Local masons building into third century
Hiram of Tyre Lodge #118 installs new officers
One of Tama-Toledo’s oldest social organizations recently celebrated an incoming group of new officers into their leadership ranks.
On the evening of Jan. 18 lodge members and their families gathered for the officer installation ceremony for the Hiram of Tyre Lodge #118 at their facility in Tama.
Dan Quigley, 2001 South Tama County alum and sergeant with the City of Toledo Police Department was installed as the chief officer of the lodge, otherwise known as the worshipful master.
Quigley replaces outgoing Worshipful Master Bruce McEltree who has held the post since 2016.
For Quigley, freemasonry has long been a family affair as both his father and grandfather were masons.
He joined the lodge in 2003 but took on an active role with the organization around 2011 after moving back to the community to begin his work as a police officer in Toledo.
“I really enjoy the fellowship and brotherhood that freemasonry has offered over the years,” Quigley said. “Another big appeal is the general focus of the group toward betterment, trying to be a better man for yourself, your family and your community.”
Even though Quigley is a young member in his 30s, he’s made efforts over his freemason career to help other new members become acquainted with the group and to feel like they have a place among such a long-standing tradition.
Two newer members that Quigley helped recruit over the past few years were recognized as officers at the January ceremony. They included Clay Morris and Jason Hardman who were installed as junior deacon and senior deacon, respectively.
“With Clay and Jason I was kind of acting as their mentor in getting them started with the Masons. And that was fulfilling for me,” Quigley said. “Because I remember when I joined there were two gentlemen, Harry Gardner and Ralph Utterback, that did the same for me. I just enjoyed talking to them about the lodge and freemasonry and you could tell they really cared about the fraternity and I admired that.”
Morris works as a signalman with Union Pacific, serves as a reserve officer with the Toledo Police Department and is a past volunteer on both the Toledo Fire and EMS departments.
Hardman recently relocated to the Ames area where he works as a mechanic but chose to continue his membership with the Tama-Toledo lodge as he’s gotten to know and enjoy the company there over the past two years. Hardman is also a past volunteer with the Toledo Fire and EMS departments.
Other current lodge members that received officer designations at the Jan. 18 installation included Senior Warden Jerry Jones, Junior Warden Bruce McEltree, Secretary Don Campbell, Treasurer Lee Fisher and Tyler Randy Arp.
Quigley said it had been several years since the Tama-Toledo lodge had conducted an open installation with non-members allowed in attendance.
He said the idea was to help reconnect the organization with the community and to give members an opportunity to share the moment with their family.
Hiram of Tyre Lodge #118 currently boasts a membership of 30 members with around 7-10 that attend regularly.
Over the years the lodge’s ties to the community have been felt through efforts to support and give back.
Scholarships offered to graduating seniors have been a frequent project in the past, one that Quigley was a beneficiary of as a South Tama graduate.
The lodge hopes to get enough of it’s members active to resume some of the community engagement activities the group became known for in past eras like fundraisers, pancake breakfasts and scholarship opportunities.
Quigley said one of his biggest goals is to build on the fellowship and camaraderie that’s central to the freemason tradition but also to facilitate more internal events to get local members together and reintroduced.
The group meets on the second Tuesday of every month. Quigley said the lodge is a welcoming fraternity and encouraged any individuals interested in learning more about freemasonry, the Hiram of Tyre Lodge #118 or how to become a mason to reach out to him or any of the other local members.
“As always we hope to work on recruiting new members in the year ahead. And just having the community know us and know that we’re around,” Quigley said. “We want people to know we’re not a scary, secret organization. We’re not a cult.”
Basic requirements for membership are that members must be men aged 18 or older and must hold a belief in some higher power, though no specific religious affiliation is required.
Even though much of the symbolism and ceremony that goes on behind closed doors within freemason societies can appear shrouded and esoteric, it’s the ceremony that most directly connects present day Freemasons with generations that came before them.
“Knowing that what we’re doing are ancient customs connected to the entire history of the Freemasons is an incredible thing,” Quigley said. “It’s knowing that for countless generations before us, and for however many generations in the future, that we’re all doing the same work. And I think that’s very fulfilling. The message has generally been the same, and that’s working to be a better person. It’s comforting and humbling to be a part of something bigger that is trying to do better. It’s part of the reason why I do my job as well.”
Local lodge history
The Ancient Free and Accepted Masons’ connection to the Tama and Toledo communities date back to the Civil War era as the towns were just becoming established.
The city of Toledo formed in 1853 and five years later the Toledo Lodge #118 was chartered on June 2, 1858.
The Hiram of Tyre Lodge #118 still possess and maintain their oldest original charter document and are required to have it on-hand to conduct their official lodge business yet today.
Tama’s original freemasons lodge, the Hiram of Tyre Lodge #203 was chartered on June 5, 1867, five years after the formation of the city of Tama.
The Tama and Toledo lodges operated separately for well over a century until the eb and pull of population decline, a landscape-altering Farm Crisis in the 1980s and a changed local and regional economy led the freemasons toward what so many other institutions in rural Iowa have and continue to experience as a means of survival. The lodges consolidated in 1999 to form the Hiram of Tyre Lodge #118.
Both former lodges made their first homes in traditional downtown brick buildings in Tama and Toledo. Hiram of Tyre Lodge #203 from Tama met at the former Tama State Bank building on the corner of W 3rd Street and McClellan Street in Tama.
The Toledo Lodge #118 met in the upper story of the former Horbach Furniture buildings at the corner of W High Street and S Church Street in Toledo.
In 1993 the lodge in Tama moved their facilities to where they are now on 5th Street near the eastern edge of Tama in a single-story building connected to the Enright-Schrader American Legion Post #73. The Toledo lodge members remained in Toledo until the lodges consolidated and they joined with their brothers in Tama.