Carson Lodge #1
Carson City, NV
Chartered: May 15, 1862
Carson Lodge #1, F. & A.M.
113 E Washington St
Carson City, NV 89701
P.O. Box 1043
Carson City, NV 89702-1043
Stated Meeting: Third Thursday 7:00pm
2018 Worshipful Master: David B. St Onge
Secretary: Michael E. Williams, P.M.
Torrence’s History of Carson Lodge #1
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.