Sometime around the later part of 1869 a group of Master Masons started to gather in the town of Pioche, Nevada, mostly over cups of coffee or dinner and more or less in a friendly get together, sort of a social. As the town grew, because of the mines, this group of Mason's continued to grow.
From our records it is also noted that in the absence of a regular sheriff the Masons formed a constabulary to maintain law and order in the town. They had been rendering help to distressed Brother Masons and their families. As a necessity of the times, most of them packed a six gun. It must be remembered that Pioche was a wild Western mining town and at best it was difficult to keep law and order.
This group formed a Masonic Association in 1871 There main meeting place was the School house. Although the Association was formed much earlier.the first official record of the Association was October 11, 1871,
At the Association meeting on July 29, 1872 Brother Charles S. Cotton, Secretary, noted that a progress report was given as follows: "B. C. (Unknown) appointed to procure the dispensation to start a Lodge, reported that the committee has done everything necessary, also that there are 37 names signed to the petition."
There is very little in the written records on the Masonic Association in the early days. Much of it is that which has been passed down by word of mouth and bits of information on paper to individuals, yet what is available tends to follow the pattern of that era in time.
In the early day's, a person had two choices for transportation out of the area, one was to go by the Union Pacific to Salt Lake and take the Southern Pacific to Reno and the Virginia-Truckee Railroad to Virginia City, Nevada. The other by horse back across the great expanses of the open range of Nevada. Either way took considerable time.
The Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the State of Nevada issued the order to form a Lodge under dispensation (UD) on August l0, 1872. This set the stage for the formation of the very first Lodge in Southern Nevada.
The last meeting of record for the Pioche Masonic Association was August 17, 1872, although the dispensation had been issued they did not know about it yet.
Just 5 days later, on August 22, 1872. thirty-five Master Mason met and formally organized Saint John Lodge U.D. They elected their officers and prepared a set of By-Laws. Brother B. A. Young was the first Worshipful Master. It is interesting to note that 37 Brothers had signed the petition to the Grand Lodge, but only 35 where present when the Officers where installed, also of interest was the fee's for the conferral of degrees was set at $100.00. Today, some 129 years later, the cost has increased by only $50.00.
Another point of interest during this era of history, was that Lincoln County included all of what is now considered Clark and Nye Counties. It was an extremely big county. When they applied for their charter it was for jurisdiction over all of this area that was then part of Lincoln County.
The records clearly indicate that Brother Ed Cutts did all the leg work for the Lodge yet he never became an officer. He was the Brother who traveled to Virginia City and obtained the Dispensation for the Lodge. Brother Cutts was more interested in forming a Chapter of Royal Arch Masons. This also had to be done in Virginia City, so he decided to kill two birds with one stone and carry petitions for both Saint John Lodge and Keystone Chapter to the Grand Lodge and Chapter Meetings.
Saint John Lodge UD (Under Dispensation) complied with all necessary rules and regulation and was granted Nevada's 19th Charter on November 20, 1873. On the very same day Brother Cutts took part in the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Mason of Nevada, and obtained Charter #6 for Keystone Chapter. He managed to have this Charter dated 17th of November 1873. He then returned to Pioche with them both.
Keystone Chapter No. 6 of the Royal Arch, York Rite, Masons was organized and went right to work as a Masonic Body. This Chapter never operated under dispensation. Once the Companions got their Charter, Keystone Chapter quickly became very affluent, reflecting the prosperity of its loyal members. Having no organized charities, they choose to dispense considerable funds in support of Their newly formed Saint John Lodge No.18. Keystone purchased the original property and assisted in the construction of the original building where Saint John Lodge resides today.
In the early days most of the members wore guns and used them, They would come to Lodge wearing them and hang them on the pegs in the Tyler's room. To quote from a note of Brother Charles Thompson "How conditions have changed since every member of the Lodge from the Worshipful Master to the Tyler carried a gun and knew how to use it." The building was constructed with thick "boiler-plate" shutters over the doors and windows, each with its own gun port. So while our brethren of Saint John Lodge undoubtedly brought nothing offensive or defensive into the Lodge room itself, it is reasonable to presume that they left no avenue open to rough or profane intrusion and literally guarded well, the outer door.
Saint John Lodge continued to grow and was doing well until 1900 when the mines started to play out and the miners moved elsewhere. The membership began to drop and this worried the officers of the Lodge.
In 1902 gold was discovered in the mountains a full days ride to the South. After the majority of the members of both Lodge and Chapter relocated to the new camp of Delamar they voted to move their Charters from Pioche to Delamar. This left Keystone Chapter with a problem. They owned the property and building which housed the Lodge and Chapter in Pioche. They found an easy way out by deeding it over to the Grand Chapter of Nevada.
Delamar was a disappointment, it failed to grow as most Brothers had anticipated. At the height of the brief time that gold mining continued, the town only reached about 2000 people. After three years the rich vein of gold ore ran out and the town disappeared almost over night.
While the Lodge and Chapter were at Delamar there was a building fire, which destroyed most of their paraphernalia and records and damaged the Keystones Chapter jewels. Even the was charter burned in the fire. A copy was struck and issued by the Grand Lodge Secretary and is almost unreadable. This came about just as the mines begin to play out or stop producing gold.
Once again Saint John Lodge found itself in an unfortunate situation. However, as Delamar declined, Pioche was again taking on new life. In 1905 the Lodge was moved back to its original home. Each month, for almost one year, the loyal Officers of the Lodge, that were still workmen at Delamar. made that long spring-wagon or horseback trip of over 50 miles, through rain or shine, to open the Lodge and do its work.
It was during this period that the charter was changed to show the jurisdiction was only for the Town of Pioche and not all of Lincoln County. Keystone Chapter No. 6, Royal Arch Masons did not move back to Pioche, but surrendered their charter to the Grand Chapter until it was reactivated in Las Vegas many years later.
When the move back to Pioche was completed, the Lodge building definitely needed serious repair. Infact, scavangers had stolen all of the roof and floor timbers, wood , doors and windows. Only the brick and stone shell remained. During these repairs a Brother Charles Thompson took his degrees. He wrote: "The Lodge building necessarily needed some repairs, and during these repairs I received my third degree. This communication was quite unique. The degree team was composed of Masons from several states who had never rehearsed together, but were well informed in the work of their several jurisdictions. The roof of the building was off, which made truly a canopy of the starry decked heavens. With about two inches of sand, rocks and dust on the carpet, I was received as candidate, the impression that I was indeed travelling a rough and rugged road. After I had become familiar with the ceremonies of the third degree, I know that the degree team at my raising had thrown their heart and soul into the work, and done it extra well."
The event of moving the Lodge back from Delamar to Pioche was a milestone in the history of the Lodge, as here before, elder members had occupied the offices and faithfully and devotedly kept the Lodge together. Now the younger Masons were elected into office and the old faithful and elderly men took to the sideline and encouraged the new officers, good naturedly growled, and criticized the young bloods for spending the Lodge funds like water, but always added, "well. I guess it is all right. they have to have more in this age."
But there came a day when the senior Brothers, had their laugh, and a chance to say "I told you so" to the younger Masons. It happened when repairs to the building were finally completed and the Lodge discovered that there was two thousand dollars due, a treasury that was flat broke, and workmen, suddenly demanding their wages. The young enthusiastic bunch got together and paid off the workmen, held off the stores for the materials furnished for a time and managed to pay the whole sum in less than a year. So the elderly Brothers were satisfied that the Lodge was in good hands. All of the charter members were all called to their reward in less then ten years.
Mizpah Chapter#19, Order the Eastern Star has played a major role in our history and will continue to do so. Chartered in April 15 1918. It's members have shared our building and our burdens. They have contributed to our membership and our functions in so many untold ways and they have kept us well fed and smiling each at each and every meeting.
The Lodge Building, formerly owned by Keystone Chapter No. 6 and deeded to The Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons, was sold to Saint John Lodge for the sum of the annual per-capita tax of the "at large", Keystone members due the Grand Chapter of the Royal Arch. This was paid off on December 15 1921 and thought to be a done deal until Brother Charles A. Thompson, as Secretary of the Lodge, discovered that the side walk had never been transferred or deeded over to the Lodge. On September 16, 1946 this oversight was corrected.
The records are currently being checked to document the assertion that four setting US Presidents have attended Lodge in this grand old building. Each while visiting their investments in our mines or in recognition for our mining communities efforts during the wars of this Country. It is thought to be Both Presidents Roosevelt, McKinley, and Truman.
1967 brought a great honor to this humble old Lodge. One of its members ascended to the highest position in our fraternity. Brother John D. Clifton, P.M. was elected, duly installed, and proudly served as The Grand Master of all Masons in Nevada. His portrait hangs in a special place of honor in the foyer of our new Lodge Room.
May 13 2000 marked a very special day in our history when our members and those of our Nevada Grand Lodge and Grand Chapter of the OES gathered to lay the cornerstone of our new Lodge Room Addition and make their official visits. Throughout the fraternity few new Lodge Rooms have been built in the last several decades, and while it took its members nearly five years to complete, the project it speaks very loudly of the drive, dedication, support and spirit of this small Lodge in this small and colorful town.
It should be noted that as in the days following the move back from Delemar, it is those of this greater Masonic Community that travel, some in excess of 400 miles, to open and do the work of this Lodge each month. These are very dedicated Masons that are proud of their Lodge and go to great lengths to support it.
Membership in this grand old Lodge has ranged from a high of over 100 members to a low of 33. At times the Lodge would have been unable to continue if it were not for the undying loyalty of it members living away or serving in the military. Some that still range as far distant as Australia. We also are proud and appreciate the support from full members and dual membership from and participation of loyal and loving Masons of this our greater Masonic Community.
In 2001, after haveing our 138th installation of Officers the Lodge its 60 members had a good year. This year saw three members fall yet we added two new ones so we are close to holding our own. We all thought it great to confer degrees in the Lodge after a long dry spell. Our activities like our Masonic Breakfast in the Park, The Computers for Kids Program, which placed over 60 computers with the school system for children without home computers, and The Kids ID Program got off of the ground, doing identity documentation to protect the children. Nine new chairs for the Stations and Places of our new Lodge Room were received. A grand painting of George Washington was hung, and a good time was had by all the grade school Children as our Santa continued to pass out his stockings for the 76th year.
We Celebrated 130 years of Masonry on 24 August of 2002 by holding the conferral of a outdoor 3rd Degree with Masons attending from all over the State of Nevada. Click here to see the pictures