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Free & Accepted Masons of Nevada - Churchill Lodge #26
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Author Topic: Short history of Churchill Lodge #26  (Read 14287 times)
Benjamin S. Mathews
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« on: June 08, 2009, 12:09:53 AM »

In 1944, the Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Nevada published a "History of Masonry in Nevada", written by Br. C.W. Torrence, which includes histories of Lodges up through Caliente #38, and a brief chapter on Masonry in Rhyolite.
If you'd like to read the "Introduction" to Torrence's "History ...", it's available here ...

Fallon, Nevada

The development of Churchill County is unique in the history of Nevada, in that it furnishes a most apt illustration of the magic touch of the hand of man, and his genius in producing agencies which caused the desert wastes of that arid country to bloom as the rose, and created a veritable Paradise in the territory which had been parched and seared. This transformation resulted from the promotion of an irrigation district fostered by the U. S. government, in Lahontan Valley, and the dividing of the land into forty and eighty acre tracts, for sale to interested agriculturists.

Churchill county, of which Fallon is the county seat, derives its name from Fort Churchill, situated just west of the present county line; although the fort was in actual use for only eleven years, yet, during the time it flourished it had a colorful existence in the history of the state and had, during the period of its occupancy, the largest military force ever stationed in the Sagebrush State, a force which numbered at its peak some seven hundred soldiers.

The span of Fort Churchill's existence was contemporaneous with such national events as the pony express, the first cross country telegraph, the Civil War, the development of the Comstock Lode, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad. It was established as the direct result of an Indian massacre, in which seven persons were killed at Williams Station, located on the Overland Trail. In an attempt to avenge these killings, a battle was fought between Comstock and Carson City regulars on one side, and the hostile Paiute Indians on the other, near Pyramid Lake, in which Major Ormsby, commanding, and many of the whites, were killed.

Following this brush with the Indians, the post was planned, estimates calling for the expenditure of $178,899.69 when the fort was completed, were made, which amount covered plans and specifications for all buildings to be erected on the reserve.

The military force at the Fort was detailed to afford protection for emigrant trains coming from the cast, as well as to maintain order in the rapidly developing mining camps of Nevada. It was vacated by the troops September 29, 1869, and was finally abandoned in 1871.

While the ruins of Fort Churchill are located several miles from the city of Fallon, and had no direct bearing on the ultimate development of the inland city, yet it was by reason of the travel to and from the fort, and across and through the district in which Fallon is located, that attention was first directed to the site upon which the settlement was afterwards made, resulting in the acquiring of a large tract of land by Mike Fallon for farming purposes, and where in later years, the city was laid out and developed. Mike Fallon tilled this acreage with profit for two decades before a settlement in that district was even considered. By the year 1896, however, the surrounding territory had been taken up by quite a number of farmers and some centralized point was necessary for the location of a postoffice, and Fallon's ranch was designated by the government as suitable place, and was officially named Fallon Post Office. It was carried on in a small building in the rear of Fallon's residence; this building being about ten by twelve feet in dimensions. Mike Fallon later sold his holdings to Warren W. Williams, and the first postoffice erected was east of the home residence of Mr. Williams.

Within a year after the new building was built, J. W. Richards, who conducted a general store at Stillwater, erected a building later owned and occupied by "The Churchill County Eagle," and moved his stock of merchandise from Stillwater. In 1902 the county seat was moved from Stillwater to Fallon.

Hon. Warren W. Williams donated the land for a courthouse and for a county jail for Churchill county and laid out an addition on the west side of "Main Street" of the new town. The courthouse was completed the following year and with the passage of a Reclamation Act establishing the Truckee-Carson irrigation project with Fallon as the center, the permanency of the town was assured. In 1907 the Nevada legislature passed a "Special Incorporation Act for the Town of Fallon," but when it was submitted to a vote of the citizens of the city it was rejected. In 1908 the City of Fallon was organized under the General Incorporation Act and, after the validity of the law was tested and sustained by the Supreme Court, Fallon finally launched out as a municipality.

It has been said, and with much truth, that our first Masonic lodges in Nevada with few exceptions, were located in mining districts where the lure of gold and silver beckoned adventurous and ambitious men, bent on acquiring not only riches, but upon establishing orderly government. This is indisputable, but it is likewise true that Masonry followed the pioneer to whatever section of the state he invaded, and in those localities where precious metal was not found, but were essentially agricultural, or ranching districts, Masonry soon followed in the wake of settlement. This was the situation reflected when Fallon was settled and began to take on some of the airs and customs of a live, energetic town.

It has been noted that in 1902 the county seat was moved from Stillwater to Fallon. It was then that Fallon began to expand and assumed an air of importance; its growth was rapid and its future was assured.

As early as 1899 it was known that there were a few Masons living in the district, and by 1900 it was apparent that the sojourning brethren were determined to form either a small Masonic association, or would ask permission to organize a lodge under dispensation. This determination bore fruit, resulting in a petition being addressed to Grand Master J. A. Miller, requesting authority to establish a lodge in the town of Fallon. This petition was signed by J. W. Caldwell, W. C. Ferguson, I. H. Kent, Thos. Dolf, W. H. Sifford, F. I. Small, W. R. Lee, J. W Richards, W. W. Williams and G. W. Webb, all of whom were old time residents in the district. The petition was given due consideration, and on March 8, 1901, permission was granted to establish a lodge Under Dispensation, naming W. H. Sifford, worshipful master; Ira H. Kent, senior warden, and W. C. Ferguson, junior warden.

At the following communication of the Grand Lodge in June, 1901, a charter was issued the brethren in Fallon, and it was numbered Churchill Lodge No. 26 on Nevada registry. It was authorized by Most Worshipful Geo. A. Morgan, Grand Master. Due to the inability of the Grand Master to make the trip to Fallon to constitute the lodge and install its elective and appointive officers, Grand Master Morgan appointed the Very Reverend Thos. L. Bellam to convene a meeting of the Grand Lodge in Fallon, constitute the new lodge and install its officers. In conformity to this arrangement, the Grand Lodge was convened in Fallon July 19, 1901, with the following acting Grand Officers in attendance: Very Reverend Thomas L. Bellam, Grand Master; H. J. Allen, as Deputy Grand Master; R. H. Bellam, as Senior Grand Warden; T. C. Hampton, as Junior Grand Warden; George Frazier, as Grand Chaplain and Senior Grand Deacon; H. J. Allen, Grand Junior Deacon; L. S. Bridges, as Grand Marshal; Chas. T. Short, as Grand Tyler.

The Grand Lodge was opened in due form, and retired to a room adjoining Churchill Lodge U. D. to await its action, Churchill lodge having announced its readiness to receive the Grand Lodge; the officers of the Grand Lodge entered and, according to ancient form and custom, constituted the new lodge, installed its officers and closed in ample form. A social hour followed with the serving of an elaborate dinner and an inspiring address by Very Reverend Thomas L. Bellam. The officers installed at this meeting were: W. H. Stafford, worshipful master; Ira H. Kent, senior warden; W. C. Ferguson, junior warden; G. W. Webb, treasurer; J. W. Richards, secretary; Thos. Dolf, senior deacon; F. S. Small, junior deacon; W. L. Lee, tyler.

In the meantime, a meeting place in the upper story of a building located on the main street of the town had been secured and properly prepared and furnished to house the lodge and, at that location, Churchill lodge continued to meet for several years, the only disagreeable factor in their progress being the loss and discomfiture occasioned by a fire which destroyed some of their records, regalia and lodge furniture, and burning the building to the ground. However, the building was rebuilt at once and the lodge continued its interrupted course at the same location, until their present quarters in a fine, reinforced cement building was erected on Main Street. This structure is known as the Fraternity Building, and is occupied by the Masonic and various other fraternal bodies of Fallon. Churchill lodge met in this building for the first time, February 4, 1927.

From a tiny band of ten brethren comprising its original charter list, Churchill lodge has enjoyed a steady growth; today (1944 - ed.) its membership numbers between 170 and 175 loyal, outstanding, zealous and influential brethren.

It has been the sanctuary of some of the most influential and prominent citizens of Churchill county, among whom were those who have occupied foremost places in the professional, commercial, civic and industrial activities of the county. As a unit of the constituent lodges of Nevada, it has always occupied a commanding and important place. In addition to its diversified activities in the city of Fallon, Churchill Lodge has always manifested a keen interest in the affairs of the Grand Lodge, in which it has been given prominent recognition. At the 1929 session, it was honored by the elevation of one of its members, Andrew L. Haight, to the office of Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Nevada. During the Grand Lodge communication held in June, 1930, it was further honored by the appointment made by Grand Master W. R. Adams, of William A. Totman as Very Reverend Grand Chaplain.

Brother Lemuel S. Allen is another member of Churchill to receive appointment on the official staff of the Grand Lodge, being appointed for the first time in 1935, as Grand Pursuivant. At the 1938 session, held in Winnemucca, he was advanced to be Grand Orator. As a whole, the personnel of Churchill lodge is an enviable one, and always has been; the Masons who pioneered the way in the lodge were likewise of a high type of citizens, and took a leading part in the affairs of the county, and in the subsequent founding of Fallon.

Among these Masons were some who attained honor in the political and social history of the state. As an indication of the heights to which some of the original members of the lodge rose, we need only mention the names of Lem Allen, Warren W. Williams, Ira H. Kent, James W. Richards, and the floodgates of memory open to the recollection of their activities, their charities, their public spirit, and the esteem in which they were held in the community in which they lived. But, although they carved their names high on the roll of achievement, and by their own endeavors won a coveted place in the hearts of their fellow citizens, as the years passed by, others who made Fallon the town of their adoption, rose to heights through their integrity, became members of Churchill Lodge, and added prestige and luster to their lodge and community, as they too followed in the footsteps of the outstanding brethren who pioneered the way.

Masonry in Fallon is further represented by St. Johns Chapter, No. 5,  R.A.M., which was moved from Eureka, Nevada, in the year 1927. This unit of Capitular Masonry has made favorable progress since it located in Fallon, and is one of the flourishing chapters of the Grand Jurisdiction of Nevada.

The York Rite of Masonry is represented in Fallon by Lahontan Commandery No. 7, Knights Templar, which was organized in the year 1931, and which, since it was founded, has enjoyed a healthy growth.

These several bodies of Masonry have contributed not only to the fraternal interests and activities of the inland city, but have played an important part in shaping the moral and intellectual growth of the community, since they have always fostered and upheld those various agencies which have for their object the uplifting of humanity, and the advancement and edification of the human race.

A Brief personnel of Churchill Lodge

Prominent among the members of Churchill lodge was Lem Allen, a charter member of the lodge. He was a native of Ohio, born in 1839. In 1862 he moved to Churchill county, where he taught school in the St. Clair district. Later he acquired ranching property on which he lived until 1912. He served the county as District Attorney for several terms, was a member of the State Legislature, elected to the Assembly and State Senate for a number of consecutive terms, and at one time was Lieutenant Governor of Nevada. As a Mason, he served his lodge with that same degree of devotion and attention he always gave to all the activities of life.

The history of Churchill lodge would not be complete without reference to Hon. Warren W. Williams, who was of New England stock, his grandfathers on both sides of the house serving in the Revolutionary War. In 1871 he located in Churchill county, to which he moved from California. He was closely identified with the public and political movements of the county, was elected county commissioner for eight years, and for another eight years was State Senator from Churchill county. He drafted the bill that moved the county seat from Stillwater to Fallon, and was instrumental in obtaining an appropriation for building the court house and jail, for which he donated the ground.

In the early period of Churchill lodge he was very active. He died in 1918 at the age of eighty years,, and was buried in the shadow of Fallon Butte, which he so dearly loved.

The name of Ira H. Kent looms prominent not only in the history of Churchill county and in the commercial affairs of Fallon, but also in the activities of Churchill Lodge No. 26, F. & A. M., of which he was a beloved and respected member. Born in Millersburg, Pa., August 15, 1855, he moved to California in 1874, and later to Oregon. In 1876 he came to Churchill county, and was elected county recorder in 1877. In 1880, he was elected county treasurer, and was twice elected district attorney. In the meantime, he acquired about 3000 acres of ranch land, which he worked with profit. In 1902 he came to Fallon and organized the I. H. Kent Company which grew rapidly under his management, and became one of the outstanding business enterprises of the town.

He helped to organize the beet industry in Churchill county, assisted in promoting a beet sugar factory, to become its vice president. When Churchill lodge was organized in Fallon in 1901, he took an active part in its promotion, and at once entered into its activities, to become the first senior warden.

To James W. Richards is given the credit of erecting the first business building in Fallon. For several years he was engaged in the general merchandise business in Stillwater, and when the county seat was moved from that town to Fallon, Brother Richards moved his stock and opened a store in the new county seat, and later was appointed postmaster at Fallon. In 1878 he was elected county clerk, and in 1880 was chosen as assemblyman from his county; later, he served three consecutive terms as county treasurer.

He joined Churchill lodge F. & A. M. in 1901, and became its first secretary.

Among the energetic, zealous and consistent members of Churchill Lodge is Brother Herbert E. Roe who since his enrollment as a member of that lodge, has occupied a prominent place in its progress. He is also a member of Saint Johns Chapter No. 5, Royal Arch Masons, and an outstanding member of Lahontan Commandery No. 7, Knights Templar.

He has served not only Churchill Lodge No. 26, but also St. Johns Chapter and Lahontan Commandery K. T. as secretary and scribe and through his energy, attention and initiative, these bodies have maintained a healthy growth. Through his efforts, the rosters of these bodies reflect remarkably few suspensions, while their records have been intelligently and properly transcribed.

An outstanding member of Churchill Lodge is Andrew L. Haight. He is also a prominent member of the legal fraternity of Fallon. He is a native of Michigan, where he was born July 17, 1884. He received his education in the public schools of Michigamme, from which he graduated in 1899, and attended the Ferris Institute at Big Rapids in 1900 and 1901. Later, he read law in Hancock, Mich., and Chicago, Ill. In 1907, he was admitted to the bar in Nevada and engaged in the practice of law in Ely, Nevada, where he was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason in Ely Lodge No. 29, on May 19, 1909. On May 2, 1919, he became a member of Churchill lodge by affiliation. In 1925 he was appointed Grand Senior Deacon of the Grand Lodge of Nevada and having filled several stations in between, was elected Grand Master in 1929.

The visitation of Grand Master Haight to his own lodge is the subject of an interesting paragraph from the pen of Herbert E. Roe, secretary of Churchill lodge, who writes: "May 2, 1930, will long be remembered as an outstanding event - the visit of Grand Master Haight. As a distinct compliment to him, the officers of St. Johns Chapter No. 5, R. A. M., appeared in full regalia, and as a further compliment, thirty Sir Knights of DeWitt Clinton Commandery, No. 1, of Reno, attired in full Templar uniform greeted him. Eleven grand officers of the Grand Lodge were also present to pay honor to the first and only Grand Master contributed by Churchill Lodge No. 26. At this meeting there were sixteen of the twenty-three lodges of the state represented, totaling over two hundred Masons, together with thirteen others from foreign lodges."

Ben Mathews
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