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Friday, August 18th, 2017

Rockford Masonic lodge marks 150 years

By Tom Stankard

Shanes Masonic Lodge 377 officers pose with the original charter from the Grand. . .

ROCKFORD - Members of Shanes Masonic Lodge invite area residents to join them in celebrating its sesquicentennial anniversary on Saturday.
In Senior Warden Norman Fleming's history of the foundation, he wrote that a disposition was granted to a group to meet and form a Masonic Lodge in Shanes Crossing (now Rockford) in 1866.
The first meeting at the lodge was Dec. 27 of that year with the Worshipful Brother Smith H. Clark presiding and by-laws adopted. A charter was granted in 1867 to Shanes Lodge 377.
Members back then met on the second floor of the Dysert-Fritz building on the second block of Main Street, Fleming wrote.
"Our lodge seal still says 'Shanes Crossing,'" he wrote.
Over time, new buildings were constructed on the first block of Main Street. The second story in the new Wagers Building was available for lease. Younger members wanted to lease the space, but the older ones "wanted no part in it," Fleming wrote.
During one meeting night, the snow on Main Street was "hip deep to an elephant" and older members couldn't get there while the younger ones could, Fleming wrote. So they seized the opportunity and voted to move to the new building and occupied it in 1916. Members celebrated the dedication of the new lodge along with the charter's golden anniversary.
"A dinner and dance was held for all to enjoy," he wrote.
Rooms in the adjacent Bixler building were leased by the Masons 10 years later, so the lodge was expanded to include a kitchen and dining/social rooms, Fleming wrote.
"The War to End all Wars, the Great Depression, then (World War II) kept things quiet in the lodge for a number of years," he wrote. "Then, men returning from military service produced a significant increase in membership during the late 1940s through the 1960s."
Fleming wrote that Shanes Lodge celebrated its centennial on Sept. 18, 1967, with a dinner served at the Parkway cafeteria followed by a ceremony in the school auditorium and later at the lodge.
Deteriorating conditions in the early 2000s created the need to relocate, Fleming wrote.   
Masons petitioned and received a dispensation from the Grand Master to hold meetings in the meeting room of the Order of the Eagles on South Main Street in Rockford and the masons accomplished the move on July 7, 2007, Fleming wrote.
"This arraignment has been beneficial for our lodge, and we appreciate the continued support for our decision," he wrote.
Worshipful Master Randall W. Rumple told the newspaper that membership has been steady since 2007 with 138 current members.
Rumple said he joined in 1977 and has had no regrets for the past 40 years. At that time, he wanted to join because his father was a member and he knew members were "outstanding men with high moral values and believed in God."
Despite many attempts to recruit younger members, Rumple said they "are not interested" in joining clubs.
Freemasonry consists of fraternal organizations that can trace their origins to the local fraternities of stonemasons, Rumple said. To be a Free Mason is to live "a way of life" that is kind at home, honest in business, courteous in society and believes in God.
The public is encouraged to attend the 150th anniversary celebration beginning at 6:30 p.m. at the Shane's Park Community Building. This anniversary also coincides with the 300th anniversary Grand Lodge building in England, he pointed out.
"It's a great feeling," he said.
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