Marking 200 years

Steubenville Lodge No. 45 Free & Accepted Masons planning April 27 celebration

SPECIAL OCCASION — The 200th anniversary of the Steubenville Lodge No. 45 Free and Accepted Masons will be observed on April 27, beginning with a meet-and-greet and finger-food luncheon reception open to all. It begins at noon at the Masonic Temple, located at 227 N. Fourth St., Steubenville, outside of which stand leaders, from left, Rich Purks, senior warden; Ronald Callahan, worshipful master; and William Pierce, secretary. -- Janice Kiaski

STEUBENVILLE — The Steubenville Lodge No. 45 Free and Accepted Masons is planning a 200th anniversary celebration and invites the public to be a part of that.

April 27 is the date this will be happening, beginning at noon with a meet-and-greet and free finger-food luncheon reception open to all. It will be held at the Masonic Temple, which is located at 227 N. Fourth St.

Most Worshipful Brother Jess N. Raines of Marietta, grand master of Masons in Ohio, along with grand line officers — there are as many as 12 — will be presiding, according to Ronald Callahan, worshipful master; William Pierce, secretary; and Rich Purks, senior warden.

The trio gathered recently at the Masonic Temple to share information about the bicentennial observance and future goals, chief among them having a more public presence.

The meet-and-greet will be held in the downstairs dining room, and the observance affords an opportunity for people to learn, for example, what the lodge is all about and to tour the building.

“If people are interested, we will take them around,” Callahan said.

The reconsecration will be conducted at 2 p.m., the only part of the celebration not intended for everyone.

“The reconsecration will just involve Master Masons and not be open to the public,” Callahan noted.

The other two elements of the observance, however, will be open to the public, they explained, with both occurring at Union Cemetery in Steubenville.

At 3:15 p.m., a Masonic symbol will be placed upon the headstone of Most Worshipful Brother Asa H. Battin, Past Grand Master of Masons in Ohio.

“This gentleman was a member of Steubenville Lodge 45 and served as grand master for the state of Ohio for three years, and he is buried in Union Cemetery,” Pierce explained. He was 57 when he died in 1896.

“There is nothing on his grave saying he was a Mason, let alone a past grand master, so we’re going to remedy that,” Pierce said. “Anyone can join in that. We are going to head out there as soon as the rededication is done, so anybody is welcome to come to that,” Pierce added.

At 3:30 p.m., a time capsule will be buried in the Masonic section of Union Cemetery. The time capsule will be on display at the reception. Small items to be placed in it are welcomed. It will be opened in 25 years.

Callahan said that throughout its history, the lodge has been active and involved but less so in the past two decades.

“We want to have a more public presence,” Callahan said.

“I’ve been in for 10 years now but before that, they didn’t do as much as we’re trying to do now. I am one of the younger guys,” Callahan said.

“We want people to know we’re here, and we want to be more active in the community doing things,” Pierce added.

“We do several things. We try to do a golf outing every year and a car show. Last year we got rained out,” he said.

Callahan said the lodge raises money for different charities, noting the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio has the Special Olympics as its biggest charity. An overall check presentation usually is anywhere from $150,000 to $200,000.

The lodge also is looking to re-establish a presence at the local Special Olympics.

“We used to be what they call huggers at the end,” Pierce said of when the athletes are congratulated for their performance and achievement.

Participation in the Christmas parade is planned and having a presence as well at First Fridays on Fourth, beginning with the May 3 one.

“We have a little booth, and if anyone has any questions about it, they can ask questions,” Callahan said. “We did a genealogy thing this past time, and we had three people ask about it.” It was an opportunity to pursue information about whether a family member, for example, was a Mason or what their title might have been.

“It’s a big thing,” Pierce said of the 200-year anniversary, noting Steubenville’s Edwin M. Stanton, who served as President Abraham Lincoln’s Secretary of War, was a member.

“There’s a lot of history there,” Pierce added.

The lodge’s Facebook page lists its mission as being “to provide opportunities for sincere, honest, forthright men who believe in God and desire to contribute to the improvement of their communities and themselves.”

In the “About” category, it notes that “As a fraternal organization Freemasonry unites men of good character who share a belief in the fatherhood of God and a brotherhood of mankind.”

The Facebook “overview” reads “Freemasonry teaches every Mason to be a good citizen and to perform his civic duties. The primary principles of Freemasonry are Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth. Its beliefs are Temperance, Fortitude, Prudence and Justice. These principles or beliefs cover a broad field, actually supplying the pattern to meet every experience in human life.”

A history of the lodge titled “Enlightened Men” was written by Richard William Weisberger in the 1960s in honor of its 150th anniversary.

It notes: “On Sept. 21, 1930, the members of the Lodge were asked to participate in the ceremonies for the laying of the cornerstone. Seven thousand observant people packed Fourth Street to witness the parade conducted by local Masonic organizations. Following the parade, Valley Masons convened at the Fort Steuben Hotel for lunch in honor of distinguished visitors and Grand Lodge officials, and then proceeded to Fourth Street for the laying of the cornerstone.”

It also notes when the Masonic Temple was completed, 234 members joined with Grand Lodge officials on May 25, 1931, to dedicate their new lodge room.

“We are the oldest continuous lodge in the 24th district,” Pierce said. “The district represents four counties — Mahoning, Columbiana, Carroll and Jefferson.”

Purks said his story of joining differs from cases where a member follows in the footsteps of a relative.

“For me it was more of a personal thing that I wanted to see what it was about. It was curiosity more than anything. I just knocked on the front door,” Purks said, noting he had friends in West Virginia who were Masons. Purks said he talked at length with Pierce and proceeded from there.

“I’ve only been in for three years,” Purks said, “and I am glad I did it because the phrase we go by is ‘Making good men better,’ and it has. That has made me better,” he said.

Pierce agreed. “I can honestly say in my personal opinion it’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” he said. “You meet people all over the world, and you have the same beliefs, the same values, and you know that before you meet somebody. If you know somebody is a Mason, you know they have the same values as you do,” Pierce added.

“For me, what interested me, I was more intrigued with the history that went behind it, and I figured the only way to learn about the history of Masons is to join the Masons,” Purks said, “and talking to them on that day I was interested in charitable donations, what can I do to help, that kind of thing as well, so that’s what got me thinking about it originally, and once I joined it turned out to be a lot better than I thought.”

Purks said he got more than membership and insight on the lodge’s history.

“I got a group of brothers, a whole new set of friends, guys that help each other out. I got a whole lot more than I bargained for, and it worked out really, really well,” Purks said.

“The bicentennial is something that is dear to our hearts,” Purks added. “Two hundred years — not many things last that long, so that’s dear to our hearts, and very personal to all of us, the guys who have just come in and guys who have been members longer, it’s still dear to them,” he continued.

“We want to open it up to let people see what it’s all about, and that’s why we’re branching out and inviting people to it,” Purks said of the celebration.

Growing the membership is another goal.

“We need to attract younger folks to get fresh ideas. Obviously we want to keep our traditions, but we still need new ideas, and the younger folks can do that,” Pierce said.

A man interested in joining must be 19 at the time of petition and have “belief in diety and be of good moral character,” Pierce said. “To be one, ask one. We do not solicit membership. You have to ask to join.”

There are 300 dues-paying members. About 25 attend the lodge’s meetings, which are held on the second Tuesday of the month, beginning at 7:30 p.m.

The lodge’s members with the most years are James Howcroft of Maryland, formerly of Steubenville, with 73 years and Steubenville’s Anthony Violi, 100, with 70 years.

Aside from Callahan, Purks and Pierce, other leaders are: John R. Cortez, junior warden; Harold W. Cook, treasurer; Shane Marker, lodge education officer; Dennis R. Chapman, senior deacon; Brett Lysle, junior deacon; Christopher McClain, senior steward; Tim Wagner, junior steward; Thomas McNeil, chaplain; and John W. Pierce, tyler.

For information, call (740) 282-3182 or visit the Facebook page.

(Kiaski can be contacted at jkiaski@heraldstaronline.com.)

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