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Union Lodge # 3

A.F. & A.M.

McMinnville, OR

The First 100 Years of Union Lodge No. 3

     The beginnings of Masonry in Oregon are customarily dated from the establishment of Multnomah Lodge No. 84 at Oregon City in 18476 under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Missouri.  Oregon Grand Lodge, constituted in 1851, rechartered Multnomah Lodge as No. 1 and likewise separated Willamette No. 2, Portland, and Lafayette No. 3 from affiliation with the Grand Lodge of California.

     Masonry in McMinnville, Oregon, took a preliminary step as early as 1860 when a dispensation for a lodge here, under the sponsorship of Lafayette No. 3, was issued at the Tenth Annual Grand Lodge Communication at Salem.  Events, however, were to delay the actual chartering of Union Lodge No. 43 for another eight years.

     John C. Wilkinson, Worshipful Grand Historian of the Oregon Grand Lodge, writes in his History of A. F. & A. M. of Oregon that “McMinnville Lodge No. 31, after waiting several months to receive the charter granted in 1860, had decided the members no longer wanted it and requested the return of their money.  The delay was caused by the loss of their first charter in the Champoeg flood; a second charter was issued and, in due time, signed by the several officers, but the man carrying it lost it again while fording a stream; some two weeks later it was found, somewhat damaged, but before it could reach McMinnville, the brethren there, diminished in numbers by the exodus to the mines, informed the Grand Secretary that they did not want it.”

     Presumably, McMinnville Masons took part in neighboring lodges, then, until 1867.  Volume One of the Lodge Minutes records “in pursuance to a dispensation granted by Most Worshipful Grand Master A. A. Smith, A. F & A. M., dated at Eugene City October 19th, A. D. 1867, to J. A. Richardson, Worshipful Master; J. M. Pierce, Senior Warden; and C. D. Johnson, Junior Warden, and a constitutional member of the Brethren” the first regular communication of Union Lodge No. 43 was held in a hall at the southeast corner of 3rd and Cowls streets.  Present were visiting brethren from Lafayette Lodge No. 3, Amity Lodge No. 20 and Jennings Lodge No. 9.

     A communication from Amity Lodge No. 20, dated November 16, 1867, was read asking Union Lodge to appoint a committee of three to confer with a like committee from Amity to agree upon a line of jurisdiction between the said lodges on the basis of the Yamhill River.  A resolution was also adopted that no tobacco should be used in the temple.  Meetings were to be held on the Tuesday after the full moon of each month, the hour of meeting to be High Twelve.  Fees were set at $10 each degree and quarterly dues of $1.50 were to be assessed.

     Charter was granted to Union Lodge at the 18th Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge at Portland 1868.  The charter is dated June 24, St. John the Baptist’s Day, Masonic Year 5868.  First meeting under the new charter was held July 18, and on October 3 Union Lodge raised its first Master Mason, G. W. Jones, under the charger authority.  Previously, Brother J. R. Bean had been raised to this Sublime Degree under the special dispensation in December 1867.

     Historians of Masonry generally agree that Masonic objectives and ideals were an influence for law and order and good citizenship in the early days of the West.  Trials to mend the ways of erring members were not uncommon.  The zeal with which McMinnville Masons to the sacredness of their charge is reflected in the fact that on one occasion (an un usual one, to be sure) charges were preferred against three members, one for general un-Masonic conduct, one for willfully and knowingly obtaining goods under false pretenses, and one for violation of his sacred obligation as a Good Templar.

     First Worshipful Master of Union Lodge No. 43, James A. Richardson, who occupied the East under the Special Dispensation, and was re-elected as Master in 1868 under the Charger and again in 1869, petitioned for a demit on his departure from McMinnville in 1870.  He was succeeded by Francis A. Ford, who was to serve until 1873.

     At the termination of Brother Ford’s office, Brother Gustav Wilson delivered, in part, the following public statement: “You have been an industrious and diligent Master of the Lodge.  It has prospered under your administration in all its workings.  The economy of its finances has been your constant study and as presiding officer you have governed with more love than force.  In all, you have discharged all duties toward the lodge faithfully and you have won the entire confidence of your brethren.”  The lodge Minutes nowhere suggesting anything to the contrary, one may assume that this testimonial to Brother Ford would serve also for the other early Masters.

     Minutes of the first twenty-five years of Union Lodge, written in the highly legible hand of pre-typewriter days, indicate a busy and precise concern for Masonic procedure.  Occasionally, it is noted, the Brethren marched through “the principal streets of McMinnville” to an adjacent grove to hear an appropriate address and to picnic with families and friends.  Some of the small details of financial affairs contribute to the picture: “bill of $5.75 for oyster and crackers;” “75 cents for outside door lock;” “$1.00 for feeding Grand Master’s horse four times.”

     A more significant entry “$89.75 for nursing and funeral expense,” indicated early exercise of Masonic charity. On July 1, 1876, the lodge purchased ten acres of land for $180 for a cemetery.  Provisions were made, among other things, for the burial of the indigent, and the general assistance of McMinnville Masons at funerals is recorded.

     Highlight of the second quarter of Union Lodge No. 43 history seems to have been the building of the present Masonic Building on 3rd street in the fall of 1914.  The Telephone-Register of that year notes it as “the largest business block in Yamhill County.”  The news account further described the building as approximately 90x100 feet, three stories and basement, of white brick from the native clay at Willamina and costing approximately $40,000.

     The new Masonic Building replaced an earlier Temple build on the same site in 1882 at a cost of “not more than $4,000.”  Before 1882 the lodge had met on the second floor of several buildings in the vicinity of 3rd and “C” streets; during the construction of the present building meetings were authorized in the Flynn Building at the southwest corner of 3rd and Baker streets.

     Records in the cornerstone of the 1882 building were found water-soaked beyond recognition.  In ceremonies at 3 p.m. October 14 for the cornerstone of the 1914 building, the deposit was made in a copper box lined with glass and covered with a coat of cement.  Items deposited included a brief history of Union Lodge by Secretary Dr. Leroy Lewis, a Masonic history by Brother O. O. Hodson, photographs, a Masonic Directory of 1913, and a Bible donated by Brother B. F. Rhodes.  Judge George H. Burnett of Salem officiated and The Telephone-Register reports “certain ritualistic ceremonies were performed by the brotherhood with corn, wine and oil.”

     Brother Lewis closes his cornerstone history with the following paragraph: “The lodge since its organization has had a migratory existence but with the construction of this building it is to be hoped that the brethren have found a permanent home for many years to come.”

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