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Freemasonry Watch

Declining Membership Force Two of Arizona Freemason Lodges to Merge

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Tri-Valley Central - Arizona


Following a proud 78-year history, Coolidge Masons merge with Florence

December 03, 2008

By AMANDA PATTON, Coolidge Examiner Editor

Photos by Amanda Patton/Coolidge Examiner , Rhoda Anderson (below) points at her photograph on the wall of all past Eastern Star Ocotillo No. 36 worthy matrons at the now closed Coolidge Masonic Temple on Main Street.

COOLIDGE - After more than 75 years, the Masonic Temple on Main Street will have quiet halls as the building closes. Due to the economy and fewer participating members, the Pima Lodge No. 39 F. & A.M. of Coolidge has now merged with the Gila Valley Lodge No. 9 F. & A.M. in Florence.

"A lot of good friends have come and gone," said Ray Osborn, a member since 1965. "I hate to see it (close), but it's necessary. There was no other way to do it."

The two groups began meeting officially as one on June 7, but the merger has been something in the works for more than a year. The 42 members from the Coolidge lodge are now consolidated with the 62 in Florence.

What members of both the Coolidge Masonic Lodge and Order of the Eastern Star Ocotillo No. 36 now have to figure out is what to do with the memorabilia that has been collected over the years. With empty seats covered in plastic, walls covered in pictures of past and present members, and historical items such as the founding master R.J. Jones' Masonic apron, no one is quite sure yet what is going to happen to the building. All of the assets now become the property of the merged lodge.

"There is a lot of good memories," Osborn said. "When they start tearing up the walls around here, they're going to stir up a lot of spirits."

The 39th lodge chartered in Arizona at one time was very large and active. From 1930 to 1950, membership grew from 22 to 124.

"If you have ever been a member, you would know why," said Delaine Ketchum, master in 1960, about remaining a member for more than 50 years. "The main thing about the masonry is it makes good men better men through the inner workings of the lodge."

According to the Grand Lodge of Arizona F. & A. M., the mission of freemasonry is "to promote a way of life that binds like-minded men in a worldwide brotherhood that transcends all religious, ethnic, cultural, social and educational differences; by teaching the great principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth; and, by the outward expression of these, through its fellowship, its compassion and its concern, to find ways in which to serve God, family, country, neighbors and self."

Noting the several charities and activities the masons participate in, Ketchum said, "Our country was founded by masons. It's never been discovered when masonry really began. But it's worldwide of course."

Freemasonry was already old when the young George Washington became a member in 1752 of the Fredericksburg, Va., Lodge. He remained a proud member and patron his entire life. In all, 14 presidents were well-known masons, the last one being President Gerald Ford.

Although the word mason means "a builder and worker in stone," Freemasons use symbols and allegories to "build better men that create great societies."

Following in his father's footsteps, Ketchum remembered he joined while he was still in high school. When asked what his favorite memory was of the now closed lodge, Ketchum laughed and said, "I can't tell you about the ones during the lodge. But the past members, the past masters, the past memories, they were all wonderful."

For young men who would like to join today, Ketchum said, "They would have to be interested in becoming better men really and truly because that is what masonry is really about."

Over the years, not only did the masons meet at the lodge, but also the ladies of the Order of the Eastern Star. With the groups meeting only in the top half of the building until the late 1960s, the bottom part of the building was rented to different businesses including a grocery store and a furniture store. It was then turned into a recreation hall.

"The friendship, the fraternity part, and the things we stand for" are the reasons Rhoda Anderson said she has remained a member of the Order of the Eastern Star since 1956. Her husband, Marvin Anderson, was not only instrumental in the Coolidge Masonic Lodge, but also in the community as the Coolidge High School band teacher for 28 years.

Stating that the organization is based on principals from the Bible, she said the group has a lot of projects they work on throughout the year such as sending packages to the troops.

"The primary purpose, which there is no need for anymore, was to take care of the widows of the masons," Anderson said. "People didn't get Social Security or things like that. That was really the original purpose of the Eastern Star."

The memory that stands out the most for Anderson is "Grandpa (William) Higginbotham's coffee. It could stand on end on it's own. It was awful."

She also recalled the oyster stew suppers that were once served. As a member, Anderson has traveled as far away as Australia for different Scottish Rites ceremonies.

The Coolidge lodge has had two Most Worshipful Grand Masters of Masons in Arizona. They were Marvin E. Anderson in 1974-75 and Donald W. Monson in 1998-99.

The Coolidge Order of the Eastern Star has had three Worthy Grand Matrons of Arizona.

They were Alma Myrtle Jones in 1944-45, Myrtle Tyler in 1956-57, and Pauline McClure, 1970-71.


The first meeting of the Masons of Coolidge was held Nov. 22, 1929, at the residence of R.J. Jones on the corner of Third Street and Roosevelt Avenue.

Less than a year later and one block away, the laying of the corner stone of the Masonic temple of the Pima Lodge, F. & A. M. occurred on Oct. 11, 1930, at the corner of Main Street and Roosevelt Avenue. There were 60 visitors and members registered at this meeting.

Meetings were hosted quite regularly during the construction of the building until the installation of the lodge on Oct. 24, 1930. Then on Feb. 26, 1931, the lodge was instituted.

According to pamphlet published by the Masonic History Committee in June 30, 1960, at the Nov. 22, 1929, meeting 21 brethren signed a petition expressing a desire to organize a lodge in Coolidge separate from the Gila Valley Lodge No. 9 in Florence.

Members of the committee included J.J. Jones, D.S. Davis, Jon D. Gores, W.G. Flewelling, and A.R. Burtcher.

During the second meeting on Dec. 12, 1929, the organizations name was established as the Pima Lodge F. & A. M. The first officers of the lodge included R.J. Jones, master; D.S. Davis, sr. warden; Frank Pinkley Jr., jr. warden; P.W. Hamilton, treasurer; and J.J. Jones, secretary. Trustees elected were R.H. Ferrell, one-year term; J.H. Thomasson, two years; A.J. Christensen, three years; and Dr. W. Jackson, four years.

Bro. Conrad, a past master from one of the Phoenix lodges, was granted the privilege to furnish the corner stone. Also during the second meeting, R.J. Jones offered to donate the lot for the building in which the temple sits today.

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