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Union Lodge # 3

A.F. & A.M.

McMinnville, OR

     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.”

     The new Temple was provided with electric fixtures for $250, carpets for $889, and a lodge set, including quarter sawed oak desk and altar with filigreed columns, and leather cushioned officer chairs with oak backs, etc. at a cost of $1468.  Earlier in the century the lodge had received as a gift from Brother Captain H. L. Heath three heavy brass candle sticks for use at the altar.  Brother Heath had salvaged these items from a ruined building in the Philippine Island during the Spanish-American War.  (In 1952 altar tapers with emblems for elements were given by Brother H. Wayne Stanard.)  Lodge records of 1917 record also the gift of an illuminated letter “G” made and presented by Brother Milton McGuire.

     In June 1897 the Lodge acquired its first addition to the Masonic Cemetery, two and one-half acres of land for $100 and the right to a certain spring of water for $125.  Brother William McChristman’s will began a Trust Fund of $5,000 to beautify and maintain the cemetery in 1904.  The lodge established a five-member commission, with overlapping terms of office, to supervise and manage this Fund.  Money hereafter coming into possession in trust in connection with the cemetery was to become a part of the Christman Trust, which today exceeds $50,000.

     In February of 1910 the lodge received a letter from Brother J. C. Cooper which read, in part, as follows: “I think the time has come to change the dates for our Stated Meetings, and not be governed by the variable moon.”  The Brethren agreed, and amended the by-laws to call for meetings the second Saturday evening of each month.

     In 1918, in its 50th year, the lodge was presented a Masonic service flag in honor of the enlistment of its service brethren.  Records also note the effect of war economy in a 10 per cent tax on fees and dues in excess of $12.

     Recognition that a half century of Masonry in McMinnville had been achieved began, now, of course, to show itself for individual membership.  In October of 1919, for example, nine of the brethren with 25 years or more membership were asked to give short talks.  They were J. C. Cooper, C. H. Fleming, W. S. Link, O.O. Hodson, Dr. Leroy Lewis, E. C. Apperson, R. L. Connor, A. J. Axon, and J. E. Clark.

     In September of 1916 Brother George F. Bangasser, member of the lodge for 40 years, on the eve of his departure for California was presented a Masonic ring.  Brother Bangasser held the record for virtual perfect lodge attendance at that time.  First 50-year pin awarded by Union Lodge No. 43 appears to have been presented April 5, 1921, to J. C. Cooper, who was then 76 years old.

     At an early Past Master’s night, October 23, 1934, the Minutes record the attendance of eleven Past Masters and noted that ten others were living.  As part of the program that evening W.>S. Link briefly sketched the lodge history and F. W. Sitton recalled boyhood impressions of Masonry, including memories of his father’s regular attendance in all kinds of weather.

    During the third quarter of Union Lodge history it was also possible to look back over the years and note the long-time service of certain men in certain offices.  Among secretaries were: Thomas Pettigrew, 1868-1875; R. L. Conner, 1903-1909; Leroy Lewis, 1919-1930; and George Lindsay, 1933-1963.  Among treasurer’s were C. G. Saylor, 1868-1874; Jacob Wortman, 1886-1904; W. S. Link, 1904-1934; and the present treasurer, Frank Wortman, who began his tenure in 1935.

     Rev. Joseph Hoberg, whose name appears first in the Minutes as the first chaplain in December 1895 served until 1919 and was succeeded in his 91st year by Emanuel Northup, who occupied the Chaplain’s Chair until 1933.

     McMinnville Masons during the third quarter seemed to have concentrated particularly upon the study and perfection of their ritualistic work.  A special interest in the symbolism and philosophy of Masonry was, perhaps, to be expected as part of recognition of historical growth.  Also, during the Depression Years of this quarter there were, of course, fewer petitioners for degrees and all lodges had more time for such study.

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