Brookings Lodge #24


It was June 22, 1882 that a Charter was issued to Brookings Lodge #24, AF&AM by The Grand Lodge of Dakota Territory. The first meeting under the new Charter was held July 24, 1882 for the purpose of electing a slate of Officers for the ensuing year and installing them. The first Master was George W. Pierce and his Officers were: Senior Warden, Andrew Dox; Junior Warden, William L. Lockhart; Treasurer, George Morehouse; Secretary, Orange C. Johnson; Senior Deacon, Edward B. Hart; Junior Deacon, Curran W. Higgins; Senior Steward, J. O. B. Scobey; Junior Steward, Wesley Pool; and Tiler, L. L. Jones. Many of the above names were to appear frequently in the future in connection with activities which contributed to the growth and betterment of the fledgling community.

However, actual Masonic activity in Brookings dates back nearly two years before the Charter date, when the railroad company decided on the present route from Elkton to the Sioux River crossing it meant not only the establishment of new communities but it also dealt a death blow to several tiny settlements which were bypassed by the railway. When the townsite of Brookings was platted and opened for settlement in 1879, the residents of two of these communities, Medary to the south and Fountain to the northeast, packed up their belongings and buildings and moved them to the new town and they, together with emigrants from other areas of the territory and from outside the area, soon swelled the population of the new town to a thriving, bustling community of several hundred people. Among these were numerous Masons who soon made themselves known to each other by the usual means and they soon started agitating for the establishment of a Lodge in Brookings. After a number of informal meetings it was decided to petition the Grand Lodge for permission to establish a lodge in Brookings. This permission was granted and the first authorized meeting was held September 20, 1880 under dispensation from The Grand Lodge of Dakota Territory, thus making Masonry one of the oldest continuously operating organizations in Brookings. The new organization was very active. Between the first sanctioned meeting of September 20, 1880 and the first charter meeting July 24, 1882 there were 32 stated meetings and 18 special meetings. Several stated meetings were cancelled due blizzard conditions, among them the meeting of October 16, 1880 which failed to have a quorum due to a raging and severe snow storm (the great blizzard of 1880). Despite adverse economic and weather conditions the new lodge prospered from the beginning. Right from the beginning numerous petitions for the degrees were processed in the usual manner and despite their ambition to grow they did not lose sight of the basic Masonic principles and there are numerous instances of rejected petitions. At the start, the lodge met in various available places until July 1881 when it was voted to lease the upper floor of the Kelsey Building at a monthly rental of $9. On May 7th, 1881 Wm. H. Roddle was initiated into the lodge. Brother Roddle was later to become Grand Master of Masons in South Dakota. Other Grand Masters from the lodge have included Raymond W. Horn in 1982 and Richard M. Luther in 1995.

The severity of the times is attested to by the many entries in the Secretary's minutes of members paying their dues in installments of 25 and 50 but despite this the lodge was able to gradually accumulate the necessary fixtures and furniture and in several years it was necessary to look about for larger quarters for the meetings and in April of 1885 a lease agreement for five years was entered into for the upper floor of the Olds-Fishback Building at an annual rental of $200. Despite its busy schedule, the lodge found time to involve itself in numerous civic and community enterprises. One of the more notable events was a request from the Brookings School Board that the local Masonic Lodge officiate at the dedication and cornerstone laying for the new school building(the old Red Castle) July 17, 1888. As the time neared for the termination of the lease for the Olds-Fishback Hall, discussion was held on the feasability of the lodge constructing a building of its own but a committee on the matter reported that financing of such a project was a little more than the organization could handle at that time and when the lease terminated an extension for three years was secured. During this renewal period interest for a masonic building grew and in 1893 a group of Masons formed the Masonic Building Association which started plans for a building which resulted in the construction of the present building. The lodge made arrangements to rent the upper level, the grade level was arranged for use as a commercial location. The cornerstone was laid and the building dedicated in an elaborate ceremony in which the Grand Lodge officers participated on September 3, 1894. Shortly after that the lodge decided to make arrangements to purchase the upper level. An agreement was reached with the Building Association on terms for the purchase of the upper level and some years later the final payment was made. The lodge never seemed to be satisfied to be out of debt and about 1900 plans were discussed for the purchase of the lower level. After a year or so of negotiating terms were agreed on and a deal was made for the lodge to become sole owners of the building. This started another long period of one crisis after the other but these pioneers were hardy, determined people and seemed to thrive on adverse situations. We owe these original members a deep debt of gratitude for their foresight and courage in providing future generations with a permanent and adequate temple. At about this time the paid membership passed the 100 mark and the lodge was very active, hardly a week going by without at least one or two special meetings for degree work. They had survived the loss of sizeable groups of members when the lodges at White and Volga were chartered but they always had the ability to recoup and continue. After the formative years were passed and the temple issue was settled, the lodge went along pretty much routinely, with steadily increasing membership and with it a more solid financial situation. Many needed improvements were made to the building. In the 20's a full basement was installed to accomodate a kitchen, dining facility, recreation area and storage space. An upstairs kitchenette and lunch facility were provided, new equipment of various types added and several remodeling and updating projects were originated. However, the original basic design and arrangement was not altered and the Lodge Hall is pretty much as it was in 1894. The 100th anniversary of the lodge building and cornerstone rededication were held on September 10, 1994.