History of Freemasonry in Walla Walla

Freemasonry in the Northwest

Masonry came to the Northwest when Captain Meriwether Lewis and Captain William Clark crossed the Lolo Pass of the Bitter-root Mountains and looked out over the great expanse of mountains and plains of the Columbia watershed. We learn that both were Masons and Past Masters. The high order of their associations with the Indians and the friendship for the “white man” that they engendered stand as a monument to them and to Masonry.

It came again, and this time to stay, when Brothers Kellog, father and son, delivered a charter to Brother Joseph Hull at Oregon City, from the Grand Lodge of Missouri, issued October 17, 1846, but delivered September 11, 1848.

Brother William P. Daugherty, one of the three signers of the Oregon City notice to Masons to seek a charter, was named Senior Warden in the charter, but because he removed to California, he was not installed. Later he demitted from Multnomah No. 1 to help organize Steilacoom Lodge No. 2. An interesting fact is that he became aware of the Oregon country through Dr. Marcus Whitman, and was a member of that first wagon train in 1843 which Dr. Whitman guided.

The Grand Lodge of Washington was formed by lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of Oregon, which in turn was made up of lodges chartered by Missouri and California.

Freemasonry in the Walla Walla Valley

Blue Mountain Lodge No. 13, like many other organizations, was born amid troublesome times and in a period of great controversy. Most of its charter members belonged to Walla Walla Lodge No. 7 which sponsored No. 13 and were leaders in the pioneer community. Like other western towns during and immediately after the war between the states, there was an ever-present difference of loyalty in that struggle. As was the situation elsewhere, many of the young veterans of the lost Confederate cause came west to start again, and their presence sometimes was a cause of discord with others of Union sympathies.

Another cause of discord within the lodge was the question of how to control the lawlessness and criminal element in the city. It may seem strange to us who live in Walla Walla today, where a high standard of educational, religious, and cultural institutions exist, that there was one time quite the opposite. The outfitting point for the miners of Idaho and northern Montana, the largest town east of the Cascades and in the Territory until Seattle passed it in 1883, Walla Walla was the wintering place for the miners, pack trains, laborers, gamblers, thieves, prostitutes and degenerates who would and did rob and murder in their domination of the town. Virginia City, Montana, through its vigilante committee, organized by brother Masons, had done a tremendous service in thoroughly exterminating the lawless in that mining camp of 20,000 in 1864. The same plan was advocated in Walla Walla, in fact some of the lodge members were leaders of the vigilante committee. Others, known as “law and order men,” wanted to deal with the situation through the courts. In Virginia City there was no law, while in Walla Walla there were organized courts and due process of law.

Blue Mountain Lodge

It was this difference of opinion that caused a number of the members of the “law and order” group to petition the Grand Lodge for a new lodge to be known as Blue Mountain Lodge No. 13. This was granted by charter dated September 18, 1868, by Grand Master James Diles, to Fred Stine, W.M., Lewis Day, S.W., Benjamin L. Sharpstein, J.W., John T. Boyer, Ralph Guichard, James D. Laman, E. S. Crockett, William P. Adams, Bauer, E. Brown, Charles Herzog, Henry Howard, A. Kyger, and P. T. Shupe.

Whatever discord or ill feeling that existed before the formation of Blue Mountain Lodge seems to have disappeared as soon as the new lodge was formed. Indications are that the two lodges met in the same lodge rooms and worked in complete harmony from this time on.

With the formation of Blue Mountain Lodge, Walla Walla became the first town in the Washington Territory to have two Masonic lodges.

The lodge had been meeting in various places and quarters rented including the O. Bechtal store in November of 1869. Shortly after that the lodges were meeting in the Odd Fellows Hall. In 1880 there was a Masonic Hall on the upper floor of a building on Main Street, between Second and Third.

By 1881 a new Odd Fellows Temple was in use at Fifth and Main. There were two rooms on the second story, one of which was rented to Walla Walla Lodge No. 7, which in turn rented space to Blue Mountain Lodge No. 13. The rent was $17.50 per month.

The lodges rented various halls, sometimes together, for the next few years, apparently making frequent changes. It was not until 1906 that the lodges moved into their own home. This came about with the building of the Masonic Temple at East Alder and Colville streets, dedicated March 7, 1906. This became the Copeland Building when it was sold in 1950 and is still in use.

The new, and present Walla Walla Masonic Center was built through the combined efforts of all of the Masonic organizations in the valley and was dedicated June 7, 1952. It was financed by funds from the various lodges and masonic organizations, along with the sale of Temple Association stock to members. There has been no indebtedness to any outside interest. The temple was built by the O. D. Keen Construction Co. at a cost of approximately $225,000.

Both Blue Mountain Lodge No 13 and Walla Walla Lodge No 7 still use this building today, as do several of other Masonic organizations.