Days Gone ByThe River Falls Masons recently rededicated their lodge. A photo and history of Lodge F. & A.M. was compiled by Steve and Paula Schwartz, and submitted by Milt Helmer. Some of that history included:
By: Pat Hunter, Archivist, River Falls Journal
The River Falls Masons recently rededicated their lodge. A photo and history of Lodge F. & A.M. was compiled by Steve and Paula Schwartz, and submitted by Milt Helmer. Some of that history included:
Lodge No. 109 F. & A.M. of River Falls was chartered on June 15, 1859.
The members that organized the lodge were all residents of River Falls — Charles E. Abbott, carpenter; Amos Saunders, farmer; William A. Tozer, farmer; James A. Short, millwright; Sam K. Rollins, farmer; Clark H. Cropman, mason; P. H. Sain, mason; Thompson McCleary, carpenter; Benjamin Wilcox, teacher; B. E. Vannatta, M. D.; and T. B. Flint, laborer.
The first meetings of the lodge were held in the Benjamin Wilcox Hall. In 1860 the brethren moved the meeting place to the C. B. Cox Hall on North Main Street, across from the Prairie Mill elevator.
In 1869 the lodge moved to a hall over the Deans & Mueller store in the Saunders Building at the northeast corner of Main and Maple streets (Glass Express occupies the building today).
A fire occurred in 1879 and most of the records of the Lodge, including the charter and all of the minutes prior to May 1, 1877, were destroyed.
After the fire, the Lodge was moved back to Cox Hall. A short time later, it was moved for the fifth time, to the Freeman Building on the west side of Main Street, (where the Home Appliance Center is today), next to Veterans Park.
In the fall of 1898, the lodge was held in the upper rear quarters of the old Red & White Store building in the Benco Building (where Harmony Hair Design is) on the northeast corner of Main and Walnut Streets.
This move lasted until 1912 when more permanent accommodations were found in the Boxrud Building, and occupied the upper floor of what was commonly known as the old Dunn & Simpson store.
As early as December 16, 1919, a committee (Dr. Righter, W.T. Glass and John Knowlton) was appointed to investigate suitable sites for a temple.
On March 16, 1926, a resolution was adopted to purchase the Morrow lot — 122 E. Walnut St. — where the temple now stands for $2,250, by a vote of 26-20.
On March 20, 1928, a vote was taken and plans accepted to build a new temple at a cost not to exceed $17,000.
Ground was broken on Aug. 5, 1928, and work began. On Sept. 15, 1928, the cornerstone was laid. It took but a year to complete the work and the dedication services were held on September 30, 1929.
Shortly after the completion a special fund was set up called “The Rug Fund” to carpet the floor of the Lodge Room. Donations during the ’30’s were rather slow, but by 1949, there was enough money to pay cash for the carpeting.
Then-Worshipful Master Brother Burr Wiger was commissioned to have the carpet laid. Carpet was purchased from Brother William Tousley, owner of Tousley Furniture Co. here in River Falls, at wholesale price of $1,500 for 280 yards. Brother Tousley donated his carpet crew’s time and labor to lay it. Today $1,500 would hardly cover two small rooms.
Over the next 14 years, the entire $ 17,500 cost of the temple was gradually paid off.
In 1943 a letter was addressed by Brothers James I. Malott and John W. Harris to the brethren advising them that the last dollar of indebtedness on the building had been paid and appropriate mortgage burning ceremonies held.
With pledges and other donations, enough money was raised, which enabled the Lodge to have a special ceremony on Sept. 30, 1943, for “The Burning of the Mortgage.”
From 1942 through 1945, the World War II years, meetings were held as usual without much degree work as many likely candidates were in the service. With the hostilities with Germany and Japan coming to a close in 1945, activity really picked up. Membership increased from 158 in 1945 to 201 in 1959, the year we celebrated 100 years of Masonry in River Falls. In 1946 alone, 28 degrees were conferred.
In 1965, through the efforts of Brother Richard Alexander, the “Mason of the Year” program was initiated. At this time, at least 44 Brothers have been so honored and their names inscribed on a plaque in the Lodge.
With the temple completed and mortgage burned, River Falls Lodge No. 109 F. & A. M. has been “rolling” along in a very even manner continuing to maintain its standards on the highest possible levels, with membership floating up and down to, 120 at present.
Working with the “Spruce Up” program sponsored by the Grand Lodge, many improvements have been made.
The Lodge has had several brothers in Grand Offices: Charles White, Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin 1970-1971; Thomas Alton, Grand High Priest R.A.M. of Wisconsin 1977-1978; Donald Monson, Illustrious Grand Master R&SM Wisconsin 1980-1981; and Illustrious Grand Master R&SM Wisconsin1985-1986; Gilbert Derman, Grand Soloist R&SM Wisconsin 1980-1985.
Since being chartered in 1859, nearly 700 Brothers have been raised to “The Sublime Degree of Master Mason.” Of this number 105 have served as Worshipful Master.”
Pat Hunter can be reached at the River Falls Journal, 425-1561, or email at firstname.lastname@example.org