Wasatch the Name
On June 16, 1866, two young Masons, Obed Franklin Strickland and Reuben Howard Robertson, who were destined to take a prominent part in the Masonic history of Utah, arrived in Great Salt Lake City. Brother Robertson had previously started the practice of law in Arkansas but, like many other young men of his time, was lured to the Far West by the tales of great wealth to be had in the mining camps. His choice was Nevada City, Montana, where he met and formed a law partnership with Brother Strickland.
Among the miners, merchants, trappers, and others, of the area were a few Freemasons who soon became friends under the genial influence of Brother Robertson. The group drew up a petition for dispensation, and later for a charter, the latter of which was granted by the Grand Lodge of Kansas on December 20, 1864, to Nevada City Lodge, with Brother Robertson as Worshipful Master, who is said to have been a proficient ritualist. The Lodge flourished under the leadership of the two lawyers. However, the personal prosperity they expected did not materialize, so they decided to migrate to Great Salt Lake City.
On the day after their arrival, their two names appeared on the Tyler’s register of Mount Moriah Lodge, U.D. (Nevada), which had been working since February 5th, only about four months. The two visitors noted that, at this and subsequent meetings, the register showed as many or even more visitors as members. They also noted that there were frequent and sometimes heated discussions in the Lodge regarding the status of Mormons, which probably led to their decision to initiate the formation of another Lodge which might be free of such disagreements, and which might appeal to many of the sojourners. Under date of October 22, 1866, the Grand Lodge of Montana granted these Masons a dispensation for Wasatch Lodge. (The Grand Lodge of Montana Territory itself was at that time only about nine months old.)
It should be noted here that the Masonic population in the “Valley of the Saints” was very small. In addition to the members of Mount Moriah Lodge, U.D., there was a somewhat larger number of unaffiliated Masons, but it is recorded that the total of all of them probably was fewer than one hundred. From this it may seem that there was no need for more than Lodge. However, there were peculiar circumstances. The attitude of the Mormons, particularly of their leadership, was far from friendly toward the “Gentiles” (a Gentile being anyone not Mormon.) Hence, it may have been that, by organizing Masonic Lodges, the Masons felt that they could better protect themselves from opposition and persecution.
ON the very day of the dispensation to Wasatch Lodge, Dr. John King Robinson, a local physician who had come into the valley shortly after General Connor’s troops, in 1862, was murdered near his residence, having been called out, it is said, to set a broken bone. The apparent apathy of the civil authorities toward apprehending the perpetrators of this atrocity caused great alarm among the non-Mormons. At the same time, Brigham Young was publicly threatening excommunication from the Church of any and all who traded with “Gentile” merchants.
Many of the non-Mormon business firms were forced to close and for a while it was thought that all would be obliged to leave the Territory.
However, the Masons persisted, took in new members and a few affiliates, and the Craft though shaky in its early years, started a steady progress so that it is now 144 plus years of age.
One of the early activities of Wasatch Lodge U.D., and of Mount Moriah Lodge, U.D., was to set up a “board of relief”. Because of unsettled conditions in the country so short a time after the close of the Civil War, many people were on the move, looking for new homes, searching for gold, or perhaps simply “adventuring”. Among them, quite naturally, were many Masonic sojourners who came to Great Salt Lake City and soon found themselves in need of assistance. Organized Masonic relief took car of them in so far as possible.
The first meeting of Wasatch Lodge, U.D., and it instituting, took place in Daft’s Hall on November 30, 1866, at 7:00 p.m. (the same meeting place was used by Mount Moriah Lodge, U.D., and by Utah Lodge No. 1, I.O.O.F.) This was a building of two stories on the lot where Daynes Jewelry Store, 128 South Main Street, now stands (1966). Access to the Lodge hall was by means of an alleyway on the south side of the building (now a driveway between the present building and the Kearns building) and a stairway at the rear end.
The dispensation was issued to R. H. Robertson, Worshipful Master; J. M. Orr, Senior Warden; S. De Wolfe, Junior Warden.
In addition to these three, the other members of the Craft whose names were on the petition for dispensation were H. S. Bohm, Treasurer; R. D. Clark, Secretary; Obed F. Strickland, Senior Deacon; J. K. Sutterly, Junior Deacon; H. Ruben, Tyler; Felix Rheinbold, Elias B. Zabriskie, Samuel Davis, Louis Englar, John Meeks, (illegible) Gardner, Louis Goldstein, Henry Myers, a total of sixteen.
At the meeting of institution, the Tyler’s register shows that only the named officers, Brothers Meeks, Goldstein, and Englar, and exactly as many visitors as members were present. Goodwin says also that nine members of Mount Moriah Lodge signed the register. This indicates a total attendance of 27 at the meeting.
In those days there was no ritualistic ceremony for the institution of a new Lodge, so Worshipful Master Robertson merely called the brethren together, opened a Lodge of Master Masons, and proceeded with the transaction of business.
As a sign of the spirit and determination of the brethren under the difficult conditions imposed by Brigham Young in his efforts to accomplish the ruin of the non-Mormon business men, the two Lodges joined in a “Masonic Ball.” On the evening of Saint John�s Day, December 27, 1866, this gala event was held in Social Hall. The printed program announced a “short Masonic Address will be delivered by the W. M. of Wasatch (Robertson) at 11:30,” that supper would be served at 12:00, all at a cost of ten dollars.
Worshipful Master Robertson of Wasatch Lodge, U. D., attended the Third Annual Communication of the Grand Lodge of Montana, held October 7-12, 1867, at Virginia City. He had been Master of Nevada Lodge #4 of that jurisdiction in 1866 when he arrived in Utah Territory. At the Communication Brother Robertson presented a petition for charter and, on October 8, 1867, it was granted to Wasatch Lodge #8 A.F.&A.M. of Montana. The Worshipful Master returned to Salt Lake City and, on November 4, 1867, set the newly chartered Lodge to work.
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