There were members of the Masonic Order in the Oregon Country
for several years prior to the organization of the first lodge. Just how
many is not known. By checking the names of men engaged in the
establishment of the Provisional Government against the rosters of the subsequently established Masonic lodges, it has been determined that the following were Master Masons: Jason Lee, J. W. Nesmith, J. C. Avery, A. Lee Lewis, L. A. Rice, William P. Dougherty, and Absalom J. Hembree (A. J. Hembree Source #2).
The principal town of the early days of Oregon was Oregon City,
located at the head of navigation on the Willamette river by reason of the falls. It was the center of government, industry and commerce.
Quite naturally the population in the town, as well as in the surrounding country, included members of the Masonic Order, and it would follow in due course of time that they would keenly desire to form a regular lodge.
An advertisement was posted in the Oregon Spectator, at Oregon City on February 5, 1846 by Joseph Hull, Peter G. Stewart, and William P . Dougherty.
The notice was placed in the first issue of the Oregon Spectator, at Oregon City, on February 5, 1846, which read:
“The members of the Masonic fraternity in Oregon Territory
are respectfully requested to meet at the City Hotel in Oregon
City, on the 21st inst. to adopt some measure to obtain a charter for a lodge.”
Joseph Hull, Peter G. Stewart, William P . Dougherty, Fendal C.
Cason, Leon A. Smith, Frederick Waymer and Lot Whitcomb, seven
in all ‘attended the meeting of February 21, 1846, prepared and signed a petition directed to the Grand Lodge of Missouri, praying for a charter for a lodge at Oregon City, Oregon Territory, to be known as Multnomah. The name was suggested by Brother Stewart.
The Grand Lodge of Missouri was the nearest Grand Lodge to
the Oregon Country. To get the petition to the Missouri Grand Lodge, 50 that it could be acted upon at the 1846 annual communication, was a serious problem since at that time there was no mail service, and letters could be sent only by private messengers. Dougherty agreed to secure a messenger, and to defray all necessary expenses. He was able to obtain the services of Joel Palmer, subsequently a member of Multnomah Lodge and still later a member of Lafayette Lodge, who delivered the petition to James A. Spratt at Platte City, Missouri. Spratt, a friend of Dougherty, secured the sponsorship of Platte City Lodge No. 56, and presented it to the Grand Lodge of Missouri. That Grand body granted a charter to Multnomah Lodge No. 84 on October 17, 1846, and authorized Joseph Hull, as Worshipful Master, William P. Dougherty, as Senior Warden, and Fendal C. Cason, as Junior Warden, to open and hold a lodge at Oregon City, Oregon Territory.
Spratt assumed the responsibility of placing the charter in safe
hands for delivery to the members at Oregon City. This took time but
he finally secured the promise of F. B. Cornwall, who was organizing
a party for Oregon, to deliver the charter. This important instrument
he enclosed in a tin container, to preserve it from the elements. Cornwall’s emigrant train did not leave St. Joseph, Missouri, until April, 1848, and was held up at Omaha by hostile Indians until the party was augmented by a large wagon train from Ohio.
When the combined party arrived at Fort Hall, near what is now
known as Pocatello, Idaho, they learned of the discovery of gold in
California, and Cornwall decided to join a group for the California
gold diggings. He turned the charter over to Orin and Joseph Kellogg father and son, members of the Ohio wagon train, who agreed to deliver the charter at Oregon City. Joseph Kellogg placed the charter and its tin container in a cowhide trunk, which he had made in 1834, and with his father delivered it to the officers of the lodge at Oregon City on September 11, 1848. Thus two years, seven months, and six days elapsed between the notice in the Oregon Spectator and the arrival of the charter at Oregon City.
The foregoing data on the formation of Multnomah Lodge No. 84,
at Oregon City, is substantiated, but the work of the lodge from September 11, 1848 to 1858, cannot be satisfactorily determined , because of the fires of January, 1860 and January 10, 1885. The first fire destroyed the charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Missouri, the jewels, and other property; the second fire destroyed the records of the lodge, 1846 to 1858. Two historians, Peter Paquet, Past Master of Multnomah Lodge, and J. M. Hodson, Past Grand Master, have attempted to fill the gap by presenting their versions of the early history of the lodge.
Their reports do not agree on important particulars.
Peter Paquet was Grand orator in 1884, and delivered an historical
address at the laying of the corner-stone of Clackamas County courthouse at Oregon City, on June 26, 1884. He states that the following brethren were the officers of the lodge when it was opened on September 11, 1848 :
“Joseph Hull, Worshipful Master; William P. Dougherty,
Senior Warden; Berryman Jennings, Junior Warden; Joseph
Kellogg, Treasurer; Joel Palmer, Secretary. William Holmes
was appointed Secretary, September 28, 1848; Lot Whitcomb,
Senior Deacon; Orin Kellogg, Junior Deacon; J. H. Bosworth,
J . M. Hodson, Past Grand Master, presented an extensive address
on June 14, 1901, at the celebration of the Grand Lodge semi-centennial. His description of the first meeting of Multnomah Lodge lists the following officers:
“Joseph Hull, Worshipful Master; Orin Kellogg, Senior Warden; Fendal C. Cason, Junior Warden; and Joseph Kellogg, Treasurer. Of the brethren occupying the other stations, we are not inf or med, owing to the unfortunate loss of the records by fire in 1857”.
He further stated the circumstances which placed Orin Kellogg in
the Senior Warden’s station instead of William P. Dougherty, who
was named in the charter. His statement follows:
“Brother Dougherty having been attracted by the discoveries
of gold in California, had departed for that Eldorado some
time previous to the arrival of the charter, hence could not
be present to be installed Senior Warden, for which off ice he
was named by the Grand Master of Missouri. Brother Orin
Kellogg was elected and installed in his place”.
As to the work of the lodge after the initial meeting, J. M. Hodson,
Past Grand Master, had this to say:
“Several of the brethren soon became interested in mining in
California, and for a year or two the lodge did not do a large
amount of work as its most active promoters, including Brother Hull, the first Master, were absent in the mines or in commercial occupations depending upon the rapid development of their interest in California. Brother Hull, Master of the lodge, started to the mines within a day or two after the organization, and did not return until in February, 1849, when he remained in Oregon but a short time, and in none of his letters of subsequent years does he speak of doing any further Masonic work. It therefore appears to have become dormant
until the Grand Secretary of Missouri requested the late Captain J. C. Ainsworth to overhaul the records of Multnomah, No. 84, and report to him the condition of affairs. We have before us a letter from Brother Ainsworth to our late Brother Peter. Paquet, under date of March 21, 1886, in which he speaks of his connection with Multnomah, No. 84. He says:
“In 1850 I overhauled the records of Multnomah, No. 84, at
Oregon City, and made report of the situation to the Grand
Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Missouri. I revived the old
lodge, and after much labor got it in working order, and was
elected Master at the first election ever held under the charter,
and was, therefore, the first ‘elected Master’ under (of) the
oldest chartered lodge on the Pacific Coast”.
The most recent account of the earliest days of Multnomah Lodge
No. 84 comes from the pen of Frank W. Knoll, Past Master and Historian of that lodge, who wrote a brief history in 1948, entitled “How Masonry Came to Oregon”. It was published in 1948, the year that Multnomah Lodge celebrated its centennial of work as a chartered lodge; some quotations from_ it will be stated here, not because they necessarily differ from those previously given, but because they are of prime interest.
“Immediately upon receipt of the Charter, Joseph Hull called
the Brethren together and at noon of that same day began the
work of organization. The meeting was held on the second
floor of a log store building owned by Brother Dougherty,
which was located near the south end of Main Street in Oregon City. All of the Lodge furnishings were improvised-a rough packing box with one side open served as the Altar, the Master’s pedestal was a barrel of flour, the Senior Warden’s station a barrel of whiskey and the ·Junior Warden’s station a barrel of salt pork, the three needing little imagination to represent the Corn, Wine and Oil of Masonic tradition.”
“Brother Berryman Jennings, who later became the first
Grand Master of Masons in Oregon, installed the officers and
probably performed the ceremonies of constituting the Lodge”.
“As near as can be determined (the reports of this meeting
having been destroyed by a fire in 1860), the following were
installed as the first officers of the new Lodge:
Joseph Hull Worshipful Master
Orin Kellogg Senior Warden
Fendall C. Cason Junior Warden
Joseph Kellogg Treasurer
Joel Palmer Secretary
Lot Whitcomb Senior Deacon
Berryman Jennings Junior Deacon
J. H. Bosworth Tyler
“Joseph Hull, who was installed as Worshipful Master, was
a Past Master of Milford Lodge No. 54 of Milford, Ohio, in
which Lodge he was raised in 1834 at the age of twenty-one.
He left Oregon shortly after the constituting of Multnomah
Lodge and joined the gold rush to California, where he remained until his death January 4, 1896″.
“Brother William P. Dougherty, named in the Charter as
Senior Warden, had already departed to follow the lure of
gold, and Orrin Kellogg was elected and installed in his
“The ballot was spread for Christopher Taylor, Amos L. Lovejoy and Albert E. Wilson and they were duly elected. Taylor
and Lovejoy were initiated, passed and raised and Wilson
received the first two degrees. Christopher Taylor being the
first obligated, is credited with being the first Master Mason
made in this great country west of the Rocky Mountains”.
“This beginning would indicate a quick growth of the new
Lodge but such was not to be. Gold had been discovered in
California on February 23rd and the news had spread over the country, as already noted. A few days after the September
11th meeting, fifty covered wagons bearing 150 gold seekers
left Oregon City for the gold fields. Many of the members, including the Master, Joseph Hull, were among this group and
the Lodge accomplished little or nothing in the next two
years. It is believed that Lot Whitcomb (who built the first
steamboat in the Northwest) was in charge of the Lodge in
1849, although documentary evidence is lacking. However, in
1850 Captain John C. Ainsworth, who came to Oregon in that
year at the instance of Brother Whitcomb to run the new boat
that Whitcomb was building at Milwaukie, rejuvenated the
Lodge and was elected its Master”.
Some twelve miles below Oregon City was the town-site of Portland,
which had been established by Amos L. Lovejoy in 1842, and was referred to by citizens of Oregon City as “The landing twelve miles
below”. This village on the banks of the Willamette certainly had
nothing in 1850 to excite rivalry of Oregon City. It consisted of log
cabins and a few crude buildings passing as mercantile establishments.
Streets had been laid out, and the founders, Pettygrove and Lovejoy,
hoped that some day they would have more than just signs nailed on
trees. In the meantime, forest trails served the residents. It was a
dumpy little village in 1850, which no one believed would some day
be the metropolis of Oregon. Portland began to grow in 1860 from the traffic of gold activities in the interior country.
However, this little village sheltered several members of the Masonic order, and they desired a lodge where they might meet and
work; consequently, they determined to form one. The prime movers
in this undertaking were Benjamin Stark and S. H. Tyron. Berryman
Jennings, Senior Warden of Jennings Lodge No. 4, Sacramento, California (perhaps he was also a member of Multnomah Lodge No. 84 at Oregon City), and at the time visiting in Oregon, assisted them in the project. On June 24, 1850, fifteen Master Masons met in the store of J. V. Butler, approximately at the present corner of SW First and Alder street.
They drew up a petition for a dispensation for a lodge at Portland
under the name of Willamette, directed it to the Grand Lodge of
California, and chose Stark and Tyron as delegates to secure the instrument. Signers of the petition were: James Long, Thomas J . Hobbs, Albert E. Wilson, William M. King, Benjamin Stark, Jacob Goldsmith, Nathan Crosby, Samuel W. Bell, Ralph Wilcox, S. H. Tyron, Joseph B. V. Butler, Robert Thompson, J. W. Whapels and George H.
Stark and Tyron went to San Francisco by sea, secured the sponsorship of Davy Crockett Lodge, and presented the petition to the Grand Master of California, Jonathan D. Stevenson, who issued the dispensation on July 5, 1850. Tyron returned to Portland with the
dispensation and the proxy of the Grand Master to organize the lodge, and set it to work, which important event was accomplished in the evening of July 17, 1850.
The initial meeting of Willamette Lodge U.D., was held in the
upper story of the Couch warehouse, near the Willamette River, between S.W. Burnside and Couch street. Officers installed were: James P. Long, Worshipful Master; Ralph Wilcox, Senior Warden; Thomas J. Hobbs, Junior Warden; William M. King, Treasurer; Benjamin Stark, Secretary; J. W. Whapels, Senior Deacon; Dennis Tyron, Junior Deacon; and J. V. Butler, Tyler. Fees for the degrees were set at $100, affiliation at $10, affixing the seal of the lodge $2, and dues per month $2.
On October 21, 1850, Willamette Lodge, U.D., decided to secure a
charter from the Grand Lodge of California; selected delegates to the fall communication of that Grand body in the persons of Jacob Goldsmith, Benjamin Stark and S. H. Tyron. On November 27, 1850, the Grand Lodge of California voted a charter for Willamette Lodge No.
Brother Lewis May conveyed the charter to Portland, and presented
it to Willamette Lodge at the meeting of January 1, 1851.
The early minutes disclose matters of interest. John H. Couch,
master mariner, presented his petition for the degrees of Masonry on
August 7, 1850, which petition was recommended by George H. Flanders and Robert Thompson. Couch was one of the prominent citizens in the early years of Portland, and Couch Street is named after him. On October 26, 1850, Willamette Lodge voted fifty dollars, to be turned over to the “committee of the citizens of Portland”, for the relief of suffering immigrants at The Dalles and in Blue Mountains. Another item of interest was the election of James Long as Worshipful Master on December 27, 1850, but he served only until January 5, 1851, when he installed charter Master John Elliot.
Another group of Master Masons, in the small farming community
of Lafayette in Yamhill county, desired to form a lodge and petitioned the Grand Lodge of California for a dispensation. Grand Master Stevenson of California issued his dispensation in the spring of 1851, the exact date is unknown. The instrument designated F. B. Martin as Worshipful Master; Joel Palmer, Senior Warden; and A. J. Hembree, Junior Warden. Authentic facts relative to the first five years of this lodge are lost. Jacob Hoberg’s history of Lafayette Lodge, dated January 5, 1888, relies upon a letter written by the Grand Secretary of California, on June 11, 1851 for earliest known data.
This letter disclosed that the reports of Lafayette Lodge, U.D., did
not reach the Grand Secretary until after the Grand Lodge communication closed; however, that Grand body issued a charter on May 9, 1851, and, for want of better information, placed the names of the dispensation officers in the charter. For unknown reasons, the lodge, upon receiving the charter, elected other officers. Lafayette was No. 15, in the Grand Jurisdiction of California, and worked as a chartered lodge for a little over four months, prior to the formation of the Oregon Grand Lodge.