NO. 135, A.F.&A.M.,
The following is a compilation of highlights and items of interest and curiosity that have occurred during the past 130 years of Lenexa Lodge #135’s history. During this time more than 800 masons have belonged to the lodge. The primary source of this work is a history written by Bro. Henry Gillett in 1926. Bro. Gillett, whose picture appears later in this document, notes that all minutes and records of the lodge during its first 8 years were lost in the fire that destroyed the newly built lodge hall on November 17, 1877.
Early History of Masonry at Lenexa, Kansas
(These are Bro. Henry Gillett's recollections of the events that occured before the fire of 1877, which destroyed our written record of events.)
By 1870, many families had settled at or near the vicinity of the new town site of Lenexa, on the new railroad known as the K. C., Ft. Scott and Gulf, then being built. Some of them were masons, and, on meeting one another, soon found out who and where each one lived. A meeting was called in mid-summer to consider the starting of a lodge at Lenexa, if possible. All agreed with enthusiasm to go to the meeting. They immediately applied for a dispensation and forwarded the names of the officers to be appointed. They then commenced to drill and get themselves proficient in the work. This was difficult as nearly all were from different jurisdictions. Some had as much to unlearn as to learn. In a short time the proposed officers were to go before the nearest lodge, which was Shawnee, and exemplify the work of the degrees and the working of the ritual, all of which was done in the proper order.
Shawnee Lodge prepared a favorable report in time. Some of the preliminary meetings were held in houses in upper rooms. They next rented some rooms over a store. They were not very suitable, but best they could find. The room was only half-story, very low ceiling. Sometimes the members had to make a very low bow as they made their way around.
In lieu of a carpet, they put a good thick coat of sawdust on the floor to deaden the sound from the store below. In the summer, when it had dried out, it became infested with fleas, which made it very uncomfortable at times, and sometimes, in the midst of important work, some merriment was occasioned by some brother fighting fleas.
They received their dispensation some time in the month of July 1872, with the appointment of all officers and authority granted to confer the regular degrees of masonry. The first implements necessary to their work were made by hand by some member of the lodge. Even the jewels were cut from some metal by a member.
All this accomplished, they commenced to make Masons in earnest. At this time the brethren of Olathe Lodge No. 19 gave great assistance; also Shawnee Lodge No. 54, the brothers of which were always ready to come over and help put on the work. The committee that had charge of such matters as examining and deciding as to the proficiency of the work and the competency of the brethren of Lenexa Lodge reported to the Grand Lodge. Unfortunately, sufficient time had not elapsed, therefore a charter could not be granted. Another year under the dispensation was granted so that work could continue. We continued to work in our old quarters through the winter and part of the summer of 1872 when it was decided that they must have a better place to hold their meetings. There being no building available, they decided to build. They conferred with some men of the vicinity (not Masons) as to the feasibility of building a store room and hall combined, and received assurances of help in the enterprise. They therefore formed a joint stock company, and sold shares to whomever would buy and petitioned the Grand Lodge for permission to solicit help from some of the lodges of the state, which was granted. They received a goodly number of donations in answer to their requests. In the summer of that year, they had raised enough to warrant going to work to build, and immediately went to work with the help of the members of the lodge and some neighbors who gave work free. They soon had the building ready for occupancy.
The Grand Lodge met October 16th at Leavenworth. They succeeded in getting the transcript written up, a whole year's work, and it was a long one. It was reported that one of the committee said: "that was the greatest working lodge he had ever seen." At one time, they conferred seven degrees in one night and also had a large amount of regular business.
Soon after Grand Lodge met, they received their Charter and were regularly constituted and officers were installed. The Charter was granted at a regular Annual Meeting of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Kansas at the City of Leavenworth, October 15th, A. D., 1873. Soon after receiving their charter, and while still in the old hall, the ladies of the men of the lodge desired that a chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star (O.E.S.) be formed. Accordingly after all preliminaries had been completed, officers were appointed and, through the courtesy and assistance of the officers and members of Olathe Chapter O.E.S., they were regularly constituted a chapter of the O.E.S.
The Fire of 1877
About the middle of November, 1877, the new building burned and they had the great misfortune to lose the building and all of the contents. All records, furniture, charter, and everything was wiped out completely. With the loss of all O.E.S. records and paraphernalia and everything belonging to the order, the O.E.S. found it was unable to re-establish itself and the chapter became extinct.
The lodge was without a regular place to meet. They petitioned the Grand Master for permission to meet at any suitable and safe place and to carry on the work of the lodge. A petition for a replacement charter was made at the next Grand Lodge in March, 1878, held at Lawrence, Kansas. The minutes of the Lodge are extant from this point on, and interesting points have been gleaned from them.
Articles of Association of Lenexa Lodge No. 135 A.F. and A.M
. Article 1st
We the master masons of Lenexa Lodge No. 135 A.F. and A.M. hereby agree to associate ourselves together in an organization to be known as the Lenexa Lodge No. 135 A.F. and A.M. Association. Article 2nd
The purposes of this association are to acquire real and personal property to erect and maintain buildings for the convenience of the above named Lodge of A.F. and A.M.s and for all purposes pertaining to the well being of the same. Article 3rd
The place of business of the association shall be at the hall of Lenexa Lodge, No. 135 AF. and A.M. Lenexa Johnson County, Kansas. Article 4th
The Association shall have an existence of ninety nine years. Article 5th
The government of the association shall be in three trustees who shall be annually elected according to the statutes of the state of Kansas. The following named persons shall be trustees until their successors are elected: L. W. Breyfogle, W. P. Haskin, Jas Rush, Trustees. Article 6th
The amount of capital stock of this association shall be limited to fifty thousand dollars and they shall have power to hold such property real and personal as may be necessary to carry out the objects of its organization. Signed:
Be it known that on this 27th day of March, A. D. 1878 before me, C. A. Bradshaw a notary public in and for the county of Johnson State of Kansas personally appeared the above named persons and acknowledged the signing and sealing of the above declaration of incorporation to be their voluntary act and deed for the purposes and uses therein mentioned. In witness whereof I hereunto subscribe my name and affix my official seal this 27th day of March A.D. 1878
C. A Bradshaw Notary Public
I, Thomas H. Cavanaugh, Secretary of State of the State of Kansas do hereby own that the foregoing is a true and correct copy of the original instrument of writing filed in my office March 28, A.D. 1878.
In testimony whereof I have hereunto subscribed my name and affixed the Great Seal of State. Done at Topeka this 30th day of March A.D. 1878
Thos. H. Cavanaugh,
Secretary of State
Note: The notary public who notarized these Articles was Squire C. A. Bradshaw, the founder of Lenexa.
1878 - 1889 Yearly Summary of Lodge Events
Dispensation was given by the Grand Lodge for Lenexa Lodge to hold communications at Shawnee Lodge No. 54 for the purpose of conferring degrees. It did so on December 11th, 1878, but on December 27th, 1878, it met at the School House in Lenexa.
By February, 1879, the Lodge had a new hall in Lenexa. It was the upper story of the building on the North East corner of Santa Fe Drive and First Street (Later Pflumm Road). The C. E. Bradshaw Drygoods Store was on the ground floor.
In July, 1882, the lodge issued a check for nine cents for the washing of the spittoons.
The lodge building was a white frame building on the northeast corner of Santa Fe Drive and First Street (later called Pflumm Road). It was a two-story building with the lodge owning the second story.
Notable Members of Lenexa Lodge # 135 in the Early Years
Thomas W. Freeman was Lenexa's postmaster from 1867-69.
George M. Bower moved to Lenexa in 1869. When Lenexa was founded in 1869, he purchased much of the town site, including most of the land where the Community Center now is, and several blocks along the south side of the tracks. He was elected a member of the State Senate in the fall of 1870. While he practiced medicine for many years, he was also engaged in the mercantile business. He was Lenexa's postmaster from 1885 to 1893.
Henry D. Gillett, a skilled blacksmith, resided in Lenexa. Henry's blacksmith shop was at the corner of Walnut and 1st Street (Pflumm Road). It was said that he built it of green cottonwood, and after a season, all the boards were shaped like watering troughs. Henry also ran the first hotel in Lenexa. M. Zener was the first master of Lenexa Lodge. His name does not appear in the minutes of 1878 and beyond, and it must be assumed that he was deceased or had moved elsewhere by 1878.
William Pennock Haskin taught school for some time in Indiana. As a young man, he came to Lenexa and bought a farm. He had four children; one was Elkanah Harley Haskin who founded the Farmers State Bank in 1905---Lenexa's first bank.
Homer L. Smithers was Master in 1881
Lenexa Becomes a City
The Early 1900's
During the period prior to 1900, Lenexa consisted of a few businesses, a few streets, some nice homes, several schools, and some churches. The businesses covered about two blocks along the north and south side of the train tracks. Along the north side was the Bradshaw General Store (on the NE corner of 1st (later Pflumm) and Santa Fe Drive.). The lodge met above the store. (Chas E. Bradshaw was an active lodge member and one of the store owners). Elkanah Harley Haskin founded the Farmer's State Bank in 1904. It was located in a building a few stores down from the Bradshaw General Store. Harley Haskin was one of the sons of William Pennock Haskin, a lodge member. All this relates to the lodge in that Harley Haskin eventually bought part of the building housing the Bradshaw General Store, and thus owned the first floor of the lodge building. The Lodge continued to own the second floor of the building. Also along this side was the William E. Dickerson poultry store. William was a lodge member. On the south side of the tracks were the businesses of several lodge members. Henry Gillette had his blacksmith shop there. The Newcomer family ran the Trail Inn Hotel, which stood about where the community center stands today. P. Frank Newcomer joined the lodge in 1907, and was, at various times, a city Marshall, police judge, and a city councilman. He ran a livery at the southeast corner of Pflumm and Walnut Street, which proved to be a good location for those arriving by train. Harry F. Enyart married Henry Gillette's daughter, and joined the lodge in 1913. He played the French horn in the "Tarita" Band of 1912, and served on the city council. Harry worked at the flour mill, which stood near the tracks. (It is still there). Harry lived on 93rd street, not far from the present lodge building. Lenexa became a city in 1907. The first mayor was E. M. Switzer. Three years later, he joined the lodge. T. A. Brown was among those elected to the first city council in 1907, and he succeeded E. M. Switzer as mayor, serving during 1908-1910. While serving on the council, he, together with A. M. Linn (who had joined the lodge in 1900) drafted the city's first by-laws. T. A. Brown joined the lodge in 1917. J. Lester Bridges, who joined the lodge in 1907, was a trumpet player in the "Tarita" Band of Lenexa in 1912. He was on the canvassing board of the city in 1907 as was C. A. Bradshaw. Later, J. Lester was a city councilman. The Methodist Episcopal Church, which had been in Lenexa since the first days of the lodge, counted among its members the George Allens, the Bradshaws, the Haskins, the Wedds, the Dickersons, the Gilletts, and the Enyarts. Several of the Methodist pastors were lodge members, and served as lodge chaplains. A. M. Linn, who had assisted T. A. Brown with the city's first by-laws, later ran a filling station on the north side of Santa Fe. He was also a city councilman. Dr. C. W. Jones was the city's first "city physician." He had been a member of the lodge from its earlier days. Dr. P. L. Jones was the second "city physician." He joined the lodge in 1910, and was elected mayor in 1922. Willis Bower holds the distinction of being the first white person born in Lenexa (January 19, 1869). He was the son of Dr. and Mrs. George Bower, one of the principal landowners of the area. Willis joined the lodge in 1900. George Bower was one of the early lodge members. The Strang Line, the interurban train that ran from Union Station in Kansas City to several suburban cities, had a stop in Lenexa. The tracks were parallel and south of the present tracks, but curved off to the east through the Piercy property and then on into old Overland Park. The first car ran on May 20th, 1906 and regular train service began in January, 1909. The train service continued until 1940. Various other lodge members served on the city council, including David S. Beets, and Frank Newcomer. Postmasters of Lenexa included Ross Allen (1876-79), Oliver W. Miller (1879-85), and Charles E. Bradshaw (1897-1902), all lodge members. Charles Hoover, who joined the lodge in 1917, served as a City councilman, and, in 1923, was on Lenexa's baseball team. World War I touched the city in a number of ways. Two of the lodge members were in the army. A Lodge member was on the defense council. So the era of 1900-1920 saw Lenexa become a city, elect a mayor and city council, put in street lights, improve its streets, and grow as a small Kansas town. The railroad, which had been an important part of the city's beginning, continued to be an important part of its growth. After all, one of the conditions of the railroad right-of-way through Lenexa was that it have a depot in the city---a condition effective even today. It is evident that many of the leading citizens were also masons, and active in the lodge.
The Roaring 20's
In July, 1921, the lodge received a letter from the Farmers State Bank offering to buy the lodge hall. One should remember that the bank owned the ground floor, and the lodge owned the floor above. Negotiations continued, and in October, the bank offered the lodge $350. The lodge voted to take no less than $500. In November, 1921, the offer was raised to $425 as the last price, and there the matter stood at the end of the year. In March, 1922, the lodge was sold for $500, with a June 1, 1922, closing date. Obviously funds would be needed to obtain another lodge hall, and "life memberships" of $100 (returnable on death) were established, with fifteen members agreeing to purchase them. Bonds were also sold. The lodge was re-incorporated. (It had been incorporated in 1878, but apparently the corporation had not been kept up to date.) In June, 1922, the bank noting that the building was to be torn down and replaced with a new bank building, offered to sell the building and 40 feet of ground to the lodge for $750. The lodge, having found nothing better, agreed. The building was moved north to the new site and funds borrowed to complete the moving and refurbishing. Overland Park was in the process of starting a new lodge, and many Lenexa Lodge members lived in Overland Park. (The Overland Park Lodge was chartered on March 1, 1923). As a result, twenty-one members of Lenexa Lodge transferred to Overland Park Lodge in September, 1922. On Wednesday evening, June 12, 1919, Adda Chapter No. 467, Order of the Eastern Star was constituted and received its charter.
In the 1920s, Lenexa was a small but growing Kansas town. Its population was in the few hundreds (it reached 600 in 1940). This was a time of building, and "modernizing".
In 1924 the Lutheran church and the Methodist church each completed their new sanctuaries. The Lenexa Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1925. That was also the year that Santa Fe Drive was paved in the city. Edward Bradshaw was one of two city mail carriers (he served as mail carrier from 1910 to 1953). As the 1920s ended, there were band concerts and "dog and pony" shows at the park at the corner of Walnut and Haskins (where the City Hall, which became the Senior Citizen's Center later stood). Lenexa did not have a High School, so the Lenexa teens generally rode the Strang Line trains to either the Olathe High School or the Shawnee Mission High School (now SM North). Even today, Lenexa does not have a high school.
The Post War Years
In December, 1948, the lodge building was put up for sale for $7,000. However, the building was not sold.
In 1950, Lenexa Lodge was among those assisting with the cornerstone laying for the new Johnson County Courthouse in Olathe. Lenexa's fast growth had begun. New houses were being built south of 95th street. New highways, and improved streets, were planned or under construction. Many of those in Overland Park, and elsewhere, still considered Lenexa to be "out in the country", but actually, it was becoming evident that the greater Kansas City growth was moving in Lenexa's direction. It is interesting to note that many lodge members were taking part in the planning and governing of Lenexa In 1952 Lenexa expanded the city boundaries for the first time. In 1953, the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce held meetings in the lower floor of the lodge. In 1955, the lodge began to consider acquiring land for a new building and several members made donations, but no action was taken In 1957, Bro. Wesley Fry was elected Mayor of Lenexa, and served in 1958 as well. In June , 1959, a committee was appointed to investigate building a new hall. In September, 1959, a potential buyer for the existing hall was found, and an asking price of $8,500 was established
In September, 1961, the lodge voted to sell property received from a member's estate for at least $25,000. In 1963, the Lodge sold its interest in the property for $18,000 and began looking seriously at other lodge building sites. They looked at a house in East Hills, but finally decided to buy a lot between the Baptist Church and a junkyard for $1,000. In 1964, discussions on a loan were opened and members were informed of plans to build on the lodge lot East of the Baptist Church property. The Building Committee contacted builders regarding costs. The Trustees arranged for the "junk" to be moved off the property and paid the City of Lenexa $35 for a zoning change to allow building of the Lodge hall. In 1965, the Building Committee continued their work, with the result of a sale of some of the lodge land and the transfer of the lot on 94th Street to the Building Temple Corporation in October, 1965.
In 1966, the Building Committee's work intensified. The Grand Master gave the lodge permission to sell the lodge properties and build a new lodge. The lodge sold the old lodge hall for $6,000, and the vacant lot on 90th Place for $1,000. Lodge building plans were ready by April 15, 1966, and bids opened on April 29, 1966. The construction contract was let in June, 1966, for $38,458 and a line of credit for $10,000 obtained. The Ground Breaking Ceremony took place (see paragraph below), the basement was dug, and the lodge members laid the drain tiles and installed the wiring. The building was turned over to the Lodge in mid-October and the lodge immediately moved its possessions to the new hall. The cornerstone laying was set for November 12, 1966 with the Grand Lodge officiating. On the occasion of the lodges first meeting in the new building, Shawnee Lodge #54 presented Lenexa Lodge with three gavels made especially for Lenexa Lodge by a brother of Overland Park Lodge #436. It was a great year! One of the special events of the year was the Formal Groundbreaking, which took place on April 2nd, 1967. A procession was formed at the old lodge hall and marched to the new site where, with fitting ceremony, the Grand Master and the Lenexa Lodge Master, Wor. Charles Ryals, turned shovels of earth. In 1972, the lodge was the only one in the district with 100% attendance at the District meeting.
In Recent Times
Ancient Form Lodge began holding its meetings in the Lenexa lodge hall in July, 1978. 1994 was the City of Lenexa's 125th year, and a month-long celebration was planned. Lenexa Lodge, being as old as the city, was asked to participate in the planning and carrying out of this event. The lodge put on display many historical documents, pictures and artifacts, and the Secretary created a chart of all the lodge officers during the long history of the lodge. In 1995, the lodge held it's fourth Annual Picnic in Shawnee Mission Park, and the usual smorgasbord and July 4th breakfast fund-raisers. In view of the outstanding year of 1994, Lenexa Lodge was awarded (at the Grand Lodge Meeting in 1995): The Master's Achievement Award, the Vision 2000 Award, and the Outstanding Lodge Award for 1994, and four of its members were awarded Outstanding Mason for 1994 awards. The review of the 1995's accomplishments should note that Lenexa Lodge became the sponsor of the Johnson County Chapter of DeMolay. Following an offer to sell the property just East of the lodge, in 1996, negotiations were opened with the owners. For various reasons relating to securing a clear title the sale progressed slowly. On March 7th, 1997, the purchase of the lot East of the lodge was completed. The purchase price was $10,000, which will be paid from lodge funds during a few years -- mostly from the building rental fees. One of the most visible events of 1997 was the refurbishing of the lodge hall. This consisted of the purchase of some seventy theater-type chairs to replace the well worn chairs on the lodge sidelines. At the same time new blue carpet was installed in the entry and lodge hall.
Kansas Governor Kathleen Sibelius
Signs Proclamation Honoring Lenexa Lodge #135's
130 Years of Service September 28, 2003