A Brief History of:
Ephrata Lodge No. 665
Free and Accepted Masons
~ Ephrata, Pennsylvania ~
By Blain F. Fabian, Past Master
Some twenty Masons residing in Ephrata in 1910 sought to weld closer their bonds in the Fraternity and establish a lodge in Ephrata. Thus, we celebrate a century of Masonic progress in Ephrata Lodge No. 665. As we do. We pay tribute to those organizers, warrant officers and members who laid the foundations for our labors and to those brethren who built upon that foundation for now ten decades.
Many do not realize, however, that there were Masonic interests and activities in Ephrata as early as 1799, more than a century before the formation of Lodge No. 665. In fact, there existed a Masonic Lodge at Ephrata in 1800, when Lodge 46 moved here until its warrant was vacated the first time in 1806. Lancaster Lodge No. 43 (celebrating its 250th anniversary this year) was the only older Masonic Lodge in Lancaster County.
The Move of Lodge 46 to Ephrata
On December 2, 1799, Permission to move Lodge No. 46 from Churchtown to Ephrata was refused by the Grand Lodge. Permission was granted, however, on June 2, 1800. Lodge 46 held its meetings in a house east of the present Bethany United Church of Christ. That location now would be 144 East Main Street, which later became the long time residence of Past Master William Bixler.
The warrant of Lodge No. 46 was vacated on April 7, 1806, but reinstated the following September. Six years later, on October 5, 1812, Lodge No. 46 was reported to Grand Lodge as “having been irregularly removed to New Holland.” Proper removal was granted and confirmed on November 16 of the same year. Labor in New Holland was short. The Lodge petitioned Grand Lodge on June 24, 1813, to sanction a move back to Ephrata. The petition was granted and the Lodge returned to Ephrata.
Minutes of the Grand Lodge show that Lodge No. 46 was moved to Lititz on April 24, 1825, but that move was not reported to the Grand Lodge until September 4, 1826. The warrant for Lodge No. 46 was vacated on February 6, 1837.
So it happened that there was Masonic labor in Ephrata beginning in 1800, 100 years prior to the constitution of Ephrata Lodge No. 665. Much of the 19th Century was a declining era for all fraternities and Masonry suffered some setbacks. By the 20th Century, however, it had started new advances leading to the mid-century successes. The birth of Ephrata Lodge was part of the new success.
Area Masons Form Nucleus for Ephrata Lodge
In 1910 there were about 20 Masons in Ephrata who were members of lodges in Lancaster, Berks and Montgomery counties. They, together with Masons from surrounding communities such as Akron, Denver, Millway, Rothsville and Schoeneck, formed the nucleus of what would become Ephrata Lodge No. 665.
On February 28, 1910, a meeting was held at the Hotel Cocalico to discuss the advisability of constituting a Masonic lodge in Ephrata. A committee comprising Brothers Walter W. Moyer, Harry H. Singer and Joseph T. Evans was appointed “… to call on all Masonic brethren in Ephrata and vicinity seeking their views relative to the forming of a lodge here.” Less than two months later, on April 7, the committee called a meeting of those previously contacted and urged concrete action be taken. Brother John W. Lansinger, District Deputy Grand Master, was present at the meeting and advised the brethren of the procedures for obtaining a warrant.
On May 16, 1910, a temporary organization was affected and Brother Walter W. Moyer was elected Worshipful Master; Brother Harry H. Singer, Senior Warden’ Brother Joseph T. Evans, Junior Warden, and Brother Frank E. Engle, Secretary. On motion, the brethren were directed to procure their withdrawal cards from their various lodges so that the application for a warrant could be made to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania at the June meeting. It was decided unanimously “that the name shall become Ephrata Lodge.”
According to a report of a meeting on June 3, 1910, “Brothers Walter W. Moyer, Harry H. Singer, Joseph T. Evans, Jacob B. Eshelman and Frank E. Engle, as a committee, attended Grand Lodge in reference to procuring a warrant for the new lodge.” It was granted. Lodge files contain a receipt from Grand Lodge dated June 2, 1910 for the “Warrant for Ephrata Lodge No. 665--- $200.00.”
Ephrata Lodge is Constituted
Ephrata Lodge No. 665 was constituted at a special communication of Grand Lodge held in Ephrata at 2 P.m. on September 9, 1910, in a lodge hall at the corner of West Main and Church Streets. Right Worshipful Grand Master George W. Guthrie and his Grand Lodge Officers installed the Officers of the new Ephrata Lodge with 103 Masons present.
Ephrata’s First Lodge Hall Leased, Furnished
For six years the lodge hall at West Main and Church Streets was leased from Brother Levi Y. Eitnier. However, during the necessary remodeling, meetings were held in Stine’s Hall, which was later the Eagle Hotel..
Samuel L Weaver
Jacob B Eshelman
Frank E Engle, Senior Deacon
Harry R Mohler, Junior Deacon
James M Bingeman, Senior Master of Ceremonies
Clayton E Hinkel, Junior Master of Ceremonies
Harry E Hartman, Chaplain
Phares S Frederick (Manheim Lodge No. 587) Tyler
William E Crouse, Guide
(The same officers were re-elected at the end of 1910 to serve
until the end of the 1911 Masonic Year. Initiation in the beginning years of
Ephrata Lodge were $15 and annual dues were $5.)
A September 13, 1910 receipt from Brother Eitnier, who operated a furniture store in the building, details the purchase of the lodge furnishings, nearly all of which are still in use in various parts of the Lodge hall to this day. A copy of the receipt is on display in the exhibit cases in the outer lobby of the second floor. Another time tested acquisition is the safe purchased from the H. Stiffel Company in 1911 for $65.00 which stands in the Examining Room.
At the time of the constitution, during the early days of the Lodge’s labors and throughout the history of the lodge, numerous gifts of furnishings, tools, etc., were presented to the Lodge. The first recorded was a unique and treasured gavel presented by Brother Elmer L. Billingfelt, a resident of Adamstown and a member of Isaac Hiester Lodge No. 660. Reading. It remains on display among the Lodge’s memorabilia. The head of the gavel was made of stone taken from the quarries of King Solomon under the city of Jerusalem- the same site from which the stone was taken for the Temple constructed by King Solomon. The handle was made of olive wood taken from the Mount of Olives.
Ephrata, along with brother lodges in Lancaster County, joined in the construction of a Lancaster County building on the Masonic Homes grounds at Elizabethtown. This Lodge adopted its resolution, as did the other lodges in the county, for the several lodges to transfer collectively $15,430 in 1915, when Brother Harry R. Mohler was Worshipful Master. Our Lodge also adopted a resolution that year that an additional $20,000 should be raised by the same lodges for increasing the same fund.
Twenty-two Lodge Members Served in World War I
Twenty-two members were called temporarily from Lodge labors to take part in World War I. All returned. The Lodge, at the time each member was called to service, presented him with an identification coin and Grand Lodge certificate. Brothers H. Wilson Zwally, Henry Walter and Walter R. Goodman were Worshipful Masters during 1917, 1918 and 1919 respectively.
In 1920 , when Brother Peter R. Shirk was Worshipful Master, the service flag, along with the names of those members who served their country during the war, was framed. It remains on display in the Examining Room.
Twentieth Anniversary History Recalls Early Years
Labors of the Lodge continued with no less importance, but in a routine manner, as the Fraternity continued to flourish in Ephrata. When Brother William M. Crouse was the Worshipful Master in 1930, the Lodge marked its Twentieth Anniversary with a dinner and program at South Mountain Manor. Included in the program was a complete history of the Lodge presented by Past Master H. Wilson Zwally. In one of his later histories, he reported:
“In our early years, we met at the hall and proceeded to the place of the (annual) banquet in a body, either at the old Band Hall on Locust Street, the Hotel Cocalico or McVey’s (restaurant) at the corner of East Main Street and North State Street (which was the century-old, log-constructed skyscraper in Ephrata at the time.) How all that food was elevated up that narrow, steep stairway by manpower, running at an angle of about 15 degrees is a mystery to me. Good’s Hotel also was a place we banqueted.”
Past Master Zwally recorded much of the Lodge’s business, traditions and customs. But one additional thing recalled by long-time members was the oncecustomary “extra” banquet held from time to time. “It was customary in the early years of the lodge, for each 20 initiates to band together to provide a banquet for the membership.”
In 1931, when Brother A Earl Weaver was Worshipful Master, Masons paid tribute to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Brother George Washington. Past Master Joseph T. Evans represented Ephrata Lodge at ceremonies held by the Grand Lodge in Philadelphia. In both 1921 and 1932, Past Master Zwally provided historical matter on “Two Centuries of Freemasonry in Pennsylvania” and “George Washington as a Mason.” Ephrata Lodge participated in county-wide Washington Memorial services in Boys High School in Lancaster.
Ephrata’s Present Lodge Site Purchased
The present site of Ephrata Lodge was purchased in 1933, when Brother Weidler E. Burkholder was the Worshipful Master. It was the former Central Theater location and was bought from Brother J. Kreider Kertz, who had made the original purchase and spent $247.65 removing those features which were objectionable and dangerous. (The Central Theater had been the scene of a fire.) The property was bought for $7,247.54.
During the year, different projects related to the building were proposed, but finances would not warrant action, so all efforts were abandoned for several months. Then, the Trustees secured the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania as a tenant and the first floor was remodeled according to the tenant’s specifications. The Lodge planned to use the second and third floors for Lodge quarters.
The next year, while Brother Leroy D. Wolf was the Worshipful Master, a resolution was adopted to finish the second and third floors of the new building to become the Lodge quarters. Authorization was given to the Trustees to borrow the needed money.
Ephrata Lodge Moves To Present Site
At a special meeting on March 21, a resolution was adopted to move to the new Lodge site at 29-31 West Main Street. At the April stated meeting, Contractor Harry F. Good reported the building completed and Past Master Burkholder, Chairman of the Building Committee, received the key and then passed it to Past Master Zwally, who received it for the Trustees.
Brother Elmer W. Binkley was Worshipful in 1935 when the Lodge celebrated its Silver Anniversary. Paying tribute to the 25 years of Masonic progress, Past Master Zwally wrote in his 1952 history:
“Another noteworthy event of our Lodge was the 25th Anniversary and Warrant Members’ Night with all of the 13 surviving Warrant Members present. The membership at that time was 296. Brother Elmer Binkley was Worshipful Master and Brother Winfield Scott Brendle delivered the address of the evening. This was also the first anniversary of meeting in our new building.”
Brother Galen M. Frankhouser was the Worshipful Master when the Lodge’s thirtieth Anniversary was observed in 1940. There were only five of the Warrant members present.
It was in 1942, during World War II, that the Grand Lodge established the ceremony of the presentation of the flag and recommended that it be included in the business of the Lodge at each Stated Meeting. The same year, St. John the Evangelist’s Day fell on a Sunday and the Pastor of the First Reformed Church (now affiliated with the United Church of Christ) invited the brethren to attend a vesper service at the church. (Rev.) Brother David J. W. Noll preached a special sermon fitting the occasion. Brother Aldus E. Sheaffer was the Worshipful Master.
Ten Years At Present Site Celebrated
On Past Masters’ Night in 1943, Worshipful Master William S. Bixler celebrated the Tenth Anniversary of the purchase of the present Lodge site. He had historic pamphlets printed and reported on the Labors of his predecessors. Also, of important in 1943 as a result of an inquiry by Ephrata Lodge, the Grand Lodge defined the territorial jurisdiction of Ephrata Lodge No, 665.
Three jewels, to be worn by the Worshipful Master, Senior Warden and junior Warden were presented to the Lodge by Past Master William A Morrow in 1946. Brother Irwin D. Hatt was the Worshipful Master.
In 1948, when Brother Ernest J. Stewart was the Worshipful Master, a resolution was adopted to authorize the Trustees to secure a memorial plaque displaying the names of those brethren of the Lodge who served our country in World War II. This was procured with the financial assistance of Past Master Sheaffer and remains displayed in the Lodge. Later the same year, another resolution was adopted authorizing the Trustees to purchase 23 copies of the Honor Roll compiled by the Grand Lodge and to present one to each of the brethren of our Lodge who had served in World War II. The presentations were made at the December stated meeting.
Ground Floor Made Into Social Hall
In March 1949, while Brother M. Hummer Snader was the Worshipful Master, the Trustees were authorized to investigate remodeling the basement of the Lodge Hall into a social room. In June, they were authorized to renovate the basement and the front entrance as well as provide for the sewer connections. It was in November 1950, while Brother Robert J. Hamilton was Worshipful Master, that $2,500 was authorized to complete the basement as a social hall.
In May of 1951 another $1,000 was authorized for providing furnishings for the social room. Brother Augustus Deibler was the Worshipful Master. Kitchen equipment was acquired for the social room in 1955, while Brother John H. Moyer was the Worshipful Master. The same year, the Lodge converted to oil heat.
New lighting fixtures were installed in the Lodge hall and the Lodge room repainted in 1957 when Brother Abram Althouse was Worshipful Master.
Golden Anniversary Observed
Brother Henry Leid was the Worshipful Master when it came time to observe the 50th Anniversary. Ephrata had a proud record of prosperity and started the year with 541 members, 501 more than at the end of its first year. The “Pennsylvania Plan” was adopted in 1960 to support the George Washington Memorial by contributing one dollar for each member. After initiating 15 candidates during the year, Ephrata Lodge forwarded $565 and has continued the allocations for new members each year.
The highlight of 1960 was the informal visitation of the Right Worshipful Grand Master Max F. Balcom and a Grand Lodge party of 13 to celebrate the Golden Anniversary of Ephrata Lodge No. 665. After a special meeting at the Lodge Hall, a banquet was held in the American Legion ballroom. An Ephrata Lodge quartet was organized to entertain the brethren at the banquet and comprised Brothers William S. Brubaker, Ernest S. Mackley, Leroy G. Weinhold and Frank M. Winter. Brother Gerald S. Wingenroth, dance band leader and music teacher, was the quartet’s pianist and organist for the dinner music.
New aprons and collars were purchased by the Lodge for the Officers in time for the special activities of the Golden Anniversary year.
First Official Ladies Night
While there had been social gatherings of brethren and their ladies from time to time through the years, when Brother Wayne Heberlig was Worshipful Master in 1961, the first officially sanctioned “Ladies Night” was held. It was also in the American Legion ballroom.
Brother Charles G. Rollin, who later became Worshipful Master in 1968, presented the Lodge with an illuminated electric clock which was mounted above the Senior Warden’s station. The quiet time piece replaced the ticking schoolroom-style pendulum clock above the water cooler in the southwest corner of the Lodge room. To the pleasure of nostalgic members, the traditional time keeper was never removed, but continues quietly where it has been for as long as any member today can remember.
Past Master Charles H. Nitsch honored the Lodge as the guest speaker at the annual banquet in the Durlach-Mt Airy fire hall in 1963 when Brother Martin M. Grothe was the Worshipful Master.
Air conditioning was installed in the Lodge hall in 1963. It was one of many improvements to be planned systematically and provided for the lodge throughout the (following) quarter century, such as new blue carpeting (1970, Brother Richard Stewart, Worshipful Master), drapes, theater style upholstered seats (1973, Brother Russell S Shirker, Worshipful Master) and repainting and remodeling the front entrance.
When Brother Chester E. Althouse was Worshipful Master in 1964, it was resolved that, “Any member who has paid his dues to 50 years automatically will become an honorary member of this lodge.”
Decision To Sponsor DeMolay Chapter
First steps were taken to bring DeMolay to Ephrata in 1965. Brother Blain F. Fabian was the Worshipful Master when it was resolved to sponsor a DeMolay Chapter and Past Master Ira Henly was named Chairman of a committee to pursue the project. Two years later, when Brother Carl C Owens was Worshipful Master, Cloister Chapter, Order of DeMolay, was organized under the sponsorship of Ephrata Lodge.
During that same year, for what might have been the only time in Ephrata Lodge’s history, a meeting was held completely by candlelight. The memorable atmosphere was not by design; it occurred in November as the result of the historic blackout which darkened much of the northeast. There is no record of when electricity came to the Lodge, though it was available before 1910.
Preservation Of Memorabilia Organized
Worshipful Master Brother Charles W. Steffy recognized the need for care of the Lodge’s historical items and memorabilia. In 1974, he named Brother Lyle Sherk to be Curator and Past Master Harry E. Lorah Assistant Curator, to collect and make provisions for the memorabilia’s safekeeping and display. At first, some articles were displayed in a show case in the Lodge sitting room, but in 1984, when Brother William Lausch was Worshipful Master, built in floor to ceiling display cabinetry was installed. It was completed early in 1985 to be part of the Diamond Anniversary celebration.
Nations Bicentennial Observed
The nation’s Bicentennial in 1776 was outstanding in many ways and the Lodges were no exception. Ephrata Lodge, like many others, concentrated on historic recognition and the rebirth of patriotism and brotherhood. Worshipful Master Denton L. Borry recognized our heritage with a special Bicentennial program every meeting, especially with “Our Nation’s 200th Anniversary” Table Lodge in July.
Ephrata joined in the strong support of youth and in 1983, when Brother Harry S. McQuate was Worshipful Master, donated $1,000 to the Pennsylvania Youth Foundation. Coincidentally, the next year Brother William J. Lausch became the first member of the lodge sponsored Cloister Chapter of the Order of DeMolay to be elected Worshipful Master.
It was during Worshipful Master Lausch’s term that the Trustees undertook a major construction project, expanding the store facilities for the first floor tenant and adding a room behind the social quarters on the ground floor. That room served primarily as the meeting place for the DeMolay Chapter.
The Lodge’s 75th Anniversary
In 1985, while Brother Dennis Clarke was Worshipful Master, the Lodge celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary. Right Worshipful Grand Master William Carpenter made an informal visit to the Lodge along with several members of Grand Lodge to recognize the Event. State senator Brother Noah Wenger honored the Lodge with a declaration from the Senate of our Commonwealth.
The Work Continues
For the next several years the Lodge continued its rich tradition of service to the community. Inside the Lodge records show numerous educational and informative lectures were presented. New brothers were brought into the Craft at a steady pace and year by year each Worshipful Master devoted his energy to scheduling programs of interest to the brothers. The year 1992 represents that period well as under Worshipful Master W Randall Kegerise a meaningful presentation was made at every Stated Meeting on topics ranging from Brother George Washington to Brother Walter Moyer.
Artwork created by Brother Arthur Etris and donated to Ephrata Lodge #665 was added in the East in 1990. Both pieces call to our attention Brother George Washington whose leadership, faith and courage remind us that Freemasonry teaches a nobleness of character which, by faith in God, can sustain us in times of uncertainty.
In 1994, while Brother W Larry Bensing was Worshipful Master, it was resolved that the Lodge establish a Scholarship Fund which would be administered under the Pennsylvania Masonic Youth Foundation. In the years since, that fund has distributed thousands of dollars to area students and continues to be an important part of our service to the community.
The New Millenium In 2000, as the world stood at the doorstep of a new millennium uncertainty gave way to a new confidence in the future. Seeing a need in the community the Lodge, under Worshipful Master Robert S Conway, donated electronic defibrillators to the Ephrata Library and the Ephrata Recreation Center.
The following year, while Brother Jon D Higinbotham was Worshipful Master, the Lodge received a most generous gift from the estate of our deceased brother Lester Steffy. This bequest placed Ephrata Lodge on a firm financial foundation and set in motion a number of studies concerning the appropriate use of these funds culminating in the 2009 renovations to the Lodge room.
Worshipful Master Brother Allen H Martin began 2002 with a visit from Right Worshipful Grand Master Cunningham for the purpose of introducing our own Brother Robert S Conway, PM as District Deputy Grand Master of the First Masonic District.
An Era of Outreach
In 2003, while Brother Terence Sherk was Worshipful Master, the Lodge showed it’s public face when a committee introduced a motion for the construction of a boat launch to be built at nearby Speedwell Forge Lake. Brother Lorem Backstetter would donate the concrete work and the Stradling brothers would donate the bronze plaques which mark the event. 2003 also brought the first “Winter Picnic” with 130 members and family members in attendance.
With Brother Michael D Wolfe presiding as Worshipful Master, 2004 was a very busy year. Numerous interesting speakers, along with an impressive array of service awards punctuated the year. Of special note, Rev. Brother Donald F Geschwindt received a plaque commemorating his 25 years as Chaplain of Ephrata Lodge. Also that year the first of Pennsylvania’s One Day Man to Mason classes was held. Six men became members of Ephrata Lodge that day.
Worshipful Master Harold R Long brought Grand Master Slater’s Child Identification Program (ChIP) to the Lodge in 2005. This act of charity toward the community continues to demonstrate our benevolent activities to the community and serves as a very popular public activity of the brethren and their spouses. Further outreach into the community came at Christmastime when the officers delivered gifts to the children confined for treatment over the holidays at the Ephrata Community Hospital.
The Lodge continued its commitment to the community under Brother David W Lund who was Worshipful Master in 2006. It was during that year that a committee was formed to better communicate with and involve the widows of our deceased brethren. Also, an e-mail distribution announcing Masonic funeral services was instituted for the first time, so that we might show the unity of our fraternity to the families of those who passed to the eternal West.
In 2007, Worshipful Master Bradley L Auker began the process of renovating the lodge when a committee was formed to study the current and future facility needs of the Lodge. Ideas and input were solicited from the members for most of that year and numerous alternatives were considered for the improvement of the Lodge building. Progress was made in narrowing down alternatives until, the following year, under Worshipful Master Norman A Wangman, a plan was put forward to remain in our existing building for the foreseeable future, but to improve the aesthetics of the now 75 year old Lodge.
It was also in 2008 that the Lodge was awarded the Mark Twain Masonic Awareness Award by the Masonic Service Association (MSA) for its outstanding float in the 2007 Ephrata Farmer’s Day Fair Parade.
In 2009, under Worshipful Master John F Harley, renovations commenced on the interior of the Lodge room. Numerous symbolic architectural elements and decorations were installed in the room, along with 5 beautiful stained glass windows, each representing the lessons taught in the Ancient Charges. Later that year a Lodge in the Woods was held at Camp Mack where Right Worshipful Grand Master Gardner presented the Masonic Scouter Award to five deserving brothers.
Appended 2010 by John F Harley, Past Master