T.J. Pickett Lodge No. 307 was organized January 15, 1859 with James H.
Smith as Master, Johnson Seaburn, S.W., and Hiram Conover, J.W.
Others listed on the Charter were, J.W. Kelley, John Ewald, Jackson Wells, William Keirns, Robert T. Lindsay and E.B. Livingston. John S. Reed was also active, but his name does not appear on the Charter.
Several members were raised before the Charter was issued. These were, L.M. Markham, E.B. Negly, E.P. Livingston, B.F. Pinckly, and Alexander Stevens.
This made a total of 15 members active at the time the Charter was issued by the Grand Lodge of Illinois on October 5, 1859. Ira A.W. Buck was Grand Master of Illinois at the time the Charter was issued.
The first member raised after the Charter was issued was William Shreeves, on October 10, 1859.
It is interesting to note that Bro. Smith’s occupation was listed on various lodge records as merchant, speculator, and capitalist. Bro. Smith died April 14, 1901, and was buried in Bushnell with full Masonic Honors.
T.J. Pickett Lodge was named for the Tenth Grand Master of Illinois, who was born in Louisville, Kentucky on March 17, 1821, and came to Peoria, Illinois with his parents in 1836. He learned the printing trade there, later becoming a journalist and publisher and published papers in Peoria, Pekin, and Rock Island, Illinois; Paducah, Kentucky, and Lincoln, Nebraska.
Bro. Pickett was very active in public affairs, probably more so than any of the Grand Masters preceding him. He was a delegate to the National Convention of the Republican Party in Philadelphia in 1856 and took part in the nomination of Fremont for the Presidency. He was also elected to two terms as State Senator from Rock Island County, Illinois and later was Postmaster and then Clerk of the United States District Court at Paducah, Kentucky.
He served throughout the Civil War, becoming Lieutenant Colonel of the 69th Illinois Volunteers in 1862. At the close of the war, he moved his home and business interests to Paducah, Kentucky.
Bro. Pickett’s rise in Masonic affairs was rapid. He was made a Master Mason in Peoria Lodge No. 15 on November 28, 1846 and only five years later he was elected Grand Master. He served nine years as Worshipful Master, eight of them in Peoria Lodge. In later years he was a member of lodges in Rock Island, Illinois; Paducah, Kentucky, and Lincoln, Nebraska.
After serving a few months as Grand Secretary, he was elected Deputy Grand Master in 1850 and acted as Grand Master after the death of Grand Master Taylor. He was elected Grand Master in 1851 when only thirty years old, the second youngest Grand Master in the history of the Grand Lodge of Illinois. Twenty-two years later he became Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, joining Bro. Abraham Jonas in the distinction of having
served as Grand Master of two Grand Lodges.
Grand Master Pickett issued Dispensations for eleven new lodges, and during his year Grand Lodge passed a resolution that in the future a full year’s residence in Illinois be required of all candidates for the degrees. It was also recommended to all lodges that they celebrate, in an appropriate manner on November 24, 1852, the one hundredth anniversary of the reception of the illustrious Washington into the Masonic Fraternity. Bro. Pickett concluded his term of office by delivering the oration at the Grand Lodge Annual Communication in 1852.
Bro. Pickett died on December 24, 1891 at Ashland, Nebraska and was laid to rest by Pomegranate Lodge of Ashland. His name is borne by T.J. Pickett Lodge No. 307 of Bushnell, Illinois.
Unfortunately, the early minutes of the lodge are missing. There is a notation in the minutes of the year 1921 that these first records “have been missing for years.” The first complete records available are dated July, 1866.
The original meeting place of the lodge is unknown to us today. There is reference in the minutes to paying rent to James H. Smith in 1867, but the location of the hall being used is never mentioned.
On September 7, 1867, a committee reported that they estimated the cost of the new hall at $2500 and had sold 80 shares of stock for this purpose at $25.00 per share. This original issue of stock was to bear interest at 10% per annum. This interest rate reflects conditions of the times, as the Civil War had just ended in 1865. This interest rate was reduced to 5% at a
Stockholders meeting in 1889.
The building committee appointed was B.F. Pinckly, Ezra P. Kenne, James W. Kelly, Thomas Wells and A.L. McDowell. Bro. Thmas Wells was apparently the Contractor for the building, as most checks were issued to home.
The new hall, which was used until 1971 (100 yrs.) must have been well along by February, 1868, as the lodge officers were authorized to take out insurance on it. The lodge owns the 3rd floor “from the top of the floor joists up.”
The building of this hall was the start of a long period of financial difficulties for the lodge. In April, 1868, $1640 more than the stock issued had been spent on the hall. Members were asked to pay dues in advance and additional stock was sold.
A festival was held on St. John’s Day, December 27, 1869 to raise money. It was estimated that over 400 attended.
Construction of the hall was apparently completed in 1871, when the roof was covered with tin at a cost of $472.79. A committee had been raising funds for this since 1869.
The stairway to the lodge was changed in October, 1890, at the time the addition was built on the west by Mr. Katzenstein.
All outstanding building stock was called in 1904.
The metal ceiling was installed in the lodge room in 1907, at a cost of $200.00. It was purchased from J.E. Voorhees. A total of $204.75 was also spent on the dome at this time.
Major improvements were made to the hall in 1925. A total of $2174.07 was spent. I believe that the present furnace was installed then. The hall had been heated by several stoves. Even with the new furnace, it was necessary to bring the coal in by hoisting a bucketful at a time through the window with a rope. The furnace was converted to oil in 1947.
The outside of the building was tuck pointed in 1954.
A number of organizations have used this building as a meeting hall over the years. They are:
Eastern Star - first mentioned in Lodge minutes in 1870. It was voted in 1896 to let them use the hall for meetings. Lucille Chapter now meets in the lodge room twice each month.
Knights of Honor used the hall in the 1881’s.
The Knights of Pythias are first mentioned in 1882, and used the hall for a number of years.
The Royal Arch Masons are mentioned in the early 1900’s, 1922 and again in 1937.
A DeMolay Chapter (Frisbee Chapter) was started in 1925. It continued
until about 1936. The DeMolay Equipment was given to the Macomb Chapter in October, 1950.
The Standard Club was organized in 1933. Their annual suppers were a big event for a number of years.
The Rainbow Girls were first mentioned in lodge minutes in May, 1949. They also use the hall at present.
Some of the lodge room furnishings have interesting histories.
Bro. B.F. Pinckly, one of the earliest members, presented the lodge with 3 gavels on May 15, 1875.
Carpeting was purchased for the Hall in 1882, 1907 and 1958. (360 yards - Hall has not changed).
An upholstered altar was made by Bro. J.L. Wiley and E.H. Fehr and presented to the lodge on November 2, 1889.
A trade was made December 27, 1901, between the lodge and the Reformed Church. Upholstered chairs owned by the church were traded for a chandelier owned by the lodge.
A “magic lantern” (projector) was purchased in 1903 at a cost of $149.75, and made quite an impression on the members.
The lodge was presented a gavel on May 5, 1911, that was made from wood from the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, also a stone from King Solomon's Quarry. These were presented by Bro. J.W. Ferris, who had visited the Holy Land.
On June 2, 1911, the Lodge was presented a gavel made from wood from the Estate of George Washington by Mrs. Blanche Moore Haines.
A Bible was presented to the Lodge by the Eastern Star on December 27, 1912.
The safe now in use was purchased early in 1914.
The bronze tablet listing members in World War I was presented to the Lodge by W.J. Frisbee on February 22, 1921.
R.W. Bro. H.T. Burnap, an honorary member of T.J. Pickett Lodge, presented a gavel and 24” gauge on September 27, 1921. These were made by Bro. Burnap from a tree he had planted 20 years before.
The picture of Bro. J.H. Smith, the first master of T.J. Pickett Lodge, was presented to the Lodge in November, 1921.
The Tyler’s Sword was presented to the Lodge by Mrs. Ira Phillips on October 2, 1931. It had belonged to her father, Bro. D.C. Neff.
The George Washington Portrait was unveiled at a celebration held February 24, 1932, to celebrate the Bi-Centennial of the birth of George Washington. It was presented by John C. Allen, Congressman of the 14th District of Illinois.
Bro. Wayne Opp presented the Lodge with Leather Aprons for the master and wardens on July 6, 1945. These were in memory of his son, Austin Opp.
The pictures of all Past Masters, were assembled and put on display in the Lodge Room in 1951. A few of the earlier Masters’ pictures were not available.
A petition for formation of a second lodge in Bushnell was presented in May, 1868. A second petition was presented in 1870, to start a lodge to be called J.W. Smith Lodge. Neither ever developed.
Early meetings of the Lodge wre held on Saturday night, on or preceding the full of the moon. The Lodge tried two meetings a month for a short time in 1883. The by-laws were amended on April 6, 1885, to make the stated meeting the first Friday of each month. It has remained so to this day.
Fees for the degrees were changed from $25 to $30 in 1870. Dues were $4.00 per year in 1873. Dues were later reduced, and in 1901 were $3.60 per year, which indluded a $1.00 charge for relief fund. They were further reduced to $3.25 in 1915. Dues were raised to $5.00 on November 6, 1942, $7.50 in December, 1942, $7.50 in December, 1951, and $10.00 in
December 1958. Increases were $15 in 1974, $20 in 1985, and $25 in 1997.
Membership after 27 years, (in 1886) was 88, after 50 years, (1909), 100; after 75 years (1934), 184, and in 1959 it was 196. In 1995 membership was 144.
In these early years, the Lodge took part in or attended several events
of local interest. These included:
Laying of the cornerstone of the new courthouse in Rushville on June 24, 1881.
Memorial services in the East Side Park on September 26, 1881, for Bro. Garfield, President of the United States.
Laying of the Cornerstone of Masonic Temple in Peoria on May 26, 1883.
Dedication of the Lodge Hall in LaHarpe on November 11, 1886.
Laying of the cornerstone of the new courthouse in Monmouth on January 20, 1884.
Memorial services for Bro. Wm. McKinley, President of the United States, held in the opera house on September 19, 1901.
In the early days of limited medical facilities and no health insurance,
it was common for a member of T.J. Pickett Lodge to spend many hours caring
for a sick brother. Donations were made for the relief of brethren
of this Lodge and other Lodges as well at every meeting.
A list of contributions made by the Lodge touches on many events of history. Those of interest are as follows:
To yellow fever victims - September 10, 1878;
To Conemaugh River (in Pennsylvania) flood relief on June 8, 1889;
To Shawneetown on May 6, 1898;
To the World’s Fair Fraternal Building Association of St. Louis in 1903;
To San Francisco in May, 1906 for earthquake relief;
To the Cherry Mine victims in December, 1909;
To War Relief in 1917;
To Tornado Relief in Southern Illinois on April 3, 1925;
To Masonic Service Fund in World War II.
Through the years T.J. Pickett Lodge has been honored on a number of occasions
by distinguished guests:
M.W. Bro. William H. Scott, Grand Master, addressed the Lodge on June 28, 1882;
M.W. Bro. Charles F. Fitchcock, Grand Master, was present for a 3rd degree on 12-17-1900;
At the 50-year celebration in 1909, the speaker was Bro. Isaac Culter, Grand Secretary. A banquet was held in the Presbyterian Church with entertainment in the Lodge Hall;
A state school of instruction was held in Bushnell, January 25, 26, and 27, 1910. M.W. Bro. A.B. Ashley, G.M. was received;
Past Grand Master Henry T. Burnap visited for a 3rd degree on 3-18-29;
M.W. Bro. Everett L. Lawrence was made an honorary member November 5, 1937. He was in Bushnell, March 7, 1939 for the presentation of a 50-year pin to Bro. Henry R. Nagel.
The progress of the community and man’s inventive genius is reflected in
the records of the lodge:
On December 28, 1891, a proposition from Vanderveer and Logsdon relative to providing electrical lights for the hall was read. Lodge voted a payment of $50, and no more. A bill was read at the next meeting, but $1.50 was deducted for “Lamps that would not light.” The light bill ran $4.00 for a number of years.
The first record of personal property taxes paid by the Lodge was on March 6, 1903. Amount was $3.75.
The first telephone was installed in 1906. (At this same meeting, the petition for affiliation of C.D. Baughman was read. Charlie was active in the Lodge until his untimely death in 1958).
The first mention of paying a water bill to the city was on December 1, 1911. Rate was $5.00 per year.
A sidewalk was requested along the south side of the building in 1913.
An electric stove was purchased for the kitchen in 1924.
The lesser lights were changed from candles to electric lights in September, 1947.
T.J. Pickett Lodge No. 307 has had 51 Masters in its first 100 years of existence. W.J. Frisbee held the office of Master a total of 12 years. W. Bro. George D. Bell was appointed D.D.G.M. in 1910.
W. Bro. Leo S. Young was commissioned a Grand Lecturer on June 13, 1930.
Our meeting night was changed from the first Friday of each month while Brother Perry Opp was secretary to the third Thursday in order for Brother Opp to continue as our secretary.
In May of 1971 Brother Mervin Turner informed the Lodge that the Baptist Church would be moving to their new building in the fall and their present church would be sold. The Worshipful Master, Sr. and Jr. Wardens appointed as a committee to investigate the building and reported back to the Lodge that the building would make a suitable Lodge Hall. A vote in August of that year was made to bid $2212 and if necessary to raise the bid. The church was purchased for that price early in September 1971 and we moved in on the 20th of September.
Many volunteers put in many days of hard work and the church became a “Masonic Temple”. Meals were served, auctions were held, and other money raising projects were used to raise the money needed.
On March 21, 1973 the first of many annual Father and Son Banquets was held in our Lodge. Brothers Jack Hensley and Charles Hess were the members responsible for getting this event started.
The new Masonic Temple or Lodge Hall was dedicated on September 23, 1973 by then Grand Master John R. Murphy and his corps of officers.
In September of 1973 a traveling gavel was presented to incoming Worshipful Master Eugene Hopping by Worshipful Brother Charles Hess and is still being received by each new master.
In the summer of 1977, Golden Gate Lodge of Prairie City asked to merge with T.J. Pickett and this became a reality on December 1, 1977.
A committee of Brother James Haynes and Lindy Zeigler inaugurated the T.J. Pickett Scholarship Fund and kicked it off with a community breakfast in January 1987 to raise money for $100.00 scholarships for Seniors of the Bushnell Prairie City High School. During the first 11 years, 31 scholarships were presented to help future Engineers, Educators, Accountants, and Medical Technicians to obtain their dreams.
In 1995 the lodge started to participate in Bushnell’s Fall Festival with an ice cream stand to help raise money for the scholarship fund.
In general, the first 140 have been good years for T.J. Pickett Lodge.
Brothers may have had differences, but, let us have Brotherly love, peace
and harmony prevail in all of our actions.
Charles Hess, Secretary
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