not recorded that members of the Masonic craft joined in this movement, nevertheless it is known that they were present and were instrumental in ridding that community of its undesirables.
Again, from comments made by prominent men of that period, it would seem that Nevada had become a dumping ground for the vicious element from every section of America.
However, a comparison of this class with those who flocked to California during the rush following the discovery of gold in that state in ’49, we would conclude that Nevada harbored no worse, nor a more numerous gathering of undesirables than did our sister state of California, during the mad excitement of its gold rush, for this element, as has been noted, infested every new camp, great or small, and Austin was no exception to the rule. Drinking, gambling and vice ran rampant, and the deadly aim of the gunman brought down his victim far too often for good men to tolerate.
To combat these evils, as well as to afford an avenue through which they might practice and cement that fellowship so valued by the craft, those Masons who had gathered in and around Austin, determined to form a Masonic Association, and apply for a dispensation to organize a lodge.
Nevada was not yet admitted to the Union, and Austin was under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California.
The issue of the Reese River Reveille of Austin, August 6th, 1863, contained the following notice:–
“We learn that the ancient and noble order of Free and Accepted Masons, residents hereabouts are taking steps to institute a lodge and erect a suitable building for its use”–
however, no definite action was taken in the matter of organizing a lodge until March 3rd, 1864, when a meeting of Austin Masons was called at Lander County Court House to petition the Grand Lodge of California for permission to establish a lodge Under Dispensation, “to work for the good of the craft.” Tentative officers were selected, consisting of I. L. Titus, W.M., A. D. Rock, S. W., and G. W. Ferrill, J. W.
The names of 23 members appear upon the petition as recorded in the old records of Lander Lodge No. 172, under California jurisdiction, all of whom presented their demits upon that occasion.
The issue of March 5th, 1864, Reese River Reveille, contains the first notice of Austin Association F. & A. M., holding its meetings at the Court House the Monday evening on or preceding the full of the moon, and two weeks thereafter. By the latter part of March, 1864 action had been taken upon the application of the Lander brethren to operate a lodge under dispensation, and on June 3rd a meeting was called at the I. O. O. F. Hall for the purpose of organizing. The brethren chosen on March 3rd to officer the Association were continued, a membership fee of $100.00 for admission, and $2.00 per month for membership dues was voted, and the Trustees were instructed to negotiate for a suitable lodge room. These instructions were carried out, and at the next meeting of Lander Lodge U. D. No. 172, the Trustees reported that plans had been made to occupy a building owned by a Mr. Raderick, he having agreed to erect an additional story to he used exclusively as lodge rooms, the rental to be placed at $150.00 per month.
The lease was taken by the I. O. O. F. Association of Austin, which agreed to share equally in the payment of the monthly rental. During the month of June, the I. O. O. F. Association became chartered as a regular lodge, and on Sept. 2nd, the Trustees of Lander Lodge No. 172 were empowered to conclude a lease with the Odd Fellows for the rent of the hall for one year.
On Oct. 14th, 1864, Lander Lodge was chartered as a duly constituted lodge of the California domain, and at its following meeting elected W. W. Wixom, W. M., A. G. Love, S. W., and J. J. Work, J. W.
It is interesting to note that the first W. M. of the newly chartered lodge, was the father of Emma Wixom, who became famous as an operatic singer of international note, and whose stage name was “Emma Nevada”.
The following weeks were busy weeks for the newly chartered lodge, more than a score of new petitions having crossed the Secretary’s desk before the first of the year. In the meantime, requests among the Nevada lodges were being made for the establishment of a Grand Lodge in our state, and correspondence was passing back and forth between the eight lodges in Nevada, seeking unanimous consent to the proposal. On Dec. 27nd, 1864, a resolution framed to petition for a Grand Lodge in Nevada “Whose charter shall be their credentials”, was signed by W. W. Wixom, W. M., and T. A. Waterman, Treas., of Lander No. 172, and presented to the lodge for adoption. The resolution was lost by a vote of 5 to 8.
On Jan. 6th, 1865, at a stated meeting in response to a communication received from Rro. Jos. DeBell, Chairman of the joint committee on the establishment of a Grand Lodge for Nevada, it was moved to reconsider the vote had on the resolutions of Dec. 22nd, 1864, and it was further moved to vote to favor the establishment of a Grand Lodge in the state. Both of these motions were passed, the vote being 7 for, and five against, and Bro. E. L. Davis was appointed to act as representative of Lander Lodge to the convention of lodges to be held in Virginia City, Jan. 16th, 1865.
It is said that there was considerable dissatisfaction among the members of Lander Lodge, occasioned by the rescinding of the vote on the Grand Lodge situation, as of Dec. 22, 1864, since some of the brethren who were present upon that date, did not attend the meeting Jan. 6th, 1865, while others who were not in attendance on Dec. 22nd, attended on Jan. 6th. Accusations of collusion were made, and for a short time there was a tense feeling among the brethren. However, later developments, and the necessity of initiating, passing and raising the various candidates who had been accepted for membership, served to quiet any differences which might have been temporarily engendered, and Masonic harmony prevailed.
With the organization of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, Jan. 17th, 1865, there were eight lodges in the state operating under charters from the Grand Lodge of California.
The records of the Grand Lodge reflect the names of delegates from six Nevada lodges which met in Virginia City, Jan. 15th, 1865, to discuss the advisibility of organizing a Grand Lodge in Nevada. Esmeralda Lodge No. 170, and Lander No. 172, sent no delegates, altho Lander Lodge was officially considered when the Grand Lodge finally functioned on Jan. 17th, 1865, and Marcus D. Larrow, a former member of Carson Lodge was named as Grand Orator.
On Jan. 18, 1865, the lodges present surrendered their charters of the Grand Lodge of California, and received their charters from the newly organized Grand Lodge of Nevada.
The minutes of that first Grand Lodge session show that both the Grand Master and Grand Secretary were directed to communicate with Lander lodge regarding the surrender of its California charter, but the records are silent as to the outcome of this movement.
Just why Lander Lodge was not represented at the Virginia City session, although Bro. Davis of that lodge was chosen to attend, has been a much discussed question. There is no mention in the records now in existence to throw any light upon the subject, and there are no living Masons who were members of Lander Lodge at that time, to give us the answer. Several reasons have been propounded, all of which sound plausible:– the distance to be traveled, the treacherous roads, the possibility of becoming snow bound, all might have contributed to their non-attendance.
There is another angle to the question which commands consideration, and which was discussed by one of our older brothers of Eureka, which I mention as only a remote cause. Among the motley heterogeneous populace of Austin at that time, were many residents from South of the Mason-Dixon line, who, for reasons best known to themselves, kept silent as to their southern sympathies. It was not, however, an unusual situation to be found in the lodges of that day, i. e. division of opinion and sympathies on the slavery question, and knowing the Northern sentiment which prevailed in our Nevada lodges, it has been said that possible preponderance of southern sentiment among the members of Lander lodge mitigated against the sending of its delegate to Virginia City, for we must remember that the original motion to recommend the establishment of a Grand Lodge in Nevada, was voted down in that lodge by the members attending the session of Dec. 22, 1864.
Whether this story possesses any real foundation or not, it is impossible to determine now, for the records of Lander lodge stress noreputed clash between Northern and Southern sympathisers, although it is a known fact that in other sections of Nevada, notably at Virginia City, there were times when open hostilities developed among members of the craft as supporters of Abraham Lincoln and Jeff Davis respectively, and this animosity is said to have crept into some of the constituent lodges and developed into a disturbing factor in the Grand Lodges of both Nevada and California, especially the latter.
However, whether or not there was method or reason for the failure of Lander’s representative to report at Virginia City, in due time that Lodge surrendered its California charter, and the new charter under Nevada domain was received and accepted by the Austin brethren.
This charter was issued Jan. 17th, 1865, and signed by Jos. DeBell, M. W. G. M., and Chas. K. Fish, Grand Secty., of Nevada. It is interesting to note that the original charter was destroyed by fire, and a duplicate, now in possession of Lander lodge was issued in the year 1894.
Masonic activities in Austin continued to make massive strides, and by April 1865, another lodge gave promise of functioning in the same place. Scarcely two months after Lander No. 8 was chartered under the Nevada constitution, a body of 23 Masons headed by Bros. W. R. Wren and W. L. Thomas, petitioned Lander Lodge No. 8 for permission to organize in their territory. Their request was granted and on April 12, 1865, a dispensation from the Grand Lodge, signed by Bro. Jos. DeBell, Gr. Master was issued the new lodge, its number on the Nevada roll being 10. At its first meeting Bro. W. R. Wren was chosen W. M., W. L. Thomas, S. W., and M. A. Sawtelle, J. W. While its personnel was composed of active, wide awake brethren, whose interest in Masonry could not be discounted, yet this lodge never gained the standing in the community that Lander No. 8 enjoyed, and after several years of varying successes and discouragements, with the withdrawal of and the loss of membership by removal from the district, the lodge ceased to function and surrendered its charter in the year 1871.
However, the progress of Masonry in the Austin district was onward, in spite of the surrender of its charter by Austin Lodge No. 10.
Interest in the advanced degrees of Masonry developed, resulting in the institution of Austin Chapter No. 3, Royal Arch Masons, this branch of the order enjoying a handsome numerical growth, and flourishing during the halcyon days of the camp. The oldest residents of Austin today, who were but youngsters in those days of the long ago, can recall the youthful thrill felt during spectacular social and fraternal events fostered by both the Austin Chapter and Eureka Commandery Knights Templar, upon the occasions that body visited Austin, when the roll of drums, the flare of trumpets, and the martial music of the band, timed the steps of the visiting Knights, who moved with stately tread down the main street of that thriving mining camp. Both the Chapter and the Commandery continued to thrive in that section for several years, but, with the decline of activities due to the demonetization of silver in 1873, there was a noticeable falling off of members in both these branches of Masonry both in Austin and Eureka, and within the course of a few years their membership had dwindled to almost nothing, particularly was this the case with the Commandery. Eventually both bodies ceased to exist in that section of Nevada.
For years Lander Lodge has continued along the even tenor of its way. During the years of plenty in the camp, enjoying an almost abnormal growth, in the years of lack which have followed the decline of mining activities, it has continued to carry on, always maintaining a standard of quality in membership demanded by the brethren instrumental in organizing the first Masonic lodge in that district.
Fortunately, no dire disaster has visited the lodge, although in August 18, 1874 a severe cloud burst damaged its building to the extent of many hundred dollars, but destroyed no records, in 1881 a fire swept away several blocks on the north side of Main Street, on which the lodge room is located, and destroyed some of the physical property in the lodge room. (However, almost miraculously the building was saved, the flames jumping the main part of the brick building, and igniting frame structures beyond.) In the main, the lodge has prospered, and dispensed much charity among the deserving.
Established long ago upon sound financial lines, it has continued the policies of its founders, and is today one of the outstanding Masonic Lodges in the state.
Its present quarters were acquired in 1867, in conjunction with the I. 0. O. F. forming what was known as “The Masonic and Oddfellows Hall Association”. The building, two stories in height, is a mute attestant to the splendor of a bygone day, for it embraced all the convcniences, and even luxuries of architectural accomplishment of that period, with its inside folding window blinds, its high ceilings, its well made ornamental altars, pillars, and other lodge furniture, and its highly colored emblematic charts, dating back to Civil War days, it attests to the spirit of fraternal progressiveness and pride which actuated the brethren of Lander Lodge No. 8, who made possible the establishment of the craft in the Austin district.
An inspection of its old records, in most regular and beautiful chirography, are full of quaint, stilted expressions in vogue at that period, beautifully worded and of perfect grammatical construction. Its financial records reflect the same care in their preparation, and evidence the integrity, honesty and carefulness of those to whom have been intrusted the funds of the organization.
It would be impossible for any but a passing reference to be made to the long line of loyal and sincere Masons who have enrolled upon the roster of Lander Lodge since its inception. Social, civic, and state records contain the names of men and Masons who belonged to that Lodge, and we can only refer to them as a whole, although we realize that they merit an individual tribute, and that mere words cannot measure nor describe their contribution in service to society, or to the fraternity which they honored and loved. Honored in their community, loved by their fellowmen, and lauded by the fraternity whose insignia they wore, their memory has lived long in their community. “Their works do follow them.”
The passing years have noted no marked or unusual incidents of Masonic interest as having occurred. Year by year this lodge has performed its Masonic work and duty; and, although disappointments and discouragements have been encountered, yet with pluck and determination, its membership has carried on. At times the fortunes of this mountain lodge has been at low ebb, but with unfaltering purpose they have forged ahead, surmounted their difficulties, and kept faith one with the other.
Today, there is a bow of splendid promise upon the heaven of their hopes, for with brightened prospects for a better industrial future, and a probable return to those halcyon days when silver was King, Austin district bids fair to stage a most magnificent and spectacular comeback. With this prophesied industrial progress, Masonry in Austin will likewise keep pace, for the indominable will and perseverance of the brethren will serve as an inspiration to their fellows, while the beauty of the order will find lodgement in the heart of the profane, urging him of his own free will and accord” to seek sanctuary with the brethren.
Prominent among the members of Lander Lodge as well as influential in the social, civic and political affairs of Austin in the early years of its existence, was Judge J. H. Ralston, charter member of Austin Masonic Association, who demitted from Sacramento Lodge F. & A. M. Lost on the desert south of Smoky Valley in May, 1864, his body was found two weeks later by a company of searchers sent out from Lander Lodge. The body was taken to Austin and buried with Masonic honors, this being the first Masonic funeral held in the district.
Among the signers of the petition for a Masonic Association in Austin, appears the name of Marcus D. Larrow. Bro. Larrow was a man of rare accomplishments, and is said to have been learned in his profession. His name is prominent among the legal profession of his day. Formerly a member of Carson Lodge No. 1, with the organizing of the Grand Lodge of Masons in Nevada, his ability was recognized by that body, and he became its first Grand Orator.
Among the signers of the petition for the Austin Masonic Association, also appears the name of O. L. C. Fairchild, whom older residents of Austin today declare to be a near relative of our own Tracy.
Prominent among the first petitioners for membership, after Lander received authority to work under dispensation, appears the name of Herman Sadler, a family name which attained honor and distinction in the annals of Nevada history.
But the name which brought lasting fame and glory to Austin’s Masonic lodges is the name of Ruel Colt Gridley, known best to history for his connection with, and interest in the United States Sanitary Commission during the Civil War. “For the sick and wounded there was no Red Cross, no great Army Medical Corps. But the Sanitary Commission was carrying on nobly. Demands on its slender resources had been enormous, had time and again exhausted them.
Sufficient money had been brought in to buy supplies. These had been assembled at depots, and the Commission found itself without funds to move them up to the places where they would soon be badlv needed.
This was the national setting. The local setting was furnished by a municipal election in the little town of Austin.
The election was hotly contested. In the heat of the battle, a wager was made between Doctor Herrick and Ruel Gridley. if the Dermocrats won, Dr. Herrick was to carry a rack of flour on his back across the town to the settlement of Clifton,a mile and a half down the canyon; if they lost Gridley was to become the beast of burden. The Democrats were defeated, and in due time Gridley appeared with the flour, decorated in red, white and blue ribbons, and a few small flags. Beside him marched Dr. Herrick carrying Gridley’s hat, coat, gloves and cane, anti followed by thirty-six men on horseback, a band playing “Old John Brown” and then came almost the entire population of Austin. Gridley delivered the flour to the Doctor, and adjournment was made to the nearest saloon where the drinks were set up by the defeated side. An argument arose as to the disposition of the flour. Herrick proposed that it be made into griddle cakes and swore that no Democrat should have one. Gridley insisted that it be put up at auction the purchaser to put up the amount in gold and retain possession until the sack was again offered at auction and sold and so on until everyone had a chance to possess it. All proceeds to go to the Sanitary Commission.
Gridley was the first purchaser. This brought a round of cheers, and the bidding started in earnest. From the sale, the sum of five thousand dollars was sent by Gridley to the Commission.
Gold Hill in Storey county heard of the auction, and asked that the residents of that town be permitted to conduct an auction. So to Gold Hill went Gridley and his flour. The auction was repeated, miner bidding against merchant, banker against doctor. $5,225.00 was raised, and the supremacy of Gold Hill over Austin publicly admitted.
Then the parade filed through Devil’s Gate to Silver City, but a rain storm interfered with the sale, so on they went to Dayton, the county seat. Rivalry between the towns of the Comstock boosted Gridley’s sales enormously. At Virginia City, Mr. Bonner of the Gould and Curry mine started the ball rolling with his bid of $3,500.00. The sales mounted until that section of Storey County raised $22,000.00
From there Gridley, with his now famous sack of flour, went to Sacramento, San Francisco, and then to New York and the East. In all, Gridley turned over to the Commission, over $265,000.00, a sum which made possible the fine work of the Commission the last year of the war.
Gridley, his work completed, returned to the West, broken in health and financially ruined. He had exhausted his means transporting his flour over the country. In 1866 he landed in Stockton without a dollar.
He died in Paradise City, Stanislaus county, Nov. 21, 1870 and was buried in Stockton on Admission Day. A monument to his memory was dedicated in Rural Cemetery by Rawlins Post, Grand Army of the Republic.
Ruel Colt Gridley was born in Hannibal, Missouri, Jan. 3, 1819. He was a charter member of St. John’s Lodge No. 37 at Yreka and belonged to Diamond Lodge No. 29, at Diamond Springs, to Lander No. 172, Austin (under California registry) to Lander No. 8 and Austin No. 10 of the jurisdiction of Nevada, and to Morning Star No. 68, at Stockton, Calif., at the time of his death. He was a charter member of Stockton Commandery, Knights Templar.
(This account of Gridley’s sack of four, by Dr. Roscoe L. Clark of Sacramento. Calif. is given in part, from an article published in “The Sciot Rooster” in June 1933, and included in the history of Lander Lodge with the permission of Brother Clark.)
Personnel–Lander Lodge No. 8
Names taken from the Register of Lander Lodge No. 172 and Lander Lodge No. 8 that have held State, County, or Government position, and/or that were prominent citizens of the community.
No. 5 – On By-Laws as state above–(Dr.) W. W. Wixom, first W. M. of Lander Lodge No. 8. Prominent physician and the father of Emma Nevada, the great singer.
No. 10 – O. L. C. Fairchild, father or grandfather of our Brother Tracv. editor and owner of the Reese River Reveille, newspaper at Austin and other papers in the state.
No. 8 – E. S. Davis. Records show he was County Recorder for many years, and held other County Offices.
No. 15 – H. Mayenbaum, very prominent attorney in Lander County and Nevada, afterwards was prominent in California.
In the Meeting of March 3rd, 1864, C. L. C. Fairchild and J. D. Fairchild appear, both of Pilot Hill Lodge No. 166, California.
Again referring to signatures to By-Laws, etc., as Members of Lander Lodge No. 172 and now Lander Lodge No. 8.
No. 28 – Thos. W. Triplett, City Councilman or Alderman of Austin, and afterwards held other prominent County positions.
(Great grandfather of Thomas L. Acree, No. 332 and Dale F. Acree, No. 336.)
No. 48 – M. Dyer, prominent merchant, rancher, and held several County positions, died when County Recorder. His son was Deputy County Treasurer of Washoe County.
No. 59 – George Henry William Crockett, Wells Fargo Expressman at that time. County Treasurer of Lander County for many years.
No. 6O – Thos. T. Read, prominent mining engineer and surveyor at that time.
No. 67 – Evan Jones, see Masonic History pertaining to him.
No. 107 – J. T. Barrett, owner of big stage business from Virginia City to Austin and other mining camps adjacent.
No. 127 – John R. Bradley, owner of large land and cattle holdings, grandson of Governor Lewis R. Bradley, John R. Bradley was afterwards a member of Elko Lodge F. & A. M. and was always a prominent citizen.
No. 138 – Leonard Wines, afterwards went to Elko County, prominent family there.
No. 148 – George Watt, prominent rancher and stock man; State Senator from Lander County, and held other County Offices.
No. 149 – J. H. Taber, Sheriff and Deputy Sheriff of Lander County in 1864 to 1868. Uncle of Judge Taber of Nevada. After he left Austin was prominent in Efko County and held many prominent offices.
No. 150 – Joseph C. Harper, Captain; Joseph C. Harper known as Capt. Harper, was a captain of the Confederate Army, came to Nevada after the war, was elected Sheriff about 1878, and died in office, was only 38 years of age when he died, buried in the Masonic Graveyard at Austin. (Became member of Lander Lodge about 1869 or 1870.)
No. 164 – D. C. McKenney (his name also appears among the Masons in the first meeting held in Austin in 1864) became a member of Lander Lodge in September, 1871; held offices of both County Clerk and Recorder, was District Judge of this District when it comprised Lander, Eureka, Nye and Churchill Counties. He was one of the first Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge of F. & A. M. of Nevada. 1879 and 1880.
No. 184 – March 15, 1872; Joe Frank Triplett, Deputy Sheriff and also later Sheriff of Lander County. Was later Sheriff of Elko County and was very prominent citizen of Elko County.
Father of Phil Triplett of Wells, Nevada. (Died in Elko County.)
No. 212 – May 4, 1877; Joseph A. Miller, County Clerk of Lander County for many years. Senator from Lander County, and for several days was Governor of Nevada (acting) being speaker of the assembly during the absence of the Governor and Lieutenant Governor from the state. Owner of Bank of Austin, and of mines, ranches and livestock. Died several years ago (1944 – ed.) and is buried in California.
No. 221 – June 14, 1878; Charles Sadler, brother of Reinhold Sadler.
No. 246 – April 1, 1887; William Dudley Jones, District Attorney of Lander County for many years. District Judge of the Third Judicial District, comprising Eureka, Nye and Lander Counties for several years. Attorney General of Nevada, elected in 1898 and served for two terms. Assemblyman from Washoe County. Practiced law in Reno, after leaving Lander County. Buried in Reno, Nevada, in 1931. Always remained a member of Lander Lodge No. 8. Held offices in the Grand Lodge of F. & A. M. of Nevada. Past Grand Chancellor of K. of P. and Grand Representative for many years.
(WebMason note – actually, Br. Jones served as Attorney General of Nevada, having been elected in 1898, and resigned before the end of his term.)
No. 255 – September 8, 1893; William Easton, Sheriff of Lander County for many years, also Assessor for several terms. Senator from Lander County. Prominent in State and County affairs.
No. 260 – August 6, 1895; Walter C. Gayhart, school teacher, first man to assay the ore found by Jim Butler at Tonopah. Surveyed and laid out the town of Tonopah.
No. 271 – February 2, 1900; Warren W. Williams; owner of large cattle and sheep ranch. State Senator from Churchill County for many years. One of the builders of the town of Fallon.
No. 275 – May 22, 1902; W. Brougher; owner of mining property in Nye County, held offices in Nye and Ormsby County.
No. 278 – March 15, 1903; Antonio Joseph Maestretti; District Attorney of Lander County for many years, lawyer in Lander County and now (1944 – ed.) practicing in Washoe County.
Bill Drafter for Legislature for three sessions. Held offices in Grand Lodge of F. & A. M. Past Grand Chancellor of Knights of Pythias.
No. 282 – August 8, 1903; Fredrick W. Steiner, prominent citizen of Sparks, now a member of the lodge in Sparks, very active in Masonic and civic affairs in his home town.
No. 289 – 0ctober 17, 1907; Chas. A. Cantwell, Past Master of Lander Lodge No. 8, demittted to Elko, now (1944 – ed) belongs to one of the lodges at Reno. Prominent in local affairs while in Austin. Deputy District Attorney of Elko County for several years. Deputy U. S. Attorney for Nevada for several years. Practicing law in Washoe County and in the State. Office in Reno, Nevada.
No. 303 – June 30, 1913; Fredrick William Whitburn, County Clerk of Lander County for two terms. Enlisted in Army during World War (One – ed.). Killed in action in October, 1918. Was a member of K. of P. at Austin, besides being a Mason. The only Gold Star member of Lodges at Austin.
No. 306 – December 13, 1913; Riley Patten, Spanish American War Veteran, also World War Veteran. Deputy Sheriff in Utah for many years and Forest Reserve Officer in Nevada for many years. Now (1944 – ed.) at Long Beach, California.
No. 317 – November 28, 1924; Howard Edger Browne, District Attorney of Lander County for many years. Past Noble Grand of Odd Fellows’ Lodge. Also Past Grand Master of Nevada jurisdiction of I. O. O. F. Senior Warden of Grand Encampment of Nevada. Officer of Grand Lodge of F. & A. M.
Bert Acree, outstanding member of Lander Lodge No. 8. Prominent in local and county affairs. Has been Auditor and Recorder of Lander County for several terms past. He comes from a long line of Masonic forbears. Contributed valuable aid in assembling data for this article. Past Master of Lander Lodge.
DATA IN REFERENCE TO MASONIC
AND I. O. O. F. BUILDING, ETC.
LANDER LODGE NO. 8
FROM OLD FILES OF REESE RIVER REVEILLE
Reveille of November 4, 1867. (Monday)
Ceremonies of Laying the Corner-stone of the Masonic and Odd Fellows’ Hall.
At one o’clock P. M., on Saturday (Nov. 2, 1867) the Masons and Odd Fellows of Austin performed the interesting and imposing ceremonies of laying the corner-stone of their new hall. The weather, which was agreeable in the morning, changed toward noon and was cold and disagreeable for the remainder of the day. The occasion called forth a large concourse of people, both men and women. The Board of Trustees of the Association opened the ceremonies by deposition in the cavity of the stone the following articles: 1. A historical statement of the building enterprise; 2. Austin Directory of 1866, containing a history of the discovery of silver ore in Reese River; 3. Reese River Reveille of July 3rd, 1866, containing an account of the laying of the corner-stone of the M. E. Church building in Austin; 4. Historical statement of the establishment of the Reese River Reveille in May, 1863, embracing a homographical chart of the proprietors, editors, bookkeeper, compositors, appprentices, and carriers at this date; 5. Copy of the Reveille of Nov. 1, 1867, giving the shipment of bullion for the preceding month of October – memorable as the largest from the region; 6. Virginia Trespass of October 29, 1867; 7. Humboldt Register of October 26, 1867; 8. Eastern Slope of October 19, 1867: 9. Gold Hill News of October 28, 1867; 10. Carson Appeal of October 29, 1867; 11. Silver Bend Reporter of March 30, 1867 – the first copy of the paper – and of October 26, 1867. The following papers contributed by citizens, were deposited in the cavity: Daily Sacramento Union, Oct. 30. 1867; Daily Territorial Enterprise, Oct 31; San Francisco Evening Bulletin, Oct. 25; Alta Californian, Oct. 28; San Francisco Examiner. Oct. 28; San Francisco Christian Advocate, Oct. 24; San Francisco Pacific, Oct. 17; also, the printed list of registered voters in Austin in 1866, and two printed tickets containing the names of candidates for state and county offices in 1866, one headed “Regular Union Ticket”, and the other “Regular Democratic Ticket”.
The following articles of currency, contributed by the First National Bank, also were deposited; fractional treasury notes of the denomination of 50, 25, 10 and five cents; $1 U. S. treasury note and a $4 continental note, contributed by A. E. Shannon, the continental note is dated Nov. 2, 1776, just 91 years ago.
The following coins were deposited; by E. Hudson, one gold dollar and one two cent copper piece; by Mr. Somers, two one cent copper pieces; by the Trustees one silver piece each of the value of 50, 25, 10 and 5 cents. The Reveille office contributed a printed copy of the original mining laws of the Reese River district; also the Boston Evening Traveller of June 25, 1867, containing an account of the dedication of the Masonic Temple in Boston on St. John’s Day. After the articles were deposited in the cavity of the stone the Trustees invited the Grand Master of the I. O. O. F. to proceed with the work of laying the stone on behalf of his Order. The Grand Master, F. V. Drake, officiated, assisted by the following Grand Officers: W. H. Clark, Deputy G. M., D. W. Welty, G. S.; — Taylor, G. Mar.; Rev. J. L. Trefren, G. C. and also the following P. G’s: M. J. Goodfellow, E. X. Willard, J. W. Goetchus, and T. G. Read. The following articles contributed by the order were then deposited in the stone: 1. The proceedings of the First session of the Grand Lodge of the State, with a list of the officers and members of the Order within its jurisdiction; 2. A copy of the New Age, a periodical published in San Francisco and devoted to the interests of the Order; 3. Austin Lodge No. 9 contributed a history of the lodge from its organization to date, with a copy of its by-laws; 4. Alpha Lodge No. 11 contributed a history of the lodge from its organization to date; 5. The Grand Lodge deposited a small copy of the Holy Bible, presented by A. E. Shannon. At the conclusion of the ceremonies of the I. O. O. F., which were deeply impressive, the Grand Master briefly addressed the Board of Trustees and the members of his Order, and then caused proclamation to be made that the work on their part had been duly performed; after which the Grand Chaplain read a solemn and appropriate prayer. The Trustees then invited Grand Master W. W. Wixom to complete the work of laying the stone. At this invitation Grand Master Wixom took charge of the stone, and appointed the following grand officers to assist him: J. F. Hallock, D. G. M.; M. A. Sawtelle, S. G. W.; J. J. Work, J. G. G.; G. H. W. Crockett, G. T.; H. Mayenbaum, G. Sec.; Bro. Taylor, G. Ch.; E. A. Sherman, G. O.; Thomas Wren, G. Mar.; S. G. Stebbins, G. S. R.; E. S. Davis, G. D. B.; — Fitzgerald, S. G. D.; D. R. Immel, J. G. D.; Richard Pearce, G. Stew.; Evan Tones, G. Stew.; J. H. Thompson, Organist; S. G. Stebbins, Tyler. The following articles were then deposited in the corner-stone: 1. The proceedings of the Grand Lodge of F. & A. M. of Nevada, from its organizntion, A. L. 5, 865, to date; 2. History of Lander Lodge No. 8 and Austin Lodge No. 10 F. & A. M.; 3. First jewels of Lander and Austin Lodges; 4. A double eagle coin of the U. S., coined at the Branch Mint in San Francisco in 1867, presented by E. A. Sherman. The square, level and plumb, having been applied to the corner-stone by order of the Grand Master, he proclaimed it to be laid according to the rules of the ancient craft. Corn, oil and wine — the elements of consecration — were then poured upon the stone; the working tools were delivered to the Grand Architect intrusted with the superintedence of the building; and the acting Grand Master, by order of the Grand Master, and in the name of the Grand Lodge, proclaimed the corner-stone laid in due and ample form according to the ancient sages and customs of Free and Accepted Masons.
September 15, 1881 – DESTRUCTIVE FIRE!
Nearly one-fourth of Austin in Ashes.
Loss estimated at about $75,000.00.
About 15 minutes before 12 o’clock a fire started in Crane’s watchmaker’s shop, above and adjoining F. von Nordock’s drugstore, on the east side of Main, a short distance above Virginia street. In less than five minutes from the starting of the fire, four or five frame buildings adjoining were enveloped in flames.
After destroying the frame buildings between the brick in which Wright’s jewelry store, the telegraph office and Hogan’s store were, it continued on up the street, the wind blowing a light breeze in a quartering direction, taking in course Tower & Company’s brick saloon, the Odd Fellows & Masonic Hall, etc., clear up to Parrott & McComb’s blacksmith shop, opposite the Courthouse.
The entire block burned to the ground in less than an hour’s time, with the exception of the Masonic Hall. The opposite side of the street, mostly all frame buildings, were charred and blackened from the heat.
The buildings destroyed: Price & Read’s variety store and post-office; Masonic & Odd Fellows’ brick building, upper floor occupied by the various secret orders, and the lower story by Triplett & Clark as a saloon.
Insurance: The amount of insurance was very light. We understand Robert Hogan had an insurance of $1,200; Odd Fellows’ Hall building and furniture, about $5,000.
The firemen worked bravely, keeping the fire confined to one block. The Masonic Hall roof was burned off entirely, and the second floor badly damaged.
VALLEY LODGE NO. 9
The story of the discovery of the Comstock lade on the barren slope of Sun Peak (or Mt. Davidson) mountain, overshadows the discovery of any modern, or even ancient uncovering of silver and gold deposit; even the wealth of the famed mines of Solomon, king of Israel, dwindle into unimportance when compared with the wealth hidden in this treasure chest of nature. A wealth unbelievable in its vastness and richness, a treasure which made millionaires out of muckers, and was instrumental in a critical period of preserving the credit of our nation.
It is a story of hardship and privation, discouragements and disappointments, which led to the eventual uncovering of this treasure, and the ushering in of years of unprecedented mining and industrial activity, unequalled in the annals of American mining history.
The incidents leading up to the discovery of the Comstock, began back in 1847 when the pioneers halted in the Valley of the Great Salt Lake, and a little later sent out sizable bands of settlers into outlying sections of the west, to establish new settlements, and build up and develop the country; such a settlement was made over in what is now Carson Valley in 1849-1850 – the location being named Mormon Station. In like manner, Ragtown and Halls Station came into existence. From these stations, the more venturesome and gold minded set out and prospected with indifferent success the streams and canyons adjacent to their parent settlement. But some wandered further afield, finally stopping to prospect in a rocky canyon down which trickled a tiny creek, at the head of which a wind swept, craggy mountain reared its barren head high into the sky. From a wandering Indian squaw, they inquired its name and were told, “him Sun Peak,” a name which held no meaning nor suggestion for them, although, hidden in its rocky depths and embrace was the ransom of kings.
In this canyon the handful of sturdy toilers continued to prospect for weeks, but snow in the mountains drove most of them back to Carson Valley. However, Wm. Prouse, Nicholas Kelley and John Orr remained to pan the sands for gold, and one day John Orr was rewarded by finding a good sized nugget of gold in the sand; in his elation over his find, he named the place Gold Canyon. Here for succeeding summers the Mormons continued their search for the yellow metal, but at the best, all they could realize for their efforts was from one to two dollars per day in “gold dust” and the cost of living was excessively high.
In 1857, Brigham Young recalled his scattered people to “Zion” and truck farms, sawmills, cabins, mining claims and irrigation ditches which had been set up by “the followers of the ‘prophet’ ” were deserted, and the return trek to Utah began. As a result of this exodus. Chinese labor took over these abandoned possessions of the settlers. and Halls, or Mormon, Station became “Chinatown,” but the few remaining whites would not submit to this mongol appellation, and the place was rechristened “Mineral Rapids,” which proving unpopular, was changed to “Nevada City,” but as this in turn did not register, in time the town became “Dayton,” and so it is known today, though, since the decline of ore production on the Comstock, the place has sadly retrograded. It was near Halls Station (where Dayton now stands) that the first prospecting for gold in Nevada was done by a party of emigrants enroute for California. Their efforts were negligible, and they hurried on their way; others took their place, and by the spring of 1857 it is claimed that 150 men were at work in the canyon, the real scene of operations being Johntown, a camp of shanties, huts and tents, about four miles up the canyon from Dayton.
It was from this primitive settlement that mining was developed on the Comstock, for from this jumble of huts and hovels, the prospectors wandered into outlying canyons upon the slope of Sun Peak Mountain, digging a gopher hole here, snatching a handful of promising looking sand there; down Gold Canyon they tested the ground to the south, up Six Mile eastward they worked, using pan and rocker to wash the yellow flakes from the gravel and sand, unconscious of the bonanzas which lay ahead, unmindful of the fact that the meager store of the precious metal they cleaned from their rockers, and washed from their pans must have come from a source high up in the ledges of decomposing rock, at the brim of the canyon.
But the story is long, and has to do not only with a great metal bearing lode, but deals with great men whose lives were woven into the development of the district, like a delicate, but suggestive pattern is woven into a priceless oriental rug; great men from out of whose ranks came leaders: Wm. A. Stewart, Adolph Sutro, John P. Jones, Wm. Sharon, Wm. C. Ralston, James G. Fair, John W. Mackay, James C. Flood, and W. S. O’Rrien, all of whom were industrial, commercial or professional giants, designed by fate to fill their individual niche in the affairs of the district.
But, while these men stood out foremost among those by whose efforts the Comstock was to be made famous, and through whose magic touch unbelievable riches would be developed and made to flow into the channels of trade and finance, other brilliant men were to add their names and fame to the powerful coterie which brought fame and luster to the Comstock, among whom were: Mark Twain, Dan DeQuille, Bret Harte, Rollen M. Daggett, Jos. T. Goodman, Arthur McEwan, Alfred Doten, Charley Goodwin, T. E. McCarty and others, who were at some time or other, associated with The Territorial Enterprise, The Gold Hill News and the Virginia Chronicle. The names and lives of these men who afterwards gained literary fame, are written largely into the unusual history of the Comstock.
It was a great drama in which these mighty actors played their parts, and made their entrances and exits; it was a mighty stage on which this drama was enacted, a stage toward which the eyes of the world were turned, and although four score years have passed since first the curtain raised upon that hectic drama, and while thousands hastened from almost every section of the land to be present during the progress of the play, and the final curtain was long in being rung down, yet, when the last scene had been enacted, when the fabulous wealth had been garnered, and had been distributed to revive the drooping industries of the land, and the Comstock, robbed of its people, and shorn of its romance and glamour, was becoming but a memory, as the huge curtain rolled down, and the actors one by one left the stage, then, if never before, was it realized that the glory of the Comstock would be remembered, long after the men have been forgotten who gleaned their wealth from the ruthless tide of commercialism and frenzied finance, which broke against the wind swept slopes of Sun Peak mountain.
While geographically, the settlement at Dayton is a considerable distance from the site of Virginia City, and has but little to do with the real story of the Comstock, yet after all, it has a conspicuous part in the story, for it was on the site where Dayton stands, that gold was first found in Nevada; it was from this point that the Mormon brethren treked to lure the yellow metal from the soil, and it was from Dayton that the movement spread to Johntown, up Gold Canyon and through Six Mile to the final uncovering of the parent lode, and the ushering in of those halcyon days when wealth was power, and the Comstock was ruled by its Bonanza Kings.
Those who have followed the history of Masonry in Nevada, will remember that it was on January 15, 1865, that the eight Masonic lodges of Nevada, then holding their rites under the Grand Lodge of California, assembled at the invitation of Virginia Lodge No. Three, and Escurial Lodge No. Seven, in Virginia City, for the purpose of organizing a Grand Lodge of Masons in Nevada. With its purpose accomplished it adjourned to meet at the call of its executive board, the following year.
In the meanwhile, Masonic impulses had stirred the hearts of the brethren in various parts of the Nevada jurisdiction, to advance the cause and establish new lodges.
The first lodge to be established in the state under authority of the Grand Lodge of Nevada was Valley Lodge No. 9 of Dayton where, on the 20th of February, 1865, a number of sojourning brethren met for the purpose of launching steps towards the organization of a lodge; temporary officers were chosen, and application was made to the Grand Lodge for a dispensation to work as a lodge. The response to this application was not long withheld, for on the 7th of March the dispensation was granted with Chas. F. Brandt named as worshipful master; Henry Sweetapple, senior warden, and Albert Gallatin, junior warden. On the 13th of March the lodge was officially organized, and the officers named in the dispensation were duly installed into office, including also I. C. Hinds, who was elected treasurer; M. I. Henley, secretary, and Calvin Hall, tyler.
A suitable meeting place had already been procured, and it had been properly fitted to make it comfortable and in order for the reception of the new lodge, and for the performance of its labors. It has been said, “the little lodge room was not of unusual type, but it radiated good will, and inspired a feeling of genuine comradeship, which was further augmented and advanced by the fraternal efforts of the brethren.” During the following weeks and months, before the severe cold of winter was upon the district, several new members were initiated, passed, and raised, with the result that soon a total membership of 25 was enrolled.
At the first annual communication of the Grand Lodge, held in Masonic Hall in Virginia City, in October, 1865, the Committee on Charters recommended that a charter be issued to Valley Lodge under dispensation, and that it be numbered in accordance with the date of dispensation.
Complying with this recommendation, a charter was duly issued on October 12, 1865. The journal of proceedings of that session does not report that any officer of the Grand Lodge, or an authorized deputy, had officiated at either the instituting or constituting of the baby lodge of the state, or installed the new officers of the lodge, nor are the records of the lodge available to indicate who performed that service in either case, although in both instances the officers were regularly installed, for the journal of G. L. proceedings show the following brethren of that lodge in service, viz: Daniel Kendrick, worshipful master; Francis H. Kennedy, senior warden; James E. Sabine, junior warden; John Hinds, treasurer; Michael Henley, secretary; Freedom H. Cowles, senior deacon; John Loftus, junior deacon; John C. Hazlett, marshal; Thomas W. Abrams and Mathew J. McCutchen, stewards; Calvin Hall, tyler.
The Masons who pioneered the way in Valley Lodge No. 9 were men of high moral and intellectual attainments, and took a leading part not only in the activities of their lodge, but exercised a dominant influence upon the affairs of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, as well as upon the developments of the community in which they made their home. As an indication of the standing of the brethren, it may be related that the first worshipful master of the lodge, Charles F. Brandt, afterwards became a member of the Grand Lodge; at the laying of the corner stone of the Nevada State Capitol he was serving as Grand Warden, and during the period of his activity in the Grand Body, was chosen on some of the outstanding committees of the Grand Lodge. He also occupied positions of trust and confidence in the town of Dayton.
JAMES E. SABINE, junior warden of Valley Lodge in 1866, and Grand Pursuivant of the Grand Lodge the same year, took a leading part in the affairs of his community, as well as in the activities of the Masonry of the state.
FRANCIS H. KENNEDY afterward became a prominent factor in the politics of Lyon county. At the time of his entry into Valley Lodge he was a man in the full possession of his mental powers, and impressed all with whom he came in contact with his vigor and alertness.
In the local history of Dayton is found the names of many of the Craft, who were outstanding in the progress and commercial development of the town, among whom John C. Hinds, Freedom H. Cowles, John C. Hazlett, Richard Cook, Chas. D. King, John Loftus, Henry Sweetapple, Albert Gallatin, Eben D. Towne, and others, contributed not only of their efforts and influence to the upbuilding of Dayton, but extended their activities to the development of the resources of the surrounding territory, and to the creating of agencies which brought prestige and standing to Lyon county.
It was unquestionably a splendid membership roll, and the personnel of this lodge did much to create and promote such favorable impressions in the district, that the precepts and example of the brethren, their moral worth and integrity, drew the attention of those outside the lodge, and they, of their own free will and accord, sought sanctuary with the brethren.
Among those who later became members of Valley Lodge were brethren who were elected to positions of trust and confidence in municipal, county and state affairs. Time and space will not permit an enumeration of the abilities and qualifications of these brothers, but it was through their efforts and merit that the district from which they hailed attained prominence as the producer of able and mentally alert citizens.
Some of these brethren, those who became members of Valley Lodge in after years, are still living, at this date (1944 – ed.) and, although time has levied its tribute upon them, and their physical vigor has been sapped, yet mentally, they are keen. Throughout the years their devotion to the principles of Masonry has not waned, and as their physical strength will permit, they are consistent and loyal attendants at the meetings of their lodge; passing years have not quenched their thirst for Masonic lore and virtues, nor has Time robbed them of those fraternal impulses, which in the days gone by, prompted them to seek and find sanctuary in Masonry.
One of the best known and beloved Masons who was at one time a member of Valley Lodge, but who later demitted to Reno Lodge No. 13, is Brother Walter J. Harris, past master of Valley Lodge. The Masonic career of Brother Harris is familiar to all Nevada Masons, by whom he is respected and admired. His entry into the Grand Lodge of Nevada was the occasion of immediate notice by that body, and he was at once given a place in its deliberations. He served as Grand Master in 1906; to this office he gave that same degree of impartial, studious and capable attention that has always characterized his active and industrious business career.
In 1919 he was elected Grand Treasurer of the Grand Lodge, to which office he was re-elected year by year, serving in all for twenty-five consecutive years. He has also been chosen to preside over the Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons, as Grand High Priest, also serving as Grand Commander Knights Templar of Nevada.
He is a member of DeWitt Clinton Commandery No. One, of Reno, and a member of Kerak Temple, Order of the Mystic Shrine.
For sixty-one years Valley Lodge continued to diffuse Masonic light; it was accounted a unit of fraternal strength and integrity among the constituent lodges of Nevada, and was a potent factor for the dissemination of every Masonic virtue.
Eventually, disaster came upon it, through the removal of many of its members to other jurisdictions, or from demitting to other lodges of the state, due to the decline of local activities in the district, and the exhaustion of ore supplies in the mines adjacent to Dayton.
For months, the brethren struggled against this tide of events, but the struggle was a losing effort, and finally, with scarcely enough members left to constitute a Masonic quorum, and to properly open a lodge of Master Masons, and with no prospects in sight for a return to its one time prosperity, the remaining brethren sought, and were granted permission to consolidate with Amity Lodge No. 4, at Silver City. This consolidation was made effective in 1926.
AUSTIN LODGE NO. 10
Austin, Nevada, was distinguished not only because of the rich bodies of silver ore which underlaid its surface, but also in lodge circles, on account of the various fraternal societies which came into existence in the town during the early (eighteen) sixties, became firmly established and grew to be dominant factors in the complex, though popular parent organizations within the state.
With the accidental discovery of silver ore in Pony Canyon, the handful of shanty miners who composed the population of the district at the time, was augmented by a rush of fortune mad men and women who flocked to the site by the hundreds.
Among this seething mass of humanity, the most of whom were from the rougher strata of humanity, were many of the better class of citizens whose urge in other days had prompted them to seek and find sanctuary in some of the more popular and progressive fraternal organizations throughout the country. With those who had flocked to Austin were many who had been accustomed to “meet upon the Level, and part upon the Square” and who in the passage of time came to know one another as members of the Craft in Austin, while the urge to congregate in a meeting place dedicated to the purposes of Masonry, resulted in the eventual establishment of the first Masonic lodge in the town, which they designated Lander Lodge.
Other fraternal organizations were set up in town: The Independent Order of Oddfellows, The Ancient Order of United Workmen, and at a later date, the Knights of Pythias. All of these bodies, following fundamental principles for good taught by their organizations, and dedicated to the uplift of humanity, made for a better community, and once they were firmly established in Austin, contributed to the elevation of the moral and social conditions of the town, and became a balancing factor in the control of the religious, political and scholastic welfare of the district.
The chartering of Austin Lodge No. 10 was effected within less than a year after that of Lander Lodge was accomplished. Opinions as to why the two lodges should have been organized at so near a date was, for a long time, a matter of deep conjecture, until the facts were eventually revealed, and the true conditions were made known. These reasons were however, at one period in the existence of both lodges, the instrument of almost disrupting the harmony of both lodges, and putting both out of existance.
Definitely speaking, Lander lodge received its dispensation to organize, on March 25, 1864. Its charter was authorized October 13, the same year. Austin lodge received its warrant of dispensation, April 12, 1865, and its charter was issued October 12 of the same year.
It is claimed that during the year that elapsed between the granting of the two dispensations, considerable inharmony and unrest had developed in Lander lodge through the attitude of some of the members of the lodge. Various reasons brought this situation about. There was a marked line of demarcation between the northern and southern sympathizers who belonged to the lodge, which often broke out in heated argument upon the floor of the lodge. This situation continued until after the battle of Appomatox, and the war was over. However, the waving of the “bloody shirt” continued to stir the membership to unwarranted rantings, and precipitated discord and inharmony. This, together with the element of envy, and the tendency on the part of some to discredit the views and dictates of the Worshipful Master and his Wardens, especially by those who had aspired to position within the lodge, and who had been denied that honor, fanned to a sullen flame the smouldering fires of sectional hatred evidenced during the progress of the war, and finally resulted in the withdrawal from membership, of the majority of those who made up the charter membership of Austin lodge No. 10.
As is usual in such unfortunate developments within a lodge, the withdrawal of these members worked for the good of both lodges. Lander lodge, with a membership of over one hundred thirty-five members, did not feel this loss from its enrollment, and since peace and harmony prevailed among the remaining brethren, they rejoiced that the separation had restored harmony within its ranks, and that the dissatisfied brethren had sought sanctuary in a lodge of their own, at the same time regretting the circumstances which had brought about the separation.
The determination of the dissenting brethren was made early in the year of 1865, when a meeting was called behind closed doors, in the Court room of the Austin County Court House, and two petitions were framed; one to be sent to Lander lodge asking permission to organize a second lodge within the limits of the town of Austin, and adjacent to the charter of their lodge, the other to be carried to Hon. Joseph DeBell, Grand Master of Masons of Nevada, asking that a dispensation be granted to set up a new lodge in Austin. It is said that this meeting of the brethren was held on January 16, 1865. At the following meeting of Lander lodge, the petition addressed to them was presented, signed by twenty-three members. Without mincing matters, nor wasting words, the petition stated the purpose of the request, and asked that the prayer of the petitioners be granted, but hinting, if the request did not obtain, severance of fraternal relations with Lander Lodge would be otherwise obtained. At the conclusion of the reading of the document, action was immediate, and unanimous approval was made.
A second meeting of the petitioners was held in the Court rooms, and again behind closed doors the following week, and it was voted that a messenger should be dispatched to the Grand Master with the petition asking for a dispensation. However, this messenger did not depart at once, being detained on account of a severe snowstorm which blocked the roads, making travel between Austin and Virginia City impossible, until the first week in April, 1865.
The decision of Grand Master DeBell was made without appreciable delay, and a warrant of dispensation was issued to the petitioners, naming Thomas Wren, worshipful master; W. L. Thomas, senior warden, and M. A. Sawtelle, junior warden. It is interesting to note that the newly appointed worshipful master of the lodge was the bearer of the petition.
In the meantime, plans had been made to acquire a meeting place for the new lodge, and to equip their new quarters with suitable furnishings, and to provide necessary jewels and regalia to carry on the work. To this end a one story building constructed of native field rock was acquired, and necessary furniture was installed, the door covered with a handsome carpet, and the latest styled Masonic charts were hung upon the walls. No expense was spared to make the lodge room comfortable and cozy, and a point was stretched in equipping it with fittings equal, if not surpassing in quality the equipment possessed by Lander lodge. The jewels were made from silver taken from the Austin mines, and manufactured by a leading jeweler. The officers collars and aprons were made from silk, bordered with blue velvet ribbon, and embroidered with appropriate hand wrought needle work in delicate Masonic designs. These jewels were presented to the lodge by individual members of the lodge, the names of the donors were engraved on each jewel at the back. The outlay for all this equipment was of a staggering amount, but the expense was borne by personal contributions of the entire membership, and the lodge catapulted into existence with a clean slate, free of indebtedness, and the brethren were happy and contented, and more or less jubilant not only because the lodge was unincumbered, but because they experienced a feeling of superiority over their neighboring lodge. But gradually this unwarranted animosity gave way to friendliness, and soon the past was forgotten, old wounds and grudges were healed and forever settled, and a feeling of unity and harmony prevailed. Both lodges were ashamed of the parts they had played in their pathetic blundering and hastened to undo the damage they had caused in the way of ruffled feelings and unfraternal conduct. The frayed edges of fraternal honor were made whole, and side by side the two lodges worked to carry on the fundamentals of Masonry. It was a happy ending of what might have been a blot upon the escutcheon of Masonry, not only in the town of Austin, but within the state as well. And so fraternity endured in the town where the riffraff and scum of the West had gathered, and where law and order were placed at naught, and disorder and lawlessness were the order of the day.
Much might be said or written of this lamentable situation; harassing accounts given of the miscarriage of justice and the reign of almost terror which for months almost paralyzed the community, until, through the united efforts of the two Masonic lodges and the Independent Order of Oddfellows, together with what other law abiding citizens Austin possessed, crime and disorder were put to rout, the bad men of the town were driven away, and there emerged a purged Austin, all set and primed for greater expansion, and dedicated to the practice of good will and good fellowship.
Strangely enough, Austin lodge never measured up to the progress expected of it by those responsible for its origin. Its fraternal life was short lived as compared to other Masonic units in Nevada. While it enjoyed a certain amount of prosperity, added consistently to its membership, for several prosperous years maintained a sound financial standing, held the interest of its membership, and did not suffer any disasters, yet its standing in the community never attained that degree of popularity enjoyed by Lander Lodge No. 8. At the peak of its membership reached in the year 1868, its roster reflected the names of fifty-seven members. Notwithstanding, it carried on, and always stood four-square towards its neighbor lodge in the town, with which it exchanged fraternal visits, and joined in social events.
But an insidious, unforseen disaster threatened it, which resulted, not by reason of the depletion of ore reserves in the mineral bearing strata of the district, for the supply seemed to be bountiful, and showed no material decrease in volume. Not because of a lack of work in the mines, or upon surface workings, neither was it because of local conditions, but actually because of the exodus of transients and miners from the district, lured by the promise of either fortune or greater financial advantages offered in the many rich new discoveries of ore deposits in various sections of the state, which exodus for several months threatened to paralyze not only the metal industry of Austin, but to disrupt the social and business set-up of the town as well. With these factors at work, it followed that Masonry in the town would suffer, and that the weaker numerically of the two Masonic lodges would be the first to feel the slump; and so, gradually, the inevitable happened, and Austin lodge floundered in deep waters, and went upon the rocks. Eventually the morale of the lodge was weakened through loss of membership, a slowly depleted and dwindling treasury, and the inability of the officers of the lodge to hold meetings occasioned by a lack of necessary quorum. For months the officers attempted to stem the tide of disaster which confronted them; Lander lodge came to their aid and endeavored to sustain and encourage. But all of this was of no avail, and at the annual communication of the Grand Lodge held in Virginia City in 1871, request was made for permission to merge with Lander lodge, and their charter was surrendered. The splendid regalia, the magnificent collars and aprons of the official staff, and the silver jewels, passed into the keeping of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, and were eventually disposed of to Battle Mountain Lodge No. 23, and are today a prized possession of that lodge.
It has been contended and rightfully so, that the progress of Austin lodge was handicapped by the prestige and luster which surrounded Lander lodge No. 8. There is no mistaking the legitimacy of this contention. Quartered in a fine, more commodious building than that in which Austin lodge was housed, it was topped by a membership of more than one hundred members even at the peak of its enrollment in 1868. Thus Lander lodge maintained its outstanding position as a prominent fraternal unit, not only in Austin, but in the state as well, and Austin lodge suffered in consequence, and was dwarfed in importance as well as in rank.
It is unfortunate that the future of Austin lodge could not have been forecast by those responsible for its origin. We of the present day are able to see the end which threatened it, and appreciate the disaster that must eventually engulf it. However, it was not unusual in those days to establish not only one, but in some instances, two or more Masonic lodges in what was deemed thriving communities in Nevada. Virginia City district at one time supported three Masonic lodges before its ore reserves were exhausted. The town of Eureka had several other lodges, beside its Masonic lodge, before the ore deposits petered out and the town folded up, and Austin was no exception to the rule.
Today the memory of Austin lodge is but a dream in Masonic circles. The members of that lodge long ago went the way of all flesh. The old lodge building finally disintegrated, and today its site is all but forgotten. Only the eroded foundation and a pile of crumbled rocks marks its one time existence, and gives mute evidence to “the remorseless hand of Time, and the fickle tide of fortune.”
Eventually there was a reversal of the conditions which threatened for a time to bring disaster to the town of Austin. Rich bodies of ore were uncovered at greater depth, and again a fortune mad throng rushed to the spot, when the news of the new strike leaked out, and Austin again experienced all the growing pains and human emotions characteristic of a western mining camp. Haphazard at first, the new excitement gradually subsided, and necessity brought about the adoption of saner and wiser methods of living, and matters were directed toward a definite purpose.
With the return of normalcy, and the influx of new residents, other Masons came from other places, who eventually found a home with the Masons of Austin, and became members of Lander lodge.
No attempt was ever made to revive or reinstate Austin lodge No. 10. The handful of stalwarts who remained faithful to the last, but who were forced to succumb to the inevitable, transferred their membership to Lander lodge, accepted Fate’s decree, and though regretfully seeing the charter of their lodge surrendered, and their once cherished lodge and its material possessions swept away, entered into the spirit of the lodge of their adoption, and became faithful and valued members of that lodge.
The illustration accompanying this chapter (which we hope to have available soon – ed.) was taken in 1911 by Past Grand Master Herman Davis, more than fifty years after the building was constructed. The ravages of Time are apparent as we look upon it. The warring of the elements is evident in the worn and delapidated walls, its neglected woodwork, its drooping roof, and in the picture of a tired and time worn structure, its mission long since fulfilled. However it still presented the semblance of a one time sturdiness, respectability, and the fulfillment of an honorable and constructive purpose for which it was originally erected, and to which it was dedicated. Definitely, it was the pride of the membership of Austin lodge No. 10, and could its walls have spoken at the time the picture was taken, they could have told the story of many fraternal events enacted behind closed doors and drawn blinds, and revealed the cadences of long stilled voices which eloquently spoke of those uplifting Masonic Virtues: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.
First Officers of Austin Lodge No. 10
Prominent among the membership of the lodge, and one who was largely responsible for its origin, and who was selected to guide its destiny as its first Master, was Thomas Wren, a member of the Nevada state legal bar, and a well known politician in Nevada. In 1864-65-66 he was city attorney of Austin, and during these years took an active part in the affairs of Austin lodge.
It was he who guided the destiny of that lodge through the first critical months of its existence, and was instrumental in shaping its course and placing its affairs on a sound foundation, fitting it for a useful, though a brief existence among the constituent lodges of Nevada.
William S. Thomas, chosen to be the first senior warden of Austin lodge, was at the time of his induction into the second highest office of the lodge, a man of indomitable will and an inflexible firmness of purpose. He came to Austin during the early days of the mining camp to engage in commercial pursuits. The richness of the mineral lode, however, and the promise of quick returns should he engage in mining, prompted him to forsake his commercial inclinations, and engage in leasing and mining. In this vocation he prospered and accumulated a comfortable, though small fortune. He took an active part in the organization of Austin lodge, and as a reward for his ability as a leader, and in recognition of his capabilities as an organizer, was named the first Senior Warden of the lodge.
The name of Sawtelle is an honored and well known name in Nevada, and Marcus A. Sawtelle, named the first Junior Warden of Austin Lodge, lived up to his heritage. He was destined from his youth to add lustre and honor to the family name, and before his death, made good the promise of a bright existence.
At the height of the mining boom in the newly discovered mineral bearing strata adjacent to what was to become one of the outstanding mining camps of Nevada, Marcus Sawtelle, attracted by the reported glamor and excitement of the new strike, cast his lot with the new camp.
A man of fine physical proportions, possessed of a silvery tongue and a magnetic vitality, he at once found a place in the good graces of the townspeople, and became an outstanding figure in the affairs of the town.
His love for Masonry and his fitness for advancement in the lodge won for him the confidence of his brethren, and brought about his appointment as the first Junior Warden of the lodge. In the year 1870, he was elected Deputy Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Nevada.
EXTINCT LODGES OF NEVADA
Among the lodges which were organized in the early days of Nevada’s history, are several which flourished “like the green bay tree,” filled their niche in the Masonic activities of the state, and with the decline of local progress, and the eventual abandonment of the districts in which they operated, passed into oblivion, and exist in memory only.
Among these, Washoe No. 2, Virginia No. 3, Esmeralda No. 6, Austin No. 10, White Pine No. 14, Steptoe No. 24, all of which have been referred to at length in individual chapters in the compiled history of the constituent lodges of Nevada, have long been extinct. At one time, however, they enjoyed a glorious existence and were dominant factors in the Masonry of Nevada.
Silver Star No. 5, Valley No. 9, and Searchlight No. 31, were consolidated with other lodges in their respective districts, when they had outlived their Masonic activities, and are also numbered with the extinct lodges of Nevada, possessing only what may be termed an “absorbed identity.” But Oasis No. 11, Humboldt No. 17, and Palisade No. 20, in time forfeited their charters; each had more or less of a colorful existence, but they too, long since passed into oblivion; they perished with the districts which gave them birth.
OASIS LODGE NO. 11
As one glances through the mining records of Nye county, the names of mining districts almost forgotten are found: Blue Springs, Empire, Silver Point, Jackson, Summit, Toiyabe and Belmont are now but a memory, and the traveler who stumbles onto these old long since abandoned camps, finds only remnants of old decayed cabins and tottering workings. Among these old camps is one which retains a vestige of its one time prosperity – the ghost camp of Belmont – whose decayed buildings and decrepit mine workings evidence a bygone activity, and attest days when silver was “king” and this old camp resounded to the hum of industry, and prosperity smiled on this district.
But Belmont has long since been abandoned as a mining camp, and its few scattered residents are interested only with cattle and farming industry in that vicinity, while its mills have long since been looted of all useful machinery, and their walls have crumbled and sagged until they have become a playground for wild things, while the wind chants a requiem as it sweeps and moans through the ruins of what were once masterpieces of mechanical construction. However, back in 1865-1866 Belmont was a settlement of several hundred inhabitants, the center of a promising mining district, with stamp mills, stores, boarding houses, and a large company commissary, and gave every indication of becoming one of the prosperous and progressive mining camps of Nye county.
With the arrival of sturdy men who came in search of fortune and adventure, Masonry found its way into the camp, and the sojourning brethren who had followed adventure to this out of the way section of the state, soon became known to one another, after customs and practices familiar to the Craft; finally they measured their numerical strength, and it was found there were enough in the town to organize a Masonic association, and maintain quarters where they might enjoy fraternal contact, and observe the landmarks of Masonry; but riper reflection convinced them that the wiser procedure would be to organize a lodge to which eventually the worthy might apply for membership, and another unit of Masonry be added to the contituent lodges of Nevada.
To reflect was to act, and in the latter part of November, 1867, a meeting was called to frame a petition to the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Nevada, who at that time was John C. Currie, asking for permission to establish a lodge in Belmont, under dispensation.
The reaction to this petition was favorable, and on December 18, 1867, the prayer of the petitioners was granted, and a dispensation issued to John G. Riddle, A. W. Stone, G. R. Alexander, M. D. Fairchild, D. C. Turner, George W. Merrill, James Kennedy, Daniel M. Cutts, S. Goldstein, E. A. Pullen, E. Pertit, John Sharps, J. A. Rall, Peter Conroy, and James O’Brien. On September 7, 1868, Oasis Lodge held its first meeting, and the following officers were chosen: James M. Kennedy, worshipful master; Daniel W. Cutts, senior warden; S. W. Goldstein, junior warden; John. G. Riddle, treasurer; John Sharpe, secretary; E. A. Pullen, senior deacon; E. A Pettit, junior deacon; James O’Brien and Peter Conroy, stewards, J. A. Ball, tyler.
The building acquired by Oasis Lodge for a meeting place was unique, and unusual, in that it had no windows.
J. F. Miles, for many years assessor of White Pine county, told me about it the first time I visited Ely in 1912. Several years later business took me to Tonopah, and while there I drove over to Belmont. I had no trouble in locating the building. While standing in front of it, wondering as to the “why and wherefore” of its construction, I saw a white haired, grizzled, bewhiskered little old man coming down the road, leading a burro, loaded with a pack saddle, and the unmistakable outfit of a prospector.
As he came abreast of me, I bade him the time of day; with a smile he stopped, and giving me the “once over” said: “You live here, stranger?”
I told him I did not, but was just wondering about the building without any windows.
“Funny lookin’ aint it? Used to be the Masonic hall, I knows, fur I wuz borned and raised here-but that wuz a long time ago. Want t’ hear about that old shack?”
Sensing a story of interest, I asked him if he was hungry, and would like to join me in eating lunch, while he talked to me. He replied that he would. I brought some sandwiches, pickles and potato chips from the car, together with a quart size bottle of beer, and after he had put some oats in a nose bag, and strapped it to the bridle of the burro, we sat down on the running board of the car, and he started to eat, and talk between drinks from the bottle. I give here the gist of his information, although I shall not try to repeat his quaint expressions and lingo, but will frame the story in my own language.
It seems, that in the early days of the camp, when lawlessness and recklessness were the order of the day, many of the residents of Belmont went about the streets, or at their work, with a “six gun” dangling in a holster from each hip, and a knife was carried in a scabbard hung from a belt. Three miners hailing from one of the river camps in California came to Belmont. They were “bad men” and each had cut, not one, but several notches on the handle of his gun, to check up on the men they had killed. They were accorded a hearty, though more or less violent welcome, by the other “bad men” of the camp, with whom they matched cunning with cunning, violence with violence, and “cussedness with cussedness.”
That these men were at one time of the better order of men, and had had some experience in “meeting on the Level, and parting on the Square” developed when they incurred the scorn of their associates, and were hunted by the law for a series of law infractions, culminating in the kidnaping of a young girl of the camp, whom they outraged, and then beat so outrageously that she died. When the outrage was committed, instead of hiding the body in one of the shafts or tunnels which marked the site of unexplored mineral deposits out in the hills, the three ruffians carried the body to the windowless building, to which they had forced entrance, and dug a grave in a corner of the cellar, where they placed the body, and cunningly covered the grave so it could not be found, if search was started.
Unknown to them, however, their movements had been observed by a young man who had come off of the eleven o’clock shift that night, and was near the house when the body was carried in. He assumed that the men were carrying some drunken comrade to a place where he might recover from the effects of his carousal, and went his way thinking no more about it, although it being a moonlight night, he had recognized the “bad men”, and had kept his own counsel.
In a day or two inquiries were started by the parents of the young lady, who had been working in one of the boarding houses, (and who had not been home as was her usual custom,) seeking her whereabouts, and it developed that she had not been at work for two days. The aid of the law was asked, and when she could not be found, the ire of the better class of the townsfolk was aroused, when it was noised around that foul play had been used to make away with her. The situation became tense, and finally the young man who had seen a body carried into the windowless building, went to the sheriff, told his story, and gave the names of the men who had been implicated, and they were taken into custody. A search of the building and the cellar was made, and the grave was found and opened, and the body identified. One of the outlaws weakened and confessed to the killing and outraging of the body. Public opinion flamed into high heat, and though the men had been placed in the town’s calaboose for safe keeping, the only jail this side of Winnemucca, many miles away, mob violence followed. A Vigilante Committee was formed, and proceeded to the calaboose, and after taking the sheriff and a deputy into keeping, took the three guilty men to the windowless building, and after a hearing, and sentence was pronounced by the leader of the Committee, hanged them to a cross beam in the cellar. It was during their hearing, after sentence had been pronounced, that two of the men gave a sign which was recognized by one or two Masons who happened to be in the crowd, and upon questioning the culprits, it developed that at one time, all three, as young men, had been members of the Craft.
As to the windowless building, it had been built to be used as a meeting place for any fraternal societies that might be organized in the town, and without windows that the prying eyes of the curious might not see what they were not entitled to see.
The old gentleman concluded his story with these remarks: “Used ter belong ‘t the Craft myself. Jined St. John’s lodge No. 37 in Yreka, Califforny, but drapped out years ago, count o’ bein’ in the hills so much, sometimes fur years at a time. Rut I see ‘0ld Troublesome’ hes finished eatin’ his oats, and I’ll hev t’ be movin’. It’s a long hike ter Round Mounting, an’ thar’s whar I’m bound fur. Glad ter met yuh stranger, and thanks for the eats and that beer. It war a lifesaver.”
I tried to learn his name, but he parried my question, by saying: “It aint no difference who I be stranger, but, the young feller what came off o’ shift the night them raskils tuk the body o’ thet girl into yon buildin’ – he war my pappy. I’ve heard him tell about it many’s the time. But goodbye, and good luck stranger,” and he trudged off down the road, leading “Old Troublesome,” his burro.
With the organization of the Masonic lodge in Belmont, the windowless building was taken over by the lodge, and after being fitted with a system of kerosene lamps, and furnished to conform with Masonic requirements, became the home of Oasis Lodge No. 11.
By the year 1877 the peak in membership was attained, the lodge at that time numbering fifty-three members. Succeeding years brought disaster to the camp, due to the decline of ore reserves, with the result that the camp started to retrograde. Steadily year by year the trend was downward, resulting in a gradual exodus of the inhabitants, until scarcely a hundred people remained in the town.
For several years longer the remaining brethren of Oasis lodge continued to carry on, but to no avail. The camp was doomed to oblivion, and the lodge to go the way other Masonic lodges had gone in some of the old mining camps of the state, whose ore supplies had become depleted. Finally came the day when the lodge was unable to muster a Masonic quorum to hold a meeting and with its membership scattered to the four winds of heaven, its treasury drained of its funds, and its fraternal spirit broken, it was realized that disaster was upon them. Believing it impossible to continue as a functioning unit of Masonry, at the Grand Communication of 1885, the charter of the lodge was declared forfeited, and it became extinct.
DOUGLAS LODGE NO. TWELVE
“The Mormon Station,” (at present, Genoa) was founded in 1849 by Salt Lake Mormons. From records in the Historical Society, the fact is obtained that in the spring of 1851, John Reece, with a party of sixteen persons, among whom was Stephen A. Kinsey, who later became prominent in the affairs of western Nevada, left Salt Lake City, with a caravan of ten wagons for the purpose of establishing a settlement somewhere “east of the Sierra mountains.” The party halted at Ragtown, on the Carson river, in May, and Kinsey left the party and started on horseback to “spy out the land”; he visited the head of the valley, and returned along the base of the mountains, until he arrived at the site where Mormon Station had stood, but those who had settled there in the summer of 1849 had left, leaving to the torch of unfriendly Indians the destruction of all evidence that white men had ever lived there. On the 4th day of July Stephen Kinsey and his band of Mormons took possession of the ground known as Mormon Station; they formed a sizeable settlement, and established a number of fine farms in the neighborhood.
Three years later Orson Hyde, president of the Apostles of the Mormon church in Salt Lake City, led a party of seventy Mormon families to the old Mormon Station site, which was resurveyed and rechristened Genoa. Hyde was appointed probate judge of the newly formed Carson county, of which Genoa was the principal settlement. It is said that Hyde had been made a Mason in one of the Masonic lodges in Nauvoo, Illinois, before it came under the ban of the Grand Lodge of Illinois, and was declared clandestine, and the charter revoked.
When silver was discovered in Douglas county, about 200 people had settled in Genoa and the immediate vicinity, had established a grist and saw mill, two stores, and a small lodging house. As the town increased in population, and expanded in area, new homes were built, and other commercial enterprises were established; by the year 1880, there were over fifty dwelling houses, large and small in the place, five hotels, two meat markets, sufficient stores to supply the demands of the town and district, a drug store, bakery shop, a commodious school house, a Masonic and Odd Fellows hall, and a fine two story Court House; it was also headquarters for the Nevada California Telegraph Company.
It was in Genoa, that the first newspaper printed in Nevada had its birth, “The Territorial Enterprise,” the first issue being published December 5, 1858, printed and edited by Alfred Janes and W. L. Jernegan. On November 5, 1859, it was purchased by Jonathan Williams and J. B. Woodland, who took it to Carson City. Later it was purchased by Jos. T. Goodman, an outstanding journalist of the west, and Dennis E. McCarthy, and the sheet was moved to Virginia City, where such celebrities as Mark Twain, Dan DeQuille, Bret Harte, Rollen M. Daggett, Alf Doten, Arthur McEwan, and Charlie Goodman began their literary career as writers for this publication, which in time became the mouthpiece of the mines on the Comstock. The Enterprise lasted until 1916, when it was merged with the Virginia Chronicle. A brass plaque to mark its birthplace, was placed on a monument of rubble stone, built in Genoa, in 1939.
The history of Douglas lodge begins in 1868, when twelve brethren in Genoa, moved by Masonic impulse, and in search of fraternal contact, and intent upon the establishment of a home wherein they might spread Masonic light, and diffuse the principles of the order, petitioned the Grand Lodge of Nevada for permission to organize a lodge under dispensation. On the 22nd of February, 1868, their petition was granted, and a dispensation was issued under authority of J. C. Currie, Grand Master, and naming Robert W. Rollen worshipful master; Silas E. Tuttle, senior warden, and Hiram Doyle, junior warden. Under this document, the lodge worked and was duly instituted, and its officers were installed; work was continued under this arrangement, until the seventeenth of September of the same year when, in conformity with the action of the Committee on Charters at the fourth annual communication of the Grand Lodge held in Masonic Hall in Virginia City, it was recommended that a charter be issued the brethren at Genoa, and their lodge be numbered twelve on the registry of Nevada lodges.
Shortly after it was chartered and constituted, one of its first acts was to form a joint stock company among its members, which had for its object the erecting of a Masonic temple. This effort, however, was not productive of results, and after an outlay of considerable labor, infinite and careful planning and deliberation, as well as the investing of funds, the undertaking collapsed. Intermittently thereafter additional attempts were made to devise plans for the erection of a building, but in each instance prevailing conditions in the lodge and community prevented the accomplishment of their intentions.
For a year or two following these ventures, Douglas Lodge showed no great increase in membership, but in 1870 it is said to have suddenly taken on new life, and made a substantial gain; its finances had enjoyed a steady growth since the joint stock company organized in 1868 to promote a temple, had met with failure. The brethren therefore established what we today would designate a “budget,” part of which was set aside for building purposes. By the end of 1873, this fund is said to have grown to proportions sufficiently large to warrant starting a new building. Eventually, this resolve terminated in the erection of a structure devoted to Masonic uses, when the project had been financed by action of the brethren. The building was constructed of brick, the second story of which was devoted exclusively for the use of Douglas lodge, and contained in addition to a sightly lodge room, other apartments which might be used by the lodge in the performance of their work. The lower story was set aside for business rental, to assist in paying for construction of the building, and furnishing the lodge room. The structure is said to have cost $8000.00 and the brethren to have expended an additional large sum in furnishings and necessary equipment. Upon completion of the building, plans were made to open it with appropriate ceremonies, and brethren from adjoining districts were invited to be present to assist in the event. Carson Lodge No. One was invited to lay the cornerstone, but referred the invitation to the Grand Lodge, requesting that they perform the ceremony.
Grand Lodge was therefore convened in Genoa, and proceeded to the site of the proposed building, and after prayer by the Grand Chaplain, the Grand Master, in the presence of the members of the local lodge, and a large delegation of visiting brethren from Virginia City, Carson City, Washoe City and elsewhere, proceeded to set the stone in place, agreeable to the customs and usages of Masonry.
The history of Douglas Lodge No. 12 covers a colorful page in Masonic annals of the state. Among its present and past membership are found those who not only filled an important niche in the social, industrial and political history of the state, but who likewise attained honor and prestige in their lodge, among whom and named as its first worshipful master, was Robert W. Bollen, whose zeal for Masonry and whose knowledge of its landmarks, as well as his activities in the Grand Lodge of Nevada, won for him promotion in the Grand Body, of which he was chosen Grand Master in 1874, and again in 1875. It was during his term of office in 1875; that the devastating fire in Virginia City leveled the Masonic Hall, destroying the records of the Grand Lodge, and resulted in the calling of a meeting to be held on the summit of Mount Davidson.
The story of,Douglas Lodge would also be incomplete, without reference to the activities of that much beloved and revered Mason, Daniel Webster Virgin. Born in the state of New Hampshire in 1835, in early life he left his native state, and settled in Sacramento, Calif., from where he moved to Genoa in 1863. In 1867 he was admitted to the Bar of Nevada, and engaged in the practice of his chosen profession at once. Later, he served Douglas county for two terms as district attorney, and was afterwards elected judge of the district court. He practiced law in Carson City and Genoa for years retiring about 1916.
When in the prime of manhood, he joined Douglas Lodge No. 12, and served as secretary for more than a quarter of a century, and was so serving at the time of his death, August 12, 1928. Brother Virgin had been a member of the order for seventy-two years. In the Grand Lodge of the state he attained honor and distinction for his zeal and integrity, and for his unusual knowledge of Masonic jurisprudence. In 1896, he was elected Deputy Grand Master of Nevada.
Among the members of Douglas lodge who gained rank in his lodge was Chas. L. Fulstone, elected worshipful master of his lodge in 1901.
In the Grand Lodge of Nevada, Brother Fulstone was an active and energetic member, whose advice and counsel was ever sought. He served on some of the most important committees of that Body, and was a member of the jurisprudence committee, one of the most important committees in the Grand Lodge, at the time of his death.
In 1908 he became Grand Master ofthe Grand Lodge F. & A. M. at the age of 34. He died November 16, 1935.
Among the Masons of Nevada who in the earlier periods of its development and progress took an active part, were members of the Springmeyer family. The rolls of Douglas lodge reflect the names of H. H. Springmeyer, C. H. Springmeyer, Leonard Springmeyer, and F. C. Springmeyer, who during their lifetime took an important part in its activities, and were devoted members of the Craft. When Carson Valley Lodge No. 33 was organized, these brothers demitted from Douglas lodge to become charter members of the lodge at Gardnerville.
August W. H. Helberg was another active and inHuential member of Douglas Lodge. Of German parentage, he came to America at the age of 14 and located in Nevada, later moving to California. He returned to Nevada in 1892, and located in Gardnerviile, soon joining Douglas lodge, filling the various appointive and elective offices. With the formation of Carson Valley Lodge No. 33, he demitted from Douglas lodge to become a charter member of the lodge at Gardnerville.
Arendt Jensen is an example of what energy and foresight may accomplish in contributing to a successful business career. He came from Denmark to America in 1859 and located in California. In 1897 he moved to Gardnerville when there were but two houses in the place. As the town grew, his holdings increased, and his affairs expanded. Later he became president of the Douglas County Farmers Bank; he joined Douglas Lodge and was a consistent and faithful member. When Carson Valley Lodge No. 33 was organized in Gardnerville, he demitted to become a member of the latter lodge, in 1914.
But the list is long and stands as a monument of fidelity to the enduring, faithful and devoted members of the “Mystic Tie” and not only Douglas Lodge, but our membership throughout the state may be proud to have these brethren as members of our fraternity, for they reflected luster, glory and honor upon the order, and gave to Douglas Lodge from its beginning the reputation of having strong and moving fraternal impulses, and promoting and advancing the principles and landmarks of Masonry.
At the Grand Lodge Communication of 1871, a resolution was adopted asking the Grand Lodge of California to cede iurisdiction over that part of California lying eastward of the main summit of the Sierra Nevada range of mountains, so that the residents therein might apply to Douglas Lodge No. 12, or Esmeralda Lodge No. 6 for the degrees of Freemasonry. In 1873 a vote of thanks was passed to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of California for its prompt and fraternal response to this memorial.
The subsequent history of Douglas Lodge is essentially that of the district in which it came into existence; and continued to exert its influence upon the community. It has been seen that it came into being in 1868, in that colorful period of western Nevada, when that section of the state was excited over the discovery of gold and silver in the canyons and gulches adjacent to Genoa, and over on the slopes of Mt. Davidson, and brought to the district in the course of their migration to the new metal bearing field, many travelers who paused in their passage to look upon the beautiful setting of the town, and remained to become valued citizens. Of these, some also eventually became members of Douglas Lodge, helped to shape its tlestiny, share in its fraternal advantages, and added prestige to its existence.
While Genoa never became a densely populated town, yet so firmly did it become established as the center of a rich agricultural and mining territory, that it held the first pioneers who settled it, and as their families grew in numbers and importance, and became associated with the activities and enterprises of the locality, they grew to be a vital part of the community, and contributed to its permanency and progress.
It was from the ranks of these, that Masonry was recruited, advanced, and became a factor in the ultimate destiny of Genoa, and Douglas Lodge No. 12 was accounted an important unit of the constituent lodges of Nevada, which reputation it has maintained throughout the years.
RENO LODGE NO. 13
Over near the western edge of Nevada is a purling, crystal stream which moves restlessly between verdant banks, twisting and winding under the branches of mighty trees that in many places line its banks; its waters have their source in the heart of the Sierra mountains through which it has cut a natural pass into “the land of the setting sun,” the Golden State of California.
During the pioneer days, and all through the “Gold Rush” of 1849, the emigrants treking their way across the burning plains, rejoiced to see the Truckee river as they emerged from off the desert, for it not only furnished them plenty of fine fresh water, but they knew that beyond the mountains which seemed to bar its course, lay the El Dorado whither they were bound, where lay romance, glamour, wealth and adventure, and where too, stretched the mighty waters of the Pacific Ocean.
But the rivers of Nevada do not reach the ocean, and are not navigable, but in the early history of our state, served rather, to direct travel to the “Promised Land” by the thread of green along their banks; sometimes the thread became wider, the valleys became broad, green meadows, one of which was destined to become the site of Reno, which had its destiny shaped for it, and lies along the banks of the Truckee river, and in pioneer days especially was invaluable as an oasis to the weary emigrant who, after weeks or maybe months of weary, heartbreaking travel westward from the Mississippi river, rested by the side of the inviting water before pursuing his course over the pass and summit of the mountains into the “Golden State.”
For years the tide of emigration swept on; it began in 1777 when a Franciscan monk entered Nevada from Sonora in search for a mission site, although his coming had no visible effect upon territorial expansion; for another fifty years the territory did not feel the pressure of a white man’s foot, but in 1827 a band of trappers led by Jedidiah Smith entered the territory from the north to follow the windings of the Humboldt and Walker rivers, and crossing the boundaries into California, were engulfed in the romance and promises of that state.
From then on, the trails were broadened by the passing of the white man who came, not only on horseback, but in many instances treking the weary, dusty, scorching miles on foot, or traveling the unending way in ox drawn covered wagons, following devious courses, which eventually brought him to his destination: the alluvial sands of California.
They came from the east, from the north, from the south, and in their coming blazed not one, but many trails. There were half a dozen routes across Nevada and the Sierras, some of which were extremely dangerous; the two that were the most popular were the so called middle routes, one, the Carson route to the American river, and the second, the Truckee route which, though higher, was the most practical. It branched from the Oregon Trail and Snake river one hundred miles below Fort Hall, and turned southwest up a southern tributary of the Snake river, over to the head waters of the Humboldt. From Humboldt sink the road led west to the Truckee, up Truckee pass; after passing Donner lake, then down the west slope of the American river and Bear river of California, to Sutters Fort on the Sacramento.
The founding of Reno involves a period in the history of the west beginning with the invasion of what is now Washoe county by a party of emigrants hastening to the newly discovered gold strike on Marshall creek. For several years there was no settlement along the Overland Trail, nearer to Washoe, than the one at the great bend of the Humboldt river where Winnemucca now stands. In 1852 a Mormon convert by the name of Jameson, entered the Truckee Valley, and established a station where Glendale was located in later years; in 1857 Chas. C. Gates and John F. Stone located at what was called Stone and Gates Crossing. Nine other settlers followed them, and took up land in the valley, and settlements were made at Huffakers, Hunters Crossing and Crystal Peak.
In 1859 a settlement was made where Reno now stands. It was on the south bank of the Truckee river, on the site of the first Riverside Hotel, and was made by C. W. Fuller, who took up land and erected one or two small buildings; later, he constructed a toll bridge across the river, and put up a building which he used as a wayside inn. During the year 1863, a rancher from Honey Lake Valley, a Mr. M. C. Lake, bought the holdings of Fuller, acquiring about 140 acres of land, on which the town of Reno was afterwards built.
This transfer included the toll bridge and all buildings, among which was the one designated as “The Inn.” The site was afterwards known as Lake’s Crossing, and became a mecca toward which travel gravitated in its trek to California. The old inn, or tavern, continued to be a popular caravansary until 1869 when it was destroyed by fire, and was replaced by a more imposing and commodious structure which was known as the “Lake House” and was opened on New Year’s day 1870; later it was renamed the Riverside, and remained an old landmark until the Riverside Hotel was completed in 1906.
In 1860 came the news of a gold discovery in Washoe, which was spread broadcast over the country, and a backward rush from California brought to the slopes of Sun Peak mountain, a frenzied, gold mad throng of men and women in search of fortune, and Virginia City came into existence. Sharing its financial and industrial gain with the nearby settlements in Washoe county, its benefits rapidly spread to Reno, and in resultant enterprise, Reno grew; already its destiny was foretold which would eventually merit the name, ‘The biggest little city on earth,” a name applied to it more than half a century later, when the influx of capital and people, and the consequent expansion of its territorial area, its educational, social, civic, commercial, industrial and religious prerequisites and advantages, made of it a western center of art, intelligence, and financial solidarity, and entitled it worthily, to a place among the outstanding cities of the west.
With the excitement and bustle incident to the discovery of rich mineral deposits in Washoe county, Reno was vitally affected, for it soon became a thoroughfare through which travel to the new strike wended its way. As a result, many paused in the town, impressed not only by its surroundings, but lured by the promise of future advantages, and awake to the possibilities it offered for individual betterment, should the strike in the mountains prove a false alarm, and so the result was, that while hundreds hastened to the wind swept slopes of the mountains, many remained in Reno, to share its destiny, and to become valuable acquisitions to the embryonic city.
Among those who had thus cast their lot with the older residents of the town, were many Masons, hailing from many jurisdictions throughout the country. It is inexplicable, but nevertheless true, that over ten years passed from the settlement of Reno in 1859, until the sojourning brethren in Reno were moved by fraternal impulses to organize a lodge of Masons in the town. During the interim, Masonic light had been so diffused, that twelve lodges had come into existence within the state. Nevada had been admitted into the Union, the war between the north and the south had been fought and won, and in 1865 the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons had been born. Indifference to the principles of the order cannot, in any way, be attributed to failure to promote a lodge in the city of their adoption, for the brethren had always taken an active part in Masonic developments in other parts of the country, extending their activities not only to visitations to the lodges at Carson, Washoe City, Gold Hill, and Virginia City, but even as far as Aurora, and cross country to mingle with the brethren in Austin on one or two occasions, as has been claimed by old, old members of the craft, before they passed into the Great Beyond, long ago.
It has been said, and undoubtedly with reason, that for several years prior to the organization of a lodge of Masons in Reno, that it was customary for the brethren in different sections of Reno, to gather at the home of one of the brothers, to informally discuss Masonic matters, and plan for future activities. No records were kept of these meetings, and only “by word of mouth” were their transactions made known to the brethren who were not present on those occasions. Whether or not these meetings were held, and we have no reason to doubt their authenticity, it is nevertheless true that Masonic influences and activities had been at work for months prior to the latter weeks of 1868, when a number of brethren arranged for a meeting November 16, 1868, to outline plans for organizing a Masonic lodge in the town, and a petition was drafted and addressed to Most Worshipful George W. Hopkins, Grand Master, asking permission to establish a lodge under dispensation. A request was also made to Carson City Lodge No. One, and Washoe City Lodge No. Two, to organize a lodge in territory adjacent to their charters. The names of twenty-four sojourning brethren were affixed to these petitions, and requests.
Pending favorable action by the Grand Lodge, a meeting was later held to arrange for the reception of the Grand Lodge messenger who would deliver the coveted document, and to provide for a satisfactory hall for future activities of the lodge, should the prayer of the petitioners be granted. To this end, a housing committee was appointed, with authority to rent or lease a suitable hall, could one be found available.
The days numbered into weeks, and two months passed before action was had on the petition of the Reno brethren, but on January 14, 1869, the request was granted, and a dispensation was issued, naming James B. Kelly worshipful master; M. Borowsky, senior warden, and Geo. Geisen, junior warden. Eight days later, the first meeting of the brethren was held in Alhambra Hall, a frame building located at the north end of Virginia street bridge, and in this hall meetings were held until other more suitable quarters were secured. It is interesting, not only to members of the craft, but to outsiders as well, to know that Alhambra Hall was built originally by M. C. Lake to be used as a grist mill, but was never devoted to that purpose. The basement was used as a school room until the Riverside school house was built, then a hotel was lodged in the basement. On the first floor was the hall, and the half story above was used as a lodging house. The building was a popular meeting place for the people of Reno. In it, the first Christmas tree in Reno was made the occasion for an elaborate entertainment, and it became the resort and meeting place not only of fraternal organizations, but of political, social and civic societies as well.
Immediately after taking up their abode as a future Masonic unit of Reno, in the Alhambra hall, the dispensation was delivered, the new lodge was instituted, and its elective and appointive officers were installed, and the lodge proceeded upon its course. It operated under the dispensation issued Jan. 14, 1869, until the convening of the Grand Lodge in Virginia City the following year, when all necessary records, papers and documents were presented to the charters committee, and being found in order, it was recommended that a charter be granted it. With the issuance of which, Reno lodge U. D. became Reno Lodge No. 13 on Nevada registry.
In the meanwhile, it had become necessary to find a new location in which to hold their meetings, and after diligent inquiry, a meeting place was arranged for in Chambers Hall, where the new charter was delivered and lodged, and where the new officers were duly installed when the lodge was constituted. Chambers Hall in time proved inadequate to fill the needs of its Masonic tenants, and the question of finding another, more modern hall, or in lieu thereof, building a home of their own, confronted the brethren. Finally, after much discussion and planning, it was decided to erect a building devoted exclusively to the fraternity, and a building committee was drafted to select a favorable location, and devise a financial setup to bring their plans to fruition.
The site selected by the building committee was found on the corner of Commercial Row and Sierra Street, and a bond issue of $20,000 was authorized by the lodge to finance the building. On this site, the Masonic building was erected, and on October 1, 1872, the Grand Lodge assembled to lay the corner stone, the impressive ceremony being performed by Most Worshipful W. A. Van Rokkelen and other grand lodge officers.
When the new Masonic temple was promoted, Reno lodge had but 53 members, and they were having a serious time to exist, financially; a levy of $2.50 per month was made on the entire membership, to meet their overhead expenses, and pay off the loan on the building. But the brethren were not discouraged, for they knew that if persistent, they would eventually emerge from under the burden of debt. In addition to taking care of a considerable amount of work appearing on the Trestle Board, they had assisted in laying the corner stones of the Masonic temples at Washoe City, Genoa, Gold Hill, and their own building on Commercial Row.
On March 2, 1879, a fire which destroyed nearly one hundred buildings swept the business and residential district of Reno, and spread until almost the whole town was razed. The temple on Commercial Street was not destroyed, as the fire started back of it, and traveled east. This fire gave the city another impetus for growth, since more, and better buildings took the place of those which were consumed by the fire.
This prosperity of the city was reflected in the growth of Reno Lodge, whose membership continued to steadily increase. The finances of the lodge were also improved, and the indebtedness on their building gradually reduced.
In 1884, a proposed amendment to the Constitution of the Grand Lodge changed the meeting place of that body from Virginia City, to “SUCH PLACE AS THE GRAND LODGE MAY DETERMINE”, and the next annual commmunication was scheduled to be held in Reno, with Reno Lodge No. 13 as host, and so, in June, 1885, Reno was honored for the first time by entertaining the Grand Lodge.
On September 12, 1885, the Grand Lodge, assisted by the members of Reno Lodge No. 13, officiated at the laying of the corner stone of the University of Nevada. The corner-stone was laid by Most Worshipful Michael A. Murphy, in the presence of a large gathering of citizens of Reno, and large delegations of visiting brethren.
The passing years were kind to the lodge, and it became the strongest fraternal institution in the city. So rapid had been its increase in membership that it had all but outgrown its quarters on Sierra street. During the years 1903-1904, the demand for a temple of ample proportions to serve as a permanent home for the Grand Lodge of Nevada, and a sanctuary for the Commandery, the Consistory, and other Masonic bodies was deemed advisable, and necessary. After much discussion and a vast amount of planning, the project was finally launched with the forming of a Masonic Association Company, the purpose of which was to formulate plans for the raising of funds to finance the new temple. To this end the various Masonic bodies of Reno subscribed for stock in the association, Reno Lodge subscribing for a generous amount, and the Grand Lodge of Nevada acquiring a controlling interest.
With these funds in hand, amounting to $95,000.00, work was started and plans were made to lay the corner-stone of the new building. The following correspondence in connection with this event, is of interest:
Reno Lodge No. 13, F. & A. M.
August 29, 1905.
Chas. A. Beemer, Grand Master, Sparks, Nevada.
Most Worshipful Brother:
Reno Lodge No. 13, F. & A.M. cordially invites you to lay the corner stone of the Masonic Temple in Reno, on Saturday, Sept. 16, 1905.
Yours fraternally, Theo. J. Steinmetz, W. M· Attest: S. M. Jamison, Sect’y. Grand Lodge, F. & A· M. of Nevada
Office of the Grand Master
Sept. 1, 1905
Theo. J. Steinmetz,
W. M. Reno Lodge No. 13, F. & A. M.
The invitation of your lodge to lay the corner stone of the Masonic Temple in process of construction in Reno is hereby accepted, and I name two thirty o’clock p. m. as the hour of the day for the exercises to commence at the site of the building.
Yours fraternally, Chas. A. Reemer, Grand Master.
On the day and at the hour appointed, the Grand Lodge was formed by the Grand Marshal, W. M. David, with fully 400 members in the line of march and, headed by the Reno brass band, and escorted by DeWitt Clinton Commandery, No. 1, Knights Templar, proceeded to the site of the new temple, where fully one thousand persons had assembled, and where, with the impressive ceremony of the Masonic ritual, the corner stone was set in place, and consecrated with Masonic elements, by Most Worshipful Chas. A. Beemer, Grand Master.
The first meeting of Reno Lodge No. 13 in the new quarters was held December 8, 1906.
In 1907 the Grand Lodge of Nevada met in the Temple for the first time, as guests of Reno Lodge No. 13. Thereafter it became the accepted meeting place for the Grand Lodge to hold its annual communications, with the two lodges of the city of Reno acting as host. While it has convened from time to time at the invitation of other lodges in the state in other parts of Nevada, yet the temple in Reno since its completion, has been considered the logical place for holding Grand Lodge sessions, and if the question was stressed and brought to a vote of the membership of the constituent lodges of the jurisdiction, would very likely be the choice of the brethren for the holding of all annual communications, although in passing, there is to be remembered the many splendid gatherings of the Grand Lodge which have been held with various lodges of the state in the Masonic headquarters in the towns where they exist.
The history of Reno Lodge would be incomplete without reference to the influence it has wrought upon Masonry within the state, an influence wielded not only through its numerical strength, and the consequent widening scope of its prestige, but an influence directed by the standing and accomplishments of many of its leading members, those who have occupied high positions of trust and honor. within its ranks, some of whom have risen to fraternal heights and worn the Purple of the Order.
It would be impossible in this article to give to those brethren a resume of their activities, and the benefits their several administrations gave to the Order, that would he in keeping with their merit; but it is due them to record that they wrote their names high upon the scrolls of Masonry, and through their efforts brought fame and honor to themselves and the brethren, not only within the state, but throughout our great west, and though many have gone to “that Bourne from which no traveler has ever returned,” yet, “Their works do follow them” and their fraternal influence lives in the hearts and minds of their fellows, while their virtues and accomplishments will be remembered as the roll is called, among whom: Henry L. Fish, Frank Bell, I. M. McCormack, Robert Lewers, Alfred W. Holmes, Virgil M. Henderson, have passed to their reward, while there still remains to us (in 1944, when the book was written – ed.) W. V. Harris, F. H. Norcross, Henry W. Miles, Theo. j. Steinmetz, SiIas E. Ross, Robert H. Parker, all of whom served the Grand Lodge as Grand Masters of Nevada Masons, all of whom were distinguished for their Masonic zeal, integrity and observances of Masonic law and equity, all of whom are active and dominant personalities in the affairs of Reno Lodge No. 13, as well as in the activities of the Grand Lodge, and, it is safe to prophesy, that in the splendid future that lies before Reno Lodge No. 13, and Masonry within the state, they will continue to exert that same influence, and that same unbiased, impartial, unflagging type of cooperation that has characterized their years spent in the Order, aiding in the diffusion of fraternal light, and observing the old landmarks of Masonry.
HAMILTON WHITE PINE
LODGE NO. 14
The story of White Pine Lodge No. 14, which was located in Hamilton, Nevada, is essentially an account of the district in which it grew, flourished, and with the decline of the mining industry, passed into history. It is a story involving struggle, opposition and disaster. It is also a story of courage and determination on the part of the brethren; courage to face the future against discouraging odds; determination to overcome financial involvement, surmount these obstacles, and eventually to establish and sustain a fraternal enterprise that became one of the splendid social and moral supports of that old camp.
For a number of years it endured, increased in numerical strength, extended its charity and continued a factor in controlling many of the civic problems of that district. Even after the camp was practically deserted, White Pine Lodge continued to carry on, but against such overwhelming odds, that the result was inevitable, and with only 8 remaining members, out of its once splendid number, on the 14th day of June, 1901 it forfeited its charter and as a lodge passed into history, having functioned for more than 31 years. The unbelievable richness of Treasure Hill, the ore ranging in value as high as $4,000.00 per ton, and the apparent abundance of valuable mineral in the territory adjacent to Hamilton attracted vast throngs of men and women, the influx of which started in 1869. It is estimated that more than 10,000 inhabitants were on the grounds by the end of that year. With this mad rush came many Masons, some of whom, more unfortunate than others soon found themselves in destitute circumstances; for, while the properties of many companies were employing hundreds of men, yet there was not sufficient work for a vast number who had rushed unprepared to endure a prolonged period of idleness, and among this class were many of the brethren. This condition induced the more fortunate among the craft of Treasure Hill, Shermantown and Hamilton to organize an association which continued until the Grand Lodge, acting upon a petition from the association, issued a dispensation in the early part of March, 1870, for the establishment and institution of a Masonic lodge.
On the 5th of April, 1870, the lodge was organized, electing Samuel B. Ferguson, W. M.; William White Hobart, S. W.; M. J. Henley, J. W. The signed constitution and by-laws reflect the names of some fifty odd members at the time of its organization; this number gradually increased as the camp became more stabilized, and by the beginning of 1875, is said to have had ninety members.
For nearly two years the lodge met in the upper story of the Cook building, in the meantime acquiring furnishings and appointments which made their hall attractive and comfortable. On the night of January 2, 1872, a fire swept the district in which the Cook building was located, and destroyed the hall where the brethren met and some of the records were lost, together with their charter and lodge paraphernalia. Although financially crippled the brethren courageously faced their loss, and a new temporary hall was found in which to carry on their work. Later on the lodge purchased what was known as the Walton building, built in 1869, with the expectation that the county would purchase it for a court house. This deal, however, failed to materialize, and the building was acquired by the Masonic brethren in 1872.
The following year, Hamilton was visited by another fire which virtually wiped out the town, entailing a loss of approximately $700,000.00. This fire was of incendiary origin, having been started by one Alexander Cohan who conducted a small store, and who fired the building, presumably to obtain the insurance carried on the stock. Previous to setting fire to the building he went to the edge of town and turned down the valve in the water main which supplied the town. There was a heavy wind blowing and soon the entire town was in flames. Cohan was tried, convicted and sentenced to a long term in states prison. Hamilton never fully recovered from this disaster. The town and county records were lost, some of which could never be replaced. In this fire the building occupied by the Masons was destroyed with all its contents; one or two small books were saved, among which was the constitution and by-laws containing the signatures of the lodge membership. With the erection of new buildings the lodge found temporary quarters, and continued to perform Masonic work. During the year 1874 a movement was started to erect a new hall of their own. I am informed that in this movement the I. O. O. F. lodge joined, and funds were raised to build a home. Work was started in the late spring and the building completed during December of the same year. The building was formally opened on January 1, 1875, with an elaborate social function; a hundred thirty-five couples are said to have been present. The tickets sold for $5.00 apiece, and an extra charge was made for a midnight dinner and a six o’clock breakfast. The building with its furnishings and decorations cost many thousand dollars and was considered one of the best halls in the state at the time of its erection.
Having become more affluent, in the course of a few years, the Masonic brethren acquired the interest of the I. O. O. F. in the building and furnishings, and here for many years, until the tide of fortune waned, and the town of Hamilton met the fate of all old mining camps and fell into decay, the craft performed their Masonic work. Fond memories linger in the minds of the few Masons who still remain (in 1944 – ed.) and either attended or were at one time members of White Pine Lodge, and this number is few; in this district the writer knows of but one, Bro. David MacLain, who came to Hamilton in 1874 as a young man, when 23 years of age. Bro. MacLain was not a member of White Pine Lodge but joined Eureka No. 16 some 44 years ago. He recalls, however, many of the incidents of Masonic interest which occurred in Hamilton, and after he became a member of the craft, was a frequent attendant at the lodge sessions. His mind is still active and alert – for many years he has been honored by being appointed marshal of Ely Lodge No. 29 of which he is a respected member.
The history of Hamilton is replete with interest from the boom of 1869 which brought it into prominence, and the little group of hand hewn log cabins grew into a town of between 10,000 and 15,000 people.
Masonry from Hamilton has furnished some splendid citizens to the state, many of whom acquired wealth through their connection with the rich silver deposits of the district, for at that time the price of silver ranged from $1.19 to $1.29 per ounce. A governor of Nevada was at one time a member and master of White Pine Lodge. Several members of the houses of legislature were likewise members of historic old 14, and it also furnished one state senator from the Masonic ranks.
The record of that old lodge was an enviable one, for over 31 years it grew and flourished, twice enduring the baptism of disastrous fires, compelled to endure the loss of a more or less transient membership, yet bravely carrying on, extending its influence, distributing its charity, and when the old camp had almost passed into history, its treasures exhausted, its inhabitants badly scattered, the brethren clung to the hope that the old camp might some day again take its place among the rich metal producers of the west, and stage a comeback. And so for several years the remnant of that once influential lodge continued to hang on, but to no avail, with barely enough members remaining to open a lodge of Masons. They finally realized how futile were their attempts to restore their one time prestige, and on June 12, 1901, forfeited their charter, by resolution presented to the Grand Lodge signed by J. S. Burlingame, S. A. Chapman and G. A. Macpherson, Committee on Charters, recommending that the charter of White Pine Lodge No. 14 and Esmeralda No. 6 be discontinued.
The records, seals and charter were taken in charge by Grand Lodge Secretary Vanderleif and White Pine Lodge became but a memory among the constituent lodges of the state.
Today the once famous mining camp is numbered among the ghost cities of the west. Its once commodious business houses, its mills and smelters, its comfortable homes and public buildings are but a collection of ruined walls and sagging roofs through which the sand sweeps, and the wind sings a requiem to the memory of a one time scene of excitement and activity. But in 1870, when Masonry was first instituted in the town, it was a proud city of some 8,000 or 10,000 people, with over twenty mercantile establishments, good hotels, splendid boarding houses, places of amusement and the ever present saloons and gambling houses. Embraced in its outlying district was Shermantown, Eberhart, California Springs and Treasure Hill, which supported in all seven smelters, and nine quartz mills.
A miners union also functioned together with a hook and ladder company, and a volunteer fire department to which companies it is said most of the brethren belonged. The old fire bell whose clang brought terror to the hearts of the populace when the alarm was sounded, still stands on its old frame staging just outside of the old Minrolette Hotel, where it was conveniently placed after the last fire worked such havoc in the town. Later, it was removed to Fly, and mounted upon two marble standards, in the lots devoted to the Ely fire department.
For many years, the old hand power fire engine purchased in the early seventies from the City of San Francisco and used by the Volunteer Fire Department at Hamilton so able in fighting fires, was a prized possession of the town, and was housed in a fine engine house owned by the city. With the partial destruction of the town however, by fire, the quarters which housed this fire engine were swept away. The finances of the town would not permit the erection of new quarters, and so for many years this old engine stood under the starry canopy of heaven, braving summer’s sun and rain, and winter’s wind and snow. Eventually its one time beauty faded, relic hunters robbed it of its burnished brass and ivory plates, and shorn of its glory, time and the elements threatened its utter destruction. However, through the agency of some of the remaining citizens of Hamilton, more romantically inclined than others, or who realized the value of this old fire fighter as a relic, the city of San Francisco was induced to rescue it from impending dissolution. It was accordingly returned to the place of its nativity, its old time dazzling beauty restored, and today occupies a treasured place among the historic relies of the San Francisco fire brigades.
The old Constitution and By-laws of Hamilton Lodge, beautifully and artistically hand lettered, and conveying the impression that they might have been printed from copper or steel plate, contains the names of 168 members; this old record is now in the possession of Ely Lodge No. 29, which acquired most of the lodge furnishings of White Pine Lodge after the charter of that lodge was taken up by the Grand Lodge, for the furnishings of old No. 14 were housed for several years in the old abandoned lodge room, and when Ely lodge was chartered, permission was given the Ely brethren to take over these old relies, among which was the old carpet bought in 1874. This carpet is one of the treasured possessions of Ely lodge, and is still (1944 – ed.) in use. The station emblems are likewise held by Ely lodge, and two pillars said to have been made by Bro. David MacLain when he first came to Hamilton, stand just inside the door of the lodge room, a reminder of the strength of Masonry and its firm establishment in the hearts of its votaries.
The old membership and visitors record, also held in the archives of Ely lodge, reflect the names of but five members present at its last meeting, reminding us how sadly the membership of this once thriving lodge had depleted.
Today (1944 – ed.) there are only a few families residing in Hamilton, and these eke out but the barest living. Some of the mining properties which gave promise of value when silver was King are being worked from time to time, not for any profit their owners derive from them, but to keep them from falling into total ruin, for the hope that silver may again be stabilized and take its place as a ranking monetary metal, is ever present with the few who remain. Should this happy event materialize, no doubt the old camp would stage a comeback, for it is claimed by geologists that, presumably, only the surface of this once renowned silver district has been scratched, and that undoubtedly vast deposits lie buried below the old town which once teemed with mad activity.
Whether this is so or not, we do not know, nor would we venture a prophecy, but of this we are reasonably sure, should the old mining camp stage ,come back, and priceless metal veins as of old be uncovered and worked, it will doubtless attract to its boundaries, as it did in the mad days of ’69, many members of the craft, who, in the general order of events, will again unite to bring the glorious tenets of Masonry to the reincarnated camp.
The names of the members signing the Charter Roll of White Pine Lodge are merged with the names of those appearing on the report to the Grand Secretary, of July 15, 1870, which reflects the names of fifty-two members – besides one entered apprentice, one fellow craft and three demitted. The list follows:
S. B. Ferguson, W. W. Hobart, M. J. Henley, Wm. Ottenheimer, Luther Clark, John A. Moch, C. O. H. Beatty, T. H. Kennedy, Alvin Cook, M. Vucanovich, Reinhold Sadler, Sol Ashburn, D. St. Clair Steevens, Grange S. May, W. E. Boone, John V. P. Perry, Henry Bishop, P. A. Wagner, J. Tyson, H. M. Polleys, E. T. Lake, John P. Hutchison, Geo. F. Goomax, Morris Ballenberg, Henry Hilp, Thos. M. Browne, Isaac A. Phippson, O. Irwin, Alex Cochran, John King, L. Collean, P. Newman, J. M. Jones, D. Marshall, F. Owens, Nicholas Guguna, J. B. Shaw, Geo. Buchner, F. M. Frank, E. Johnson, Jos. Goddard, L. Lobenstein, E. J. Grandeme, M. Howard, R. Honeyan, Alex Brown, Josiah A. Curtis, L. N. Dougherty, F. Locklander, Wm. McCaskell, John Wearre, Philander Chambertin.
The list does not reveal the names of the entered apprentice, the fellowcraft. or the three demitted members.
It is to be regretted that the old visitors and members registers are not available, for in all probability there would appear upon them the names of prominent Masons who afterward contributed largely to the civic, industrial and professional fame of the state. For it must be remembered that while no one knows what the bullion output of the Hamilton district was, yet on one claim alone, in a space not one hundred feet square, over four million dollars are said to have been mined, and to such a center would come men and Masons from almost every quarter of the globe lured by the wonderful richness of the district, and the hope of acquiring a fortune.
Distinguished among the Masons who helped to place White Pine lodge among the prominent Masonic lodges of Nevada, in its day, was Reinhold Sadler, whose name stands high on the honor roll of the state. His name appears among the first on the charter roll of White Pine Lodge No. 14.
From the time of his raising as a Master Mason, he was an enthusiastic member of the craft, faithful in attendance at the meetings, and honored in the councils of the lodge.
His fraternal enthusiasm and his grasp of Masonic law and usages, soon caused his merited advancement.
During the year 1876 he served his lodge as master, attending the Grand Lodge the following year. Moving to Eureka, he entered the grocery business, which he conducted for many years. Demitting to Eureka lodge shortly after he left Hamilton, he continued his activity in Masonic work, and was elevated to the master’s chair of that lodge in 1880.
His prominence as a business man, his zeal for the party of his choice, his close touch on state affairs, his constructive ability, and his farsightedness, led to his nomination and election as governor of the state in 1894, in which office he served with credit and distinction.
At the close of his term as governor, he returned to Eureka, where he continued his mercantile and business pursuits until the date of his death, which occurred in 1902.
Henry A. Comins
One of the former outstanding members of White Pine Lodge No. 14 who served Nevada with distinction in the state legislature, was Henry A. Comins.
He was born in East Eddington, Me., in 1836; in 1858 he moved to California and engaged in placer mining; in 1866 he came to Nevada and engaged in the lumber business at Empire City. In 1869 he moved to White Pine county, and from that time on until the date of his death, was a prominent character in the political, social, fraternal and civic life of that county.
The membership roll of White Pine lodge shows the name of Brother Comins as recorded in 1876. From that time on until he moved to Cherry Creek, he occupied a prominent place among its membership and in its councils.
With the organization of Steptoe Lodge No. 24 at Cherry Creek, he demitted from White Pine lodge, and became prominently associated with the affairs of that lodge.
In later years he took up his residence in Ely, and with the institution of Ely Lodge No. 29, transferred his membership to that lodge, and became its first secretary.
He was elected to the state assembly in 1875, and served for one term. In 1877 he was returned to the legislature as state senator, which office he filled for two years. Again in 1879 he was sent to the state senate from White Pine county, and for ten years he occupied that important office, serving his county with wisdom and distinction.
Henry Comins carried the teachings of Masonry into his business as well as observing its fundamentals in his private life. He was a Builder; not of material dwellings, but rather a builder of character. Ever sensible to the call of the needy, generously, yet unostentatiously he contributed to those who were worthy and in distress. Young and old loved him, loved his dignified mien, loved his musical voice, his cheery smile and his hearty laugh, when, in his gayer moments he threw off the yoke of responsibilities and entered into the humor of life’s game.
He died on December 12, 1917, the fiftieth anniversary of his wedding day.
ELKO LODGE NO. 15
The early history of men and affairs in Nevada is almost lost in the maze of time, although it is fortunately preserved in old manuscripts hoary with age, and musty with the passing of years; for those who were active during the pioneer days of our state have long since passed to their reward, and their activities have been in many instances forgotten. In many cases their acts were made the subject of interesting recordings, and to the student of history, the perusal of these old manuscripts is glamorously romantic, and thrilling.
It has been said, “Wild West stories are of the past, those good old days of the long ago, when the pioneers built their barns and strung their fences in the little border towns tucked away in the foothills, where the trails run out and stop. We of the west can appreciate this quotation as we think of the dim trails blazed by the men and women who settled in this wild, virgin territory, pitched their tents, or built their cabins in the hills, and founded a new country. What they did for posterity is a debt we can never repay, or measure in monetary values, and so, in recording the data that led to the settlement of Elko county, and the establishing of the city of Elko, we draw aside the curtain which separates us from that period which introduced the Pony Express, the first cross country telegraph, and the laying of the rails of the Union and Central Pacific railroad, for it was during that period that Elko sprang into existence.
Two distinct pioneer trails of travel traverse what is now Elko county. One followed the Humboldt river, the other the Overland Pass, known as the Ruby Summit pass, of which it has been said, “They were the highways well marked by sobs and groans, and broken hearts, smoothed by the tread of weary feet, and landmarked by human woe and suffering.
When Elko county was created, it was stipulated that one thousand votes must be canvassed for the holding of an election in the county, before the project could be ratified. On May 31, 1869, when the vote was taken 1097 votes were reported; later, the town of Elko became the county seat. It is said that the town was named by Chas. Crocker, a director of the Central Pacific railroad, who added an “o” to the word Elk, because of the large number of elk in the adjoining hills. For some time Elko was the eastern terminal of the railroad. The oldest landmark in the town is an old building formerly occupied by the Pioneer saloon, and was moved about 1911 to the Chase estate to make way for the construction of a three story brick building known as the Pioneer building. On June 19, 1869, the first newspaper was published in the town, “The Elko Independent,” and the first child of which there is a record, was George Elko Gantz, born July 7, 1869.
By 1871, the population of Elko was sufficient to demand recognition as one of the outstanding settlements along the line of the railroad, while its area was enlarging month by month; new homes were being erected, and along the main street of the town commodious business rooms were rearing their four walls, and were being gradually occupied by various mercantile establishments. The first log school house had been replaced by a neat frame structure which housed the three grades of the: public school, and a frame church occupied its place in the affairs of the community; altogether, the town was assuming the airs and importance of a real county seat, and was attracting considerable attention.
Into this homely setting, Masonry had already come, represented by a number of brethren hailing from scattered jurisdictions throughout the country, although most of them had come from California.
The first recorded activities of the Craft in the town reflect the organization of a Masonic Association in 1869, which met on various occasions at the Railroad Hotel. For about a year no records of their meetings were kept, presumably because the association was not functioning. On Oct. 25, 1870, a meeting was held in the old hall owned by the Oddfellows of Elko, which at the time was a live organization of the town; this hall was located at the corner of 9th and River street. This meeting of the Masonic brethren was called for the purpose of promoting the organization of a lodge, and a committee consisting of Brothers J. D. Treat, E. S. Yeates, T. F. Stone and H. Anner was appointed to interview the sojourning brethren in Elko, and obtain their support for, and affiliation with the new lodge.
In the weeks which followed, the committee was busy fulfilling the purpose for which it had been appointed, and every Mason in the town and district was approached and his support obtained, with the result that on November 16, 1870, a second meeting was held, at which a petition was framed and addressed to the Grand Lodge of Nevada requesting authority to establish a Masonic lodge in Elko under dispensation. The following brethren were signers of this petition : Herman Anner, of Union Lodge No. 58 of California. Morris Anner, of Windsor Lodge No. 116 of California. Jacob Alexander, of Windsor Lodge No. 116, of California. T. J. Butler, of Vesper Lodge No. 84, California. E. J. Carpeaux, of Lassen Lodge No. 149, California. Wm. F. Dyer, of Webster Lodge No. 53, Missouri. John Ellis, of Arcturas Lodge No. 180, California. 7. C. Eichenouer, of Idaho Lodge No. 1, Idaho. Sam W. Foreman, of West Brook Lodge No. 333, New York. Jos. Hoffman, of Gold Hill Lodge No. 32, California. Wilson Hayes, of Diamond City Lodge No: 7, Montana. G. V. Kittridge, of Franklin Grove Lodge No. 264, Illinois. Ed Levinthal, of Western Star Lodge No. 2, California. Robert Oliver, of Missoula Lodge No. 13, Montana. Simon Rinehart, of Vancouver Lodge No. 421, Vancouver Isle. Thos. Stone, of Lassen Lodge No. 149, California. Wm. M. Stafford, of Montana Lodge No. 2, Montana. A. Spellman, of Idaho Lodge No. 1, Idaho. H. C. Street, of Idaho Lodge No. 1, Idaho. J. D. Treat, of Washington Lodge No. 20, California. C. R. Van Alstyn, of Andrew Jackson Lodge No. 120, Virginia. John M. Woodworth, of Howard Lodge No. 96, California. Elijah S. Yeates, of Illinoistown Lodge No. 51, California.
In due time the prayer of the petitioners was granted, and a dispensation signed by Grand Master George Robinson and Grand Secretary W. A. Van Bokkelen, and bearing date of January 21, 1871, was issued to the brethren of Elko; this warrant named J. D. Treat worshipful master; H. Anner, senior warden, and E. S. Yeates, junior warden of the new lodge U. D.
The first meeting under this dispensation was held in the Oddfellows hall Jan. 24, 1871, at which the following officers were elected or appointed: J. B. Treat, W. M.; H. Anner, Sen. W.; E. S. Yeates, Junior W.; Robert Oliver, treasurer; Thos. N. Stone, secretary; J. J. Hoffman, senior deacon; J. C. Eichenouer, junior deacon; Thomas Hammel and R. C. Van Alstyn, stewards; Smith Van Drilling, tyler.
During the ensuing months Elko lodge was active, with the result that its Trestle Board was covered with work. Several new members were passed and raised, and a number were enrolled by affiliation.
At the next annual communication of the Grand Lodge held in Virginia City September 21, 1871, the records, papers arid documents of the lodge at Elko were examined and passed by the committee on Charters, and a charter was recommended issued to the brethren, numbered on Nevada registry as Elko Lodge No. 15, and that the three principal officers named in the warrant of dispensation be continued under the charter.
Plans were set in motion at once by the newly chartered lodge to receive the precious document and its bearer with due and impressive ceremony, formality and elaborate entertainment at the time appointed, and to this end arrangements were made for a celebration of unusual magnitude.
On November 3, 187I, a large and enthusiastic gathering assembled to welcome Deputy Grand Master E. E. Gillette, acting for the Grand Master to constitute the lodge and install the officers. With due and impressive ritualistic ceremonies, the rites were performed according to the ancient customs of the order, after which the acting Grand Master assisted by Past Master F. A. Rogers as Grand Marshal, installed the following brethren into their respective offices: J. B. Treat, worshipful master; Elijah S. Yeates, senior warden; Otto Trilling, junior warden; Robert Oliver, treasurer; Thos. N. Stone, secretary; Wm. Plughoff, senior deacon; Antone Rixel, junior warden; C. R. Van Alstyn and G. B. Kittridge, stewards; J. W. Urton, tyler.
A program followed the ceremonies, and addresses were made by the Deputy Grand Master and local and visiting brethren, and a fine banquet was served.
The lodge continued its work and the diffusion of Masonic light, in the Oddfellows hall during succeeding months, although the need of a more commodious and better equipped lodge room was felt. This need was made the subject of discussion at various meetings. The same question was also being considered by the I. O. O. F. fraternity, and eventually committees were appointed by both organizations to plan the possible construction of a building which would be utilized and jointly owned by both organizations.
In the summer of 1872, it became known that a Mr. Henly planned the erection of a business building on the corner of Fourth and Commercial Street and committees were appointed by both lodges to confer with him, with the result that an agreement was entered into whereby Henley would erect a two story building, the upper floor of which was to be suitably arranged for the joint use of the two lodges. The sum of $3200.00 was to be paid to Mr. Henley by the lodges for this upper story, and title was to be conveyed for it, Henley holding title to the ground floor. The two orders were to keep the roof in repair, and Henley to keep the foundation in repair.
This arrangement remained in force and effect until July, 1923, when the Henderson Banking Company, which had become owners of the lots on which the building was located, and the lower floor, sold their interest to Elko Lodge No. 15, F. & A. M. for the sum of $10,000.00, which, in turn, sold an undivided half interest to the Oddfellows Lodge for $5,000.00. Shortly after this deal was consummated, the building was badly damaged by fire. However, it was repaired, and extensive improvements were made at the time. In 1929 further improvements were made by tearing out the partitions in the lower door, and making an entertainment room on the ground floor. The building is still owned and occupied jointly by both organizations.
It is of interest to note that the old I. O. O. F. hall in which Elko lodge met during its early existence, stood until the summer of 1938, when it was demolished and removed to make way for further improvements.
Succeeding years were kind to Elko Lodge No. 15, which continued to expand as the years went by to become one of the most progressive and numerically strong among the constituent lodges of the jurisdiction. It became in time the sanctuary of many outstanding Masons and has furnished to the state, county and municipality, men who have occupied positions of high trust and vantage, prominent among whom were Chas. B. Henderson, former United States senator; Wm. Greathouse, formerly secretary of state, and for several years county auditor and recorder of Elko county; George B. Russell, state treasurer for years. In the year 1939, Brother James Dysart filled the office of District Judge; C. B. Trescott, district attorney, and Charles Harper, sheriff. Among the brethren who have won the confidence of their associates and brethren, and have occupied positions of trust in county and state affairs, are A. W. Hesson, Henry Tabor, U. Lani, Edward Lytton, Abner Wiseman, Joe Harris, Leslie Carter, Lon Henderson, John Ellis and Chas. DeArmond, some of whom were prominent in the affairs of the city and county years ago, and have gone to their reward. All were upright men and Masons, who took an active part in the activities and development of Elko lodge.
In the affairs of the Grand Lodge, Elko No. 15 has always been recognized as a commanding and influential unit of Masonry, and as a result has been honored in that Grand Body, as well as receiving official place upon the Grand Staff.
Three Grand Masters have been chosen from the ranks of Elko lodge (as of 1944 – ed.), the first of whom was Merrill Pingree Freeman. Brother Freeman was a native of Ohio, where he was born February 23, 1844. When the lad was quite young, his parents moved to Iowa, and later to California. In 1857 the young man returned to the east, and completed a four years academic course. He crossed the plains once more, and located in Elko, devoting himself to mining and banking. During the early years of his residence in Elko, he became a member of Elko Lodge No. 15, and in 1877 was made Grand Master of Nevada Masons. In the winter of 1880, he moved to Tucson, Arizona, and affiliated with Tucson Lodge No. 4, F. & A. M. In 1884 he was elected Grand Master of Arizona.
In addition to his business activities while residing in Elko, he served as Regent of the Nevada State University, was Receiver of the U. S. land office, County Treasurer, Postmaster, and Chairman of the Republican county central committee.
In 1889 he became a member of the Board of Regents of Arizona, on which he served for 16 years, and in 1911 was invested with the Degree of Doctor of Law.
He was a member of Tucson Chapter No. 3, R. A. M., and Arizona Commandery No. 1 and served as High Priest and Commander. He was a Mason of the thirty-third degree in the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, and on April 22, 1883, was appointed a Deputy Inspector General for Arizona, by Illustrious Brother Albert Pike. He died April 11, 1919, in Tucson.
The second member of Elko Lodge to rise to distinguished heights in the Grand Lodge of Nevada, was James C. Doughty, who passed the various chairs in that body, and was elected Grand Master in 1910, in which office he served with honor and untiring zeal. In addition to his Masonic activities, he was active in civic and county affairs; for several years he was postmaster at Elko. He ended his earthly career in 1922, respected and loved by the members of the Craft he had served for so many years.
Prominent in the affairs of Elko Lodge No. 15 is George Lee Swartz, who in 1896 was appointed a member of the Grand Lodge Official Body by Grand Master Churchyard, and served in subordinate offices until 1931, when he advanced to the Grand South and proceeded by regular steps to the office of Grand Master in 1934. He has also served as Grand Master of the Grand Council, Grand High Priest R. A. M., and Grand Commander K. T. He is also a Past patron of his chapter, 0. E. S.
Elko lodge has had the distinction of entertaining the Grand Lodge of the state upon three different occasions (as of 1944 – ed.); for the first time in 1897, and again in 1934, at which Grand Communication, Grand Master Geo. L. Swartz presided. Also in 1941, at which time Geo. B. Russell, Grand Master of Nevada, presided. He is a member of Elko Lodge No. 15.
It has been host at many unique as well as interesting Masonic gatherings, often entertaining in an elaborate manner delegations from visiting lodges, and has always, as a feature of its stated or regular meetings, made an attempt to hold the attention of its attending members by furnishing some unusual and attractive entertainment. One of the outstanding occasions in which Elko Lodge participated was the convening of the Grand Lodge which met in special communication in Eiko at the hall of Elko Lodge No. 15, November 22, 1912, and was opened in ample form by Past Grand Master James C. Doughty, for the purpose of laying the corner stone of the new Presbyterian Church and Y. M. C. A. building. An interesting feature of the ceremony was the unusual items placed in the casket which was sealed in the stone, which included historical material taken from the old corner stone of the old church, erected in 1869, and in addition, mementoes gathered from the Garden of Gethsemane, in Jerusalem, the Dead Sea in Palestine, the Sea of Galilee, Mars Hill, Athens, Pompeii, and coins of U. S. mintage.
Probably the most interesting meeting ever promoted by Elko lodge was held on November 17, 1932, at which time fifty year service buttons were presented to Brother Isaac Griswold, who was raised in 1868; Brother Wm. H. Havenor, who was raised in 1871, and Brother J. L. Keyser, who was raised in 1875.
At that same meeting, a like honor was conferred upon Brother Reece T. Evans, at the request of the Grand Lodge of California, Brother Reece having been a member since 1878. These brethren have since passed to their reward, with the exception of Brother Evans. (Again, as of 1944 – ed.)
Wm. Havenor passed away in Salt Lake City on December 29, 1938. He was the first applicant raised in Elko lodge after it was constituted November 3, 1871; he received the sublime degree of Master Mason, November 10th the same year. He held membership in the lodge continuously until his death.
In reviewing the annals of Freemasonry in Nevada, it becomes apparent that the greatest strides Elko lodge made were about the time the meeting referred to above, was held. The grip of the world wide depression which was devastating industrial and commercial enterprises throughout the country, especially in the states bordering, on, and adjacent to the Atlantic seaboard, had not as yet vitally affected Elko as it did later, and the lodge continued to expand numerically, the peak of its membership being attained in 1931, and remaining stationary for several succeeding years, a record due to the energy, perseverance and zealousness of its membership, whose integrity and influence was exerted, not only upon the destiny and progress of the lodge, but which was likewise extended to the affairs and policies of the citizens living in outlying districts, as well as reflected in the favorable attitude of the residents of Elko, with the result that, “of their own free will and accord” the worthy sought and found a fraternal home with the brethren.
As Nevada’s golden treasure troves were uncovered and brought to light, and her mountains and gullies were found teeming with wealth, so the birth of Masonry in Nevada was coeval with these discoveries, and in the development of Masonry’s manhood, Elko lodge continually found treasure of real worth in the men she raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason, men who symbolically assayed as nuggets of real gold; therein has been the secret of her expansion as a lodge, and her fraternal standing among the constituent lodges of Nevada.
EUREKA LODGE NO. 16
“Westward the course of empire takes its way.” Across the trackless wastes, and over the mountain pass came bands of hardy, sturdy pioneers to build an empire; and so our mighty west was peopled, its hidden resources developed, and it became a factor in the march of the nation.
Into this ceaseless march of tireless men came Masonry to plant its everlasting principles in the hearts of coming generations, who attracted by its virtues, charmed with its philosophy and lured by its fellowship, would unite with that vast army whose fraternal principles encircle the earth. From time almost immemorial, men have lauded and extolled our ancient institution. The Masonic annals of our own Grand Lodge contain the proud record of men who have stood just and upright in the social, civic, educational and domestic affairs of the state, while to Masonry they have given their all, thus creating in the hearts of their fellow men a respect and adoration which shall stand in its influence as an everlasting monument, which time cannot efface, nor hatred nor malice destroy.
In years gone by the history of individual lodges has been most ably prepared and written into our Grand Lodge records by one whose grasp of Masonic lore and history, far exceeds our own. In the main, he has written of Masonic influences, history and events, which dealt with the establishment of our institution in that territory adjacent to, and for a time considered a part of the Grand Domain of California. This record, aside from its historical value, reads as a romance; a romance of the square, plumb and level, inscribed upon the lives and imbedded in the hearts of sturdy men, who were not only Master Masons, but masters of their passions, as well as masters of men. For out of chaos and confusion, out of discord and inharmony, out of hatred and passion, which ruled the west, they created order, peace, harmony and fellowship.
And so, in presenting my feeble efforts to this Grand Body, it is my purpose to record those incidents prominent in Masonic history, which had their rise and their perpetuity in what is now Eastern Nevada.
I have found in a frantic search for data bearing upon Masonic incidents in this section of Nevada, that ordinarily the early secretaries of our constituent lodges were not as careful in recording prominent and Pertinent facts relating to incidents and transactions which occurred in their lodge rooms, as the occasion demanded. In some cases, only a reference has been made to some important event embodying Masonic transactions; an important visitation, a noted visitor, the acquiring of lodge property, participation in events of a public or private nature, the passing of some brother prominent in fraternal and civic circles, should, I believe, receive more than a passing mention. It is true that the generation in which those transactions took place were undoubtedly familiar with the life or action of such persons or events, for the history of that fraternal or civic transaction was fresh in the minds of the brethren, and the public of that day needed no enlightenment on such events, but coming generations could not easily lift the curtain from the past, and so, much of interest relative to past Masonic transactions has been lost to posterity. At times we are at a loss to know how to tell fact from fiction, how to distinguish history from tradition, when there are no authentic records upon which to build our story.
But in line with that old, yet trite saying, “History is tradition, looking backwards,” my recording pen now writer the magic word EUREKA, while fancy takes me to that spot in Nevada, where towering hills and rock bound canyons throughout countless ages past, Kuarded the “ecret of their hidden wealth, until the spade and pick of the white man revealed the yellow flow of gold, and the satin sheen of silver; and far upon the horizon, and through the canyons and over mountain passes came the struggling hordes, to wrest this treasure from old mother earth, and seek new lodes and fissures, “where fabled treasure lay.”
The history of Eureka is closely allied with that of Austin, for Eureka county was at one time a part of Lander county, of which Austin is the county seat. The Separation came in 1870 after the rush to the treasure hills around Eureka had brought hundreds of people to the eastern part of the county. We are told that the first discovery of treasure in this district occurred in 1863, in the northern part of the district, and were traced in the great outcroppings of the “Cortez Giant” mine, and extended through to Mount Tenebo.
The discovery which gave Eureka its name, and was instrumental in exploring and developing that district, and which resulted in the finding of rich bodies of ore, occurred September 19, 1863. The find was made by a party of prospectors from Austin, headed by W. O. Arnold. With him were Moses Wilson, W. R. Tannehill, G. T. Tannehiil, and I. S. Scotts. They were near the site of what is said to be New York Canyon, when one of the men picked up a peculiar looking piece of rock highly mineralized. From its hardness they knew the mineral was not lead. A crude test convinced them it must be silver, and one of the men, more excited than the rest, cried out “Eureka.” And so their camp was christened.
With the influx of men and women, the town took form; the canvas tent gave way to the rude shack, to be in turn replaced by buildings of a more substantial nature. Rough trails became well ordered streets, and commodious business houses were reared upon a main thoroughfare. In time a well appointed school house was erected, and the first church in the city was built by the Methodists. By this time Ruby Hill had come into existence, a town of some fifteen hundred people, with well ordered streets, business houses and neat residences. Eureka was now a thriving little city of more than six thousand people and five smelters. Its bullion product in 1869 amounted to about $100,000.00. (In the year 1876, according to the Eureka Sentinel, it produced gold $827,985.78, silver $1,452,459.20, lead $602,306.28, fine bullion $1,120,3%.49, a total of $4,003,147.75, on an estimated capital investment of $1,500,000.00.) In 1878 the production was $6,981,706.40. It is estimated that more than $30,000,000 was taken out before the decline began in 1890. Since that time production has steadily decreased, and today the production is negligible, most of the mines having long since been abandoned.
As might be supposed, this industry gave employment to many men in many diverse channels. Aside from the men employed in and around the mines, many found employment in the stores and saloons, while a great number found profit in teaming, great quantities of produce, timber, iron, oil and other commodities being hauled in from all points of the compass. Teamsters made their trips overland to Hamilton, Eberhardt, Austin, Fallen, and as far south as Pioche, hauling out and bringing in supplies from other points far away. Lead ore was hauled out in large quantities, this before the coming of the railroad. It is said that at one time the Richmond Lead Mines controlled the lead market of the world, and had over 17,000 tons stored at their mines in Eureka. This vast amount of metal, each bar weighing 200 pounds, was so heavy that the mass displaced over two feet of solid earth where it was piled.
And so Eureka flourished, gambling and prodigal spending was the order of the day, while vice in its various forms could always he founcl and bought for gold. Every other door on the main street, we are told, was a saloon where in many cases, the bar maids were employed as only a blind for other immoral purposes. It was a typical frontier mining camp, with the usual complement of rough characters and an occasional gun man. Its mixed population comprised men from almost every rank and station in life, and was composed of almost every nationality.
Into this heterogeneous mass of people, made up of gold mad, temperamental men and women, as well as scions of cultured and refined families, were found many Masons, whom as they met in the busy marts of that growing mining town, cautiously greeted one another as members of the craft. They often foregathered in the rough cabin or the more comfortable homes of one another, to discuss in low tones their experiences as members of the fraternity, or to rehearse the fundamentals of the order, or to exchange those choice confidences relating to the craft which Masons are prone to discuss.
The morals of the town were also aired, and the crying need for the inauguration of necessary reforms was stressed, while the desire to create order out of this wicked confusion, the hope that a new era might dawn which would bring with it a desire among the better classes to unite in launching a law and order campaign, was expressed. With the arrival of other Masons in the town and district, who soon made themselves known, it was realized that a sufficient number were at hand to make a creditable showing, and to attract notice to their possible demands. It was therefore determined to organize a Masonic lodge, not only that they might enjoy the privileges of fellowship that such an organization would bring, but that the moral influence upon the town might work for good. Application was therefore made for the necessary permission to organize, a petition being formally prepared and signed by the resident brethren of Eureka, and addressed to “The Worshipful Master, Wardens, and Brethren of White Pine Lodge No. 14, Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Nevada,” setting forth the ability and desire of the brethren to establish a lodge in Eureka, and asking their “recommendation of a petition to the Most Worshipful George Robinson, Grand Master of Masons in Nevada, for a dispensation empowering them to form, open, and hold a lodge at the town of Eureka aforesaid, to be called Eureka Lodge. Dated at Eureka this 17th day of February, A. L. 5872.” This petition bears the signatures of F. H. Harmon, Henry Hilp, David E. Railey, James Prettey, Evan Jones, Herman Vorberg, Jas. A Cowden, Alex Kilpatrick, D. C. Sherlock, James McMartin, Philip A. McMillan, Charles W. Rooth, Daniel R. Immel, M. R. Chamblin, Wm. T. Soorkwoltl, Chas. I. Hamlin, David Henry Hall, M. Freederberg, and John Gillispie. The petition was granted by White Pine Lodge No. 14, who released their jurisdiction with the recommendation to the Grand Master that the brethren of Eureka be authorized to organize,and on April 5, 1872, Most Worshipful George Robinson, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, issued a dispensation for “a Lodge of Master Masons to be organized at Eureka, Eureka County, Nevada.”
At the following annual communication of the Grand Lodge, which met September 19, 1872, a charter was issued, granting Eureka Lodge No. 16 all the tights and privileges of Masonry is one of the constituent lodges of the Nevada domain. The name of forty-two Master Masons is said to have appeared upon the report to the Grand Secretary, a splendid record for Masonry in a town where sectarian influence was strong, and where the rougher element had held sway since the first rich strike had opened up a new treasure trove in Eastern Nevada.
The first meetihgs of the new lodge were held in an old building known as Barley Mill, which was occupied for about one year, when quarters were acquired in the Eureka Farmers & Loan Bank Building, a new room having been erected for that purpose above the banking rooms. Settled in comfortable quarters, the lodge grew in numbers as well as in influence, and with the coming of the year 1879, 110 active members were found enrolled.
Then disaster came in the shape of a destructive fire, and on the 19th day of April, 1879, the entire east side of the main thoroughfare was destroyed. Among the numerous buildings burned was that of the bank in which our brethren met. The destruction was complete, records, regalia, jewels, lodge furniture, all went up in smoke. Not a vestige remained of the once comfortable quarters and their cherished and valuable appointments. One authority states that the loss on this building was more than $20,000.00, with only $5,000.00 insurance. The greatest loss to the brethren was their records, and may I say, that this loss has alway, been more or less of a handicap to Eureka lodge.
The brethren were not discouraged; with perseverance and determination, they continued to carry on. New quarters were acquired in a new building built by the firm of Foley & Rickard. The lease of this hall was made jointly by the Masons, the Odd Fellows, and the Knights of Pythias, at a rental of $300.00 per month, each order hearing an equal proportion of the rent. With the gradual decline of mining activities, starting in 1890, this rental proved burdensome, for lodge membership had also fallen off until the lodge was then less than fifty per cent of its former numerical strength. It was therefore decided to acquire their own building. In this enterprise the I. O. O. F. lodge joined. A building, located in the heart of town, was purchased, for which $2,000.00 was paid. This was known as the old Whitten building, previously used as a variety theatre, and operated by a woman and her daughter, said to be of questionable character. This theatre was known as the Sprague Theatre, and was a popular place of amusement during the halcyon days of Eureka. The old iron door which opened into the entry room of the basement is still intact, and bears the sign in old fashioned ornamental letters, “Sprague Theatre, Down Stairs, Daily Entertainments.”
With necessary repairs and alterations made, and with newly installed furniture and fittings, the lodge moved into its newly acquired quarters, and here, activities of both fraternities have waxed and waned for more than forty years, The lodge room is unique, in that it is located below the level of the street. Its furnishing are mellow with age, its faded blue carpet gives evidence to the tread of countless feet; its canopied stations tell of a bygone splendor and prosperity, and have witnessed, not only the conferring of many degrees, but the presence of many Masonic dignitaries at splendid Masonic as well as social functions.
Today, but few remain as member, of that once prosperous lodge, but these few are faithful; faithful to the tenets of Masonry, faithful in attendance, faithful to memories which the old lodge room inspires, loyal and true to past traditions, proud of their membership in this lodge which is famous in the annals of Masonic history in Nevada.
The old activity of Eureka is no more, the scarred hills and tunneled mountains look down upon a scene wherein the devastating hand of time has levied its toll. What in many cases were once fine homes, are today neglected buildings, falling to decay. The old main street is there, but many of its once proud business houses are vacant, and show the wear of years. Those which are still occupied, look out upon a scene of inactivity and quietude.
Gone are the hurrying feet of yore; gone are the joyful voices of the past; gone is the hum of industry. The glory of this one time thriving mining camp has passed, and Eureka is fast becoming another “ghost city of the west”. The old town may come back, a rich find in territory unexplored, a new shaft or slope driven to lower levels may reveal undreamed of wealth, or with the return of silver to its own as a world commodity, the tide may turn and once more old working be made to yield their fabled wealth.
But the romance which once surrounded that old time mining camp will return no more, for modern customs and practices have replaced the old. The gilded palaces of vice, the picturesque gambler, the dreaded gun man, are memories only, their day is past, their race is run.
But the influences of our Masonic craft still linger. Though in numbers Eureka lodge is sadly depleted, there yet remains to them the priceless heritage of fellowship, of which no man can rob them nor any condition relieve them, and as long as the members remain faithful votaries to its age old principles, as long as they believe in its philogophy, and as long as they practice and observe its moral teachings, the benign insucnce of Masonry will linger in that district like the perfume of some rare exotic flower, or the cadence of a beautiful song. The story of Eureka Lodge would be incomplete without reference to its most outstanding character, Brother Alexander Fraser, who died April 9th, 1934. Brother Fraser was a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he first saw the light of day in the year 1848. When but a small child he came to America and settled in Grass Valley, California, where he resided until 1873, when he removed to Eureka, Nevada, to engage in mining. It was in 1893 while superintendent of the Dunderburg Mine, that a premature explosion of dynamite totally blinded him.
With characteristic determination he made the most of his unfortunate condition, and set himself to master the art of finger reading, and although forty-three years of age at the time of his accident, mastered five systems, including the Braille. He was unusually well read on many subjects and current topics, a deep thinker, and a profound philosopher. Brother Fraser served one term in the State Legislature, where he gave a good account of his stewardship, and was a member of the Eureka Board of County Commissioners for fifteen years, serving faithfully and well the interests of his county.
He joined Eureka Lodge No. 16 in 1879. In 1886 he was elected Master of the lodge serving for one term. In 1918-1919 he was again chosen Master, likewise in 1922, 1923, 1924, and 1926. He made himself proficient in lodge usages, was well versed in the lectures and monitorial parts, and conducted the duties of his office in a most fficient and capable manner.
He was also a member of the Scottish and York Rites, and at the time of his death was the oldest member of the Knights Commander, Court of Honor.
He was a man of sterling worth and fixed integrity, unassuming and humble, but of lofty ideals and great loyalty to his fellowmen. His knowledge of Masonic history and tradition was extensive; he was probably one of the best informed Masons in the west and he never tired of reciting Masonic lore or listening to those who spoke authoritatively on the subject. His retentive memory always served him well and those who heard him give the third degree lecture will never forget his masterly delivery, nor the sincerity of his emotions as he warmed to his subject, while the soft modulations of his voice lingered long in memory.
Of him it may well be said, “He was a Man and a Mason”.
HUMBOLDT LODGE NO. 17
The discovery of precious metals in the Humboldt range of mountains in 1860, was the occasion for a rush of prospectors and miners to the rugged slopes of the gold and silver bearing ledges of that range.
By the beginning of the year 1862, the nature and extent of these discoveries had been tested, and it was evident that great mineral values had been opened up; as a result, hundreds of men and women in search of fortune and adventure lined the trails leading to the new strikes, much valuable territory was located, and claims were staked out far and near.
The new field brought together many outstanding men, hailing from all over the Union, men who were destined to guide the destinies of a section of Nevada which has become famous for its makers of history, among whom were those of different callings and professions who, in after years distinguished themselves in the development of that part of the state. Among whom were: Hiram Knowles, William Dixon,W. H. Claget, M. S. Bonnefield, Joseph F. Nenzel, Tom Ebert, Roy Beeson, John McCracken; these and many others pioneered Humboldt County, and brought luster and prestige to its borders.
One of the most historic towns of the county was Unionville, located in Buena Vista canyon about eighteen miles south from Imlay, a freight division east of Reno on the Southern Pacific railroad. The town was laid out by Capt. Hugo Pfersdorf, who, with J. C. Hannon and four Indians had come from Virginia City in search of promising territory.
Pfersdorf was not only crafty, but he was grasping, and is said to have held the price of lots in the new town at so high a figure, that a man by the name of Chris Lark started another town on ground he located, farther down the canyon, and soon had many buildings in the process of construction.
It is claimed that most of the residents were southern symyathizers, the war between the north and south being then in progress, and the town was named Dixie; within a year however, so many Union men came into camp, that public sentiment changed, and 15 northern Sympathizers far outnumbered those Of the south, on Iuly 14th, 1861, the name of the town was changed Unionville; when Humboldt county was organized in 1862, Unionville was named the county seat, and held this title for ten years, when Winnemucca was designated the county capital. It is said, that at the peak of its prosperity, Unionville was a town of 1500 inhabitants; it had three stamp mills, two general stores, two restaurants, a livery stable, post office building, express office, telegraph office, a Methodist church built at a cost of $2500.00. It also boasted a well equipped and published newspaper, “The Humboldt Register”.
The invasion of this mountain city by men and women from almost every section of America, was the agent through which Masonry was eventually introduced into this section of Nevada, and resulted in the organization of a Masonic lodge under dispensation, on Nov. 6th, 1871, when Unionville is said to have reached its peak of prosperity and growth. Under this dispensation the brethren continued to operate until Nov. 20th, 1873 when a charter was authorized by the Grand Lodge of Nevada, naming Wm. M. Franch worshipful master, Geo. F. Muller senior warden, and O. R. Stamply junior warden. In the meanwhile, it had become necessary to select a permanent home for the lodge, as the temporary meeting place, said to have been in the rear of one of the restaurants, was unsuitable for such purposes, besides which, it was of too public a character for the lodge to carry on Masonically. It is claimed that the first officers of the lodge were installed in the home of one of the brethren, after the place had been cleared of all who were not members of the lodge; that this meeting might obtain an air of strict Masonic legality, the Dispensation granted by the Grand Lodge was removed from the walls of its temporary home, to the residence where this meeting place was held, and, as an additional precaution, guards were stationed around the exterior of the house, to guard against the approach of cowans and eavesdroppers.
Upon receipt of the charter, steps were taken to provide suitable quarters for housing the lodge and charter, the location selected being on the second floor of a general store, which was placed in order and fitted with appropriate furniture. When this location had outlived its usefulness, and the finances of the lodge warranted it, steps were taken to acquire their own building. To this end a piece of ground was selected over against the hills on the east side of the town, and the brethren built a commodious one story building of native field rock, forty-five by twenty-five feet in dimensions, into which they moved their belongings, and where they continued to meet as long as the lodge flourished. This building was placed due east and west, and was fitted with the latest system of oil lighting the times afforded.
It became not only a meeting place for the lodge, but was also a social center where the town’s inhabitants would congregate to hold their community events. Until Unionville ceased to be the county seat, the Masonic building continued to he an outstanding edifice of the town, and the old timers remembered it long after the little hamlet outlived its usefulness and its people drifted into other settlements, as a sanctuary where many outstanding social functions were held. In like manner, the membership of the lodge held it in reverence, for it had been the scene of many fraternal gatherings, opening its doors to receive Masons of note, and large delegations of visiting brethren from lodges throughout that section of the country, upon numerous occasions.
Unlike other mining camps in Nevada, Unionville was never the Mecca toward which gravitated the rougher element usually found in most mining camps in that period of time, consequently the town was free of brawls and those scenes of discord so often found in mining centers. Law and order prevailed, and no unusual incidents of a vicious nature disturbed the morale of the town. Humboldt lodge became a vital factor in the affairs of the community, and enjoyed a healthy growth.
The records of the lodge reflected that the average membership of the lodge was seldom more than twenty-five, but it must be remembered that this was the average; some years there was a marked increase over this number, other years showed a loss. As a whole the lodge was active, and the enthusiasm of the brethren made not only a fine fraternal unit of Masonry, but in the social activities of the camp such as they were, it continued to be a popular resort for the town’s entertainments.
During the year 1876, due to the curtailment of mining activities in the district and a consequent slump of business in Unionville, there was a pronounced exodus of residents from the town, so much so that the situation became acute, and it was apparent that if conditions did not improve, the town would go the way of so many camps which in the early days of the state depended upon their mining activities for support, and were eventually abandoned due to the exhaustion of ore supply. Although Unionville did not suffer this fate at once when the mining industry of the district was retarded, for there was still left to the locality the support from the surrounding agricultural area which had been considerable ever since the town was established, yet this industry also weakened, and in a short period of time was reduced to less than two per cent of its former volume, and when the county seat was removed from Unionville to Winnemucca, weakened by the exodus of the flower of its populace, and with only a remnant of its former fifteen hundred inhabitants remaining to maintain its one time prestige, it was inevitable that the morale of the town should break.
For several years longer Humboldt lodge continued to carry on, but eventually, with its membership scattered or demitted to other jurisdictions, its finances depicted, and the impossibility of assembling sufficient members to constitute a Masonic quorum to open a lodge of Masons, it failed to function, and as no meetings were held for several months prior to the Grand Lodge communication of 1881, at that Grand Session, its charter was declared forfeited with the recommendation that its remaining membership be transferred to some active lodge within the county limits, and another unit of Masonry was added to the extinct lodges of the state.
ST. JOHNS NO. 18
Tradition, which has been accepted as history, informs us that the first white men who traveled across that section of Nevada now embraced in the boundaries of Lincoln County, were a party of Mormons seeking a shorter route to California. It was during the gold rush of 1849, when, eager to reach that El Dorado of the West, they crossed the lower part of what is now Lincoln County. Their expedition was destined to utter disaster, for lost in the desert wastes of Death Valley, destitute of food and water, their entire outfit perished.
Three years later the Mormons contracted to establish a mail route from Salt Lake City to San Bernardino. Settlements were made along the route, notably at what is now Las Vegas. This settlement was maintained until 1857, when the Mountain Meadow massacre so enraged the country, that they disposed of their holdings and returned to Utah.
In 1858, U. S. troops camped at Hains Fork. It was during this encampment that a party of explorers came out from the southern Mormon settlements of Utah, again seeking to establish safe routes to California, or preferably, to discover a safe retreat in event the zealousness of the brethren might again prompt a repetition of the Mountain Meadow atrocity.
One of these expeditions reached Meadow Valley and settled there to engage in farming pursuits. The determination of the government, however, to protect its citizens from further disturbance from fanatical zeal, put fear into the hearts of these saints, and fearful of a demonstration of law and the iron hand of the Federal Courts, the “head of the Church” sounded retreat, and again the followers of the Prophet returned to Utah.
In the winter of 1863, one Wm. Hamblin, a settler in Meadow Valley gave audience to an Indian who told him of a valuable mine in the district, and agreed to guide him to it if he was paid for his services. Panaca ledge was revealed, assays were made of the ore, and it was found to be rich in value.
With the development of this ledge, other discoveries followed, and soon the district was overrun with prospectors, some of whom uncovered veins which have brought great wealth to their owners. A vast amount of ore has been taken from the mines, and much more has been blocked out.
In 1869 Pioche was located, named for F. A. Pioche, a large investor in the district who came from San Francisco. With its proven ore deposits and the absence of a law and order league, it was to be expected that a rough element should gravitate to the new camp, and while it is not recorded that open violence was the rule, yet lawlessness prevailed, and deeds of violence and even gun play were not infrequent.
I note in an article prepared by Bro. Thompson, of St. Johns Lodge, extracts from which I quote elsewhere in this article, the following statement: “How conditions have changed since the time every member of the lodge, from the Worshipful Master to the Tyler, carried a gun, and knew how to use it**”. And so, while our brethren of St. Johns Lodge undoubtedly brought nothing offensive or defensive into the lodge room, it is only reasonable to suppose that they left no avenue open to rough, profane intrusion, and literally “guarded well the outer door”.
And so, during this formative period, as far back as 1870, we are told, a Masonic association existed in Pioche, organized not only to dispense relief and aid all worthy distressed Master Masons, but to assist in preserving law and order in the town. This association, according to contemporary history, was officered by P. McCammon, pres., C. Weiderhold, Secty., and Robt. Apple, Treas. The records of St. Johns Lodge No. 18 are silent in reference to this association, and the present generation is not informed as to its existence. However, back in 1881 when the above referred to account was written, there must have been some knowledge of such an organization having flourished. In any event, the lawlessness prevalent in the town and district, and much needed reforms, prompted the brethren who were residents to create a Masonic lodge in their midst. Accordingly it was decided to form a Masonic association and request a dispensation from the Grand Lodge to organize a lodge. This association was headed by A. A. Young, W. M., with E. Lane, S. W., J. F. Gray, J. W., J. R. Shaw, Secty., Alex Brown, Treas., Nye Churchman, S. D., R. McAlpine, J. D., A. M. Plyyeys and Geo. Buckner, Stewards, and J. H. Smith, Tyler.
An organization was effected in August 1872. The following year in July 1873, Brother Ed. Cutts journeyed to Virginia City where the Grand Lodge was to convene, taking with him the books and records of the association, where he made application to the Grand Lodge for a charter. On November 20th, 1873 the charter duly signed by Grand Master A. VanBokkelen, was delivered and St. Johns Lodge No. 18 became a member of the constituent lodges of Nevada.
The names of thirty-five Master Masons appeared on the charter, while the records of St. Johns Lodge report the following officers elected to serve for the first year. F. Gray, W. M., Dan’l E. Mitchell, S. W., Dan’l K. Dickerson, J. W., Alex Brown, Treas., J. F. Hellock, Secty., J. Vivian, S. D., R. McAlpine, J. S., E. F. Morton, Steward, and R. F. McCormack, Tyler.
With the decline of the mining industry in Pioche, St. Johns Lodge was moved to Delamar, Nevada, where its growth waxed and waned with the fortunes of that mining camp. It was while St. Johns Lodge was chartered in Delamar, that Bro. Henry Miles, and Bro. H. N. Mayo were raised.
The record of Bro. Miles in the Grand Lodge of Nevada is an enviable one, and does not need to be extolled before this Grand body, he having attained the exalted position of Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Nevada in 1912. Bro. H. N. Mayo has also won honor in the Grand Lodge of Utah.
In the article written by C. A. Thompson of St. Johns No. 18, and read before a meeting of that lodge on its fifty-fifth anniversary, Bro. Thompson says: “Through a fire at Delamar, the lodge lost most of its records. The records and regalia of Keystone Chapter No. 6 were in the same building, but were saved. It seems a rather odd thing that the records of the blue lodge should have been destroyed when they occupied that part of the lodge building which was built of stone, while the properties of Keystone Chapter were stored in the frame part of the building and were saved. The reason for this is, that no member could enter the stone portion of the building, but volunteers were able to save the Chapter property from the frame section, The only loss sustained by Keystone Chapter was its jewels, and in the loss of these a peculiar thing happened. During the fire the square and compass were fused into a triangle * * *. On an official visit to Keystone Lodge, Grand High Priest, Paris Ellis, was quick to notice the suggestive shape of these instruments, and requested them as a relic for the Grand Chapter.”
With the halting of mining activities in Delamar, and a subsequent closing down of the mines which occurred about five years after St. Johns Lodge was moved to this short lived mining camp, Pioche began to evidence new life, and No. 18 moved back and took up quarters in its original home, “and for a year the loyal officers of Delamar made the trip by spring wagon each month through rain or shine, to open lodge”.
Referring to the necessity of moving the lodge from Delamar back to Pioche, Bro. Thompson’s article continues: “The lodge building necessarily needed some repairs, and during these repairs I received my third degree. This communication was quite unique. The degree team was composed of Masons from several states who had never rehearsed together, but were well informed in the work of their several jurisdictions. The roof of the building was off, which made truly a canopy of the starry decked heavens. With about two inches of sand, rocks and dust on the carpet, I received as candidate, the impression that I was indeed traveling a rough and rugged road. After I had become familiar with the ceremonies of the third degree, I knew that the degree team at my raising, had thrown their heart and soul into the work, and done it extra well”.
The membership of St. Johns has been fairly uniform in numbers since its organization. Its charter list, as has been indicated, numbered thirty-five, It has never fallen below that number in the sixty years and more of its existence. It has always functioned well, preserving Masonic peace and harmony. In the selection of its members it has been careful and cautious, quality and not quantity have been stressed in the selection of members, and as a result a splendid membership is enrolled upon its roster.
Included in the Masonic jurisdiction of Pioche is Caliente, twenty-six miles away, which has contributed to the membership of St. Johns Lodge a fine aggregation of loyal consistent brothers. This memberihip has added greatly to the growth, prosperity, and welfare of the lodge.
During the (First – ed.) World War, Pioche gave her full quota to the cause. Some of these soldiers afterwards became members of the order. Among those enlisting and now members of No. 18, are Bros. Ben Roe, wounded in service, but eventually recovered; Earl Gatto, gassed and for many months in a Denver hospital; C. O. Scanneil, J. D. Ranner, J. W. Christian, W. W. Smith, and Walter A. Ray. St. Johns Lodge is proud of their record, but like most every man who enlisted and served his country well, these brothers will not discuss their record, although all served with honor, and some of them with distinction.
Prominent among the members of Pioche Lodge is brother W. M. Christian. Pro. Christian has served his lodge faithfully and well. In 1923 he filled the chair of Worshipful Master. His services were also recognized by the Grand Lodge where he occupied an appointive office until his business and health prohibited further service. He has also served with distinction in the 0. E. S., the Grand Chapter having honored him by electing him to the office of Grand Worthy Patron, in which office, with the vigor of his mental powers he gave a good account of his stewardship. Such characters as these, both in the past and present, having given to St. Johns Lodge No. 18 an enviable standing among men and Masons. He died in 1935.
Unlike many of the once famous and prosperous mining camps of Nevada, which sprang into existence and flourished for a few years, and with the depletion of rich veins and the inability to discover new leads, died a natural death, Pioche has maintained its place among the substantial metal producing camps of Nevada. At times its metal production has been practically discontinued, but the indomitable will of its citizens and their faith in the productivity of the surrounding district, has urged them to carry on, and their faith and courage has been justified for development work has proven that their mines are rich in metal and contain a store of treasure, which should ultimately bring large returns. With the development of the Boulder Dam project and the release of electrical current, it is no vain prophecy to make that the time will come when electric smelters will be installed, and with cheap power the ore can be worked to a most profitable advantage. The presence of vast lead deposit also support the prophecy that the time will come when Pioche will have its own lead working industries. Under present conditions the ore is shipped to eastern markets and treated at such concerns as the American White Lead Company, and the finished product reshipped to various western centers for distribution; but with the coming of cheap electric power, and I am informed that this current can be released at the dam for as low as seven-eighths of a cent per kilowatt, with line loss cared for, the old order will be changed.
Electric smelters for the roasting of the silver ore will also follow. With these industries established and at work, the outlook for this mining district looks very promising, and it seems safe to assume that the next few years will witness a substantial growth in the enterprises of this little city.
With these agencies at work, St Johns Lodge No. 18 should, and undoubtedly will, flourish and grow. With its splendid moral and fraternal spirit, with its honorable record in the past, with its outstanding membership of the present, and the example of such splendid Masons as Brothers Ed Cutts, John Redder, Geo. Nesbitt, John Shien, Thomas Osborne, Dr. J. D. Campbell and Ed Turner, who have long since gone to their reward, it is safe to assume that the ancient precepts of Masonry will remain in good hands, and the craft will “continue to spread its benign influence throughout its domain.
DEDICATION OF MONUMENT
AT MILLER’S POINT
With Earl T. Godbe, Master of St. Johns Lodge No. 18, F. & A. M., officiating, and with Congressman J. G. Scrugham, Col. T. W. Miller and State Engineer A. Merritt Smith in attendance, and several hundred members and guests on the grounds to witness the ceremony, members of the Masonic fraternity from Las Vegas, fly, Pioche and Caliente assembled at Miller’s Point overlooking Cathedral Gorge to witness the impressive ceremony of dedicating the monument and plaque, erected by St. Johns Lodge No. 18, and honoring Colonel T. W. Miller, who for the past few years has been a resident of Pioche, in the service of the state and government, and a tireless worker in St. Johns Lodge No. 18, F. & A. M.
The program opened with invocation by Rev. Carl Truesdale, followed by several numbers by the Pioche band, assisted by members from the Union Pacific band from Caliente. Congressman Scrugham made a stirring talk, paying tribute to the pioneers who first discovered Cathedral Gorge, and all those who had assisted in its development and improvement, and stressing the interest Pioche lodge had taken in making possible the day’s festivities.
He was followed by Col. Thos. W. Miller, who reviewed the activities of Congressman Scrugham in obtaining the consent of the government in having the gorge set aside as a national monument. We also paid a stirring tribute to the members of his fraternity for their readiness to foster the location of the Point, and his gratitude to them in honoring him in naming the locality for him.
State Engineer A. Merritt Smith paid tribute to Congressman Scrugham, Col. Miller, Mrs. Godbe, who discovered the Gorge, and others for helping to make it one of the beautiful spots of the west. He aim discussed the geological, as well as the physical structure of the monument, and was loud in his praise of the people of Lincoln county, and Pioche lodge in particular for their interest in bringing to fruition the events of the cclebrltion.
Mrs. Willard Smith in a few well selected words then officially dedicated the monument and plaque, and named the spot “Miller’s Point.” Following the dedication, all members of the Masonic fraternity, and their distinguished visitors, motored to Caliente, where a banquet was served at the Union Pacific dining room.
Written by Chas. A. Thompson, Secretary St. Johns Lodge No. 18
In 1863 the first white man of record to come to what is now Lincoln county was Wm. Hamblin, who was led by the Indians from St. George, Utah, to what is now Pioche and was shown the croppings of Silver ore, which they call in their language “Panacare.”
In 1864 Francis Lee and his family came from St. George, with all their belongings, driving their horses, cattle and sheep before them, and settled in the valley below here and established what is now the town of Panaca.
The rich silver mines in Pioche stimulated the growth of Panaca and resulted in several stamp mills being built at Bullionville, one mile away.
In 1864 W. S. Godbe became the president of Pioche Consolidated Mining Company and, with his wife, for a time made his home at Bullionville. While residing there, Mrs. Godbe was in the habit of taking horseback rides around the countryside, and during one of these jaunts, she traversed the gorge that lies beneath this gathering today. She realized the beauty of the myriad spires with which the gorge abounds, and named it “Cathedral Gulch.” It is quite fitting today that Earl T. Godbe, master of St. Johns Lodge No. 18, a grandson of Mrs. Godbe, should conduct these exercises. Although the gorge had been visited by some people from Panaca, it was Mrs. Godbe who gave it its name.
During the years that followed, William and George Edwards of Panaca and their sons, Elbert and Nephi, were active in showing parties through the gorge, and were among the first to thoroughly explore its many caves.
In 1924 Governor Jas. G. Scrugham with the assistance of the public schools of the county, arranged a pageant which was enacted by the school children, representing fairy talcs from different nations. The natural amphitheatre in the gorge was used for the first time. An electric light plant was installed, and colored lights were used for indirect lighting of the spires. This spectacular lighting effect, together with the colorful setting of the fairyland play, will long be remembered by the two thousand people attending. The graduates of the public schools received their diplomas from the hand of the governor on this occasion.
In May, 1926, Governor Scrugham again was the leading spirit in promoting another pageant in the Amphitheatre of the Gorge. This was attended by two thirds of the population of the county, and visitors from several states, and was the last word in outdoor entertainment. This pageant, entitled “The Court of Herod,” was directed by Joan Warren of Reno, with Mabel Roush in charge of the dances. The profusion of lighting effects, the Union Pacific Band of Los Angeles, with a local cast of players in their picturesque costumes completed the picture that added one more link in the chain of friendship that unites former Governor Scrugham with the people of Nevada.
In 1926 Governor Scrugham designated Cathedral Gorge a state park and the name was changed from Cathedral Gulch to Cathedral Gorge.
In 1927 Lincoln county drilled a well in the Gorge and the Panaca people built a reservoir and planted some trees. Although the reservoir was destroyed by a flood, it demonstrated what could be done in the way of creating a park if water was available.
In 1927 Lincoln county’s exhibit at the Reno Exposition consisted mainly of an exhibit built in Hollywood representing Cathedral Gorge. It was one of the most unique and outstanding exhibits at the fair.
In 1934 the government, through the Civilian Conservation Corps under the direction of Col. Thomas Miller did some extensive work in the Gorge, building a tower over the well, shade for picnic parties, paths and roads through the Gorge, and this pavilion where these exercises are being conducted.
On February 22, 1935, the Union Pacific Masonic Club while on a visit to the Gorge decided to name this spot “Miller’s Point” in honor of Col. Thos. W. Miller, who was conducting the club through the Gorge, and voted to supply the plaque which now adorns the monument built by St. Johns Lodge No. 18.
In 1935 the State Legislature designated Cathedral Gorge a State Park.
On this date, September 12, 1935, St. Johns Lodge No. 18 publicly dedicates this monument and deposits within its base such records as might enlighten future ages as to its purpose.
WINNEMUCCA LODGE NO. 19
With the invasion of the territory now known as the State of Utah came the first glimpse by the pioneers who crossed the plains, of a country which was to become the arena of pronounced political, religious, industrial and social strife; a territory which would embrace an inland domain spreading west from the present borders of the State of Colorado, to the Sierra Mountains, and running south from what is now Oregon, to a point in line with Los Angeles; a territory rich in resources, scenically and romantically beautiful in many spots, but withal, a desert.
A country wild and unconquered, fit to try the courage and test the fitness and determination of those heroic men and women who would match skill and cunning against the aridity of the desert, the stubbornness of the soil, the destruction of blistering winds and congealing cold, eventually to bring order out of chaos, and develop beauty where had existed ugliness, and cause barren wastes to teem with waving grain, ripening fruit and gorgeous flowers.
With the arrival of the pioneers at the shores of Great Salt Lake, the caravan divided, small groups treking over unmarked miles of this vast wilderness, and with the discovery of limpid mountain streams and what promised to become arable acres through intensive cultivation, returned to their first camping grounds, reloaded their worldly belongings and, with their families, again ventured into those anexplored wilds to lay the foundation for future communities.
This colonization movement eventually brought into being our beloved Nevada; for, through systematic effort, the pioneers extended their explorations far to the south and west, and sent their emissaries to new adventures toward the land of the setting sun, to open up new troves of wealth and force the treasure chests of nature, with which this territory was so richly endowed. A superabundance of rare minerals; remnants of long forgotten tribes; and the remains of earliest antiquity were uncovered by pick and shovel as these hardy pioneers proceeded with their explorations, and a vast though arid country was explored far to the ever extending west; new districts were born, whose development have written into the history of our country pages of unbelievable hardships and adventures, though likewise studded with periods of romance and glamour; a country traversed by winding trails through mountain fastnesses and across pitiless desert sands, emerging along the banks of rushing crystal creeks, or wending its way over frequent stretches of sage and buffalo grass, blazing a trail known to posterity, as “The Overland Trail,” destined to become a thoroughfare, which in succeeding years should witness the passage of mighty caravans pushing westward to the alluvial sands of California, or later, stampeding to the gold and silver bearing ledges of the Comstock, only diverging to explore the rich ore deposits of Austin and Eureka, and then on again to the “land of the Golden West.”
Along this trail, too, were destined to be established outstanding settlements which would become the sanctuary of dauntless men and women, gathered to wage grim warfare with relentless, semi-arid acres, but determined to brave the perils, hardships and privations incident to the development of a primitive country, and build an enduring empire through the practice of courage, bravery, and unceasing toil and energy.
Such a settlement was made at a point in what is now Humboldt county, on the banks of the Humboldt river, at what was formerly known as the “Great Bend.” It was established in the year 1850 as a trading post on the Overland Trail, and was known as “French Ford.”
The name “Winnemucca” was given it by C. B. O. Bannon, nephew of the secretary of the Interior, under President Lincoln, who is said to have had in mind the perpetuation of the name the Pahute tribe of Indians gave to their chiefs: Winnemucca, in their language meaning literally, “place by the river,” where the chief of the tribe always resided.
With the arrival of the settlers, soon the choicest tracts for agricultural purposes were located, and there began the conquering of what for centuries had been desert wastes. Sandy stretches gave way to well ordered farms, and through the agency of a crude, but efficient system of irrigation, by the following summer the fields were yielding their harvest of much needed produce.
At the great bend of the river, a small but well planned townsite had been laid out, and here and there small, but substantial houses were beginning to appear. By the end of its third year of existence, the population of Winncmucca had been increased by other arrivals, who, sensing the possibilities of the surrounding territory, unhitched their horses, unyoked their oxen, and remained to give impetus to the growing settlement. Here, for years, travelers towards the great unknown west continued to halt, many of them to stay indefinitely. As a consequence, the little settlement threw off its swaddling clothes, and took on some of the airs and habiliments of a real frontier town. A few small but adequate business houses wcie built along the town’s main street; a tiny school house was erected, and from the wooden belfry of a small church a tiny bell called the people of the settlement to worship.
And so the years sped by, bringing to the settlers peace and harmony, success and prosperity, while the little valley was fast becoming a veritable Arcadia. Through the kindly ministrations of the white men, the Pahute Indians buried the hatchet, and were now the friends and allies of their pale faced brethren.
A new era had dawned upon this one time land which God forgot, and “onward, and forward” was the slogan impelling the settlers toward the goal of a laudable ambition, a hope to make their little town and its outlying districts, a mecca toward which would gravitate a worthwhile representative people, to bring stability into their midst.
It was among such as these that Masonry found its way into the district. Just when it arrived, no one of the present day is able to say, nor are there any living now who were even children then, who can throw any light upon the situation. Rut Masonry was at hand, and those who had found sanctuary in the order in other sections of the country did not long remain insensible to the presence of one another.
While the actual establishment of a Masonic lodge in Winnemucca was almost a quarter of a century in becoming a reality after the settlement was effected in 1850, yet it is Masonic tradition that those who were members of the craft were not long in effecting an organization, which was not officially recognized, but which partook more of the nature of infrequent gatherings at the cabin or secluded home of some member. While the forms and ceremonies of a regular lodge were by no means attempted, yet there was a fraternal spirit present and Masonic discussion and some of the landmarks of the craft were observed.
Most of these brethren were verging upon middle age when they left their native heath, and the passing years had borne heavily upon them. To them, however, must be given the credit for keeping alive the fraternal spirit of Masonry in the formative years of the district, while Winnemucca was taking place and rank as one of the most outstanding settlements along the Overland Trail. To these brethren, most of whom had passed to the Great Beyond by the time the district was ready to support a Masonic lodge, must also be given the credit for taking the first steps which eventually led to the organization of the craft in Winnemucca.
Almost without exception, the early history of any so called secret society becomes engulfed in the mists of uncertainty as Time marches on.
There are various reasons for this; first, the prime movers in the movement either drop from the ranks or, having lived their lives, pass to that bourne from whence no traveler has ever returned; second, facts become confused with fiction, and fiction in turn is contaminated by myth as time passes on, so it is difficult, and in some cases absolutely impossible to establish beyond the peradventure of doubt, the origin of many units of our fraternity, or trace their development prior to a period beyond the ken of the present generation. This is not difficult to understand when we know that such organizations were often made by enthusiasts who were so often more interested in perfecting the organization than they were in preserving a complete and detailed record of its development and proceedings.
This is one of the barriers which confronts the searcher for data, a barrier which yields to no painstaking effort; a barrier which breeds discouragement, and may be said to be insurmountable.
Again, as has so often happened in the early settlements of Nevada, fire has wiped out whole sections of towns and in its greed, destroyed whatever records that may have been prepared, entailing a loss not only of a material nature, but what is perhaps more lamentable, depriving future posterity of the precious privilege of glimpsing the romance and glamour of what may have been, preeminently, one of the most interesting and exciting situations in pioneer days.
In compiling the history of Winnemucca lodge, we are confronted with situations similar to those just mentioned, and so, there is but a skeleton of the original founding incidents to be had, from which, like the biologist, in reconstructing some prehistoric form of animal life from a fossil bone, the completed Masonic structure must be built.
Several informal meetings of resident and sojourning members of the Craft in Winnemucca were called for the purpose of making tentative plans to effect an organization, during the years 1871 and 1872, but these efforts were ineffectual. The question of obtaining a suitable meeting place and raising sufficient funds to furnish and equip their hall and remit the necessary charter fee, was a stumbling block. Finally, however, through the concerted efforts of brothers P. W. Johnson, A. I. Shepard, and Thomas Shone, the plan was successfully financed, and application was made to the Grand Lodge of Nevada for a dispensation to open a lodge of Master Masons, the petition containing the names of the following brethren: Pleasant W. Johnson, James Ritchie, Andrew J. Shepard, James E. Sabine, Moses Seigel, Thomas Shone, William H. Welsh, and Alexander Wise, the petition being forwarded to the Grand Secretary during the early part of June, 1874. On the seventeenth day of June, 1874, M. W. Horatio S. Mason, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, issued a dispensation for a lodge of Master Masons to be holden at Winnemucca, Nevada. At the next succeeding annual communication of the Grand Lodge, November 18, 1874, a charter was granted to the lodge, and it was numbered 19, Nevada registry. The names of sixteen Master Masons appear on the first return of the lodge.
The finding of suitable quarters in which to dispense Masonic light being accomplished, on the 25th day of june, 1874, the brethren of Winnemucca Lodge assembled, and with due ceremony instituted the new unit of Masonry, under dispensation according to Masonic form and procedure. Owing to the lapse of time, the passing of those who were living at that date, and the destruction of lodge records by a subsequent fire, it has been impossible to determine beyond cavil, the exact location of the first meeting place of Winnemucca Lodge No. 19. Traditions of the lodge however have it, that it was held in a building located near the present site of the Hotel Humboldt, but reliable authority for this contention cannot be established. However, Masonry continued to expand in the frontier town and eventually, a new location was found where the present Masonic temple is located, at the corner of Bridge and East Fourth Street.
In the meantime, satisfactory evidence of the qualifications of the official family of No. 19, having been established, and copies of their records having been presented to the Grand Lodge for inspection and approval, at the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of 1874 the following recommendation was offered:
To the M: W: Grand Lodge of Nevada:
Your committee on Charters would respectfully report that they have examined the proceedings of Winnemucca Lodge, U. D. and find their work to have been in accordance with the Constitution of this Grand Lodge; also that their minutes have been well and neatly kept, and in our opinion that lodge is deserving of a charter at this Grand Communication.
We therefore offer the following resolution: RESOLVED, That a warrant of constitution be issued to the above named lodge, to be called Winnemucca Lodge No. 19, at Winnemucca, Nevada, and the following named brethren he named as the first officers, in accordance with the petition of said lodge, viz: Bro. P. W. Johnson, W. M.; Bro. A. J. Shepard, S. W.; Bro. Thos. Shone, J. W.
We also offer the following provision for their annual election as they will not be constituted in time to hold their annual election for officers as required by the Constitution: RESOLVED, That Winnemucca Lodge, No. 19, is hereby authorized and empowered to hold their annual election of officers on the first Saturday in December, A. L. 5874.
All of which is respectfully submitted. Wm. L. French, Samuel Owen, C. F. Brant, Committee. Dated: November 18, 1674.
The account of the constituting of Winnemucca Lodge No. 19 is clouded in obscurity, since the record as compiled by the Grand Lodge was destroyed in the disastrous fire at Virginia City in 1875, along with the minutes for the special Grand Communication of October 12th of that year and, since the records of Winnemucca lodge also went up in smoke in the year 1890, all trace of the constituting of No. 19 have been lost. It is presumed, however, that Grand Master Robert W. Bollen either performed the ceremony, or directed one of his Grand Lodge officers to do so, since he served the Grand Lodge as M. W. Grand Master in the years 1874 and 1875. But this is mere conjecture, as no one living today can recall the event. But the ceremony was duly performed, and sometime between November 18, 1874, the date the charter was issued, and December 5th of the same year, the time named in the recommendations of the Charters Committee of the Grand Lodge, for holding their annual election of officers.
With the constituting of the lodge, and the installation of its new officers, a period of intensive effort commenced to build up the organization, and so well did the lodge perform its work, and so consistently did it fulfill its fraternal obligations, that it soon attracted to itself the attention of the community, with the result that new applications were received, and its trestle board was filled with work.
With the passing of the years, Masonry in Winnemucca continued to expand, the lodge performing its labors in the building located near the corner of what is now Bridge and Fourth Street. However, the lodge did not own this building, it having been built through the efforts of a Masonic Building Association, whch was officered by Alex Wise, president; T. C. Hansen, vice president; I. N. Levy, secretary, associated with J. H. McMillan and George Berk, directors. The cornerstone of this building was officially placed by Most Worshipful C. W. Hinchcliff, who on the seventh day of September, 1889, convened a Grand Lodge in Winncmucca, and in full regalia, and with the impressive ceremony of a dedication and consecration, laid the corner stone in place.
The following is a list of articles sealed within the stone: Envelope containing History of Temple. List of officers of Humboldt county, and the state of Nevada. Constitution of the Grand Lodge of Nevada year 1882. Proceedings of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. State of Nevada, 1889. By-laws of Winnemucca Lodge No. 19. By-laws of Humboldt Chapter No. 9, Royal Arch Masons, 1884. Article, “The Masons on the Mountains” from Virginia (Nev.) Territorial Enterprise, September 9, 1875 (printed on silk). Copy of the “Silver State” of August 27, and September 7, 1SS9. Card of George R. Walker, 326 A. & A. S. R.F.M.S.J.Grand High Priest. Card of George Berk. Card of S. I. Anderson, J. W. September 7, 1889. Envelope containing article by Harry Marett (druggist). Name plate of Paul Gasmin. A One Dollar bill (1886). One silver dollar (1878), one half dollar (1869), one penny (1846), one penny (1880).
After the impressive ceremonies, the lodge returned to the lodge rooms where an appropriate program was carried out, including an address by the Most Worshipful Grand Master.
The next few years were uneventful in Masonic circles in Winnemucca. The increase in membership was steady, but by no means spectacular.
There was some agitation in reference to promoting a chapter of Capitular Masonry, but the more conservative members of the lodge advised a postponement of the attempt, until Masonic strength might warrant the move.
However, the desire to establish a chapter had been felt and, in spite of the advice of the older members, the younger brethren resolved to apply for a charter, with the result, that by the end of 1882, a charter had been granted, and Capitular Masonry was an established unit in Winnemucca.
And so one by one the years came and went, with no discouragements nor disappointments to mar the harmony of the brethren, nor disturb the long period of advancement of the lodge. But, unknown to them, disaster was ahead, which would try their mettle and test their fraternal endurance.
This disaster came upon them during the summer of 1890, when a fire of unknown origin broke out in the lower story of the building occupied by the brethren for a meeting place, and before it was discovered, had made such headway that it was beyond control. The interior of the building was entirely destroyed, the outer walls alone remaining after the blaze had been subdued. The records, furniture, and paraphernalia of Winnemucca Lodge No. 19, and the belongings of Winnemucca Chapter No. 9 R. A. M. were a total loss. While the loss was a severe blow to the brethren, entailing a financial loss of several hundred dollars, besides the destruction of the records of lodge procedure which could never be replaced, yet the brethren did not despair; heroically they set about to reestablish the finances of their lodge and so well did they succeed, that by the beginning of 1892, they were again firmly established in the town.
The site of their old building having been acquired by George H. Nixon in 1891, and reconstructed to fit the needs of the lodge, new furniture and conveniences were installed by the Blue Lodge and Chapter, with the result that their lodge room was one of the most comfortable and finest in appearance in the state. Eventually the property was purchased by T. D. Brown, father of Most Worshipful Merwyn H. Brown, and for many years has been the home of the various Masonic bodies of Winnemucca, where exclusive Masonic quarters are maintained on the second floor of the building.
That the Masonic brethren of Winnemucca were progressive, is proven by their continued activities; during their months of plenty as well as their months of want; through periods of discouragement as well as during periods of prosperity, their zeal never wavered. The course of their fraternal barque upon the sea of Masonry was marked at times by adverse winds and sullen skies, but with faith in themselves and the order which gave them sanctuary, they pressed onward toward the goal of a lofty ambition which had for its object the building of an institution which would become a loyal and commanding unit among the constituent lodges of the state.
Royal Arch Masonry, Humboldt Chapter No. 9
How well the brethren adhered to their resolve, and how nobly they builded, is evidenced not only in the strength and prestige of the Blue Lodge, but is manifested in their loyalty and devotion to the principles of Masonry by the establishment of other branches of the order in their midst, since in the summer of 1882, Humboldt Chapter No. 9 Royal Arch Masons was organized with a charter list of 23 members, naming George R. Walker, High Priest, Thomas Shone, King, and Chas. Duncan as Scribe. According to the Register, the following is a list of the oldest members : Felix Paulin, W. E. Cobb, A. C. Webb, E. A. Lewis, P. Laveaga, J. H. Shone, Thos. Nelson, J. W. Smith, Joseph Morgan, A. W. Lindsay, W. A. Brown, F. C. Hampton, Geo. Berk, W. G. Case, C. Diehl, C. D. Duncan, F. C. Hanson, E. D. Kelley, J. N. Levy, Thos. Shone.
For several years the future of Capitular Masonry in Winnemucca was regarded as uncertain, since the industrial conctitions in the district were at low ebb, but with a turn of the tide, and the location of mining properties nearby, which eventually uncovered mineral values of sufficient merit to warrant the employment of sizable forces of workmen, many of whom maintained residences in the town, a revival of interest in the Chapter ensued, and as the business of the little city expanded, there was a noticeable increase in the numerical strength of the Chapter; today, it is a dominating factor in the fraternal affairs of Winnemucca.
Winnemucca Commandery No. 4, K. T.
The growth of the Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, stimulated interest in, and a desire for the investure of the York Rite, and plans were made to organize a Commandery. At first the proiect seemed impossible, but with the same perseverance and determination which had actuated the desires and resolves of the brethren to establish the Blue Lodge and Chapter, they harbored no thought of failure or defeat, and went forward with their plans, with the result that Winnemucca Commandery No. 4 was heralded into existence, and became a potential factor in Templar growth in Nevada.
The records show that a special dispensation was issued to this Commandery September 25, A. D. 1914. A. 0. 796.
The Charter was issued by Lee Stewart Smith, Grand Commander, Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America, in the city of Los Angeles, Calif., the 24th day of July, 1916. The Charter members were: Adolphus Leigh Fitzgerald, James Conrad Doughty, Arthur James Hood, Isaac Griswold, Edward Augustus Ducker, Charles Pendleton Hoskins, Carlton Earl Haviland, Andrew Ruckteschler, Felix Paulin, Christian Wolf, Frank Joseph Olivarious, William Ambrose Brown, Fred Ignatius Tyler, Joseph Louis Kubicek, William Sutherland Bonnifield, Louis Graham Campbell, Theobald Mathew Fatten, Arthur Gartield Woodward, John Wallace Smith, Turlin Delos Brown, Charles Henry Fredson, James Frederick Abel, Andrew Jansen Jahn, Leland Stephen Young, Michael Walsh, John Breier, Reuben Battels, Joseph Francis O’Byme.
Acting under this dispensation, the following officers were inducted into office: A. L. Fitzgerald, E. M.; Felix Paulin, S. W.; J. W. Smith, J. W.; Edw. A. Ducker, Prelate; T. D. Brown, Treasurer; J. S. Abel, Recorder; C. E. Haviland, Warder. The records fail to disclose the names of either the Generalissimo or the Captain General.
Referring to the old minutes of the Commandery, we find that the first Conclave was held in Silver State Hall in Winnemucca, on November 14, 1914.
The first election of officers was held after receiving their Charter, October 7, 1916, and the following officers were elected and installed by Right Eminent Sir Elmer E. Stone, Eminent Sir A. L. Fitzgerald acting as Grand Marshal: William Ambrose Brown, E. C.; Andrew Ruckteschler, Gen. Ismo.; William Sutherland, C. General; Fclix Paulin, Senior Warden; John Wallace Smith, Junior Warden; Edw. A. Ducker, Prelate; Turin D. Brown, Treasurer; James S. Abel, Recorder. Appointive officers: Reubin Battels, Standard Bearer; Joseph L. Kubicek, Sword Bearer; Carlton E. Haviland, Warder; Christian Wolf, Sentinel; Frank J. Olivarious, First Guard; Theobald M. Patten, Secorid Guard; Chas. P. Hoskins, Third Guard.
Since its organization, Winnemucca Commandery has enjoyed a substantial growth, and has fulfilled the expectations of those responsible for its organization. It has become a popular and fraternal unit, and when, upon the occasions of its appearance, it appears in full regalia, and in precise and stately movement, it is the recipient of well merited applause and admiration.
Royal and Select Masters
In the history of Nevada, compiled by Sam Davis, there appears the following statement from the pen of the late Robert Lewers, Past Grand Master of Masons of Nevada, the article captioned, “Fraternal Societies” viz: “There have been several Councils of Royal and Select Masters established in Nevada, but no records have been kept, and it is almost impossible to get a definite history of their work.” Nevada Council No. One was organized in Goldfield June 1, 1907. Other councils came into existence, notably at Virginia City, Reno, and Eureka.”
Brother Lewers does not give these units a serial number; if their numbers were recorded they may have passed into oblivion with the decadence and abandonment of these councils, one of which was revived at Reno a few years ago.
Eighteen years after the organization of Council No. One in Goldfield, the brethren in Winnemucca, mindful of the beautiful and instructive lessons and the wonderful ceremonies incorporated in council degrees, petitioned the Grand Council for permission to organize a unit in their city.
This petition was graciously granted, and Brown Council No. 2, R. & S. M., was authorized to frame its charter, the ceremony of Investure being performed with its usual impressiveness, following the receipt of the Charter, according to the minutes of this council, May 15, 1925.
At its first meeting following receipt of the cherished document, the following officers were elected and installed: William A. Brown, T. I. M.; M. E. Morrison, Deputy Master; F. H. Pierce, P. C. W.; Felix Paulin, Treasurer; Duane Rush, Recorder; Andrew Lillie, C. G.; Edwin S. Dyer, D. of C.; Henrg Cooks, Steward; Gee. A. Bain, Sentinel.
Masonry today occupies an enviable position in the fraternal life of Winnemucca. While its numerical growth has not been unusual during the years, it has been steady and substantial, and has left its impress upon the social life and activities of the inland city.
It has furnished to the city and to the state, men of unimpeachable character and reputation, while a fine spirit of loyalty and unity exists among the brethren, among whom “no inharmony or contention prevails, save that noble contention, or rather emulation, of who best can work, and best agree.”
Prominent among the outstanding Masons of Winnemucca lodge, is our present (1944 – ed.) M. W. Grand Master, Merwyn H. Brown.
To recapitulate his progress in Masonry would necessitate recording years of persistent, painstaking effort on his part, spent in the service of the brethren. A tireless worker, a parliamentarian of rare ability, and a natural born leader, his popularity and ability has won for him well merited praise among the craft, in whatever branch of Masonry he has served.
He retires at the close of this session, with the best wishes of the fraternity he has served so faithfully and impartially; and, as he surrenders the gavel of his authority, and the regalia of his office, it is with the knowledge that there is no stain of unworthiness upon them.
PALISADE LODGE NO. 20
The territory embraced within the boundaries of the Town of Palisade remained a barren tract long after other settlements along the Overland Trail had been made; its advantageous situation on the banks of the Humboldt river, and its desirable location as a distributing point, were not long overlooked by the railroad, when its rails were extended eastward, and resulted in a settlement being made at the base of the bluffs which flank the bend of the river at this point, and from which the town takes its name.
Ultimately, Palisade became not only a distributing point for supplies along the line of the advancing rails, but in time it also became the terminal of the Eureka Palisade railroad, a valuable feeder in the transportation of ore from the rich mines of Lander and Eureka counties to the south; as a center of distribution for the cattle and sheep industry of the adjacent ranges, it became a mecca towards which stockmen drove their herds for shipment to both eastern and western markets. These advantages gave to the town a prominence which attracted to it a sizable population, and as a result, it enlarged its area with the addition of new homes, new business houses and mercantile establishments which added to its financial solidity and importance, and for many years insured its stability and prospects.
With the joining of the rails at Promontory Point uniting the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific railroads in 1869, a new era dawned for the various settlements along the road, and with the stimulation of travel and its gravitation towards the west, notice was directed towards the settlements which gave the most promise of outgrowing their swaddling clothes, and taking on some of the habiliments of stability and progress.
In the resultant attention which was directed to some of the newer settlements along the rails, Palisade profited, and as the years passed, attracted to itself a population which lent not only dignity to the border town, but brought strength to its destiny, and in time it became, not only the terminal of a railroad, but was accounted one of the most promising and outstanding stations along the railroad.
In time, Palisade became a dominant railroad town, and harbored an outstanding class of citizens, the most of whom were employed by the railroads, among whom, hailing from various jurisdictions throughout the country, were members of the Masonic craft, who grew to know one another as brethren, and among whom was developed the urge to not only meet upon a common level, but to whom came the desire to find a sanctuary where they might gather and enjoy the fraternal contact so thoroughly appreciated by all Masons.
To this end, plans were formulated to bring to a focus their fraternal desires, and a meeting was called with the object in view of effecting some sort of a Masonic organization, either a Masonic club, or an association, or it might be to frame a petition to the Grand Lodge of Nevada for permission to organize a Masonic lodge under dispensation.
News of their activities had spread, and the brethren of Elko lodge No. 15 became aware of their intentions, and for reasons not altogether apparent today, protested the establishment of a Masonic unit in the junction town. This situation hung fire for one or two communications of the Grand Lodge, the cause of the brethren of Palisade being championed by Eureka Lodge No. 16, eventually, the prayer of the petitioners from Palisade was granted, and on June 3, 1876, a dispensation was issued to sixteen brethren to organize a lodge, naming T. F. Lawler as worshipful Master. The lodge worked under this dispensation until June 13, 1877. In the interim, Elko lodge had withdrawn its earlier objection, and being in full accord and sympathy with the brethren, joined with Eureka in recommending that a charter be issued the new lodge. Agreeable to this action of the two lodges, the Grand Lodge of Nevada under authorization of Merrill P. Freeman, Grand Master, directed that a charter be issued to the Palisade brethren, and that the lodge be given the number 20 on Nevada registry, and that Thos. F. Lawler be made worshipful master of the new lodge, Geo. Royal be named as senior warden, and James E. Marshall be designated as junior warden.
The authority to organize a lodge of Masons in Palisade was issued to the following brethren: Joseph H. Byers, John R. Burnett, Neil Campbell, Dudley L. Davis, John Dysert, Wm. S. Evans, John N. Hill, Jas. H. Hathaway, Wm. G. Hedges, John T. Hutchinson, Thos. R. Jewell, Daniel B. Lyons, Owen Jones, Thos. R. Moore, William Mousley, J. E. Marshall, Thos. Miller,Thos. McArdle, Wm. S. McLullan, Edw. Phoenix, Isaac Rice, George Royal, Joel Willard.
The lodge held its first meeting under the new charter July 28, 1877, and installed all elective and appointive officers, except Geo. Royal, and James E. Marshall, who in the meantime, had removed from the district. In their place, W. S. McLullan was installed as senior warden, and T. R. Moore as junior warden.
Contrary to expectations, Palisade lodge did not live up to the expectations of those responsible for its being. It is said that its maximum membership never exceeded twenty-five, a large percentage of its members being railroad employees, on night shifts, and due to this fact attendance at the meetings was never large, a factor which mitigated against normal progress, and consequent growth and activity was materially handicapped.
In addition to this, ore production in the district served by the Eureka-Palisade railroad fell off, and ore shipments were below normal, which reduced freight traffic, and affected the business activities of the town, and with the partial abandonment of mining industry in the district and a gradual removal of many who depended upon that industry for their support, the town was slowly but surely being depopulated.
Gradually, year by year, the town continued to retrograde, and by 1880 it had dwindled in importance as a railroad station, and it was inevitable that it would go the way of so many prosperous towns which came into existence in the early sixties and seventies, enjoyed a period of prosperity, then sank into almost obscurity.
As the years advanced, Palisade felt the force of depression, so, likewise did Masonry languish in the town until, by 1884, with only a remnant of its former membership left, the lodge was experiencing difficulty in holding meetings, due to the impossibility of assembling a constitutional quorum. Months passed by without a meeting being held, with the result that after repeated urging and endeavor on the part of the Grand Lodge to revive activities in the lodge, and to persuade the brethren to hold their charter, at the Grand Lodge session of 1886, the charter was declared forfeited, and the lodge became extinct. At the time of the forfeiture, the lodge is said to have had only five members left.
The illustration of Palisade lodge accompanying this chapter is taken from an old sketch apparently made only a few years before the charter of the lodge was forfeited. The circumstances surrounding its discovery were unusual, and were brought about as follows: The writer, when compiling the history of Ely Lodge No. 29, of Ely, Nevada, had access to the old records of the lodge, and in poring over the venerable books in search of possible data reflecting old items or accounts of interest to the brethren, and of value as to historical importance, unearthed an old book of printed receipts at one time used by the treasurer of Palisade lodge No. 20; also an old visitors register of early vintage.
In leafing through the book of receipts, of which but a few had been used out of two hundred fifty or more originals, over in the back part of the book the sketch from which the illustration was made, was discovered.
It was a treasured find, for there had never been a photograph taken of the Masonic building in Palisade that any brother knew about, and a destructive fire years ago had wiped out the row of buildings the artist had so painstakingly sketched in the long ago. As a matter of fact, inquiry by the writer who made an especial trip to the town of Palisade after the sketch was found to inquire if there was any remaining member of the old Masonic lodge of that place still living, and could verify the authenticity of the sketch, and give the exact location of the building, revealed that there was no such member of the Craft to be found, neither was it possible to locate any of the town’s residents at the time – during the year 1937 – whose memory of the settlement went back to the date inscribed on the sketch. I found, however, an old lady whose brother, John Dysert, she said was sixteen years her senior, had at one time been a member of Palisade lodge, and with whom she had at one time gone as a young girl to attend a Christmas celebration held in the Masonic lodge hall, which she recalled was reached by climbing a flight of stairs, and that she had passed by several other buildings on the same side of the street on which the lodge hall was located. She recalled that the trip into town from their ranch home about twenty-five miles out from Palisade, had been made on horseback, that it was a bitter cold night, and she had glimpsed the building only after dark. She was certain, however, that the picture which was handed her, was a picture of the building in which the celebration was held the night she went with her brother.
How the old visitors register, and the partially used receipt book of the treasurer of Palisade lodge, in which the sketch was found came to be in the possession of Ely lodge No. 29, no one seems to definitely know. It is presumed, however, that they were picked up, or in some manner came into the hands of Brother Wm. C. Gallagher, who died many years ago, and who was at one time secretary of Ely lodge. It is presumed that the records were placed in his hands by some former member of Palisade lodge, after that lodge passed out of existence in 1888, who knew Brother Gallagher as a member of the Craft, and having occasion to come to Ely, decided to turn the old records over to him to dispose of as he saw fit.
At any rate, after years of concealment under a weight of old documents and records accumulated by Ely lodge, they luckily came to light to supply a link between the past and present, and to furnish a material evidence of the existence of a one time unit of Masonry, housed in a comfortable, if unpretentious structure, dedicated to the promulgation and practice of “those truly Masonic virtues: Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.”
TUSCARORA LODGE # 21
The story of the remarkable mineral productions from the treasure laden hills and mountains of Nevada, sounds like a tale from The Arabian Nights; and resolves itself into a story of two parts: the period of discovery and the era of productivity, and the period of decline, and of exhausted ore supplies.
To the first period belongs the mining of the unbelievable wealth which was taken from the fabulously rich mines of Treasure City, Austin, Eureka, Aurora, Virginia City, and later from Tonopah, Goldfield, Searchlight, and the mushroom towns of RhyoIite, Bullfrog, and other mining camps which were born on rich mineral slopes, existed for a short period, and passed into decay.
To the second period belongs the era of lack of supply and depression which followed in the wake of exhausted ore bodies, and brought into existence the “Ghost Towns of Nevada, of which there are many.
The wonderful mineral resources of Nevada were, however, not embraced entirely in the mineral zones surrounding the locations we have named, for in other sections of the state are, and have been found other treasure chests of nature which have brought fortune to those who have uncovered them, and wealth to the districts in which they have been discovered and developed.
Such a zone lies in Elko county near the head of a broad, imposing valley, through which traverses the road leading from the county seat to the town of Tuscarora, where lies a mineral district discovered by Beard brothers in 1867, and whose secrets and extent are yet to be fully probed and explored, although since this ore body was uncovered by those old prospectors in the long ago, it has yielded its wealth and brought fortune to those patient enough to mine its unyielding depths.
The most optimistic believe that sizable bodies of ore lie hidden somewhere within the shallow depths of the wind swept slopes around Tuscarora, and that some day their secrets will be opened to the genius, toil and determination of some lucky prospector, and when that day arrives, another rush of hardy men will result, another tent city may arise over night upon the site, and another district may resound to the hum of mining activity, as another old mining camp “comes back” as if by magic, when news of another strike is heralded far and wide, and the trails leading up from the valley are darkened by men and women hastening to another El Dorado.
In recent years Tuscarora district has not been extensively mined or prospected, but in the late Seventies and up to the gay Nineties, much activity was developed in that locality, and human migration to that, and the Cornucopia districts, was extensive; but in any event, Tuscarora has had its period of mining excitement, and its ore production has brought forth favorable comment in high mining circles, for in the report of the Surveyor General for the year 1885-1886 is found this statement: “Tuscarora has mines in which ore is found of fabulous values; if this were found on the Comstock, it would produce an excitement eclipsing the old Bonanza mines.”
In addition to its mineral deposits, Tuscarora is valuable as a ranching and stock raising district, and contains some extensive territory devoted to these enterprises, the most well known of which is that of T. T. Fairchild. a resident of this section of Nevada for many years.
There is interest to the Craft in the record of Tuscarora Lodge No. 21, organized in a community which for more than twelve years had been the arena for a brave and determined struggle to develop its mineral resources, and at the time of the organization of the lodge, saw in the development of its ore reserves the probable fruition of years of ungratified hopes, and entered upon the era of its existence with every promise of becoming a strong and commanding unit of Masonry among the constituent lodges of Nevada.
Any mining district with such promising prospects was certain to attract the attention of all mining classes, with the result that when the extent and value of the Tuscarora field became known, not only the mucker, the hard rock miner, the prospector, but also the gambler, the promoter, the adventurer, and the seeker after romance and excitement turned their footsteps towards the new strike to share in the ultimate success or failure of the camp.
But unlike other mineral deposits in Nevada which were productive of great values, Tuscarora produced only a mild degree of the excitement attendant upon the discovery of famous ore bodies in other sections of the state. It is true, both men and women of the type which usually rush to a new strike, came to the camp, but their number was small, and as the ore veins were slow in yielding their values, excitement waned, and many who had come expecting to find another Comstock, departed to other, more promising fields.
However, many remained and these were finally rewarded as the drifts penetrated to lower levels, and shafts were driven to greater depths and rich ore bodies were uncovered.
Tuscarora has never lived up to the hopes and expectations of those who promoted its mines, nor those who invested their capital in the venture; its ore bodies are elusive, a rich find today may result in pinched out values tomorrow, although the opinion has been voiced by competent mining engineers that a rich ore body is there.
But, regardless of its ore reserves, there assembled at the camp a sizable gathering of men and women, who in time created order from confusion, and who, from a motley collection of shanties and shacks, built up a settlement of homes and commercial enterprises which constituted a town of creditable proportions. David MacLain, now (1944) living in Ely, Nevada, and at this writing past eighty-six years of age, who lived in Tuscarora about the year 1880, says: “At the peak of Tuscarora’s prosperity, it had about 3300 inhabitants, 1800 of which were on the pay rolls of the mines; there were two large boarding houses in the place, two good-sized hotels, several general stores, saloons, a drug store, a jewelry store, a gun shop, and enough houses to comfortably care for the population. There were enough mills to take care of the ore mined, the largest of which was the Union Mill built in 1883, and which, because wood was scarce, used sage brush for fuel to fire its huge boilers and develop steam and power.
It followed as a natural sequence, that in the heterogeneous mass of humanity, there were many undesirables who brought to the town plenty of notoriety; gambling was wide open, and the din of squeaky music, the sound of boisterous laughter, the shuffle of gliding feet in the dance hall, and ardent and meaning glances of painted women, told of “gilded palaces” where morality was at low ebb, and where vice held sway.
With the development of the shallow ore bodies, and the influx of labor and capital, came the advance guard of Masonry. By the beginning of 1877, a number of sojourning Masons were among the residents of the district and, having become acquainted with one another, met to discuss ways and means whereby they might engage in the diffusion of Masonic Light; during the latter part of the year, an association was effected, which had for its object the promotion of Masonic contact. For six months this organization is said to have functioned, when its eleven members early in 1878 petitioned the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Nevada for authority to establish a Masonic lodge under dispensation in Tuscarora, and on February 27 the request was granted and a warrant of dispensation was issued to the brethren, naming James Kelley, worshipful master; T. W. Smith, senior warden; W.J. Hamilton, junior warden.
Upon the delivery of this document, and the installation of its first officers, the lodge entered upon a period of intensive work which continued until the annual communication of the Grand Lodge held in Virginia City, in June, 1878, when the records and documents of the lodge were presented to the Committee on Charters, and were approved, and a recommendation was made by this committee to the Grand Lodge that a charter be granted Tuscarora lodge U. D.
The recommendation received favorable consideration, and a charter was accordingly issued to the following officers and members of Tuscarora : James Z. Kelley, worshipful master; Wellington F. Smith, senior warden; Wm. J. Hamilton, junior warden; Arthur Booth, treasurer; Thos. R. Butler, secretary; Chas. Radcliffe, senior deacon; James R. Howes, junior deacon; Jas. M. Woodworth, Wm. A. Mitchell, stewards; Elijah T. Yeates, tyler. Master Masons: G. W. Connor, Richard Ellis, John A. Erwin, Wm. J. Martin, J. W. Powell, Chris Wagner.
The journal of proceedings for the year 1878 states that the following brethren of the lodge had demitted during the year: Josiah Armsden, Wm. Bishop, Christopher Egbert, Wm. Fanagher, Fred C. Farnham, Geo. P. Kittridge; Willer Young.
It was also the recommendation of the Charters Committee that the charter be issued to “Tuscarora Lodge, Number 21, on Nevada registry.” While the secretary’s record does not state that any Grand Lodge officer delivered this charter, constituted the lodge and installed its officers, it is assumed that this service was performed by Past Grand Master Merrill P. Freeman, whose term of office as Grand Master of Nevada Masons had expired at the recent communication of the Grand Lodge held in Virginia City, and by whose authority Tuscarora Lodge had been issued its dispensation, and under whose hand the charter had been authorized; he was a resident of Elko, Nevada, less than a day’s drive from Tuscarora, and is supposed to have made the trip and performed that official service.
The first building in which the brethren of the new lodge met, was known as the Yates building, and was constructed of adobe bricks, on the ground floor of which there was a jewelry store, and a gunsmith’s shop. The upper floor was rented to the various lodges operating in Tuscarora at that time, the Knights of Pythias, the Oddfellows, and the Ancient Order United Workmen. This building was known in later years as “The Morgue” and is said to have been condemned about twenty years ago; since that time, the walls and the roof have collapsed, and it is in a deplorable and dangerous condition, but when Tuscarora lodge was organized it was considered one of the best buildings in the town, and it was there that the lodge was instituted and constituted, and where for years the brethren met to perform Masonic work and diffuse Masonic light.
In this connection, it is interesting to note that the present lodge building occupied by Tuscarora lodge, and which it owns, was built about the year 1878 of native stone, the front wall being of quarried, dressed rock, and costing about 5,000.00. It is a one story structure with a large basement running the full length and width of the first floor. Originally the ground floor was occupied by a drug store on one side, and a clothing store on the other. The basement was rented to the Blue Wing saloon.
In later years the various lodges functioning in Tuscarora purchased this building, dismantled the partition between the stores and converted it into a large lodge room, with entrance hall and two smaller rooms in the front of the building. The saloon in the basement was moved out and the room was made into a banquet room which was used regularly by the several lodges for social gatherings, which those old-timers so loved to promote.
The old minute book of Tuscarora lodge states that on September 20, 1884, the Masonic committee of which O. L. C. Fairchild was chairman, made arrangements with the Independent Order of Oddfellows, the Knights of Pythias, and the Ancient Order United Workmen, to purchase the building, and a warrant for fourteen hundred dollars ($1400.00) was issued by the trustees of the lodge for their share of the purchase price. The first meeting of Tuscarora lodge in the hall was on November 29, 1884.
The passing years gave generously to the lodge; its finances were always more than adequate to supply the needs of the organization, with ample funds remaining to provide for future contingencies, with the result that in later years the interests of the I. O. O. F., the Knights of Pythias and the Ancient Order United Workmen were purchased, and Tuscarora lodge became the sole owner of the building. From the ranks of its membership have come brethren who won honor, not only in community, county and state affairs, but who likewise achieved honor and advancement in the Grand Lodge F. & A. M· of Nevada, noteworthy among whom was Brother James Doughty, who in later years demitted to Elko Lodge No. 15 and became Grand Master of Masons of Nevada in 1910.
Elijah S. Yeates was elected Senior Grand Deacon of the Grand Lodge of Nevada in I879, and W. T. Smith was Junior Grand Deacon in 1878.
Among the brethren who have filled county and state offices, are: Brothers Mart Smity, W. W. Willis, and A. A. Primeux, who efficiently served Elko county as county commissioners. Brother John H. Dennis was elected from Elko county as state senator, and later served as Deputy U. S. Commissioner to the Hawaiian Islands. D. H. Young was deputy sheriff for a number of years, and A. C. Fox and T. T. Fairchild have served recently in a like position.
While the lodge has had its seasons of prosperity and its hours of discouragement, while some years have reflected gain and others have revealed a loss in membership, it has always carried on. Its membership is scattered over a large area, and at times it is difficult to assemble a Masonic quorum to hold meetings; in evidence whereof, I quote from a letter received from Robert D. R. Williams under date of February 4, 1939, quote: “We at present have thirty-five members, but only one, our treasurer, D. H. Young lives in Tuscarora, the rest live from six to fifty miles away, and cover those distances whenever the roads are in a passable condition. I live nine miles away from our lodge room, and our master-elect, A. C. Fox lives fifty miles away in Midas.”
Although Tuscarora is out of the beaten path of travel, in fact is difficult of access, especially during the winter season when snow blocks the roads, yet the old lodge room has been the scene of many enjoyable and interesting meetings, when upon the occasion of the visitation of the Grand Master or his authorized representative, or when the brethren from adjoining lodges visit singly or in a body, the splendid hospitality of the lodge is lavishly expended; nothing is left undone to add to the comfort and enjoyment of the guests; the larders of the community are taxed to their utmost, the wives of the brethren vie with one another to set before the visitors their most cherished and delectable culinary creations.
Often these banquets are followed by a dance to which the residents of the community and surrounding country flock, coming from 40 or 50 miles away. These functions are usually all night affairs, sunrise generally finding the merrymakers homeward bound.
A comparison of the status of Tuscarora today, and at the time of the organization of the lodge in 1880, reveals a situation found in so many of the early mining camps of Nevada, when ore supplies became exhausted. From a thrifty town of some thirty-three hundred inhabitants, with prosperous mercantile establishments, eating and lodging houses, and comfortable homes for housing its people, it has dwindled in size and population until it is but a shadow of its former self and, as we look upon it, we are again reminded of the inroads Time has made upon it, and of the uncertainty and fickleness of Dame Fortune. Its one time industry has disappeared, the lure and excitement of uncovering new pay streaks in the mines have long since ceased to be, as is also the rush of the rabble to the shafts when the news of a strike was heralded throughout the town; and the remembrance of these old occurrences come back to but few, for those who were in the heyday of youth when Tuscarora was in its prime are now bent and infirm with the weight of years, and but a pitiful few remain to recall the years when the town was in the fullness of its prosperity.
But although the town has dwindled in importance, though but a handful of the hundreds who once roamed its streets and contributed to its popularity remain, yet amazingly, Tuscarora lodge has not only survived the ordeal but numerically exceeds its membership of almost forty years ago, and is today a splendid unit of rural Masonry.
The history of Tuscarora would be incomplete without reference to that outstanding man and Mason, Brother Tracy T. Fairchild, probably the most influential and best known citizen in that part of the country, honored and respected by all who know him, and who for six years served Elko county as assemblyman, and for another fourteen years represented his county as state senator. Brother Fairchild comes from a family of Masons, his father and his uncle being members of Lander Lodge No. 8, of Austin, Nevada, when the Grand Lodge of Nevada was organized in 1865.
Brother Fairchild was made a Master Mason in January, 1921, and served in the various appointive and elective offices of his lodge until advanced to the chair of worshipful master. In 1928 he was appointed Worshipful Grand Steward of the Grand Lodge, F. & A. M. of Nevada, and advanced step by step to become Grand Master of Nevada Masons June 13, 1936, from which office he retired in June, 1937, after a most successful year in office, beloved and respected by the Craft throughout the jurisdiction.
Here our narrative closes; not because the final chapter in the history of this old reliable lodge has been written, for while more than three score years have passed since it embarked upon the fraternal sea, and while those who launched the tiny barque upon its Masonic course have crossed to the Great Beyond, yet the memory of its early years and those who contributed to its prosperity and progress, and brought prestige and luster to its ranks, lingers with the younger generation of Masons who have found sanctuary among the brethren, and inspires them to emulate the example set by those pioneers in Masonry, the recollection of whose accomplishments and virtues will be as a guiding star to direct them into channels of greater achievement.
And so, as we conclude this record, we end our efforts with the prophecy: that, as in the past Tuscarora lodge has enjoyed an enviable reputation as a commanding unit of Masonry among the constituent lodges of Nevada, so in the future will it continue to spread and diffuse Masonic Light, and shine in the constellation of Nevada Masonry, as a star of exceptional magnitude.
Editor’s note: Unfortunately, Torrence’s prophecy, as shown immediately above, was not to pass; Tuscarora continued its decline, and Tuscarora Lodge No. 21 was forced to consolidate with Elko Lodge 15 on June 11, 1948. (Remember that this chapter of Torrence’s “History of Masonry in Nevada” was written in 1938!)
HOPE LODGE NO. 22
The western trek of the pioneer to the treasure troves of the west, the development of the mineral deposits in the mountains near Eureka, Austin, White Pine, and in the district adjacent to Virginia City, Nevada, the building and completion of the first transcontinental railroad, were instrumental in the settlement of the territory across which the Overland Trail was blazed. Another important contributing factor in the settlement of our western country, and the marking of the uncharted routes along which eventually overland travel wended its way, was the Pony Express which, though its riders followed a defined, well beaten path, yet occasionally routed new trails leading out from the old established path, and ventured into new territory, by short cuts across and through dangerous country.
It was through the operation of this latter agency, that Mason Valley was eventually settled, although the explorer John C. Fremont claimed to have camped at the forks of what is now Walker river, near a place later called Nordyke. His camp was pitched there on January 21, 1844.
Several years later, venturesome riders of the Pony Express are said to have followed the course laid by Fremont, and to have established a route which they sometimes traversed through the valley, which at a much later date became an old thoroughfare of the settlers who trekked their way into the valley.
In 1854 N. H. A. Mason and his brothers, while driving cattle to California, entered the valley and, impressed with the importance of the country as a district for grazing purposes, resolved to return and acquire a tract of land whereon might be developed a profitable cattle industry. This resolve was put into practice in 1859, when N. H. A. Mason returned to and settled in the valley. In 1860 he built the first house in that part of the country, and gave to the valley his name.
Other settlers followed, and with the discovery of gold in Pinegrove in 1866 by William Wilson, the valley was quickly populated, and Chas. Sneider and Angus McLeod operated a four horse stage from Pinegrove through the valley to Virginia City.
The site where Yerington now stands is said to have been purchased about 1861 by James Downey, who erected a building in which he opened a saloon and, on account of the poor grade of wet goods he sold, the place was dubbed, “Pizen Switch.”
Gradually new settlers gathered in the vicinity and in the course of time a post office was established there which, for a long time, was called “Mason Valley Post Office.” The place was named Greenfield later on, and eventually the residents had the town named Yerington, and the government ratified their choice of names.
With the development of mineral values in the county, and the coming of new blood and capital, the town grew to good proportions and there was developed in the district industrial and commercial projects which brought the place into prominence.
Masonry does not come upon a community unawares; its advance may be said to be gradual, but, when it arrives, the period of its existence is usually prolonged.
The history of the Craft in Nevada is no exception to this rule, and controlling factors and subsequent conditions have been practically the same in every district of the state where the order has found footing. Usually the brethren came with the arrival of the pioneers; sometimes they arrived with the first exploring party, but they always they came to seek one another out, and to finally develop an Organization in the home of their adoption.
Such is the history of the Craft in Mason Valley, which had its beginning in Yerington, although it must not be presumed that it came into the district with the settlement at “Pizen Switch” which, as has has been noted, housed one James Downey in a grog shop; but as other settlers located nearby, and “Pizen Switch” eventually became Yerington, with the advent of those who came to find employment in the mines adjacent to the town, or to build up new enterprises which the expanding community required, came the advance guard of the brethren and Masonry found a place in that far section of Nevada.
More than a quarter of a century elapsed before a lodge was finally organized in Yerington. The effort, however, is said to have been made upon one or two occasions, but each time conflicting factors mitigated against the attempt, one principal reason given being the removal of brethren relied upon to make up the membership roll, from the district which, for the time, prevented assembling a sufficient number to constitute a Masonic quorum, and petition for authority to promote a lodge. But the few brethren remaining were not discouraged, biding their time until a required number found a permanent location in the town or district. By April, 1884 it was known that a sufficient number were available for the carrying out of the project, and on May 5, 1880, a meeting was called to meet in Brann and Smarts Hall (about where the Granada theatre is now located). This meeting was presided over by Sylvester A. Hinds, with Lorain R. Parker selected as secretary. At this meeting a petition was prepared and addressed to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Nevada, requesting permission to organize a unit of Masonry in Yerington, under dispensation, permission to establish a lodge in the town having been asked for and obtained from Valley Lodge No. 9 of Dayton. The prayer of the petitioners was favorably considered, and on May 17, 1880, a dispensation was issued under authority of DeWitt C. McKinney, Grand Master, authorizing Sylvester A. Hinds, John E. Hart, Benj. M. Hague, Chas. W. Mallett, Lorain R. Parker, Cassius H. Brown, Miller Reach, Granville L. Leavitt, Robert Sanders, and William T. Runney, to open a lodge of Masons under dispensation, and naming Sylvester Hinds Worshipful Master; John E. Hart, Senior Warden; and Benjamin Hague, Junior Warden.
On June 22, 1880, the first meeting was held under the dispensation in Brann and Smarts’ hall at which time a Constitution and By-laws were drafted and adopted, and the sum of $350.00 was collected to defray the cost of the dispensation, purchase a set of officers jewels, aprons, record books, overhauling the hall and putting it in shape for Masonic usage. Dues were fixed at $3.00 per quarter, and a rental of $4.00 per meeting night was authorized to be paid the owners of the hall. At this meeting, the officers named under the dispensation were installed, and appointive officers were elected to fill other places and stations in the lodge, and were likewise installed.
That the lodge was attracting attention is evidenced by the minutes of the lodge, since, at the meeting of July 20, 1880, two petitions for membership were received.
It is also indicated that other affiliations had been made, since the name of Brother A. B. Richardson appears in the records, who was not a member at the time the dispensation was granted, and who, beginning with the meeting of October 12, 1880, officiated as secretary of the lodge.
Hope Lodge continued to work under dispensation until the next annual communication of the Grand Lodge which convened in Virginia City June 14, 1881, at which the books, papers and credentials of the lodge were presented, found correct and well kept, and a charter was issued to the lodge, to be known as Hope Lodge, and numbered 22 under Nevada registry. At this time Cassius H. Brown was master of the lodge, and Abner Richardson was Secretary.
In 1884 the meeting place of the lodge was changed to Craigs hall, at a rental of five dollars per month. Here the brethren continued to meet until 1893, during which year the building was destroyed by fire. Referring to this fire, Brother W. F. Powers in a sketch read before the lodge Nov. 14, 1931, says: “By wonderful foresight Brother Reymers when he saw the fire, rushed from his ranch, (now the Seyden property) broke open the door of the hall, and secured the records and jewels. What little furniture the lodge possessed, including the seal and charter, were lost in the flames.” Continuing, Brother Powers notes, “Our present charter was received in August, 1895, replacing the one destroyed by the fire in 1893. The pen work was done by General A. C. Pratt, a profane, without cost to the lodge.”
After the fire, quarters were secured in the old Geiger building, some two and one half miles north of town, permission having been obtained from the Grand Master to convene in that place. The building was overhauled and made suitable for housing the lodge, and there the brethren continued to meet until they moved into the hall they are now occupying, known as Leavitt Hall. The building in which this hall is located was erected by Granville L. Leavitt, a charter member of Hope Lodge. After the fire which destroyed Geiger Hall in 1893, in which the lodge had been meeting Brother Leavitt began the construction of a one story building, to be used for commercial purposes, presumably, and, before it was completed, was prevailed upon by the Masonic brethren of Yerington to add another story to the structure for the use of Hope Lodge. The arrangement proved highly satisfactory to both the lodge and the owner of the building, and there the lodge has continued to meet since it took possession in 1894.
From 1895 to 1905, Hope lodge was almost dormant, due to the removal from the town and district of some of the brethren upon whom the lodge had depended to keep up its activities; but in 1905 there was a revival of interest occasioned by the injection of new blood into the lodge, and a new era dawned for the lodge, with the result that real advancement was made.
On September 19, 1911, Hope Lodge entertained the Grand Lodge of Nevada, at a special communication held in the hall of Hope Lodge. The meeting was called to order at three o’clock p. m. by Grand Master Herman Davis, for the purpose of laying the corner stone of the new courthouse of Lyon county. Grand Lodge was opened in ample form, the appointive offices being filled by brethren from Hope Lodge, Valley Lodge of Dayton, and Amity Lodge of Silver City. Very Worshipful Edward D. Vanderleith, Grand Secretary, and Very Reverend Thomas L. Bellam, Grand Chaplain, were also in attendance, and assisted in the ceremonies. The ceremony was followed by an inspiring address by the Grand Master, the procession was again formed, and the lodge returned to Masonic headquarters where it was closed in ample form.
It would be of interest to the Craft, to be permitted to recount and record the unfoldment and development of the many interesting incidents and happenings which have marked the succeeding years in Hope lodge; a review of their records reveals the practice of Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth and the sometimes quaint references to Masonic terms and usages, display not only a keen appreciation of fraternal humor, but also a fine appreciation of the meaning and application of the lessons taught by Masonry, and also reveals a true spirit of tolerance, forbearance, and harmony, which have characterized the practices of the brethren, not only toward each other, but towards those with whom they have come in contact.
Their zeal, integrity and accomplishments have found favor and merit, not only in the community in which they operate, but have been long recognized by the Grand Lodge of Nevada for many years, since the lodge has received recognition through the appointment of several of its members to serve on the official staff of the Grand Body.
In 1926 Hope Lodge received special recognition by the election of Wendell H. Churchyard, a member of their lodge, to be Grand Master of Nevada Masons. Brother Churchyard was made a Mason in Hope Lodge during 1914 and served his lodge as worshipful master in 1920 and again in 1921. He was secretary of the lodge for years, and was so serving in 1929.
While the purple of the order has not been worn but by one member of Hope Lodge, yet this does not indicate that other members of that lodge have not been great men and Masons, worthy not only of the plaudits and confidence of the membership of their own lodge, but also meriting the approbation and good will of the Grand Lodge of Nevada. For, to mention the names of Jas. A. Webster, A. R. Richardson, Geo. Webster, Wm. A. Reymers, Granville L. Leavitt, W. F. Powers, Gordon M. Frazier, Thomas H. Lever and so many others who have been active in the affairs of the lodge both in the past and at the present, is to open the floodgates of memory and bring again into the picture Masons who accomplished big things for Masonry in Yerington and Mason Valley, and by the practice of all its commendable virtues, attracted to its fold many who eventually became members of the lodge and made enviable the personnel of Hope Lodge No. 22.
BATTLE MOUNTAIN LODGE NO. 23
Battle Mountain NV
Not to the fervor of the Franciscan monk who crossed over from California in 1775 to bring his doctrine to the native Indians and penetrated into the unknown territory which we today designate “the Sagebrush State”; not to the fortune mad mobs which rushed to the gold laden sands of California’s rivers in ’49; not to the hardy pioneers who crossed the desert wastes of unknown, forbidding territory to found an inland empire; nor yet to the Mormon saints looking for a country where unmolested they might establish their church and worship according to the dictates of their conscience, are we indebted for our knowledge of that vast expanse of western territory of which Nevada is a part. But all of these agencies combined to bring into existence a new western republic, and added Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah to our national constellation, destined to scintillate among the stars of nations, as the greatest country in the world’s history.
Among the first of the overland travelers came the Pathfinder, John C. Fremont in 1842; then came Jim Bridger, who claimed to have been the first white man to look upon the waters of the Great Salt Lake; then came Carson and Goedy, following in their wake.
In 1847 the rumble of a covered wagon caravan disturbed the silence of the old buffalo trail, afterwards known as the Overland Trail, and the advance guard of the followers of Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, trekked their way across the plains to leave the old trail where it branches to finally pass through Emigration canyon in Utah, and emerge into the valley of Great Salt Lake, where the nucleus of a great inland city was planted, from which would later be sent out a tide of emigration to colonize Utah, parts of Nevada and California.
It was by reason of this colonization movement that some of the principal settlements in Nevada were founded and farming communities were established, destined to become commanding factors in the history of the state, and contributing agencies in the progress and prosperity of that section of Nevada through which the rails of the Southern Pacific and Central Pacific railroads would wend their way.
With the passing of the railroad through the extreme northern part of Lander county, Nevada, such a settlement was established in the summer of 1857, where the town of Battle Mountain now stands. There was nothing spectacular in the making of this settlement when the rails were laid through the district; one or two farms had already been located in the neighborhood and were being tilled. When the railroad reached that point and its advantageous location for a possible distributing station was seen, a small freight house was erected, though it was but little past shanty proportions, and the road continued its eastern advance. In time this little way station, then unchristened, was joined by a companion shanty built in the vicinity, and later yet another larger structure appeared across the way, and the nucleus of a new town was formed. Thus was that isolated hamlet, later named Battle Mountain when it had assumed greater proportions, born; to become in time an oasis set in the midst of the desert, a place of irrigated land, trees and grass, and peaceful homes with substantial stores and rural enterprises.
— Legend —
The early history of the district involves the presence of a tribe of Indians who lived along the banks of the Humboldt river just over the adjacent mountains, but whose hunting grounds were in the section where the town is now located. There is a tradition that discord and inharmony developed among the members of this tribe, and that they gathered for a “pow-wow” in the center of the valley around which the range of mountains known as the Battle Mountain range almost circles. The pow-wow lasted for many days, but the strife among the factions could not be appeased, and tribal war was declared, the factions retiring to opposite sides of the valley, one to find shelter among the rocks and crags of the mountains, the other to hide in a cave high up among the ledges of a mountain directly across the valley. From these points of vantage they would venture forth to meet upon a battleground in the valley, and by force of arms or cunning and conniving, endeavor to satisfy their honor. And so, it is said that their forces became depleted and but a remnant of their former number remained.
The climax was reached when the Indians who occupied their retreat among the rocks and crags, stole away from their mountain fastness one night, climbed to the cave in which the other faction was immured, built an immense fire at the mouth of the cave, and virtually roasted the other faction out, for they are said to have mysteriously disappeared. Whether they escaped by some other egress or retreated to distant parts of the cave and were overcome by heat and smoke and perished, is not determined. Sites are still found in the mountains where the teepees of the Red Man once stood, and the charted remnants of old council fires are unearthed even today, and at times flint arrows and spear heads are found where once raged a mighty tribal war and where the toll of battle almost exterminated a once powerful tribe, and where the legends born of daring deeds of that combat are still recited to the descendants of the victorious tribe, legends which are interwoven into the exciting history of the early days of Nevada, and have found lodgment in the story of Battle Mountain.
However, Battle Mountain did not acquire its name by reason of this tribal strife, but is said to have received its christening through a battle fought in 1857 between John Kirk of Placerville, Calif., who headed a party of road builders who were constructing a grade through the district, and a band of hostile Indians. The engagement was fought near the mountains across the valley through which the old grade of the railroad formerly ran, and is said to have resulted in the complete rout of the Indians.
With the passing of the years, perspectives change and so, in relating the first historical sketches we have unearthed in any particular district of Nevada, it has been a natural sequence that stress is laid upon the romance and glamour of that period or decade in which these events occurred, and to erect around the personnel of the unique characters gathered in any certain locality, an exaggerated halo created through fanciful memories, or born of association with happenings incident to the development of a new territory, and partaking of the customs and practices of that section in which these characters lived.
At no time in the history of the West are we so apt to eulogize and place upon a pedestal of romance and excitement, and to immortalize its people as we are during the late fifties and sixties, and through the early seventies.
It is perhaps no wonder that we are inspired by the tireless energy and perseverance of those early settlers; no wonder that their abiding faith, undaunted courage and dauntless hope should impress us. From them, the blazers of the trails, emerged the West, to conquer which their path became the vanguard of progress – the great broad way that led to vast attainment.
Today as we behold the marvelous advancement of the West whose developed valleys teem with fruition and are dotted with commodious homes; whose modern towns and cities are comparable to any yet developed in older, more populous sections of our country – a West whose rugged features civilization has softened and where an empire has been developed as if by the magic of a Merlin, a land which fifty years ago was bare creation, we are impressed with the full measure of Berkley’s lines: “Westward the course of Empire takes its way. The first four acts already past, A fifth shall close the drama with the day. Time’s noblest offspring is the last.”
That history repeats itself is a trite but true saying, and so,gradually as Time moved on, the little way station of Battle Mountain expanded into a sizable community with a well developed Main Street following the line of the railroad and lined with good looking substantial stores, one or two boarding houses and a hotel to care for transient trade. Here and there sightly homes appeared on other streets, trees were set out, gardens were planted, while the tinkle of a tiny bell called the children of the community to foregather at a neat and comfortably equipped schoolhouse – and Battle Mountain was on its way.
“Time marches on” and in its passing, changes came to the little settlement which numbered less than a dozen people in 1859. By 1876 – the “Centennial Year” – it boasted of some 200 inhabitants, several stores catered to the community’s needs, and a newspaper owned by Mark W. Musgrove, which he moved over from Ward, Nevada and edited under the name, “The Battle Mountain Messenger,” chronicled the happenings of the community and published the news of the day. In the meantime, among the residents of the town and district who had settled there during the passing years, were members of the Masonic fraternity who were eventually drawn together by the invisible ties of brotherhood; at first there were but one or two known to live in the town but, as time marched on, others came and the urge to meet on a common level and enjoy Masonic contact in a legalized home of their own, impelled R. McBeth, Omar B. Vincent, D. A. Dunlap, Fred Dunn, A. R. Hastings and a few others to assemble in the latter part of March, 1881, to discuss plans for the organization of a Masonic lodge in the town. This meeting is said to have been held in what was then the John W. Williams building, but later acquired by A. D. Lemaire, and was called to order by F. W. Dunn, who was made chairman of the meeting, and D. A. Dunlap was appointed secretary. The next order of business was to select a name for the new organization. Four names were proposed: Battle Mountain Lodge, Eureka Lodge, Enterprise Lodge, and Capital Lodge, the first of which, Battle Mountain Lodge, being the unanimous choice of the brethren, who then proceeded to draft, sign and address a petition to DeWitt C. McKinney, Grand Master of Masons of Nevada, asking permission to open a Masonic lodge under dispensation in Battle Mountain. At the suggestion of David A. Dunlap, the by-laws of Crockett Lodge No. 139 of California were adopted and converted to the use of the proposed new lodge.
At the next called meeting of the brethren held on April 8, 1881, the aprons worn by the members and officers were presented as gifts from Mrs. F. W. Dunn and Mrs. David A. Dunlap. It is of interest to note that these aprons were used by the lodge until the more elaborate aprons acquired from the defunct Masonic lodge, No. 14 of Austin, Nevada, came into possession of Battle Mountain Lodge No. 23.
Prompt action was given to the prayer of the petition of the brethren at Battle Mountain; in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge, held in Virginia City in June, 1881, is found the following: “April 11, 1881, issued a dispensation for a lodge to be holden in Battle Mountain, to be known and hailed as Battle Mountain Lodge Under Dispensation, By-laws and records of the lodge accompanied with a petition in regular form and with the usual fee, praying for a charter to perpetuate Said lodge. Signed: Jno. D. Hammond, Grand Secretary.”
Also another memo which reads: “On April 11th, I granted a dispensation to a constitutional number of brethren to open and hold a lodge of Free and Accepted Master Masons at Battle Mountain, and instructed the worshipful master of that lodge that it was not necessary to install the officers of a lodge Under Dispensation, Signed: DeWitt C. McKinney, Grand Master.”
In the meantime, a hall on the second floor of the August Desire Lemaire building, a two story structure located in the heart of the business district of the town, and admirably suited to the requirements and needs of a fraternal organization, had been secured by the housing committee for a future meeting place of the new Masonic unit, and with slight alterations and the installing of necessary lodge furniture, was pronounced ready for the brethren to occupy. In due time the brethren received the coveted dispensation, and a new lodge came into existence in the Nevada jurisdiction,a unit of Masonry destined to develop into a strong and prominent factor in fraternal circles, and to give to the order men of outstanding mental, moral, social and fraternal qualifications.
During the next two months the lodge was busy clearing the Trestle Board of accumulated work, and several new members were added to its roster.
At the communication of the Grand Lodge held in Virginia City in June application was made for a charter, reference to which is made in the Journal of proceedings for 1881, as follow: “The records and books thus far used by Battle Mountain Lodge are in a fine condition and neatly written. Its membership is small, but for the length of time it has been in existence, less than two months, an unusual amount of work has been done; this is not always a good sign of prosperity, for in the desire for membership, some bad material may creep into the lodge, against which we caution them. “We recommend doing away with the ‘Book of Rules’ adopted by the lodge and we offer in conclusion the following: “RESOLVED, That a Charter be granted Battle Mountain Lodge, and it be numbered Twenty Three, under the Jurisdiction of Nevada.” Signed: William McMillian, Henry M. Jewett, Alexander Wise. Committee on Charters.
Pursuant to this resolution, a charter dated June 15, 1881, was issued to the following o8icers and members of the new lodge: Omar B. Vincent, worshipful master; Frederick W. Dunn, senior warden;Alvin B. Hastings, junior warden; Louis M. Pugh, treasurer; Jacob Gerrito, secretary; David A. Dunlap, senior deacon; John M. Brush, tyler. And the following Master Masons: Jos. A. Been, Robert McBeth, Edw. Palmer Lovejoy, Edward T. George, Jno. P. Meder, C. W. Hinchcliffe, Thomas Nelson; also, Daniel W. Willis, a Fellowcraft who, with the exception of Jacob Gerrito, signed the constitution and By-Laws in the order named. Just why Brother Gerrito who, as indicated was elected secretary of the lodge, failed to sign the record is not known, but it appears that his term of office was of short duration, for on September 9, 1882, Brother August Desire Lemaire, (father of Louis A. Lemaire, later becoming Senior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Nevada), was raised in Battle Mountain Lodge, and became secretary of the lodge almost immediately. He held this position for several years, serving with credit and honor the institution he loved, and to which and for which he devoted his time, financial support, and both mental and physical efforts to enable the lodge to carry on, and it may be said that to the untiring efforts of Brother Lemaire his lodge became a strong unit in Masonic circles. However, in justice to those who served with this outstanding member of Battle Mountain lodge, there was unity among the entire membership; all joined to make their lodge a forceful factor in the community, there were no drones among the membership, and the course of the lodge was onward and forward.
The jewels and officers aprons and gavels of the Master, Senior and junior Wardens, were at one time used and owned by Austin Lodge No. 10 of Austin, Nevada, before it surrendered its charter in 1871. The jewels were made from silver, mined, milled and smelted in Austin, and were donated to the lodge by various members of that lodge when it was organized, and were engraved with the name and number of that lodge, also with the name and the member donating the jewel. The gavels were made from native mountain mahogany grown and found on the slope of the mountain from which the silver used in the manufacture of the jewels was mined. The candle holders used in a triangular form within the lodge are unique, and are ingeniously made, embodying the use of an old fashioned pie pan for a base, on which is firmly soldered a trumpet shaped stem about thirty inches tall, topped with a disc which holds the candle. There are three of these holders, all painted black; they were made in Battle Mountain by Frank Weitman, a local tinsmith in 1881, and cost two dollars.
The aprons worn by the lodge officers are elaborate creations of blue velvet, tied by blue silken cords, with the station emblems worked in gilt braid, indicating that in selecting its lodge regalia, the brethren of Austin lodge No. 10 had secured the latest and best made in the market at that period.
As an indication of the standing of the brethren who belonged to Battle Mountain lodge in its early history, one needs only to refer to its roster to note their outstanding merit. Glancing over the old record, we find the name of Charles Warren Hinchcliffe, who was raised in the lodge May 10, 1881, and who for some years continued to be an outstanding member of the lodge; upon his entry into the Grand Lodge of Nevada, his love for Masonry, his remarkable capabilities and his fitness to serve, marked him for advancement and resulted in his election as Grand Master of Masons of Nevada for the year 1889-1890.
Among the charter members of Battle Mountain Lodge we find the name of Omar B. Vincent, well known in the district for his fine community spirit, his pleasing personality and the esteem in which he was held by all who knew him. He was a trusted employee of the railroad, an accountant of rare ability whose records and accounts were most beautifully and neatly kept and the envy of all who saw them. His zeal for Masonry and his interest and effort in organizing a Masonic unit in Battle Mountain, led to his unanimous selection as first master of the new lodge under dispensation.
Another member of the lodge who was esteemed not only by his lodge brethren but by the community at large was David A. Dunlap, the first appointed Senior Deacon; Brother Dunlap was a tireless worker in the order, and for a long period of years held his membership in the lodge of his adoption. Later he removed to Lovelock and demitted from Battle Mountain lodge; eventually he moved from Nevada to Idaho and was elected sheriff while maintaining his residence in Nampa.
The business, political, civic, community and fraternal life of Louis A. Lemaire has been unusually interesting; his life has been colorful and his many activities instrumental in bringing to him prestige and favor from his colleagues and associates. The son and in later years a business associate of his father, the late Auguste D. Lemaire, by application and concentration absorbed many of the unusual business traits and principles of his father, and with his brother Henry continued to carry on the many enterprises left when the elder Lemaire passed away. Brother Lemaire is not only a shrewd and successful business man, but is also a student as well. He is probably one of the best posted men in Nevada on Indian chronology, customs and habits, and is an enthusiastic collector of Indian antiques and mementoes, his collection of pottery, arrow and spear heads and woven willow baskets would excite the Envy as well as the admiration of any collector. He is familiar with the language of the tribes, especially those who lived in Battle Mountain district, and possesses a fund of legend and tradition connected with the Red men who once roamed the hills and valley around the northern part of Lander county. The writer is indebted to Brother Lemaire for the Indian tradition referred to in this article. Brother Lemaire has served Lander county both as state senator and assemblyman, in which offices he gave a good account of his stewardship. He also served as county commissioner for several terms. His fraternal activities not only include a long and progressive membership in Battle Mountain Lodge No. 23, F. & A. M., of which he is past master, but he has also served the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Nevada, as Senior Grand Warden, and would have doubtless been advanced to preside as Grand Master of Nevada Masons, had not health and business prevented him from accepting this honorable and coveted position. He has, however, served the Grand Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, as Grand Master, having been elected to that office in 1901.
Well known in the commercial, industrial and political activities of Nevada, is N. H. Getchell, who for years has been a member of Battle Mountain Lodge No. 23, and who has successfully served Lander county as state senator.
A younger, but by no means less known member of Battle Mountain Lodge is George P. Coleman, whose meteoric advancement in Masonry has brought honor and credit to him, and honor to the lodge of which he has always been a valued member. In 1934 he first joined the Grand Lodge official staff as an appointee to the office of Worshipful Grand Pursuivant. In 1936 he became Worshipful Grand Deacon. The death of Right Worshipful Deputy Grand Master Frank E. Murphy on April 21, 1939, created a vacancy in that office, and at the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Nevada the following year, Brother Coleman was elected to that chair, and in June, 1940, at the Communication of the Grand Lodge held in Virginia City, Brother Coleman was unanimously elected Grand Master. Always an ardent and conscientious worker in Masonic ranks, Brother Coleman has already given evidence that he will continue his good work, and that his administration as Grand Master will not only add fresh laurels to his record but will bring honor to our order, and peace and harmony to the brethren.
And so, for more than half a century Battle Mountain lodge has continued to carry on; some of the years have been lean, some of them have been prosperous and full; but, whether the years were full and the lodge prosperous, or whether the years were lean and reflected both numerical and financial loss, yet the fine spirit of loyalty and devotion of the brethren has never wavered, their courage has never faltered and they have continued to function, maintaining and promoting an active and progressive unit of Nevada Masonry.
Steptoe Lodge #24
Cherry Creek, NV
There is sublimity in the snow capped mountains of the Ruby Range, arranged so grandly by the Supreme Architect of the Universe, when he laid the rough ashlers of the world; upon which the early empire builders of the west looked with wonder and delight as they trekked their way south through Steptoe Valley, which lies within the boundaries of what in the early days of our country was known as “The Great American Desert”.
Within the memory of those yet living, the spreading waste of country lying within the confines of the Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Ocean was looked upon with terror, since it was regarded as another Sahara Desert. For generations this vast tract was unexplored, although Franciscan monk and Jesuit priest had entered California, established their missions to the north and south along the coast, and carried their doctrine south and southeast into the country that we now designate as New Mexico and Arizona.
While Lewis and Clark had penetrated and mapped the country to the north and northwest “where flows the mighty Oregon”, in 1815 a venturesome Yankee, Jedidiah Smith, braved the dangers and uncertainities of an unknown, sand-strewn, boulder bristling terrain, and crossing over southern Idaho, blazed the first trappers trail a few score miles into what is now Nevada. Peter Ogden followed in his steps a year or so later, and explored a stream which he named Mary, afterwards called the Humboldt, trapping and hunting along its meanderings until the rigors of the weather and the unfriendliness of the Indians drove him across the California border.
But, to the hardihood and determination of John C. Fremont and his band of sturdy followers, is the west indebted for the exploration and mapping of this Great American Desert, for through his discoveries and penetration of this arid wilderness, was it possible for the intrepid and daring pioneers who followed him, to eventually unearth wealth from that unknown, forbidding, mysterious country, for in its hour of dire extremity, threatened dissolution and financial peril, it turned to the desert and the mountain gulches of Nevada for succor, and from its treasure chests was taken an unbelievable store of silver and gold, which brought financial security to a war ridden nation.
Fremont and his band are believed to have charted their explorations into and adjacent to where Egan Canyon is located, turning south as they passed through its mouth and entered Steptoe Valley, and to have traversed the foot of the mountains on the west side until they reached what is now known as Hercules Gap, through which they passed and turned their faces westward to emerge beyond the Ruby Mountains, followed the windings of the Humboldt (River), and further west the Walker River, and crossed over into California.
After Fremont’s explorations, no white man is believed to have passed the present site of Cherry Creek until the early (eighteen) fifties, although the district was well known to wandering bands of Indians (both Shoshones and Pah-Utes) making annual pilgrimages to the mountains to hunt and fish.
The history of Cherry Creek may be traced to the establishment of an overland stage station located about four miles south of the present town, in what is now Egan Canyon; this station was built by Major Egan, a noted Indian fighter of his day with headquarters at old Fort Ruby, the first station west of Egan, in that day.
It is claimed, but without historical authority, that gold had been found in Egan Canyon by Indians in the late (eighteen) forties and late (eighteen) fifties, but it was not until the coming of the overland stages, and the establishment of the stage station in the canyon, that it was mined in a sufficient quantity to merit the erection of a small mill to treat the ore. This mill, built by Messrs. O’Conner, Donahue, and Kelley, and named the “Egan Mill”, is said to have been the first mill built in Nevada. It was operated by water from Egan Creek, and the amount of gold mined and treated in the mill was shipped to San Francisco, and financed the banking firm of Dohahue, Kelley & Co.
About 1867 with the Central Pacific Railroad was built across Nevada, operations in Egan Canyon were suspended, and mining development was halted until 1870, when Donahue, Kelley & Co. resumed work, and the Egan Tunnel was driven, which tapped the water in the underground workings, and uncovered immense bodies of rich ore. Another stamp mill was erected, and under the management of General Rosecrans of Civil War fame, the company mined and milled more than $350,000.00 worth of bullion before the vein was exhausted about 1876.
The ingress of miners and common labor flocking to the strike in Egan, not only populated the territory adjacent to the workings in the canyon, but spread north, and a settlement was made at what was named Cherry Creek where other mineralized territory was opened, and where the Star Mine was discovered and developed and became a profitable producer, and where the Exchequer and Tea Cup Mines were uncovered and were the agents whereby wealth eventually flowed into the coffers of their promoters, and contributed to the upbuilding of the town.
About 1874 after the mines in Cherry Creek began to operate on a large scale, the town was one of the best in the state, but it was a matter of six years longer before it attained its maximum growth and mineral production.
The resuming of activities of the Egan properties, together with the mines and mills in Cherry Creek, brought to the district about five hundred men, one hundred and fifty of whom are said to have been employed by the Star Mine, the balance engaged in mining and operating the mines around Cherry Creek. This was the halcyon period of the district which continued unabated until about 1883, when production began to decline.
It was during this period of advancement that Masonry came to the town, for among the miners, promoters and operators who had gravitated to the district, were members of the craft, who as the weeks passed were drawn together by the invisible, yet magnetic ties of brotherhood, and met upon the common level of Masonry.
Like the history of Masonry in other mining camps of Nevada, that of Steptoe Lodge No. 24 is largely a history of the district in which it was developed. It was organized following the urge of the brethren in the district for a meeting place, and to overcome the need of traveling sixty-five miles across treacherous mountain roads to attend the nearest Masonic Lodge at Hamilton. The growing need for the moral influence of the craft in the town had long been recognized by the sojourning brethren who lived in and adjoining the camp, and in October 1881, a meeting was called which had for its object the organizing of a Masonic Association, but due to a mine accident, several of the brethren did not answer this call; during the second week in December, another meeting was held, and the Association was formed, with H.A. Comings acting as President, and Evan Harris as Secretary. This association functioned until the following March when the resident Masons are said to have met at the home of Evan Harris and made application to the Grand Lodge of Nevada for permission to organize a Masonic Lodge under dispensation. On April 19th of the same year (1882), the dispensation was granted and the lodge, after formal institution, proceeded to function, with Evan Harris selected as Worshipful Master, H.A. Comins, Senior Deacon, and F.W. Griswold, Junior Deacon (the later two positions should probably read “Warden” vice “Deacon”). At the following communication of the Grand Lodge which convened June 19, 1992 in Virginia City, the books and documents of the lodge were presented for approval, together with a formal request for a charter, and at the recommendation of the Committee on Charters, it was voted that a charter be issued to the brethren at Cherry Creek, that it bear the name of Steptoe Lodge, and be numbered 24 of Nevada registry. The charter bore the name of nineteen brethren.
At the first meeting of the newly chartered lodge, Evan Harris was installed Worshipful Master, H.A. Comins, Senior Warden, and F.W. Griswold, Junior Warden.
Quarters were obtained in a temporary location on the main street of town, and after being reconditioned and fitted with necessary equipment, the lodge proceeded with their work; the growth was steady, quality instead of quantity being stressed in the selection of new members, with the result that a representative class of citizens were enrolled upon their roster. The lodge continued to grow and expand in their original quarters until it was found desirable to remove to another hall, and a suitable location was found in the second story of a building owned by John Carlson and their records, regalia and furnishings were removed to the hall, where uninterrupted, the brethren carried on for over twenty years.
In the meantime, Robinson Canyon lying fifty miles to the south had been prospected and valuable mineral deposits uncovered, with the result that several mining camps had been established adjacent to promising prospects in the canyon, among which was a small settlement at the foot of the canyon which had been named Ely. Eventually, lured by the prospect of steady employment in the mining properties in Robinson Canyon, or the newly developed properties at Ruth and Copper Flat, among the motley throng which gathered at the new settlement of Ely, were Masons, not enough to warrant forming a lodge of their own, even if the settlement would have supported one, but a sufficient number to create a desire for Masonic contact, which at that time could only be obtained by lodge privileges by attending lodge meetings at Hamilton, many miles to the north, to reach which, uncertain mountain trails must be negotiated, and so, that these brethren might find sanctuary in a lodge nearer Ely, most of them demitted from their lodges in other jurisdictions, and joined Steptoe Lodge No. 24 in Cherry Creek.
It is said that at one time nearly one half of the membership of Steptoe Lodge were residents of Ely, and vicinity, and although required to make the trip to lodge by wagon or on horseback, a distance of 48 miles, over roads which were none too good, and in all sorts of weather, yet the zeal of the brethren was such that there was always a good attendance at the meetings from Ely, regardless of the distance to be traveled, nor the discomfort of making the trip. And so, for many years, Steptoe Lodge performed its Masonic work without unusual incident or disturbing factor, aside from what local history was being made, and that dealt with local characters and episodes, and had nothing to do with Masonry. While Cherry Creek never contained as large a number of lawless characters as were found in some of the larger mining camps of the state, yet what there were of them became at times almost unmanageable, and the authorities were hard pressed to preserve law and order; saloon brawls were frequent, and gunplay and resultant killings often followed. Gambling was a favorite pastime, and the stakes proverbially high; dance halls with their painted women were open day and night, and were generously patronized. Generally speaking , the moral standards of the town were low. These conditions prevailed for many years, but with the institution of Masonry in the camp, a greater respect for law and order was created, the moral atmosphere was clarified, the rougher element gradually moved on to other places, and the town settled down to an era of law and order which continued until its metal industry waned and the town developed a lethargy from which it never fully recovered.
It is said that at about 1882, the time that Masonry was established in the town, that Cherry Creek, Egan, Shellbourne just across the valley on the east, Centerville and Aurum, all in the northeast part of White Pine County had more votes than all the rest of the county combined; it was during that year that these camps united in an effort to bring the county seat then located at Hamilton, to Cherry Creek. A petition was framed asking for the removal of the county seat, but it failed to specify the town to which it was to be moved. This petition was signed by the required number of taxpayers but because it was improperly drawn, failed to secure legislative action, and was rejected and returned to its framers.
Another attempt was then made to secure favorable action, but the precincts of Taylor, Ward, Hamilton and Newark combined in the fight for removal, and again the attempt proved abortive.
Soon after this attempt, mining production in Cherry Creek began to decline rapidly, and realizing that the future of the camp was uncertain, the matter was dropped.
But the doom of the camp had been told, and like other large producing camps in Nevada when ore reserves were depleted, it was only a matter of time until commercial and industrial collapse would follow; panic seized hold of the residents, and a gradual exodus ensued. From a thriving mining camp of two thousand people, Cherry Creek dwindled to a town of less than three hundred inhabitants who became almost entirely dependant for support and maintenance on what ranching and stock raising could be developed in the surrounding country.
Occasionally, the old workings of the mines would attract the attention of some venturesome leaser, but for years mining operations were nil.
However, the old Star Mine was eventually taken over by new management and worked by its owners with some degree of profit, but never to the extent that it had enjoyed in the halcyon days of the camp, only a small force of men being employed to carry on the work, and these mainly were gathered from the residents who had lived in Cherry Creek all their lives.
In all, Steptoe Lodge No. 24 dispensed its charity and diffused its Masonic Light for twenty-three years. With the decline of the camp, Masonry gradually diminished in membership, until there were barely enough members left to hold a Masonic quorum. Financially impaired, its membership scattered, there were only six of its one time splendid lodge roster left in the town, and, realizing the impossibility of ever regaining its old prestige, and reestablishing itself in the community, it was decided to surrender its charter and transfer its remaining members to Ely Lodge No. 29. Accordingly in the fall of 1915, the charter was surrendered and the lodge at Cherry Creek passed into history.
WADSWORTH LODGE NO. 25
Wadsworth (later Sparks) NV
As an outcome of the American victory in the Mexican war, the latter country ceded to the United States a tract of country extending from the Rocky mountains to the Pacific ocean, and from the present boundaries of Idaho and Oregon to the old Mexico line.
Within this area was the unexplored limits of our present Nevada, with her undiscovered bonanza mines rich in their wealth of silver and gold, copper and other minerals.
With the discovery of gold on the south fork of American river in California, the tide of emigration swept over the portion that was known as the Great American Desert, and after passing over to the forty mile desert in the western part of Utah, the trail divided, one branch passing through Carson Valley, the other following the Truckee river from what is today Wadsworth, passing through Stone and Gates’ crossing, and extending its crooked way through the canyon to where Reno now is located.
At the foot of this canyon lay the fertile Truckee Meadows, and four miles away, the spot which later was known as “Jameson’s Station,” afterwards taking the name of “Glendale” and finally included in the city of Sparks.
During the gold rush to California in 1849, many emigrant trains passed over the Truckee river route, headed for the alluvial deposits of the “Golden State.
At that time no settlers were found along the overland trail, and it was not until the year 1852 that Truckee Meadows was settled, and then only one individual braved the lonesomeness of the vast adjacent territory, and virtually pitched his tent beside the limpid waters of the Truckee river, where he later established a trading post, which was maintained for several years. The spot was some distance north of what afterwards became Glendale.
Historical data indicate that George F. Stone and Chas. C. Gates arrived in the district as early as 1853, settling at Stone and Gates Crossing, but their trading post was not established until about 1857; from that time on for the next ten years, that settlement was the most prosperous one in that region.
In the meanwhile one or two stores, a meat market, a wayside inn, a saloon and several dwellings were erected and a small schoolhouse was built.
With the establishment of a postoffice by the U. S. government, the name of the place was changed to Glendale, which continued to prosper until about 1869 when Reno was founded and the settlement gradually declined, and finally passed into oblivion.
The story of Truckee Meadows and environment is famous for the early pioneers who between 1857 and 1870 settled in that section and who, in the development of that portion of Nevada, made history. Among those of prominence, appears the name of Orrin Chas. Ross, whose paternal ancestor was Thomas Ross, a native of Scotland, who emigrated to America some time prior to 1775 and located in Virginia, afterwards moving to Massachusetts.
Orin Ross was a son of Silas Ross who was born about 1814, and who lived in Vermont until 1850, when he moved to Illinois. Orin Ross was born in Massachusetts October 5, 1838. In 1859 he ventured west, settling in California, making his home in Marysville, Forest City and Downieville. In 1863 the wanderlust again seized him and he started for Iowa. On the way east, he suffered an accident near Glendale, and was forced to stop to recuperate. His stay in that locality lengthened into weeks, and the weeks into months. Years passed and in the meantime he became identified with the Virginia City Market. In 1868 he became a member of Reno Lodge No. 13, F. & A. M., and in later years served Washoe county as commissioner.
In 1870 he purchased the “Ross ranch,” later acquiring the Red Rock cattle range owned by John F. Stone. He was the father of six children, the youngest of whom, Silas Earl Ross, became prominent as an instructor in the Nevada State University, and later entered the funeral service business as the senior member of the firm of Ross and Burke.
The name of Silas E. Ross looms prominent in Masonic circles. He has attained the highest honor in Nevada that the Grand Lodge can bestow, having served as Grand Master in 1924, and later receiving the honorary 33rd degree and being named Deputy of the Supreme Council Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite Free Masonry. He is a vital and dominant force and factor in Nevada Masonry.
With the coming of the pioneers into Truckee Valley, a new era dawned for that section, and as the rails of the transcontinental railroad were extended from the Pacific coast eastward, Reno sprang into prominence as a commercial center; new settlements developed along the line of the railroad, one of which was later named Wadsworth, founded in the year 1858. In his history entitled “Epic of the Overland,” Robert Lardin Fulton says, “A Roadhouse at Truckee river crossing afterwards became Wadsworth.”
The big bend in the river was a familiar place to all overland emigrants passing over the overland trail to California, for it was there that plenty of good water could be had when they came out of the desert and where they crossed the stream at what was later known as the “Lower Crossing,” at which point the town of Wadsworth now stands and where later the shops of the Southern Pacific railroad were erected.
By the year 1895, a sufficient number of Masons from other jurisdictions had settled in Wadsworth to warrant the establishment of a Masonic lodge, and complying with Masonic usage they held a meeting for the purpose of launching plans to effect an organization.
In response to their petition asking permission to establish a lodge under dispensation on December 2, 1895, Most Worshipful Enoch Strother authorized the issuance of a dispensation to the following brethren, viz: T. L. Bellam, named as the first worshipful master of the lodge; Edwin Howler, Martin Kline, W. S. Bailey, W. B. Van Horn, W. E. Cobb, Wm. Dunlope, F. C. Hampton, J. W. Walker and L. Hottenhouse.
At the following annual communication of the Grand Lodge, a charter was issued to Wadsworth Lodge No. 25, dated June 9, 1896, and the lodge began its active career.
The first meeting place of the brethren was in a building known as “Fraternal Hall,” located on Main street. The quarters were small but comfortable and had been furnished with substantial, sightly station seats. Emblematic pedestals were in their proper locations and a neat altar before which the brethren might approach the East occupied the center of the hall.
In these quarters the lodge continued to expand for many months, until a schoolhouse was acquired by the brethren for a meeting place.
To this hall the lodge moved their belongings and continued to spread Masonic light, and there for several years they held forth, to become a commanding unit among the constituent lodges of the state, augmented by the influx of Masons from other jurisdictions, and the addition of new members from the ranks of the local populace. By 1903 a substantial membership had been set up. In the meantime, fire damaged the hall, and some of the furnishings and regalia were destroyed.
In the Grand Lodge Journal of Proceedings for the year 1902 appears the following, viz: “On motion of M. Worshipful M. I. McCormack, the Grand Lodge Secretary was authorized to loan Wadsworth Lodge No. 25 any lodge furniture and regalia he may have in his possession, said lodge having lost its furniture and regalia by fire.” However, the lodge continued to carry on, and within a few months had fully recuperated its loss.
During the year 1902 changes were made by the railroad and it was decided that newer and larger shops were necessary for the expanding business of that company than could be developed in Wadsworth. To this end a tract of land known as “The Martin Ranch,” located four miles east of Reno in what is now the city of Sparks, was purchased as a new site for the contemplated improvements, and the work of dismantling the shops at Wadsworth and moving them to the new location was begun. Many of the homes of the employees were also removed to the new site, the railroad company in every instance bearing the expense of removal, and in addition issuing property deeds for the ground in the new location.
By the latter part of 1904 the exodus was complete, and from a town of several hundred people, Wadsworth had shrunk to a village of less than one hundred souls.
Wadsworth lodge, however, continued to function for several months longer, but with the flower of its membership moved to the new town of Sparks and with barely a quorum remaining to hold lodge meetings, it was realized that it could not continue as an active Masonic unit, and as the brethren in Sparks were anxious to organize a lodge and continue their Masonic work, it was decided to ask permission to transfer the remaining membership and remove the belongings of the lodge to the new terminal town.
Permission to effect the transfer was asked for and obtained from Most Worshipful George Gillson, Grand Master, on December 19, 1904.
In his report to the Grand Lodge recorded in the 1906 journal of proceedings, Most Worshipful Grand Master C,has. A. Beemer makes the following statement, viz: “June 14th made endorsement on the charter of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25, changing the place of meeting from Wadsworth to Sparks, Nevada, as provided in general regulations No. 44.”
Meanwhile, the brethren in Sparks had negotiated for a building in which their charter might be housed and the lodge expand. This building stood at the corner of 4th and D Streets, and after having been reconditioned, the furniture, regalia and records were brought over from Wadsworth, and the lodge resumed its interrupted career with the promise of a bright future.
For some time Wadsworth Lodge held forth in this location, the enthusiasm of the brethren never lagging, building strongly and well, and developing a lodge which grew to splendid proportions, to become a dominant factor in Masonic circles. The lodge then moved to Robinson Hall, which they occupied from about 1906 to 1921.
So, eventually, Wadsworth lodge outgrew its old quarters, and the need of a larger, more commodious and modem meeting place was manifestly apparent. So urgent did this need become that for months the possibility of promoting a new temple in Sparks was discussed and planned, resulting in the final organization of “The Sparks Masonic Building Association, incorporated under the laws of the State of Nevada, and authorized to sell stock in the association at $25.00 per share, to be devoted to the purpose of building a Masonic Temple in the city of Sparks.” The sum of $50,000.00 was to be expended for erecting the structure. It is interesting to note that eventually, Wadsworth lodge acquired and is at present the owner of $38,875.00 in stock in the association.
So rapidly did this stock move that by the spring of 1921, ground was broken for the venture, and the foundation was being laid. The Grand Lodge was to convene in Reno the following June, and Most Worshipful Harry H. Atkinson, Grand Master, was requested to assemble the Grand Lodge at the site of the new building and lay the cornerstone of the new temple, during the Grand Lodge session.
This invitation was most graciously accepted by the Grand Master, and plans were made by the brethren in Wadsworth to receive and entertain the Grand Body when it was convened to perform the ceremony. And so, at a special communication of the Grand Lodge held at Sparks June 9, 1921, at two o’clock P. M. Grand Master Atkinson opened the Grand Lodge in ample form, in the hall of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25. Grand Marshal Walter Macpherson formed the procession, and the Craftsmen, escorted by DeWitt Clinton Commandery Knights Templar, of Reno, marched to the site of the new edifice, where the corner stone was laid in place, agreeably to usages of Ancient Craft Masonry, and with due and becoming solemnity.
Many interesting and historical mementoes were deposited in a metal casket which was sealed in the stone before it was set in place. After the public Grand honors, the Grand Master delivered to the architect, Worshipful Brother Fred M. Schadler, the implements of architecture, expressing the wish that the building might be carried to a successful completion. Grand Orator Edward A. Ducker was then introduced, and delivered a most interesting and inspiring address. The benediction was pronounced by the Grand Chaplain, the procession was again formed and the brethren returned to Masonic headquarters in Sparks, and the Grand Lodge was called from labor to refreshment until 7:30 P. M. in the Masonic Temple in Reno.
An elaborate luncheon was then served by the ladies of the 0. E. S. The laying of the corner stone was witnessed by a large gathering of Masons not only from Reno and Sparks, but by delegations from every constituent lodge in the state, and by delegations from Reno, Carson City, and the adjoining district.
In the Grand Lodge Session that evening the dedication ceremony was fittingly referred to by Brother Nealy H. Chapin, who spoke in part as follows: “This afternoon we laid with appropriate ceremonies, the corner stone of a new Temple in the city of Sparks.
“It was an auspicious occasion, for throughout the ages it has been the ambition of Masons to aid in the erection of magnificent buildings for the glory of God and the good of man. And, as this corner stone which we laid this afternoon fulfills its purpose as an important and abiding part of that temporal building, so shall your work and the work of the lodges in this jurisdiction, remain as an important part of that spiritual building, the Temple of Masonic work and achievement in our own beloved state of Nevada.”
The material progress of the Temple at Sparks was remarkable and, as at the building of Solomon’s Temple at Jerusalem, weather conditions were conducive to uninterrupted work, and peace and harmony prevailed among the workmen. By December, 1921, the edifice was completed, and was ready for occupancy, and on December 30th was dedicated according to Masonic custom and ceremony, by Grand Master Louis G. Campbell.
It is of interest to note that the Temple is of substantial brick construction, the ground door containing three business rooms, one of which has been occupied by the United States government for the past thirteen years as the Sparks City postoffice.
The second floor is devoted to the use of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25, for lodge purposes, with offices and anterooms in connection. On the third floor is a commodious banquet room.
Year by year Wadsworth Lodge has continued to carry on in its splendid home, zealously performing its Masonic labors, and contributing to the progress of Nevada Masonry.
It has given to the Order some of the outstanding Masons of the state, contributing to the Grand Lodge many distinguished members who have obtained rank and prestige in the affairs of that Grand Body.
In addition to its many other activities, Wadsworth Lodge No. 25 has entertained the Grand Lodge of Nevada upon one occasion, that of the 1933-34 session, when at High Twelve June 14, 1934, Most Worshipful Grand Master Harold R. Amens opened the Seventieth Annual Communication in the Hall of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25.
In addition also to other important questions considered at this session, the matter of Plural and Dual membership was thoroughly discussed, but was laid over for final action until the next annual communication of the Grand Lodge, in 1935.
Upon the recommendation of six Past Grand Masters of the Grand Lodge, Brothers Paul Nathan and Roscoe L. Clark from the Grand Lodge of California, were unanimously elected Honorary Grand Secretary and Honorary Past Junior Grand Warden respectively, of the Grand Lodge of Nevada.
It was at this session, too, that Past Grand Master and Grand Treasurer Walter J. Harris requested the Grand Body not to consider his candidacy for the office of Grand Treasurer, at the election of Grand officers to serve for the ensuing year, giving as his reason for declining further election to this office, that he was resigning his several treasurerships in the various Masonic bodies and was contemplating a vacation and relaxation from business. While it was with reluctance that the Grand Lodge considered the request of the veteran treasurer and Mason, it was remembered that the distinguished brother had served the Grand Lodge as Grand Treasurer for twenty-five consecutive terms, and was entitled to a vacation.
Personnel The membership roster of Wadsworth Lodge reflects the name of Chas. A. Beemer, beloved and revered in his lodge, and attaining prestige and honor in the Grand Lodge of Nevada which he served as Grand Master in 1906.
His Masonic record was an enviable one, marked by ability and strong, unfaltering devotion to Masonry. His labors as Grand Master wrought for a broad, more comprehensive development of the tenets of Masonry, and much of the Craft’s in8uence in Nevada today, particularly the progress and standing of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25 are resultant from the devotion of this loyal and distinguished Grand Master, and his whole hearted efforts to build wisely and well for Masonry.
He retired from his exalted office as Grand Master with the plaudits and well wishes of the Craft, and until the date of his death was an active and zealous worker in Nevada Masonry.
The name of Waiter S. Macpherson looms prominent in the affairs and history, not only of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25, but also as an active figure in the Grand Lodge of Nevada.
Early in its history he became identified with Wadsworth Lodge, and at once became a dominant personage in its progress, contributing not only of his time and means to its support and upbuilding, but likewise giving of his ability and untiring effort in promoting its welfare.
His zeal for Masonry won honor for him in the Grand Lodge of Nevada soon after his advent into that Grand Body in which he advanced to become Junior Grand Warden, and which at the present time (1944 – ed.) he is serving most efficiently as Grand Treasurer.
Outstanding as a member of Wadsworth Lodge, and prominent in the affairs of the Grand Lodge of Nevada is William R. Adams, who in 1931, wore the Purple of the Order upon his shoulders as Grand Master of Nevada Masons, and who so successfully served as Grand Master of Instruction for seven successive terms.
To him was accorded the honor of superintending the revision of the “Nevada Work” and placing it upon a basis whereby all lodges in the state would work in uniformity.
Through his efforts and direction the present mode of ritualistic procedure has been remodeled and revised; Deputy Masters of instruction have been appointed to supervise and instruct the brethren in their districts; schools of instruction have been held at every Grand Lodge Communication, and through his efforts, ably assisted by a committee of competent Past Grand Masters, the work has been brought to a wonderful perfection.
Failing health and the demands of his business prompted Brother Adams to decline reelection at the Annual Communication held in Winnemucca in 1938; he remains, however, a consistent worker in the Masonic field, loved and respected by every member of the Craft in the jurisdiction. His death occurred February 24, 1940.
One of the active members of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25 was Reverend T. M. Bellam, the first worshipful master of the lodge when it was organized in the town of Wadsworth.
His Masonic activities marked him as an outstanding member of the Order, and among his brethren he won respect and confidence, and was accorded every honor his lodge could bestow.
His entry into the Grand Lodge of Nevada was the occasion for a display of endeavor which he manifested in his home lodge, and in 18% he was appointed Grand Chaplain, which office he held continuously until 1920, with the exception of the year 1907.
When Humboldt Lodge No. 27 was organized in Lovelock in 1901, and Churchill Lodge came into existence a little later, Brother Bellam was delegated by Grand Master Morgan to institute both lodges, and install their officers.
He died July 26, 1928.
For years Elwood H. Beemer has been a well known member of Nevada Masonry. Immediately upon receiving his degrees in Wadsworth Lodge, he manifested an interest in the affairs of his lodge, and was given an appointive office. By consistent effort and faithful attendance, he was eventually elevated to the office of Worshipful Master of the lodge, and from there it was but a step through the portals of the Grand Lodge, within whose cloisters he was soon accorded a place and, eventually, a station.
As he advanced through the various degrees of Masonry in other Masonic bodies, his ability and zealousness was recognized, and he was elevated to the highest offices those bodies can bestow. In June, 1938, he was advanced to the office of Most Worshipful Grand Master of Nevada Masons; his record in that distinguished office is a matter of approbation, not only by the Grand Lodge of Nevada, but by the brethren of the constituent lodges of the state, by whom he is fraternally beloved and respected.
Nevada Masonry is better for having had the leadership of this eminent brother.
One of the most important and far reaching activities ever attempted by Wadsworth Lodge No. 25 was the sponsoring and eventual establishment of a chapter of DeMolay, for the young boys of Sparks.
The movement was started in the early months of 1923, through the activity and enthusiasm of Brother Fred W. Steiner, who had long been interested in character development of boys. Through his instrumentality, ably assisted by other far sighted members of his lodge, the attempt came to successful termination, and on June 13, 1923, a charter was issued by the Supreme Council DeMolay, authorizing eight outstanding boys to organize a chapter in the city of Sparks; in this charter Brother Fred W. Steiner was named chairman of the Advisory Council of the new chapter. It is to the credit of Brother Steiner, that through his interest, ability and understanding of the boys entrusted to his supervision, and their love and esteem for him, he has continued through the years in the high and responsible office to which he was named in the charter.
Sparks chapter DeMolay stands as a notable example of the splendid objective of the youth movement, and the aims and purposes of the parent chapter. It has recruited its membership from the flower of young boyhood of Sparks, who have enthusiastically responded to the lure of its social, fraternal and religious fundamentals.
It has given to Masonry those who have passed the age limit in the ranks of the Order, and have been impelled by the teachings of DeMolay to seek sanctuary and contact with Masonic brethren, practice the doctrine of fraternity, and recognize the brotherhood of man, and the fellowship of God in the observance of those truly Masonic tenets, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
Here we pause; not because the record of Wadsworth lodge is written, for who can tell of the years to come? Though we may prophesy, still, we can only forecast; yet, as we attempt to outline what lies before it, we may justly say, that as the enthusiasm of the brethren has established a record for devotion, tireless energy and magnificent accomplishment in all its past activities, so will it continue in the years to come, a dominant unit among the constituent lodges of Nevada, a factor to aid in the upbuilding of the community in which it operates, a sanctuary to which the profane will gravitate, inspired by their concept of its merits, and lured by the example of the brethren in their practice of those Masonic virtues, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth.
CHURCHILL LODGE NO. 26
The development of Churchill County is unique in the history of Nevada, in that it furnishes a most apt illustration of the magic touch of the hand of man, and his genius in producing agencies which caused the desert wastes of that arid country to bloom as the rose, and created a veritable Paradise in the territory which had been parched and seared. This transformation resulted from the promotion of an irrigation district fostered by the U. S. government, in Lahontan Valley, and the dividing of the land into forty and eighty acre tracts, for sale to interested agriculturists.
Churchill county, of which Fallon is the county seat, derives its name from Fort Churchill, situated just west of the present county line; although the fort was in actual use for only eleven years, yet, during the time it flourished it had a colorful existence in the history of the state and had, during the period of its occupancy, the largest military force ever stationed in the Sagebrush State, a force which numbered at its peak some seven hundred soldiers.
The span of Fort Churchill’s existence was contemporaneous with such national events as the pony express, the first cross country telegraph, the Civil War, the development of the Comstock Lode, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It was established as the direct result of an Indian massacre, in which seven persons were killed at Williams Station, located on the Overland Trail. In an attempt to avenge these killings, a battle was fought between Comstock and Carson City regulars on one side, and the hostile Paiute Indians on the other, near Pyramid Lake, in which Major Ormsby, commanding, and many of the whites, were killed.
Following this brush with the Indians, the post was planned, estimates calling for the expenditure of $178,899.69 when the fort was completed, were made, which amount covered plans and specifications for all buildings to be erected on the reserve.
The military force at the Fort was detailed to afford protection for emigrant trains coming from the cast, as well as to maintain order in the rapidly developing mining camps of Nevada. It was vacated by the troops September 29, 1869, and was finally abandoned in 1871.
While the ruins of Fort Churchill are located several miles from the city of Fallon, and had no direct bearing on the ultimate development of the inland city, yet it was by reason of the travel to and from the fort, and across and through the district in which Fallon is located, that attention was first directed to the site upon which the settlement was afterwards made, resulting in the acquiring of a large tract of land by Mike Fallon for farming purposes, and where in later years, the city was laid out and developed. Mike Fallon tilled this acreage with profit for two decades before a settlement in that district was even considered. By the year 1896, however, the surrounding territory had been taken up by quite a number of farmers and some centralized point was necessary for the location of a postoffice, and Fallon’s ranch was designated by the government as suitable place, and was officially named Fallon Post Office. It was carried on in a small building in the rear of Fallon’s residence; this building being about ten by twelve feet in dimensions. Mike Fallon later sold his holdings to Warren W. Williams, and the first postoffice erected was east of the home residence of Mr. Williams.
Within a year after the new building was built, J. W. Richards, who conducted a general store at Stillwater, erected a building later owned and occupied by “The Churchill County Eagle,” and moved his stock of merchandise from Stillwater. In 1902 the county seat was moved from Stillwater to Fallon.
Hon. Warren W. Williams donated the land for a courthouse and for a county jail for Churchill county and laid out an addition on the west side of “Main Street” of the new town. The courthouse was completed the following year and with the passage of a Reclamation Act establishing the Truckee-Carson irrigation project with Fallon as the center, the permanency of the town was assured. In 1907 the Nevada legislature passed a “Special Incorporation Act for the Town of Fallon,” but when it was submitted to a vote of the citizens of the city it was rejected. In 1908 the City of Fallon was organized under the General Incorporation Act and, after the validity of the law was tested and sustained by the Supreme Court, Fallon finally launched out as a municipality.
It has been said, and with much truth, that our first Masonic lodges in Nevada with few exceptions, were located in mining districts where the lure of gold and silver beckoned adventurous and ambitious men, bent on acquiring not only riches, but upon establishing orderly government. This is indisputable, but it is likewise true that Masonry followed the pioneer to whatever section of the state he invaded, and in those localities where precious metal was not found, but were essentially agricultural, or ranching districts, Masonry soon followed in the wake of settlement. This was the situation reflected when Fallon was settled and began to take on some of the airs and customs of a live, energetic town.
It has been noted that in 1902 the county seat was moved from Stillwater to Fallon. It was then that Fallon began to expand and assumed an air of importance; its growth was rapid and its future was assured.
As early as 1899 it was known that there were a few Masons living in the district, and by 1900 it was apparent that the sojourning brethren were determined to form either a small Masonic association, or would ask permission to organize a lodge under dispensation. This determination bore fruit, resulting in a petition being addressed to Grand Master J. A. Miller, requesting authority to establish a lodge in the town of Fallon. This petition was signed by J. W. Caldwell, W. C. Ferguson, I. H. Kent, Thos. Dolf, W. H. Sifford, F. I. Small, W. R. Lee, J. W Richards, W. W. Williams and G. W. Webb, all of whom were old time residents in the district. The petition was given due consideration, and on March 8, 1901, permission was granted to establish a lodge Under Dispensation, naming W. H. Sifford, worshipful master; Ira H. Kent, senior warden, and W. C. Ferguson, junior warden.
At the following communication of the Grand Lodge in June, 1901, a charter was issued the brethren in Fallon, and it was numbered Churchill Lodge No. 26 on Nevada registry. It was authorized by Most Worshipful Geo. A. Morgan, Grand Master. Due to the inability of the Grand Master to make the trip to Fallon to constitute the lodge and install its elective and appointive officers, Grand Master Morgan appointed the Very Reverend Thos. L. Bellam to convene a meeting of the Grand Lodge in Fallon, constitute the new lodge and install its officers. In conformity to this arrangement, the Grand Lodge was convened in Fallon July 19, 1901, with the following acting Grand Officers in attendance: Very Reverend Thomas L. Bellam, Grand Master; H. J. Allen, as Deputy Grand Master; R. H. Bellam, as Senior Grand Warden; T. C. Hampton, as Junior Grand Warden; George Frazier, as Grand Chaplain and Senior Grand Deacon; H. J. Allen, Grand Junior Deacon; L. S. Bridges, as Grand Marshal; Chas. T. Short, as Grand Tyler.
The Grand Lodge was opened in due form, and retired to a room adjoining Churchill Lodge U. D. to await its action, Churchill lodge having announced its readiness to receive the Grand Lodge; the officers of the Grand Lodge entered and, according to ancient form and custom, constituted the new lodge, installed its officers and closed in ample form. A social hour followed with the serving of an elaborate dinner and an inspiring address by Very Reverend Thomas L. Bellam. The officers installed at this meeting were: W. H. Stafford, worshipful master; Ira H. Kent, senior warden; W. C. Ferguson, junior warden; G. W. Webb, treasurer; J. W. Richards, secretary; Thos. Dolf, senior deacon; F. S. Small, junior deacon; W. L. Lee, tyler.
In the meantime, a meeting place in the upper story of a building located on the main street of the town had been secured and properly prepared and furnished to house the lodge and, at that location, Churchill lodge continued to meet for several years, the only disagreeable factor in their progress being the loss and discomfiture occasioned by a fire which destroyed some of their records, regalia and lodge furniture, and burning the building to the ground. However, the building was rebuilt at once and the lodge continued its interrupted course at the same location, until their present quarters in a fine, reinforced cement building was erected on Main Street. This structure is known as the Fraternity Building, and is occupied by the Masonic and various other fraternal bodies of Fallon. Churchill lodge met in this building for the first time, February 4, 1927.
From a tiny band of ten brethren comprising its original charter list, Churchill lodge has enjoyed a steady growth; today (1944 – ed.) its membership numbers between 170 and 175 loyal, outstanding, zealous and influential brethren.
It has been the sanctuary of some of the most influential and prominent citizens of Churchill county, among whom were those who have occupied foremost places in the professional, commercial, civic and industrial activities of the county. As a unit of the constituent lodges of Nevada, it has always occupied a commanding and important place. In addition to its diversified activities in the city of Fallon, Churchill Lodge has always manifested a keen interest in the affairs of the Grand Lodge, in which it has been given prominent recognition. At the 1929 session, it was honored by the elevation of one of its members, Andrew L. Haight, to the office of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Nevada. During the Grand Lodge communication held in June, 1930, it was further honored by the appointment made by Grand Master W. R. Adams, of William A. Totman as Very Reverend Grand Chaplain.
Brother Lemuel S. Allen is another member of Churchill to receive appointment on the official staff of the Grand Lodge, being appointed for the first time in 1935, as Grand Pursuivant. At the 1938 session, held in Winnemucca, he was advanced to be Grand Orator. As a whole, the personnel of Churchill lodge is an enviable one, and always has been; the Masons who pioneered the way in the lodge were likewise of a high type of citizens, and took a leading part in the affairs of the county, and in the subsequent founding of Fallon.
Among these Masons were some who attained honor in the political and social history of the state. As an indication of the heights to which some of the original members of the lodge rose, we need only mention the names of Lem Allen, Warren W. Williams, Ira H. Kent, James W. Richards, and the floodgates of memory open to the recollection of their activities, their charities, their public spirit, and the esteem in which they were held in the community in which they lived. But, although they carved their names high on the roll of achievement, and by their own endeavors won a coveted place in the hearts of their fellow citizens, as the years passed by, others who made Fallon the town of their adoption, rose to heights through their integrity, became members of Churchill Lodge, and added prestige and luster to their lodge and community, as they too followed in the footsteps of the outstanding brethren who pioneered the way.
Masonry in Fallon is further represented by St. Johns Chapter, No. 5, R.A.M., which was moved from Eureka, Nevada, in the year 1927. This unit of Capitular Masonry has made favorable progress since it located in Fallon, and is one of the flourishing chapters of the Grand Jurisdiction of Nevada.
The York Rite of Masonry is represented in Fallon by Lahontan Commandery No. 7, Knights Templar, which was organized in the year 1931, and which, since it was founded, has enjoyed a healthy growth.
These several bodies of Masonry have contributed not only to the fraternal interests and activities of the inland city, but have played an important part in shaping the moral and intellectual growth of the community, since they have always fostered and upheld those various agencies which have for their object the uplifting of humanity, and the advancement and edification of the human race.
A Brief personnel of Churchill Lodge
Prominent among the members of Churchill lodge was Lem Allen, a charter member of the lodge. He was a native of Ohio, born in 1839. In 1862 he moved to Churchill county, where he taught school in the St. Clair district. Later he acquired ranching property on which he lived until 1912. He served the county as District Attorney for several terms, was a member of the State Legislature, elected to the Assembly and State Senate for a number of consecutive terms, and at one time was Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. As a Mason, he served his lodge with that same degree of devotion and attention he always gave to all the activities of life.
The history of Churchill lodge would not be complete without reference to Hon. Warren W. Williams, who was of New England stock, his grandfathers on both sides of the house serving in the Revolutionary War. In 1871 he located in Churchill county, to which he moved from California. He was closely identified with the public and political movements of the county, was elected county commissioner for eight years, and for another eight years was State Senator from Churchill county. He drafted the bill that moved the county seat from Stillwater to Fallon, and was instrumental in obtaining an appropriation for building the court house and jail, for which he donated the ground.
In the early period of Churchill lodge he was very active. He died in 1918 at the age of eighty years,, and was buried in the shadow of Fallon Butte, which he so dearly loved.
The name of Ira H. Kent looms prominent not only in the history of Churchill county and in the commercial affairs of Fallon, but also in the activities of Churchill Lodge No. 26, F. & A. M., of which he was a beloved and respected member. Born in Millersburg, Pa., August 15, 1855, he moved to California in 1874, and later to Oregon. In 1876 he came to Churchill county, and was elected county recorder in 1877. In 1880, he was elected county treasurer, and was twice elected district attorney. In the meantime, he acquired about 3000 acres of ranch land, which he worked with profit. In 1902 he came to Fallon and organized the I. H. Kent Company which grew rapidly under his management, and became one of the outstanding business enterprises of the town.
He helped to organize the beet industry in Churchill county, assisted in promoting a beet sugar factory, to become its vice president. When Churchill lodge was organized in Fallon in 1901, he took an active part in its promotion, and at once entered into its activities, to become the first senior warden.
To James W. Richards is given the credit of erecting the first business building in Fallon. For several years he was engaged in the general merchandise business in Stillwater, and when the county seat was moved from that town to Fallon, Brother Richards moved his stock and opened a store in the new county seat, and later was appointed postmaster at Fallon. In 1878 he was elected county clerk, and in 1880 was chosen as assemblyman from his county; later, he served three consecutive terms as county treasurer.
He joined Churchill lodge F. & A. M. in 1901, and became its first secretary.
Among the energetic, zealous and consistent members of Churchill Lodge is Brother Herbert E. Roe who since his enrollment as a member of that lodge, has occupied a prominent place in its progress. He is also a member of Saint Johns Chapter No. 5, Royal Arch Masons, and an outstanding member of Lahontan Commandery No. 7, Knights Templar.
He has served not only Churchill Lodge No. 26, but also St. Johns Chapter and Lahontan Commandery K. T. as secretary and scribe and through his energy, attention and initiative, these bodies have maintained a healthy growth. Through his efforts, the rosters of these bodies reflect remarkably few suspensions, while their records have been intelligently and properly transcribed.
An outstanding member of Churchill Lodge is Andrew L. Haight. He is also a prominent member of the legal fraternity of Fallon. He is a native of Michigan, where he was born July 17, 1884. He received his education in the public schools of Michigamme, from which he graduated in 1899, and attended the Ferris Institute at Big Rapids in 1900 and 1901. Later, he read law in Hancock, Mich., and Chicago, Ill. In 1907, he was admitted to the bar in Nevada and engaged in the practice of law in Ely, Nevada, where he was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in Ely Lodge No. 29, on May 19, 1909. On May 2, 1919, he became a member of Churchill lodge by affiliation. In 1925 he was appointed Grand Senior Deacon of the Grand Lodge of Nevada and having filled several stations in between, was elected Grand Master in 1929.
The visitation of Grand Master Haight to his own lodge is the subject of an interesting paragraph from the pen of Herbert E. Roe, secretary of Churchill lodge, who writes: “May 2, 1930, will long be remembered as an outstanding event – the visit of Grand Master Haight. As a distinct compliment to him, the officers of St. Johns Chapter No. 5, R. A. M., appeared in full regalia, and as a further compliment, thirty Sir Knights of DeWitt Clinton Commandery, No. 1, of Reno, attired in full Templar uniform greeted him. Eleven grand officers of the Grand Lodge were also present to pay honor to the first and only Grand Master contributed by Churchill Lodge No. 26. At this meeting there were sixteen of the twenty-three lodges of the state represented, totaling over two hundred Masons, together with thirteen others from foreign lodges.”
HUMBOLDT LODGE NO. 27
The settling and development of Lovelock is closely associated with that of Winnemucca, for the circumstances attendant upon the location of the latter place had, to an extent at least, their bearing on the establishment of a town upon the present site of Lovelock. Both were the result of the coming of the covered wagon trains, and the trek of the sturdy pioneer from his haunts beyond the Mississippi river, although a decade or more elapsed between the actual founding of the two towns.
Of Lovelock it may be said, it is the first town of any size east of Sparks and Reno, and was first settled by John Blake in 1861. The following year George Lovelock, for whom the town is named, arrived with his family and established a home on some land opposite the spot where the Southern Pacific depot now stands, on a corner later occupied by the Orpheum Theatre. The railroad extended its rails through the town in 1866 and literally passed through the front yard of Mr. Lovelock’s place.
The surrounding district and country was called Big Meadows, particularly that section around the banks of Humboldt lake whose waters have since receded and left only a stretch of sandy soil to mark the site of its once limpid waters.
Gradually the little settlement extended its boundaries, here and there a new home reared its four walls, there was some regulation and system in laying out the streets, order and proportion appeared, and along the main street substantial business rooms were built which became the new homes of reliable commercial establishments.
With the coming of the railroad a hotel was built and furnished, and not long afterwards a little church and schoolhouse were erected. Lovelock was now on its way, and being the center of an active mining, agricultural and stock raising country, gave promise of a bright future. At the close of the gay nineties it had built up a substantial population and was becoming an important factor in the political and financial affairs of that section of Nevada.
During the period of its early development following the coming of the first settlers, little thought was given to aught except the creation of commercial or civic enterprises which would augment the comfort and happiness of those who had settled there, resolved to build around them a community which would become a mecca toward which would gravitate a solid, outstanding class of citizens; and so, their time and impulses were centered in building practical enterprises which would make for success and contribute to progress. Time meant money, and time could not be frittered away in the pursuit of those things which did not contribute to the perpetuation of their life’s work. It is therefore to be assumed that social contact and the pursuit of pleasure was denied them. This is confirmed by one of the old, old citizens of the district, who shortly before he passed over the Great Divide said: “We worked in those days, worked early and late; we had to work if we wanted to live. From early Monday morning on through the week until the next Monday morning, month in and month out, year in and year out, we toiled. We couldn’t go to meetin’; we couldn’t hardly be neighborly, for we were carvin out a new country. Rut at last we won out, and now when the sun is about to go down below the horizon of our lives, we can set back and enjoy the last few hours left to us.
That was the spirit which obsessed those hardy determined, progressive pioneers who built wisely, and well.
During these years of struggle and privation, among those who had come to the district were members of the Masonic fraternity, who eventually found one another after the fashion of the Craft, and who as the demands of their vocations would permit, would foregather to discuss the old landmarks of the Order and plan for future activities of the organization in their district. It has been said, “The history of a community can be traced through the activities of its fraternal units, for usually these units are composed of men of forceful character, progressive and public spirited, giving the best of their lives not alone to upbuilding their own fortunes and in furthering their own personal interests, but to the establishment and maintenance of enterprises calculated to advance the general welfare of the community in which they live, enhancing the well being of those with whom they come in contact.”
This was the case of the brethren who settled in Lovelock and although the span of the years was long since they first came into the district until time, place and conditions were conducive to the formation of a Masonic lodge in their midst, yet with the passing of the years, silently but surely, fraternal impulses were at work shaping conditions for the ultimate establishment of a lodge in their locality and bringing to fruition the hopes and ambitions which had been nurtured and fostered for more than thirty years, for in the early spring of 1901 a few Master Masons met in the Lovelock grammar schoolhouse to devise plans for the organization of a lodge under dispensation, and to petition the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Nevada for permission to proceed with their plans. The prayer of their petition was granted, and on March 23, 1901, the dispensation was granted, naming John A. Ascher, worshipful master, Robert Fulstone, senior warden, and B. C. Maris, junior warden. On the first day of May, 1901, another meeting was held in the school house, and the brethren present proceeded to elect officers for the ensuing year, to be installed when the lodge was regularly constituted, their choice being the three principal officers named in the dispensation, and in addition thereto, Hans C. Marker, treasurer; Luman C. Carpenter, secretary; C. D. Ziegler, senior deacon; George H. Piper, junior deacon; Peter A. Ostrander and J. R. Brown, stewards, and Edward Stiff, tyler.
It is of interest to record that at this writing (February, 1939) John A. Ascher, the first master of the lodge, is alive and living in Illinois, and that Edward L. Stiff, the first tyler, is still living in Lovelock anti during the year 1939 enjoyed the privilege and pleasure of seeing his son Lawrence preside over Humboldt Lodge as Master.
At a communication of the Grand Lodge of Nevada held in June, 1901, a charter was authorized and issued to the following Master Masons of Lovelock: J. A. Ascher, Alex Borland, Joseph Breasley, James R. Brown, L. N. Carpenter, A. R. Edmondson, A. W. Edmondson, James Toltz, Robert Fulstone, Ben C. Maris, Hans C. Marker, Joseph Marzen, H. B. McDonald, C. D. Morrison, Peter A. Ostrander, Edward L. Stiff, and Croften Uniacke and Christ D. Zeigler, fellowcrafts.
At this same communication, the lodge furniture and all the paraphernalia, jewels, etc., of Esmeralda Lodge No. 6 of Aurora, Nevada, whose charter had been surrendered to the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Nevada, were sold to Humboldt Lodge, and Brother Thomas C. Sharpe of the defunct lodge was authorized to pack and ship them to the secretary of the lodge at Lovelock. The jewels obtained from Esmeralda lodge had quite a history. In the first place, they were made from native silver taken from the Aurora mines, and were presented to Esmeralda lodge by Brother John W. Tucker of San Francisco, a name that to old Nevadans and Californians was familiar. Brother Tucker was active in Masonry in California for many years. He was a pioneer manufacturing jeweler of San Francisco and his place of business at the corner of Montgomery and Sutter streets was an old landmark from the early fifties of the last century until the earthquake and fire of 1906.” The Holy Bible used by Esmeralda lodge was finally presented to Humboldt lodge by the remaining members of Number Six and was used until 1926, when Grand Master Clarence Young presented Humboldt lodge with a new Bible when he made his official visitation to his home lodge. The old Bible was afterwards presented to Hawthorne lodge No. 36, and is in use today upon the Masonic altar of that lodge, and is one of the treasured Masonic historical items of Nevada, around which centers so many recollections of fraternal interest aroused and created in those pioneer days of the state, and our Order in Nevada.
With advice received from Right Worshipful C. N. Noteware, Grand Secretary, authorizing permission from the Grand Lodge for the brethren to organize a Masonic lodge under dispensation, and install their officers, it became necessary for the brethren to arrange for a meeting place, and to this end a building said to have been located about two blocks away from the business district of the town was secured, and during the first week in April the ceremony of instituting the new lodge and installing its officers was accomplished.
Following the issuing of the charter in June, plans were perfected to receive the document and entertain its bearer in fitting manner. The service of constituting the lodge and installing the officers was delegated to Very Reverend Thomas L. Bellam, Grand Chaplain F. & A. M. of Nevada, by Most Worshipful Grand Master George A. Morgan and who, as indicated in the journal of proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Nevada for 1902 was empowered to convene a meeting of the Grand Lodge for the purpose of constituting Humboldt lodge No. 27 and installing its officers. Accordingly, on July 26, 1901; at three o’clock P. M. the Grand Lodge was convened in Lovelock in Odd Fellows hall on the second door of the Lovelock grammar school with the following acting Grand officers in attendance: Brother Thomas L. Bellam, as Grand Master; Brother H. J. Allen as Deputy Grand Master; Brother N. N. Stark as Senior Grand Warden; Brother Joseph K. Marzen, as Junior Grand Warden; Brother H. L. Bellam as Grand Secretary and Grand Chaplain; Brother H. J. Allen as Senior Grand Deacon; Brother H. Loose as Junior Grand Deacon; Brother R. H. Bellam as Grand Tyler.
The Grand Lodge was convened in ample form and with impressive ceremony according to ancient custom, and was duly constituted with the following officers installed into office: John A. Ascher, Worshipful Master; Robert Fulstone, Senior Warden; Ben C. Maris, Junior Warden; Hans C. Marker, Treasurer; Luman N. Carpenter, Secretary; C. D. Ziegler, Senior Deacon; George H. Piper, Junior Deacon; Peter A. Ostrander, Senior Steward; J. R. Brown, Junior Steward; Edward L. Stiff, Tyler.
The impressive ceremonies concluded, Grand Lodge was closed in ample form and the Very Reverend Thomas L. Bellam delivered a most impressive address which was heartily applauded. Humboldt Lodge then resumed labor and Fellowcrafts Henry B. McDonald and Crofton Uniacke were raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason.
The subsequent history of Humboldt lodge is confined to a period of active progress which, as the years passed by was reflected in a fine numerical growth, and the lodge became a factor not only in the annals of Nevada Masonry, but exerted a splendid influence upon the social, civic, moral and religious life of the community. It continued to diffuse Masonic Light in Buena Vista hall, I. O. O. F. until early in 1910 when the brethren moved their belongings to the second door of the Lovelock Mercantile building which had been reconditioned to meet their needs. This room was occupied by both the I. O. O. F. and Masonic fraternities until the summer of 1915 when quarters were acquired on the second floor of the Young and Goodin building, now a part of the Pershing Hotel. This room was outfitted and furnished in a manner befitting the necessities and requirements of both lodges, and their belongings were moved in August. Here the brethren continued to spread Masonic light until 1920 when the old grammar school building which the brethren had first occupied as a lodge hall when the lodge was organized Under Dispensation, was purchased and moved to the location it now occupies, and after undergoing necessary remodeling, the furniture and regalia of the brethren was brought over from the old location, and Humboldt lodge resumed its career in the jointly owned hall. Here both the I. O. O. F. fraternity and the Masonic brethren have continued to meet for more than twenty years. In the meantime, the burden of debt occasioned through buying and remodeling the building has been lifted, and both lodges are free of indebtedness.
Humboldt lodge is typical of what a Masonic lodge should be; an exponent of those truly Masonic virtues, Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. The years have dealt kindly with it, and as they have passed by, the lodge has added to its prestige by kindly deeds and noteworthy charity, to become a bulwark of strength in the locality where it exists.
For forty years it has carried on; some of the years have brought disappointments and loss, some have been full of blessings, but all have been marked by steadfast purpose and determination to achieve the goal of their ambition, which had for its object the establishment and perpetuation of a unit of Masonry which would stand out among the constituent lodges of the state as a model of fraternal achievement. That they have succeeded is evidenced by the standing they have attained, not only in the community in which they operate, but also the place which they occupy in the councils of the Grand Lodge of Nevada.
The roster of the lodge has from the beginning of its existence contained the names of the most prominent and outstanding men of the community, many of whom have been honored by being placed in positions of trust and responsibility by their associates, or elected to municipal, county and state offices. The list is long and reflects credit upon the lodge in the selection of proper material with which to add to their numerical strength to carry on the traditions of the Order.
At the annual communication of the Grand Lodge of Nevada convened in June, 1925, Humboldt Lodge was honored by the election of Clarence L. Young, one of its outstanding members, to serve as Grand Master of Masons of Nevada. He served the Grand Body ably and well, and at the close of his term of office retired with the good will and wishes of his co-workers in the Grand Lodge as well as of the brethren of the constituent lodges of the state.
As a tribute to the fidelity of Masonry in Lovelock, we can record that it has existed in the locality where it was organized, in response to an urge for a domain of brotherhood, and for the establishment of a fraternity where congenial companionship might soften the asperities of life and inspire an interest in the welfare and happiness of the community, as well as to enhance social and fraternal contacts. Such has been its purpose, and to this it has worked as a means to an end, to become one of the vital factors in the promotion of those Masonic virtues: Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love.
TONOPAH LODGE NO. 28
For untold ages summer’s boiling sun and winter’s chilling blasts have alternately scorched and chilled the breast of a towering, rocky sentinel, which rises abruptly from the shimmering plains where is located Tonopah, in Nye county, Nevada. For ages, majestic and silent it stood, the playground of the winds, jealously guarding the secret which lay locked within its rock ribbed breast. Its slopes were barren of vegetation, its broken sides bristled with threatening rocks and boulders, its lofty reaches as dry as Sahara’s sands.
But, like many of the paradoxes of life, nature had supplied this lofty sentinel with a heart as valuable as gold for, hidden beneath its forbidding exterior lay the ransom of Kings awaiting the genius and strength of man to open up its treasure trove, and flood the marts with its silvery sheen. And so, early in the present century, Mount Oddie released its age old secret and gave to the world the fabulously rich Mizpah and other mines, bringing fame and fortune to a new district, and opening up a mineral territory whose riches rivaled the fabled wealth of biblical Ophir, and the far famed mines of Solomon, king of Israel.
The beginning of the desert’s mad decade came through the wilderness with a few lone prospectors who believed that “gold was where you found it,” and so, undaunted, determined and optimistic, they begged a grub stake, loaded their packs on their burros and sallied forth into the mysterious desert, and up forbidding heights, to resurrect an industry almost dead, and to electrify the world with the discovery of a new El Dorado.
It was history repeating itself, rehearsing the mad scenes enacted in those districts unknown and undreamed of before the prospector’s pick and shovel uncovered the wealth of Nevada back in the late fifties and early sixties, and sent gold mad throngs rushing to Aurora, Austin, Comstock, Eureka and Treasure Hill, to woo the fickle goddess of fortune, and gave to the state the wealth which helped to save the financial structure of our nation.
And so, as Nevada’s treasures were brought to light with the discovery of undreamed wealth in the gulches and canyons of her rugged hills and mountains, so also, with the discovery of her mineral wealth, Masonry was introduced into the state, some of our first lodges following quickly the settlement of the new born camps.
Thus, as our state expanded and progressed, new mining localities developing new districts which became productive centers of wealth and industry, as long as mineral was mined, so Masonry has been finding among its initiates, treasures of real worth who have given to Masonry since its inception in Nevada, rare mental and moral contributions which have made their influence felt not only in the lodge room, but abroad in the world as well.
No particular Masonic lodge or locality in Nevada could be singled out from which to select these distinguished members, for from almost every lodge have come Masons of outstanding qualifications who have figured prominently in municipal, state and government affairs. The list is long and honorable, and Nevada Masonry is justly proud of her outstanding members of the craft, who have been, and are, a unit in the fraternity, as to the sound fundamentals back of them, and of life in general, and who met and now meet upon the level of real understanding as to the underlying values of life, living up to their heritage and their duties as consistent fraternalists.
It was from such men as these that Masonry added another unit to the Nevada jurisdiction early in the year 1902, which became an established and moral influence in what was Butler, Nevada, later becoming Tonopah, the county seat of Nye county.
A brief reference to the local history of this interesting and productive camp would not be amiss, for Masonry in that locality is in reality only a history of the district in which the order was born, flourished, and in spite of discouragements, misfortunes and decline, has continued to exist, a dominant factor in the policies and civic activities of this community.
Tonopah district is perhaps the only mining district in Nevada that has been a consistent producer of silver and gold since it was discovered in May, 1900, by Jim Butler. It is estimated that its mines have produced over $250,000,000.00 and paid approximately $35, 000,000 in dividends to their owners.
Many fantastic stories are related of Jim Butler’s discovery of the rich ore deposits on what is now Mount Oddie, named for former Senator Tasker Oddie. The story, however, as related by Butler some years before his death, involves a search one morning in May, 1900, for a burro, which had wandered off up the mountainside the night before. Butler related that as he searched for the recalcitrant animal he picked up a rock near a ledge, which was highly mineralized. He took the sample to an assayer in Klondyke, a settlement a few miles south of what is now Tonopah, and had it assayed. The assayer pronounced it worthless. Butler, however, kept some of the rock and showed it to his wife, who sent a sample to Oddie, then located at Austin, Nevada. Oddie had the ore assayed and the report came back that the sample ran 604 oz, in silver, and $206.00 in gold, per ton.
Butler and his wife set out to locate the claim, traveling by the way of Klondyke where they forced the assayer who pronounced the rock worthless, to admit that he had not made a careful analysis of the sample, but agreed to make a further assay of a quantity of the same ore Butler had previously left at his office. The result tallied very closely with the assay made in Austin.
The Butlers left at once for the mountains, and were hardly out of sight when the Klondyke assayer and a party of his friends left in hasty pursuit. They lost the trail, however, with the approach of night, and when they finally arrived upon the scene the next morning, Butler had already staked out all the ground he wanted. The first location was named the “Desert Queen,” the next the “Burro,” while the third, named by Mrs. Butler, “The Mizpah,” proved to be the richest mine of all.
As soon as their location work was completed, Butler went to Belmont where he met Tasker Oddie and Cal Brougher, who were included in a partnership, and development work was started. Two tons of ore were taken from a shallow shaft, which they took to Belmont and from there by team 100 miles to the railroad, from which point it was shipped to San Francisco. Six hundred dollars was realized from this shipment, with which a few men were hired and active development of the claims started. Oddie was made manager, and eventually became general manager of the property when the mine was finally sold to the Tonopah Mining Co., a Philadelphia concern.
When the news of the discovery became known a wild rush to the new district began. A town of tents and shacks appeared in a short time and the trails from Austin, Eureka, Ely, and west from California were black with the hurrying throng. Excitement ran high, every available foot of ground in the district was staked; while in the new settlement a motley mob of adventurous men and a few lone women milled through the hastily laid out main street, gambling on newly located claims, and indulging in orgies which are ordinarily practiced in localities where law and order had not been established.
Gradually, however, the excitement subsided as the newcomers realized that the newly found metal was confined to practically the one locality, and those who remained settled down to the task of making the most of business opportunities. Order was created out of chaos, in time the canvas tents gave way to neat frame dwellings, the roughly erected business shacks were replaced by larger frame buildings, the angling main street became a neatly laid out thoroughfare, from which radiated well ordered side streets, flanked by neat dwellings.
Oddie and Butler took a fortune from the Mizpah, as did many lessees. In one single year this mine produced $4,000,000.00; by 1907 over $12,000,000.00 had been taken out, at which time 1500 miners were at work, and nearly 7,000 people were residents of the camp.
Much of the glamour, the picturesqueness and the romance of the roaring sixties had disappeared when Tonopah came into existence, modern methods of mining and more progressive modes of living had been introduced, besides which, a higher type of education was sweeping the country than had been common when Comstock, Aurora, Treasure Hill and Austin ruled the metal world in the late fifties and middle sixties.
However, it is not to be inferred that Tonopah was free from the rougher element and that the moral atmosphere of the camp was what it should be. Gambling was wide open, and thousands of dollars were lost daily in various games of chance. The main street of the camp was made up largely of saloons and gambling dens, frequented by both men and women, where the stakes ran high.
Dance halls, of which there were several, were open day and night, infested with scores of adventuresses, lured by the glitter of gold, which found its way into the purses of these painted women, in almost unbelievable amounts. A motley gathering was always present. Chinese moved side by side with erstwhile pampered scions of cultured England; Mexican peons palled with New York club men; residents of Boston’s aristocratic four hundred hobnobbed with the scum from Paris; for here all classes and races met upon a common level, for one man’s money was as good as another’s, and caste and social prominence were forgotten, as men and women foregathered to lure the fickle goddess of chance, or woo the sirens of unbridled pleasure.
In 1901 Tonopah had 32 saloons, or an average of one for every 50 people; it supported six faro games, as many roulette wheels, and a poker game in almost every saloon. There were two weekly newspapers printed, a public school, two overtaxed stage lines, and two churches.
Meanwhile another agent was quietly at work among ail the excitement incident to the locating and development of new claims, the erection of dwellings and business houses, and the wild night life of this fast growing camp; for with the influx of the excited throng came members of the Masonic craft to seek their fortunes in this new El Dorado, heralded over the country as another possible “Comstock.”
From various states in the Union they came, bringing with them traditions of Masonic interest developed in their respective jurisdictions; bringing also the accepted ritualistic work of their separate domains; all of them imbued with the spirit of genuine Masonry, strong adherents to its fundamental truths, staunch supporters of its basic principles. And so, with the proving of the new mining territory, and the almost certainty that the camp would be a rich producer for an indefinite period, the urge to establish Masonry in the district grew among the brethren who, since their coming had found one another on the common level of Masonry and proved each other after the fashion of the craft.
During the exciting months of the spring of 1901, an endeavor was made by some of the newly arrived brethren to interest all known Masons in the camp in organizing a Masonic lodge but, owing to the hectic condition of the camp, it was found impossible to appoint a suitable time or place to carry out their intentions, but the seed had been sown, and at different times during the summer the project was revived.
However enthusiastic the sojourning brethren in Tonopah may have been, and with whatever eagerness they may have anticipated the organizing of a Masonic lodge in the town of their adoption, their plans were doomed to miscarry, not through human agencies, but rather through natural causes, an interference which brought woe and sorrow to the town, and drove the inhabitants in terror to other settlements within the state.
For, in the late part of 1901 and early weeks of 1902 an insidious, unknown and cruel fatality stalked into their midst, depopulating the town and filling the graveyards with some of the best citizens of the camp. This agent was first known as the “Tonopah Sickness,” and is said to have made its appearance during December, 1901. Its attack was sudden, and the end came quickly, leaving its victim a swollen, blackened mass of humanity; eventually the disease was designated as “The Black Plague.
The epidemic raged for over a month. When the camp realized that this grim terror was amongst them the stampede began. Outgoing stages were overcrowded; every available wagon, buggy and buckboard was commandeered and the roads were black with the terrorized fleeing throng.
Suddenly the epidemic was over, for, with the coming of a heavy snowstorm, which cleared the atmosphere of a miasmic haze which had hung over the town and swept down the ravines and gulches surrounding the camp for more than two months, several weeks of freezing weather followed and ravages of the epidemic ceased, but the graves in the cemetery down the canyon had been increased by three score and ten, all of which were occupied by former adult male residents of the camp, for it is claimed that neither women nor children fell victims to this dread disease.
And so, once again the desert trails, deep rutted by the wheels of countless wagons, and pitted by the heavy hoofs of horses and mules, were dotted with returning humanity, treking back to the land of promise.
Once more the impact of hard steel against unyielding rock could be faintly heard, and the blast of powder sounded from hillside, gulch and ravine, as the determined miners forced their way to fortune. For peace brooded over the community, while gloom and mental terror were forgotten as the new district prepared itself for an era of prosperity, which with passing years should number it among the first great wealth producing mining centers of the world.
During the busy months which followed, the Masonic population of Tonopah was augmented by the addition of several brethren which increased the number in the district to a quota large enough to warrant a request from the Grand Lodge for a permit to organize under dispensation.
The movement was fostered by Brother A. L. Smith who, with the assistance of brethren representing six other jurisdictions, directed a petition to the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Nevada Masons, praying for the establishment of a lodge of Masons in Tonopah Under Dispensation, while setting forth their ability to perform Masonic labor.
On February 9, 1902, the dispensation was issued, signed by Most Worshipful Geo A. Morgan, G. M., and C. N. Noteware, Grand Secretary, its number on the Nevada roster of Masonic lodges being 28.
Born in a district destined to become one of the leading producers of silver and gold in the country, but nurtured in a community the atmosphere of which was rampant with vice and lawlessness, subject to the uncertainties of a transient membership, braving the venom of sectarian propaganda – these were some of the conditions which confronted the members who visioned a lodge devoted to Masonic effort and service in this new mining camp. However, to the brethren actuated by true Masonic spirit, these were obstacles of minor importance, and upon receipt of advice from the Grand Lodge informing them that the dispensation had been granted, Masonic activity in the new camp was launched.
The first meeting of the newly grouped brethren is said to have been an informal affair, held in the rooms of Brother A. L. Smith, to provide for and arrange the details of the anticipated visit of M. W. Geo. A. Morgan, or his authorized representative, who would deliver the dispensation and officially proclaim the existence of a Masonic lodge U. D. in Tonopah.
It was also proposed at this meeting to decide upon a suitable place in which to hold their future meetings, negotiations having already been made with Jim Butler for the rent of the upper story of his new building on Main street.
At this meeting authority was granted the Committee to close the deal and to provide necessary furniture with which to equip the lodge room.
The stage was set for the arrival of the G. M. or his representative to institute the lodge and install the officers but, owing to the uncertainty of the weather, the heavy snow and blocked roads, it was learned that no Grand Lodge officer could be present, and Tonopah Lodge No. 28 began its uncharted journey in Masonry dependent upon the experience of the brethren who had demitted from other jurisdictions, the nucleus of which was to gather around it an outstanding body of Masons, and to give to the state and nation men and Masons who should attain honor and fame.
Reference to the granting of the dispensation appears in the report of M. W. Geo. A. Morgan in the 1902 Grand Lodge proceedings, as follows: On February 7, 1902, I granted a dispensation to seven brethren to form a new lodge in the town of Butler, Nye county, Nevada, to be called Tonopah Lodge No. 28 U. D., and appointed Brother Albert Lindsay Smith, W. M.; Brother Henry A. Stevens, Senior Warden, and Brother J. Lazarovich, Junior Warden.”
The first meeting of the new lodge was held February 15, 1902, with the following officers and members present, viz: A. L. Smith, W. M.; H. N. Stevens, S. W.; J. Lazarovich, J. W.; T. R. Duffield, secretary; J. Lazarovich, treasurer; P. E. O’Rrien, Senior Deacon; G.P. Holmes, Junior Deacon; E. L. Pomeroy and A. L. Hudgens, Stewards; V. C. Johnson, Tyler. There is no record of the lodges or jurisdictions from which these brothers demitted.
The first petition received was from Tim L. Butler, who discovered silver on Mt. Oddie. However, only the first degree was conferred upon him.
With the convening of the 38th annual communication of the Grand Lodge in the Masonic Hall in Carson on June 30, 1902, Tonopah Lodge showed a membership of 15 members. This evidence of their zeal and accomplishments during the four months of their existence induced J. S. Burlingame to introduce the following resolution before the Grand Lodge: “Resolved, that a warrant of Constitution be issued Tonopah Lodge at Butler, Nye county, Nevada, to be called Tonopah Lodge No. 28, and that the following brethren be named in the charter as its first officers, viz: Bro. A. L. Smith, W. M.; Bro. Harry N. Stevens, S. W.; Bro. Joseph Lazarovich, J. W.” The resolution was adopted.
In his report to the Grand Lodge at its 39th annual communication held at Virginia City in June, 1903, Most Worshipful A. O. Percy, Grand Master of Masons of Nevada, makes the following statement in reference to the constituting of Tonopah Lodge No. 28. Quote: “July 5, 1902, I authorized Past Junior Grand Warden Walter J. Harris, a resident of Tonopah, as my representative to constitute Tonopah Lodge No. 28, and to install its officers, who reports that he duly constituted the lodge according to ancient usages and regulations, and installed its officers July 19, 1902. I was induced to take this course in constituting this lodge in order to save the expense to the Grand Lodge of a personal trip to Tonopah, and reposing full confidence in the ability of R. W., W. J. Harris, to properly perform the ceremonials of constituting and installing. The thanks of the Grand Lodge are due to Brother Harris for his services in this connection.”
The records of that meeting state that assisting Past Junior G. Warden Harris in the ceremony of constituting the lodge and installing its officers, was Bro. C. J. McDavitt of Santa Paula Lodge No. 291, and Nathan Crocker of Pacific Lodge No. 136, of the California Domain. The officers of the new lodge installed were: A. L. Smith, W. M.; H. N. Stevens, S. W.; J. Lazarovich, J. W.; J. R. Duffield, Secretary; Geo. Davidovich, Treasurer; P. E. O’Brien, S. D.; G. P. Holmes, J. D.; M. Sheridan, Steward; V. C. Johnson, Tyler.
The first fever heat of excitement waned in the new camp and the last months of 1902 drew to a close. While it was confidently believed that Tonopah would become one of the outstanding if not the greatest mining camp since Comstock, yet the close of 1902 and the early months of 1903, witnessed what today would be called a slump in activities.
True, properties were being developed, those who had funds or financial support were not backward in using the means at hand to promote their mines, and valuable ore was being taken out as the shafts increased in depth. The trouble, however, lay in lack of facilities to ship what ore was being mined, all of which was hauled from the mines to the smelter at Sodaville by team, at an approximate cost of forty dollars per ton freighting charges. So detrimental and restraining was this condition that actual returns to the mines is said to have been over $125,000.00 less in 1903 than it had been in 1902, and the owners and lessees were unable to improve these conditions. However, relief was promised with the arrival of the railroad, which extended its rails into Tonopah on July 24, 1904, and was the occasion for a hectic celebration, lasting for three days. Tonopah had arrived! With freight rates reduced to twenty dollars a ton for the haul to Sodaville, and a six dollar a ton smelting charge, fifty dollar ore could be mined at a handsome profit, and a new era was dawning for the mining camp.
In the meantime, Masonry in Tonopah had not been idle, the trestle hoard was covered with new work, and the roster of the lodge had been filled with the names of many brethren, some of whom were to become famous in social, civic, state and national affairs, while others were to achieve distinction not only in their own lodge, but would become dominant factors in the promulgation of Masonic doctrine within the state.
It is interesting to note that among those whose names appear in the 1902 roster of Nevada Masons from Tonopah, is that of Tasker L. Oddie, who was then just coming into prominence as one of the outstanding mining men in Nevada, and who in later years became prominent in the politics of the state, being chosen as governor of Nevada, and later elected to the U. S. Senate from Nevada. Brother Oddie still holds his blue lodge membership in Tonopah Lodge No. 28, (as of 1944 – ed.) has been a faithful and consistent member of the craft, and upon different occasions has been delegated as a member of Masonic Service Committees to represent the Grand Lodge of Nevada in other Masonic jurisdictions. He was the second member to be raised to the Sublime Degree of a M. M. in that lodge and is today its oldest living member in point of continuous membership. During the summer of 1902, there arrived in Tonopah a young man who was destined to bring honor to himself, and much credit to the community in which