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A Blast from the Past into the Future

By William M. Ferrell

Like Argonne Lodge No. 514, of San Francisco, Chateau Thierry Lodge no. 569, of Oakland, was organized by veterans of World War I, and maintained a military atmosphere for some years thereafter. Indeed the idea organizing it sprang from the minds of David Leroy Babcock, Markell Craig Baer, Ray Wall Fisher, and William Christopher Heim, all of whom had billeted together in France. And were joined by three other veterans – Steward Bruce Bowes, Adolph William Chase and Harry Leslie Lyle Roderick – who helped them to realize the idea. Roderick had been Senior Warden of Oroville Lodge No.103 before entering the army in 1917.

These brethren, who soon increased their number to twenty, received the enthusiastic support of Worshipful Master Robert M. Ford and Past Masters Charles Walter and Samuel Taylor of Oakland Lodge No. 188. But beyond that, little material is available on their earliest proceedings. It is sufficient to know that they received their dispensation from Grand Master Sherman on July 10, 1923, and their charter the following October 11, 1923. Roderick became their first Master; Baer, Senior Warden; and Fisher, Junior Warden.

At its first meeting, Chateau Thierry Lodge received the present of a set of officers’ jewels, aprons, rods, and working tools from Oakland Lodge No. 188. The California Grays gave it a beautiful, silk American flag; and its first chaplain, Robert Maury Miller, presented his family Bible, which was used for many years.

In growth, Chateau Thierry barely missed breaking into that highly select circle of Lodges that have either stood still nor shown an annual net loss in membership since they were organized. It filed its first returns on 22 members in 1923, and on 326 in 1949. During that time, it never showed a loss, but it did stand still with 161 in 1933 and 1934.

This is one of the surest indications that, despite the early limitation of its membership to former service men, it has always been a popular Lodge.

It has also been a steady Lodge both in meeting place and procedure, it opened in the Oakland Masonic Temple at 508-12th street, July 11, 1923 and had met there until it moved to Castro Valley in the late 1960’s. In procedure, it has had the distinction of a special dispensation of permitting its officers to wear military uniforms when conferring degrees, and of originating the custom of “presenting and retiring the flag of our country.”

The only other feature of special interest in this Lodge’s history concerns one of its most prized possessions, a gavel made of wood from the Masonic Temple, at Chateau Thierry, France, which was destroyed by shell fire during World War I. This gavel was presented by the brethren of Loge Jean de la Fontaine Masonique of Chateau Thierry, France, who were honored to know that a Lodge in far off California had been named after their city.

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