A HISTORY OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN LODGE, No. 45,
AS OF NOVEMBER 4, 1964
By Alexander A. Coon
A name out of history has special meaning as we approach the end of 1964, for we are on the cusp of two Centennials---ending that of the State of Nevada and the beginning of the 1965 Celebration of the First 100 years of Our Grand Lodge. When a name ties the spirit of Nevada Masonry to American History, it is interesting to know why Masons would perpetuate such cause. Thus the reason for, as well as the thinking and feeling in, choosing that name is related first.
A whole generation of gigantic scientific advances in these United States (since World War One) has produced along with it an extended period of American social, political and economic transition. Minds of men and women seem to be so preoccupied with adaptation to progress and the pursuit of security that the past becomes all but completely erased---the value of history forgotten. Also the once enveloping flame of love of Our Native Land apparently has flickered and diminished even with threats of war during the past 15 years.
But some people who like history disagree with the trend to regard patriotism as being unsophisticated. On top of that, we see how the inclination of prevailing sophistry appears to be toward using the law to defeat fundamental law itself. In the character of Masons, we generally shy away from being against trends to change things. But we would rather stand for something better, especially when the "something" is of value and is a time-tested proposition of simple clarity holding closer to the truth.
The truism attributed to Benjamin Franklin, "Those who give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety," is prophetic of our time. But most of all it offers a wise choice while we still have freedom to choose. Wise words have value in moments of choosing and are worth remembering. If that great Mason1 a distinguished American, were remembered for no other simple or homely statements, his quotation above is worthy of naming Nevada's Lodge No. 45 after him. The name is used now in these years when Americans in every Community need to weigh such values in this long period of transition which continues to demand unrevealed sacrifices. The freedom to sacrifice is in delicate balance with the sacrifice of freedom--- it is over a hundred years that Nevadans have stood watch over those who tried to tip the scales.
Our State's history verifies that the People of Nevada have always been libertyconscious in general. As FREEmasons in particular, FREEdom or liberty is our business- --an individual thing, as personal as an obligation---for we cannot exist unless we are FREE-born.
The opposite of free-born is to be slave-born. The history of the people's efforts everywhere has proven many times that free men have fallen into the trap of slavery because they were baited with promises of peace, safety and security. The promises always come with powers of force and might appealing to common man's selfishness or to his bit of larceny within him---a play on man's passions.
We, as Freemasons, must see to it with all in our power that we prevent the next generation's being slave-born to those unwitting promises of security at the price of liberty.
These were the thoughts in conversation the day when each of the signers of the petition for dispensation to form Benjamin Franklin Lodge was visited and, to affirm that line of thinking, he affixed his signature on the petition. That day was, quite auspiciously, July 4, 1961---the petition having been drawn and signed on the same day.
While the minutes on file for organizational meetings and communications under dispensation could not fully reflect the expressions given here, nevertheless those gatherings did evince positive, noble and elevating thoughts which also had marked Franklin's accomplishments and writings. (His writings and a variety of services, Masonic and public, are of historical record in abundance elsewhere.) It was deemed that the need is greater in our times, than it was in his day, for that resolute common sense, which comes by singular self-improvement in man first, and then must be followed by action in harmony among men. To perpetuate that image is always timely in the America we love. This, then, is the reason why and the spirit with which the Lodge was named on an Early-American historical foundation.
However, foundations have other depths too, other needs, that were considered by a small group of active members of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25 as early as 1954-1955. One need was to promote the school of Masonry within the Lodge. And the other need recognized then, was for a way to encourage growth of the Fraternity where population is expanding. A second Lodge in the City of Sparks would create opportunity to encourage growth activity. It would double the number of Masons engaged in the work. But population expansion, though evident, was only guess work in 1955, so it was decided to delay action until the 1960 Census figures for Sparks became available.
When that record appeared, it showed that the City had 8,203 residents in 1950 and 16,617 in 1960---more than doubled in 10 years. With this positive knowledge, the need for offering Fraternal growth in an additional Lodge was seen as emphasized forcefully by the rate of population increase1. Again, it was recognized by only a few alert to the demand. It renewed consideration of another Lodge for 7 members of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25; seven being the minimum number of Masons required to petition for dispensation.
The 7 Wadsworth Brethren were: Hobart J. Breshears (P.M.), Arthur Conte, Alexander A.Coon (P.M.), Richard H. Hobson, Edward L. Kleinecke (P.M.), Martin V. Partenope and David W. Priest2. It was decided to have three others sign the petition for dispensation. Those 3 Brothers were from Lodges other than Wadsworth Lodge: Page P. Corner (Mount Rose No. 40), Carl C. Hoover (Washoe No. 35) and Daniel N. Whitmore (Ely No. 29). None of the ten had to dimit. Their signatures appeared on the petition executed on the Fourth of July. The objective had begun to be realized.
These Brothers elected Martin V. Partenope as Secretary of the organizational group. He served also as Secretary of the Lodge to the end of 1963. At that time he declined to accept re-election due to obligations with prior claim upon him. All minutes he wrote are rich in material for historical research. Brother Partenope has a penchant for including details in the record with the anticipation of their being significant in the future. The Secretary's work can be arduous---especially during organizational days, while under dispensation and in the first year under charter. But his zeal for recordation proved to be an asset to the Lodge---a distinction which will increase in value happily with the coming years. His successor, Brother Ralph A. Weiss, who finds the old minutes interesting to read, wisely follows the pattern established by Brother Partenope.
During the organizational days, the group was unanimous in a decision to cause another Lodge to be formed when Ben Franklin Lodge reached an enrollment of 200 members. Too, it was unanimous to take final steps now.
At the next Stated Communication of Wadsworth Lodge (September 1, 1961) the petition was presented; on resolution by the Dean of the Lodge's Past Masters, Brother Dean Willis3, and P.M. Charles O. Viney, it was accepted and approved by vote in open Lodge without heated debate but with great hope. A new Lodge could not have been instituted in Sparks without that particular approval. Also a Master for the New Lodge was certified by the then Worshipful Master, Calvin J. Dodson.
It is historically significant to Masons when a long-established single Lodge, alone in a community, becomes a parent body. The action taken in the September Stated Communication remains to the everlasting credit of Wadsworth Lodge for which the Brethren of Benjamin Franklin Lodge have been and shall be grateful, offering honor justly due.
To provide for meeting times in the Hall of the corporate Sparks Masonic Building Association's Temple was a problem for the Association's Officers---all members of Wadsworth Lodge. Their schedule of rentals for regular meetings was heavy. But they cooperated and made available the first Wednesday of each month for the new Lodge's Stated Communications.
However, week-days for Special Communications proved more difficult. They were scattered days of the week per occasion. It was well over a year before the Association's Officers could provide Tuesdays for extra meetings regularly. Correspondence from Benjamin Franklin Lodge to them indicated gratitude for their special efforts and favors. Like the other Brothers of Wadsworth Lodge, they recognized the Fraternity's need and granted every possible support within discretion. The requests were made to them through their President, P.M. Harry K. Brown, whose guidance was a leadership exemplified with fairness and propriety on behalf of both Lodges.
Most Worshipful Stanley D. Sundeen, Grand Master, instituted Benjamin Franklin Lodge, U.D., with the presentation of the Dispensation on the 19th day of September 1961; he thereby empowered the petitioners to form and open a Lodge; therein to admit and make Free Masons; appointing Brother Coon as first Master, Brother Priest as first Senior Warden and Brother Daniel Whitmore as first Junior Warden. These Brethren, in accord with Masonic tradition, were responsible to the Grand Master. It was surmised at that time that if all went well Junior Warden Whitmore would be elected Master shortly after his father would be elected Grand Master.
The first prayer for initiation into the Fraternity by the new Lodge came from Charles F. Hardin. He was initiated, passed and raised before the Annual Grand Lodge Communication was convened in November 1961.
Having done required work, a petition for a Charter (together with the Lodge's U.D. records) was presented to Grand Lodge at Carson City. The Committee on Charters was composed of P.G.M. Royal D. Crowell, P.M. Calvin J. Dodson and P.M. Thomas L. Jones. They recommended approval of the petition. The Charter for Lodge No. 45 was granted and issued on November 14, 1961 over the signature of Stanley D. Sundeen, Grand Master.
Most Worshipful Walter A. Ray, in one of his first few acts as Grand Master, presented the Charter in the Constituting Ceremony on Saturday, December 9, 1961 at 9 A.M. in the Sparks Masonic Temple. There was the customary installation of officers as part of the ceremony; these were the same officers serving under dispensation. All Blue Lodges in the immediate area were represented at the event, as well as the Scottish Rite and York Rite bodies and the Shrine, it was a demonstration of Masonic unity, goodwill and interest.
A peculiar or incidental feature accounts for the early hour of the ceremony. Grand Master Ray was to be exalted to the August Degree of Royal Arch Mason on that day in Reno, since Reno Chapter No. 7, R.A.M., was holding a one-day festival. The Grand Master's home being in Caliente, 453 miles from Sparks, it was more convenient for him to arrange the early hour, enabling him to accomplish two things in one trip. But most interesting is the fact that only 3 who were present at the Constituting Ceremony, including the Grand Master, had later attended the Festival, which likewise had excellent attendance in numbers. It is noteworthy to say that in 1961 December 9th was a day which saw activity on behalf of each branch of the Reno-Sparks Family of Masons.
Our Family of Masons did more than demonstrate goodwill by attending the New Lodge's Constituting Ceremony. Each of the Lodges and Bodies also had contributed in some material manner---some substantially and some with lesser gifts or loaned paraphernalia---all of which cannot be enumerated here because of the character of Masonic Charity. However, the Charter Members were deeply impressed with even the least of the charities toward Benjamin Franklin Lodge; not because of the lean days evident in the Lodge's coffers but because those acts were indicative of, and positively motivated by, Masonic Brotherly Love as alluded to in our principles and tenets. Here again it must be added that of necessity only a portion of the actions are of record. There are those acts which are impossible of recordation but can only be recalled from cherished memories by those who know the principal movers and the spirit in which they were motivated.
The prime motivation which resulted in chartering Benjamin Franklin Lodge was not forgotten after the charter ceremony. It was to encourage growth---not quantity growth in numbers initiated alone but also in quality by the built-in education for the Craft within the Fraternity. It is difficult to consider the teachings of the School of Masonry without acknowledging that there is a great deal of education in the Institution. The most immediate education for Masons is in holding Lodge office. In short, the objective is to produce more past masters, or doubling production in Sparks.
If true qualitative growth is realized first, the exemplary effect of attracting men is sure to follow. The greatest of Freemasons agree that by having become Masons they have become better men. While we assume that a man is good before initiation, it is the Fraternity's objective to make him a better man after he enters the ground floor. After his entry he is exposed to self-improvement. But the vehicle of self-education in the Lodge is his opportunity to become a past master---not by remote chance or social ambition but by the welcoming demand of necessity in an atmosphere of friendship and brotherly love. A small Lodge offers opportunity to actively promote such an objective.
With this object of producing past masters in mind, a request was made of Grand Master Ray to permit holding an election of Benjamin Franklin Lodge Officers in January 1962 and permission was granted at the Constituting Ceremony. Thus a year's delay in producing past masters was avoided.
On January 3, 1962 Brother Priest was elected Master and P.G.M. Royal D. Crowell installed him that same night. Elections that followed were held on the Stated Communication date in each December in accord with the By-Laws. The Lodge prospered under the guidance of Worshipful Master Dave W. Priest. It was through his effort that Articles of Incorporation for Benjamin Franklin Lodge No. 45 Building Association were approved by Grand Master Ray on August 29, 1962.
On December 17, 1962 the Lodge saw an anticipated event in the installation of a Master with his father as Grand Master performing the honor, Brother Daniel N. Whitmore was installed that night by his father James P. "Tim" Whitmore, the Most Worshipful Grand Master of Masons in Nevada. The occasion is recalled as a milestone in discussions of Masonic History. Celebrations of family ties in the Fraternity throughout the World are of gala magnitude. Fathers have installed sons without its being considered a rarity. But to find where the elder one is actually the elected or presiding Grand Master at the time is indeed rare in research. The Charter Members recall that particular installation ceremony with a sigh, for they know how close Tim came to being a Charter Member along side of his son Dan in Benjamin Franklin Lodge.
It was on December 10, 1963, that Brother Carl C. Hoover was installed as Master with P.G.M. Silas E. Ross officiating. After Carl had been given the gavel of authority, there was a recess during which the Rainbow Girls paid special tribute to him for his support and activity in their organization. This was delightfully different because of the youthful exhilaration of the girls.
This is Brother Hoover's year, 1964, and the list of Officers supporting him is as follows: Richard H. Hobson, Senior Warden; Edward Eno, Junior Warden; Alexander Coon, Treasurer; Ralph A. Weiss, Secretary; Hobart J. Breshears, Chaplain; Joseph S. Hobsork, Senior Deacon; Frank Gillespie, Junior Deacon; Arnold Etcheberry, Steward; Charles Collins, Steward; Walter Tripp, Marshal; Angus McKenzie, Master of Ceremonies; Harry Kumler, Master of Ceremonies; and Dean Willis, Tyler.
It should be noted that the list of Officers includes Masters of Ceremonies, an office which was abandoned or neglected in the Nevada Grand Jurisdiction. The reason those officers' stations were revived in this instance is to keep more Brothers wearing jewels with more duties assigned. The purpose is to extend the opportunity for Masonic Education and activity---a matter of encouraging Fraternal growth.
Sixty-five were enrolled on the Lodge's records as of October 27, 1964. Until there are at least 100 Brothers in the fold, there will be need for strict frugality to assure meeting the regular expense of operation. The Treasury has approximately the same amount of money that was put into it when it was organized by the Charter Members. There are times when it dips below the starting figure of the original $500. While this monetary matter is important, it is by no means a damper on the activity of the Lodge. Slower and surer progress is better with the exercise of prudence. The Brethren feel that in due time the income will exceed the expenditures allowing a relaxation of frugality and still have a reserve for a rainy day in the general fund.
However, there is a rainy-day reserve provided in the By-Laws. This Lodge is one of the few in Nevada which sets aside a low percentage of dues collected in a fund that cannot be touched without express vote of the membership. Though the savings fund has only approximately $36 in it now, it will grow---for growth is the fundamental objective.
Thus this History of Benjamin Franklin Lodge No. 45 is concluded for the time being; to be rewritten in the future. It is a history for the Grand Lodge Centennial. A liberty of commentary has been taken here without altering the facts in the foundation days of the organization regarding the founders' thinking and feeling as well as the spirit of Masonic purpose. A name out of history has special meaning in this Centennial; particularly when it ties the spirit of Nevada Masonry to American History.
Respectfully submitted to the Brethren,
The original of this history is filed with the Secretary of the Lodge, for the Minute Book and a copy submitted to Grand Lodge at the 99th Annual Communication in Carson City on November 9, 1964.
1 In October 1964 the U.S. Department of Commerce's Census Bureau estimated the City's population at
24,323, indicating a more accelerated growth.
2 The seven Brethren retained Wadsworth membership to this date under the plural membership regulations of the Nevada Grand Jurisdiction. Arthur Conte died on July 2, 1963, a member of both Lodges---he also held membership in both the Scottish and York Rites and the Shrine. There was another loss by death in the membership of Benjamin Franklin Lodge when Brother George King died on April 15, 1964---he was admitted to membership from Washoe Lodge No. 35.
3 P.M. Dean Willis became the Tyler of Benjamin Franklin Lodge.