Elko Lodge #15

Elko, NV


Chartered: September 21, 1871

Elko Lodge #15, F. & A.M.
576 14th St
Elko, NV 89803

Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 15
Elko, NV 89803-0015

(775) 738-3695

Stated Meeting: First Monday 7:30pm​​
(Dark August & September)

Worshipful Master: Elex A. Vavrick, P.M.
Secretary: Robert P. Peterson, P.M.

Torrence’s History of Elko Lodge #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.