Nothing of more than ordinary interest appears of record during the first year of activity of Wasatch Lodge #8 under charter. Petitions for degrees were being received at every regular meeting. Similarly, the year 1869 was comparatively quiet in the Lodge. Grand Lodge met at Helena and, though there is no mention in the minutes that Wasatch Lodge was represented, the annual reports were sent in, for the Grand Secretary named Wasatch among those Lodges which had complied with Grand Lodge law in this particular, and in this report membership is shown as 42.
The year 1869 will always remain as one of the greatest in American history. It marked the joining by rail, on May 10th, of the East and Far-East to the West and Far-West of this country, and the beginning of a fabulous era.
During the winter of 1869-70, the Cragun and Cullom anti-polygamy bills were introduced into the lower House of Congress, and later, when the Cullom bill had been passed in the House, the excitement which its introduction had caused was greatly intensified. The bill had been drawn by Robert N. Baskin, a member of Mount Moriah Lodge, later its Master, Mayor of Salt Lake City, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Utah.
The Master of Wasatch Lodge (Robertson) appears to have had a hand in the preparation of the bill. One who was present when it was drafted wrote:
In the same December (1869), a few gentlemen gathered in Reuben H. Robertson’s law office and prepared the Cullom Bill, and Mr. Baskin went to the Capitol with it. On the 21st (of December) Mr. Cullom, who was Chairman of the House Committee on Territories, introduced it in the House.
Mass meetings to protest against this measure became the order of the day in all parts of the Territory, resulting in some interesting developments. For instance, the Tabernacle was filled to overflowing to listen to vitriolic speeches in protest, and to vote for resolutions voicing their sentiments. About this time (February 1870), another meeting was held in the Masonic Hall, over which the Worshipful Master of Wasatch Lodge presided. It was for Masons, Godbeites, and “Gentiles”, not so much with the object of protesting the bill, but to request certain modifications. Worshipful Master Robertson was one of a committee of seven appointed to draft resolutions which should express the point of view of the meeting.
The result or outgrowth of this meeting was the formation of a rival political group, which held its first convention in Corinne, on July 16, 1870, nominating a delegate for Congress. Before adjournment, on motion of Edmund P. Johnson, a member of Wasatch Lodge #8, and the Grand Master of Utah in 1875, the new organization was christened “The Liberal Political Party of Utah”. A goodly number of Masons attended the gathering.
The Grand Lodge of Montana met in Virginia City on October 31st, at which time the Grand Secretary reported that within the year the membership roll of Wasatch Lodge #8 had dropped from forty-two to twenty-four, which was a striking commentary on the conditions in Great Salt Lake City largely due to the long campaign of the Mormon leadership to drive the “Gentile” merchants out of business.
During the Meeting on December 9th, a committee was appointed to take into consideration the purchase of a lot for the purpose of building a Masonic Hall and Schoolhouse. With no explanation in the minutes, we are left in doubt as to the reason for such action. With a membership of only 24, it would seem an ambitious program, even with the help of Mount Moriah Lodge.
The beginning of the year 1871 saw little change in the general situation in Utah. There was an air of tension and danger, yet there as some Masonic activity. On January 18th, under a call issued by Ebenezer H. Shaw, Sovereign Grand Inspector General, and Grand Prior, of the Supreme Council of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jourisdiction, a meeting was held in the Masonic Hall at which St. John’s Lodge of Perfection was organized.
Brother Shaw, apparently encouraged by his success with the above venture, attended the meeting of Wasatch Lodge on February 2nd and requested recommendation of a petition to the Grand Master of Colorado for dispensation to form a third Lodge in Great Salt Lake City, to be known as Argenta Lodge, which request was granted. At its meeting of May 12th, Wasatch Lodge granted permission for the new Lodge to use the Masonic Hall by paying its proportional cost of the rental charges.
During that summer of that year, a “Board of Relief” was organized in concert with the other two lodges, and through this Board the newly founded Saint Marks Hospital (July) received $25.00 per month. This was primarily done to provide a hospital for Masons stricken with smallpox. For this fee, the Hospital agreed to provide the sick Masons sent by the Board the necessary care and medical attendance.
In December of the same year, the various Masonic Bodies of Great Salt Lake City entered into an agreement to rent the third floor of the Trowbridge Building (now Utah Theater) for a period of five years at the rate of $1800.00
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