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Installation of Officers January 2005

This article about the 2005 Installation of Officers Ceremony, appeared on the website SanBenito.com, on January 18th 2005.

San Juan Bautista – As “Brother” Charles Hushbeck played “You’ll Never Walk Alone” somberly on the organ, a dozen men wearing aprons marched through gold-painted pillars and paraded in double-line procession through the dimly-lit Masonic Temple hall. The ritual last Saturday afternoon marked the opening of the 151st installation of officers to San Juan Bautista’s Texas Lodge No. 46 of the Free and Accepted Masons.

The public ceremony gave a glimpse into one of California’s oldest Masonic Lodges and provided a view into the history and rituals of one of the world’s oldest fraternal organizations. San Juan Bautista’s Texas Lodge is the second oldest Masonic lodge in California, still active in its original location.

At the great hall’s center, the parading men passed a wood table and gazed respectfully on a century-old Bible and the Masonic compass and square resting upon it. They then took their positions in a V-shaped formation in front of installing-officer “Brother” Paul Ingram at the lectern on the eastern end of the immense room. Behind him was a wood-cut “G” (representing the concept of “Geometry” or “God”) glowing from the light of electric bulbs. On the room’s westward wall, a framed picture displayed President George Washington in a Masonic apron. The famous president’s eyes gazed solemnly down on the proceedings.

For generations, South Valley men have participated in the Mason’s rituals and ceremonies in the second-floor hall of the white clapboard Victorian building on Second and Muckelemi streets. During Saturday’s installation, “Brother” Robert Winter of Gilroy, serving as master of ceremonies, introduced each new officers one by one to installing officer Ingram.

“Worshipful sir,” Winter announced in a clear bass voice. “I present for your installation Brother Wayne Liddy who is appointed marshall of this lodge.”

Ingram, a Santa Rosa resident, looked down upon Liddy and said, “Brother Liddy, you’ve been appointed marshall of this lodge, and you will be vested with the jewel and symbol of this office.” Winter then placed around Liddy’s neck, a Masonic pendant and presented him with a baton. Winter and Liddy then paraded arms interlocked around the room to a seat indicating Liddy’s office.

After all the officers were installed – except for “Worshipful Master” James Dezelle who was ill that day and could not attend – Winter placed his right hand over the Bible and pronounced the official Masonic proclamation ending the ceremony. All the fraternal brothers placed their arms straight out, clapped three times in synchrony, changed arm positions and clapped three times again, then changed arm positions a third time for three final claps.

The newly installed members of Texas Lodge No. 46 know they are part of a long line of colorful history in San Juan Bautista. The lodge was founded by Edward Farris Storey, a former Texas Ranger who in 1852 made the trek with 42 other Texan settlers to the Golden State. Storey ran a cattle ranch in the hills of San Juan Bautista.

Having been raised to “the sublime degree of Master Mason” in San Gabriel Lodge No. 89 in Georgetown, Texas, he saw the need for a Masonic Lodge in the mission village. The Grand Lodge of California officially granted Storey’s request, and on May 6, 1854, a charter was issued for Texas Lodge No. 46. All founding members were Texans.

The charter was known as a “roving charter” which allowed Texas Lodge to meet in various locations throughout the area. In the early days, Masonic meetings were held in various homes, on the second story of the San Juan Bautista’s National Hotel and even on Fremont Peak.

The San Juan Bautista Plaza Hotel originally constructed of adobe in 1792, and remodeled with a second story overlooking the plaza in 1853. The grand reopening was on St. Johns day June 24, 1856, with as many as 5000 people in attendance. The Texas Lodge No.46 originally met in the upstairs room, until the current Masonic Lodge Hall was built in 1869, two blocks to the North West.

In 1868, a committee was formed to build a Masonic Hall, “a suitable building, costing not to exceed $4,000,” according to the committee’s authorization documents. Much “horse trading” in labor and materials was done during the construction, and on St. Johns day June 24, 1869, the present two-story Masonic Temple was completed.

Texas Lodge’s most honored member was Thomas Flint, Jr., a local resident who served as “worshipful master” for various terms from 1885 to 1901. Flint also served as Grand Master overlooking all the lodges in California, and from 1894-1903 was President pro Tempore, of the California State Senate. He also ran for Governor of California in 1902, but lost.

Ingram pointed out the painted portrait of Flint hanging on the hall’s east wall. He told how the painting was accidentally discovered in November when Texas Lodge treasurer Ken Justus went down into the Temple’s “vault” to file documents.

Justus noticed the unusually-wrapped package and decided to investigate.

“He took it out,” Ingram said, “unwrapped it, and low and behold, there was the portrait of Thomas Flint, Jr., grand master.”

Another colorful story of Texas Lodge involved a rivalry with the Masonic Lodge in Castroville. Texas Lodge was famous for its Southern independent style. One day shortly after the Civil War, some member sympathetic to the Confederate cause went to the Castroville lodge and shotgunned holes through the large American flag flying in the breeze there.

But Castroville got its revenge. “They come over and stole our spittoons,” Ingram said with a laugh.

Eventually, the dispute was ended. The Castroville lodge purchased new brass spittoons for Texas Lodge – which can be seen in various locations of the hall. And the shot-up American flag hangs in a glass-protected frame in the Texas Lodge’s dining room.

“We bought and presented them with a brand new American flag of the same size, as our gesture of peace,” Ingram said.

Bob Winter joined the Masons as part of a family tradition. “My dad was a Mason as well as relatives and friends,” he said. “The interesting thing about Masonry is, there’s something for everyone.”

The Masons have a rich history dating back to at least the Middle Ages, he said. Masonry workers who set the stones of the great cathedrals of Europe had their own fraternal order to instruct the next generation in their skills. To protect their construction craft, medieval masons held private meetings. But the mystery attracted other men who asked to join these secret societies for the social aspect.

“Over the centuries their group was infiltrated by speculative masons,” Winter said.

Many of the masons original tools — such as the compass and square – now serve as Free Mason symbols.

In 1717, English organizers adopted a formal constitution setting down Masonic rules and bylaws. The Masons evolved in America so that each state established its own “Grand Lodge” that oversees the lodges of various cities and communities.

Winter emphasized the Masons are not a religious sect but rather a “fraternal order.” Masons help society by providing for various charities such as the famous Shriner’s Hospital.

Mason by-laws forbid members from asking friends and acquaintances to join, Winter said.

“You have to ask for membership,” he said. “We don’t go out and solicit membership, which is a bit of an impediment. … It’s got to be of your own volition, no pressure applied.”

Jim Schermerhorn, who on Saturday was installed as chaplain of Texas Lodge, said the fraternal benefits of Masonry has kept him involved since he joined in 1959. “I’ve found wherever I go, I have a friend,” he said.

He recently helped a neighbor move to a small Arkansas town. When they arrived, he made a bet with a neighbor: “I can have a friend in your new town in 10 minutes.” Sure enough, Schermerhorn found a fellow Mason brother in a short while.

“It does mean something in the heart,” he said.