The History of Shawnee Lodge

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As early as 1908 the advantage of having a Masonic Lodge in this section of town was recognized, however, nothing was done about it until Brother Jacob Issacs and Gus Knapp attended a meeting of the Shawnee Progress Club in the fall of 1909.  This was a Community Welfare Club to secure better streetcar service, police and fire protection. During this meeting they noticed the club was made up almost entirely of Masons. In fact, there was enough to start a Lodge. They talked to the various brothers about organizing a Masonic Lodge in the Shawnee Section and the response was amazing. Now as the thought had someone behind it to push it, it caught on like wild fire. Enthusiasm ran high. Discussions among Master Masons were held on street cars, street corners and where two or three were gathered together.

The favorite meeting places were Kreigers Drug Store at 38th and Broadway and 36th Broadway on Sunday afternoons. They would drop in the drug store to buy a few cigars and chew the rag about the new Masonic Lodge. I mention cigars because at that time cigarettes were still referred to occasionally as coffin nails and in the early days of the lodge quite a few “smokers were given to make the meetings more enjoyable. At 36th and Broadway there was a nest of red hot boosters: John Lotz, Walter Ernwein, Albert Tounsley and Gus Knapp They would be joined by Alfred Kreiger, Jake Issacs and others. When the  weather got too chilly to stand on the corner they would move into the living room of Gus Knaap.

Here they decided to call an informal meeting on February 2, 1910 in the little hall over Krieger’s Drug Store. At this meeting 24 of the Master Masons present signified their desire to demit from their lodges and affiliate with the one to be instituted. During this meeting Gus Knapp was elected to take down the minutes and he served as Secretary of Shawnee Lodge for forty one years. Alfred Krieger was elected Master, Jacob Isaacs, Senior Warden and Andred Diehl, Junior Warden. On the shoulders of these four men fell the burden of securing the proper information and know how for the institution of a Masonic Lodge. At this meeting it was decided to call the lodge Shawnee.

At the second informal meeting, February 22, 1910, Herman Volkerding was elected Treasurer. As there was no money, his chief duty was to go out and borrow some and stand security for it. With our false pride of today, it is doubtful if this man could become a member of Shawnee: for like George Washington, he was a whiskey maker—owner of the Barbee Distilling Company. He gave $36.00 to pay for our Charter. At this meeting the little band increased to thirty four. Everything looked so rosy, they could see nothing but success ahead so they leased the hall over the drug store for three years at a rental of $20.00 per month. Now they had a hall but nothing in it, so donations were received. Brother Atherton gave twenty dollars. One brother gave the bible, one the book marks, Fisher Leaf Company, a pot belly stove and other money, according to their means.

The result was that the lodge was well equipped when on March 22, 1910, Grand Master John Cowles instituted Shawnee Lodge No. 830 U.D. with 34 members. The U.D. means under dispensation as the charter was not granted until Grand Lodge met in October of 1910. Grand Master Cowles appointed Alfred Krieger, Master; Jacob Isaacs, Senior Warden; Andrew Diehl, Junior Warden; Gus Knapp, Secretary, Herman Volkerding, Treasurer; Vic Dupree, Senior Deacon; George Fisher, Junior Deacon; Charles Erdman, Tyler; Robert Scott and A.C. Leisinger, Stewards; Reverend F.C. Whithoff Chaplain.

At the first regular meeting of the lodge, the next night 32 petitions were received. As many as three meeting were held each week and at the end of the year, the lodge had 90 members and over $200.00 in the treasury. Brother Isaacs was elected to serve as Master for 1911. He held 73 meetings and often two degrees were conferred in one night. In March, permission was given to use the hall to organize Brilliant Star, O.E.S. This Chapter worked hand in hand with Shawnee Lodge and without their help Shawnee Temple would have been delayed several years. In October, permission was given the Secretary to organize Shawnee Social Club. This club raised thousands of dollars for the lodge. Dances were given at the Galt House at First and Main Street. It was our leading hotel until Seelbach Hotel was built. Sunset excursions were given on steamers Columbia and Hiawatha, many moon-lights the Island Queen, card parties, shows and dances in our own hall.

Brother Andrew Diehl was elected Master for 1912. During his administration by-laws were amended to provide for an annual Memorial Service to be held in January of each year. Attendance at this meeting was obligatory, as that was a part of the E.A. obligation which went something like this: I furthermore promise and swear, I will attend the annual Memorial Service to be held each year in January. If unable to attend I will notify the lodge by letter or telegram. This part of the obligation was discontinued two years later by order of the Grand Lodge because it added to the ritual. Shawnee was the first Blue Lodge to hold a Memorial Service in Jefferson County. On April 10-11 Shawnee Social Club held a mammoth bazaar at the old Scottish rite Temple on Fifth Street, north of Walnut. $2,500 was made at this bazaar. This was considered a large amount of money, for at this time skilled labor was receiving about 35 cents an hour and common labor 25 cents an hour.

During 1912 and 1913 it was necessary to stand examination in the Master Mason Degree in order to vote or hold office in Lodge. This was discontinued because the Master did not know who was eligible to vote. With the $2,500 from the Social club the Board of Trustees on December 10 was authorized to purchase a lot on Gunterman court, North or Broadway for $920.00. The lot on the northeast corner of 38th Broadway was first considered but it was though the noise of streetcars would disturb the ritual work. That is the reason why the Temple was built on a side street.
Brother Victor Dupree served as Master in 1913. In June the Board of Trustees submitted a plan to raise funds for the erection of the Temple. The plan was to issue non- interest bearing certificates at a par value of $10.00 to be sold to the members. The plan was adopted and $3,800.00 was subscribed for many of these certificates were ne3ver redeemed or cashed in.

To get the idea off to a good start the Social Club gave a big banquet for all members at the Will Hotel at Jefferson Street and Center (now Armory Place). At this time a number of the members worked as the U.S. Store-Keeper Gaugers and at this banquet provided at each plate as a favor a miniature one ounce bottle of Old Granddad Whiskey. Because the nearest doctors office was at 28th and Chestnut, they also provided the tiler with a quart bottle of their medicinal spirits to be kept in his locker in case of an emergency. Brother Oscar Nicholson was elected to be master for 1914. On September 22, plans and specifications of Shawnee Temple were approved and so that there would not be any financial difficulties, a group of members made a written offer to loan the lodge over $6000. IN order to do this, Brother Isaacs and Alex Knapp mortgaged their homes. Several years later Brother Isaacs again borrowed on an insurance policy to lend the lodge additional money.

Brother W. G. Watson served as master during 1915. On June 26, contracts were let to build the Temple at a cost of $13,993.00. This did not include any furnishings whatever. On April 17 the cornerstone was laid. The cornerstone contains: The Holy Bible, By-laws, First Petition received that of Herman Seely, list of Charter Members, Membership at the time, list of deceased members, emblem of the order, lodge of 33 Scottish Rite, letter from Past Grand Master Cowles, history of Shawnee to date, copy of Masonic Home Journal, Courier-Journal, Louisville Times, Evening Post and Morning Herald, Lambskin Apron, program of the service, list of Grand Loge Officers, Pocket knife with emblem of order, photograph of John Cowles, coins and currency to amount to $9.93. Officers and members of Brilliant Star Chapter and their by-laws, list of Grand Chapter Officers.

It was during this year the lodge decided to issue a monthly bulletin. It carried no advertising and after several months it was dropped because of the expense. On August 3, 1915, the Temple was dedicated as the most beautiful lodge room in the state of Kentucky. It was the only one that had the three, five steps leading to the middle chamber. At this time the candidates were taken up the winding stairs and into the middle chamber where the lodge was assembled. There the wages, principal jewels and letter G was explained. The lodge would then move down to the main floor.

For many years the lodge room was used by Shawnee Lodge and Brilliant Star Chapter only. They refused to rent to any outsiders. Smoking was forbidden and you entered the door with a reverence as you would your church. At this time Brilliant Star Chapter furnished the kitchen and banquet hall complete with every item needed. They gave the lodge the beautiful altar which we refer to now for some reason or other as our Holy Altar.

Now this Temple does not belong to the Board of Trustees or Shawnee Lodge, but to all of the members, as it cannot be sold until all are notified and the vote must be unanimous. The founding fathers planned wisely: they have that in the deed. Twelve years prior to this there was a very strong movement by some of the members to sell the Temple to some church for $20,000-if it could have been sold. In 1918, Shawnee Lodge had the distinction of being the first lodge in Kentucky to confer three degrees upon a candidate in full form in one night. Lodge opened at 6:00 PM-not a word was missed and lodge closed at 11:00 PM.

During October of this year, the lodge was closed by the order of the State Board of Health due to an epidemic of Spanish Influenza that swept the country. The lodge was closed for five weeks. It was the first time a stated meeting was missed. Past Grand Master Rhea was a regular visitor at our meetings. He presented to the lodge his private Masonic Library consisting of 107 volumes, many of them were rare and out of print. Sectional book cases were purchased to house the library and member were allowed to take them home, however, due to the short memory of some of the brothers, they forgot to bring them back. Now, none of the books remain in the cases. Do you have one or more of these books at home? The lodge also had a Service Flag for World War I with 60 stars, one being gold for Zack Button who lost his life in France.

Brother Reebs Clarkson was our Master in 1919. At this time the Grand Lodge decided to raise one million dollars to build a new Masonic Home. Each lodge was given a quota to raise and in a short time Brother Clarkson announced Shawnee Lodge was not only the first lodge to go over the top, but had more than doubled its quota. Brother Clarkson was a strict ritualist. No pretty words or fancy phrases could be put into the work or lectures. It had to be the same as was handed down to him. All candidates for examination were placed before the altar to conform to the Grand Lodge by-laws, which say, “The candidates for examination must be so placed in the lodge room so that all the craft can hear.” At the conclusion of the E.A. and F.C. degrees, he would have a rehearsal of the lecture between the Senior Deacon and the Junior Warden so that the candidates would know just what they had to commit to memory. This also kept the lecture the same as when the lodge started and every member had the lecture exactly alike—word for word.

In 1920, Brother John Shrewsbury had the best year with regards to initiations. The E.A. degree was conferred on 116 candidates, the F.C. on 129 and the M.M. on 114. Early in the administration of William Cloud, he appointed a committee to publish a month magazine or lodge paper. By May 1st, sufficient advertising had been sold so that the magazine could go to press, however, they neglected to choose a name. The following names were suggested: Hustler, Shawnee Progress, Shawnee Gavel, Level and Shawnee Light. Shawnee Light received the largest number of votes and it has been published under that name ever since. This was a 24 page magazine. It not only carried all of the news of the members, it was also an asset financially up to the year 1950. One year the net profit was $400.00.

The names of all the members given to the postage fund were published each month and many times the gifts were enough to pay the postage for that month. Since 1928, fifty cents out of the yearly dues of each member goes to pay for the Light.
In 1930, the librarian of the Scottish Rite Temple in Washington, D.C., where all Masonic publications are filed said, “Shawnee Light was the best Masonic Magazine published by any Blue Lodge in the United States.”

In 1922 our Mite Box contained $529.00 under Billy Brock, the amount went to $800.00. These large amounts were accomplished by sending out a circular letter December 1st, stating any gifts made to the Mite Box would be used to buy toys for the children at Christmas. At this time there were about 600 children in the home. In 1924 under the administration of Brother James Burt, the Acacia Relief Club was formed. This club was the fore-runner of the Low 12 Club, however, it did not last too long, only five death benefits were paid. At death the beneficiary would receive all the in the treasury. The fourth benefit paid $179.00. Two days later another member died and there was nothing in the pot. The hat was passed in the anti-room and $40.00 was received. As this was strictly against the by-laws, strong protests were made and the club reprimanded and the club folded up. During the term of Brother Franklin Henreot the initiation fee was raised from $30.00 to $50.00.

Brother W. Watson served the lodge in 1926. Shawnee Lodge was the first to hold religious service at the new Masonic Home. Shawnee Social Club gave the Supt. of the Home a new Chevrolet sedan to drive to the various buildings at the home. At this time, the lodge went on a spending spree. Elaborate refreshments were served frequently at various times during the year. A pipe organ and talking machine were installed in the balcony. Much charity work was done, funeral expenses paid, installments paid on a home—one member received more than $1000.00 as relief and the Master suggested buying a $4000.00 organ for the Masonic Home. It is easy to spend other fellows money and it would be well if the member would think twice before voting money out so freely. The result was that in the fall of 1927, the Treasurer informed the lodge expenditures greatly exceeded the receipts and if additional revenue was not received, the lodge would be financially embarrassed.

The dues were raised from $6.00 to $8.00 and the lodge was taken over by a so called clique. It was a good clique, since they worked only for the good of Shawnee. It was the Jolly Club of about 20 members. They would host several outings during the summer months usually at some camp on the river. They would have a few bottles of home-brew, cokes, fried chicken and all that went to make up a picnic lunch. Cards, horseshoes and other games were played. They soon had the lodge back on a sound financial basis. The last outing held by this club was at the summer home of Bill Hutcherson in 1937 about five miles south of Fern Creek.


The above history was taken from the 50th Anniversary of Shawnee Lodge - 1960. More history will be put on this website in the future.