Contributed by the Downey Masonic Lodge
DOWNEY – During the summer of 1871, about the time the typewriter was put on the market and Alexander Graham Bell made his first call over the telephone, a group of Masons in the community of Downeyville met to discuss plans to formulate a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.
They met at the home of the Methodist minister, Rev. W. A. Spurlock. It was not easy – the men had to come from nearby communities and traveling was limited to the trot of old Dobbin. But they recognized the necessity of perpetuating Free Masonry and dedicated themselves to the task with the vigor and courage that sustained the pioneers of that time.
At the second meeting the name of “Downey” Lodge was decided upon. Lexington Lodge No. 104 of El Monte was requested to recommend the petition for a dispensation.
A third meeting found all necessary papers ready, and it was voted to forward them to the Grand Secretary for the approval of the Grand Master. The dispensation was approved and on Oct. 30, 1871, the first meeting was held in the “Mercantile house of Bro. Frank E. Adams”, located at the southeast corner of what was then known as Santa Gertrudes and College Ave., now Paramount Boulevard and Alameda Street.
In the by-laws adopted at this time we note: Art. III Sec. 1, “The Stated meetings of this Lodge shall be holden on the Saturday of or next preceding the full moon in each month.” A motion was passed making the dues “50c per month payable quarterly. able quarterly.”
The next few years the Lodge prospered along with the community which saw the town site of Downey planned and laid out by the then ex-Governor John Gately Downey and his brother-in-law, Judge M. D. Crawford. Also, the Southern Pacific Railroad was completed through Downey during these years.
In these early days picnics and box socials were quite popular, and the members of Downey Lodge were always present as noted in the minutes of the meeting of April 20, 1872: “An invitation to join the I.O.O.F. in a Pic Nick on the 26th inst. was accepted” as “friends and citizens.”
On Sept. 14, 1872, a resolution was introduced to name delegates to attend the Grand Lodge and petition that body for a charter. Bros. Woodville M. Andrews, W. M.; William W. Edwards, SW.; and Frank E. Adams, J. W., were elected.
The first meeting under charter was held Nov. 1, 1872, at which time Bro. Samuel Prager, Past Master of Los Angeles Lodge No. 42, acting by authority of and as proxy for the Grand Master, officiated at the institution of Downey Lodge.
The exact date is not known, but it was either at the above-mentioned meeting or shortly thereafter that J. G. Downey, Governor of California during 1860-1862, presented Downey Lodge with a set of silver jewels in appreciation for naming the Lodge “Downey” Lodge.
On Nov. 9, 1872, the Lodge ordered a vote of thanks sent to Gov. Downey. This item is of particular significance as these same silver jewels are being worn by the officers of the Lodge today.
On this same date a bill of $18 for carriage hire was ordered paid if the carriage was used by Bro. Samuel Prager as transportation “to come to Downeyville from Los Angeles to institute Downey Lodge and install its officers.”
During 1873 a Masonic Cemetery site was purchased. It was improved and landscaped into a beautiful cemetery and remained in control of the Lodge until 1925, at which time it was deeded to the County of Los Angeles. It is located at the northeast corner of Lakewood Boulevard and Gardendale Avenue.
During the latter part of 1873 it was decided to sell the Lodge’s interests in their meeting place and occupy it on a rental basis. Later we learn that in 1874 the I.O.O.F. had formed an association known as the Los Nietos Building Association and that the Downey Lodge purchased 40 shares at $10 per share.
When the I.O.O.F. Temple was completed, it was arranged that the Masons would meet in this temple. It appears that Downey Lodge met in the I.O.O.F. Temple from Aug. 1874 until the present Masonic Temple was completed in April, 1923.
On Nov. 18, 1883, at a meeting of the Lodge, several brethren made request for demits to form Norwalk Lodge No. 315. Bro. Geo. Frampton, affiliated with Downey Lodge from Idaho Lodge No. 1, was one of this group. Also Bro. J. E. Elliott, a Past Master of Downey Lodge, who was elected first Master of Norwalk Lodge, Bro. Geo. R Frampton, a son of George, joined Norwalk Lodge when he was 21 years of age in 1895 and is now the present Grand Bible Bearer of the Grand Lodge of California.
The years that transpired from 1874 until 1920 were in all probability normal years for Downey Lodge. However, during this period Southern California was growing by leaps and bounds and the people of Downey were witnessing such events as: in 1877 the first carload of oranges was shipped to the East; in 1880 the University of Southern California was founded; in 1882 the first telephone was put in service; in 1889 Orange County was formed from Los Angeles County; in 1899 work began on Los Angeles Harbor; in 1904 the first motion picture was produced; in 1914 the first ship arrived via the Panama Canal.
Many other developments that were formally looked upon as fantastic dreams were now realities and important factors in the improvement and progress of our community. The Brethren of Downey Lodge wanted to be a part of this progressive movement, and on Feb. 6. 1920, a committee consisting of Bros. Reeves, Doherty and Willard was appointed to obtain information regarding the construction of a Masonic Temple for Downey.
On June 4, 1920, the committee was instructed to proceed with incorporation proceedings and the Masonic Building Association of Downey was formed. On Nov. 4, 1921, Bro. Walter M. Booth reported that a meeting of the Board of Directors of the Masonic Building Association would be held on Nov. 8, after which a vigorous campaign would be instituted to raise the balance, about $3,500, to bring the amount to $10,000.
Bro. Booth has worked untiringly as a member of the Board of Directors and much if the success of the development of the Temple is due to his foresight and judgment. Bro. Arthur L. Darby on June 2, 1922 reported for the committee that a sufficient amount to qualify with the Corporation Commission had been paid and that we were in position to proceed with the actual building of the Temple on the site at 3rd Street and Crawford Avenue. Later, Crawford Avenue became Downey Avenue.
It is an interesting fact that the contractors for the construction of the temple were “Bogue and Towne”. Bro. Waldo Towne was Worshipful Master and Bro. William Bogue was Senior Warden of Downey Lodge during the completion of the Temple. Thus, the Brethren of the Lodge were assured that wisdom and strength would be molded into the framework of the structure.
The cornerstone of the temple was laid without ceremony on Monday, Nov. 13, 1922, due to the inability of the Grand Master, Samuel E. Burke, to come to Downey at that time.
Bro. Arthur L. Darby asked for and received the distinguished privilege of presenting the Lodge with the letter “G”. The presentation was made prior to the meeting of April 6, 1923.
Worshipful Master Waldo Towne announced on March 2, 1923, that the meeting for April would be held in the new temple. At that meeting two petitions for the Degrees of Masonry were read, one from Chas. M. Van Dusen, now a Past Master, and one from Lester Lane.
A committee was appointed to arrange for an open celebration to be held the last Friday of the month. At a special meeting on May 16, 1923, the Grand Lodge F. and A. M. of the State of California was opened in due form for the purpose of dedicating the new Temple of Downey Lodge No. 220 F. and A. M.
The ceremony was attended by approximately 80 members of the fraternity. Since that time the Lodge has steadily grown from the handful of pioneers to our present membership of 386. It has survived three wars and several depressions and yet that same spirit of tolerance and effort once displayed by its founders is ever present with those that are entrusted with the future of our Lodge.
Let us dedicate our efforts to the memory of those “Builders” of the past so that those who follow will inherit a temple well built on the foundation of brotherly love, relief and truth.
Contributed by the Downey Masonic Lodge