Welcome to the Pioneer History page of San Jose Masonic Lodge Number 10
-Compiled by Wilbur Clark, Past Master of San Jose No. 10 (1986)
When the delegates to the California State Constitutional Convention convened at Monterey in the fall of 1849, one of their tasks was to designate a capital. Their choice fell on the City of San Jose, a decision that was ratified by public vote on November 13, 1849. The newly elected lawmakers held their first session in the City of San Jose in the following month. San Jose was legally the capitol of California from November 1849 to April 1852.
There were a number of Masons found in the population of early California emigrants and overland pioneers found in the period of 1841 - 1846 and prior to the discovery of gold in 1848. These Masons carried with them dispensations or charters authorizing them to organize lodges in Alta California. The first charter for organizing a lodge in California was that issued by the Grand Lodge of Missouri on May 10, 1848 to Western Star Lodge No. 98 of Benton City, Tehama County. This Lodge was later moved to Shasta. Their original charter is known as the now famous Lassen Charter that arrived with the Peter Lassen’s Overland Party.
Western Star Lodge was organized on October 30, 1849 and its first Master was the Rev. Saschel Woods a native of Kentucky who had been earlier raised in Wakanda Lodge No. 52 in Carrolton, Missouri. And, it was Rev. Saschel Woods of Missouri who is published as Chairman of the first convention of the Grand Lodge of California on April 5, 1850. The Rev. served as the first Junior Grand Warden. As of the above date there existed several Lodges other than Western Star, those published being Connecticut Lodge No. 75, New Jersey Lodge, and Benicia Lodge.
The convention itself of April 17, 1850 was conducted at Sacramento. Charles Gilman who was a San Francisco Attorney and a Past Grand Master of both New Hampshire and Maryland presided and B. D. Hyman of Benicia was appointed Secretary. Subsequently Jonathan Drake Stevenson was elected and appointed as Grand Master, John Ashby Tutt as Deputy Grand Master, Caleb Fenner as Senior Grand Warden, Saschel Woods as Junior Grand Warden, John Gihon as Grand Secretary, W. Berryman Jennings as Senior Grand Deacon, B. B. Grove as Junior Grand Deacon, and Joseph C. Derby as Grand Tyler (some of the lesser officers possibly having been appointed rather than having been elected). Published are three Lodges were the nucleus of the first Grand Lodge of California being California Lodge No. 1 in San Francisco (formerly No. 13 of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia), Western Star Lodge No. 2, Benton City (formerly No. 98 of the Grand Lodge of Missouri), and Tehama Lodge No. 3 of Sacramento (formerly No. 75 of the Grand Lodge of Connecticut).
The First Annual Communication of May 7, 1850 found three more Lodges being added which were Berryman Lodge No. 4 at Sacramento, Benicia Lodge No. 5 at Bencia, and Sutter Lodge No. 6 also at Sacramento. The three Lodges being six through nine are not herein mention but will be gladly added if one might inform this writer of the name and locations of each.
In August 1850 San Jose Lodge No. 10 Free & Accepted Masons was also added, being one of the oldest Masonic Lodges still active in the State of California. It was instrumental in assisting in the organization of yet other Masonic Lodges in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, and San Benito Counties, and San Jose Lodge No 10 is known as Santa Clara Valley’s “Pioneer” or “Mother Lodge”. At the time of Charter this Lodge was the first geographical found between the City of San Francisco and the Mexican border
San Jose Masonic Lodge is unique in its initial membership as it included some of the earliest and most famous names in California History as many of the Overland Pioneer families first settled in Santa Clara Valley. Dr. John Townsend, an organizer of the Lodge, was a principal member of the Stephen-Townsend-Murphy overland party of 1844. James F. Reed, also an organizer of San Jose 10, was a member and subsequent rescuer of the Donner Party of 1846. Wm. Eddy was a charter member of San Jose 10 and earlier the leader of the “Forlorn Hope” rescue relating to the history of the Donner Party. Today the remains of these early members lie in Oak Hill Memorial Park, San Jose, CA.
History of San Jose Masonic Lodge No 10:
In this early period Masons were instrumental in establishing law and order in their respective California communities, building hospitals, schools, and participating in local and state government. On July 11, 1850 and during the days of the California Gold Rush, fifteen members of the craft residing in Santa Clara Valley petitioned the Most Worshipful Jonathan Drake Stevenson, Grand Master of Masons of California, requesting dispensation to open a Lodge of Master Masons in the City of San Jose. The dispensation was received from the Grand Lodge on August 4, 1850.
The original organizers of San Jose Lodge No 10 F. & A. M. were: William B. Almond, Dr. Benjamin Cory, E. D. Hammond, Jacob Durant Hoppe, John Huston, Freeman S. McKinney, Henry Clinton Melone, Louis Prevost, James Frazier Reed, Caius Tacitus Ryland, F. H. Sanford, Dr. John Townsend, D. C. Vance, William Van Voorhies, and A. W. Wigginton. The first minutes of San Jose Lodge No 10 are dated August 5, 1850. During this meeting five Brothers, being A. W. Wigginton (mentioned above), William H. Eddy, Burt, Shearer, and Huston were made members by affiliation and a unanimous vote of the Lodge. Exhibited was a Lodge consisting of nineteen members as of August 5th. Other Overland Pioneers who were later members included: Josiah Belden of the Bidwell-Bartleson Party; Major Samuel J. Hensley of the Chiles-Walker Party; and Moses Schallenberger of the Murphy-Townsend-Stevens Party; Thomas Fallon who raised the American Flag in San Jose and in 1844 had arrived California with Fremont, Carson, & Goodey; Senator William Riley Bassham of the Grigsby-Ide Party; William McCutchen of the Murphy-Townsend-Stevens Party; and later Charles McKiernan of Santa Cruz Mountain fame and today’s name sake of Mountain Charlie Chapter 1850, E Clampus Vitus.
The Lodge’s first officers were: W. B. Almond, Worshipful Master; H. C. Melone, Sr. Warden; John Townsend, Jr. Warden; C. T. Ryland, Secretary; E. D. Hammond, Treasurer; W. Van Voorhies, Sr. Deacon; J. S. Huston, Jr. Deacon; and Louis Prevost, Tiler. The first individual to receive all of his degrees in San Jose No 10 was Brother A. C. Campbell.
Brief historical sketch of some of the individuals above mentioned:
Brother Jonathan Drake Stevens, the first Grand Master of Masons in California being of New York and earlier was selected by President Polk to raise a regiment of New York volunteers for service in California. Stevens was a lawyer and Colonel of the New York Militia and had also been a member of the New York Legislature. June 1846 The U.S. Secretary of War, Wm. L. Marcy, and General Winfield Scott instructed Stevens to raise his regiment of eight hundred that was to be known as the First Regiment of New York Volunteers. The companies subsequently gathered on Governor’s Island, N.Y. in August 1846. This regiment was comprised of single men who had agreed to settle in California and many were to later join the 1849 California State Militia inclusive of Captain Joseph Folsom for whom the City of Folsom was named.
Brother William B. Almond, was an organizer and was first Master of San Jose Lodge No 10 having earlier organized and presided as Master of Sparta Lodge No. 46 in Sparta, Buchanan County, Missouri. In 1849 Almond lead his own overland party to California. Almond was observed as a tobacco chewing San Jose Civil Judge noted for how quickly he cleared his calendar. He was acquainted with Dr. J. Townsend naming one of his daughters after Townsend’s wife, “Louise” (Schallenberger) and was also a friend of Governor Peter Hardeman Burnett. See link below to His Honor Judge William B. Almond, by Clyde Arbuckle, with a “Forward” by H. Hamlin.
Brother Benjamin Cory, MD (1822 – 1896) was an organizer of the Lodge who arrived in 1848 at the age of 25 years. San Jose’s first physician, Cory arrived from San Francisco to establish a practice from Monterey to Martinez, making his rounds on horseback. He served in the first State Legislature, as City Councilman, and also assisted in the founding of today’s San Jose State University.
Brother William H. Eddy (abt. 1816 – 1859) and his first family set out across the plains in 1846 from Belleville, Illinois, where Eddy had been a carriage maker. Eddy was the earlier “Forlorn Hope” hero of the Donner Party. Published is in December of 1846 fifteen set out from the snowbound camp; only seven of them were still alive a month later when they finally reached safety. This party had been lead by Eddy. None would have survived without Eddy’s courage, resourcefulness, and determination. In March 1847 Eddy returned to the camp to rescue his family, only to discover that his wife and children were dead. Eddy’s party brought George Donner’s three orphaned daughters to safety. His grave is at Oak Hill Cemetery, first unmarked, but today bears a plaque set on Sierra granite that was dedicated by E. Clampus Vitus in 1949.
Brother Jacob Durant Hoppe (1815 – 1853), an organizer of the Lodge, was a native of Maryland, and came over the Sierra in 1846. He was editor of the Californian, a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1849, and an early postmaster of San Jose. He was one of the founders of the Port of Alviso. Bro. Jacob Hoppe died in the explosion of the steamship “Jenny Lind” on San Francisco Bay.
Brother Henry C. Melone was another organizer of San Jose 10 and its first Senior Warden. Melone had also earlier in 1840 assisted in the organization of Liberty Lodge No 31, Liberty, Clay County, Missouri where he served as its first Junior Warden. Wm. B. Almond had known Melone from their mutual Missouri experience.
Brother Louis Prevost (1807 – 1869), an organizer of the Lodge, and the Lodge’s first Tiler was a native of France. He was a nurseryman who came to San Jose in 1849, owned the San Jose Nursery, and developed Prevost Gardens off Park Avenue. He attempted to establish a silk industry in this city, but disease found in the silk worms he imported from China caused his financial ruin. Today Prevost Street in this City bears his name.
Brother James Frazier Reed (1800 – 1874) was an organizer of the Lodge and a prominent member of the Donner Party of 1846-1847. Reed, a businessman from Springfield, Illinois, was banished from the Donner Party after killing an enraged teamster on the Humboldt River who also had first allegedly attacked Reed’s wife. He went on to Sutter’s Fort for supplies, but snow prevented his return to the party trapped in the mountains; his subsequent attempts to save the emigrants were thwarted by the existing war with Mexico. After participating in the January 2, 1847 Battle of Santa Clara, Reed was finally able to organize and lead the second Donner relief party. The Reed family all survived and settled in San Jose. Reed was appointed guardian of the orphaned children of Jacob Donner, brother of Captain George Reed. George and Mary Donner are both buried near the Reed family plot found at Oak Hill Memorial Park, San Jose, CA. A historian alleges that Reed never affiliated to San Jose Lodge No. 10. As I write the early records of San Jose Lodge have not been search to confirm the above issue that has been earlier published. Argued is Reed retained his membership in Springfield Lodge No. 4, Springfield, Illinois and participated in San Jose 10 as a sojourner. Reed campaigned vigorously to make San Jose the capital of California and spent thousands of dollars on the project. He engaged in various businesses over the years but it was in real estate that he left his mark. “Reed’s Addition” located at the earlier southern boundary of the incorporated City of San Jose features streets named after Reed and members of his family being Reed, Martha, Margaret, Virginia, Lewis, Keyes, and Patterson Streets.
In passing the area south of Keyes was earlier known as the un-incorporated geographical area of “South San Jose” and included the earlier lands of Rancho Santa Teresa now mostly known as the Blossom Hill area. Today the area found in the 101 Monterey Road triangle is still known as South San Jose. However many do reference this area as “East San Jose”, forgetting also that East San Jose was once a separate City.
Brother John Townsend, MD was an organizer of the Lodge and the Lodge’s first Junior Warden. He set out for California with the Stephens-Townsend-Murphy overland party in 1844, the first to bring wagons over the Sierra Nevada. The route they pioneered, the Truckee Route, became a major gateway into California. Dr. Townsend was the first licensed physician in San Francisco, where he also served as an alcalde (mayor & judge) of San Francisco and also served as councilman and school trustee. He and his wife Elizabeth Schallenberger Townsend moved to San Jose in 1849 where they both died in the cholera epidemic of 1850 . Townsend was also a real estate promoter and much of his wealth was derived from that activity.
Arbuckel, Clyde. His Honor Judge William B. Almond, forward by H. Hamlin, text transcribed by Damon Waring, Pony Express Courier June -November 1942.
Balance, Captain Jim. Stevenson’s Regiment: First Regiment of New York Volunteers, California Center for Military History, California State Military Reserve.
Down, Charles West, P.M. A Brief History of San Jose Lodge No. 10, F. & A. M. 1850 – 1974, San Jose Lodge No. 10, San Jose, CA 1974.
Liberty Lodge No. 31, History of Liberty Lodge No. 31, A.F.& A.M., Liberty, Missouri, 1959.
Loomis, Patricia. A Walk Through the Past, Argonauts Historical Society of San Jose, 1998.
Stansel, Edwin N, 1850 - 1975 A History of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons, State of California, second printing, 1975.
California Historical Internet Links:
Donner Party, His Honor Judge William B. Almond, Overland Emigration, Historical Interpretive Monuments of Mountain Charlie Chapter 1850, E Clampus Vitus, early San Francisco California, and early California