Sheldon Masonic Temple

The Sheldon Masonic Temple once hosted a thriving chapter of the secretive organization. Now it serves as a storage unit.

The Mistletoe Lodge had its beginning in Sheldon on June 3, 1876, but historically it was prevalent during the Revolutionary War which began April 19, 1775, when the United States fought to gain its independence from England.

The Masons were shrouded with mystery and intrigue. It had spiritual values, but it was not a religion. The Mason organization originated in Scotland and then migrated to England before it traveled to the United States.

Paul Revere was a Junior Warden of the Boston Mason Lodge at the time of his famous ride. The man who helped Revere with the lanterns from South Church was a member of the same lodge.

Five members of the Masons were appointed to write the Declaration of Independence. They were Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Roger Sherman and Robert Livingston. Fifty of the 56 signatures on the Declaration of Independence were Master Masons. Betsy Ross, wife of Mason John Ross, made the American flag, which was presented to George Washington, who was the Grand Master Mason of Virginia, as well as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. All generals in Washington’s army, except one, were Masons.

The Constitution was written only by Masons. The Grand Master of the state of New York gave the oath of office to George Washington. All the governors of the 13 colonies were Masons.

The Masonic Lodges of the 13 colonies were definitely involved with the American Revolution, the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.

The first regular meeting of Mistletoe Lodge No. 376 in Sheldon met on the second floor of Husted’s Hall on Saturday evening, June 3, 1876, with Grand Master Robert W. Rothert in charge, but the charter was not issued until 1877. He appointed mayor H.B. Wyman as Worshipful Master, E.M. Winslow as Senior Warden and J.C. Elliot as Junior Warden. Officers were elected: E.A. Brown as treasurer and E.W. Grattrax as secretary. The Master appointed Senior Deacon A.E. Traer, Junior Deacon Steward O.J. Dunham, Junior Steward O.A. Boden, Tyler W.A. Strong and Chaplain W.J. Newell. Other business was the reading of applications of transfers and petitions for new members. Membership fee was $2 per year. The chaplain closed the meeting with the benediction. By the end of 1877, 28 brothers were members.

During the first six months, most of the Sheldon members had been Masons in other locations and had transferred their memberships to the Mistletoe Lodge. The first person to seek his first Mason membership into the Mistletoe Lodge was John McNary on Nov. 25, 1876.

The rent for the second story of Husted’s Hall, located on the corner of Third Avenue and Ninth Street, was $10 a month. The Odd Fellows Lodge sublet Husted’s for $5 to help the Masons with the payment of their rent. When Husted’s Hall burned in 1884, the Masons moved across the street to the second story of the Union Bank building. The Mason and the Odd Fellows later shared the rent with the Knights of Pythias, so each paid a third of the rent.

Fred Frisbee appointed a committee in 1914 to start a fund for the construction of a new building. Lumberyard owner Benjamin Jones was presented a gold-handled cane in 1910 for his many years as treasurer of the lodge. After Brother Benjamin Jones died in 1914, his wife donated a site for the new building on the northern half of her property. Mrs. Jones, the first woman resident of Sheldon, dug the first shovel of dirt in her garden and that was the beginning of the Masonic Temple. The Masons had been actively hosting activities to build up their building fund, such as dinners, soup and pie suppers or anything that would bring in extra revenue. During the week before Christmas when the stores were open in the evening, they would serve soup suppers for the shoppers.

According to the blueprints the building was planned to be 66 feet long and 60 feet wide. They used rug-faced brick with stone and stucco trimmings for the exterior with a red tile roof. The main Lodge room measured 50 feet long and 32 feet wide with a balcony that would seat about 80 people. The basement had a spacious kitchen, women’s lounge and a large dining room which would seat 200.

On July 17, 1917, the building was completed and opened with 36 brothers present. The Masons marched down Third Avenue for the laying of the cornerstone. Dedication of the building took place on Jan. 31, 1918, 42 years after the original organization of the Mistletoe Lodge. The building was constructed during World War I and the mortgage was burned in 1943 during World War II.

With the new building, the annual dues were raised to $5 a year. Also, they voted that all brothers serving in the Great War did not have to pay any dues.

Clifford D. Jory was elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Iowa in 1943 and brought honor and distinction to his own lodge by being invested with the purple of the Fraternity. He was the Master of the Sheldon Lodge in 1921.

After 30 years, the historical Masonic Temple needed extensive remodeling and structural changes. “Restoration 87” resolved the problems of heating and the water damage on the east wall. Steam radiators were removed and replaced with efficient forced air gas furnaces. Paint began to peel and the walls needed to be plastered. It took three weeks to complete the restoration. Work could not take place in the afternoon because it was too hot, so the work was limited to mornings and evenings.

The Eastern Star, an organization related to the Masons, was organized with goals of charity, fraternity, education and science. Men and women could become members. Their meetings were held in the Masonic Temple. They helped with the maintenance of the Masonic Temple. They promoted service projects, anything from scholarships to rest homes.

The Rainbow Girls Organization for ages 11-20, was a youth service organization related to the Eastern Star. They promoted leadership training and built self-esteem and character through service to the community. Their common goals were to promote love, service, friendship, self-respect, faith, hope and charity. The seven colors of the rainbow represent the teachings for each girl.

Then in the late 1900s came the decline in the membership and the number of men to fill the officers’ positions, plus the treasury lacked enough money to pay for building repairs. The Masonic Temple was abandoned and the Sheldon members transferred their memberships and merged with Sibley’s organization. The contents, such as the piano, wood floors and cupboards began to deteriorate due to the roof leaking and no heat. Hal Tuttle was in charge of donating the furniture to the Prairie Arts Council and finding a buyer for the building.

Al Kats bought the Masonic Temple and later transferred it to the R&B Rentals. Since then the rubber roof has been repaired to preserve the building. Kats said they store Industrial wrapping inside the building and later ship it out. He said the building would probably be sold if someone was interested in it. Perhaps the St. Patrick’s Catholic Church could purchase it. Could it solve the St. Patrick’s Catholic School’s problem and renovate it for an activities center or gym?

Millie Vos is the secretary/treasurer of the Sheldon Historical Society and the museum director and a board member of the Sheldon Prairie Museum, 319 10th St. This is part of a series of historical articles about Sheldon. Members of the Sheldon Historical Society receive a yearly newsletter with articles like this. To join the society, call her at 712-324-3235 or stop by the museum.