Torrence’s History of St. John Lodge #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.

HISTORY OF
CATHEDRAL GORGE

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.