Anoka Lodge History

Our Lodge began with a group of men who were in pursuit of that high ideal which all masons share—to seek that light which can only shine from within and which illuminates the path which leads us to becoming better men than we were. This ideal had been shared by other men for hundreds of years in the fraternity of Freemasonry. Our fraternity is very old but it’s exact age is very difficult to fix. An old English document dated 1390 called the Regius Poem describes the history, forms and customs of the early stonemasons in England. Many of the customs and usages found in that document are used by us today. This document refers to a meeting in the city of York in the year 926 when the stonecutters and masons of that time received royal recognition as an organization. In the late 1500’s we have written evidence that stonemason’s lodges in Scotland were taking in non-stonecutters as “accepted” members. It is believed by many historians that the modern society of speculative Freemasonry descended from the operative lodges located in England, Scotland and Ireland.

The Grand Lodge organization of Masonry began in June of 1717 when four Lodges of Masons met in a tavern in London and formed the first Grand Lodge. Soon after this event Freemason Lodges started appearing in Colonial America.  Minnesota Masonry began in August 1849 when St. Paul Lodge 223 was granted a dispensation by the Grand Lodge of Ohio. St. John’s Lodge 39 of Wisconsin was chartered in Stillwater in October 1850 and Cataract Lodge 121 was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Illinois at St. Anthony in February 1852. These three Lodges met and formed the Grand Lodge, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of Minnesota on February 24, 1853.
The original Charter for Anoka Lodge #30 was granted on October 25, 1859 with the following officers:
Owen Evans, W.M.   James H. Colbath, Sec.
Josiah F. Clark, S.W. Nathaniel Small, S.D.
John H. Martin, J.W. Isaac P. Strout, J.D.
Jacob B. Lufkin, Treas. Harvey Richards, Tyler

There were four additional charter members: Francis Thorndike, Dwight Woodbury, George Small, and Edward Cundy.
The original records of the Lodge and all of its possessions were destroyed by the fire of August 16, 1884, which wiped out the entire business district on the North end of Anoka. Therefore, we have no records of Masonry in Anoka during this early period. The records of the Grand Lodge show that in 1880 several Anoka Lodge members submitted a petition requesting to form a second Lodge to be known as Doric Lodge. This application was denied by the Grand Master.
On August 30, 1884 the Lodge met at Chase’s Parlor (also known as Chase’s Hall). At this meeting a letter from the Grand Master was read, which authorized the Lodge to continue meeting until a duplicate charter could be issued at the next annual Grand Lodge session. Anoka Lodge received donations from many other Lodges to help purchase new equipment, furniture, etc.
The next meeting was held on September 27, 1884 in Merchant’s Hotel parlors. It was decided to rent the hall owned by Olaf Norell in the Centre Block for an annual fee of $200.00. The Lodge continued to meet at this location until January 8, 1916.
Lodge records for this period give the following interesting entries:
  • In 1886 the annual dues were $2.00. The fee for the Entered Apprectice (EA) degree was $10.00 and for the Fellowcraft (FC) and Master Mason (MM) degrees, the fees were $5.00 each.
  • In 1890 Anoka Lodge No. 30 met for the first time with the illumination of electric lights.
  • On December 16, 1893 the Lodge voted to spend $25.00 to purchase books for a library that would be placed in the Lodge parlor.
  • On October 13, 1894 the Lodge appropriated $15.00 for the relief of victims of the Hinckley fire.
  • The minutes of April 10, 1897 contain the historic declaration that “All spittoons be removed and kept out of the Lodge hereafter”.
  • On March 5, 1898 the Lodge voted to offer free use of the hall to the Order of Eastern Star (O.E.S.) Chapter which was being organized.
  • The minutes from 1900 note that the Lodge furniture was sold to the International Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.) for $175.00. The Masons and the Knights of Pythias (K.P.’s) together purchased new furniture; in 1912 our interest was sold to the K.P.’s for $190.00.
Early 1900s
In 1904 the Anoka Board of Education requested the Most Worshipful Grand Master (MWGM) of Minnesota to lay the cornerstone for the new Anoka High School, which is the present center section of the present Sandburg Middle School, which is located in the block immediately west of the Lodge. The minutes from September 24, 1904 tell that “The Lodge was formed on Jackson Street where it was joined by the school children and other Civic bodies headed by the Anoka Band and marched to the high school grounds via Jackson Street, Third Avenue, Main Street and Second Avenue where the Grand Lodge officers proceeded to lay the corner stone of the high school building according to the ancient custom and usages of the fraternity. A metallic box was placed in a cavity of the corner stone containing many articles of historic and local interest. This box was removed from the cavity and its contents displayed at the 100th anniversary of the Sandberg building in 2004.
The 25 years following the fire were a very active period for Masonry in Anoka. The minutes show communications of many kinds, including Festivals, Past Masters, Special, Occasional, and Lodges of Sorrow, along with Stated meetings. At one time during this period there were seven different organizations sharing our quarters. Besides ourselves there was Shekinah Chapter 52 of Royal Arch Masons, Hiawatha Grotto No. 6 M.O.V.P.E.R., Minnesota Lodge No. 8 of the Knights of Pythias, Fidelity Lodge No. 95 I.O.O.F. Loyalty Lodge No. 65 Daughters of Rebecca, and Martha Chapter No. 132 O.E.S.
Financial assistance for brothers, wives, widows, mothers, sisters and children was an important part of Masonic charity during the early years. In some cases the Lodge appeared to be the sole source of support for some individuals and this sometimes continued for years. This brotherly love was expressed sometimes by more than one Lodge joining together to provide for a needy person who may even have lived outside of their jurisdiction. Many of the records of these events are still in existence. This type of Masonic assistance is still part of Lodge activities today.
The Lodge’s 50th anniversary celebration was held on October 26, 1909 in the Masonic hall. Two charter members, Nathaniel and George M. Small, attended the Golden Jubilee festivities.
On February 21, 1919 the Lodge was moved to Workman Hall at the corner of First Avenue and Main Street. Around this time there was a great deal of interest within the Lodge in building their own hall on property located at the NW corner of Third Avenue and Main Street. This property had been purchased during the 1890’s. On July 16, 1921 the Temple Board purchased a one-half interest in the Aldrich property which is our present location. The O.E.S. purchased the furnishings in the home and Dr. Eitel presented the Aldrich Library to the Lodge in November 1921.
The cornerstone laying for our present hall was done by MWGM Herman Held on September 9, 1922. The Anoka County Union reported that the parade of visiting dignitaries and bands was the most impressive ever seen in Anoka.  The new building was financed by notes issued to banks, members and nonmembers who were willing to assist. At the time the cost of the land was $9000 and the construction costs for the building were $16,500. The property at the NW corner at Main St. and Third Ave. were sold in May of 1923. Dues and initiation fees were raised and $18,038.49 in donations were received from members and others. The donations included $717.00 from the O.E.S. and $150.30 from the Scottish Rite Club.
Before February 26, 1926 the stated Lodge meetings were held on the Saturday night that was closest to the full moon. This was a common practice for lodges at the time. Lodges meeting under these circumstances were known as “Moon Lodges”. The reason for meeting near the time of the full moon was to take advantage of its light for traveling at night.
In 1928 the dues and fees were again increased. The pressure of the notes that were made to the brothers during the early twenties, and which were now maturing, was being felt. The financial collapse in 1929 produced a deluge of requests for Masonic charity, which further strained the Lodge’s resources. From this time through the middle 1930s there were many acts of personal generosity by the membership and some members refinanced or assumed notes held by non-members. At this time the O.E.S. cancelled their note for $200.00 and a gift of $300.00 was received from Mary Cutter in memory of Oscar L., Edward B., and Ross Cutter. On June 18th of 1939 the lodge building suffered extensive damage to the roof which was blown off in the tornado of that date. One of the bills for repair of the exterior of the building, including fourteen hours of labor and various materials that came to a total of $12.75.  
A shining day in the history of Anoka Lodge No. 30 was December 15, 1945 when the final indebtedness was paid off. This event was celebrated in February 1946 by a joint meeting with the O.E.S. when the mortgage was burned at a gala celebration.
Late 1900s 
The centennial year of our Lodge was celebrated on October 21, 1959 with a dinner and program held at the Anoka Senior High School. MWGM Clyde Hegman, Grand Master of Masons was the featured speaker.
During the 1950s and 1960s the basement of the Lodge, with the high ceiling and hardwood floor, was often used as a gymnasium and Ballet school. Anoka High used it for basketball and wrestling. The Fencing Club practiced there, and in 1967 and 68 the Junior High used the space as a class room.
The minutes for the period from April 1966 through August 1969 show that the Lodge was seriously considering moving to a different location. A new building committee was appointed and their actions included offering to sell the lodge property to the State Bank. The sale option expired on June 1, 1968. In March 1969 the new building committee, having met with architects and contractors, was authorized to spend $7,000 for planning the new building. The minutes are silent about their actions until August, when they recommended that the Aldrich house be removed and the club rooms, which had been in the Aldrich house, be relocated in the lodge basement. The basement remodeling, which was under the leadership of WB Clarence Groth, was completed by April 1970. The removal of the Aldrich house proved to be a more difficult task. A number of options were explored and finally we agreed to lease the house to the Anoka County Historical Society for use as a museum. The Historical Society moved out of the Aldrich house in 2002 and into their new location on Third Ave So.
The year 1970 is notable for two other reasons: 1) the first board of trustees of the Lodge took office in January, and 2) it was the beginning of a period of change. There have been many changes to the building—a new public address system was installed and the windows were removed and filled in with brick and covered by shutters in 1973. In 1975 the attic was insulated due to the very high cost of heating oil at this time. In 1978 the bathrooms and the kitchen were remodeled and the coffee machine and dishwasher were installed. New carpeting was laid on the stairs in 1980; ceiling fans were installed in 1982; and in 1983 the spot lights were put up and the inside and outside of the building was painted.
Other notable changes include:
  • The 25 year recognition program was started in 1973
  • The Sons of Norway and the Weight Watchers rented our space in 1977
  • The first issue of the Anoka Lodge Star and Compass was printed in 1977
  • Action was taken in 1979 to place the Lodge building and the Aldrich house on the state and national registries of historical buildings
 On June 9, 1982 the Lodge temporarily changed its location from Anoka to the Minneapolis Gun Club where it put on its first outdoor Master Mason degree. The minutes record that “snowmobile suits and ice fishing attire would have been the formal dress for the evening”. There was frost on the ground the next morning. The outdoor degree has become an annual affair, and the weather has been better each time. The last two outdoor degrees (2008 & 2009) have been held at Garden Farm in Ramsey.
Another notable change has been in the way we honor our departed brothers. Our tradition had been to purchase floral wreaths, but in 1981 we decided that a more fitting memorial would be to use the money to award one or more $300 scholarships to graduating seniors from the Anoka-Hennepin school district. Since then we have given many scholarships to deserving youth of Anoka County. In 1978 Bro. George Atwood completed the research for and writing of a detailed history of Anoka Lodge #30.
In 1983, the Lodge began a tradition of hosting a Christmas Party for children including games, songs, and treats. This tradition continues today with the annual Breakfast with Santa celebration.
Anoka Lodge #30 celebrated the 125th anniversary of our Charter on October 13, 1984. MWGM Charles Wilson attended and was hosted by WM Jerry B. Oliver. As part of the 125th celebration, the cornerstone of the Lodge building was removed under the supervision of Bros. Ralph Anderson and Norman Beckwall who were both operative, as well as, speculative Masons, and the contents reviewed.
Br Neil Warmack made a Traveling Trophy for Anoka Lodge #30 in 1985, to promote visits between Masonic Lodges. In the same year, WB Al Nemchik was named the Outstanding Mason of the Year by the Lodge. 1985 also saw a wonderful visit to Anoka Lodge #30 by 24 members of St. Andrew’s Lodge Hamarhaus from Norway. Anoka Lodge conducted an EA degree for our visiting brethren. Good fellowship ruled the day and many souvenirs were exchanged, with Anoka Lodge receiving a history of St. Andrew’s Lodge Hamarhaus’ history, a Souvenir apron, and a breastpin bearing the official Lodge seal of the Norwegian Lodge. The first Widow’s Night event, now known as Honored Ladies Night, was held in 1985.
WB Al Nemchik was awarded the Minnesota Mason of the Year award at the 135th Communication of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota in 1986. In this year WB Rod Larson of Anoka Lodge was also appointed to the Grand Line of Officers for the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. In this same year, Anoka Lodge #30 had the first Brat Stand at the Anoka Halloween Parade. The Brat Stand has become an annual tradition at the parade, and helps the Lodge promote fellowship among its members and be part of the community celebration. In 1987 and 1988, Anoka Lodge #30 was honored with the Lodge of the Year award by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. 1988 also saw a visit by the Anoka Mobile Lodge to Bro. Ross Sheely in Mankato, MN. Bro. Ross was 97 year old and is one of the brothers whose name is included on the WWI Roll of Honor.
Lodge records indicate that in the late 1980s, the Lodge instituted the Hiram Award as a means of recognizing contributions of deserving brothers. The Hiram Award has been presented to other outstanding Brothers of Anoka Lodge on an occasional basis since that time. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Anoka Lodge #30 sponsored the Coon Rapids Sno-Cruisers snowmobile club in many fund raising snowmobile rides and helped to raise 10s of thousands of dollars for the Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center.
The Lodge also began to have a float in the Halloween parade during the same time period. The 2009 Anoka Halloween Parade will again see the Masonic Family float in the parade. In addition, in the early 1990s, Anoka Lodge #30 began to have an information booth at the Anoka County Fair. This tradition has continued to this day, and is a great way to present and highlight the Lodge to the people of Anoka County.
In 1994, Anoka Lodge obtained the present 3-position, high-backed Master’s Chair from Mitzpah Lodge in So. St. Paul. During this year, Anoka Lodge also participated with the Grand Lodge of Minnesota in a dedication ceremony for a new wing of the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Center. Anoka Lodge loaned several of our old Masonic Glass slides to the University of Minnesota for their traveling production of “Theatre of the Fraternity”. This exhibition was produced by Professor Lance Brockman from the University of Minnesota, and traveled to 4 other major museums in the United States. In May of this year, WB Rodney Larson was installed as the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota. MWGM Rodney Larson is the first Mason from Anoka Lodge to achieve this position.
In 1995, Anoka Lodge held the first annual Shrimp Dinner at the Lodge on Good Friday. This has become an annual tradition and is an excellent Good Friday dinner. In addition to the great food and fellowship, entertainment is provided by the Dixie Cats, a Dixieland band from the Zurah Shrine. In 1996, Mr. Henry Vallukas was invited to Anoka Lodge to give a presentation of his work in Operative Masonry. Mr. Vallukas was a well-known sculptor of stone in Minnesota, and made the first contribution of operative tools to the Lodge collection. 1997 was another first for Anoka Lodge #30 as WB Jerry B. Oliver was installed as the Zurah Shrine Potentate. WB Jerry B. Oliver is the first Anoka Mason to achieve this position.
In 1999, Mr. Mark Wickstrom, a European trained Operative Mason, continued the Anoka Lodge education of Operative Masonry, by giving the first of many lectures on the craft of Operative Masonry as practiced in Europe today. He also contributed several tools to our now growing collection of Operative Mason tools.
Early 2000s
During the early 2000’s, Anoka Lodge received the first of many visits from WB Reuven Berlinerblau, a Brother Mason from Israel. WB Berlinerblau gave the Lodge many interesting talks about the state of Masonry in Israel. He also gave the Lodge several medals from the Lodges where he was a member in Israel. Over the last 20 years, Anoka Lodge #30 has been fortunate to receive and to send many Brothers around the world from and to other Lodges, and to receive reports on the state of the Craft of Masonry around the world.
In November of 2003, Bro. Tom Choklos presented the Lodge with the rebuilt stained glass window, and installed it in the peak of the front of the Lodge building. This beautiful artwork is lighted from behind and can still be seen today.
In 2003, WB Jerry B. Oliver was installed as the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite, Southern Jurisdiction, Minnesota Orient. SGIG Jerry B. Oliver is the first Anoka Lodge brother to achieve this position. In 2005, another Anoka Mason, Bro. John T. McQuay was installed as the Zurah Shrine Potentate.
2006 saw the installation of 2 displays in the east of the Lodge room. The displays depict Operative and Speculative Masonry. The Operative display includes a collection of tools used in Operative Masonry. The Speculative display is an oilcloth depicting the Blue Lodge degrees. The oilcloth has a copyright date of 1882, and is believed to have been purchased by Anoka Lodge #30 in 1884.
The first Barbeque Stand-off was held in 2007 between WB Jerry B. Oliver and Bro. Kirby Olson. Much good barbeque and fellowship was shared at this event. Since this time, barbeque events have become a regular occurrence of Anoka Lodge, including the creation of the Bones Brothers barbeque team.
In 2008, Anoka Lodge mourned the loss of MWB Rodney M. Larson, Past Potentate John T. McQuay and 10 other Brothers of the Lodge. Upon the death of MWB Rodney Larson, his widow Maxine Larson donated to the Lodge, Rodney’s entire Masonic Library consisting of several hundred volumes. In this collection were several rare and unusual Masonic Tracts. The Lodge is eternally grateful for this donation from the Larson family.
On February 11, 2009, Anoka Lodge #30 was host to and received a lecture from Mr. Scott Wolter, about his research into the origins of the Kensington Rune stone. Mr. Wolter will be returning on October 14, 2009 for a lecture about his further research into the Runestone, and other artifacts from the 14th Century, found in America. Also in February 2009, Dr. Mark Tabbert, Director of collections at the George Washington Masonic Memorial in Alexandria, VA, examined and dated the antique silk Past Master apron on display at the Lodge. The apron is in good condition and appears to be from the 1820’s.
During 2009, several committees were formed to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Anoka Lodge #30 Charter. Events that were planned and have been conducted include, historical displays at the Historical Society of Anoka County and the Anoka County Library, a public celebration, Ribs, Bibs, & Blues that was held on the lawn of the Lodge, a 150th Anniversary Table Lodge held at the Anoka National Guard Armory, and a Masonic Family float in the Anoka Halloween Parade.
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