Riddle Lodge No. 315
Free & Accepted Masons
East Liverpool, Ohio
Symbolic Masonry had its beginning in East Liverpool on May 12, 1859, some twenty-five years after the founding of the city. The first meeting was held in the cabinet shop of John Mast, Sr. on the northwest corner of East Third Street and Cherry Alley.
Under a dispensation granted by the Most Worshipful Grand Master Horace M. Stotics, the new lodge met for the first time on a Thursday, May 23. Present were J. A. Riddle (for whom the lodge was named) W.L.S. Wilson, Wm. Moore, Sr., Samuel Morley, John Mast, James Godwin, Joseph Barker, Robert Logan, Joseph Cartwright, John Croxall, Thomas Croxall, Richard Thomas, Thomas Johnson, Gibson Vernon and Thomas Murray. At that meeting Brother Riddle was selected as the first Worshipful Master, Brother Wilson as Senior Warden, Brother Morley as Junior Warden, Bother Mast as Treasurer, Bother Logan as Secretary, Brother Thomas Croxall as Senior Deacon, Brother Godwin as Junior Deacon and Brother Barker as Tyler.
The first petitions received were those of Hugh Johnson and G. H. Ramer. One of the first order of business was as follows: “Brother W.L.S. Wilson offered the following resolution: Which was adopted, to-wit: “The regular communications of this lodge will be held on the Tuesday evening on or preceding the full moon.” Hours of opening were to be seven o’clock from the 25th of April to the 25th of September and at six-thirty during the balance of the year. The fee was set at twenty-five dollars. Dues were to be $3.00 annually.
Records show that the first work conferred by the new lodge was upon one Robert Boyce, who having received his Entered Apprentice degree in Wellsville Lodge No. 180, was passed to the degree of Fellow Craft by permission of Wellsville Lodge. Incidentally, Brother Boyce was also the first man raised in Riddle Lodge, receiving the Master Mason degree on July 12, 1859. However, the first man to have petitioned and to have received all his degrees in Riddle Lodge was Brother G. H. Ramer, who was raised on August 19, 1859.
An interesting sidelight shows that Brother John Mast was the lodge’s first landlord receiving rent for his property in the amount of $40.00 per years or $3.33 per month.
The records also show considerable correspondence with New Cumberland Lodge No. 174 which was then located in the “Old Dominion” State of Virginia.
It was on October 31, 1859, with Brother J. R. Conrad acting as Most Worshipful Grand Master, that the charter was presented and Riddle Lodge became officially a member of the Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Ohio.
Charity and relief played an important part in the early history of the lodge. Many entries in the old minute books showing contributions made for the relief of distressed worthy Brethren or their widows. This pertained not only to local Brethren but also to visiting brethren as well. Of interest to present day brethren is an entry of 1861 showing a “resolution of thanks be extended to R. R. Gardner for conveying the members of the lodge free across the river (no bridge then) on the day of a brother’s funeral and also to those persons who provided the brethren with suitable conveyance to the cemetery on that occasion, and that a copy of this resolution be given to the editor of the East Liverpool Mercury for publication.” Retrogressing, an entry of 1865 records the death of a brother and further shows that the lodge paid the entire funeral services amounting to $54.35.
After four years in it’s original meeting place, the lodge hall was moved to what is now know as the Thompson House in 1863. Seven years later, in 1870, the meeting place was moved to the Thompson Pottery on the River Road. This was followed by a succession of moves: to the Hill Building on Broadway in 1878; to the Stewart building at the corner of Sixth and Washington Streets in 1882; then to the Golding Building at the corner of Fifth and Washing Streets in 1888. It was here that the lodge had the distinction of having electricity even before the city of East Liverpool itself, securing their power from a generator which supplied the electricity for the Knowles, Taylor and Knowles Pottery. The move to our present quarters was made in December of 1910 and our “Annual” has been held yearly with but few exceptions since that time in the month of December. To pinpoint it more closely, in the words of the motion, “to be held on the Friday of December falling closest to the fifteenth.”
As to how our brethren entertained themselves almost one hundred and thirty years ago, the minutes show a receipt of a letter from Wellsville Lodge No. 180 announcing a Grand Masonic Centennial to be held in Marietta on St. John’s Day, June 24, 1876, with all lodges expected to attend. They proposed renting a steamboat to make the trip, announcing that if 200 made the trip the cost would be $5.00 per head. This included the round trip on the boat, state rooms and meals. A band was to go on the trip and a further inducement was offered that if more than 200 were signed to make the trip, the cost would be less the $5.00. Records do not show whether or not the excursion was successful but from the high interest of our brethren in those days it is to be presumed that “a goodly crowd was there” and was enjoyed to the full by all.
An item of interest in 1908 shows that the Grand Lodge of the State of Ohio, assisted by Riddle Lodge, laid the corner-stone of the Second Presbyterian Church in East End. Members of the fraternity were present from as far up the river as Pittsburgh and as far down the river as Steubenville. Some 260 marched to the church escorted by the uniformed knights of Pilgrim Commandery and headed by a marching band. After the stone laying by Acting Grand Master Hickok, according to the minutes, “we head Most Worshipful brother Hickok deliver an oration the like of which has never been excelled in his city”.
It might be of interest to present day brethren to know that the manner of treating those brethren who did not pay their dues was quite different from those of today. Then, charges of “Un-Masonic Conduct” was preferred against those brethren, and after due trial in which a brother was appointed to both defend and prosecute, were found guilty or not guilty as charged and expelled from the lodge if guilty.
Riddle Lodge, after a slow start, began to pick up membership and by 1910 showed 228 members. The following year it had jumped to 244. The Lodge’s growth since that time was steady except during the depression the 1930’s when the nation suffered a loss in membership.
There are many other occurrences and events in the records but they are of a more modern vintage and can be better more interestingly told by living brethren who were present at these events.
Surely these men met the challenge of their day and have handed down to us a great heritage. The early Mason’s faith was to his God, his county, his neighbors and himself, even as we practice it today. May the examples we pass on to succeeding generations be even higher than the ones we have received.