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Detroit Lakes Masonic Lodge Celebrates 150 Years of ‘Making Good People Better’ – Detroit Lakes Tribune

Detroit Lakes Masonic Lodge Celebrates 150 Years of ‘Making Good People Better’ – Detroit Lakes Tribune

DETROIT LAKES — For as long as Detroit Lakes has existed, there has been one fraternal organization that has worked to improve it.

This organization, Mt. Tabor Lodge No. 106, is celebrating 150 years of brotherhood and self-improvement.

Originally organized on January 14, 1874, the Masonic Lodge had its first formal organizational meeting on February 11, 1873, and several informal meetings during the fall and winter of 1872. Just prior to these informal meetings, Detroit Lakes, then Detroit, was officially founded by Colonel George Johnston in 1871.

In Minnesota, the first Masonic Lodge was organized in St. Paul on July 16, 1849, shortly after Minnesota became an organized territory on March 3, 1849. The oldest lodge in America was organized in 1732.

So closely intertwined is Freemasonry with Detroit Lakes history that its artwork can be found on historic buildings. Hidden beneath the facade on the northeast corner of Main Street Restaurant is the most recognizable symbol of Freemasonry, the square and compass.

The Masonic Lodge met in this building from 1895 to 1928. It is one of several buildings where the Masons have met during the group’s 150 years in Detroit Lakes. Today, the Masons can be found above Mellow Moods and Coldwell Banker on Washington Avenue, where they have met since the late 1970s.

The purpose of the Freemasons is to “make good men better.” By creating men of high moral character, these men can improve their community through giving to charities and other philanthropic endeavors.

Current Lodge Master Jon Anderson in the conference room of Mt. Tabor Lodge No. 106. Anderson joined the Masons in 2016 and is in his second year as Lodge Master.

Tris Anderson / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“Freemasonry is a charitable, benevolent, educational and religious association,” we read in a leaflet about the group. “Its fundamental principles are Brotherly Love, Charity (philanthropy) and Truth.”

These rules are often discussed at meetings, where the group will discuss anything from upcoming events to history or other topics of importance to the group. But there are two things that Masons will never discuss.

“Actually, the two things you can’t talk about in a lodge are politics and religion,” said Lodge Master Jon Anderson. “Because all it does is cause arguments and fights.”

Founding members of the Detroit Lakes Masonic Lodge.

Contribution / Mt. Tabor Lodge No. 106

It is typical for lodges in large cities to cater to specific niches, so Masons or prospective Masons can join a lodge tailored to their interests. Mt. Tabor, however, does not cater to one specific interest due to the size of the group.

And who can join the Masons? Well, according to Anderson, almost anyone.

“A lot of people think all Masons have to be rich people, I drive a propane truck for Cenex in Lake Park,” Anderson said. “We have business owners … but we have everyone in between. … Every religion is welcome, all you have to do to be a member is believe in someone greater than yourself, we call that the Supreme Architect.”

The only condition is that members must be 18 years or older.

Anderson, who started with the Masons in 2016, says the group now has about 80 members, many of whom are older, meaning they aren’t as engaged as they once were. Membership has also stagnated in recent years.

“COVID was really bad because unfortunately, a lot of the members were that age (older), we lost a couple because of COVID,” Anderson said. “A lot of them were so upset that they stopped coming, which is fine. The membership, it was kind of a rollercoaster… it went up again, it went down again.”

Doug Brown is a third generation Mason who joined in 1984 in San Antonio, Texas. He has studied the group extensively and often shares his historical knowledge with Mt. Tabor Masons.

Tris Anderson / Detroit Lakes Tribune

At one time, he said, membership was so low that the Detroit Lakes Lodge considered surrendering its charter. That fate befell several area lodges over the years, prompting these Masons to join Mt. Tabor.

But there is hope on the horizon. While things like social media have simultaneously brought us closer together than ever before, they have also made younger generations more isolated.

“Unfortunately, I would have to say it’s a generational thing,” said Anderson, a first-generation Mason. “But fortunately, the newer generation, those in their late teens, early 20s, are actually looking for things to participate in, and that’s what we want. We want people who are passionate about getting out and doing something for the community.”

A wall decorated with portraits of past Lodge Masters in the Mt. Tabor Lodge parlor.

Tris Anderson / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Doug Brown, a third-generation Mason and regular at the Masonic community, said he is not overly concerned about the group’s future.

“Freemasonry has always been in a cycle,” he said. “People developed a camaraderie and wanted to recapture it after the Civil War or other wars, so they continued that through Masonry. Personally, I don’t think it’s the end of the world to have a decline in membership because it makes us more unique and more valued.”

Brown joined the Masons in San Antonio, Texas, in 1984 and has since moved to South Dakota, Missouri, and now Minnesota. The bond of brotherhood is so deep that he has been accepted into every lodge in the city where he has lived. When he eventually retires and moves to his wife’s home state of Missouri, he will be welcomed into this local lodge as well.

The vast scale of this organization and its hospitality are the features that surprised Anderson about Freemasonry.

Living room at Mt. Tabor Lodge.

Tris Anderson / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“This worldwide brotherhood,” he said. “That’s what shocked me the most, how big it was.”

Anderson had several contacts with Freemasonry before taking the plunge and joining in 2016. One of his first contacts was giving to charity. His niece, who was 2 or 3 at the time, had been diagnosed with leukemia.

One day five men knocked on the door with a check for $500 and two large boxes full of food. These men were Masons. And eventually a friend joined them, giving him the final push he needed to join the group.

He had also watched a few programmes about the band before.

Hat and gavel worn and used by the Master of the Lodge.

Tris Anderson / Detroit Lakes Tribune

“I’d seen shows on the History Channel, things like that,” he said. “I don’t believe in a lot of conspiracy theories, but I’d studied them and looked them up, and it just seemed like a really interesting group.”

Freemasons have long been a vector for conspiracy theories, and it’s easy to see why. From esoteric symbolism to secret rituals and handshakes, to a deeply intertwined history with the country’s founding.

Many great and powerful Americans have been Masons. For example, George Washington was a Mason—his portraits can be found in Mt. Tabor Lodge.

In 1952, when then-President Harry Truman was renovating the decaying White House, stones bearing Masonic markings were found. Truman, a Mason himself, sent the stones to the Grand Lodges in each state, the governing bodies of Freemasonry in their jurisdictions.

Conference room at Mt. Tabor Lodge No. 106. There are only two things Masons cannot discuss: religion and politics.

Tris Anderson / Detroit Lakes Tribune

Masonic slang is even part of our modern everyday language. Have you ever taken the third degree? The third degree is the final and most difficult task to complete in order to become a Master Mason.

It’s easy to see why a conspiracy would develop around this group, often seen as incredibly secretive. (Official Masonic literature goes to great lengths to emphasize that it’s a secret organization.) But as Anderson and Brown joke, the group’s secrets are among the worst kept.

“Every secret that comes from the Masons can be found on the Internet,” Anderson said. “As a Mason, I promised not to personally reveal any secret words, handshakes or anything like that.”

Over the course of their 150 years of existence, the Masons have met in several buildings in Detroit Lakes.

Tris Anderson / Detroit Lakes Tribune

One thing that’s certainly no secret is how Mt. Tabor Lodge is celebrating its 150th anniversary: ​​On July 20, the 88th Northwest Water Carnival Lodge is hosting a feast of pancakes and pulled pork.

The Pancake is Saturday morning from 8-11am or while supplies last. The Pulled Pork Feed is Saturday afternoon from 12-4pm or while supplies last. Both events will be held in the parking lot behind Napa Auto Parts and the cost of entry is a voluntary donation.

Funds raised from the dinner will go towards scholarships for local students.

“For every $500 we can raise, the Grand Lodge of Minnesota (matches) that amount,” Anderson said. “So we can give a $1,000 scholarship to a student, we haven’t been able to do that since COVID, that was one of my runs that I wanted to get back into, get back into the rotation, get this going because it’s good for the kids and it’s good for people.”

The funds raised from the pork feed will be used to purchase firefighting tools for the emergency services. These tools can be used to buy time until the fire department arrives at the scene.

Looking ahead to the next 150 years, Anderson said he was confident Freemasonry would survive.

“I think (Freemasonry) will continue to grow, honestly,” he said. “If we’re lucky, this lodge will survive another 150 years, but Freemasonry as a whole will continue to grow because there are enough people who care about other people and want to join.”