Home   |   Contact  
John H. Robinson Center
Phone: 530 885 8031 956 1/2 Lincoln Way,  Auburn, CA 95603

Meetings & Seminars
Floor Plan
Vendors & Resources
Make an Appointment
Directions & Map


Eureka Lodge #16 of Auburn, California was founded on “GOLD.” The spark, which started the rush of men to the gold fields, was John Marshall, who was building a sawmill 50 miles east, on the South Fork of the American River. He found gold on the American River on January 24, 1848 at the site, which would later be named Coloma. Marshall, an employee of John Suffer, was pledged to keep the discovery a secret.

Word slowly leaked out and on March 15, 1848 the Monterey newspaper Californian reported “Gold Mine Found.” The story was soon picked up by the San Francisco newspaper, “The California Star,” and excitement began to grow. This confirmation of the gold rumors of 1577 when Captain Francis Drake beached his frigate in a California bay were reported as a reality, when in August 1848, the news of gold in California reached the New York press. The rush was on!

By December 1848, the port cities along the nation’s eastern seaboard were swarming with eager would-be miners who dropped everything to journey to California.

The first arrivals knew very little about gold mining, but in the beginning the virgin territory yielded its treasure easily. Mining tools usually consisted of a knife, a shovel, and a bowl or pan, which had sloping edges. Nuggets were pried from the crevices of rocks, and dirt shoveled from the creeks and rivers was swirled in the pans to recover the wealth. Crime was virtually non-existent and respect for one another ran high. It was not unusual for a merchant to trust a stranger to pay for goods “sometime.”

It was towards the end of 1850, the year California became a state, gold was becoming more difficult to find. More and more men crowded the mining country, which was becoming overpopulated. This was about the time when a less desirable element started to arrive.

The early arrivals up to 1851 were described as dressed in worn out hats, clothing and shoes and panned for gold in the harsh realities of a bleak environment, working long hours in search of riches. They were men between the ages of 30 and 40. They were clean — not withstanding their rags. They were reported as handsome men with an air, which at once gave the idea that they had been used to polite society.

We know that many of these men were Master Masons who sought each other’s company, and also for their own collective security.

A group of miners, mostly Masons, were working their way up the American River. On one bar
a miner came up with a pan of nuggets and cried out,, “EUREKA,” which means, “I have found
it.” That bar is known today as Eureka Bar. Across the river a little town sprang up known as
Eagle City.

Several Masons took time out from their labors and applied for a dispensation to establish a Masonic lodge at Eureka Bar. Deputy Grand Master John A. Tuff issued a dispensation with the name of Eureka to Brother R. Aken, naming him Worshipful Master; Brother Lisbon Applegate, Senior Warden; and Brother Robert Bollen, Junior Warden.

They held their first meeting Under Dispensation on the 1 2th day of July 1851 at Eagle City which is now known as Michigan Bluff.

At the second meeting of the Lodge on the 1 7th of July the hall committee reported and it was voted that the Lodge erect a building opposite Eureka Bar at the mouth of the race known as Horseshoe Bend.

From July 12th to September 23rd there were twenty-seven meetings, and considerable Masonic business such as initiations, passing and raising was transacted. At the time most of the members were engaged in driving a tunnel through Horseshoe Bend to divert the water of the Middle Fork of the American River. This venture proved a failure and Eagle City was abandoned. Twenty-three members of the Lodge demitted, leaving only sixteen to carry on the work. Brother Lisbon Applegate, Senior Warden, gathered the property of the Lodge and tendered it to the Grand Lodge of California. The Grand Master refused to accept it and ordered Brother Applegate to find a suitable place to locate the Lodge.

In accordance with the Grand Master’s wishes, Brother Applegate petitioned the Grand Lodge to locate the Lodge at Auburn. On November 7, 1851, the petition was granted and a charter issued naming the Lodge, “Eureka Lodge #16” with Brother R. Aken, Worshipful Master; Lisbon Applegate, Senior Warden; R. W. Bollen, Junior Warden; D.K. Neville, Treasurer; G.W. Applegate, Secretary; Z. Faulkner, Senior Deacon; and J.E. Jacobs, Junior Deacon.

The charter states the Lodge can meet “in or near Auburn.” It is called a “roving” charter. In those days such a charter was issued because of the temporary nature of the settlements. These charters are no longer issued.

The first meeting of the Lodge in Auburn was held on November 9, 1851. At this meeting a committee was appointed to secure and furnish a suitable Lodge room, and on November 15th the new Lodge room was dedicated for Masonic uses. This room was located on the west side of Sacramento Street, south of the American Hotel.

On April 15, 1853 a contract was let to erect a two-story clapboard building on what is now the northeast corner of the Court House grounds. The upper story was to be used a s a Lodge room and the ground floor as a school, it “there should be a sufficient number of children to require the use of it.” This building was completed on June 24, 1853, and the occasion was celebrated by a grand ball.

In May 1860 a contract was let to erect a new Masonic Hall over a one story building on Commercial Street. The new hall was completed and dedicated on December 27, 1960. The cost of the hall was $6,874.60. In order to pay this indebtedness and carry on relief work of the Lodge, the new building was mortgaged for $1,500.00 and the members voluntarily taxed themselves $2.50 per month until they were from of debt.

In 1861, the building committee reported that they had sold the old hall, the two-story clapboard building, for $400.00 and that it would be removed and the lot sold to the County Supervisors for $500.00 in County script, which was equal to about $450.00 in cash.

About 1910 the question of a more spacious hall, at a more central location, began to be agitated among the Brethren and committee after committee was appointed and dismissed until the discussion was ended in the submission of an option from the Auburn Investment Company, which was dated July 24, 1913, for the purchase of a one-story brick building and a lot 80x92 in the middle of Auburn at a place called Central Square.

After much discussion it was voted by all Masonic bodies and the Eastern Star, to purchase the property for $17,000.00. The various bodies raised $6,5000.00 and a mortgage was placed for $10,500.00 to complete the purchase price.

The building is 84 feet deep and 91 feet wide in the front. The structure is internally divided by a bearing wall 42 feet from the front. Full span 42 foot modified Howe trusses constructed of full length 8 inch by 9 inch members and full 2 inch by 8 inch rafters constitute the roof structure. The original timbers were milled in the Dutch Flat-Alta area and transported by rail to Auburn. The walls are of low temperature or soft fired brick. The front facade overlay is of sand molded terra cotta from the Placer County firm of Gladding McBean. There are segments of locally quarried granite substructures in the front part. Five large 8 foot by 8 foot windows with half circles mounted above adorn the front.

This building has been the home of Eureka Lodge #16 ever since construction was completed in about 1917. The building is the last remaining building of the original Central Square in Auburn. All of the other buildings were either destroyed by fire or were torn down. In 1990, the building was dedicated to the memory of a distinguished Mason and member of the Auburn Community. The building is now known as the John H. Robinson Memorial Hall. In an effort to help preserve this historic building, the Native Sons of the Golden West dedicated it as a “Point of Historical Significance” on September 12, 1998. The building is one of Auburn’s finest examples of the Beaux Arts style of architecture.

NOTE: Much of this history was obtained from a presentation by Worshipful Patrick Plunkett, PM of Eureka Lodge #16, at a ceremony celebrating 150 years of Masonry in Auburn. This event was held on November 9, 2001 and was attended by Most Worshipful C. Ray Whitaker and other members of the Grand Lodge.

Copyright © 2004 John H. Robinson Center. All Rights Reserved.