Our History

Amity Lodge 472 was constituted on October 3, 1866, and is the oldest organization in the City of West Chicago. Our founding members played an integral role in the development of the city, and our current members are active community supporters. We will be updating our historical information on this site in preparation for our 150th anniversary in 2016, so please check back often...

 

Amity Lodge No. 472: The First Hundred Years (1866 - 1966)

In the early 1830s, the first settlers arrived in Turner (now West Chicago) from the eastern states and also as immigrants from other lands, particularly England and Ireland.

 

It may be safe to assume that some of these folks had been associated with Free Masonry elsewhere and eventually conceived the idea of forming a Lodge in this community, as was being done in many of the surrounding settlements.

 

Dispensation was issued on November 3, 1865, for a Lodge to be known as J. B. Turner Lodge at Turner, Du Page County. The following year, on October 3, 1866, a charter was issued to J. B. Turner Lodge, Under Dispensation (U. D.) as Amity Lodge No. 472.

 

Those named in the charter were: John H. Lakey - Worshipful Master, Joseph McConnell - Senior Warden, Richard Bushnell - Junior Warden, and the following members: Joel Wiant, H. K. Ketcham, John McWilliams, John Tye, FF Loveland, J. Newburger, Wm Ripley, Michael Fessler, AH Wiant, G MCAuley and Thomas Wiant.

 

The charter fee was seven dollars. The lodge started with twenty-four members, raising nine the first year.

 

In 1871 all records of the Grand Lodge and those of lodges which were in the office of Grand Secretary were destroyed by fire in the City of Peoria, and in 1876 our own lodge records were also destroyed, so it is very difficult to secure much information regarding records of the first ten years of Masonic activities in our lodge.

 

It would appear from what information is available, that even in those early days, when Masonry was greatly coveted by those who were not members, petitions were scarce and growth was slow. It is noted that several petitions were rejected during these years, ­one of them a minister and the Lodge did not hesitate in sus­pending members who did not fulfill their obligations. In 1871, three were raised and the membership was then fifty-eight.

 

Regarding the fire which destroyed our records, the following material has been supplied:

 

After changing places of meetings several times, this lodge finally secured a nicely fitted and well-adorned hall in Caspar Voll's brick block, which was subsequently destroyed by fire, the lodge losing everything, but were happily insured for money enough to enable them to furnish another hall on a more limited scale, but comfortable and convenient, with all the requisite appurtenances.

 

Very little information is available at the present time con­cerning the fire which destroyed the two-story brick Voll's Block, housing the Masonic Hall, presumably in January, 1876. The fire evidently was a disastrous one as the surrounding wooden side­walks were burned out, and as a petition to the village board for their replacement indicates.

 

An illustration of the 1870 erected building in the 1874 Thompson Bros. and Burr's Combination Atlas Map of DuPage County shows the business block being occupied, on the first floor, by Caspar Voll, who dealt in dry goods and notions, and by John C. Neltnor, who handled dry goods and groceries. The stores were separated by a center door and stairway to the upper floor. Directly above Voll's store, Amity Lodge had their hall.

 

From the records of the Village of Turner we find the Entry for January 7, 1876: "Matter of sidewalks at Neltnor's new store taken up.” For March 3, 1876: "moved and seconded, that the sidewalks burnt away in front of the ruins of Mr. Volls store be rebuilt with a 5 1/3 foot walk forwith." Mr. Voll, how­ever, moved to a different location and operated a store under the name of Voll and Reed, and the Lodge continued to pay rent of a Mr. Hall to Mr. Voll until June 1, 1883.

 

The Lodge spent the sum of $405.49 for furnishing the Hall and paid six dollars a year for insurance of furniture. Bro. Voll was secretary of the Lodge and held that office until January, 1879. Frank F. Loveland was Master, having followed John Lakey, these two brethren serving intermittently as Masters for the first ten years with the exception of 1874, when James B. Trull held the Master’s chair. The annual dues were two dollars plus seventy-five cents for Grand Lodge dues. Fee for degree was ten dollars for each degree. The membership was the same as in 1871, fifty-eight members, though it did vary from year to year. Fifty copies of the By-Laws were ordered printed.

 

Regardless of the hardships the Lodge had undergone, the practice of true Masonry was not interrupted. Donations to worthy causes were frequently made, one or two dollars for the relief of a needy, worthy brother, for the widow or children of a deceased brother, for aid of orphans and others, not necessarily connected with Masonry in any way. Nor was it done just for people in and around this community, but for needy in neighboring and often times faraway places, the requests being forwarded from other Lodges. At times larger amounts were allotted to Lodges, that had lost their building through fire. In 1883 and again in 1884, the sum of ten dollars was paid "for aid of the Fraternity, who had lost their homes and property, destroyed in the flooded districts."

 

In 1879 a committee was appointed to “investigate contributions for grave stone at H. H. Ketcham's grave".The Lodge did not at any time, have a great amount of money on hand; $31.15 in 1877, $41.41 in 1879, $104.42 in 1883, $107.04 in 1889, etc.

 

Funeral services were oftentimes held in the late home of a deceased brother and, when needed, cost of coffin and other ex­penses paid for by the Lodge. Several funeral ceremonies, similar in character to the one herein described, are recorded in the book of Communications.

 

In a Special Communication of March 11, 1883, the Worshipful Master announced the business of the meeting, which was to inter the remains of Bro. Theo Diffenbach, who was killed in an explosion of Engine No. 61 at Rochelle, Illinois, Friday, March 9. A. D. 1883, A. L. 5883.

 

The Lodge was called from labor to refreshment and formed a procession, then marched to the late residence of the deceased, received his remains and conveyed them to Oak Wood Cemetery, accompanied by a vast concourse of citizens and friends, where his remains were interred with Masonic Honors in deep solemnity. After which the brethren returned to the Lodge room. The Lodge was called from refreshment to labor and closed in due form. Afterward dinners were served for the Craft, the Lodge paying the cost.

 

Forty some members of our Lodge were present, several members of DC Cregier Lodge No. 643, Chicago, and a number of members from Wheaton Lodge No. 269, Geneva Lodge No. 139, Horicon Lodge No. 244, Rochelle and out of State, Englesby Lodge No. 48, St. Albans VT.

 

The Lodge at one time secured a number of burial lots in Oak­wood Cemetery, of which today we have no record. The Oak Wood Cemetery Association was founded by Joseph McConnell in 1858 and in the 1880s headed by Joel Wiant, both charter members of our Lodge.

 

Turning from the human side of historical events, we find that our fore-bears had similar problems to those our newer generation has experienced in regard renting of Hall. Asking the landlord to fix up the premises, looking at a different location and comm­ittee appointments are some of the items recorded from time to time.

 

Notations of expenses, unknown to us of this day and age, are such as payment for stoves and pipes, wood cutting - with very little mentioning of coal, lamps and chimneys, fuel and cleaning of chimneys. Perhaps here should be mentioned the very frequent cleaning of aprons but we are not inclined to think that the creation of smoke from stoves and lamps was the sole reason for this pre­-cautionary action.

 

On June 1, 1883, after having signed contract with JE Stand­ige for rent of hall at $75.00 per year, the Lodge moved to its location. Mr. Standidge operated a livery stable and at one time a farm implement store on what is now Main Street in West Chicago and these premises included a hall, where the previous year the Village Trustees had held their meetings.

 

From the Grand Lodge Annual Report, in our library since 1888, we find that Amity Lodge then belonged to the 8th District, composed of Kendall, Du page, Will and Grundy counties. The mem­bership again was 58 but thereafter showed a steady increase: 82 in 1900, 109 in 1910, 155 in 1915, 187 in 1920 with its highest peak in 1929 with 250 members.In 1890, Norris and Son erected a building on Main Street for their new furniture and undertaking establishments and added a third floor for the Masonic Hall. Whether the Lodge had remained at their former quarters after June, 1889 is not clear. Some of the older members of our Lodge are under the impression that the Lodge at one time met above what later became Wards Lumber Co., but if it was about that period it is not certain.From the first meeting in this hall in January 1891 to the last meeting held in the Norris building in the summer of 1926, about 320 new members signed the by-laws of our lodge. The largest number in one year was in 1921, when Gordon Kater was Master… 29 according to the book of registry.

 

In 1912 the rent was fifty dollars per month, the lodge furnishing its own heat. A little interesting item from the Grand Lodge report of that year: "In October, at the Grand Lodge Convention in Chicago, on recom­mendation of the Most Worshipful Grand Master, it was decreed that the practice of smoking in Lodge Halls while conferring de­grees be prohibited."

 

On January 30, 1922, a meeting of Masonic Temple Association Committee was held at Dr. CW Keppler's office with Mr. Joe Wills as acting chairman and Mr. HH Benjamin as secretary to discuss the Temple proposition.

 

The Amity Lodge Temple Association was instituted in the latter part of 1923 and the following year took over the management of the Masonic Hall. The constitution and by-laws, submitted by a committee thereon, were adopted. That the hearts of men, members of the Masonic Lodge, long have been set on the idea of some day having a building of their own is evident from the records of their past.

 

In 1926, after exploring other possibilities, the association entered into a lease with MJ Town for the second floor of the building which then was the Odd Fellows Hall, now 117 Main Street. Here the Lodge stayed until the fall of 1931 when the manage­ment of the Temple Association leased from the Bolles estate the premises in which we still meet. The association now consisted of the members of Amity Lodge with Bro. RC Kelsey presiding in the Board of Directors for about ten years.

 

The financial situation of the association was at a very low ebb, the meetings were poorly attended and from February 26, 1942, to November 7, 1945, there are no records. Few new members were received into the Lodge during the war years, but after the war a marked increase in membership is recorded.

 

Realizing 'that things had changed,' our monthly rent in the early '50s was the same as the yearly rent at the turn of the century. With a continued increase of new members and with, so to say, new blood in the Lodge, the talk of securing our own Temple again came to life.

 

In 1956, the Lodge bought a parcel of land for a building site, made possible through cash donations by members and the Lodge being able to pay the balance. Seventy members donated to this worthy cause and a total of $1733.00 was collected. When the West Chicago State Bank, owner of the Atcherson building, late in 1957 made the Masons a proposition and gave them first choice in buying the building, there was no way in which the Lodge or Temple Association could enter into contract with the Bank for this purpose. After several meetings it was decided to form a corporation, issue bonds and go to work. The Masonic Temple Association subsequently was dissolved, having served its purpose well and now of no further need.

 

Perhaps some were a little doubtful as to how well the business of selling bonds would go over, but the Board of Directors of this corporation, Atcherson Association, are happy to report that, in spite of the many problems the Board has had to cope with, things are going quite well so far, proud to have acquired the building which the Lodge can look upon as their own in the near future and hope for a much earlier liquidation of outstanding bonds than at first anticipated.

 

The parcel of land, bought in 1956, was sold at a profit, enabling the Lodge to make a substantial initiary purchase of bonds to which each year has been added several bonds, obtained from individual holders.

 

An 'almost new kitchen' with a new sink and several beautiful wood cabinets has replaced the old narrow one. The premises formerly occupied by the state Bank were rejuvenated for rental purposes, the bul1ding was tuck pointed and coping stones secured. An inclinator for the stairway was installed, thanks to the donations from Henrietta Chapter, Amity Lodge and many generous indi­vidual donors.

 

Men of today, like men of old, still show their love for our Fraternity by donating their time and services and, when seeing it needed, have given things of material value.

 

The many new faces in our Lodge should provide ample proof of the activities in the Lodge in recent years, but it is with deep thoughts we realize that a near equal number of members have left our circle for That Great Beyond. As of this writing, June 1966, Amity Lodge has a membership of 185. The oldest living member is Elmer E. Martin, who will celebrate his 92nd birthday on November 12, of this year. Of the 32 living Past Masters, Paul Brown has the oldest service record, 1913. Robert A. Wheeland, who was Master in 1919, on the 1st of June, 1966, received his recognition as a 50 year member of our Lodge.

 

Social events in the later years have regularly been on the agenda, such as Father and Son banquets, Pancake supper, our Annual outdoor Summer Picnic and the Children’s Christmas Party. Though a banquet today cannot be arranged at the total cost of Seven Dollars (including 25 cigars) as in the 1880s, our annual Past Masters Banquet is still one of our main and most colorful events

 

By Nils L. Kullman, 1966

 

“We know that memories of men

Will fade and then be gone.

But records of our fathers' deeds

May pass from son to son”

 

Voll's Block circa 1870
The Norris Building circa 1890
Atcherson