A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GENEVA MASONIC LODGE
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Captain C. B. Dodson* in 1838 erected the first store in Kane County, located south of Batavia. He received a government contract to transport Chief Wabaunsee’s tribe from Kane County to Kansas. Dodson suggested the name “Geneva” when the town was formed. James Clayton Herrington’s* family arrived in 1834 from Elmira, Pennsylvania and settled at “Big Spring,” known as Geneva. Their log cabin become a store. The Fox River was easily forded at “Big Spring” which became know as “Herrington’s Island,” then “Herrington’s Ford”.
The Ebaneser (Eban) Danford family arrived from New Hampshire in October 1837. Danford was an inventor and engineer whose agricultural equipment was manufactured in a plant erected east of the present bridge. He went into partnership with William Howell in 1854. Competitors soon captured the market and the business failed in 1862. The partners continued manufacturing furniture and operating a machine shop and foundry. The Danford farm is now Wheeler Park, where quarrying was done. In 1853 the farm supplied crushed stone for railroad track-bed. The railroad was expanding to link Chicago with the west coast.
The settlement organized in 1848 with Charles B. Wells*, Circuit Clerk and Recorder and Isaac G. Wilson*, Kane County Judge. Kane County Agricultural Society’s first President was William P. West* when it formed in 1857. August H. Conant*, Charles Patten, * Samuel Nye Masons and founders of the Geneva Unitarian Church. In the 1890s when there were less than two dozen churches in Kane County there were six clergymen as members of Geneva Lodge.
F.S. Wrate, in 1853, replaced Charles Patten’s* wooden store with a two-story limestone building, now The Little Owl, at State and north First Streets. There, in 1852, seven Masons having received their degrees in Unity Lodge #48 at St. Charles or before coming to Geneva, applied to form Geneva Lodge.
Luther Dearborn arrived in 1844 from New Hampshire. He became Kane County Sheriff, Circuit Clerk, attorney, and State Senator for the 35th District. His white, wooden house is on top of the hill on the south side of east State Street. On March 2, eleven Masons began conducting lodge meetings with Dearborn as Master. They paid Wrate’s $50.00 annual rent for the upper-level hall. By-laws were adopted October 18, 1854.
The Charles B. Wells house later became Geneva’s first hospital and is now Robin’s Book Shop. Wells used a compositions book in which to record minutes of the meetings to from the town. As Secretary for the lodge, he used this same book in which to have newly made Masons sign the lodge Constitution and By-laws. Thus, 140 years of autographs are preserved for those who became Masons in Geneva Lodge #139. In 1970 the lodge decided to remove pages containing the town meeting minutes and original lodge by-laws. They are now the property of the Geneva Historical Society.
Samuel K. Whiting, as Senor Warden, was to have succeeded Dearborn as Master but declined when he move away from Geneva. George E. Corwin was the first Junior Warden. The lodge was chartered October 2, 1854. Annual dues were set at $1.50 and fees for degrees at $15.00. The Tyler received $1.00 per meeting to arrange the hall, fuel the fire and candles. In cold weather the Tyler received an extra 75 cents per meeting!
On December 20th that Deputy Grand Master T.O. Wilson arrived to present the lodge with its charter. In 1858 they hung fluid lamps for the convenience of the Secretary and Treasurer, a wood-burning stove was installed and H. Evans made a set of fluid-burning tapers (lesser lights.) membership grew to 51 by 1863. In 1866 the lodge moved to Timothy Worsley’s hall (Geneva Hotel) at State and south Streets. The Geneva Historical Society has a drawing of the hotel with the lettering “MASONIC TEMPLE” above the upper windows. The lodge was now paying $140.00 annual rent. In 1870 the lodge moved back again into the Wrate building. The original owner of that property, Charles Patten, now as not Treasurer of the lodge. The next move, in 1881, was to J.C. Peterson’s hall (formerly Blue Goose store) at 223 west State Street. The lodge received a partner!
Fox River Chapter #14, Royal Arch Mason, Chartered in 1852 at St. Charles, decided in 1882 to leave Van Patten’s hall (notice the royal Arch keystones in window arches above the Szechwan Restaurant) at Main Street and Route 31 in St. Charles. The chapter moved in with Geneva Lodge #139 in Geneva. Then, in May 1892, lodge and chapter together moved to 204 west State Street, (west of our present Masonic Temple!) Lodge dues were raised to $2.00 per year. The next move, in December 1907, was to Peterson’s new hall (replacing the earlier building on the same site.) In 1923 Oscar Nelson’s building (Provincial Draperies) was purchased by lodge and chapter at Third and Campbell Streets. The Geneva Masonic Temple Association, a corporation, was formed to administer the property. Louis A. Smith, Oscar Nelson, and William M. Raftree were directors. A portion of the property was sold in 1927 to the Kane County Abstract Company. Geneva Chapter #952, Order of the Eastern Star formed in 1924 and met in the hall of the Masonic Lodge and Royal Arch Chapter. In 1928 the Lodge membership grew to 197 masons. It was moving time again, to Oscar Nelson’s Arcade building (across from the Geneva Theater) on west State Street.
A plaque memorializes sixteen of the lodge’s eighty-seven Masons who served their country during World War I. The Depression occurred with disastrous effect on the community! In 1934 membership was 129 Masons, some of whom accumulated $3,069.50 in back dues. The Geneva Masonic Temple Association owed a note due at the bank! The situation was resolved by selling the remainder of the Third and Campbell Streets property.
Charles Fargo’s estate left the lodge an unspecified inheritance in the 1950s, provided other living heirs did not need it during their lifetime. The Danford estate left jointly to Geneva Lodge #139, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons and Fox River Lodge #14, Royal Arch Masons a stone mansion south of the Third Street railroad crossing. In 1934 the mansion was exchanged with other heirs for the present Geneva Masonic Temple building. The Masonic organization moved into the upper-level hall in 1944 at 10 South Second Street.
A plaque in the ante room memorializes eleven Masons for their military service during World War II. In 1950 annual dues were raised to $10.00 and fees for degrees to $50.00. Since 1981 they are $15.00 annual dues and $120.00 fees for degrees.
Jond B. E. Schimmer and James C. Lovig, Sr. earned the York Rite of Freemasonry Knight York Cross of Honor for having presided in lodge and Your Rite organizations. Harvey R. Dow was awarded the Thirty Third degree by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry. Albin R. Anderson was Potentate of “Might” Medinah Shrine Temple in Chicago. G. Webster Sandy and John W. Ratliff, Jr. served as Grand Lectures (instructors) for the Grand Lodge of Illinois. San and Hugh A. Cole served as District Deputy Grand Masters and Representatives of the Grand Lodges of Arkansas. New Jersey and India near the Grand Lodge of Illinois. John L.M. Donaldson is the current District Deputy Grand Mater. Cole and Lee E. Canady serve as Certified Lodge Instructors. Collin Davidson sang odes for the conferring of degrees. Edgar Miller (piano), Arthur Blenxo (flute), and John Disarro (Violin) provided instrumental music for conferring degrees. Miller’s piano playing was in the style he acquired while accompanying the showing of silent movies at the theater. More recently, LeRoy Aigner played the organ, “by ear” and served as Master, Organist and Third Tyrain!
Through Alvin M. Moricle’s estate the lodge acquired an altar Bible. The original lodge Bible and officer jewels are now encased to memorialize Luther Dearborn. C. Lee Archer initiated having each Master of the lodge wear a lapel emblem designating the office. It became worn, was retired, and is now on display. Since 1991 a replacement jewel has substituted. Robert F. Birch, Master in 1920, left an exquisite past Master’s jewel now worn by each immediate Past Master of the lodge.
Dr. F. M. Marstiller, William C. Wood and Bruton Wood are Masons among Geneva’s Mayers. The Richard B. Cates Memorial, displayed in the Geneva City Hall, honors citizens who’d community service emulates those virtues to which Masons subscribe, whether or not the honoree is a Mason! The Burton Wood Memorial displayed in the Middle School, awards student scholarships.
Ron Oram is a duo-member with Ideal Endeavor Lodge#7379 in England. The British flag stands next to the American flag when Oram is in attendance. Robert F. Schwichtenberg is an Honorary Member of Geneva Lodge and is Representative of the Grand Lodge of Illinois near the United Grand Lodges of Germany. The bijou of Schwichtenberg’s lodge is displayed in the ante room.
The lodge in its benevolence considers The Masonic Blood Sharing Program, The Illinois Masonic Home Endowment Fund, The Illinois Masonic Children’s Home, The Masonic Service Association’s Hospital Visitation Program, The Masonic Alcohol and Substance Abuse Alleviation Program, Student scholarships, community youth athletics support, and youth group support. In 1954 the lodge celebrated its centennial in numerous events including a banquet to the Kane County Livestock Center (Fairgrounds) to which Grand Masters Carroll T. Hughes and Milton Sonntag were guests.
Masonry is a world-wide fraternity of adult men who profess belief in the Supreme Being, Divine Creator, God of all: who though diversified by religion, language, national origin, race, political persuasion, standard of living yet are united as brothers in tenants and virtues in which good men everywhere may agree.