The History of HILTON LODGE No. 1143, A.F. & A.M. , East Peoria, IL
The formation of a Masonic Lodge in East Peoria, Illinois, had its beginnings with a group of area masons gathering and meeting together as The Square and Compass Club of East Peoria, Illinois. The purpose of these gatherings was to elect officers and form committees in preparation of applying to the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois for a Charter to operate and conduct business as a regular lodge. The first meeting of this "Club" was held on February 24, 1925, and the proceedings are recorded in an early book of meeting minutes kept in the lodge archives. The officers nominated and appointed at this first meeting were:
John Jaden------------------------Vice President
The major business conducted at this first meeting was to find and contact local prominent masons and lodge officers that could aid and assist them in their endeavors, develop the By-laws and Amendments necessary to make the application for a regular lodge charter, adopt a motion to take in all members present as Charter Members and collect $47.50 from each member as the dues and fees for membership.
The minutes of a subsequent meeting of this group held on March 10, 1925, mentions that a "Mr. Nicol of Peoria, Illinois, gave an interesting talk on organizing a new lodge" as the first order of business. Also at this meeting a motion was made, seconded and passed to elect Homer Glazebrook as Worshipful Master and Charles Schmidt as Secretary of the new lodge.
NOTE: The speaker mentioned above was RWB Frank N. Nicol, a prominent member of a Peoria lodge and serving as District Deputy Grand Master for the 49th District of the
Grand Lodge of Illinois.
This group of masons continued to meet through the winter and spring months of 1925 in two- to three-week intervals, primarily keeping current with the actions and progress at the Grand Lodge level on their Charter Application, and holding practice sessions on the standard masonic ritual and ceremonies. They also began taking in members and practicing lodge ritualistic and ceremonial work. It was not until the meetingof December 8, 1925, that attendees began signing the lodge register as members of "Hilton, U.D.", the U.D. designating "Under Dispensation."
This dispensation from the Grand Lodge allows a newly formed lodge to operate as a regular lodge (under certain restrictions) until the next Grand Lodge session, at which time the lodge's application can be read, processed and voted upon for the granting of a Charter and Lodge Number. The official date that the lodge recieved this U.D. designation was on November 24, 1925. The lodge continued to operate Under Dispensation through most of 1926 until the December 14th meeting when it listed the title of Hilton Lodge No. 1143 at the top of the registry of members. The official Charter Date from Grand Lodge for Hilton Lodge No. 1143 is October 12, 1926.
The officers of Hilton Lodge, U.D. through 1926 are listed in Lodge records as follows:
Homer Glazebrook-----------------------------Worshipful Master
William Shepler----------------------------------Senior Warden
William H. Schelm------------------------------Junior Warden
Charles E. Schmidt----------------------------Secretary
E. C. Blonts---------------------------------------Chaplain
O.T. Arnold----------------------------------------Senior Deacon
E. F. Dutcher-------------------------------------Junior Deacon
N. Sykes-------------------------------------------Senior Steward
J. Frazer-------------------------------------------Junior Steward
In September, 1926, the lodge held its' Annual election of officers and William Shepler was elected Worshipful Master to serve through the newly chartered lodge's first year. The minutes of January 26, 1927, recorded 27 attendees present, of which 10 were elected officers. It also mentions that there were four Entered Apprentices at this meeting. They were the first candidates initiated after the lodge had received its' charter. The meetings during this period were held in the local International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Hall believed to be located in the 300 block of East Washington Street.
Those early candidates were only a symbol of things to come. The Lodge and its' members were kept busy with a high level of new member initiations and the resulting Fellowcraft and Master Mason degree work during the remainder of the decade. The lodge was required to schedule multiple special meetings each month to kep up with the degree workload that continued into the early 1930s. Additionally, the lodge made its' first contributions to Masonic Charities and began holding family activities such as Halloween and Christmas Parties.
The 1930s -- The Depression Years
While this period of prosperity and groeth was welcomed and enjoyed by all, it began to ebb with the advent of the Great Depression. Its' effects began to show in the minutes of the meetings during the last half of 1932 and continued through the rest of the decade. In the August meeting a motion was made, seconded and passed to limit the number of meetings to two per month and in the December meeting a Budget Committee was formed to enable them to better regulate the lodge finances. A motion to terminate the lodge newsletter subscription purchased from the Grand Lodge until conditions improved was made, seconded and passed at the January, 1933 meeting, but was rescinded the following month due to the desires of the members. In the April 11, 1933, meeting a Finance Committee was appointed and assigned to call on all the members who were falling delinquent on their dues payments, with a report from them due at the next meeting. At the May meeting the subject of discontinuing the Masonic News was again brought up and voted upon. This time it was discontinued and never again purchased. In June, the lodge received it's first letter from a member requesting to be suspended because he could not afford to pay dues at that time. In this period, there was some evidence that the lodge initiated the practice of allowing members to pay their dues on an "installment" basis in an effort to retain members and decrease suspensions for non-payment of dues (NPD). Yet, despite all such problems and signs of economic distress, the lodge degree work continued at a relatively slower level. A meeting of April 25, 1933, was a very special meeting where they conducted all three masonic degrees in one day with 54 members of Hilton Lodge and 29 visitors (total of 83) present.
Being overtaken by the economic issues of the time, however, did not mean that all was dark for Hilton Lodge. One of its' greatest highlights occurred on June 13, 1933, when the Worshipful Master read a comminication from Brother Everett M. Dirksen, the Honorable Congressional Representative from Pekin. After reading this letter to the lodge the Worshipful Master ordered the Secretary to respond with a letter of "Thanks in appreciation of the beautiful picture of Most Worshipful Brother, George Washington." Today that portait of a standing George Washington still greets all members and visitors as they enter the foyer of the present Hilton Lodge Temple.
In November, 1934, the lodge members started proceedings to find a new place to hold meetings. A committee was formed to investigate the possibility of moving to a new location and a notice was sent to all members informing them that a ballot to do such at the next stated meeting was issued. The ballot held at the following December 13 meeting carried by a favorable vote of 21 to 7. The Worshipful Master empowered the Building Committee to "act immediately" to arrange for the meeting placed to be moved from the IOOF Hall to the 2nd floor of the First National Bank Building on the northeast corner of Main and Washington Streets. During the ensuing months a lease agreement with the 1st National Bank was approved and removal of money from savings to rent and refurbish the new lodge room was approved. The first candidate initiations in the new Meeting Hall were held on March 26, 1935.
Another highlight for the lodge occurred during the months of May through August, 1935. A member and father, A.A Arnold, obligated his son, O. A. Arnold, on all three degrees and raised him to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason -- the first such father/son incident to be recorded in lodge meeting minutes.
In the November 19, 1935, meeting the lodge celebrated the 10th Anniversary of their existance with degree work on the third degree and many notable area masons wrere present. The lodge recognized RWB Frank N. Nicol as "more than a father to this lodge." On October 10, 1938, Hilton held an open meeting to again honor their principle mentor with an honorary membership and presented him with a Masonic Bible. The main speaker of the evening was the Honorable Brother Everett M. Dirksen.
Throughout the decade of the 1930s, the lodge struggled to maintain its' groeth and degree quality while dealing with suspension and member losses for non-payment of dues (NPD). They concentrated on improving their meeting place by purchasing kitchen stoves, appliances and equipment, building and furnishing a restroom, installing electrical outlets and new lighting where needed, purchased a new lodge safe, installed a mirror in the preparation rooms and shades and/or curtains over the windows. To accomplish these renovation, financial loans were negotiated as needed and promptly paid off in full as finances would allow. It was a challengiing and difficult time for a new lodge, but Hilton Lodge No. 1143 managed to survive.
The 1940s -- The War-Years and Post-War Years
For some Hilton members, many of the economic issues of the Great Depression spilled over into the first year of the 1940s. The minutes of the June 11, 1940, meeting recorded the suspension of six members for being delinquent on their dues payments. Three of those suspended at that time were original Charter Member Officers of Hilton Lodge -- a handful of those that hard worked so hard and so long just to get the lodge started! Other milestones of 1940 saw the Grand Lodge of Illinois celebrate its' 100th Anniversary in August and in November, Worhipful Brother Ray Moreland was granted lodge permission to take the Examination for Grand Lecturer. He successfully passed that examination and became Hilton's first Grand Lecturer and was appointed District Deputy Grand Master the following year.
Over the next few years, Cloverleaf Chapter No. 1002 was formed and began meeting in the Masonic Hall. Petitions for membership substantially increased and the lodge geared up to support the war effort. Per Grand Lodge request, a committee was formed to support a Grand Lodge program of establishing masonic centers at the various military camps and installations. Their purpose was to provide for the welfare of all members of the armed forces. A special notice and dispensation was received from the Grand Master on July 21, 1941, authorizing RWB Ray Moreland to act as Worshipful Master of Hilton Lodge No. 1143 for the remainder of the 1941 and 1942 fiscal years to fill the vacancies of all three dais officers -- the Senior Warden was called into active military service, and the Junior Warden was transferred to the Decatur, Illinois Caterpillar plant. No mention was entered into the minutes regarding the absence of the Worshipful Master. The lodge began conferring Courtesy Candidate Degrees for other lodges whose members were moved into this area due to military relocations. Lodge collections were made for contributions to the Armed Services Fund and moneys previously deposited into the lodge savings accounts were instead used to purchase Defense Bonds.
In the April 9, 1943 meeting, the Secretary announced that several sheets of music dedicated to the SeaBees were received from the Navy Department. The reason for this shipment was unknown. At the August 13 stated meeting, the lodge was notified that their member, Henry Johnston< was "now a 2nd Lieutenant." Notices of Hilton members in the armed services attending other masonic lodges near their duty stations were routinely received from those lodges. Dues for members serving in the military services was remitted by the Lodge for the duration of the war. The Worshipful Master, Sherman Sniff, presented an Honor Roll listing the names of all Hilton members serving in the armed forces to the lodge during the meeting of March 10, 1944. During the year of Sherman Sniff's term as Master of Hilton Lodge, an all-time record of 59 candidates were made Master Masons.
All during WWII, there was no record in the lodge minutes of any Hilton members losing their lives in military service. There were, however, two members whose sons were killed in military action. Their names were read in open lodge and the minutes state that sympathy cards were sent to both families. Those family members who lost their lives in military service were the sons of WB George Jackson and Bro. Frank Stanley.
The After-War Decades
Membership and membership growth for Hilton Lodge remainedat a high leel all during the war years, post-war years and beyond. The rising economy following the war enabled the Lodge and Eastern Star members to become more involved in family events, community programs and humanitarian activities. During the 1950s, the Lodge began holding annual Past Masters Nights featuring degree work followed by a fried rabbit dinner. The fundraising ham, beans and cornbread dinners also became an annual activity that is still practiced to this day. Member visitation with other area and out-of -area lodges became common fraternal activities. Family night dinners and summer picnics held jointly with the Eastern Star Chapter members were common forms of entertainment and fellowship. By dispensation from the Grand Masters, Hilton Lodge made several out-of-state visits to lodges in Missouri, Iowa and Indiana to perform Illinois degree work and to observe the visited lodges performing their degree work. In several instances, those "visited" lodges reciprocated the fraternalism by bringing their members and candidates to East Peoria at later dates. This era of extensive growth, activities and fraternalism extended into the 1970s and beyond. To many of the members, these were the most enjoyable, peak years of masonic growth, programs and activities in this area.
The lodge meeting minutes of the following years reflect the situations that evolved around the community and the lodge's endeavors to deal with them as they occurred. A notation that the lodge had to close early on the April 1947 stated meeting due to the heavy rains and subsequent flooding. A significant area of East Peoria was under water as a result of the 1947 flood. At the February 12, 1951 meeting, it was noted that the 1st National Bank had rasied the rent on the Hall to $75.00 per month. In April 1953, lodge and Eastern Star members painted nad redecorated the lodge hall. The safety of the Hall's occupants in the event of a fire became a concern in the October 1953 meeting, which was handled with a degree of dry humor. A committee was formed to study that possible concern. In the following October meeting, the committee reported that no such fire escape and/or emergency means of evacuation were available. Their recommendation: The lodge should purchase 120 ft. of 1-inch rope ans 2 - 10 lb. dry chemical fire extinguishers. In the February 1954 meeting, the committee reported that the "rope ladder and two fire extinguishers had been installed!" And, during this period, the lodge began extensive efforts to locate and purchase a suitable plot of ground on which to build a new Masonic Temple.
The beloved mentor and benefactor of Hilton Lodge, RWB Frank N. Nicol, passed to the Grand Lodge Above in 1954. In August, a delegation from Hilton Lodge was sent to attend a meeting of Peoria area lodge members. The delegationreported back to the lodge at the August 10th stated meeting that all district lodges had agreed to share the cost of Bro. Nicols' medical and funeral expenses. A motion was made, seconded and unanimously passed for Hilton Lodge to pay its pro-rated share of those expenses. An extraordinary action for an even more extraordinary man and mason.
At the November 18, 1955 stated meeting, a communication from a Creve Coeur member was read regarding the formation of a new lodge to be located in the village of Creve Coeur, Illinois. A second reading of the same communication was made at the following December 13th stated meeting, after which a paper ballot was taken to approve the formation of a new lodge in Creve Coeur. The tabulation of tha ballot was 50 Yes, 49 No and 1 Blank. (A Yes vote was to grsnt approval).
Such was the beginning of a new lodge in Creve Coeur. At the January 14, 1958 stated meeting of Hilton Lodge, the Secretary read Requests for dimits of 42 Hilton members to become members of Frank N. Nicol Lodge No. 1170. At the November 18, 1960 stated meeting, Hilton Members granted approval to give their old altar to the new Creve Coeur lodge as a token of appreciation for the help given by the Creve Coeur members in building the new Hilton Temple.
The Timeline for Building the New Hilton Masonic Temple
------January 13, 1948------Committee formed to investigate the purchase of a new building site.
------January 10, 1950------Lodge granted authority to purchase 2 1/4 acres of a former Caterpillar Proving Grounds site.
------September 11, 1950--New Building Committee appointed.
------March 11, 1951---------Lodge appointed a Financial Drive Committee and a Plans Committee for the new Temple.
------September 9, 1952---Announcement made that the weeds had been mowed and the lot lines established on the property purchased for the new Temple.
------January 18,1955------Lodge approved sale of the property originally purchased for the new temple to the Highway Department for $1460.00.
------June 12, 1956---------Lodge approves purchase of 2 acres located at 600 E. Washington Street for the new temple.
------September 10, 1957-Committee appointed to invesigate the feasibility of purchasing the 1st Methodist Church for a new meeting hall.
------October 8, 1957-------Committee reports that purchase of 1st Metodist Church is neither feasible nor profitable.
------October 14, 1958-----Lodge gave unanimous (58 members) approval to purchase parcel of land known as "Dr. Hopkins Estate" (230 Pekin Ave).
------March 10, 1959-------Lodge accepts bids for demolition of old house on recently purchased property at 230 Pekin Ave.
------April 14, 1959----------Forms and paperwork finalized to sell 1/2 acre of land at 600 E. Washington Street to state highway department. That parcel of land is now part of the entrance ramp from East Washington Street to eastbound Interstate 74.
------May 19, 1959----------Lodge received letter from 1st Baptist Church expressing interest in the purchase of the remaining portion of the 600 E. Washingt Street property.
------November 10, 1959-Lodge agreed to sell remainder of 600 E. Washington Street property to 1st Baptist Church for $200.00 per acre.
------January 10, 1960----Letter recieved from architect regarding building the new temple.
------February 9, 1960----Lodge transferred $500.00 to Hilltop Temple Association to cover current building expenses.
------April 12, 1960--------A unanimous ballot of 58 member approved building a new temple. The lodge approved: (1) Transfer of all monies, assets, securities, etc. in excess of $500.00 to the Hilltop Temple Association, and (2) Taht after the new temple building was completed, the lodge would pay to the Hilltop Temple Association "only such amounts as are necessary to maintain the temple and grounds."
------October 15, 1960---The first candidates to receive degree work in the new Masonic Temple were made Master Masons. They are Louis D. Shuford, Roy F. Pardew and James E. McMurtrey.
NOTE: The Hilltop Temple Association was a separate entity of the lodge that was empowered by its members to handle all aspects pertaining to the financing, building, furnishing, maintenance and upkeep of the new temple building. Six of lodge members signed the initial loan for the construction of the temple. At the end of each masonic year, the outgoing Worshipful Master automatically became the President of the Temple Association. This association remained in effect until the late 1980s when it was considered no longer needed and disbanded.
The new masonic temple was planned by masons and constructed by masons, at least on the portions of the building that did not require outside professional contractors. Most of the inside finish work, electrical and plumbing work was completed by the members themselves. The downstairs flooplan provided an adequate kitchen and cabinet space, large dining room, a furnace/utility room, restrooms and storage space. The upstairs consisted of an appropriate sized lodge room, the necessary entry rooms, an attractive front lounge, adequate storage space, cloak room and a rest room. The new facility provided the lodge and Eastern Star chapter with all the sapce and equipment required for their degree work, ceremonies, special events and family functions throughout the remainder of the 20th century and beyond.
During the times of building planning, purchasing and construction, the business of the Grand Lodge and local lodges continued. The Grand Lodge went through several redistricting and district number changes. The Est Peoria area changed from District #49 to #56 to #63 and finally settled on todays designation as the 2nd Eastern. RWB Hubert Elliott was appointed as the District Deputy Grand Master of the (then) 63rd District in November 1960. The new temple was dedicated on March 25, 1961, with Grand Master Paul R. Stevens and other grand line officers performing the ceremony. The first installation of officers conducted in the new facility occurred on May 31, 1961. A notation was made in the installation minutes that Bro. Earl Appelby was in attendance to view the ceremony. Bro. Appelby was one of the first four candidates initiated as a member of Hilton Lodge in 1926. On June 21, 1963, the minutes reported that lodge members conducted the Masonic Funeral Services for Bro. Byron R. Moore, a prominent educator, high school principal and superintendent. Those services were held in the East Peoria High School auditorium.
Historical Highlights of the Remaining Years
In May, 1967, WB Jimmie Padgett passed the examination and was commissioned as a Grand Lecturer. In the same month, a letter was received from Tyler Lodge in Tyler, Twxas, requesting Hilton Lodge to purchase a Masonic Bible, insert into it a copy of WB Homer Glazebrooks masonic history, and send both items to the secretary of Tyler Lodge. They were for presentation to Homer's son, William E. Glazebrook, at his installation as Worshipful Master of Tyler Lodge. In the minutes of the following August 1967 meeting, a letter from Willaim E. Glazebrook was read thanking Hilton Lodge for the bible and their efforts to supply him with his fathers masonic history.
The 1970s and 1980s were busy years for Hilton Lodge. Lodge members were still initiating new members at a moderate rate, though somewhat less than experienced through the previous decades. The lodge membership peaked at more than 700 members during the mid-1970s, but it was beginning to encounter what meny members call the "Three Ds" --Deaths, Dimits and Dues. All three have detrimental effects upon membership, but in this time period the average age of the membership was growing older and the number of younger men entering the lodge was decreasing. Consequently, several of the years in these decades resulted in more members lost than gained, with most of the losses due to the many deaths of its older members.
However, several significant milestones were achieved. The 50th Anniversary of the lodge's chartering occured in 1975 during WB William R. Fravell's year as Worshipful Master. The President of the United States, along with the Illinois Grand master and the Grand Line officers were all invited to attend the celebrations. A letter thanking the lodge for the invitation , but expressing regret that the President would not be able to attend was received from the White House. The same was received from the Grand Lodge Officers of Illinois, but the celebrations were conducted and enjoyed. Members, families and friends were all hosted at a Highvies Hills Country Club Banquest. RWB James A. Melton of Peoria's Joseph Robbins Lodge, the featured speaker, was presented with Hilton Lodge Honorary membership, while music and danceing ended the evening.
The Bi-centennial of the USA was observed in 1976 with a 2-act play titled "May Brotherly Love Prevail" put on in the Hilton Temple with several Hilton members in the cast. The minutes record an attendance of 125 people present for this event. In December, WB Paul Schelm, DDGM, made his first official visit to Hilton Lodge. In September 1979, a special Meeting was held for "The Burning of the Mortgage" ceremony with WB William R. Mehrhoff presiding. The event was made possible by a bequest from the estate of Bro. Clarence M. Hopkins. Grand Lodge officers present for this ceremony were:
Norman R. Buecker, Deputy Grand Master
Raymond H. Bachman, Senior Grand Warden
E. Gene Ross, Junior Grand Warden
Kenneth Neivar, District Deputy Grand Master
The last quarter of the twentieth century for the lodge ws filled with many progrm and events as well as the usual masonic business. East Peoria instituted several civic programs for citizens to enjoy and be participants -- the Summerfest, patriotic and Veteran's Day Parades, the annual Festival of Lights, etc. Hilton Lodge members were given Grand Lodge Dispensations to participate in many of these civic programs and parades, dressed in masonic attire and often carrying the American Flag and the Lodge Banner. The lodge strives to be a valued member of the East Peoria community and still endeavors to achieve its goal of "making good men better men." The words "Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth" and "Faith, Hope and Charity" are not just words used in the masonic rituals and ceremonies. They are the principles and standards which all Masons should do their utmost to emulate and practice in their daily lives and actions. With continued member effort and a measure of Divine Guidance, Hilton Lodge will remain a cherished member of the East Peoria Community
So May It Ever Be!
Written by RWB Perry Foltz