History
of the

Fall City
Masonic Lodge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almus L. Rutherford

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CENTENNIAL HISTORY OF FALLS CITY LODGE, NO. 66, F. & A. M.

 FALL CITY, WASHINGTON

1889 was an exciting year in the lower Snoqualmie Valley and throughout Washington.  Statehood was achieved on November 11, Seattle was well on its way to recovery from its June fire, the price of hops was up, and prosperity was in the air.  The railroad had come to Fall City and farmers no longer had to send their produce to market by riverboat.  Fall City, platted by Jerry Borst the previous year, was a key transportation hub for eastern King County

It was in this environment that the Rutherford brothers, Almus and [George] Davis, with William E. Gibson of Gilman [now Issaquah], Fred Bagwell of Tolt [now Carnation] and several other Freemasons, began to organize a lodge at Fall City.  On December 10, 1889, they wrote to the Grand Master of Masons of Washington requesting a dispensation to form a lodge.  On December 28, they secured the support of St. John's Lodge, No. 9, of Seattle.  Two weeks later, they added the endorsement of Eureka Lodge, No. 20, also of Seattle.  

Trouble surfaced early.  The Grand Lodge dispensation fee was one hundred dollars.  The petitioners could come up with but half that amount!  St. John's Lodge came to the rescue lending the fledgling lodge the fifty dollars necessary to secure their dispensation.  This help was the first of a series over the next hundred years. 

With the necessary fees in hand, Grand Master William A. Fairweather sent a hand-written note to Grand Secretary Thomas M. Reed directing him to prepare a dispensation for a new lodge at "Falls City, King Co." [letter, Grand Lodge archives].  Adding an "s" to the name was clearly an error; the town was platted as "Fall City,"  and the petition, St. John's Lodge's letter, and Eureka Lodge's letter of support specified that name.  Nevertheless, the name stuck and for a hundred years, no person has challenged the grand master's directive. 

February 7, 1890 was the day of dispensation for Falls City Lodge.  The seven petitioners to whom the dispensation was granted were Almus L. Rutherford, a Fall City farmer and master mason from Albany Lodge, No. 156, Albany, Ohio, Worshipful Master; William E. Gibson, Gilman physician, Valley Lodge, No. 157, Wilsonville, Nebraska, Senior Warden; George Davis Rutherford, like his brother Almus, a Fall City farmer and from Albany Lodge, Junior Warden; Fred Bagwell, Tolt, Joppa Lodge, No. 223, Leon, Kansas, Secretary; Edwin H. Thompson, Fall City, Mississippi Lodge, No. 385, Savanna, Illinois, Treasurer; Albert B. Sloan, Fall City, Crystal Lodge, No. 270, Frankfort, Michigan, and Erwin M. Stewart, Seattle, Eureka Lodge, No. 20, Seattle.  [Brother Stewart never became a member of Falls City Lodge--he signed the petition to make up the required seven petitioners.] 

On February 21, 1890, Brother Almus Rutherford convened the petitioners in Taylor's hall [over the store] and opened Falls City Lodge, U.D., on the Master Mason degree in due form.  Specific details of that meeting are lacking due to a fire which razed Taylor's store on September 2, 1894, at which time the records, paraphernalia, and other property of the lodge were lost.  Grand Lodge records fill in many of the blanks. 

In 1890, the annual communication of the Grand Lodge was convened on June 10, at which time Falls City Lodge, No. 66, was approved for a charter.  [Nine other lodges, from Verity, No. 59, through State, No. 68, were approved at the same time.]  While under dispensation, Falls City Lodge initiated and passed five petitioners, and raised four of them.  The fifth was raised the night the lodge was constituted, July 12, 1890. 

Grand Master James E. Edmiston appointed James M. Taylor, Grand Orator [and past master of St. John's Lodge, later to become grand master], as his proxy to constitute Falls City Lodge and to install its officers.  Brother Taylor reported "Falls City Lodge, No. 66, enters the list of subordinate Lodges in this Grand Jurisdiction with a bright outlook for the future." [p. 334, 1891 Proceedings.]  Principal officers included Almus Rutherford, Master, William Gibson, Senior Warden, and John Lansing, Junior Warden.   

Many men illustrious in the early history of the Snoqualmie Valley and the surrounding area were included on the rolls of Falls City Lodge.  Davis Rutherford was instrumental in bringing the hop growing business to the lower valley and put much of the land into cultivation.  He was the second Worshipful Master, serving for two terms after his brother had completed three terms plus the time under dispensation.  Almus Rutherford was an early school teacher in Fall City and served for several years as a King County commissioner.  William E. Gibson was a pioneer doctor in the Issaquah area and served as one of its first mayors.  In 1898, he demitted to form Myrtle Lodge, No. 108, at Issaquah and served as its charter Master. 

George W. Tibbetts, whose petition was accepted the night the lodge was constituted, was a Union veteran of the Civil War and had been a prisoner at Andersonville.  In 1873, he began a stage line from Renton to Gilman, later to North Bend, and opened hotels in several valley towns.  As a member of Stevens Post, No. 1, of the Grand Army of the Republic, he was one of several who established the Soldiers' Home at Orting on July 4, 1891.  He served as a member of the Washington constitutional convention and was the Territorial Adjutant General.  Along with Brother Gibson and several others, he demitted to form Myrtle Lodge, No. 108, in Issaquah. 

Merit E. Durham, raised in 1896 on the day the new temple was dedicated, was an early educator, teaching in Tolt and Bothell.  He became deputy King County superintendent of schools and, in 1913, was elected county superintendent of schools and served for five years.  In 1901, he demitted to form Ashler Lodge, No. 121, in Bothell, and was its charter Master. 

Charles H. Cooper, raised in 1903, served as Master of Falls City Lodge from 1906 through 1910.  He demitted in 1911 to form Unity Lodge, No. 198, in North Bend, was its charter Master and continued for several additional terms! 

At its inception, Falls City Lodge was a "moon lodge" and met on the Saturday on or next preceding the full moon.  This practice, rather common at that time, allowed members to go to and from lodge on the night having the greatest amount of light.  It was only after the automobile was firmly established and electric lights generally in use that the practice was changed.  Even then, opinion was split.  In September, 1920, by a vote of 17 yes to 13 no, the lodge voted to change the stated meeting night to the second Saturday, where it remains today.

The fire on September 2, 1894 mentioned earlier was a severe blow to the four-year-old lodge.  Thirty men had petitioned the lodge since the original seven and the lodge was succeeding, despite the economic hard times of the "Panic of '93."  But the brethren did not despair.  They obtained Grand Master Taylor's dispensation to meet in the Odd Fellows' hall for the time being and set about finding a more permanent solution.  They appealed to the other lodges around the state for help, but stipulated that no lodge should be allowed to donate more than five dollars.  The brethren of Falls City Lodge responded with their donated labor and materials, lodges across the state responded with financial assistance.  Responses of some lodges were most poignant in their expressions of brotherly love but apologetic about having to refrain from financial assistance due to their own destitute situations.  Grand Lodge assisted by remitting Grand Lodge dues for 1895. 

The lodge met in the Odd Fellows' Hall on October 13, 1894, and began negotiations to purchase the building from them.  After three months of fruitless talks, Falls City Lodge abandoned the prospect and made plans to build their own hall.  That process began in February and was completed in December, 1895.  A letter still in lodge files, from Secretary Almus Rutherford to Master Fred Bagwell, relates that insurance was secured for the cost of building and contents, $500 and $200, respectively! 

The new hall was dedicated on July 3, 1896.  Appointed as proxy of the Grand Master for the occasion was another past master of St. John's Lodge, Brother Laban H. Wheeler.  Brother "Doc" Cheney, revered secretary for many years, wrote in the history prepared for the lodge's golden jubilee in 1940:

"...A summer day had been chosen and one next to the National Holiday to insure a goodly attendance.  One did not get out from Seattle and return on the same day in 1896.  The Dedicatory Exercises and Ceremony were in the afternoon, a Special communication for the Conferring of the Third Degree in the evening.   Brother J. G. Taylor now a member of this Lodge and residing here, was a boy in his 'teens on the village streets at the time and recalls the day distinctly....Some lady, brother Taylor recalls had been asked to serve as accompanist for a musical number on the program.  Upon arriving she found simply a parlor organ and not a piano upon which to play.  Consternation reigned for a short time he says, and just how the difficulties of the situation were smoothed down he does not recall.  I am sure there was no piano anywhere near Falls City in 1896.

"The writer well remembers that parlor organ, for it remained on duty in the Lodge room for another fifteen years at least.  The organist appointed in those days literally was an Organist.  Today we still appoint an Organist and he turns out to be just a pianist."

Brother Cheney continued and named each of the persons appointed to grand offices, pro tem, concluding with Roy Rutherford as Grand Tyler.  He relates

"Roy A. Rutherford was nineteen years of age in 1896, later became a Mason and still belongs to this Lodge, but who shall say he was not well employed acting as Tyler at this open-to-the-public meeting.  Perhaps his Uncle Almus was wise in finding something useful for Roy to be doing that summer afternoon."

The temple thus dedicated continues to serve Freemasonry.  Expanded in 1920 and 1921, it is still the home of Falls City Lodge.  The lodge room is large and has accommodated more than 160 people at one time within the past few years.  The dining room downstairs can safely hold even more.  Although the old building sometimes creaks and groans, it is still structurally sound.

Begun at a time of prosperity, burned out of its home at the depths of depression, the lodge has continued to wax and wane through wars and fluctuating economic and social situations.  The "Roaring Twenties" were a time of great Masonic activity in Falls City Lodge.  The high point of membership and work occurred in 1927 when 59 degrees were conferred and the membership reached its high point of 187.  Slowest membership growth occurred in the late 1970s, with no degrees being conferred for a five year period after February, 1977.  Another period of relative inactivity occurred in 1898 when, for almost six months, from July 2 to December 24, no meetings were held.  The tyler's register on a couple occasions during that period show two or three signatures, but no Master or Warden.

The Golden Jubilee was a great and festive occasion in the history of Falls City Lodge.  Brother Gibson, charter senior warden, was among the hundreds attending.  The minutes show that Past Grand Master Fairweather, the Grand Master who had granted the original dispensation, was present, climbed the long stairs, went to the East, and addressed the brethren with eloquence and vigor!  At this celebration, the lodge's daughter lodges, Myrtle Lodge, No. 108, Issaquah, and Unity Lodge, No. 198, North Bend, presented Falls City Lodge the magnificent Master's pedestal still used in the East. 

An earlier festive event in the life of Falls City Lodge was the cornerstone laying for the new school building in Fall City on July 24, 1915.  This was a splendid edifice which served the elementary and high school of Fall City School District No. 185 for fifty years.  [It was, to the dismay of many local people, razed in the mid-1960s.]  Past Grand Master John Arthur acted as Grand Master, pro tem, and Past Grand Master Joseph Taylor as his deputy.  Other pro tem officers included prominent Masons from Fall City, Issaquah, North Bend, Newcastle, and Seattle. 

In the early days of the lodge, substantial charitable works were common.  Throughout 1895, there was correspondence noted in the minutes between the lodge and Humboldt Lodge, No. 79, of California concerning support for the Stewart family of Snoqualmie.  The widow, and after her death, the orphan children, of the late Brother Stewart of Humboldt Lodge, were supported by Humboldt Lodge.  Falls City Lodge looked after Mrs. Stewart's funeral and much work was done on behalf of the three children as well as administering the funds sent from California.  In 1898, the lodge voted ten dollars for support of the wife of one of its members who had gone to Skagway, and $25 to bring the body of that member back for burial.  On another occasion, the lodge voted to pay a brother's burial expenses of $44.50.  Later, the lodge reimbursed Collins Lodge, No. 19, Fort Collins, Colorado, the amount of $129.50 for burial expenses of another brother.  They also voted fifty dollars for relief of a brother who had lost his barn to a fire.  All this at a time when the petition fee was $35, two dozen lambskin aprons cost $9.75, and taxes on the temple, for a five year period, were $2.39! 

One of the sad duties of a Masonic lodge is to bury its dead.  That duty was first performed by Falls City Lodge on August 25, 1901, to honor its third Worshipful Master, Fred Bagwell.  Past Grand Master Joseph M. Taylor presided and conducted the services.  The lodge opened on the third degree, proceeded to the Bagwell home in Tolt, and bore the body to the cemetery for Masonic services.  [Brother Taylor was previously noted as having acted as the proxy of the Grand Master to constitute the lodge on July 12, 1890.  Brother Cheney wrote in the Jubilee history: "P.G.M. Taylor was most helpful to Falls City Lodge as long as he lived.  So it is not strange that we find him presiding on this occasion for in the formative days of 1890 and following he came to help us and well knew the stanch Masonic virtues which Brother Bagwell had ever displayed."]

Among the many funerals conducted by the lodge, none was better attended than that in honor of Brother Almus Rutherford who died in 1917.  Because of the large crowds expected, the ceremony was held in the auditorium of the schoolhouse.  [This writer remembers that room as holding the whole student body to hear President Roosevelt address the nation on December 8, 1941.  To that second grader's mind, the room was huge.]  Brother Ralph Totten, W.M., presided.  Brother Rutherford was highly esteemed, not only Masonically, but for his long and exemplary service to King County as a commissioner.  So many attended the services that not all could gain access to the room. 

Contrary to the belief of some Masons, it was not unusual to conduct Masonic funeral services for a brother previously dropped from the rolls for nonpayment of dues.  The minutes and records of the lodge contain many instances of services held for former members and for members of other lodges. 

Falls City Lodge has, throughout most of its history, had a close and supporting relationship with its associated bodies.  First to be established at Fall City was Palm Chapter, Order of Eastern Star, which was organized under dispensation in 1916.  For ten years beginning in 1918, joint installation ceremonies with Palm Chapter were conducted by the lodge.  A chapter of DeMolay, named for Almus Rutherford, was established in 1924 but lasted only a year.  After failing to entice Issaquah Chapter, No. 39, Royal Arch Masons, to relocate to Fall City, Falls City Chapter, No. 54, R. A. M., was chartered in May, 1926.  For two years, Falls City Chapter joined Falls City Lodge and Palm Chapter in triple joint installations.  [In 1928, Falls City Chapter and Falls City Lodge conducted a joint tiled installation.]  In 1930, Mizpah Court, No. 29, Order of Amaranth was established and subsequently closed.  Bethel No. 31, International Order of Job's Daughters, was formed in 1949 and flourishes still.  [Note: Since this history was written, Palm Chapter and Bethel 31 have closed.]

Other related groups have also focused on Falls City Lodge over the years.  The King County Low XII Benefit Club was formed at Fall City in 1931, open to members of any regular King County lodge, to provide immediate financial relief and comfort to the beneficiary of any member at his death.  The Falls City Masonic Temple Corporation was formed in 1968 to manage the business of the temple and the lodge's real property.  In 1986, the E. R. Opstad Masonic Memorial Scholarship Foundation was incorporated at Fall City to provide scholarships to local youth and to commemorate a distinguished educator and member of Falls City Lodge.  It now gives scholarships to the annual winners of the Outstanding Junior School Awards Program sponsored by Falls City, Myrtle, and Unity Lodges. 

Although Freemasonry is often thought to be essentially unchanged over the years, this lodge's records reveal substantial change occurring over time.  For example, in early years of Falls City Lodge, examinations in lower degrees were conducted "at refreshment."  It wasn't until around 1917 that the practice of calling down to a lower degree for that purpose became common.  Prior to 1918, degree work was almost always conducted at stated communications.  Minutes were approved at the next meeting until 1912.  And although many grand masters and other Masonic dignitaries had visited the lodge since its earliest times, the lodge was thirty-six years old before the minutes reflected, for the first time, a title other than "brother."  Before that time, the minutes would note, for example, that the "Most Worshipful Grand Master" had visited but that "Brother ..." had addressed the lodge. 

World War II was a time of anxiety for the lodge as well as for the community at large.  Civil defense drills were frequent and preparations were made to withstand attack or subversion.  The hall was made available to "Doc" Cheney to be used as an emergency hospital ward.  It was outfitted with cots and a hospital bed or two.  The bylaws were amended to allow for any stated meeting to be cancelled if deemed necessary for civil defense purposes.  [This provision was never exercised.]  Dues for members serving in the armed services were remitted for the duration and a four-star service flag was secured to honor the four brethren so serving: Hugo Silenius, LeRoy Bronemann, John Edward, and Howard Sorensen.

At the founding of Falls City Lodge, U.D., annual dues were set at four dollars per year, a substantial sum then equal to more than a day's pay.  They remained at that level until 1952!  The new six dollar rate established in that year lasted through 1964.  Dues were ten dollars per year from 1965 until they doubled in 1973.  They remain at $20 today, except that since 1986 Grand Lodge dues and assessments have been added to that basic amount.  The petition fee was initially set at fifty dollars in 1890 but was lowered to $35 in January 1896 after the Panic of '93.  The fee was returned to $50 in January 1918 and was raised to $80, plus $20 Grand Lodge assessments, in December 1963.  The petition fee was last changed by the lodge in 1972 with a raise to $130 plus Grand Lodge assessments.   

Over the past hundred years, the lodge has been served by 73 different brethren as worshipful master, with five or six terms being common for the early masters.  Eighty-seven brethren have served as senior warden and the same number as junior warden, although they are not quite the same set of 87 brethren.  Only 9 men have been elected treasurer and the lodge's twelfth secretary is serving during its hundredth year. 

The lodge is now looking forward to its centennial celebration on July 7, 1990.  The Grand Master is expected to be present and a large and festive group is anticipated to be on hand to kick off the second century for Falls City Lodge, No. 66.

 

By Edwin A. Opstad. 1990
Past Master, Falls City Lodge, No. 66