In rooms 509 and 510 Nelson Building at the southeast corner of Missouri Avenue and Main Street, twenty-five years ago tonight, a band of thirty-three loyal Scottish Rite Masons by their action made possible this splendid gathering. For one that night the first permanent body of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry in the Valley of Kansas City was organized and constituted: Adoniram Lodge of Perfection No. 2, under the auspices of our lamented brother Ill Martin Collins, 33°, Sovereign Grand Inspector General, assisted by thirty-two brethren of lower degrees, a happy omen of the subsequent establishment of Areiopagus Chapter Knights Rose Croix No. 2, DeMolai Council Knights Kadosh No. 2 and of the Consistory of Western Missouri.
Of the devoted band there assembled, Brothers William M. Osborn, George W. Griffith, Stephen Davis Thatcher, William Parson Moore, Frederick Augustus Freeman, Thomas Charles Brown, Henry VanDiver Luyster and last but not least, Hans Nielsen Hansen, have gone to their eternal reward. Remaining with us and still members of the Bodies of this Valley are Robert Freeman Stevenson, the oldest ranking member, and Past Wise Master of Areiopagus Chapter; Joseph Leonard Stiebel, the first secretary of Adoniram Lodge of Perfection; James Edwin Vincil; Charles A. Peake; and Frank William Thaxter, Past Venerable Master of the Lodge of Perfection.
Of the surviving members Brothers Stevenson, Vincil and Thaxter
are with us tonight.
Their long membership is certainly a distinction of which they may well be proud besides having the personal satisfaction of seeing the success of their efforts and of those who labored with them in the critical years which followed the organization of the Lodge.
Although the preliminary meetings were held at the Brunswick Hotel on Broadway, the actual organization of the Lodge took place in rooms 509 and 510 of the Nelson Building. These rooms, at that time business offices, are now busy with the hum of sewing machines or a garment factory.
The first lodge room was located on the second floor at 720 Main Street, then over Wright's Book Store.
The accommodations were very meager but this hall was the home of Adoniram Lodge of Perfection from January 1888 until December 1890. It was in this hall that the first work was done. Here were initiated the first candidate: Thomas Robert Morrow, Charles Potts Baldwin, Joseph Colllins, Bryson Lee McClain and Archibald A. Pearson.
About this time the members of the Old Zerbal Lodge, which had surrendered it's charter, were received into the new lodge by affiliation. Of these members Brother Ethelbert Forrester Allen was one. Brother Allen bears the distinction of being the only initiate of the old Zerbal Lodge. I do not know why the old Zerbal Lodge surrendered its charter but it certainly did good work for the subsequent welfare of the Rite when it made our present Venerable Master of the Kadosh a Scottish Rite Mason.
As I have stated, among the first initiates of the Adoniram Lodge of Perfection were Thomas Robert Morrow and Charles Potts Baldwin. I wonder if the officers realized at that time the very great and important part that these two initiates were to take in the history of the Rite.
Brother Morrow was successfully chosen as the Venerable Master of the Lodge, Wise Master of the Chapter, second officer in the Council and head of the Consistory in the critical years following the organization of each of the Bodies. He was our first great ritualist. What he and his co-workers went through in the stuffy little hall at 720 Main Street none of us who came after can well realize. They built fires, swept out the hall, worked over the scanty paraphernalia, laid out the degrees and by the hardest king of physical and mental work advanced the Rite.
Charlie Baldwin was never a ritualist, but he was a Mason through and through, every day and every hour of every day. I never expect to meet just such another friend. When I visit the Temple I am ever drawn toward the reception room where his portrait hangs for I love to gaze upon it and to remember him as he was.
Brother James Gardner Stowe and Hans Nielsen Hansen began in these early years their long careers of service and usefulness. Brother Stowe in the Council and Brother Hansen in the Chapter.
Brother Hans Nielsen Hansen, who was fatally stricken with pneumonia twelve years ago as a result (so I always thought) of our trip to Plattsburg for the purpose of installing a Lodge of Perfection, was a remarkable ritualist. He knew practically the entire ritual of every degree of the Chapter and was always ready at a moment's notice to supply any part. I even recall on one occasion that he aided a Brother who had, in a moment of stage fright, forgotten his name.
I shall ever remember Brother Stowe for his kindness to me as a young Scottish Rite Mason. His custom was always to single out the new members and make them feel thoroughly at home.
It was in this hall that Brother William Harvey received his first degrees of A. & A. S. R. of Freemasonry on June 18, 1890. Brother Harvey afterward became Venerable Master of the Lodge and Venerable Master of the Kadosh and for the last five years has been our beloved Almoner. As I look back on the bygone years I recall the vivid impression which his marvelously vibrant voice made on me, and the impressive manner in which he conferred the degrees.
In December 1890 the Bodies made their first important advance in removing to the far more commodious quarters at 1330 Grand Avenue. In the new quarters was held the first convocation.
On May 11, 1892, the Bodies removed to the New Ridge Building, which now lies in ruins on Walnut Street. The third and a portion of the fourth floors were handsomely fitted up, all too handsomely (as it proved) for the meager income which was to dribble in during the lean years to follow.
During 1893 I was fortunate in receiving my Scottish Rite degrees. In May 1895, I was appointed by Brother William Harvey, then Venerable Master of the Kadosh, as Secretary to fill out the unexpired term of Brother Melville. By the favor of the brethren I was permitted to serve the Bodies as Secretary for nearly thirteen years, from 1895 to 1908. When I became Secretary the membership was about 300, when I resigned, nearly 1300.
Although the Bodies had been firmly established before I became Secretary they were burdened with a heavy debt. I recall that they closed the year 1895 owing about $16,000.00 for dues, paraphernalia and robes. One of the first tasks assigned me by Brother Stowe was to try to induce the piano people to take back the grand piano which now reposes in our reception room and to surrender our notes, for reason that the Council of administration was of the opinion that we would be unable to pay the balance of $240.00. Those piano people had more faith in us that in their piano for they declined and we paid the bill.
The financial difficulties were ever present from 1890 to 1899. I recall for instance that we opened our November 1895 Convocation with six candidates. We are celebrating our silver Convocation. The March 1896 Convocation was our "Free Silver " Convocation. various plans were proposed to life the load of debt but none were successful until a committee composed of Archibald D.L. Hamilton, Marcellus Charles Ross, Jesse Lee Porter and Charles Potts Baldwin, by their indefatigable efforts secured the Class of March 1899 from which sufficient revenue was derived to pay off our indebtedness. We closed the year 1899 with cash on hand amounting to $1715.29.
With the load of debt removed the prospects of the Rite advanced rapidly and we closed the year 1902 with all debts paid and $10,000.00 cash on hand.
At the annual meeting of December 27, 1902, a resolution was fortunately introduced by Brother James B. Groom and seconded by Brother William Harrison Brown, appointing the presiding officers and their successors in office as a committee with full power to purchase a site and to build a Scottish Rite Home.
About the first of February following, Brother Jesse Lee Porter, chairman and sole working member of a committee of nineteen which had been investigating the possible sites during the preceding year, informed the heads of the Bodies that the Dundee Methodist Church property at Fifteenth Street and Troost Avenue could be purchased for about $11,000.00. The committee under the authority granted on December 27, 1902, at once decided to purchase. Affairs moved so quickly that within two weeks a contract was signed, deposit made, and on February 17, 1903 the several bodies by a unanimous vote ratified the purchase for $10,000.00 of the property on which the Temple stands.
The Temple Builders class, whose names appear on the bronze tablets at your right, and their sponsors on the left, was organized by a committee consisting of Archibald D.L. Hamilton, Marcellus Charles Ross, Jesse Lee Porter, Charles Potts Baldwin and John Rudolph Loosen, and nearly $10,000.00 was realized.
It was with this sum (and more or less nerve) that the building of the Temple was undertaken.
In the meantime the Scottish Rite Temple Association was organized and incorporated for the purpose of holding title to the property and building the Temple. The board of directors, to whom was assigned the actual supervision, consisted of the presiding officers, viz. Brothers Clinton L. Schley, Willis H. Leavitt, Albert S. Marley and William Bridges Thayer. Brother Marley was shortly afterward succeeded by Brother John Calvin Humes on account of the expiration of his term of office. The fifth member of the board was the secretary of the Bodies.
The financial plan adopted provided for the issuance of 4% debentures, payable in ten years or on the death of the holder; the debentures to be sold only to members of the Rite.
Building operations began. A vigorous canvass for subscriptions for debentures was inaugurated and then came the disastrous flood of 1903. Those of you who were here will recall how the business of the city was paralyzed. The expected subscriptions sufficient to complete the Temple failed to materialize. In the meantime the cornerations of the Temple had been laid by the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M., July 25, 1903, and the building of the Temple progressed. As the weeks went by our cash resources rapidly dwindled. By October 1st, 1903, we were close to a financial crisis although this fact was not generally known. That we were tided over the difficulty and the Temple completed early in 1904 was due to one man, Brother William Bridges Thayer, who at that critical time succeeded in borrowing $25,000.00 on notes signed by himself as president and by the secretary of the Temple Association. The speaker is very sure that his signature as secretary would have secured the money and the other directors entertained a like opinion. I have always thought that Brother Thayer thought that he was assuming a moral obligation in case the corporation failed to pay. But happily, the notes at the bank were all paid before Brother passed into the great beyond. Would that he had been spared to his family, to the city and to his brethren that he might rejoice with us tonight.
In the Spring of 1904, on the dedication of the Temple our indebtedness aggregated $53,000.00, $25,000.00, being held by the bank and about $28,000.00 by members as I recall it. The notes have been paid and a refunding mortgage of $20,000.00 discharged.
Of the debentures $10,800.00 are outstanding tonight, with sufficient funds on hand to pay off about $5,000.00 of the sole remaining obligation. In a few months, the last debentures will be taken up and when that is accomplished I hope we may have another celebration.
In closing, I wish to thank the committee of arrangements and the brethren for their indulgence in permitting me to present to you a brief account of twenty-five years of Scottish Rite History.