The Charter Year
South Dakota had been a state for only six years when Willis E. Jones, a Civil War veteran, organized fourteen Brothers for the purpose of establishing a lodge in Hudson. On February 22, 1895, Brother Jones, an undertaker and cabinet maker, formally petitioned the Grand Lodge of South Dakota to establish a new lodge in Hudson.
Upon receiving the $23 fee and recommendations from Canton’s Silver Star Lodge #4 and Alcester Lodge #115, Most Worshipful Grand Master William Allen referred the petition to Grand Lodge.
Meeting under dispensation of the Grand Lodge, the first meeting of the Masonic Lodge in Hudson was held at 8:00 P.M., April 9, 1895, at the town school building. Two petitions were read. On June 4 and 7, the nascent lodge met to conduct degree work; three new petitions were presented.
On June 12 the Grand Lodge of South Dakota granted a charter to the Hudson lodge. Taking its name from Jephthah, “a mighty man of valor,” found in Judges, Chapters 11 and 12, it was designated Jeptha Lodge Number 121,
The acting officers were installed July 9 by James Lewis, Deputy Grand Master.(1) (Coincidentally, Lewis had served as Master of Silver Star Lodge #4 and had signed that lodge’s endorsement of the proposed Hudson lodge.) Lewis was assisted by William M. Cuppett, Grand Marshal; O. S. Gifford, S
Jeptha Lodge’s by-laws were approved on December 17. Seventeen meetings were held in the Lodge’s first nine months, with petitions read or degree work conducted in all but one.
The First Hall
The former school building, owned by S. P. Hartzell, had been moved to a lot east of the home of Mrs. Helen Sorlie. This was across the street from the present bank. The second floor served as the first Masonic Hall. In 1896, the rent was $108 per year.
In the winter of 1899, the building burned, and, on February 20, 1900, the Lodge subleased space over the Moe & Sorenson Blacksmith Shop from the Knights of Pythias for $35 a year. (This was the site of the former Harry Miller Garage on Main Street.)
When the Knights of Pythias moved, Jeptha Lodge moved with them, paying $60 per year to share the second floor of the Beadle & Torkelson building, east of the bank. When the Knights terminated their lease, the Lodge took sole possession of the space until 1957.
In 1897, the Lodge voted to allow using the building for the purpose of organizing a chapter of the Order of Eastern Star. This led to the establishment of Sioux Valley Chapter No. 40,
Financing the Lodge was a chronic problem. The Minutes are replete with references to various members “reimbursed for funds advanced” on behalf of the Lodge. For instance, on February 16, 1897, the Lodge paid “$25 toward money advanced by
Still, a motion to raise the $3 annual dues by one dollar was rejected. Hard-pressed to pay this amount yearly, some paid quarterly. Nonetheless, by 1901 the situation had improved to the point that the Lodge was able to pay its notes and still have $100 in its treasury. A janitor was hired for 50¢ per meeting night.
In 1904 the Lodge voted to remit dues of all fifty-year members — an optimistic act for a lodge so young. It had good reason for optimism; the Lodge had met 22 times that year to accommodate the degree work, despite voting to go dark in July and August!
December 23, 1896, marked the first recorded “Masonic Banquet,” commemorating the installation of officers by Most Worshipful Grand Master James Lewis. This banquet, held at the St. James Hotel, cost $20.30. Such banquets were often held at the St. James through 1900.
This tradition of special meals continued through the years, and, in 1902, a permanent Banquet Committee was appointed. The first recorded family picnic was held in 1905.
The Lodge’s annual Oyster Stew Supper, first held in 1909, has been held every winter since. In 1911, $3.00 paid for a supper for twelve!
In 1919, roast lamb was served following the installation of officers. On another occasion, it was recorded that Brother Charles Nelson provided venison for lunch following degree work. unches of that era ranged from buffalo to raccoon — and even reindeer, secured by Worshipful Brother Rob Schaber. After these exotic banquets, “Brother Schaber would give us a write-up in the Hudsonite. It created a lot of interest,” recalled Brother Arthur Chambers.
Originally, stated meetings were held on the Tuesday before each full moon, at 8:00 P.M. In 1896, meetings were changed to the first and third Tuesdays of each month. Many special meetings were convened to accommodate degree work.
Schools of Instruction, first held in 1898, were run on two or three consecutive days. Jeptha Lodge paid lodging for the Grand Lecturer.(3) Thus began Jeptha Lodge’s tradition of superb ritualistic work that continues to this day.
In those days, many affiliations and demits were requested, reflecting the mobile population. Perhaps due to a lack of resident members, only four meetings were held in 1916. Through the end of the Great War, meetings were not held for months at a time. Many that were held began an hour late, at 9:00 P.M. perhaps due to bad roads in the unusually harsh winters.
Visitations of Brothers from other lodges to Jeptha and by Jeptha Brothers to other lodges have been an important part of the Lodge from the beginning. In 1917 fifteen Brothers went to Hawarden to raise a Hudson Brother to Master Mason, “in the truly South Dakota manner before a large crowd of Iowa and South Dakota Masons,” according to Brother Chambers.
Later, the Hawarden Degree Team came to Hudson for the raising of Brother Julius Anderson. Over the years, Jeptha assisted many neighboring Lodges with their degree work.
|The 1920s & 1930s|
The Roaring Twenties barely whispered at Jeptha Lodge. Meetings were sporadically attended. Activities centered on degree and ritualistic work, which thrived, particularly in Schools of Instruction.
In 1921 the Lodge purchased an electric heater after it had been demonstrated by a Brother. Later that year the fees for each degree were raised to $10, except for clergymen, for whom the entire fee could be waived by unanimous vote of the Brothers.
In April 1922 Jeptha Lodge purchased an alter from the Congregational Church for $10. In August, 25 chairs and three officers’ chairs were purchased for $176. It is believed that these are still in use in the Temple.
Other early improvements included the gift of a light dimmer switch, also still in use today, by Brothers C. A. Vipond, Jay Huisman, and Raymond E. Iverson in 1927. In 1931 Jeptha Lodge rented the building from A. I. Eide. Ruth Beadle was paid $1 per meeting night for janitorial work.
The Great Depression exacted its toll on Jeptha Lodge. In 1931 there were 55 members of Jeptha Lodge. By 1939, there were only 30. Degree work was sharply curtailed. In 1932, the Lodge tried to reverse the trend by accepting fees for the degrees in $5 installments. It didn’t help; in the decade following the stock market crash in ’29, only one Brother was raised to Master Mason.
In 1929 only four meetings were held. In 1930 only three were held, and of the three, two were held in December. In 1933, again, there were only four meetings. With many members unable to afford Lodge dues, a plan was devised in 1934 to allow delinquent members to make payments of $1.25 per year for back dues, if current dues were paid.
The Great Depression limited Masonic social functions to inexpensive activities — such as the concert by the Shrine Chanters in 1934, picnics, suppers, and card parties.(4)
In February 1935 Jeptha Lodge celebrated the bicentenary of Brother George Washington’s birth. Commemorating Washington’s birthday became an annual event. There were rare cancellations due to bad weather, most notably in 1936. Also in ’35 a benefit card party raised $7.50 to sponsor a room in the new Community Hospital.
In 1931 the Lodge joined with other Hudson organizations to create a relief program for the community’s needy. The Lodge contributed $50 to start the fund.
In 1939 the Lodge, under
|The 1940s & 1950s|
World War II
As the Depression ended, life returned to normal — for a while. In December 1940 the Lodge voted to devote one night per month for entertainment. No records indicate that this was implemented, perhaps another casualty of World War II. During the war years of 1941-44, no Brothers were raised to Master Mason.
As it had in the Great War, Jeptha Lodge contributed to war relief through the Red Cross. Fundraisers were held for the benefit of servicemen through the Masonic Service Association. In 1943 a card party and donations raised the Lodge’s quota of $80.00. Later that year, the Lodge donated to a memorial honoring Hudson servicemen.
In 1942 the Lodge celebrated Washington’s birthday with a speaker and a performance by the school band. During the war, Brothers from around the world met on the battlefield. Brother Neil Broscha told of visiting lodges while stationed in Asia.
As the war ended, prosperity returned to the Lodge. Degree work and social activities increased. On December 18, 1945, the Lodge quietly celebrated its fiftieth anniversary, with E. F. Strain, Grand Secretary, Herman Chapman,
Harley Haralson Cable
On September 23, 1949, Worshipful Brother Harold Bogue,
On July 19, 1959, Worshipful Brother Cable was presented the Bronze Palm Leaf. The ceremony was marked by a solo by Brother H. G. Shoemaker, Dale Lodge #156, accompanied by his wife. Several Grand Officers attended, and speeches were delivered by District Master Clifford Vickerman and Grand Master Norman Doolittle.
The 1950s were robust years in Jeptha Lodge. Credit for the resurgence in the Lodge belongs to
In 1954 Graham presented the Master with the apron worn by the first Master of Jeptha Lodge,
The New Temple
A major event of the 1950s was the purchase of the former Methodist Church building in 1956. The Lodge paid $500, plus back-taxes of $159.
Repairs to the building were accomplished through the voluntary efforts and donations of the Brothers. The building was renovated and redecorated, thanks in no small part to Sioux Valley Chapter #40,
Following the dedication was a concert by the El Riad Temple Chanters and an address by
Special Degree Work
On May 15, 1947, the Stock Yards Degree Team of Sioux City officiated at a Master Mason degree in Hudson for the four sons of Brother Robert Cole — Brothers Robert Curtis, John Clark, Rolfe, and Hobart Cole. Held in the School Auditorium, the guest list included the Senior Grand Warden, Grand Secretary, and a Past Grand Master. Masonic wives served supper at the Congregational Church.
In 1951, Brother Walter J. Cole was awarded his 50-Year Pin. Cole, who had left Hudson in 1906, came from his home in Sioux City for the celebration. Following the presentation, lunch was served at the Congregational Church, at a cost of $10.96.
In May 1952 the Shrine Degree Team met at the School Auditorium “with many Brothers from neighboring lodges in attendance.” Brothers Clarence Nygard and Lyle Hedrick were raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason.
In 1959 the Legion of Honor Degree Team of El Raid Shrine conducted degree work at School Auditorium, raising Brothers Richard Schlup, Leon Marshall, William Emmers, and Robert Horst to Master Mason. A banquet was served by
In November 1947, the Lodge voted to loan its soup bowls to the Hudson School, until it was able to purchase its own. This was the beginning of the school’s hot lunch program.
The lodge room was repainted in 1952. Carpeting was replaced at a cost of $352.42. Drapes were added, for $4.08.
At the stag Beef Supper in 1958, 28 Brothers, plus 25 invited guests, consumed 41 pounds of beef, 35 pounds of potatoes, seven loaves of bread, five quarts of ice cream, and fifteen pies.
|The 1960s & 1970s|
Raise Corn, Raise Funds
During the 1960s, the Lodge faced a dramatic decline in activities, membership, degree work, and finances. Prior to 1960, the funds necessary for the Lodge’s functions had come exclusively from the dues and donations from the Brothers. That summer, the Lodge rented a piece of land on which they raised corn. Donating the money for seed, as well as the labor, the Brothers received 77¢ per bushel, depositing $1,215.80 in the general fund.
The next year, the Lodge raised corn again. This time they sold the crop for 87¢ per bushel, but the crop was poor. The effort raised $873.60. It was put to good use; replacing the Temple roof cost $555.16 that fall.
The corn yield was not the only thing in decline. The 1960s and early ’70s saw a sharp reduction in the number of men seeking the degrees of Masonry. These were turbulent years in our nation’s history, and the Lodge was not immune to the forces that challenged traditional institutions. Membership in the Lodge had peaked at 60 Brothers in 1959. In 1970, there were only 49, and, by 1979, that number had declined to 39 — a drop of 35 percent in twenty years.
Regular meetings were held, but activities were few. Concerns about declining membership and attendance were mentioned frequently in the Official Minutes.
In 1960 Brothers Harvey Brunner and Gay Krull made the flag holders that are still used today. In 1962 a new Master’s apron was purchased, replacing one presented in 1954, which was retired.
In 1970 the Lodge rented 35 acres from Brother Ed Wiebersick. This time the Brothers tried their hand at raising soybeans, as they had with corn in 1960 and 1961. This time, only $242 was deposited for the Brothers’ efforts.
The 1970s brought renewed activity to the Lodge. Many improvements were made in the building, including a major repainting of the Temple’s exterior in 1973. That year, dues were raised to $15 per year.
In 1975, after nearly ten years of discussion, new carpeting was laid in the Lodge room, at a cost of $678.55. The following year, 24 metal folding chairs were purchased for $63.
In 1960, the Brothers went pheasant hunting at Lake Andes. Though they had a great time, a return trip was needed to get enough birds for a feed.
Several Brothers received their 50-Year Pins in this era. In May 1962 Brother William Larson, in poor health, was awarded his 50-Year Pin at his home.
Brother Donald Fitch was awarded his 50-Year Pin in 1976 by William F. Vermillion, District Master. In 1978,
|The 1980s & 1990s|
The 1980s were productive years for the Lodge in terms of growth, improvements to the Temple, and activities. In 1984, dues were raised to $20 per year. In 1985, the Lodge conducted two fundraisers. It operated a bingo stand at the Hudson celebration. Another farming project was undertaken, this time, as in 1970, with soybeans. The Lodge netted $793.44. from the project.
There was a major remodeling of the Temple in 1981. The ceiling was lowered and insulation was applied. Paneling was put on the walls, covering the windows. This resolved a long, on-going discussion about the drapes, the walls and the cost of heating the building. The basement was painted as well. The cost of the materials for these renovations was approximately $1,500.
The Brothers furnished the labor, and their donations provided the necessary funds. The newly refurbished Temple was rededicated on December 5, 1981. Brother Alan Miller was recognized for his extra help with the remodeling.
Other improvements in this era included a bulletin board, built by Brothers Roger Smith and Dennis Gildemeister in 1987, Square and Compass light bulbs for the three lesser lights, presented by Brother David Hansen in 1988, and a new door, installed by Brother Randy Porter in 1990.
In 1989 three Masonic signs were purchased by members and erected at the three roads entering Hudson. After years of discussion, a metal roof was placed on the Masonic Temple in 1993, at a cost of $4,326.24.
Dinners to honor wives and widows of Masons had been held in the past — notably in 1964 and 1977, but in 1982 the dinner became an annual event. Held in May, it was an opportunity to honor an outstanding high school senior, as well as recognizing a non-Mason for outstanding service to the community.
Grand Lodge Officers
In June 1989
The following year, the Lodge was well-represented at Grand Lodge in Pierre.
In September District Master Lamont Cain presented the Lodge a hand-crafted Masonic Emblem in appreciation of W Brother Spies, P G M According to the Minutes, “W B Spies and other Brothers were speechless at the beauty of the piece.” Certainly it was a proud addition to the lodge room.
On June 22, 1995, Jeptha Lodge #121 celebrated 100 years of Freemasonry in Hudson with an open house. The 120 guests of the ceremony were greeted by W Brother Rolfe Cole and his wife Marie and W Brothers Merlyn and Alan Miller.
To commemorate the centennial, the Temple was rededicated with the laying of a cornerstone monument. The ceremony of rededication was led by W M Leslie Spies,
Brother Arnold Lund and Worshipful Brother Hobart Cole placed the time capsule, which is to be opened in the year 2095. The cornerstone was then set by Brothers Russell Sorenson and Ronald West.
Following a buffet in the Memorial Building, W Brother David Hansen reprised his “Tribute to the Flag,” which he had presented at the Grand Lodge of 1990.
Harvey J. Brunner
Worshipful Brother J. Harvey Brunner was presented his 50-Year Pin during the centennial celebration by W M Les Spies, Chaplain Dale Smith, Senior Deacon Carter Horner, and W Brother Kenneth Snedeker, District Master. W Brother Curtis Vipond delivered reminiscences of W Brother Brunner, who now resides in Hermosa.
The guests were entertained by the music of Brother Vernon Anderson, of centerville, accompanied by Georgia Ferris, and of organist Bernard Fullenkamp. Brothers Russell Sorenson, Gaylen Jansen, Carter Horner, Tom Lewis, Randall Porter, and Ronald West presented a pageant of Jeptha Lodge’s history.
Brother Ronald West was later cited for his skill as an operative mason with respect to the design and construction of the brick-and-stone monument. The monument was adorned by an iron Masonic symbol fashioned by
In addition to M W Grand Master Luther, Grand Lodge was well-represented by
|Jeptha Lodge Today|
We stand at the beginning of a new centenary, reflecting on our proud past and looking hopefully to our future. The Lodge meets on the first and third Tuesday of each month, going dark, as it has since 1904, in July and August. Fellowship and refreshment follow each meeting, as the Brothers take turns furnishing lunch.
Taking great pride in its ritualistic work, with practices and schools of instruction, Jeptha Lodge is often called upon to assist neighboring lodges. Visitors often express admiration for the Lodge’s excellent degree work.
In addition to its much enjoyed and well-attended degree work, the Lodge sponsors special events throughout the year:
Continuing a tradition begun in 1935, the public is invited to “Cherry Pie Night” — the annual Washington Birthday Party. Card games are featured, with cherry pie and ice cream for lunch.
Each winter the Lodge invites guests to its Oyster Stew Supper. (Chili has been added to the traditional fare.)
In May, the Lodge hosts a dinner honoring the wives and widows of Masons.
Jeptha Lodge takes its turn hosting such area events as the District meeting and the Scottish Rite Maundy Thursday event.
Helping Hand Extended
Over the years, the Lodge facilities have been used by many other organizations, such as:
The Lodge has been ever mindful of the welfare of its members and their dependents. The Minutes report countless acts of charity toward Brothers in distress and to widows in need such as flowers sent to sick Brothers or their families, and expressions of sympathy sent to families, published in the newspaper, and entered in the Minutes.
The Lodge has contributed to many charities over the years, including these noteworthy acts of benevolence:
1895: Not long after its founding, the Lodge sent the first of many contributions to the Children’s Home Society in Sioux Falls.
1898: Took a collection in response to a communication from the Spencer Lodge requesting help raising $1,500 to retire the mortgage of a deceased Brother.
1919: Paid $50 medical bills for a distressed Brother.
1922: Donated to George Washington National Masonic Memorial Association.
1925: Donated $10 to Community Library.
1927: Sent donation to Grand Lodge for flood relief in the South.
1931: Worked with other Hudson organizations to form a relief program for needy in the community, giving $50 to start the fund.
1940s: Held fundraisers to benefit servicemen through the Masonic Service Association.
1943: Donated to a memorial honoring Hudson servicemen.
1970: Sent $50 to help Groton Lodge rebuild.
This tradition of service continues today. Jeptha Lodge delivers Meals-On-Wheels on a regular basis, as it has since the program’s inception in 1981. In 1991 Brothers planted nineteen trees in the City Park.
The Lodge has helped organizations as diverse as the Hudson Recreation Board, Hudson Crop Shows, Hudson Ambulance, Community Club, March of Dimes, Cancer Society, Hudson Nursing Home, Shrine Crippled Children’s Hospital, and the Hudson School.
Hear now Worshipful Brother Harley Haralson Cable, who wrote these words in 1957:
The work is carried on with a faithful regard for the ancient teachings, principles, and usages of the Order, ever keeping in mind the most noble tenets of the fraternity: Friendship, Morality, and Brotherly Love.
May these words guide Jeptha Lodge through its next 100 years.
Continue to the Appendices.
1895-1919 | The 1920s & 1930s | The 1940s & 1950s
| The 1960s & 1970s | The 1980s & 1990s | Centennial | Jeptha Lodge Today
Appendix A: Chronology | Appendix B: Trends | Appendix C: Past Masters | Appendix D: Centennial Brothers
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1. In addition to Worshipful Brother Jones, charter members were Ephraim J. Harris, S W; Hubert Loonan, J W; Isaac E. Grabill, Secretary; Edward Alexander, Treasurer; William Winette, Senior Deacon; Dr. Vilroy T. Wilson, Junior Deacon; Clinton C. Snyder, Tiler; Nelson Larson, Arthur Linn, James Wedell, S. Josephson, T. T. Barbour and A. P. Frisbie. (Return)
5. In 1933 Dr. Francis E. Townsend, of Michigan, proposed that retirees receive scrip worth $200 per month. This would be financed by a national sales tax. In 1934 he established Old Age Revolving Pensions, Ltd., an organization of local “Townsend Clubs” that grew to 7,000 clubs, with 1.5 million members by 1936. His proposals led to the passage of the Social Security Act. (Return)
6. Sioux Valley Chapter #40, O E S officers: Kathleen Myers, Worthy Matron; Dr. M. W. Myers, Worthy Patron; Roberta Christopherson, Associate Matron; Robert E. Iverson, Associate Patron; Georgia Ferris, Conductress; Serene Jones, Associate Conductress; Ellie Iverson, Secretary, May Graham, Treasurer; Louella Broscha, Chaplain; Gladys Horner, Marshal; Gertie Wood, Organist; Janice Mangelsen, Adah; Fay Sorlie, Ruth; Lulu Dawson, Esther; Marguerite Brunner, Martha; Maxine Nygard, Electra; Bertha Iverson, Warden; and Dallas D. Jones, Sentinel. (Return)