Masons celebrate 150 years in Iola



October 8, 2013 - 12:00 AM

Josiah F. Colborn, whose wife, Iola, gave her name to our fair city, started Iola’s Masonic Lodge No. 38 in 1863. Current Masons will recognize the lodge’s 150th birthday on Oct. 19, in conjunction with Farm-City Days.
Rededication of the lodge hall at 213 W. Madison will occur at 10 a.m., with several dignitaries from the Grand Lodge in Topeka expected to attend. Lunch will follow and local and state Masons will be on a float in the Farm-City Days parade.
No members of the lodge today are sure where meetings first were convened, but Masons took up residence for meetings and other events on the third story of a brick building at 8 N. Washington Ave. in 1901. The lodge moved to West Madison about 20 years ago.
In “The Annals of Iola and Allen County,” a report from April 8, 1901:
“After two disappointments on account of the weather the Masons this afternoon succeeded in laying the cornerstone of their new temple … (which) will comprise the second and third floors of a handsome block on the west side of the square where the old Northrop building stood.”
The cornerstone remains at the lower right corner of the building’s second floor.
The move to 213 W. Madison was prompted by sale of the downtown building, and also to accommodate members, some who had difficulty negotiating a steep flight of stairs to the third floor, said Mason Jerry Skidmore.
Merrill Hodgden, master of Lodge No. 38, shared history of local Masons, noting that “many of our (Iola) prominent citizens were Masons, who took their degree work here and went on to fill state offices and many were lawyers, but most were just common Kansas people who were trying to improve their lives.
“The design of the Masonic institution is to promote brotherly love and friendship, and make good men better.”
Hodgden said he was “proud of our many accomplishments,” including support of cancer research, as well local projects such as providing food for the community pantry, sponsoring a girl to participate in the Shrine Bowl Band and essay contests.
“We try to help kids and people in need,” said Don Mohler, 76, and a Mason for 52 years.
Two other local members who have a long history of membership and involvement with the Lodge No. 38 are Dwight Howard, 65 years, and Bud McCrate, 60 years.
“We are like the Marine Corps,” Hodgden said, “in that we are always looking for a few good men.”

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