Reading Lodge No. 254

FROM REDDING TO READING TO REDDING. . . AND READING FOR EVERMORE   by Michael Sanders, PM

READING LODGE NO. 254 F. & A. M. actually traces its beginnings to a preliminary meeting held by twenty-three Masonic brothers in December of 1878.   They met at the Good Templar’s Hall in the town then known as Reading.   The majority of this small group were members of Northern Light Lodge # 190 in Millville and also Western Star Lodge # 2 in Shasta.

The town’s earliest name had originally been REDDING; named after a prominent official of the railroad company.   Mr. B.B. Redding who had also served as a California Secretary of State.   That name however, only lasted for three years as a State Assembly Bill authored by Assemblyman Klots in 1874 authorized the town’s name change to READING to honor Major Pearson B. Reading who was the recipient of the original Reading Land Grant from the Mexican Government prior to California’s statehood.

The town’s new name was adopted by the Lodge even in it’s earliest minutes of the preliminary planning meeting in 1878, and successively through the months that followed up to and including their Charter on October 16th, 1879.

In 1880, another State Assembly Bill authored by J.S.P. Bass repealed the Act of 1874, and ever since then the town has been named REDDING, but the Lodge retained its name of Reading as adopted in its earliest meetings held when the town held the same name. To add to this little bit of confusion, both names are pronounced “red-ing” and not “reed-ing”.

Reading Lodge No. 254, F. & A. M. received its dispensation on February 22, 1879 signed by Grand Master John Mills Browns, which allowed its members to proceed to do Masonic work and then received its Charter on October 16, 1879.   Its first Worshipful Master was Chauncey C. Bush who later was elected as both the Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge and also as Worthy Grand Patron of the Order of the Eastern Star of California.   The first candidate ever raised was Erastus Dickinson in 1879 who later became Master of the Lodge and was the grandfather of two other Past Masters of the Lodge, Russell and Harry Thompson.

The Lodge met for the first ten years in the Good Templar’s Hall in Redding then moved to the Odd Fellows Hall which is still standing as a part of the Redding Mall.   In 1890 the Lodge authorized a committee to form a Building Association for the purpose of erecting a Masonic Temple in the City of Redding.   The first corporation was formed and it acquired land at Market and Tehama Streets in Redding.   In the following months, bids were received as well as rejected and the final contract was awarded to a Stockton firm for $27,290.   In 1892 the corporation caused to be constructed a combined Lodge and hotel known as the Temple Hotel.   Over the next few years many financial problems arose and the Lodge moved back to the Odd Fellows Hall in 1896 and subsequently to Jacobson’s Hall in 1902 which was the second story of a mercantile business owned by Charles Jacobson, a member of the Lodge.   The corporation sold the Temple Hotel building in 1905 and dissolved the Corporation in 1906.   Another committee of the Lodge in 1907 commenced to establish a new building corporation known as the Shasta Masonic Temple Association with the combined investment assistance of the Royal Arch Chapter and the Eastern Star Chapter.   The location of Yuba and Market Streets was chosen, purchased and Reading Lodge first met in the “Down Town” Temple in December of 1910.   That building was occupied by Reading Lodge and other Masonic Bodies for 61 years.   In 1971 the necessity of an urban renewal project for the City of Redding was cause for the dissolution of that Temple Corporation and the formation of a new Corporation known as the Redding Masonic Temple Association which built the 15,000 square foot temple located at 160 Masonic Avenue.   The dedicating Grand Master of Masons of California and the Worthy Grand Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star described it as one of the most beautiful in the state and worthy of our support.   That building has served it’s three owners as well as many other Masonic organizations well for 35 years and in efforts to downsize in reality to the size of our fraternity today, was sold in December of 2006.

No short history of this Lodge would be complete without the mention of the consolidation of Kennett Lodge in 1925.   Kennett was a copper mining town just 15 miles north of Redding.   Kennett Lodge was chartered in 1915 but after World War 1 realized a substantial economic decline with the falling price of copper.   This relatively young Lodge joined Reading Lodge after the town became less and less of a community as the copper mining industry dwindled.   Today the town of Kennett lies will under the waters of Shasta Lake about two miles north of the Dam.

Reading Lodge also made history in 1985 when, after three years of planning and countrywide advertising, it hosted the largest gathering of Master Masons in the history of California Masonry.  The Tiler’s Register was signed by 2,442 Master Masons who assembled at the tiled Redding Rodeo Grounds (with rented civic auditorium next door as alternate rain site) to witness the famous Oklahoma Indian 3rd Degree.   Seventeen peace officers tiled the area, with the help of Redding’s Mayor (and Past Master) who closed the street and river access for the day.  All braved the 111-degree heat and together with a committee of over 110 brothers fed and entertained the unbelievable crowd for almost twelve hours.   The results of that day – besides unparalleled fraternalism – were good food, excellent entertainment, education, two heart attacks and unification of the entire Redding Masonic Family and a final burning of the Temple Mortgage and outstanding private notes.

Reading Lodge No. 254 again made history in 1996.   Very few Grand Masters have had the privilege to make their son a Master Mason (particularly while they served as Grand Master).   Grand Master Charles Alexander (and his entire corps of Grand Officers) was invited by Reading Lodge No. 254 to put on a 3rd Degree for his son.   What made this a historical event, is that unlike his predecessors, M.W. Alexander had no knowledge that the candidate was his son, until he was brought into the Lodge room that evening.

In 2012, Nathaniel Uriah McBroom was the 1200th Master Mason raised in Reading Lodge.

Reading Lodge No. 254 notes with admiration and historical interest that five of its members have also served as Mayor of the City of Redding, including Howard Kirkpatrick,   Eleven of its Past Masters have been favored with appointments by presiding Grand Masters as Grand Lodge Officers including Bruce Galloway, Myron Tisdel, Loyal Taylor, Michael Sanders and Howard Kirkpatrick. Four have been elected to serve in the Grand Lodge line, two of whom served as Grand Master.   Most Worshipful Gilbert C. DeForest served in 1944 and Most Worshipful Howard D. Kirkpatrick served in 2003; and Right Worshipful Bruce Galloway was installed as Deputy Grand Master in October 2016.

 Kennett, California
 
Downtown Kennett in the early 20th century
Kennett Lodge No. 456

Dispensation issued May 12, 1915
Chartered October 15, 1915
Consolidated with Reading Lodge No. 254  December 19, 1925

Kennett was an important mining town in northern California, until it was flooded by Shasta Lake while Shasta Dam was being constructed.   Kennett is submerged under approximately 400 ft. of water (depending on the lake level).   It was the largest, most important mining town in the area outside of Redding and Old Shasta.

The first recorded mention of the Kennett site was in an article from the Daily Alta California dated June 7, 1852, announcing that gold had been discovered in Backbone Creek, which became the location of Kennett.   Besides mining, Kennett also grew as a result of railroad construction.

Sometime during the construction of the railroad, the settlement on Backbone Creek was named Kennet in honor of a railroad-man “Squire” Kennet.   Little else is known about him, and there are no official records related to him.   At some point, the town of Kennet began to be spelled Kennett, possibly through the mistake of a mapmaker.

Kennett continued to prosper, and saw an economic boom during World War I brought on by the increase in metal prices.   The end of the war contributed to an economic depression for the town, as the expanded mines, smelters, and railroad lines were too large to be supported by a peacetime economy.   The largest mine in Kennett, the Mammoth mine, closed permanently in 1923, devastating the local economy.   In 1931, Kennett was disincorporated, as the population had dropped below the level required to be an incorporated city.  The federal government had considered building a dam in the area since the 1870s, and the New Deal gave them the perfect opportunity to do so.   In 1935, construction on Shasta Dam began.   There is no record of any public hearings to ask Kennett residents their opinion. The diminished population of the town was likely considered too insignificant to matter.   Most people sold their land to the government willingly, while some waited until the waters began to rise before abandoning their homes.   Kennett was completely submerged by 1944, one year before the completion of the dam.