140 year of Shriners

140 year of Shriners

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A brief history of Freemasonry in Taft


By Kenneth Cooper
The first Masonic Lodge on the West Side was instituted on October 17, 1911, as Midway Lodge No. 426.  It first met in the Redmen’s Hall in the Smith Bros. Building, then after two years moved into the Odd Fellows Hall across the street.
Ten years later, the lodge’s first owned Temple was constructed in 1923 on North Street, where it continues to meet.
The second Masonic Lodge chartered was Maricopa Lodge No. 434, which was instituted on February 6, 1913.  It first met in the Coons & Price Hall and then in the Palace Hall, but after twenty-four years there it opted to purchase the Odd Fellows Hall where it had originally held meetings.  The lodge met in peace until the morning of July 21st when the 1952 Earthquake happened.  Of all the lodges on the West Side, their Temple was the only one damaged beyond repair.  For five years the lodge met at Temblor Lodge in Fellows until 1957 when the Lodge occupied its newly constructed Temple built on the foundation of the old building.
The town of Fellows was also becoming a bustling oilfield community, so a third Masonic Lodge was instituted there on January 14, 1920.  It first met in the Fellows Oil Workers Union Hall, but after a year purchased the Star Rooming House in town and renovated it for a Masonic Temple.
The fourth and last Lodge to be instituted was Taft Lodge No. 516 on December 28, 1921.  For a short time it met in the Taft Odd Fellows Hall until the new Temple was built which it occupied with Midway Lodge.  It had become necessary for a second lodge in town because of the tremendous number of new member applications.
Each lodge had its affiliated Chapters of the Order of Eastern Star.  They were in order of chartering: Maricopa No. 323 in 1913, Taft No. 337 in 1915, Buena Vista No. 364 (Fellows) in 1920, Faith No. 514 (Taft) in 1929.
Other Masonic-related organizations were the Order of DeMolay, Jobs Daughters, Sciots, Commandery of Knights Templar, Royal Arch Masons, High-Twelve, and White Shrine of Jerusalem.
In July 1972, the first of three consolidations occurred when Taft Lodge joined Midway Lodge; thus, causing the name change.  Then in 1973 and 1975, Maricopa and Temblor Lodges respectively consolidated into Taft-Midway Lodge.  Beginning in 1968, all the Eastern Star Chapters consolidated and currently there are none operating on the West Side.
During the 266-years of combined lodge existences, there have been 2,773 Masons on the membership rolls.  All the lodges had very active Masonic and community activities.  Some of the most notable ones were a Masonic degree conferred near the summit of Mt. Abel in 1940 for 1,500 in attendance, an eleven-year tradition of annual elk dinners provided by Louis Dopyera, and a program by the renowned historian Frank F. Latta.  The lodges made many contributions to their communities, but the most notable was a donation in 1999 to the Taft West Kern Oil Museum to construct an adjacent room.
Only two Masons ever received 75-year membership pins.  They were Frederick J. Phoenix in 1975, and Dr. Alexander R. Moodie in 1983.  Due to the minimum petition age for membership, a 75-year member would have to be at least 95 years of age.
The longest officer tenure was by Abner B. Smith, a Taft pioneer businessman, who was the treasurer of Midway Lodge for 44-consecutive years from 1923 – 1966.

Copyright 2011 Taft Midway Driller. Some rights reserved
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