A BRIEF HISTORY OF SHERBURNE LODGE N0.95 AF&AM
Elk River, Minnesota
Richard Wheaton, Master 1978
Prepared and submitted by: Thomas K. Wilson, Daniel R. Anderson
Redone and Updated by: Terrance M Schaffer
It was on December 5th, in the year 1871 that a group of Masons gathered at the school house in Elk River Minnesota to discuss the business of organizing a Masonic Lodge in Elk River. One would presume that previous meetings were held to explore and discuss the likelihood of a Masonic Organization, but the first record of a meeting is the one held on that date. Reported in those minutes of that evening were; "Upon motion each member present paid the sum of five dollars to hold a charter membership." It was upon request by this group of Masons that the Grand Lodge of Minnesota granted a special dispensation to function in the full capacity of a working lodge with the full expectation that the charter would be forth coming. Under this dispensation, this group of Masons received two petitions on December 12, 1871 and acted upon the petitions.
One petition was duly rejected while the other was duly accepted. The first candidate of this newly formed lodge was a Mr. Frederick A. Hoebner who was initiated, passed and raised in the Lodge completing the third degree on December 28, 1871. The Grand Lodge of Minnesota had endorsed the charter and it carries the date of January 9, 1872. The Grand Master of Masons of Minnesota, George B. Cooley presented in formal ceremonies the charter on January 22, 1872. The minutes of that date are recorded as follows; "Brother Luther E. Preston was installed as Worshipful Master and received from the hands of the Grand Master George B. Cooley the charter for the working of this lodge named Sherburne Lodge No 95 AF&AM.
The other officers installed on that date were as follows:
William M. Cleeland – Senior Warden – (Merchant)
William H. Houlton – Junior Warden – (Merchant)
John Q. A. Nicberson – Treasurer – (Hotel Keeper)
?everinb Holgate – Senior Deacon – (Tinner)
Samuel Colson – Junior Deacon – (Hotel Keeper)
Hiram P. Burrell – Tyler ¬– (Farmer)
Very little is actually known about the personal life of our first master subsequent to his holding the office as master of the lodge as his name is not prevalent in the minutes. The Ledger does record that he was 26 years old when he was installed as master and that he was initiated, passed, and raised in the State of Illinois in the year of 1869 at Evening Star Lodge No 414, but the ledger does list his occupation as school teacher. In the final column of the ledger his death is recorded as May 20, 1897. Several of the other officers which were installed and who were charter-members served as Masters, secretary and treasurer.
Sherburne Lodge was named after and in the honor of Moses Sherburne, who was 2nd Grand Master of Masons in Minnesota. His occupation was that of an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Minnesota Territory from 1853 to 1857. Moses Sherburne was born in Maine in 1808; came to St. Paul and made his residence there. History reports state that he was one of the two people to construct the statures of Minnesota which was published in 1859. After practicing law in St. Paul for several years he moved to Orono in Sherburne County in the year 1867 and died there on March 29, 1868. History also records that Sherburne County derived its name from Moses Sherburne to perpetuate and honor that man.
The Lodge was chartered into being during the early days of Minnesota. It was a transitional period, a passing of the pioneer days in to that of the industrial period. The steamboat and logging were prevalent on the Mississippi and the railroad was eight years old in Elk River. Lumbermen were making use of the vast timber resources, while new businesses were beginning and farmers was clearing the land. People were migrating in increasing numbers into the Mississippi River Valley. It was an era when many people were seeking permanent roots while others were just passing through.
Lodge records bear out this history of change and it was fully evident that many a man submitted his petition in search of a refuge only; subsequently they discovered that their petition was duly rejected. Some of the petitioners remained in the area and re-petitioned the lodge while others moved on. On the other hand, many petitions were duly accepted and the lodge grew rapidly in the early years. Evidence points outs out that the lodge was extremely busy with degree work, holding numerous special meetings in addition to their regular communications, indeed activity was flourishing. The new members were employed as lumbermen, farmers, merchants, tinners and surveyors. As the community of Elk River grew, the Masonic movement caught the spirit of men in the area and it was soon recognized as an institution of providing a moral and social outlet for themselves and members of their families. A second great influx of members occurred post World War II, during the years of 1946 to 1952.
The First recorded social function of Sherburne Lodge occurred in 1874, a New Years' Eve ball was held on December 31, 1874 to celebrate the passing of the old year, and the beginning of the new, but no details were available as.to the music, food, or location and special effects. In May 1967 an interview was conducted in which Dalmer Palmer reported on the history of the so called "old days" of the lodge. The interview is on magnetic tape; several masters were present questioning Brother Palmer. He spoke of the Lodge having several balls about the turn of the century and explained that it was one of the common social functions of the time.
He made it clear that it took a good deal of effort to make the trip to town and return back home, and It was rather humorous to read that the lodge bought the cigars that were smoked after dinner occasions or subsequent to the lodge communication.
The most common purchase for events was that of oysters, as statements for oysters and yet more oysters were commonplace in the lodge's minutes. In the early years it was not consistent, but it would seem that it was forerunners of the present annual oyster stew meal we hold at the lodge. At this point in time, one would conclude that the oyster-stew is a traditional event going back to the lodges beginning. The annual turkey dinner dates back to the late 1920's and it has been held in October or November of each year since that time. From our readings and inquiries, the original turkey dinner was held in the Union Church, and then moved to what is now South Junior High School before ending in the 80’s at the Catholic Church in town.
Three significant celebrations occurred at the Lodge in conjunction with the Order of the Eastern Star, the Celebrations for the 50th, 75th and 100 year anniversaries. The 50th year celebration took place on January 10, 1922 as reported in the Sherburne Star News, the first paragraph is as follows; "After making a wonderful record as a Masonic organization during the past half century Sherburne Lodge No 95 AF&AM celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the granting of its charter on Tuesday evening when the members and their ladies enjoyed a banquet and entertainment at the Odd Fellow's Lodge".
The 75th anniversary was held in 1947 at which WB Roland K. Wilson delivered a history of the lodge that evening and I quote from his remarks. "Probably the most important affair of the year was the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the founding and chartering of the lodge i n 1872. A very fine dinner was served by the ladies of Whittemore Chapter #253 of the O.E.S. The dinner was held at the Parish House of the Union Church and was attended by many visitors as well as brethren. The Oldest living past Master at the time, West Merrifield, was present. This celebration was held on April 22nd and was followed by a Third Degree.
The 100th Anniversary of Sherburne Lodge was also held at the Union Church Parish Hall on January 10, 1972. The dinner was once again served by the ladies of Eastern Star, with several Lodges near Elk River being represented by their membership among being them Midway Lodge #185 of St. Paul, Minnesota. Midway 185 and Sherburne 95 having in those recent years participating in frequent visitations, and in fact having shared in some of the work, and there were some out of state lodges present for the celebration as well.
Sherburne's Master on its 100th birthday was a young master named John Coleman. Not only did WB Coleman work in speculative masonry, but gains his livelihood from operative Masonry as well. John had exemplified an ardent interest in the fraternity, and was a dedicated and loyal member of the organization. It is interesting and ironic to report that his father, Br. Ed Coleman did follow his son, John as one of the future Masters of the 1odge. WB Harold Warneke was serving Sherburne Lodge at the 100th year, and his zeal for the institution of Masonry is recognized in this report for numerous years of outstanding and devoted service.
The guests at the head table for this event were Rev. Richard Scherer, the new minister of the Union Church and WB Widstrand, Grand Master from Hibbing Minnesota, with both of the guests participating in the program. Our 50 year member, WB Earl Darrow presented on behalf of the lodge an engraved plaque to WB Coleman, Brother Darrow pointed out that the plaque was symbolic of 100 years of active Masonic work and charged the
present Master to continue the work into the 2nd century. The Plaque was located on the wall in the lodge hall. During the 75th anniversary WB Roland K. Wilson read a history of the lodge which he had prepared. It was his wish that the history continue to be read again in 1972. It was with pleasure that his son WB Thomas K. Wilson recited the first 75 years and added the next 25 years to that original document. At that time each member was given a piece of paper with instructions to make a prediction as to what they thought the state of the world would be in the year 2072, which drew both interest and discussion. It should be noted that a partial magnetic tape of that evening was prepared.
In retrospect, it is very difficult to envision the effort and energy that was necessary to attend to the daily chores of a livelihood and then be present at meetings and other gatherings in the evening. Members had to travel to lodge on foot, horse, or buggy. Then, upon arrival at the hall it was necessary to keep the stove filled with wood, the lamps filled with kerosene and three candles burning in evening light. Lodge records past the turn of the century speak of having to approve bills for both cutting and buying of wood. Minutes also show expense for candles, lamps and kerosene. We were at a loss to locate any significant material regarding lodge furniture. The lodge's communications were held in the Music Hall until what is known as the "Big Block Fire”. The exact date of this fire is unknown, but it is believed to have been in the middle or late 1890's. At which time our original charter was nearly destroyed and was kept in safe keeping since that time. The lodge then rented the old “Odd Fellows Hall”, which I am told was situated on the North Bank of the Mississippi River in the curve of the river below our present Main Street or in the same location of the present Highway No. 10. The lodge then moved to new quarters about 1904 above the old First National Bank Building which is located on the corner of Jackson and Main Street.
One of the tenants of Masonic work is that of charity and relief, and this is very evident in the minutes of several meetings. It was not uncommon for one or more members to sit at the side of a member who was enduring illness. Furthermore, the lodge approved statements of medical assistance to members who were unable to provide this support. These actions have faded as other forms of relief are available in these situations. The lodge still strongly urges its members to remember the i1lness of their brethren through visitation, cards and flowers. At the request of the family, the Lodge has accompanied the remains of a brother to his final resting place and will perform a masonic Funeral upon request.
The first Masonic Funeral on record occurred in 1874 and the Minutes are as follows: "The Lodge was opened at 11am for the purpose of paying their last respects to Br.Winthrop Davis", dated January 14, 1874. Since that time many Masonic services have been performed as directed by the family.
Since WB Luther E. Preston took the obligation of Master, the leadership of the Lodge has passed down from year to year to a new master. Many members have stepped forward to share their time, effort and ability to make their lodge a success. The members who have occupied the oriental chair in the East have been fully dedicated to the goals of the fraternity. Their names are recorded in Lodge records with a picture of each master being located in the lodge room. Also many of the Past Masters were elected as a secretary or treasurer, and have been a vital force in the function of the 1odge.
In summing up the early history of the Lodge, it has moved from the candle to the electric light from the wood stove to natural gas; from the entertainment of an evening ball to watching a Presidential Election on Television. In the first century of Sherburne Lodge it came through the vast technological advancements beyond the imagination of most persons. Indeed a dynamic society with changes unprecedented in the history of man. Yet, within the walls of the institution of Masonry the Masonic work and ritual continues to perpetuate itself from decade to decade and from century to century, unchanged and yet ever changing.
The material for this article was assembled from Lodge minutes, lodge documents, newspaper articles, personal inquires and tape recordings. It is recommeded that an addenlduni to be added in which the following information be sought out a he location of the Music Hall, and the date that is was destroyed by fire. We are of the opinion that is was located on Jackson between railroad drive and 5th Street. Secondly, to ascertain the exact location of the Old Oddfellows Hall. We are of the opinion that it was located to the East of Main Street and Highway 10 and in fact was situatated where Highway 10 now exists. We would further suggest that an effort be made to locate photographs of the above named buildings and these photographs be obtained and placed i n the archives of the lodges so future members may have a knowledge of the early quarters of the Lodge.
A New Beginning
At the beginning of the 2013 year, our new Worshipful Master, WB Jamie Romness was excited about the possibilities for the year. For the first time in the lodges recent past he had a full line of officers in place and was hopeful that the issues regarding the sale of the building and needed repairs could be worked out by its members. Once again though the meetings were continually bogged down with talk about what the lodge should do and its constant inability to pay its debts, barely getting by with keeping the lights on.
Soon the lodge was facing a crossroads, with frustrations and disappointments causing members to become lackluster in their attendance, coming to the point where the lodge could not always open with the minimum numbers necessary, some tough decisions had to be made. Worshipful Master Jamie called various special meetings in an attempt to resolve the future of the lodge and its building that was draining all its resources, meeting also with members of the Whittemore Chapter #283 of the Easter Star who shared in our concerns and use of the facility.
It was by the Summer of 2013 that the members of the lodge decided there was no option but to put the building up for auction as we had no money to continue paying the extreme amount of taxes on the site and the attempted sale of the building those past five or more years had not yielded any serious buyers. It was either that or the bank foreclose which was not something either the lodge or the bank wished to do.
Plans were made for holding such an auction and locations looked at for moving to, while the clearing out of lodge items and sale of those items that could not be stored began. It was at this time the lodge was approached by a buyer who wished to do a contract for deed and with proper financing would purchase the building by 2015.
This saving option was well received and so in September of 2013 we held a commemorative dinner to celebrate our over 40 years in the location at Upland Avenue. Along with our Sisters in the Eastern Star, we told stories of all those events held at the lodge, we read the history, much that is listed here above that was placed in the cornerstone retrieved during our clearing out of the building. And though we were all sad at the loss of having to move, we were reminded again, as we were by our Past Master Dan Anderson, that the lodge is not a building, but we who dwell in it and do the work that we do. In our nearly 150 year history we had not owned a building except the one here on Upland Ave. How before that we had rented out of other facilities and now we would again, that this move was nothing more than that, a move and if we stayed together we can grow from this and become stronger.
So it was in on October 1st, 2013 that we moved into and held our first meeting at what we believed would be our new home for the foreseeable future. In looking for places to start a new chapter in our existence we had wanted to stay in the city of Elk River and so it was we came to be at the American Legion in town. The meeting itself was a great celebration, holding a dinner beforehand and having more brothers in attendance then in a long time, we received our District Rep, WB Vern Schwalbe as well as the Grand Senior Deacon, WB John Studell, who presented us with a brand new charter, replacing the one damaged by fire many years ago.
The lodge had seemed to turn a corner, without the weight of the building hanging directly over our heads, and new members who we had managed to bring through the degrees the past few months, we began to do more events and holding award ceremonies, something that had not been done in many, many years.
Elections for the new year were held and though many missing Brothers had not returned to actively participating in lodge, with the help of the new members, some coming from other lodges and some new to the fraternity, we once again managed to almost field a full array of officers for the coming 2014 year. It was because of these high hopes for the coming year that we were struck even harder when the American Legion in town decided to charge ten times the amount agreed upon just those three months prior and once more we were without a home.
It took three months of meeting at Anoka Lodge #30 before we finally accepted the offer from another new Brother who was originally from California, but had recently bought a hotel in nearby Otsego. Brother Gene Giegoldt offered for us to meet at his place called Riverwood Conference Center and Inn, located as stated in Otsego right on the Mississippi river. He gave us a place to store both our own as well as Whittemore Chapters materials in one of his storage areas and gave us use of his conference rooms for our regular meetings and other future events.
A contract signed and in place with Brother Gene, we held our first meeting at Riverwood on March 18th, 2014, A snow storm prevented our Worshipful Master Dustin Wiebold from attending as he went off the road into a ditch and some other members left to retrieve him, but once again we were glad to have this new home and entertained not only our District Rep, WB Vern Schwalbe but also our Area Deputy, WB Don Nolley for the evening.
The 2014 year would see the reviving our some former events such as the Casino Night, Beer & Cigar Night, having a float in the Sherburne County Parade and The Relay for Life, as well as for the first time in many years we gave out Scholarships to local students from the WB James LaRock Scholarship Fund. We would also see new events began such as the Wayfaring Man, which promotes travel to other lodges and our Oktoberfest fund raiser.
We even held a Hiram Award dinner for our Brother Ken Warneke, who serving this lodge for over 47 years had been instrumental in many ways to keeping it in existence. As Treasurer these many years his diligence in keeping the building afloat and making the deal with the buyer for the old lodge had been outstanding. We paid homage to him and his dedication to the craft. A grand dinner was held at Rockwoods restaurant in Elk River, with many guests in attendance.
The 2014 year would also see the continuation of our Awards night and we were honored to have the Grand Master of Minnesota, James A Christensen attend along with WB Vern Schwalbe and WB Don Nolley, who all assisted in giving out various awards and year pins to our members, most notably to WB Dan Anderson who received his 60 year pin and certificate. We were ever so pleased to have 25 members in attendance to help celebrate those being honored that night.
The 2015 Year began with the lodge finding itself strong enough to once again have a full line of officers in its ranks and many past members feared lost attending it’s meetings. The continuation of last year’s events becoming a solid tradition while yet another new one was formed. The tradition of Table Lodge is one of our Masonic heritages and so the members of Sherburne Lodge once again began this part of our legacy in grand style. Not only did the lodge renew this traditional event they also paid homage to one of their beloved members, WB Robert Bowersox, a three time Past Master of the lodge, by declaring it the Bob Bowersox Highland Table Lodge. A Celebration filled with Scottish flair, with Dancers, Singers as well as the traditional
seven toasts. Of course there were guest speakers such as Grand Senior Steward, WB Ethan Seaberg and the Grand Master of Prince Hall Minnesota, MWB Kymphus Mohammed. Over 70 guests, Brothers, Sister of the Eastern Star, friends and family alike enjoyed the evening at Riverwood Inn!
The rest of the year was full as we continued our now solid Beer & Cigar night and for a second year we presented scholarships to four local students. Due to the Masonic Float held by the Metro West Association being in need of repair, our members were forced to come up with a make shift one. Our members put together a flatbed trailer and decked it out with Masonic signs and chairs and flowers and we once again represented ourselves to the folks of Elk River in the Sherburne County Parade. Our Annual participation in the Relay for Life event for the American Cancer Society saw it greatest year of raising funds, being chaired by Worshipful Brother Tony Oker and Worthy Matron Barb Lawton, and the Sherburne Masonic Family received a certificate for their efforts from the Relay for Life organizers.
After that summer the lodge didn’t slow down but continued it’s fund raising with the Oktoberfest Night, raising money for both the Scholarship Fund as well as for the Wounded Warriors Project, giving back to our Service Men and Women. We also held our Awards Night for 30 year members and other deserving Brothers within the lodge. Traveling as a lodge we continued to visit Brethren around the state with our Wayfaring Men group, and holding various guest education presentations and visits from appending Masonic bodies.
At the beginning of the 2016 year the members of Sherburne Lodge continued the good works of the recent years, making new events into solid traditions by strengthening them and improving them as they needed. The 2nd Annual Highland Table Lodge was greeted with even greater success and appreciation from not only Sherburne Lodge members but also with all those Brethren from other lodges and Grand Lodge members in attendance, including but not exclusive too the Deputy Grand Master, WB Robert Darling, Junior Grand Deacon, WB Ethan Seaberg, Grand Standard Bearer Doug Beech, Area Deputies WB Don Nolley and WB Charles Brust, District Representatives WB Shawn Carrick and Phil Carlson.
Fund raising efforts increased and as a result the lodge was able to provide more Scholarships to local students and once again was the team to bring in the most pledges for the Relay for Life event for the American Cancer Society, the one event who had been participating in for years but had really stepped up our energies to make this an even better event. Our relationship with our sisters in the Whittemore Chapter of the Eastern Star was stronger than ever and we were doing more events as a true family!
All this made the fact that we once again found ourselves without a home again a bit disappointing. It was near the end of the summer that we learned that Brother Gene Gieegoldt had finally found a buyer for Riverwood Inn, and though aware that he was attempting to do this for a while, we had thought we had in plans in place to remain even with new ownership. Sadly though the new owners were not going to keep the facility as is but where revamping the whole place into a senior living center, unknown to Brother Gene and were locking down Riverwood a few days after the sale and we needed to move everything out immediately.
Now even after finding a home at Riverwood for almost 2 ½ years we were not unprepared to be up rooted, as it was always a possibility and after moving most of our items into storage, we contacted nearby lodges for a solid place to meet for the foreseeable future in order to not disrupt all the work we still were doing. With that in mind we spoke too and made arrangements to meet at NE Winslow Lodge #125 in Osseo. Though not ideal and father away from our community base, they had plenty of room for us and the members of Whittemore Chapter and we could know each month where we would be till we could find another home back in Elk River or that area.