In attempting to gather an authentic history of the Lodge, reference should be made to the fact that the Secretary’s entry book is the only Lodge record dating earlier than 1892, this book survived the disastrous fire of February 15, 1900 which destroyed the Lodge building at that time (known as the Keystone Building).
From this meager record and the data available in the office of the Right Worshipful Grand Secretary, the following facts have been ascertained.
Clearfield Lodge #314 was constituted at Clearfield, Pa., on Monday, February 22, 1858 by District Deputy Grand Master Robert E. Brown of Kittanning, Pa., acting under the authority of Right Worshipful Grand Master John K. Mitchell. He was assisted by two Brother Masons from Clarion, Pa.
In 1858, Clearfield was a small County Seat town with a probable population of four hundred (400). The Borough limits were Pine Street on the North and Walnut Street on the South, Fourth Street on the East and the river on the West. Lumbering was the principal industry. The streets in the central part of the town had been ‘laid out’ and there were some plank sidewalks laid lengthwise with the streets and spiked down to crossties. These planks had a tendency to curl and often pulled loose so as to make walking rather hazardous, particularly at night. There were no crossings for pedestrians at the streets except in front of the courthouse, where large stepping-stones had been laid one foot apart. There was neither a sewage system nor water supply except wells. The principal fuel was wood; coal had not come into general use. There were no streetlights, light in buildings was furnished by candles with possibly some lard oil lamps. It was about five years later that coal oil lamps were introduced in the churches, and their light is described as "brilliant". With kerosene at $1.50 per gallon, their use was somewhat of a luxury.
James Buchanan, Pennsylvania’s only U.S. President, had just started his administration. He was later dubbed "Ten Cent Jimmy", owing to the dissatisfaction of the low wages prevailing following the panic of 1857. William Bigler of Clearfield was U.S. Senator for Pennsylvania. He is quoted in the Journal as joining with Jefferson Davis of Alabama, Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Andrew Johnson of Tennessee in the debate concerning the admission of Kansas as a free or slave state.
The Raftsman’s Journal, which was supporting the newly organized Republican Party, bewailed the extravagance in Washington, as indicated by the following item:
Living Beyond It’s Income
"Our government has fallen into the hands of spendthrifts and is living far beyond its income. It appears by the report of the register of the Treasury, made February 12, 1858 that the receipts of the United States for the quarter ending December 31, 1857 were $7,092,665 and the expenditures, $17,035,654, a deficit of nearly ten million dollars. The editor went on to estimate that by the end of the fiscal year, the deficit at this rate would be $30,000,000 or more."
Clearfield has the distinction of being the first Lodge established in Clearfield County. From the Raftsman’s Journal of February 24, 1858, there appeared an article which reads "A.Y.M. (which means Ancient York Masons, that is what Freemasonry was known as during that time) on Monday, the 22nd instant, R. E. Brown, District Deputy Grand Master, assisted by a number of visiting brethren, organized Clearfield Lodge #314, A.Y.M., of which Thomas Barnhart is Worshipful Mater; S.B. Row, Senior Warden; John McGaughey, Junior Warden; John Patton, Treasurer and R.J. Wallace, Secretary.
The following Master Masons petitioned the Grand Lodge for granting of a warrant to Clearfield Lodge #314; George R. Barrett, Hobah Lodge #376, Brookville; Thomas Barnhart, Washington Lodge #265, Bloomsburg; John Patton, Lafayette Lodge #199, Lock Haven; Abram T. Schryver, Portage Lodge #220, Hollidaysburg; Alex McLeod, Mountain Lodge #281, Altoona; Robert J.Wallace, Juniata Lodge #282, Holldaysburg; Henry Lorain, Scotland; Simon B. Row, Loyalhanna Lodge #275, Latrobe; Benjamin Hartshorn, Curwensville; John McCaughey, Lafayette Lodge # 199. Lock Haven.
Of these ten, two men were Ministers; two Physicians; two Attorneys; a Merchant, a Printer and a Tanner. Jackson L. Crans, a 33 year old Attorney, was initiated and received all three degrees by dispensation on the date the Lodge was constituted, February 22, 1858. In the following month, five additional members were admitted by certificate. By the close of the year, the membership had grown to 25.
For years, there has been great rivalry between the towns of Curwensville and Clearfield. This rivalry was shared by the Brethren who had become members of Clearfield Lodge. Correspondence in the office of the Grand Secretary indicates that throughout its first year of existence, continued efforts were made to have the location changed to Curwensville. The Master, Thomas Barnhart, a Methodist Minister stationed at Curwensville advised the Grand Secretary that the rooms at Clearfield were not too satisfactory and outlined a proposal of General Patton to build a new Lodge room at Curwensville and give free rent for a period of 5 years. Barnhart urged quick approval to move to Curwensville. At a meeting in July of 1858, a motion in favor of the move was carried 13 to 2. The Clearfield members circulated a petition with the result that at the December Meeting, the motion to move the place of meeting was reconsidered and it was decided to keep the Lodge at Clearfield. The Worshipful Master informed the Grand Secretary on December 23, that to show with what accord the Lodge was operating, the motion was made and seconded by two of the Brothers who had previously voted for the change, and that it carried unanimously.
The first meetings of Clearfield Lodge #314 were held in rooms in a building, which stood, near the William F. Powell Hardware Store. This was a two-story frame building occupied by the J.S. Beahan Grocery Store at 24 South 2nd Street. and first occupied by the John McGaughey Mercantile. From 1871 to 1898 inclusive, the Lodge met on the 3rd floor of what was known as the Masonic Building, 12 North 2nd Street, also known as Rhine’s Tobacco Store. The rooms are still there, but of course, less the furniture.
On Sunday, January 1, 1899, the Lodge moved to the new Keystone building, located at the corner of 2nd and Locust streets, and which had been built to accommodate it during the Summer and Fall of 1898. A public meeting was held in the new rooms on Thursday, January 19, 1899 at which 175 members and guests, including many ladies were present.
Thirteen months later on Thursday, February 15, 1900, the building burned to the ground, destroying nearly all the old records of the Lodge. The last meeting before the fire was held February 5, 1900. For the next ten months, while the building was being reconstructed, the Lodge meetings were held in the Hall of the Clearfield Lodge of Odd Fellows, 129 East Market Street, beginning with the meeting of March 5, 1900.
Brother Asbury W. Lee, who was the owner of the Keystone Building, entered into a long-term lease for the 3rd floor, assuring the Clearfield Lodge a meeting place for the next 200 years.
Starting with a membership of 25 at the close of the first year, Clearfield Lodge gained membership very slowly until the end of the Civil War. In 1866, six members are believed to have resigned to become Warrant Members of Moshannon Lodge # 391, at Philipsburg, Pa. Of 13 resignations in 1870, nine became Warrant Members of Noble Lodge #480, constituted on Thursday, October 27, 1870 at New Washington, Pa. (near Mahaffey) on which occasion Acting Right Worshipful Grand Master Noble (for whom the Lodge is named) constituted the Lodge with the help of 11 members of Clearfield Lodge #314.
Noble Lodge was later moved to Curwensville, Pa, when several other members of Clearfield Lodge demitted. By the close of the year 1874, membership in Clearfield Lodge increased to 104, which remained until the end of the century. The paper money inflation during and following the Civil War, which culminated in the panic of 1873, slowed up the economic development of the entire country and was felt with great force in this area. In the next four years there were no additions made to the membership of the Lodge and its membership was reduced by death, resignation and suspension to a total of 59. It was not until the remaining ten years of the century that real growth of the Lodge asserted itself again.
At the end of the Lodge’s first 50 years, the membership stood at 164. A new peak was reached in 1930 of 367. The membership at the end of 100 years in 1958 was 522. The membership, as of February 22, 1987 was 482. The highest recorded membership of the Lodge occurred in 1968 when there were 598 members.
The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the Lodge was held February 21, 1908 in the Lodge rooms. Pearl T. Davis, the oldest living Past Master, was the chairman. A banquet attended by 124 members and visitors was held and a meal served by Past Master. E.S McCarty as caterer. Special distinction was given to John McGaughey, Past Master, the last survivor of the nine warrant members of the Lodge.
As a special mention, Past Master William D. Reading of Clearfield Lodge was Grand Swordbearer in the Grand Lodge in 1937. He was the only member of Clearfield Lodge that served as a Grand Lodge Officer.
Since the Lodge was constituted in 1858, there have been only five (5) Brothers that have received the coveted 33rd Degree in Scottish Rite Masonry, and they are O. Bruce Porter; Lewis F. Beard; John E. Williams, Charles B. Rishell and Paul B. Hineman.
Six members of Clearfield Lodge held the rank of "Knight - York Cross of Honour". This degree is attainable only to those members who have served as Worshipful Master of the Blue Lodge, High Priest of the Royal Arch Chapter, Thrice Illustrious Master of the Council of Royal and Select Masters and Eminent Commander of the Knight’s Templar. They are Charles B. Rishell, James H. Rollin, Carl W. Kendall, Jr., J. Clifford Murray, Jess E. Rollin and Richard A. Shipley.
For several years in the middle 1920’s Clearfield Lodge sponsored under the leadership of Past Master O. Bruce Porter, 33rd, a Men’s chorus consisting of 32 voices known as the "Royal Blue Hospitalers". The singers were recruited from the membership of the Lodge and sister Lodges in the vicinity. The fame of the organization with their robes spread rather widely. They traveled as far as Huntingdon, Brookville and Elizabethtown to present their programs.
The District 21 School of Instruction, serving Clearfield, Philipsburg, Curwensville, Coalport, and Osceola Mills Lodges was chartered in 1946. The first headquarters was at Philipsburg. Brother A. Maurice Palm, P.M. of Clearfield Lodge was the first Principal with Brother Otis M. Fulton serving as Assistant. Upon the death of Brother Palm, Brother Otis M. Fulton became Principal. He was known for his strict ritualistic instruction and Clearfield Lodge became one of the most proficient Lodges in the area. In 1950, the location of the School was changed from Philipsburg to Clearfield and has remained here ever since.
Much has been written about members of the Masonic Fraternity laying cornerstones for important buildings. Adorned in Masonic attire, George Washington laid the cornerstone for the United States Capitol building in Washington, D.C. on September 18, 1793, during the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of the building. The stone is located near the Old Supreme Court. It is not known that this actually is the original cornerstone, but it is engraved with a Masonic symbol and commissioned in 1893 (100 years after its placement).
Clearfield Lodge has participated in a number of cornerstone laying ceremonies: The Keystone Building in 1898; the Lee Trinity Parish House in 1927; the Clearfield Post Office building in 1932; the Leonard Grade School building in 1936; the Clearfield YMCA in 1961 and of course the Clearfield Masonic Lodge in 1973.
The celebration of the one-hundredth anniversary of the Lodge was held Sunday, March 2, 1958 at the Lee Parish House, Trinity Methodist Church in Clearfield. Robert S. Ardary was Worshipful Master in 1958, General Chairman for the event was George M. Sayers and the Toastmaster was J. Clifford Murray, P.M. Sanford M. Chilcote, R.W. Grand Master of the Grand Lodge was the principal speaker.
In June of 1960, the Lodge sponsored the Clearfield De Molay Chapter, which was made up of boys from age 13 to 21. This unit, although recognized throughout the areas as having one of the best degree teams, is no longer active. The DeMolay Chapter was ultimately moved to Noble Lodge in Curwensville and shortly thereafter was disbanded.
In the early 1960’s the Lodge members were seriously considering the proposal by several members that a Masonic Lodge Hall be constructed for Clearfield Lodge meetings and activities in the area. Meetings were held and the pros and cons of the proposal led to a spirited debate.
Those in favor pointed out that an attractive building, fronting on a main highway would give Masonry visibility and much needed public exposure and also let people in the area know that Masonry was alive and well in the Clearfield area. It would increase attendance at the meetings, as parking in downtown Clearfield on Friday nights was a real problem. Older members could not climb the 58 steps to the current Lodge rooms, but would be able to attend meetings in a one-story building. A new building would also encourage new membership.
Those opposed pointed out that Brother Asbury Lee, the owner of the Keystone building had generously given the Lodge a long term lease for the 3rd floor, assuring Clearfield Lodge a meeting place for the next 200 years, and our only expenses were for heat, lights and telephone. We could not afford the expense of the upkeep, maintenance, repairs and taxes on a new Lodge Hall. It would require too much time and effort on the part of the Lodge officers to manage the upkeep and maintenance of a new Lodge hall; the ritualistic work would therefore suffer. We would have to raise dues to cover the additional expenses of real estate taxes, insurance, heat and maintenance of the parking lot and lawn. The dues increase would discourage new membership. We would never be able to raise the money to complete construction and to furnish a new building. We would lose our present assets and funds in an incomplete project.
The negative aspects of the project continued to be expressed in a forceful manner, attempting to put the matter on hold. However, these arguments did not quiet the enthusiastic support of those in favor of the project. But for the persistent and dogged pursuit of the project by F. Clair Thompson, P.M. and Elmer D Fulesday, a row officer and later Master, the matter would have died a natural death.
F. Clair Thompson, P.M., an accountant for the Progress, studied the plans and construction costs of different buildings approved and recommended by the Grand Lodge. Clair came up with facts and figures that would insure the financing of the project. He convinced others that, if each member of Clearfield Lodge at that time contributed $400.00 it would pay for the project. Certainly we could count on many members donating more than $400.00 in materials and equipment. Pledge cards were printed and sent to all the members and Clair acted as the financial secretary, tallying up the results.
At the same time, Elmer D. Fulesday was contacting various Lodge members, who were in business, and engaged in building, plumbing, heating, electrical and wholesale contractors in the area for support. He obtained promises of donations of labor, materials, equipment and other services. When Elmer presented these optimistic reports and recommendations; the membership decided that it was now or never and voted to go ahead with the project. It was off and running. Several sites were investigated. A two-acre plot of ground, fronting on US Route 322, was purchased and construction was started.
Due to the limits of time and space, it is impossible to acknowledge the numberous individual members who donated their time, money, equipment, materials, services and advice to accomplish and cover certain phases of the construction. However, it is necessary to mention a few brothers who performed invaluable services.
Donald R. Mikesell, P.M., a local attorney, donated his time and legal service to incorporate the Clearfield Masonic Temple Association, that would be the owner and manager of the completed Masonic Hall. This all required Grand Lodge approval before land could be acquired and before contracts were let for construction. He performed title work on the real estate; obtained access approval onto US Route 322 from the Pa Dept of Highways prior to ground breaking. He reviewed and revised the various contracts involved and handled mortgage negotiations necessary to meet the payment schedules of the various construction contracts.
Clair Thompson obtained the seats for the Lodge room, at no cost, from the owner of the Ritz Theatre in Clearfield. Clair organized and directed a large team of willing Lodge members for the removal of the old, dirty and rusting seats from the basement of the theatre; and their storage at City Auto Sales until they were cleaned and made ready for refurbishing. He had the metal parts of the seats sand blasted by Lodge members, who were employees of the Clearfield Machine Shop.
He had the metal seats spray painted by Brother Joseph Benedek at Joe Benedek’s Auto Body Shop. He had the wood arm rests made by the Clearfield High School carpentry shop (paying for cost of materials only). Clair personally upholstered the seats with their present attractive blue covering and then directed the installation of the refurbished seats in their present location.
Elmer D. Fulesday, P.M. was a crew foreman for Penelec and coordinated the delivery of donated labor at the proper times for their performance during the various phases of construction. He arranged for the delivery of materials and equipment so as to have them on site when needed at the proper phase of construction. Elmer was assisted by various Lodge members, drafted into service by Elmer and his 1st Lieutenant, Lyle J. Butler – a construction foreman at Harbison Walker. Elmer and Lyle were on site daily to direct these operations. There was talk about town that Elmer and Lyle spent more time at the Masonic Temple construction than they did at their regular employments.
It is also important to note the help and assistance received during construction from Frederick B. Lansberry, President of County National Bank and a member of the Lodge, in obtaining a construction mortgage at a reasonable rate with very little equity or assets in place as security for the loan.
Brother Elmer D Fulesday, P.M. was President of the Clearfield Masonic Temple Association and he and F. Clair Thompson spearheaded a drive that raised approximately 80% of the funds needed for the construction of the building through a capital fund drive among members of the Lodge. the remainder, amounting to $40,000, was funded by twenty-year mortgage at County National Bank with a favorable interest rate of 7%, on April 15, 1972. The monthly payments were $310.12.
The Clearfield Masonic Temple didn’t "Just Happen". It is an example of Masons working together to accomplish a task that many on the outside would consider impossible
Credit must also be given to the Lodge Officers and members who have taken over after construction. They have continued to perform the enormous job, requiring time, effort and money to keep the Lodge Hall repaired and maintained in a proper manner. We, as Lodge members, are confident that the present membership will continue to do their part to keep the Masonic Temple a shining light for Freemasonry in the Clearfield Area.
On September 1, 1972, it was resolved that the place of meeting of the Lodge be moved to the Masonic Temple, Golden Rod, Clearfield. Resolution was laid over to a special meeting to be called for by the Worshipful Master. On December 1, 1972, the resolution was read again and adopted. The first meeting was held on January 5, 1973, the Lodge was dedicated on April 14, 1973 by W. Orville Kimmel, right Worshipful Grand Master; Rev. Ralph S. Krouse, Acting Grand Chaplain; Philip J. Robinson, Acting as Grand Organist. Elmer H. Shope was our Worshipful Master; Joseph E. O’Melia, Senior Warden; William B. Selvage, Junior Warden; John F. Black, Treasurer; Robert S. Kepner, Secretary.
A highlight of the Lodge’s history was the Mortgage Burning Ceremony held October 17, 1992, after the mortgage was paid off on February 13, 1992. Brother Fulesday was the Master of Ceremonies on this occasion.
Charity has long been a tradition of Clearfield Lodge. From minutes of the Lodge and other records we find that Masons were always making charitable donations. It may be surprising to some, but early in the Lodge’s history, the Lodge dispensed money to fund the funerals of members and their wives. There were numerous instances when money was sent to other Lodges to help them give financial aid to their members.
This tradition has continued up to the present time. Numerous charitable donations have been made to Youth Groups, families with children who have special needs, a Free Medical Clinic nearby, to our own members who have met with financial stress caused by health problems and others who just need help.
The donations made by the Lodge are usually done very quietly without advertisement. One large donation, which was noted in a newspaper article, was the purchase of an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) given to the Clearfield Police Department in September, 1991. This unit enables the police to act quickly as a first responder, when they come upon a person who is experiencing a heart attack. To help fund our charities, the Lodge began conducting Spaghetti Dinners in 2002 and now averages three dinners per year. The income from the dinners is kept separate from general lodge funds and used only for charitable purposes.
Brother Porter B. Zentmyer, business owner and member of Coalport Lodge #574, died in 1918 and under his will the Officers of Clearfield Lodge, together with with those of Osceola Lodge #515 and Coalport Lodge #574 were named and continue to act as trustees of the PB Zentmyer Trust Fund. This fund provided medical care to indigent families of crippled children throughout Clearfield County. Records of the fund include hundreds if not thousands of paid bills for youngsters who were treated by local doctors and hospitals. The Officers of the three (3) Lodges have expended many hours in the administration of this fund. With the advent of Public Assistance and other government programs, children no longer required the assistance rendered under Mr. Zentmyers’s will. To carry out Mr Zentmyers intent and purpose the Trustees have begun donating money annually with court approval to the Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Erie, Pa., as many Clearfield County children have been treated there over the years taking advantage of their No Cost Service.
All are reminded that Freemasonry is many things, but most of all Freemasonry is a way of life ……………………..