A search for things Masonic on the internet can turn up many interesting items, and one such item turned up yesterday which was certainly worth a mention; an old Masonic building in Silver City, an old silver mining town in Idaho. The building has a date of 1881, though there is another date of what appears to be 5893 above the square and compass – sections of the numbers have become detached however. The building seems to have been abandoned for a few years now, even having a facebook page dedicated to its sale. According to the Idaho Grand Lodge history website, two lodges (Owyhee No.5 and War Eagle No.6, both chartered in 1868) consolidated in 1881 to form Silver City Lodge No.13, a date which obviously ties in with the main date displayed on the building. The building itself was said to have started life as a Planing Mill in the 1860s, and both lodges appeared to have used the building together, and after the merger, the Silver City Lodge met there regularly until the 1940s.
The Silver City Lodge has a rich history that reflects the tough life of living in a remote mining town; a member of Owyhee Lodge had robbed a Wells and Fargo treasure box containing $8000.00 in 1877 and was expelled by the lodge as a result, in 1892, one of the brethren of the Silver City Lodge was murdered, and the lodge members assisted in bringing the murderer to justice, and a member of the lodge landed himself in jail for firing a ‘six shooter’ – he was duly suspended for a year, then suspended again for non-payment of dues. The Masonic building itself became the focus of the entertainment in Silver City, with dances and even masked Balls taking place.
Silver City Lodge members now meet in a building in Homedale Idaho, and it appears that the lodge has met in both buildings since the 1940s; the lodge using the Homedale location for most of its meetings, but meeting in the Silver City building at the two stated communications sanctioned by the Grand Lodge in July and August. As of 2012, it was stated on their facebook page that they still had their annual meeting in Silver City. There seems to have been a split in the lodge in regards to the move to Homedale, as the history on their website explains:
‘While there were many communications which dew a large attendance, there were others at which it was difficult to gather a quorum from among the thirty-odd members scattered from southern Idaho…for this reason several Grand Masters were generous in granting dispensations to enable the Lodge to meet outside its jurisdiction and to conduct business with five member quorum. In the mid-forties several efforts were made to move the seat of the Lodge to some southwestern Idaho community where there was a potential for new members. Various locations were suggested; among them, Grandview and Homedale in Owyhee County, Nampa and Boise…
About this time a schism developed among some of the members. Many were in favor of any move, several wished to maintain the seat of the Lodge where it was. Personalities entered into the deliberations as did the frequency of the requests of dispensations. The Lodge seemed divided into two camps–those who wanted to move preferably to Homedale… and those who wanted to keep the charter firmly and permanently locked in Owyhees.
It might have taken several years yet for the Lodge to resolve this stalemate had not each of the two groups not decided to hold their own communication in the summer of 1949–one legally by dispensation outside the jurisdiction of the Lodge and the other illegally in Silver City. Neither had a quorum. In order to get the problem of location settled, the Grand Master ordered the Lodge to accept no further petitions of any type. The first stated communication held in Homedale was on August 13, 1949. In a few months the Officers satisfied the Grand Master as to their proficiency and the restrictions on accepting petitions were lifted. In seven years the membership of thirty three more than doubled.’
So the lodge itself still survives and seems to be doing very well with the members enjoying their Freemasonry, but the old building in Silver City has become an attraction for TV ghost hunts and tourists. Any new information on the building would be most welcome.