By B.L. Richards


The masonic order was the first secret society which made a home in Rock Rapids.

September 8, 1880, Border Lodge U.D. held its first regular communication on the second floor of a two-story frame building owned by T.K. Bradley, facing east and situated on the southwest corner of Seventh and Tama streets.

At the first meeting there were present the following officers named in the dispensation:  F.A. Keep, W.M.; O.P. Miller, S.W.; T.C. Thompson, J.W.; R. Penman, treasurer; E.A. Case, secretary; and Bros. I.I. Burget, C.H. Smith, W.H. Budge, G.R. Mathews, J. Shade and J.H. Wagner.

The first candidate who was initiated, passed and raised was J.M. Webb, and the last one under dispensation was  F.M. Thompson.

While working under dispensation twelve were initiated, eleven were passed, nine were raised to the master Mason's degree and two were admitted.

Charter to Border Lodge, No. 406, A.F. & A.M., was granted by the grand lodge of Iowa at its grand annual communication in 1881.

Soon after the issuance of its charter the lodge changed its quarters to the second story of the Lyon County Bank building which was its home and called Masonic Hall until February, 1889, at which time fire destroyed the building and with it all the lodge records.  Temporary quarters  were obtained in a room over the First National Bank for the lodge which at this time had a membership of sixty-six.

October 20, 1886, the grand high priest granted dispensation to Lyon Chapter U.D., naming B.L. Richards, H.P.; J.K.P. Thompson, King, and F.E. Barber, Scribe; F.M. Thompson, C. of H.; M.O. Partch, P.S.; and E.A. Case, R.A.C.  These together with O.P. Miller, E. McCoy and J.A. Wagner were the charter members.  Its convocations were held in Masonic Hall.

During its year under dispensation eighteen companions were exalted and one admitted.  The first team was composed of J. Shade, C.D. Manning and F.R. Manning.

Charter was issued to Lyon Chapter, No. 111, October 5, 1887, at which time it had a membership of twenty-nine.  The fire of February, 1889, destroyed all the chapter paraphernalia but its records were saved.

The blue lodge and chapter occupied their new quarters over the First National Bank until November 3, 1889, at which date fire destroyed this building and with it the records and property of both orders.  After the fire in November, 1889, the Masonic lodge in connection with the Knights of Pythias, made contract with Miller & Thompson and D.H. Shannon for the erection of a third story to the block sixty-six feet front by seventy-five feet depth which was being built upon the site of the old Lyon County Bank building.

Under this agreement the Masons were to own and pay for the third story over the east forty-four feet and the Knights of Pythias the west twenty-two feet.  For the purpose of holding title to this property the Masons incorporated under the laws of the state of Iowa, E.C. Roach, F.R. Manning and B.L. Richards were chosen as trustees and the title to the building was vested in the trustees.

The Masons expended upward of $5,000 in payment for the building and room fittings.  This amount was raised by the issuance of six per cent building orders, running five years, placed with members of the Blue Lodge and chapter and money borrowed on personal security.

In 1904 all this debt has been paid except about $300.00 in building orders and there is money on hand to take up the small outstanding debt.  By the first of August, 1904, the Masons will own their home with all its furnish-free from debt of every character.  When the new Masonic Hall was planned provision was made for the accommodation of a comrandery.

Petition for a dispensation was made to Em. Fr. Com. Eaton and he, with Grand Generaliisimo Soule, visited us, inspected our Masonic Hall and soon thereafter dispensation was issued for a commandery.

Petros Commandery U.D. was organized and held its first conclave August 12, 1890.  The principal officers were B.L. Richards, E.C.; J.K.P. Thompson, Gen.; C.H. Overrocker, C.G.

At this conclave under special dispensation twenty-one petitions were received and voted upon.

Twelve Sir Knights from Sioux Falls were present and did the greater portion of the work.  Upon twelve companions were conferred the degree of the Red Cross and companion knights F.E. Edwards, L.J. Norton, A.McCoy, C.D. Manning, J.C. Morrison  and E.E. Blanchard were crested and dubbed Knights of the Black Cross and Knights of Malta.

May 20, 1900, dispensation was granted to Rock Rapids Chapter U.D.  Order of the Eastern Star and the chapter was organized at that date by Mrs. Mary B. Rathburn, W.G. Matron.

The degrees were conferred upon twenty-three charter members and there were installed Mrs. Alice Norton, W.M.; E.L. Partch, W.P.; Mrs. Lutie Parsons, Assistant W.M.; and F.R. Manning, Secretary.

Rock Rapids Chapter, No. 288, O.E.S., met as a chartered body for the first time November 13, 1900, at which time it had a membership of twenty-six.

In June, 1904, the various Masonic bodies have a membership as follows:  Border Lodge, No. 406, seventy-seven; Lyon Chapter, No. 111, forty-two; Petros Commandery, No. 54, fifty-one,  and Rock Rapids Chapter, No. 288, O.E.S., sixty-two.

Agreement has been made by the blue lodge with the other Masonic bodies that all building orders shall be cancelled and destroyed; that Masonic Hall shall be used in perpetuity by all the bodies free from rent and each order shall pay its share for running expenses, refurnishing and keeping the property in repair.  It has required nearly fifteen years to pay for our Masonic home and the interest charges in addition to the original cost represents our outlay approximating $10,000.  It has been well managed and every dollar has been earned and paid by Masons without donations or gifts.  Besides the entrance hall at the rear there are ante-room, preparation room and three closets opening there from, kitchen, china-closet, banquet hall, hall of the east and lodge room or asylum.

The Masonic orders of Rock Rapids have always been in a flourishing condition.  There have been periods of depression when little or no progress was made but such periods have been followed by unusual activity and increase of membership.  Good fellowship and brotherly love have prevailed and its charitable work has been constant and effective.  With freedom from debt the power for good works will be enlarged and the honor and reputation of the fraternity ever increase.


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