Summary of Lodge History

Written by Brother Jeff Jones

In the 1860s, over 250 Masonic lodges were established across the state of Iowa.  At this time, Crescent Lodge #25 had between 80 and 90 members when the idea of creating a new lodge was being considered.  The idea of a new lodge came to fruition when a group of 24 Brothers were demitted from Crescent Lodge #25 on August 3, 1868.  After some disagreements, Crescent Lodge #25 recommended the dispensation for a new lodge on May 27, 1869.  Mt. Hermon Lodge #263 was chartered on June 6, 1870 by the Grand Lodge of Iowa with 21 members.

 

During the next 30 years Mt. Hermon #263 saw growth as well as some  instability.  Brothers from diverse backgrounds came together as members of Mt Hermon Lodge.  Cedar Rapids Masonic Lodges donated and sent provisions to Chicago Fire victims in 1871.  In 1875, Masons laid the cornerstone for the “Little Brick Church” later known as the “People’s Church.” Membership grew to over 150 by the year 1900.

 

Between 1900 and 1930, the Lodge was active with social events and galas which included distinguished visitors.  Despite the shortage of coal in the winter of 1916/17 and the Spanish Flu pandemic, membership had grown to over 800 by the time of the 50th anniversary in 1920.  In 1921, the famous artist Grant Wood was raised to Master Mason in Mt. Hermon Lodge.  Shortly afterward, Wood created the 3-piece painting “The First Three Degrees of Freemasonry'' which is on display in the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum for its 100th anniversary.  In 1922 Mizpah Lodge #639 was established mainly by Brothers of Mt. Hermon Lodge wanting a smaller Lodge.  As the 20s ended, membership increased to over 1000, the stock market crashed, and the Blue Lodge Committee of Inter-Relations was created to bond Cedar Rapids Brothers.

 

 

The next 15 years the Lodge had membership losses but began to recover as 1945 arrived for the 75th anniversary.  As expected, the 1930s during the depression up until 1942, Mt. Hermon Lodge saw a steady decrease in membership.  The Blue Lodge Committee provided relief and charity to its Brothers and other Lodges during the difficult times.  With less degree work occurring, the Education Committee sponsored Masonic discussions and talks to keep the Lodge active.  At the 75th anniversary celebration on June 14, 1945, 356 Brothers of the Lodge attended with guests.

 

As years progressed up to the 100th anniversary, the membership of Mt. Hermon #263 increased to its maximum of 1223 in 1956 with a slight decline to 1057 at the end of 1969.  A few of the highlights of this time period include the following:

  • On April 20, 1946 a special meeting was held to honor the World War II veterans.  

  • On March 31, 1947 a meeting including Brothers from Crescent and Mizpah Lodges were joined in reaffirmation of the obligation of all three degrees.

  • The cornerstone of the Iowa Masonic Library was laid October 10, 1953 with tools and equipment from Mt. Hermon Lodge.

  • In 1955, a dedication ceremony for the Iowa Masonic Library using tools from Mt. Hermon Lodge was conferred.

  • On April 21, 1956, a tiled Lodge was held in the Consistory building with Brother Corlini, Grand Master of Masons in Italy addressing 670 Brethren representing 137 Lodges.

  • In 1966 and 1967, Mt. Hermon provided assistance in founding the Bruce and Kingston Lodges.

  • On September 6, 1969, the cornerstone of the original Masonic Temple built in 1896 and used until 1915 was removed and opened.  Masonic rosters, books, bible, and coins, and other memorabilia are on display at the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum.

  • On February 28, 1970, Mt. Hermon presented Past Master Ralph Whipple the Mt. Hermon 100 years plaque with 450 in attendance.

 

 

From 1970 up until about the mid 2000s, much of the history of Mt. Hermon Lodge was lost.  Freemasonry in general had some dark times, with many senior members passing away, new memberships were down, and different ideas circulated about Freemasonry.  Even though much of the history is lost during this time, rest assured that Mt. Hermon Lodge and other Cedar Rapids Lodges continued supporting Brothers, families, and the community.  Here are some final highlights leading up to the 150th anniversary of Mt. Hermon #263:

  • In the early 2000s, Mt. Hermon Lodge set aside a Masonic Scholarship fund and recently doubled the amount for each recipient in 2021.

  • In 2005, a Widows and Children's Dinner was held for family and non-Masons along with a canned food donation drive.

  • Starting before 2007, yearly donations are provided Camp Courageous and Tanager Place

  • In 2008 and 2010, flood relief was provided by Mt. Hermon and Cedar Rapids Lodges

  • In 2016, Crescent and Mt. Hermon Lodges supported CRPD and CRFD by providing meals and a retreat for civil servants during the flood

  • Since 2016, Crescent and Mt. Hermon Lodges hold a yearly barbeque at the Cedar Rapids Police Department to show appreciation for their service.

  • In 2019 Albion E. Wall and Wayne D. Bryant Masonic Excellence Award was created for outstanding service to Mt. Hermon Lodge and is presented to two Brothers of the Lodge each year.  

  • In 2020, during the BLM protests, Mt. Hermon and Crescent Lodges provided CRPD and first responders refuge and meals.

  • In 2020, the Grand Lodge of Iowa bestowed Mt. Hermon #263 two awards.

  • The Plus One Award and

  • Lodge of the Year award

 

 

Recent Grand Lodge officers include:

  • Past Grand Treasurer (2006) - Bill Jacobson

  • Past Grand Chaplain (2017) - Wayne Wunschel

  • Deputy Grand Secretary (current) - Darrell Freemont

 

 

Since its beginning in 1870, Mt. Hermon #263 has enriched the lives of many Brothers, families, and the community while creating lifelong friendships.