Chehalis Lodge #28 130th Anniversary

The article below was written by Eric Schwartz news reporter, with
Mike Salsbury the photographer for The Chronicle & published 04-26-2008 as a kickoff for the lodge's 130th anniversary celebrations.


Before there was Chehalis, there was the Chehalis Masonic Lodge No. 28.

With the city of Chehalis in the midst of celebrating its 125th anniversary, the Masonic lodge is marking 130 years of Freemasonry in the city.  Both the Lewis County Commission and the city council have issued proclamations noting the anniversary, and the lodge has events planned through May to celebrate the landmark year of existence.

Steve Carmick, who sits in a throne-like chair in the west portion of the lodge during meetings, is the senior warden.  Next year he will likely become the  Worshipful Master of the Lodge, essentially the acting president, and master of rituals.   He noted the fact that the lodge used the name “Chehalis” five years before the city changed it’s name from Saundersville, and attributed it to the fact that both entities shared common founders.

State and local Masonic leaders gather on June 25, 1932, for the laying of the cornerstone of the current Chehalis Masonic Lodge on Main Street.  Three Grand Lodge officers on the left with Most Worshipful Grand Master John M. Roberts being the third from the left, holding the gavel.  The man on the right is the then current Chehalis Worshipful Master John Boone

New Generation, Same Traditions

Freemasonry is widely known as the oldest fraternal organization in the world.  The exact date of its creation is open to interpretation. Some date it back to the 16th century, while others claim it has been in existence since Cain and Abel, the Biblical sons of Adam and Eve. There are lodges in almost every country across the globe, and millions of Masons in the U.S. alone.

The Chehalis Masonic Lodge: A Long Local History

By The Chronicle

According to a written history of the Lodge, thirteen Masons met in a one-room schoolhouse on Feb. 13, 1878 to initiate the process of achieving an official charter.  In a room formerly situated between Prindle Street and Center Street, the Masons signed a petition asking the Grand Master of the Washington Territory for a dispensation authorizing them to work as Free and Accepted Masons.

On June 6, 1878, their work was approved, a charter was issued and Chehalis Lodge No. 28 was officially created. The lodge, which fluctuated in membership but at times numbered in the hundreds, was housed in several different locations before building its current home on Main Street in Chehalis at the cost of $15,000 in 1932.

“If the Lodge looks familiar, it is probably because it was constructed as a replica of Independence Hall in Philadelphia,” said Ian Ricker, the unofficial historian of Freemasonry at the lodge.

Lodge member Steve Carmick said that according to an oral history, which is passed down through the generations, the building was constructed using timber that was grown, felled and milled within 10 miles of the location

Shrouded in secrecy and renowned for rituals many deem bizarre and occasionally dubious, many of the traditions of the Freemasons are not open to the public.  The secrecy of its members has led many to concoct conspiracy theories running the gamut from claims that the organization is bent on global domination, is a faction of the occult or the puppeteer mechanism for world politics.

“They have this idea that Freemasonry is a secret society,” Carmick said. “It is not. ... There is nothing scandalous.”

Over the years, researchers and former members have attempted to expose what they perceived as the true motivations of the fraternal organization. The explanations and theories are so wide-ranging that determining what is true and what is fictitious is nearly impossible. According to members, though, the goal of Freemasonry through the ages has always been the same.  Ian Ricker, the unofficial historian of Freemasonry at the Lodge, said those goals are two-fold, “to take good men, and make them better,” and to “fight for freedom anywhere it does not exist.”

“In every place where freedom has come to be, there have been Masons on the forefront,” said Ricker.

Freemasonry indeed boasts a long list of prestigious members.  Among those who are known to have been involved with Freemasonry are President George Washington, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Winston Churchill, Benjamin Franklin, Benito Juarez and an endless list of others who are considered to have changed the course of history.  It is precisely this history, along with the veiled secrecy it entails, that has perplexed outsiders for centuries, and given way to the aforementioned conspiracy theories.

Members of the Chehalis Masonic Lodge demonstrate how they open a meeting with prayer. From left, Ernest Goad, sitting as Senior Deacon, Spencer Davis, Worshipful Master, and secretary Jim Wisner. Masons open and close each meeting, which are closed to the general public, with a prayer.

Traditions, Rituals and Symbolism

Entering the meeting chambers of the lodge is an opportunity not often afforded to outsiders.  In the Chehalis Lodge’s building, which was opened briefly for a reporter Wednesday, symbolism and tradition abounds. The Worshipful Master of the Lodge stands behind a podium wearing a black top hat, representing his authority, in the east end of the oblong-shaped structure.  Across the room, where Carmick sits, is the west.  Between the two is an altar with a Bible, a stonemason’s square and compass and three candles.

All of these items represent various themes and meanings for masons. The three candles represent the sun, moon and the Worshipful Master, which are each expected to be dependable and perpetual in action. The east represents birth, and the rising of the sun.  The west represents the setting of the sun, death and darkness.  Three square stones sit at the base of the Most Worshipful Grand Master’s podium, becoming more smooth and developed from left to right.

“That’s what we try to do with the man,” Ricker said. “We try to knock off the rough corners.”

Today, the lodge consists of more than 50 members, and is looking to add more while conforming to another tradition.  Though Carmick said the lodge is always accepting of new members, he will never openly ask someone to become a Mason.  He said it is just one of many rules, rituals and traditions that Lodge “brothers” are beholden to after taking their oath of membership  a potential member must seek out membership on his own accord.

There are requirements for becoming a Free Mason.  For one, the applicant must ask, and be a male.  Secondly, he must believe in a supreme being, often referred to in Masonic lingo as the Grand Architect of the Universe, and generally he must be in good standing in the community.

“There are no atheists in Freemasonry,” said Ricker.

There are, however, no requirements for what supreme being the individual acknowledges.  While the altar in the center of the chamber includes a Bible, Ricker said there are other lodges that include copies of the Torah, the Koran and the Book of Mormon, depending on the composition and religious affiliation of membership.

Local Masons Steve Carmick, right and Ian Ricker join members of their fraternal organization for coffee and cake prior to a meeting Wednesday at the Chehalis Masonic Lodge.

Different Than Other Organizations

Free Masons refer to one another by the term “brother,” with the addition of terms such as “worshipful brother,” “very worshipful brother,” and “most worshipful brother.” Carmick said this is based in old English terminology, and that the brothers achieve the recognition based on their positions within the lodge that they are, or have been elected to serve at.

By calling one another “brothers,” it is also implied that Free Masons assist each other whenever assistance is needed, Carmick said. Members have secret handshakes and terms they can implement to find out if an apparent stranger is indeed a brother.  Both Carmick and Ricker have stories to offer of instances when they have helped, or been helped, by a brother.  Carmick gives an example of an occasion when he noticed a man who appeared to be lost, and spotted a Freemasonry ring on his hand.

“I said something to him just to make sure he was a Mason,” Carmick said. “And he in turn said the right thing back and I was able to help him out.”

Carmick and others assert that it is this brand of brotherhood, along with the two stated goals of protecting freedom and bettering themselves and others, that truly defines Freemasonry.  The secretive rituals and traditions that go along with it were born from “a time of darkness” when freedom was nonexistent and Freemasonry membership was considered treasonous by kings and dictators, Ricker said.

“We tend to take the statement ‘he is my brother’ a good deal more serious than other groups,” Carmick said, adding “I’m comparing us with what I call animal clubs, moose, raccoons and what have you.  We take it really seriously.”

A phrase often used to diffuse the notions of dubious goals and conspiracies is that “Freemasonry is not a secret society, but rather a society with secrets.” Ricker said the secrecy would be essential if freedom were removed from society, and Freemasonry once again went underground.  He said Masons would be at the forefront once again if this were to happen in America, or anywhere else.  Freedom, liberty and equality, Ricker said, are three things that have only been in existence for a few hundred years.

“All men are equal,” Ricker said while providing a history of Masonic history and symbols. “Especially in the grave to which we are all bound.”


Eric Schwartz covers municipal government and health for The Chronicle. He may be reached at 360-807-8245.

Slight modifications were made by the webmaster to some of the above language, mainly correcting misquoted information regarding the officers titles.

Originally posted 04-27-08, Last modified 05-16-08