Masonic Prairie Lodge will be no more
It’s 140 years of history.
“Nothing is forever,” says Ken Trom when reflecting on the closure of the Blooming Prairie Masonic Lodge, called Prairie Lodge No. 123 A.F. and A.M.
Calling the dissolving of the lodge an emotional time, Trom walked amongst a wealth of items associated with the lodge over its 140 years of existence.
A public auction is planned for Saturday, Dec. 17 at the lodge located just east of the Blooming Prairie Senior Center on Third Ave. SE. Proceeds from the auction will be donated to the Blooming Prairie Veterans Memorial to be constructed just east of the Servicemen’s Club.
The lodge is in the upstairs of a building owned by Mark Anderson.
Items on the auction include kitchen ware, silver service, antique desk, upright piano with bench, organ with bench, theatre chairs, folding chairs, captain chairs, four-drawer filing cabinet, wooden rocking chair and various Masonic paraphernalia.
Some of the historic items will be given to the state chapter of the Masonic Lodge and others are being donated to the Steele County Historical Society.
The Prairie Lodge currently has 45 members. Trom, three times the worshipful master of the Prairie Lodge and a member for 56 years, says about half of the membership lives in the Blooming Prairie area and others who may have moved away or retired, have maintained their membership.
Due to declining membership, lack of attendance and lack of interest, the Prairie Lodge leadership decided to research the possibilities of closing or remaining open.
The Prairie Lodge will now affiliate with the Owatonna Masonic Lodge. Members may transfer their membership there, or they may transfer to another Masonic chapter.
Last spring, the Prairie Lodge formed a revitalization committee. After careful study, the decision pointed toward dissolution and the committee became the devitalization committee, Trom said.
The committee consisted of Burt Knutson, Tom Peterson, Jacob Lightly, Steve Houzenga and Ken Trom. The committee’s purpose was to wind down the affairs of the Lodge and to disburse property. An inventory of lodge properties was then prepared.
Letters were sent to all members, asking them to attend a special meeting last Oct. 11 to decide the fate of the Lodge. Ten voted to close the Lodge and one voted against dissolving the Lodge. Trom said he was that one person. “I hate to quit anything,” he said with conviction.
The women’s group of the Lodge, Order of the Eastern Star, disbanded seven years ago, Trom said.
The Blooming Prairie Times is an excellent source to review the history of Prairie Lodge No. 123 A.F. and A.M. (Ancient Free and Accempted Masons). Trom, worshipful master in 1967 during Blooming Prairie’s Centennial, put together a lengthy history of the Lodge and this was printed in a special Centennial edition of the Times.
The Prairie Lodge actually had its start with an organizational meeting held in May of 1875. Charter members were: Joseph B. Johnson, physician; Tomas S. Morton, blacksmith; Charles Whitton, grain buyer; Charles E. Hancock, farmer; Archibald Calquhoun, farmer; Peter Haley, furniture dealer; James Rea, grain buyer; Charles H. Williams, druggist and Charles D. Giddings, farmer.
The Prairie Lodge officially opened on Feb. 15, 1876. Its first meeting location was a furniture store in downtown Blooming Prairie that was owned by Peter Haley. The first lodge rooms were located in this building, its location still a mystery.
Sometime during 1882, the Lodge moved to a hardware store building owned by Edward Morton. Rent was $40 a year and the Prairie Lodge remained in this building for approximately three years. The Lodge then located in the Olson Drug Store and remained there for 29 years. The building that houses the Henefield law firm still has the Masonic emblem on the outside of the building.
The Prairie Lodge Masons also used the Commercial Hotel as their quarters from 1914 to 1922. The Lodge then moved to a downtown building later occupied by Oswald’s Grocery, the Servicemen’s Club and Ebeling’s Jewelry Shop.
Plans for a new building were announced in June of 1950. The Lodge stayed its downtown location until 1951 when a new building was completed and occupied by the Lodge. That building is the current home of the Lodge. Building committee members were Jay Beal, Claude Grandprey, Oscar Bakke and Palmer Ulland.
The Lodge over the years has been a very active organization. Each year near George Washington’s birthday (Feb. 22), the Lodge sponsored a father-son banquet. The Prairie Lodge supported the Masonic Home for the Aged near Shakopee, MN; and the Masonic Memorial Hospital which is a cancer research hospital built and furnished by Minnesota Masons and donated to the University of Minnesota.
“The good works of the Masons have stood the test of times over the years and the Masonic institution has become universally recognized,” said Trom. The organization builds people, Trom pointed out. To illustrate his points further, he used the Masonic symbols of the Masonic Square and compasses, the plumb to be upright, the square to be honest in all dealings and the level to treat everyone the same.
Free masonry is a worldwide fraternity. Masons can attend meetings anywhere in the world, subject to examination, Trom concluded.