"Corinne Lodge No. 5 - Amity Lodge No. 23 Oration" Gavin K. K. Wardrope, W. Grand Orator
Most Worshipful Grand Master, Most Worshipful Past Grand Masters, Right Worshipful Brothers, Worshipful Brothers and Brethren all, Good Evening.
I stand here this morning as the Grand Orator of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Utah, nervous but excited to get the Grand Masters Visitation Schedule up and running. It has been exactly 1 month since the Grand Masters Installation and I am sure he is as eager as the rest of us to get things moving.
When I was asked to take up this appointment the Grand Master said I could have carte blanche to say whatever I want, that I did not have to have him read what I had written and that he would not interfere in any of my ideas. I hope that come next February, after 23 Visitations, he will feel the same way.
Now what to talk about. I could find something on the Internet, cut and paste, and have an instant Oration. That sounds good in theory but even though I can cut and paste with the best of them it is not the way I want to be remembered.
I therefore decided that if I did not find an Oration interesting no one else would. So, I have decided that for each Lodge, as far as I am able, I will try to find something of interest, whether it be historical or perhaps relevant to that Lodge today.
I must say, Brethren, this is the first time I have been to Corinne in daylight and what a lovely part of the State, far enough away from the Salt Lake Valley to ignore it, but close enough to Idaho to invest in lottery tickets, what a selling point.
But why would a Masonic Lodge be here in the first place.
Well, it transpires that the railroad had something to do with that and of course some dedicated Brethren. The town of Corinne was settled in 1869 being ideally placed to transport goods north to Montana along the Montana Trail and south to Salt Lake City. It was known as a Gentile City, the reasons why I am certainly not going to discuss. The future of the 'Burg on the Bear' seemed assured when the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory in May 1869. However, it was not to be and just 7 days after the celebration at Promontory the first shovel of dirt was turned in Ogden that would decide Corinne's fate. This was the start of the railroad line from Ogden to Franklin ID.
Corinne's fate was sealed and from what had been a bustling and wild town of over 1000 residents in its heyday, 15 Saloons, 16 liquor stores with an allegedly gun-fighting Marshal to keep order in this "Dodge City" of Utah.
It became a virtual ghost town overnight and religion notwithstanding the town struggled.
Where does Masonry fit in? We have to thank a certain EP Johnson for that. Br Johnson came to Corinne by way of Elkhorn Lodge #77 in Elkhorn WI being raised there in 1857. He was named the first Master of the Lodge UD in 1873; he conferred 59 degrees in his term the most by any Master in this Jurisdiction. On the Charter of the Lodge he is named as the first Master holding the Office for 1 year and conferring 35 Degrees. He became Grand Master in November 1876. He died in January 1898 and buried by the Brethren of Corinne Lodge here in the town Cemetery. He also served as Mayor of the town in 1875.
Another founding Member of the Lodge Alexander Toponce, who deserves an Oration all to himself, also served as Mayor from 1887 - 1889 and another Member John W Guthrie was Mayor from 1878-1887 and 1889-1895. The fate of the town being in the hands of 3 Masons for some 20 years. How times have changed, yes that was when Masons were actively involved and shaped their Community.
The Lodge itself was Chartered on November 25, 1873 by Grand Master Lois Cohn and his Principal Officers having travelled from Salt Lake for the event. What a sight must have greeted them in this once wild town and its lone Masonic Hall.
The officers installed that day had a short term of service, only 1 month, when on December 17, 1873 the Annual Election was held.
Corinne Lodge has always had a checkered history, mirroring that of the town's, from having no one to greet the Grand Master and his Officers in 1877 as a result of its Wild West mentality and bloody mindlessness. But through all of this the Lodge has survived. There have been times when the Membership has been as low as 13 but according to documentation the periods of its highest Membership reflected the times the Lodge gave most. Perhaps we can all learn something from that. It has always struggled with Members which is understandable, but at the present thanks to its current Worshipful Master and Members the Lodge is rising once more.
I came up here to take part in a Master Mason Degree about a month ago and it was obvious the deep feeling the Members have for this Lodge. If you have not had a chance have a look around and see the history from the pictures on the walls downstairs to the original Bible displayed right here in this Lodge room. I thought that the building appeared to be further into disrepair than my previous visit. I wondered then about some of the murmurings from various Brethren that I have heard saying that if the Lodge is non-sustainable then close it down or merge with another Lodge.
However, is this fair to this Lodge, they are still an active working Lodge, they are trying to have repairs done, but apart from money it also takes manpower.
The history of the Lodge in this area and its importance to the Town are worth preserving. This is not just Corinne's history, but our history.
Would it not be wonderful for all of Utah Freemasonry if we could have a Masonic Day of Service where we could come together as one Masonic Family and provide some TLC to our historic buildings, 1 building a year, just think of the possibilities and the satisfaction and the sense of pride?
Picture the scenario, food and friendship what more can you ask for. Why should the past be discarded, is it fair. The Brethren of Corinne Lodge should not have to ask for help, we as a Fraternity should realize that every last one of us has a stake in the survival of this building and Freemasonry in the City of Corinne.
The current Members of our Lodges are the backbone of the craft and subsequently all aspects of Freemasonry. These are the Brethren who are the Masters, Wardens, Secretaries etc. and they are the ones we should look after. We must figuratively use the Mason's trowel and spread the cement of Brotherly love.
Let us utilize the talents and skills of our members, we have men from all walks of life who I am sure are awaiting the call to share these abilities whether it be cooking, painting, fixing a door or an electrical problem.
Finally, Brethren, remember the Grand Masters comments on the day of his Installation regarding ohana or family. Corinne Lodge has lived that ideal by giving the required recommendation to 3 Lodges in the area, namely, Weber Lodge #6 in December 1873 and of course Harmony Lodge #21 in 1915 and Amity Lodge #23 in 1920. That tradition continues to this date as several Members of this lodge are dual Members of the other lodges.
To the Brethren of Amity I have not forgotten you but I apologize that due to time constraints I have not been able to include your historical sketch.
May Harmony and Amity forever continue here in Northern Utah?
Enjoy the rest of your Visitation.
Fraternally, Gavin KK Wardrope PM Grand Orator March 2, 2013