Torrence’s History of Boulder City Lodge #37

It is a matter of history that after Columbus landed on the island of San Salvador, other intrepid explorers rounded Cape Horn, followed its coast line and eventually landed on the shore of what is now Lower California. One of this number, a Spaniard, with two ships and a crew of less than 50 men, sailed into the mouth of what is now known as the Colorado River. The rush of water over a deep deposit of silt and sand was terrific. The water, less than five fathoms in depth, made their progress up stream both slow and perilous, and so with the discovery of a cave far upstream, they cast anchor and the crew divided into two parties, one to follow the course of the river afoot, the other to explore the country inland. After unbelievable hardships, occasioned by the lack of water, the unfriendliness of the native indians, the scorching sun, the burning sands, and the rock-strewn terrain, one of the expeditions arrived near what is now called “Bright Angel Point,” and white man beheld for the first time the sublimity of the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River.

The other expedition which had halted in what is today Imperial Valley, traveled eastward. Although being repeatedly warned by the natives that further invasion of their territory would be repelled by force, its commander, however, pushed on through a territory eroded into fantastic shapes by wind and sand, leading his men across trackless desert wastes, over twisted volcanic eruptions, and up precipitous mountainsides “whose unscaled peaks their towering summits reared amid the thunder’s sullen roar, and down into barren volleys whose heat rivaled the inferno of Dante. And so, the intrepid explorer pushed his way across what is now northern Arizona and southern Utah, blazing a trail which has become famous in American history.

For more than two hundred years afterward but few white men braved the dangers and terrors of that dim way, but, with the coming of the first Franciscan monks into Southern California, the trail was broadened by the passage of these devotees traveling inland to carry their doctrine to the Red Man, and to establish shrines along the way. And so the route became an established primitive roadway over which succeeding generations were to pass, or send their emissaries toward the “Golden West,” lured by the promise of riches and happiness. It was a trail along whose course the bones of men and women and innocent children were to be scattered, victims of hunger, thirst and heat as well as hatred, hostility and treachery, a trail which should mark the development in later years in a rockbound canyon of one of the greatest man-made water systems in the world; destined eventually to reclaim much of the desert wastes, to bring new life and a new population in its wake, and to cause the land to blossom and bloom in radiant profusion.

Generations came and passed on. The muddy flow of the turbulent waters down the rocky canyon and through colored chasms, rushed unceasingly on, to join its murky tide with the blue of the ocean hundreds of miles away. In time, the fame of this unconquered river spread around the world, as travelers came to gaze upon its grandeur, and the rugged beauty of its fantastic, painted walls, and departed to tell of its sublime magnificence.

Foreign countries sent their hordes to look upon its chasms and picture rocks, fitting emblems of Creative Majesty. They stood beneath its towering walls, from which, “not forty centuries, but forty thousand ages,” look down upon what are but atoms compared to this immensity. The voice of Divinity spoke in the roar of the swirling waters at their feet, while the artistry of an invisible but Almighty God was reflected in the sculptured forms eroded from the living rock above them, colored by the same Immortal hand, with rainbow hues, taken from a million gorgeous sunsets.

But the river remained unconquered; in time the flow of civilization spread along its banks and men sought to harness its rushing ride, but realized the futility of the task. There came a time, however, when engineering skill declared the project feasible and plans were made to impound its waters and store them, to water the thirsty land and bring comfort, wealth and beauty to a country which bore the stigma of having been forgotten by its Creator.

A site fitted by nature as a bulwark against which the constructive genius of man might build a barrier to dam the river’s flow, was found and the conquering of the river was begun. And so, upon high bluffs surrounded by a territory bristling with rocks and boulders, and carpeted with sand, Boulder City was born, gateway to the highest dam ever built. The story of its construction is romantically thrilling and as seemingly impossible as a story from the Arabian Nights, but as alluring as one of Hans Andersen’s fairy tales. But the little city is a reality, a monument to the constructive genius of man, and has become a veritable garden, set in the midst of a desert.

With the beginning of this huge enterprise, bound to employ hundreds of men during its construction, came an influx from almost every section of the country, but as the throng was numbered, a place was provided for every man, and every man was in his proper place and under the impetus of law and harmony. Order was created out of confusion, and a beautiful well-planned city sprung into being, upon the site of what but a short time before had been sand, sagebrush and rocks.

In this heterogeneous mass of humanity, in which the artisan, the engineer, the architect, the professional man, and the common laborer, rubbed elbows, in the task of creating order, and building substantially each in his chosen field of endeavor, Masonry was born. For to this spot, hailing from almost every jurisdiction in the country, had gravitated members of the craft who in the natural order of things, soon became known to one another as members of the order, and so, as the little city grew under the skilful hand of trained artisans and builders, and beauty and proportion appeared in well-ordered streets, flanked by commodious homes and attractive business houses, came the desire to build Masonically, and erect a visible temple, wherein Masonic work might be performed, and from whence Masonic Light might be spread. And so fraternal impulses were born, which led to a gathering of the brethren in the early days of October, 1931. The meeting was held in the old Post Office located in the Six Companies’ construction camp. At this meeting a request was framed and forwarded to Vegas Lodge No. 32, requesting them to participate in any future Masonic activities of the sojourning brethren in Boulder City. It was not the intention of the brethren at first, to organize a lodge in Boulder City, but to start a Masonic Club where the brethren might meet to exchange Masonic experiences and enjoy social contacts. They planned also, to equip a reading room and fit it for the convenience of the brethren. However, after their first two meetings, their plans were changed, and it was decided to attempt the organization of a Masonic lodge in Boulder City if permission was obtained from the Grand Lodge of Nevada. In addition to the old Post Office being used as a meeting place, these gatherings were held at J. L. Finney’s home, and in the lobby of the Government Administration Building.

While all the resident Masons in Boulder City were vitally interested in the movement to organize a Masonic lodge, and were present at the various meetings held to promote the lodge, there were a few who have always been recognized as being responsible for the ultimate fruition of the effort, among whom were Dr. Wales A. Haas, r· L. Finney, Ernest Ward, Ernest Stokes, H. O. Watts, Frank C. Crowe, superintendent of construction for Boulder Dam, for Construction Companies. Brother Fred Callahan of Vegas Lodge No. 32 was contacted, and gave his time most willingly to assist the brethren. As a climax to their second meeting, a petition, asking permission to organize a Masonic unit in Boulder City was addressed to Most Worshipful Scott E. Jameson, Grand Master of Masons of Nevada. This petition was signed by the following Master Masons:
1. H. O. Watts, Riverside Lodge No. 635, Riverside, California.
2. R. F. Skinner, Fidelity Lodge No. 51, David City, Nebraska.
3. R. E. Middaugh, Ely Lodge No. 29, Ely, Nevada.
4. J. F. Dixon, Anthony Lodge No. 48, Anthony, New Mexico.
5. W. H. Brittain, Sunnyside Lodge No. 577, Los Angeles, Calif.
6. Wm. Bailey, Tyrone Lodge No. 52, Tyrone, New Mexico.
7. H. C. Brown, Mineral Lodge No. 100, Alberton, Montana.
8. Courtland Compton, Forest Park Lodge No. 578, St. Louis, Mo.
9. Leonard Drake, Caribou Lodge No. 84, Soda Springs, Idaho.
10. J. L. Finney, Rock Springs Lodge No. 12, Rock Springs, Wyo.
11. S. C. Gerard, Rockport Lodge No. 312, Rockport, Kentucky.
12. L. E. Joudrey, Rufus Putnam Lodge, Ruthland, Massachusetts.
13. C. A. Laskey, Ashlar Lodge No. 871, Barstow, Texas.
14. H. A. Mitchell, American Falls Lodge No. 58, American Falls, Idaho.
15. Jens Pederson, Rapid City Lodge No. 25, Rapid City, So. Dakota.
16. R. G. Wirth, Wheatland Lodge No. 16, Wheatland, Wyoming.
17. C. D. Wyatt, Mt. Vernon Lodge No. 145, Beloit, Kansas.
18. E. L. Ward, Ionia Lodge No. 381, Eldon, Missouri.
19. E. R. Stokes, Morning Star Lodge No. 68, Stockton, California.
20. Wales A. Haas, Elko Lodge No. 15, Elko, Nevada.

A request was also sent to Vegas Lodge No. 32, asking permission to organize a lodge in territory heretofore under the jurisdiction of that lodge. This request was graciously granted and a letter of congratulation from Vegas lodge accompanying the release of their jurisdictional rights was received by the brethren at Boulder City.

In the meantime, search for convenient and commodious quarters in which to hold their meetings and spread Masonic light, had occupied the attention of the brethren, but no such place being available, a season of discouragement followed, and all their efforts seemed doomed to disappointment, when at one of their meetings, someone asked, “Why not construct our own building” The suggestion was readily adopted, and plans were at once set in motion to construct a Temple.

The same brethren who started the movement for a lodge in the City started the movement for a Temple. It was decided to finance the building by personal subscriptions from the local brethren. About one thousand dollars was obtained by subscriptions from members of the fraternity in Boulder City and Las Vegas and with this amount on hand the Temple was constructed. The building cost between twenty-seven and twenty-eight hundred dollars, the balance over the thousand dollars being paid for through receipts to the lodge after degree work was started. This was soon accomplished as the lodge was very active from the start. A record was made in the construction of the Temple; the first load of lumber was dumped on the ground on a Monday morning during the latter part of March in i932 and the lodge was opened in the Temple Friday evening of the same week. The labor was contributed by members of the craft and the material was purchased from Six Companies in Boulder City. The hill on which the Temple is located has no name and was selected from a point of economy. It was possible to lease the ground on the hill from the Government for one dollar a year and as plans were made for a one-story building it would naturally have to be in an isolated spot from the rest of the community.

The original Temple consisted of the outer room, preparation room, lavatories, and meeting room. The over-all dimensions were about 30 ft. x 60 ft. Afterwards the kitchen and banquet room were added to the north side of the Temple. This addition was about 12 ft. x 40 ft. A fire-proof vault for records was also added.

In his annual report to the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Nevada W. M. Scott E. Jameson makes the following statement: “On March 23, 1932, I granted a dispensation to the Masonic Brethren of Boulder City to meet and perform Masonic labor until June 1st of this year, a suitable place of meeting having been provided, and all the requirements of this Grand Lodge being complied with.”

As has been noted, the brethren petitioning for this dispensation were members of almost twenty different jurisdictions. Associated with them, although not signing the request for the dispensation, were 10 “Masons at Large,” paying dues to their parent Grand Lodges.

They were brethren well skilled in Masonic work and labor, who, associated with the government as competent employees, had come from various sections of the land to divert their energies and skill in the building of the huge dam which was to harness the flow of the turbulent Colorado River.

Upon receipt of their notification that their petition to organize U. D. had been granted, plans were at once set in motion to receive the precious document, and its distinguished bearer from the Grand Lodge. To this end a committee was appointed to arrange for the reception of the Grand Lodge messenger, and an invitation forwarded to M. W. Scott E. Jameson to be present upon the memorable date. Nothing was left undone to make the occasion an outstanding event in the annals of Masonic history in Southern Nevada, and word having been received from M. W. Scott E. Jameson, that he would deliver the dispensation in person, invitations were sent out to the various Masonic lodges in territory adjacent to Boulder City to be present at the time appointed.

And so, agreeable to plans well matured, on the afternoon of April 23, 1932, Grand Lodge was opened at 2:00 p. m. by M. W. Scott E. Jameson, with prayer by the Grand Chaplain, and a proclamation by the Grand Marshal. The following Grand Officers were seated in their respective stations and places:
Scott E. Jameson, M. W. Grand Master;
H. R. Amens, R. W. Senior Grand Warden;
Geo. L. Swartz, R. W. Junior Grand Warden;
Ed Von Tobel (32) as V. W. Grand Treasurer;
J. L. Finney (U. D.) as V. W. Grand Secretary;
Otis Goodwin (32) as V. R. Grand Chaplain;
E. R. Stokes (U. D.) as W. Senior Grand Deacon;
H. O. Watts (U. D.) as W. Junior Grand Deacon;
E. H. Reemer (25) W. Grand Orator;
W. E. Martin (18) W. Grand Marshal;
Fred Callahan (32) as W. Grand Bible Bearer;
A. R. Wardle as Grand Sword Bearer;
George Day as W. Grand Tyler.
This meeting was opened in the Court Room of the Boulder City Municipal Building.

The Grand Master announced the purpose of the called Communication, stating that he had received a request from the brethren to lay the cornerstone of the proposed Masonic Temple and that they would form in Grand Procession, and proceed to the site.

With the impressive ceremonies of dedication and consecration the stone was laid in the northeast corner by the Craft. The following is a list of articles sealed in the stone:
1931 Proceedings of the Grand Lodge, F. & A. M. of Nevada 1931
Proceedings of the Grand Chapter R. A. M. of Nevada
1931-1932 List of Officers of the Grand Lodge, F. & A. M. of Nevada
1931-1932 List of Officers of the Grand Chapter R. A. M. of Nevada
Portrait of W. Brother Wales A. Haas, Master of Boulder Lodge U. D.

The ceremony of laying the stone having been completed, the Grand Procession was re-formed and the Grand Body returned to the place of meeting where Grand Orator Elwood H. Beemer delivered a splendid address, commemorative of the event, and applicable to the Craft, as measured by the operative Mason’s art.

Grand Lodge was then closed in Ample form, with prayer by the Grand Chaplain, and Proclamation by the Grand Marshal.

Ordinarily, this might have been considered a “full day” for the Grand Master, but his labors were by no means completed. There still remained the constituting ceremonies attendant upon the institution of the new lodge and delivering the dispensation, for which purpose Grand Lodge was again opened in the Court Room of the Boulder City Municipal building at 7:00 p. m.

Referring again to the annual report of Grand Master Jameson, in the 1932 journal of proceedings, is the following: “On April 23, 1932, I instituted Boulder Lodge U. D. at Boulder City, Nevada, and delivered a dispensation to 20 brethren to work in Masonry, at which meeting I installed the following officers, viz: Wales A. Haas, Worshipful Master E. R. Stokes, Senior Warden H. O. Watts, Junior Warden R. E. Middaugh, Treasurer J. L. Finney, Secretary L. J. Drake, Chaplain R. F. Skinner, Senior Deacon H. C. Brown, Junior Deacon W. H. H. Brittain, Steward H. Mitchell, Steward W. Bailey, Tyler.

These officers were later installed at a public installation held in the mess hall of Anderson Brothers in Boulder City, after Grand Lodge was closed in Ample form, in the Municipal building.”

With the completion of the Boulder Dam, and the exodus of more than four thousand residents from the city, practically all of whom were employed in the construction of this mighty project, it was assumed that Boulder City lodge would eventually disintegrate and might eventually be forced to surrender its charter. Instead, the lodge has not only held its own but has advanced numerically, and there is always work on the trestle board. Its zeal and integrity are unquestionable, and it is today a power and forceful unit in Masonry, and with the assurance that Boulder City will always be a great tourist resort, and may eventually become either a naval aviation training school base, or possibly a military camp, which will bring an influx of new blood to the community, the future of Boulder City lodge is reasonably assured, for among those who shall come to share the fortunes and shape the destiny of the desert city, will be those who eventually will seek and find sanctuary with the brethren of No. 37.

There is interest to the outsider, as well as the Craft, in the enterprise and determination of the brethren who were responsible for the founding of Boulder City Lodge, No. 37, foremost among whom were the brethren who were later named as the three principal officers of the lodge: Wales A. Haas, Ernest Stokes, and Halbert O. Watts.

Wales A. Haas
Wales Haas, the first Master of Boulder City lodge, was at the time of the organization of the lodge a man in the full ripeness of his mental and physical powers. From the moment of his arrival in Boulder City, he was active in the affairs of the community, and assumed the role of a leader. Before coming to Nevada he had engaged in the practice of medicine in Piedmont, California, where he was a member of Piedmont Lodge No. 521, F. & A. M., and of which he was a past Master. Brother Haas was vitally interested in Masonry and with the growth of Boulder City to a point to warrant the organization of a Masonic unit, joined his untiring efforts with others of the sojourning brethren to effect an organization. His ability and efficiency and his zeal for the order were instrumental in bringing the movement to fruition. He passed away in 1933, a few weeks after completing his term as first Master of Boulder City Lodge.

Ernest R. Stokes
The name of Ernest R. Stokes looms prominent in the movement to organize a Masonic lodge in Boulder City. At the meeting of the sojourning brethren to perfect plans for the organization and to petition the Grand Lodge for permission to establish a lodge under dispensation, the three principal officers of the lodge were suggested, and among them Brother Stokes was named as Senior Warden.

Brother Stokes was prominent in the community affairs of the new city before plans were started to organize a Masonic lodge, and had gained a reputation since his arrival for sobriety, efficiency, and reliability. His interest in Masonry and his unquestionable zeal for the order, coupled with his untiring efforts to promote a new lodge in the home of his adoption were factors which prompted his brethren and colleagues to select him to preside in the West.

He has served his lodge with zealousness and efficiency, and in the annals of his lodge is considered as one of its supporting bulwarks.

Halbert O. Watts
In the few years which have elapsed since Boulder City Lodge No. 37 was ushered into existence, one member stands out pre-eminently. This brother is Halbert O. Watts. He was, a prominent member of Riverside Lodge No. 635, of Riverside, California, in which he had won prestige and advancement before coming to Boulder City.

From the moment of his arrival in the Gem City of southern Nevada, he commanded the respect and esteem of all with whom he came in contact, and he soon endeared himself to his co-workers, and his fellow townsmen, by reason of his amiability, his dynamic personality, and his apparent sincerity.

Among the resident sojourning Masonic brethren he gained instant popularity, and took an active and leading part in the formation of the new lodge U. D. of which he was named its first Junior Warden.

In 1934 Brother Watts was elected master of his lodge, enjoying a most successful year, at the termination of which he was elected secretary of the lodge, in which capacity he served until the session of 1938, when pressing duties as resident manager of the Southern California Power Co. were instrumental in prompting him to decline further service in that office.

He still retains his interest in the lodge, and is a consistent, forceful, and influential member of the Order.