HISTORY OF CHERRY VALLEY LODGE NO. 173
Ancient Free & Accepted Masons
Music is Masons Apron
On June 16, 1855, by dispensation from the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Illinois, the first meeting of the Cherry Valley A.F. & A. M. Lodge was held at the "Masonic Hall". The location was not given in the minutes. Brethren who had demitted from Belvidere Lodge #60 for the purpose of forming a Cherry Valley Masonic Lodge, filled the chairs as listed under officers of 1855. That first meeting was a busy one. The By-Laws of Belvidere were accepted until others could be framed by the new By-Laws committee. Committees were appointed to obtain a set of jewels and to rent a hall for future meetings.
The Charter, dated October 3, 1855, signed by James Anderson, the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the State of Illinois, and H. G. Reynolds, Grand Secretary, was received and read at the November 1 Meeting. The first election of officers was held on December 14, 1855. Installation was held on January 3, 1856 at a regular meeting. G. S. Barrows became Worshipful Master; H. Robinson, Senior Warden; B. B. Hamilton, Junior Warden; H. P. Mesler, Senior Deacon; S. Toby, Junior Deacon; R. G. Hamilton; Secretary; J. A. Gleason, Treasurer; and S. H. Holden, Tyler.
During the fall and winter months, the Lodge opened at six O'clock. The Lodge opened at seven o'clock in the spring and summer. Many years later, the time was changed to six-thirty and seven-thirty respectively. Later as industry and travel changed, the time was set year round at eight o'clock, as it is today for all regular meetings.
The Lodge moved many times. The Odd Fellows Hall was the first place rented, then a hall owned by Brother McKee, then one owned by Brother King, and over the years the lodge did a great deal of subletting to other organizations. A few of those were the Order of the Eastern Star, Modern Woodman, Improved Red Man, I.O.O.F., Knights of Pythias, Good Templers and Knights of the Globe.
In November 1899, the Masonic furniture was sold to the Modern Woodman and furniture was purchased from the Odd Fellows. However, the landlord would not allow any subletting. On February 22, 1924, the hall of the Slater Building was rented on a five-year lease. In July 21 of that year, a special meeting was called and plans were made to purchase the Free Baptist Church Building, the present home of our Lodge. The Baptist Society made a large donation toward the purchase fund as did many of the Lodge members. A loan was made through the Cherry Valley State Bank. The building was purchased and remodeling started immediately. The first meeting was held at the Temple on December 12, 1924 and in April, 1927, Brother Hursh donated the elm trees which were planted around the lot by Brother F. O. Bloomster.
The financial committee worked hard to raise money to clear the mortgage and at last, with the help of all the Lodge members and our sister organization, it was paid in full on November 10, 1944. A party night was set for November 25th to celebrate. Brother T. M. Graves, who had been a member of the Cherry Valley Lodge for forty-seven years, burned the mortgage. A dinner was served by the ladies of the O.E.S.
Those first years were full of social activities - picnics, clam bakes, dances, socials and card parties - often held with the O.E.S., other times for members only. There were also many joint installations with the O.E.S.
The trend of a hundred years can be followed by the purchaases of candles, lamps and electric lights, wood, coal, and oil, water pails, and electric pumps. Carrying wood upstairs and piling it was always paid for in the "hall" rentin days and the Tyler was paid 50 cents a meeting. However all subletting organizations had to furnish their own lights, fuel, and Tyler. Oysters seemed to be the favorite cold weather food and all refreshments were followed with cigars. The Lodge celebrated their ninetieth year with a dinner and Past Masters night on November 30, 1945. On December 17, 1947, Brother T. M. Graves was honored at a dinner and presented with a 50 year jewel and certificate, followed by a program.
In 1950, modernizing of the Temple was undertaken and in 1953-54, the Basement dining room was completely renovated. As in the Past, much of this work was done by the Brethren and members of the Cherry Valley Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. All the Brethren devoted time, labor and money to this project.
In December of 1966, a building committee was appointed to investigate adding the front extension and entrance to the building. A committee composed of the following Brethren: F. Garrett, V. Knox, V. Ronk and L. Lundquist were appointed. A motion was made to raise the money before starting the project. Through the generosity of all the Brethren, $11,859.65 was raised and the project was started and finished in 1969.
We are proud of the results. While there is still much to be done in the coming years we are sure that it will be done. Those who follow us in the future generations will find the records of our labors and deeds as good and as full of the spirit of fellowship as we have found in the past.
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©David Warner, 2000
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