Torrence’s History of Hope Lodge #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.