Prologue to Lodge History
I was asked to write a history of our lodge. To give a good accounting I needed to start at the beginning of each of the eight lodges that comprise Crow Canyon No. 551. The oldest being Bay View No. 401, as we journey through the Grand Lodge communications and the four volumes of “One hundred Years of Freemasonry in California” we find a unique brotherhood of friendships and common interest and possible discourses that might have been at the beginning of these lodges. In some cases there is a detailed accounting of the lodge formation and others there is only what I can find in the Grand Lodge communications (including misspelled words). So, here we go I hope you find this information useful. If you have anything to add, feel free to contact me.
William M. Ferrell, Assistant Secretary
Bay View Lodge No. 401
On the evening of September 1, 1908 sixteen Master Masons gathered in Golden Gate Hall, in Oakland, for the first of a series of three meetings preliminary to organizing a new lodge. After choosing Harry Edward Brittingham as chairman, And Carroll H. Whitten as secretary, they agreed that the proposed lodge be called “Bay View.” Next, they chose Leroy W. Potter for its first Master, Gwyn Harvey Baker for Senior Warden, and Robert Stanton Wixon for Junior Warden. Then after a brief recess, they all signed a petition for dispensation. And as a final order of business, a committee composed of Potter, Whitten and Wixon was appointed to obtain “a safe and suitable Lodge room.
The second and third meetings were held in the same hall on September 3 and 10.
At the second, the hall committee announced that it had found a hall in the Golden Gate Building at a rent of $20.00 a month. The brethren subscribed and paid $475 toward organizing expenses and appointed Brittingham as temporary treasurer. Demits were put into order and the petition for dispensation was sent to Live Oak, Oakland, Brooklyn, and Sequoia Lodges, all of Oakland, for recommendation.
The third meeting was given to final arrangements. The previously mentioned Lodges had gladly recommended the petition for dispensation, which was sent to the Grand Secretary.
It was too late, however, for the incumbent Grand Master George M. Perine, to act on the petition prior to the next annual Communication of Grand Lodge. And well over a month elapsed before the new Grand Master, Oscar Lawler, could grant it on October 26. Therefore, Bay View Lodge had almost a full year to prove its proficiency in the work before it received its charter on October 14, 1909.
Bay View’s original officers – Potter, Baker and Wixon – were in their respective chairs when the lodge filed its first returns under dispensation. They were still there when it received its charter.
But the membership had changed considerably. Between the signing of the petition and the filing of the first returns under dispensation it climbed from 16 to 29. By the time the charter was granted, it had more than doubled itself, jumping to 79 members. Since then, save a drop from 405 to 307 between 1930 and 1940, it climbed steadily. The 1949 Roster showed it with 541 members.
Beyond that, however, little is known of Bay View’s history or the men who made it. Up to date, no biographical material has been made available on either.
Fremont Lodge No.497
The History of Fremont Lodge No. 497 runs back to September 8, 1920 when fifteen brethren held the first of a series of four preliminary meeting in the home of Henry Howard Caldwell.
At this meeting the brethren voted to give their proposed Lodge the name “Fremont.” Then they elected James Spencer Sullivan its first Master; Chester Culwell Morris, Senior Warden; Henry Howard Caldwell, Junior Warden.
At the second, third and fourth meeting, held respectively in the homes of Hiram Eugene Miller, Chester Culwell Morris, and Roy Gustav Lucks, they handled all other organizational matters. On December 1, 1920, Grand Master Rodden, Issued their dispensation. That same evening, Inspector Granville Warren of the 32nd Masonic District instituted their Lodge in the Fruitvale Masonic Temple.
Fremont Lodge received its charter October 13, 1921, and was jointly constituted in the San Francisco Masonic Temple with Lebanon, Roosevelt, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino Lodges by Grand Master Burke the following day.
During its organizational period, the founders of Fremont Lodge subscribed $5. Apiece to fund intended to “pay for any entertainment expense that might arise.” This taught them the valuable lesson of forethought in all financial matters - and ‘to pay as you go.”
Consequently, their lodge has always been in excellent financial condition. Save two minor setbacks in 1933 and 1936, Fremont Lodge’s annual returns to grand Lodge have never shown a net loss. They have otherwise climbed steadily from 50 members in 1921 to 462 by the beginning of 1949. Fremont Lodge’s first regular meeting place was the Fruitvale Masonic Temple at 34th avenue and East 14th Street. After several moves merged with Tri-square No. 551 on October 1, 1986.
Our Lodge Library has a copy of “50 Years of Fremont Lodge No. 497, F. & A. M.” showcasing Past Masters from 1921 to 1970.
Lakeshore Lodge No. 551
Lakeshore Lodge No. 551 of Oakland is a “neighborhood Lodge” in every sense of the word. As its historian, Past Master Joseph A. Sullivan, noted, it “was instated to serve the fast growing district north and east of Lake Merritt.” Most of its founders were home owners and commuters, “a closely-knit group readily amalgamated in fellowship that gave the lodge an excellent start.”
Lakeshore traces its history back to its first preliminary meeting held on February 8, 1923. This meeting, top heavy with official aid, was attended by four Inspectors of the East Bay District, whose advice undoubtedly gave the brethren the impetus they needed to complete all their organizational work in quick order. With Arthur Woodby Baker as their first Master, Joseph Augustine Sullivan as Senior Warden, and William Elbert Pitcher as Junior Warden, they received their Dispensation from Grand Master Sherman on March 27, 1923. Their charter followed seven months later, on October 11, 1923.
Lakeshore Lodge first met in the Community Center Hall at 712 Grand Avenue, where it was instituted on April 6, 1923. Then it met at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple that was at 807 East 14thst. Oakland.
For the first few years, Lakeshore’s membership kept pace with the growth of the surrounding neighborhood, increasing from 37 in 1923 to 208 in 1930. But during the depression years, it was not as unaffected as some of its sister Lodges across the bay. It slowly declined to 172 in 1938, after which it started upward – slowly at first, then picking up speed till it reached 257 members by 1949.
July 1, 1980 Lakeshore Lodge went in to an agreement with Diamond Lodge No. 603 and Lake Chabot Lodge No. 770 to become Tri-square no. 551.
Chateau Thierry No. 569
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 there 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 or 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 has 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.
Dimond Lodge No. 603
Diamond Lodge of Oakland, named after the district in which it is located, received its dispensation from Grand Master Reese on December 27, 1924, and its charter on October 15, 1925. William Hess Graham, Master; Frederic Smith and Arthur Benjamin Currier, Wardens.
Dimond Lodge was not quite four years old when the great economic depression, which began in 1929 and lasted well into the 1930’s, struck the nation. Yet it has shown a good average increase in membership over its entire period of existence. From its 24 organizers in December, 1924, it up to an enrollment of 55 when it filed its first returns the following year. And it continued to climb till it reached its first peak of 187 in 1932. Then it fluctuated between that figure and 178 for next eleven years, and actually showed a gain of 12 for the decade ending in 1940. In 1944 it again took consistent upward trend, and, between then and 1949, climbed from 193 to 270.
In the course of its existence, Dimond Lodge has had only two meeting places. The first was at 2039 Hopkins Street (now Mac Arthur Blvd.); the second, at 4226 Park Boulevard, which was the meeting place of Park Boulevard Lodge.
Dimond Lodge No. 603 merged with Lakeshore No. 551 and Lake Chabot No.770 July 1, 1980 to become Tri-Square 551.
(Note: Grand Lodge record shows the spelling to be Diamond in other proceeding shows Dimond. The Lodge was named for the Dimond District in Oakland).
Castro Valley No. 713
Castro Valley Lodge, U.D. was instituted May 19, 1951, with the legal maximum of 50 charter members. Since then they have read or accepted 22 petitions for degrees. The Lodge is adequately financed, having a cash balance of over $1.500.00. Castro Valley is principally a residential community on the fringe of the tremendous industrial area of San Leandro, Alameda and Oakland, where further substantial increases in population appear inevitable. This Lodge is already taking its place in the community life and prospects for its future are bright. Your committee therefore recommends that a charter be granted to Castro Valley Lodge No. 713 in the County of Alameda.
In the Grand Lodge Proceedings of 1951 Castro Valley Lodge was granted a charter THURSDAY, OCTOBER 11, 1951, with a membership of 78.
Lake Chabot Lodge No. 770
Lake Chabot Lodge No. 770 at Castro Valley in the County of Alameda. Grand Lodge records show that there were 48 members registered to Lake Chabot Lodge U.D. at Castro Valley in the County of Alameda while under dispensation.
Lake Chabot Lodge was chartered at the annual Grand Lodge Communications and issued No. 770, Friday, September 27, A. D. 1957, A. L. 5957. With Arthur R. McGinley as Master of the new lodge.
This is all I could find on this lodge. It originally met on our property until it merged with Diamond 603 and Lakeshore 551 to become a part of Tri-square 551. Fremont lodge 497 merged at a later date.
Ashland Lodge No. 798
The first meeting of record of the proposed Ashland Masonic Club was held April 24, 1957, at the home of Brother Cyril T. Stevens, 16050 Via Primero, San Lorenzo, California. May 14, 1957 meeting of Ashland Masonic Club was held at the Bower Boy Scout Cabin Community Center, San Lorenzo. At the meeting of June 11, 1957, the by-laws of Ashland Masonic Club were presented and read. A Charter Fee of fifty dollars ($50.00) was agreed upon. The by-laws were now ready for approval by the members.
A letter, dated June 18, 1957, was mailed to the Grand Lodge of Masons in California, to the attention of the Very Worshipful Lloyd E. Wilson, Grand Secretary, requesting that an Inspector be appointed for the Ashland Masonic Club and stating that their meeting place was Bowers Scout Cabin, San Lorenzo Community Center.
The June 25, 1957 meeting of the Ashland Masonic Club was held at the Masonic Home, Decoto, California. The purpose of this meeting was to practice degree work. Brother Cyril Stevens was in the East for this practice. At the meeting of November 18, 1957, an agreement was reached with the directors of the San Lorenzo Masonic Building Association to use their temple. The Ashland Masonic Club held their February 14, 1958 meeting at the San Lorenzo Temple and put on an exemplification of the Third Degree for Worshipful Edward C. Will, Inspector of the 367th Masonic District.
At the business meeting of April 4, 1958 a minute of silent prayer was observed in memory of the late Cyril T. Stevens President and founder of the Ashland Masonic Club. Most of the club members attended the funeral of Brother Cyril Theodore Stevens, who passed on March 21, 1958, (73 years, 6 months and 29 days), which was held under the auspices of Lorenzo Lodge No. 709 F. &A.M.
On August 27, 1958, the Ashland Masonic Club journeyed to Alisal Lodge No. 321 F. &A.M. at Pleasanton and conferred a Third Degree on one of their candidates, With Worshipful Harold Short in the East.
At the September 5, 1958 business meeting of the Ashland Masonic Club, Worshipful Harold Short presented to the club the Holy Bible for the alter.
The Ashland Masonic Club received a letter on February 11, 1960, from the Most Worshipful Grand Master, stating that Ashland Lodge (U.D.) would be instituted on the evening of Monday, March 14, 1960. He also advised that he would be in attendance.
The granting of this dispensation was the climax of many hours, days, weeks, months and years of hard work by the officers and members of the club which started in April 1957.
On March 14, 1960, Grand Master Joseph Shell and other Grand Lodge Officers, and approximately 350 Master Masons, were in attendance at the Institution, held at San Lorenzo Temple. The Grand Master installed Worshipful Harold E. Short, P.M. as Charter Master, Brother Merle J. Fisher, Charter Senior Warden, and Brother Edward D. Fernandes, Charter Junior Warden.
The Grand Master surrendered the gavel to Worshipful Master Harold Short, who installed the following: Brother James Nicholson, Charter Secretary, and Brother Eugene Armstrong, Charter Treasurer, and appointed charter officers. The Lodge was opened on the Third Degree for transaction of business required by a Lodge under dispensation.
The Master declared Ashland Masonic Club dissolved and all records and moneys incorporated in Ashland Masonic Lodge U.D.
The By-Laws of Ashland Lodge U.D. were read by the secretary and approved by unanimous vote of the lodge.
The master then called on the Grand Master for a few remarks and he responded with an inspiring talk.
The Inspector of the 367th Masonic District, Worshipful Edward C. Will, introduced the officers of Grand Lodge and each responded and wished Ashland Lodge success.
Letters were read by the secretary from Estes Kefauver, Senator from Tennessee and Most Worshipful Harry S. Truman, Past Grand Master of Missouri. Both letters wished Ashland Lodge success. The letters were address to Brother Marvin D. Carrigan, our Charter Junior Steward.
Lodge was closed in due form and refreshments prepared and served by the wives of the charter officers.
Ashland Masonic Lodge No. 798 at San Lorenzo, in the County of Alameda was chartered at the Grand Lodge communication Friday, September 30, 1960, A.L. 5960. At the time of charter shows there were 35 members.
October 15, 1960. Most Worshipful Alfred Breslauer, Grand Master of Masons in California, Opened Grand Lodge in the Lorenzo Masonic Temple and Constituted Ashland Lodge No. 798. The Grand Secretary read the Charter, which named Worshipful Harold E. Short, P.M. as Charter Master, Merle J. Fisher as Charter Senior Warden and Edward D. Fernandes as Charter Junior Warden.
The Charter Master introduced the first secretary, treasurer and the charter appointive officers.
The Grand Master gave an inspiring message and explained the ceremonies of the Charter of a new lodge.
The Master introduced many Masters, Past Masters and officers, representing approximately 50 lodges from the East Bay and many from other jurisdictions. Grand Lodge closed at 9:50 P.M.
November 7, 1960. Stated Meeting. Seven applications for degrees and one application for affiliation were read. The master announced that at the December 5, 1960 Stated Meeting election of officers for 1961 would be held.
December 5, 1960. Stated Meeting. Elected to office for the year 1961 were Brother Merle J. Fisher, Worshipful Master; Brother Edward Fernandes, Senior Warden, and Brother Edward Clark, Junior Warden.
Brother Fisher announced he had appointed Brother Floyd Johnson Junior Steward fir 1961.
December 16, 1960. Open Installation of Officers for 1961 was held. Brother Merle J. Fisher was installed Worshipful Master for 1961. Worshipful Harold E. Short, P.M. was installing Officer and Worshipful Edward Will was Master of Ceremonies. Installing Chaplain—Linford W. Hunter, P.M.
Epilogue to Lodge History
Now that we have the history of each lodge, one might ask “what happened to cause this decline. That has been a question that has been debated for many years, so I won’t dare to get into that. So I made a chart that shows each lodge with its original name and number, and with the flow of the lodges as they went through the process (don’t know if it helps).
As you read Chateau Thierry was located in downtown Oakland. In the mid 1970’s Oakland went through an urban renewal or rebuilding of downtown area and Chateau Thierry membership decided to move to Castro Valley while the other lodges that met in Oakland decided to move to the new Oakland Masonic Center at 3903 Broadway. Bay View Lodge No. 401 met at the Oakland Scottish Rite building at 1547 Lakeside Drive, Oakland. Bay View Lodge No. 401 and Castro Valley Lodge No. 713 decided to merge and become Bay View – Castro Valley 713 on July 1, 1986. In June of 1986 the San Lorenzo Masonic center burned to the ground displacing Ashland No. 798. Ashland moved to the Castro Valley Masonic center and met on Friday nights.
After my junior Past Masters’ year in Chateau Thierry I became sectary and knew that my lodge was losing members to age and other social activities. At the time Bay View-Castro Valley No. 713 and Chateau Thierry No. 569 were co-owners of the Castro Valley Masonic Temple. After informal discussions and getting to know each other, Bay View-Castro Valley, Chateau Thierry and Ashland Lodges under the direction of our District Inspector The Worshipful Alan D. Weisser, formed a merge committee to discuss the possibility of consolidating of the three lodges. After five productive meetings it was decided that the newly consolidated Lodge would be Crow Canyon No. 569 and was established during 1992.
July 1, 1980 Lakeshore Lodge went in to an agreement with Dimond Lodge No. 603 and Lake Chabot Lodge No. 770 to become Tri-square no. 551. On October 1, 1986 Fremont Lodge No. 497 approached Tri-Square No. 551 to enter into a merger. According to Robert Peters who was secretary at the time welcomed the Fremont group, however, having recently merged with Dimond, Lake Chabot and Lakeshore lodges asked if they would be willing to merge and keep the name Tri-Square No. 551. Apparently they agreed and joined as Tri-Square No. 551.
1997: Tri-Square Lodge No. 551 contacted Crow Canyon No. 569 to inquire of they would be interested in discussing a merger of the two lodges. Both Lodge memberships agreed. Crow Canyon Lodge having a building and Tri-Square Lodge having a stable financial history it was agreed to retain the name Crow Canyon Lodge and to adopt the lower number of 551. Grand Lodge approved the merger September 1997 prior to the Grand Lodge communication. At the time of the merger the consolidated lodge had a membership of 726 members. Also Worshipful William Ferrell was asked to take the secretary’s job. Worshipful Robert Peters was moving to Washington State and Worshipful Donald Morris’ health prevented him from continuing.
This history overview is a work in progress. If you have any corrections of additions please let me know.
Fraternally, William M. Ferrell, P.M.