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September 3, 2013 > History: Free and Accepted Masons 150th Anniversary

History: Free and Accepted Masons 150th Anniversary

It rained all winter and into spring. Floods covered the lowlands and made travel almost impossible. Hundreds of cattle drowned or starved. Much of the land never had a chance to dry out. Crops were ruined and people were despondent. Scarlet fever devastated many families and killed their children. Civil war ravished the country. In the midst of this turmoil and tumult, fraternal brothers James Beazell, Perry Morrison, Samuel I. Marston, Thomas Scott, G.H. Ellsworth, G.M. Kutz and Andrew J. McDavid opened Alameda Lodge No. 167, Free and Accepted Masons on September 9, 1863.

T.J. Walker and Howard Overacker were the first candidates to be initiated. Howard donated an acre from his farm on Niles Road as a site for the first lodge building. The seafaring brothers landed lumber on a point near Alvarado and hauled it by oxen to the building site; Lodge brothers contributed labor and tools to erect a two-story structure. The lower floor was fitted with several bunks and a pantry to assist members who were marooned by heavy rains and unable to return to their homes. A winding stairway illuminated by a brass lantern led to the meeting room on the second floor. Horses and buggies were kept in sheds at the rear of the building.

The lower room served as a banquet hall when needed; it was later rented to provide funds for the lodge. The tenants helped with improvements such as paint and lamps. Trustees of Union High School No. 2 rented the lower floor and fitted the main room for classes which began January 11, 1892.

Lodge members decided in 1910 to sell the property and construct a new hall on Centerville's main street. Gifts and loans by members helped finance the new building which was completed in 1914. The old Masonic Hall served as a residence and even a church over the years. It was demolished to make room for the Fremont Memorial Chapel Mortuary in 1963, the year Alameda Lodge celebrated its 100th anniversary. Officials dedicated a plaque in 1976 to mark the site of the original Alameda Masonic Lodge and first high school in Washington Township.

Alameda Lodge grew from the original seven members to over 350 by 1969. Membership grew so rapidly that they made plans to construct a larger temple, but this never happened. Instead, members have worked to refurbish the temple. It was retrofitted for earthquakes, an elevator was added, the kitchen and dining room were remodeled and the lodge room renovated.

A few artifacts were saved from the old building including the wooden square, rule and gavel, the pedestal for three candles, the huge square lantern which hung on the outside of the wall facing Fremont Street (now Peralta) and the heavy brass lantern that illuminated the winding staircase of the old building. Also, the huge brass key to the Tiler's room is a relic from the ship which brought the lumber for the original hall.

The Principal Tenants and Cardinal Virtues are the backbone of the organization and were the reason for its popularity in the past as well as today. The Principal Tenants of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth. The Cardinal Virtues are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. Members of the lodge include men from a wide range of vocations, races and religions who have joined for a variety of reasons. All have been recommended by a current lodge member.

Alameda Lodge No. 167 continues its fraternal tradition in the Tri-City area during this, its one hundred and fiftieth year. Today's two hundred and twenty-eight members maintain a strong presence in the community by supporting public schools, blood drives, child I.D. programs and sponsoring projects that aid widows and orphans.

Local members of the Alameda Lodge have included many prominent people of the community such as: Larry Milnes (director of public works for the City of Fremont), John Pihl (water district director and vice president of Pacific States Steel), Jack Prouty (Alameda County Water District director, Irvington School District superintendent), Dick Condon (first Fremont chief of police), Tony Scafani (Niles school district superintendent), Jack Parry (Fremont City councilman and planning commission member), Roland Terry (1st director of the Boys Club in Fremont), Rollin Cunningham (Fremont city councilman), Clark Redeker (Newark city council member), Alan Hirsch (Irvington businessman) and Randy Griffin (Irvington builder).

Four of the longest serving lodge members include Clark Redeker, Jack McClellan, Jack Myrick and George Stewart who helped provide information for this story. Steve Fasolis and Neal Greenberg were also helpful.

Happy 150th anniversary!

Visit the Museum of Local History, 190 Anza Street (Wednesdays, Fridays and the second Saturday and Sunday of each month 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.) and view our special exhibit of the Freemasons.

The public is invited to an open house at Masonic Lodge #167, 37419 Fremont Boulevard in the Centerville District of Fremont on Saturday, September 7, 2013. Refreshments will be served at 11:30 a.m. followed by a presentation by, Grand Master of California John F. Lowe at 12noon and a flag ceremony, introductions and Time Capsule ceremony at 1 p.m. For more information, contact the Lodge at (510) 791-3185 or Grand Master Steve Fasolis (925) 577-0192. (TCV thanks Phil Swift for Open House information)

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