Bexley Lodge #704 F.&A.M. Chartered: 1928
Once upon a time, as all good stories begin, on a warm Wednesday evening, August 3rd, 1927, three Bexley neighbors–Bill Rockey, Paul Steen, and Bill Hughes– were chatting and smoking on the porch of 2468 Sherwood Road. The conversation drifted to Masonry and the subject developed as to the need of a neighborhood lodge and the ways and means to attain it.
The three brothers decided to ascertain just how many Masons were living in the Bexley/ Eastmoor area and to have a “pep” meeting to invite all of them. They wanted to test the waters to determine what, if any, interest there might be in actually starting a new Lodge in Bexley. Upon checking with Grand Lodge, Brothers Rockey, Steen, and Hughes were amazed to learn that about three hundred Masons lived in and around Bexley. A steering meeting was set for November 30th at St. Alban’s Church (then St. Alban’s Mission) on Drexel Avenue; nearly three hundred area Masons were invited. About 50 Masons attended the meeting, one of whom was Past Grand Master C. J. Pretzman. MWB Pretzman outlined the procedures for starting and chartering a new Lodge– and history was in the making! There was a desireto not adversely affect Reynoldsburg Lodge and, as a result, it was determined that petitions would not be accepted by men residing east of Big Walnut Creek.
Many organizational meetings followed at St.Albans, with more and more Masons beginning to enthusiastically work toward the formation of a new Lodge in Bexley. Exactly one year later, on August
3rd, 1928, the Grand Master, B. Frank Thomas recognized and approved the status of Bexley Lodge #704 U.D. (Under Dispensation). Just three months later, on October 18th, Bexley Lodge was granted its Charter from Grand Lodge. The Charter Worshipful Master was WB Edward Mills, who had served as Master of Columbus Lodge #30 in 1899. Paul Steen was elected to serve as the
Charter Senior Warden and William Hughes to serve as the Charter Junior Warden. Bexley Lodge was Chartered on November 21st, 1928, with one hundred fifty-one members, all of whom were already Master Masons and all of whom had to request demits from their home Lodges. Plural membership was not permitted at that time. Annual dues were set at $5.00 with the provision that dues could never exceed $10.00. Of the original Master Masons who started the process, the only one who did not demit to Bexley was Brother Rockey.
After severing as Master, Paul Steen became Secretary and served in that office for 35 years. WB Durward L. Sudduth who succeeded him served for the next 12 years. In its entire existence,
Bexley Lodge has had only six different brothers elected to serve as Lodge Secretary.
The new Lodge started off in high gear and continued to operate with many enthusiastic and energetic Brothers– all pitching in to help establish the Lodge as a quality operation. Rickly Lodge #670 at Miller and Main was the sponsoring Lodge and the location used for meetings. On May 15th, 1929, a building committee was formed to raise $60,000 for a building and on October 16th, 1929, a ten-year lease was signed for the hall at 2521 East Main Street. The first meeting held in the location was on April 3rd, 1930, and was the Annual Inspection in the E.A. degree. On May 13th, 1930, MW James W. Morgan consecrated Bexley Masonic Temple as the new home of Bexley Lodge #704. The furnishings were purchased by member donations of $5.00 and $10.00, with one brother donating $500– which at that time was a lot of money. All the furniture was purchased at a cost of $1,575. Today it would cost more than that for one on the officers’ chairs.
The Lodge was a lessee in the building for many years. In the 1960s and 1970s, various lots in the area were considered as sites on which to build a new temple. One lot was purchased, only to be re-sold after the building at 2521 East Main Street was purchased. The lot was at the northeast corner of College Avenue and I-70. Finally, in 1980, the Bexley Lodge Temple Corporation purchased the building. Funds were raised by the sale of non-interest baring certificates and bonds. Most of the bondholders eventually donated the bonds back to the lodge or temple corporation. As a part of the consolidation with Sunrise Lodge, owners of bonds were notified and given the opportunity to donate or redeem their bonds.
At the first meeting in the building after its purchase January 14th, 1981, WB George Stevens rapped a fifteen-pound gavel 100 times. WB Ray Rinderer and WB Percy Howry had originally presented the gavel to WB Robert Henshaw at his installation. These two men made the giant gavel from a tree that was cut down on the lot the Temple Corporation had purchased which was filled with ten pounds of lead. [PARA][PARA]As a part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, there was a re-consecration of the Lodge room on October 13th, 1978, conducted by MW Jerry Rasor.
WB Charles Orr served as the lodge organist for over 30 years and selected the organ, which was in continual use and in working condition when the building was sold.
In 1968 WB Robert Henshaw had the most trying of any Bexley master as WB Paul Steen the Secretary passed away after attending only two meetings. Assistant secretary WB Rhys Woolcott then assumed the duties but then he also passed away. WB Ray Rinderer then acted as Secretary for the balance of the year.
On October 20, 1972, when MW Faye Gullion was Grand Master, WB James Lilley and the officers of Bexley Lodge opened a lodge of Master Masons at the 63rd Annual Communication of the Grant Lodge of Ohio held at the Veterans Memorial in Columbus, Ohio.
Historically, Bexley Lodge was socially active in the community. From its inception, the lodge held an annual picnic– the first of which was reportedly held at Oak Park.
This evolved into a corn roast, which for the last 40 years of the lodge was held at the Jeffery Mansion Park. The lodge provided all-you-could-eat corn and hot dogs. For years, WB John White was able to consume more corn than any other two people. For many years there was also a dinner dance with a band held in a rented hall. For a number of years it was held at the old Columbus Riding Club. The last twenty-five years-until 2000– it was a Valentine’s Day event held at the Columbus Maennerchor Club. There were also square dances that were held in the Montrose School Gymnasium. The DeMolay’s and Job’s Daughters were included and given lessons. For many years the Lodge, Bexley Eastern Star, Bexley DeMolay, and Job’s Daughters held a spaghetti dinner to raise funds for building improvements. The building was owned managed by the Bexley Temple Corporation and its successor, Sunrise Lodge #783, until its sale to facilitate the purchase and remodeling of the
new building at 211 West Johnstown Road. When the City of Bexley began holding an annual street fair, WB Richard Baker felt the Lodge should be involved. As a result the Lodge had a booth with Masonic literature and offered free water and lemonade until they were forced to stop serving refreshments as it was in competition with the food vendors. The Lodge marched or rode in the Bexley Fourth of July parade for a number of years.
Bexley had an active PM association, which was a social organization available to assist the WM and Lodge if requested. The association usually met three or four times each year, one was always in late summer with the individual aspiring to become Master at the next election. The first association meeting after the lodge annual meeting,usually around Christmas, was the induction of the Junior Past to the PM group. The new PM and his lady were provided with Santa and Mrs. Claus outfits to wear for the evening. The new PM was then elected vice-president and social chairman of the PM association to move up to president the next year. The Junior Past’s primary responsibility was to set the meetings and given a budget of $5.00 that had to be returned at the end of the year. The serial number was always checked to make sure it was the same bill. The Lodge annually made a donation to the Past Masters Association, which was used to purchase the meat for the meetings, usually a potluck, or to cover the meal cost of any Past Masters widows if the meeting was held at a restaurant. The association also provided the men to sit in the various officers’ chairs and confer one of the degrees at the request of the Worshipful Master on a Past Masters Night.
After Percy Howry received his Past Masters jewel, the cost was becoming prohibitive so the lodge started the practice of engraving the name of the prior Past Master on the back of a Jewel before it was reissued. A long-standing tradition was to serve oyster stew at the annual meeting. There was always the thought that brothers attended more for the stew than the annual meeting. It was also customary to serve Hawaiian ham sandwiches after inspection.
When the historic lodge was created at the Ohio Village, Bexley assisted financially and donated the Steward and Deacon Staffs, which were the Bexley lodge’s original staffs. Bexley conferred the Fellow Craft degree a number of times at the historic lodge. In conjunction with the degree work, there was usually a dinner at the Colonel Crawford Inn and a program for the ladies while the men were in the historic lodge room.
WB Richard Bull and RW George Stevens were the only Masters who had to preside over a Masonic trial held by the lodge. Today the Grand Lodge Trial Commission handles these situations.
As a result of the hard work and dedication of the officers, members, Past Masters, and their ladies, Bexley Lodge received a Grand Masters Award with Distinction, which was presented to WB Daniel H. Dozer by MW Hilmer Neumann at Grand Lodge in 1986. Bexley was also recognized by the 14th Distinct for having perfect attendance at the district inspections at least seven times. The practice of
recognizing attendance at inspections was a relatively new concept in relation to the age of the lodge.
On October 18th, 2005, Bexley held a 75th Anniversary Celebration at the Athletic Club of Columbus. WB George W. Stevens chaired the committee of WB Martin W. Nash, WB Richard J. Bull,
WB Richard S. Baker, WB Theodore P. Shannon, Brothers Lloyd Early, and Z. John Jachim. In addition to a brief history on the founding of the lodge, WB George G. Brintlinger gave a talk
“What Masonry Means to Me.” Although there was a charge for the dinner, as the brothers arrived, they were handed their un-cashed check.
It cannot easily be determined how many men have been members of Bexley Lodge, but it must number in the thousands after seventy-eight years of continuous operation. In the 1970s, there were over 650 members on the roster. As of the consolidation with Sunrise Lodge there were only about 160 members on the roster of Bexley Lodge and many of those lived in sunnier climates.
Bexley Lodge has been honored to contribute to Ohio Masonic History. During Bexley Lodge’s existence, Past Masters of Bexley Lodge have served the Masonic fraternity. MWB Fay L Gullion served as Grand Master of Masons in Ohio in 1971. During his time in the Grand Lodge line, he attended over 90% of the lodges in Ohio. As Grand Master MW Fay attended a Lodge meeting of Prince Hall Masonry, the Grand Lodge of Ohio now recognizes a Prince Hall Lodge, which at the time was considered clandestine. He delivered talks on Price Hall Masonry and stated that their work was being done in a proper manor. RWB George W Stevens served in the Grand Lodge line but dropped out during his year as Grand Orator after the death of his wife. MW Jack Allen was appointed to fill the vacancy in the line and became Grand Master. There have been a number of Bexley members honored by the Scottish Rite and received their 33(. In addition to the above two brothers, others so honored were James Foreman, James W. (Wally) Phillips, C. Howard Johnson, WB Richard Bull, WB George Brintlinger, and WB Martin Nash. Brothers Johnson and Foreman also served as Potentate of Aladdin Shrine. There have also been several Bexley Past Masters who received KYCH, or received the Meritorious Service Award or Special Merit Award from the Scottish Rite. Many members served in various leadership capacities with various Masonic or Masonic related organizations during the lodge’s distinguished history. The Lodge had a long and distinguished history of involvement and service to its members, community, Masonic organizations and Masonic related groups.
All good stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. On February 8th, 2006, Bexley Lodge #704 merged into Sunrise Lodge #783 after about 3 years of conversations. Although Bexley was in sound financial condition, the station of Worshipful Master had been filled with a Past Master ten of the prior fifteen years and there was nothing to indicate that the trend would change. The furniture, alter, pillars, and staffs used in the new building at 211 West Johnstown Rd were all from the Bexley building as Sunrise had been using the paraphernalia of Blendon #339 while meeting in Westerville. Duplicate paraphernalia from the three merged Lodges was distributed to worthy Lodges throughout Ohio.
Authored February, 2012 by WB Daniel Dozer with assistance from WB Ray Rinderer, WB Richard Bull, RW George Stevens, and WB Richard Baker.