*Editors Note* The following speech was originally given by Illustrious Bro. Brian L. Pettice at the lodge dedication for Anchor Lodge No. 980 which occurred on July 25th, 2015. As the reader makes his way through this history, it would serve us to ask ourselves how much of this is familiar to our own lodges? What can we learn? What can we celebrate? Enjoy this wonderful speech!
It was against this backdrop of economic and population growth that Freemasonry in Danville was also expanding. Olive Branch Lodge No. 38, chartered in 1846, had served the city for nearly 70 years. The city had also enjoyed the addition of the appendant bodies of both the York and Scottish Rites.
According to correspondence retrieved at the lodge, several Brethren would begin meeting late in 1913 for the purpose of petitioning for a new lodge in Danville. You might find this surprising Grand Master, but the process seemed to be plagued by miscommunication and a lack of knowledge of or adherence to procedure. The problems mostly involved the qualifications and dues status of the brethren signing the original petition and the propriety of the recommendation votes and forms submitted by the three area lodges that recommended the petition Olive Branch Lodge No. 38, Catlin Lodge No. 285 and Free Will Lodge No. 872.
The issues were eventually resolved and Anchor Lodge was issued a dispensation on August 10, 1914 by Bro. Henry T. Burnap, Grand Master. The lodge was instituted on August 14, 1914 by Bro. Clinton L. Sandusky, D.D.G.M. for the Twenty-seventh District. The lodge received its warrant at the annual communication of the Grand Lodge on October 13, 1915 and was constituted Anchor Lodge No. 980 Ancient Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Illinois on November 10, 1915, again, by Bro. Sandusky. There were 42 charter members of the lodge. 28 Master Masons named in the petition on demit and 14 Master Masons raised by the lodge while under dispensation.
The Lodge met in the “quarters of Olive Branch Lodge” at the Temple Building on the Northwest corner of Vermilion and North Streets until 1916 when it moved to the “New” Masonic Temple at 109 W. North Street. The lodge voted in July of 2014 to move to this site and held its first stated meeting here on October 28, 2014 and its first work, a first degree, on November 25, 2014.
The first Master of Anchor Lodge was Bro. Henry Peter Blose. Brother Blose was obviously an active mason, as presiding over a lodge under dispensation at that time was no small task. He was commissioned a Grand Lecturer by the Grand Lodge. He was a member of all of the Danville York Rite Bodies and presided over all of the Danville Scottish Rite Bodies. He was coroneted a 33° Mason. Brother Blose was married to the former Minnie Elizabeth Fisher. They had a daughter Josephine.
All of the information given here about Brother Blose was found in the records of the organizations to which he belonged and a cursory internet search of his personal history. What was not found about the Brother, whose picture used to hang directly above the Senior Warden’s chair in the West for all Masters of Anchor Lodge to look at as they presided in the East, were any personal anecdotes- anything about him that might have been passed down through the years, brother to brother, mouth to ear that might have given a brief glimpse into what kind of a man he was.
So, given the opportunity to speak on the history of the lodge, I thought it would be nice to relate some of the personal things that I remember or have been told about a few of the Brethren of this lodge. Most of what will be shared will not be long stories, but brief snippets that might be remembered and passed down. Hopefully, these snippets will give a small glimpse into the lives of some of these men who have impacted this lodge, its members, and in many cases this community.
There is another brother whose picture hangs on the wall here as it has hung on the wall of Anchor‘s lodge room for over 40 years. Brother John Ross Elliott. Brother Elliott was secretary of Anchor lodge for 42 years from 1930 until his death in 1972. That is a remarkable feat- Secretary for nearly half of the lodge’s existence. Brother Gene Quick once said that, in addition to handling the administration of the lodge, Brother Elliott was very good at ritual because he took a lengthy walk every evening and would recite lodge ritual to himself during the entire walk. What dedication to Freemasonry and this lodge that brother had.
Brother Quick is another Brother that has served and impacted this lodge. He is twice a Past Master of the lodge and for many years served as Tyler. Brother Quick is, as many men of his generation are, a no non-sense kind of guy. But what many may not know is the dedication he had to visiting sick and shut-in brethren. He reported at every meeting on his visits to our distressed brethren.
Brother Bob Jones, Past Master in 1977, businessman, mayor of Danville for 16 years, the City Hall in town is named for him. He was the leader of the group that made the Children’s Dyslexia Center here in town a reality. Involved in community events for what seems like forever. For one brother though Bob will be remembered for the meals the lodge enjoyed when Bob was Junior Warden of the lodge and chef and owner of his own restaurant. The brother said the lodge never ate so well, as when Bob was making the meals.
Brother Sam Page, Marine Corps veteran, Past Master, for many years lodge secretary, another no non-sense guy. Brother S. Brent Morris, noted Masonic historian and author, once joked on a history channel presentation that all of the conspiracy theories regarding Freemasons taking over the world were false because Masons could not even agree on what pie to serve after their meetings. Brother Morris was mistaken, at least in this assertion, because when Brother Sam Page was Secretary, Anchor lodge agreed that Banana Cream pie would be served after the meetings.
Brother Bob Pickett, Past Master of Anchor Lodge, still serves as Junior Deacon, sometimes referred to by lodge members as Grandpa. Now that he has his hearing aids, he rarely needs prompting anymore. You may not know that if you travel to Star Lodge in Hoopeston, you will find his picture hanging on their wall as one of the last Masters of Rossville Lodge No. 527.
Brother William”Bunkey” Wright- Past Master of Anchor Lodge. Bunkey got active in Olive Branch Lodge in the 1990’s and served that lodge as Master. He was active in degree work throughout the district at that time. He made it a personal goal to be the first Brother to preside over all three Danville lodges as Master. He served Anchor as Master in 2002-2003, but passed before being able to pursue his goal with Further Light Lodge.
Brother Charlie Luton- Past Master of Anchor Lodge, WWII era Navy veteran. Charlie was more soft spoken and circumspect than some of the other lodge brethren of his generation. Charlie enjoyed wood working and created the three lesser lights used by the Lodge today. He also authored a poem dedicated to Past Master Dale Potter entitled, “There stood Dale” that hung in the anteroom of the lodge for many years. The things I remember about Charlie are his kindness and his recognition that all Brothers are worthy of consideration and respect.
There are many brethren of this lodge of whom I have fond memories and I could go on a lot longer than the time allotted me here, but I truly must mention another brother before I close.
Brother Carl L. Pettice Past Master of this Lodge and Potomac Lodge No. 782, Secretary of Anchor in 2002-2003. Without this Brother, I would not be standing before you today. A little over 19 years ago, I thought I was doing this brother a favor when I petitioned to join Masonry. He was still of the generation that did not talk much about what went on at the lodge and I had no idea what I was joining, but I thought that it would make him happy and that would be my gift to him. I had no idea the gift he had given to me- the gift that Freemasonry would and continues to give to me. It was because of the lodge that I began to work on improving myself, working on my own rough ashlar. It was because of the lodge that I got to know my father as a brother. It was because of the lodge that we spent time as equals. It was because of the lodge that we got to remake our relationship into one of two friends who enjoyed each other’s company.