Vol. XVIII No. 6 — June 1940

The “Small” Grand Lodges

Seven grand lodges in the United States have less than ten thousand Masons. “Ten thousand” is a round figure — as a matter of fact the largest of the seven has less than nine thousand Masons.

These seven — six in the West, one in the East — are 14.28 percent of our forty-nine grand lodges, but have but 1.62 percent of the total Masonic population; 1.87 percent of the total number of lodges.

Yet Arizona, Delaware, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming have a total area of 616,352 square miles; together they are nine square miles larger than the combined areas of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi!

All seven combined have a civil population less by that of half-a-dozen small towns than Oklahoma. And all seven together have a Masonic population less by fifteen hundred than the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, and have but two more lodges than the Grand Lodge of Nebraska. Forty-four such grand lodges would not equal New York in Masonic population!

So when these seven are denominated "small” reference is made not to size of terrain but to numbers of Masons and lodges.

Cicero said “The beginnings of all things are small.” Zacharias asked “For who shall despise the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10) And Ecclesiastes noted that “He that contemneth small things shall fall by little and little.” (Ecclesiastes 19:1)

With this in mind, let us look at the quality of Masonry inculcated and upheld by these “small” grand lodges.

All of them follow the general pattern of all American grand lodges; neither small size nor little income prevents them from maintaining Grand Lodge offices, having full time paid Grand Secretaries, some of them national Masonic figures, publishing very excellently printed, well arranged and complete Proceedings, writing and publishing Correspondence Reports, maintaining the Grand Representative system, and having, six of them, Masonic Foundations or charity funds, and the seventh, a Masonic home. All support the Washington Memorial and the Conference of Grand Masters — all are members of The Masonic Service Association.

Six of the seven are “traveling” grand lodges, meeting in different towns each year; Delaware always meets in Wilmington. Utah usually meets in the great Temple at Salt Lake City — a Temple which any grand lodge, no matter what its size or wealth, might be proud to own — but has met in other cities.

The writer of these lines has visited five of these seven grand lodges, some of them several times, and in the two states in which he has not had the privilege of visiting grand lodge, has sat in many particular lodges, attended District meetings, or made an extensive speaking tour to many lodges in the state. It is, therefore, with personal knowledge that the assertion is made that in these “small” grand lodges size has nothing whatever to do with accomplishment. The little grand lodges do for their members as much as is done by the greatest grand lodges for their members. This does not mean, for instance, that the grand lodge with the Masonic home — Delaware — competes with Pennsylvania’s incredibly beautiful Masonic Homes at Elizabethtown in size or completeness of plant. It does mean that Delaware’s Home gives its thirty-four guests as good meals, as comfortable quarters, as tender care and makes them as happy as the guests in any Home, anywhere.

Nor can it be said that Iowa’s system of ritualistic perfection, Massachusetts’ lodges of Instruction, North Dakota’s Educational Secretary, are equaled in these smaller grand lodges. Each grand lodge in the United States has its pet idea and plan, which each grand lodge pursues to the great benefit of its membership, and each grand lodge has accomplishments to which it can point with pride.

The assertion that the smaller grand lodges do for their members what is done by the great does mean that in quality of Masonry, in upholding the dignity and value of the Craft, in charity and help, in inculcating the lessons of Freemasonry, there is no distinction between the little and the large.

The “small” grand lodges are as fortunate in attracting to their leadership the very best men of their states, as are the great grand lodges. In one respect the lesser grand lodges have an advantage over their larger sisters; an intimate personal touch between grand master and craftsmen, between grand lodge and particular lodges. Imagine the grand master of New York, or Texas, or Ohio, or Illinois, or California, or Michigan trying to visit every one of his particular lodges! If they met morning, noon, and night; if the grand master had a private and personal airplane; if every lodge had a landing field, there still would not be enough days in the year to accomplish a feat which is usual in the smaller grand lodges.

What this means in grand lodge sessions is easily sensed by the visitor. It results in a sympathetic understanding of grand lodge aims and aspirations by the representatives of lodges, and, what is perhaps more important, an equally sympathetic understanding by the grand officers of the problems and difficulties of individual lodges.

This great nation of ours — how readily the adjective trips to the pen and tongue! — is overly fond of the superlative. The “largest” building, the “greatest” football team, the “highest” mountain, the "deepest” swimming pool, the “biggest” city — the most, greatest, largest, biggest, finest, oldest, youngest, best, loudest, most colorful! Of the supreme beyond which nothing can go, we find it easy to boast. And, per contra, we are a little inclined to “contemneth small things” — to think of the little town, small school, tiny population, sparse group as somehow less than American. If we cannot have the “biggest in the world,” we boast of the “biggest south of New York,” or “the largest in the county.” Occasionally a Mason from some great and wealthy grand lodge shrugs a shoulder at the little grand lodges, quite forgetting that if it were possible to move his own great machine into the wide open spaces of one of the smaller western grand lodges, it would be as inadequate to understand or do the work which has to be done, as would the little grand lodge transported to the great eastern center!

As six of the “small” grand lodges are in the far west and one in the extreme east it is difficult to generalize without saying something that does not fit Delaware, whose own members make gentle fun of the size of their state, saying “We have three counties at low water and two at high tide.” Yet Delaware (5,188 Masons) has one hundred and thirty-four years of successful life behind her grand lodge; has as “homey” a home as can be imagined; is second in the Nation in contribution to the Washington Masonic Memorial; recently voluntarily reduced the per capita for the home, due to wise investment and management, and runs it as successfully as before; has a scholarship fund from which many a young man and woman has been helped through college; has twenty-two lodges most of which own their own Temples; has one of the finest groups of Masonic players now performing before lodges anywhere, which has repeatedly gone all over the state to entertain and enthuse their follows; owns free and clear a very valuable piece of property in Wilmington, on which they have been wise enough to leave alone an adequate if old Temple until financial skies are clearer; has a fine, high type of upstanding urban and rural membership; has only a “two man line” in grand lodge, all officers below that of deputy being honors without expectation of succession chooses a grand master one year from “upstate.” Next year from “down-state” and Governors, Lieutenant Governors, leading educators, lawyers, doctors and business men have been proud to lead a group of Masons in the practices and principles of a Masonry which has no superiors anywhere.

Delaware’s Correspondence Reports were by Past Grand Master Thomas J. Day, who packed into small space very succinct and thoughtful reviews of other grand lodges. He has just recently gone to join the great majority (December 30, 1939). For many years a beloved brother was grand secretary — Right Worshipful John F. Robinson. He retired last year at his own request, due to age, and was immediately made grand secretary Emeritus. His successor, Right Worshipful Chester R. Jones, Brother Robinson’s assistant for some time, brings to the Craft of Delaware a deep knowledge of Masonry in his state, and has the confidence of his brethren to such an extent that his election as grand secretary was enthusiastically unanimous.

So much for Delaware, the only “small” Eastern grand lodge. Turning now to the western “small” grand lodges, the observer soon notes a spirit hard to define, easy to see; hard to describe, easy to understand. It is a sense of the necessity of Freemasonry, its real, intimate, personal, immediate value. It came into existence in the pioneer days of the covered wagon, the Indian, the outpost, the block house, the courier, the pony express, the mining camp, and the land without railroads, in those days a fraternal bond was as much a necessity as a gun. As in the Revolution when Washington depended so absolutely on certain generals because he knew that mutual Masonry meant trustworthiness, so in the great west two men who had clasped hands before the same altar knew that they could stand back to back and not fear a knife.

The time when neighborliness was essential and brotherhood a necessity has carried over into these modern days. Western Masons do not now carry guns, ride pony express, make their own laws in mining camps. Their cities are as modern, their life as rich with what civilization has to offer as in any state. But the idea of the personal need of Freemasonry persists, and it is this which makes their “small” Masonry great.

The “small' western grand lodges fall naturally into three groups: Arizona and New Mexico: Utah and Nevada: Wyoming and Idaho.

Arizona (fifty-seven years old, 5,477 Masons, thirty-nine lodges) and New Mexico (sixty-three years old, 6,113 Masons, fifty-five lodges) have had, and still have, a problem greater in size than even their broad backs and willing spirits merit — the numbers of craftsmen in search of healthy lungs, who come to visit or to live, run out of funds appeal to lodges, or, alas, not infrequently, come too late, die and must be buried by local lodges. It is a matter of wonder to all who know, how these two grand lodges have stood up to the burden imposed upon them alike by their warm, dry climates, tremendous areas and small populations. Of course they do get some help from the home lodge or Grand Lodge of some distressed sojourning craftsmen — one great Eastern grand lodge has a relief fund in charge of one of these grand lodges especially to help care for these unfortunate brethren. But as a whole Arizona and New Mexico solve their indigent sojourners problem in a Masonic way which merits and receives the admiration of all. In spite of small size and therefore small income, these grand lodges send delegates to the Conference of Grand Masters, the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association, The Masonic Service Association, in February each year in Washington.

Arizona’s correspondence reports are written by various brethren under the direction of the chairman of the committee Most Worshipful Lloyd C. Henning, past grand master, whose trenchant pen and keen analysis have won a great place for his reviews in the fraternal world. The grand secretary — and what a name he has! — Harry Arizona Drachman — is noted not only for the conduct of the affairs of his office, but for his constructive labors as deputy for the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite in his state.

New Mexico has as Fraternal Correspondent Past Grand Master John Milne, who is somewhat restricted as to space, but extremely pertinent in his observations and quotations. The grand secretary is dean of the corps of the United States, Most Worshipful Alpheus A. Keen; last year he celebrated fifty-five years as grand secretary. A gentle, lovable character, deeply learned in Masonry and especially in the history of his state, to know him is a benediction.

If the reader has to go west and get stranded, he can choose much worse places than these two southwestern empires, in which Freemasonry is as strong as it is scarce, judged by standards of more populous states.

Nevada (seventy-five-years old, 3,079 Masons, twenty-six lodges) and Utah (sixty-eight years old, 4,560 Masons, twenty-six lodges) — smallest and next to smallest grand lodges in the nation, have but fifty-two lodges between them — and may easily have five hundred miles between lodges!

Utah has two large cities; Nevada’s biggest is hardly a "big city” although Reno is both beautiful and interesting. Nevada has a number of “ghost towns” — communities which once were thriving, but which now, with the playing out of ore veins, are but shadows of their former greatness — Utah has had a religious problem with which to strive; a state in which exists a very large church which likes not Masonry has not been easy ground on which to cultivate the, kind of Freemasonry which Utah likes. Yet from one end to the other of the gorgeously beautiful land of the Church of Latter Day Saints (and if there is greater beauty to be found in smaller compass than in Bryce, Zion, Cedar Breaks, Natural Bridges, Arches, Wayne Wonderland, it is not to be learned of in guide books) are Masonic lodges intensely loyal to the grand lodge. There is good-natured rivalry between the Ogden and the Salt Lake City Masonic bodies, but it is a healthy rivalry; between the lodges of the smaller communities and the two cities is only good feeling and mutual helpfulness. And to see the grand masters of both Nevada and Utah with a large number of their officers go blithly off on a several hundred mile journey of two days or more to pay an official visitation is heartening; to attend one is an inspiration.

Nevada’s Correspondence Report is now from the hands of Grand Secretary E. C. Peterson. Both as Correspondent and as grand secretary, this past grand master is making an enviable reputation for himself. Known from end to end of his state — and the ends are very far apart — kindly, learned and lovable, Brother Peterson carries many burdens on broad shoulders with a smile.

Utah’s grand secretary, fraternal correspondent, grand historian, and who knows what besides, is the beloved and famous Sam Henry Goodwin. A deep student of Masonic history, an authority on Masonic law, a diplomat, scholar, gentleman and beloved brother. “Sam Henry” as he is affectionately known to multiplied thousands of friends and admirers, occupies a niche in American Freemasonry all his own.

Idaho (seventy-three years old. 8,917 Masons, eighty-one lodges) and Wyoming (sixty-five years old. 7,820 Masons, forty-eight lodges) with more than 40 percent of the total Masonic population of the seven “small” grand lodges, and with nearly 44 percent of their combined lodges, are the largest of this group. In spite of their prosperity of size, they have their own problems. Wyoming and Idaho are both lands of contrasts; great plains, high mountains, precipitous and not too numerous roads (in places) and magnificent distances between lodge and lodge. Both grand lodges “travel” from year to year, holding now in one town, now another. And because railroads here — as indeed, in all the others of the western six — are but few, most of the going to and from grand lodge, as well as inter-lodge visits, is by automobile. It seems a little awesome to visitors from the East who rather kick at having to travel fifty or seventy-five miles to grand lodge, to see brethren blithly travel four, five, sometimes six hundred miles on a Masonic visitation!

Idaho is strong for Masonic education. Wyoming is equally strong on history and tradition; and her Independence Rock, on which the first Masonic meeting in Wyoming was held, is a precious memory and shrine.

Wyoming and Idaho both have prosperous lodges, good Temples, and brainy leadership; they are at one with the other four western “small” grand lodges in helping lodges with charity from grand lodge funds.

Idaho’s Correspondence Report is from the pen of able Most Worshipful Percy Jones, past grand master. There are many who wish his grand lodge Proceedings were a larger book, that his keen topical analysis of Masonic conditions throughout the world might be given more space. The gand secretary, Right Worshipful Curtis F. Pike, carries not only the burdens of that office, but also the Masonic educational work of his jurisdiction, and does both ably and well.

In Wyoming Right Worshipful Joseph M. Lowndes, grand secretary, is also Fraternal Correspondent, and does both jobs — and several more — with ease and success. He is noted for many accomplishments in his grand lodge, but throughout the Masonic world of the United States for the speed with which he gets his Proceedings in the mail after a grand lodge meeting, and the succinct arrangement and beauty of his printed matter.

All six in the West, like the one in the East, have a deep reverence for the reality of Freemasonry, its necessity in men’s lives, its dignity and importance in the civilization in which these great and beautiful lands of huge mountains, deep canyons, marvelous scenery and inspiring story play their part.

That their Freemasonry plays as important a role in the, Freemasonry of the nation is at once their glory and their heritage.

“Though thy beginning was small yet thy latter end should greatly increase.” —Job 8:7

The Masonic Service Association of North America