History of Morning Star Lodge No. 10

While the story of many institutions and organizations becomes a chronological recital of dates and events, the story of Morning Star Lodge No. 10 is the story of people. It is about their dreams, trials, and achievements; their joys and sorrows. And it is inspiring.

The Morning Star Lodge story is one of unwavering dedication to ideals; of the faith which founded a community, and of a lodge built on a philosophy of caring and sharing.

And when you talk about the community, the city and its citizens, you talk about Morning Star Lodge, founded before Beloit had a name and Wisconsin was still a wilderness territory far removed from the seat of government in Washington.

The names, the faces and people are the same. The hands that opened the first store, built the first mill, fashioned the first machines, turned the first sod, and opened the scriptures for services to hear the prayers of grateful men were the same hands that laid out the square and compasses with fond admiration and dedication on the alter of Free Masonry.

The true beginning of Morning Star Lodge No. 10 started in October of 1836 in New Hampshire. In the upper Connecticut valley, in the little town of Colebrook in Coos County sprawled beside the lovely Connecticut River, fourteen citizens (five of them members of Evening Star Lodge No. 37 F. & A.M.) gathered to organize the New England Emigrating Company.

Members of the organizing company, whose kin and descendants were to build and populate a city, and found a Lodge of Masons at the confluence of Turtle Creek and Rock River in a wilderness area called the Wisconsin Territory, were Cyrus Eames, O.P. Bicknell, John W. Bicknell, Asahel B. Howe, Leonard Hatch, David J. Bundy, Ira Young, L.C. Beech, S.G. Colley, G.W. Bicknell, R.P. Crane, Horace Hobart, Horice White, and Alfred Field.

They had worked hard earning a living from small and rocky patches of farmland on the New England hillsides. They were men of vision and had heard talk of the wide fertile fields of the west opening up to settlers with a dream.

These men had been carefully weighing the stories of abundant woodlands, clear streams and wavering grasslands in the region of the Great Lakes... and stories of the great meandering Mississippi stirred excitement in them, too.

This was not a band of men seeking fortunes in land speculation. These were men of vision, seeking to invest themselves in more satisfying lives, producing more, and becoming more for their families and fellows. They were willing to leave their quiet village in the New Hampshire hills for what subsequent generations have come to call " The American Dream".

On September 21, 1846, Otis P. Bicknell, John W. Bicknell, Leonard Hatch, Samuel Colley, and George W. Bicknell were among those who attended at the altar of Freemasonry and Organized Morning Star Lodge No. 10. John W. Bicknell presided as Worshipful Master as a handful of New England Masons acting under the dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Missouri, gathered in the club rooms of the Odd Fellows, a fraternal order which had formed the previous month.

John W. Bicknell sat in the East during the early organizational meetings, while the Lodge met under the dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Missouri. John W. Bicknell is considered and honored as the founder of Morning Star Lodge No. 10.

The Masonic meeting of January 20, 1847 marks the official beginning of Morning Star Lodge No. 10., for on this day it was consecrated by the Right Worshipful Dr. George W. Bicknell, Deputy Grand Master of Wisconsin, a Past Master of a Lodge in Rhode Island and the son of John W. Bicknell of Beloit.

From the very beginning, Morning Star Lodge Masons showed a supreme interest in education, and at a meeting in March of 1852, established a Masonic Library and Literary Association. This educational interest continues today in the awarding of Masonic scholarships to graduating high school seniors. Scores of Beloit educators have been active members of Morning Star Lodge No. 10.

John W. Bicknell, Founder of Morning Star Lodge No. 10

John W. Bicknell

Founder of Morning Star Lodge No. 10

Countless special meetings were held by Morning Star Lodge No. 10 to initiate, pass, and raise many Beloiters to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason during the days of the Civil War, and the California and Klondike gold rushes.

Young men wanted to leave home with Masonic affiliations and carry fraternal ties to far off military and mining camps. Conversing with Masonic brethren helped many who returned, and must have been a comfort to those who died in blizzards, from disease or battle wounds far from their homes and loved ones.

Among the Civil War Veterans of Morning Star Lodge No. 10, and there were many, was Cham Ingersol, editor of the Beloit Free Press, who fought in the battel of Gettysburg. The Lodge prospered under Beloit Mayor John Scott and W.H. Grinnell, both Civil War Veterans and community leaders. The Senior Citizens Center in Beloit is named after Comrade and Brother Grinnell who served as Wisconsin Commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.

During this era, Jim Roy was Master of the Lodge, and Myron West, who gave his life for his country in World War 1, was Senior Warden. The American Legion Post in Beloit bears his name in memory. As the years rolled by, the lodge raised to Master Mason leading physicians, attorneys, editors, industrialists, teachers, bankers, business executives, and city officials, and above all, a representative cross section of the men who made Beloit a progressive, law abiding community. A tradition that continues today.

After meeting in a variety of rented quarters over the years, the members of Morning Star Lodge erected a magnificent four-story building in 1913. The new Masonic Temple, with so many facilities from meeting rooms, kitchen and dining rooms, to recreational facilities, had a stimulating effect on the growth of the lodge.

Many new members attended at the altar and the fraternity enjoyed a high reputation through-out the community. Membership passed the one-thousand mark, pride sparkled everywhere, and fellowship hit many happy peaks.

Original Beloit Masonic Temple - 1913

The first major tragedy of Morning Star Lodge No. 10 struck on the cold winter night of January 30, 1951. With the temperature at 25 degrees below zero, fire completely destroyed the first Masonic Temple on our site. On the morning after the fire, the charred remains of the magnificent structure, so beloved by the community, were coated in ice. All was lost. Fortunately, however, all of the early hand written records of the Lodge were stored in a vault and were saved. Though charred and wet, they are still legible today.

Shocked by their loss, the Beloit Masons hesitated not a moment in their resolution to rebuild the Temple. On February 5, 1951, a special communication was held in the First Congregational Church, with the Grand Master of Wisconsin Masons, Walter Helwig, presiding and a temporary meeting place was discussed. Many Southern Wisconsin Lodges offered the use of their facilities during this most trying time.

Morning after the fire - January 31, 1951

By April 2, 1952, an architect had been hired, a fund drive was in progress, and $260,000 had been budgeted to finance a new building. Under dark skies, and in drizzling rain, the cornerstone for the current building was laid May 2, 1953.

The first meeting in the new Temple was held on January 6, 1954 with three-hundred ninety brothers in attendance. It was announced at that meeting that Cunningham Brothers (the contractors that built the building) had canceled the last $3,400 in building costs as a contribution to Freemasonry.

The building was dedicated on April 24, 1954, and dignitaries about the state paid tribute to the building and the Beloit Masonic spirit which saw its construction despite every obstacle.

The mortgage was burned at festive and fraternal ceremonies on May 19, 1962, eleven years after the tragic fire which destroyed the first Temple.

In March of 1954 The Grand Lodge spoke to the brethren of Morning Star Lodge about the benefits of founding additional lodges of Free and Accepted Masons in areas where existing lodges were becoming excessive in size. Their remarks stimulated thought with respect of the formation of a new lodge in Beloit, and a short time later, Worshipful Master Sterling Ramboldt appointed a committee of members of Morning Star Lodge to investigate and study the proposal. It was agreed that any member of Morning Star Lodge who desired to be charter members of the new lodge, would be cordially invited to become plural members of both the new lodge and Morning Star Lodge No. 10.

On June 11, 1957 the Grand Lodge authorized and, and the Grand Master, meeting in Grand Lodge session in Milwaukee, presented a charter to the three principal officers of Beloit Lodge U.D., and the new lodge became known as Beloit Lodge No. 353 F.&A.M.

Beloit Lodge No. 353 was consecrated and constituted on September 21, 1957 at the Beloit Masonic Temple by the Grand Officers of the State of Wisconsin. The first three principal officers were Carl S. Andrews - Worshipful Master, Charles Campbell - Senoir Warden, and Donald Tamblingson - Junior Warden.

Beloit Lodge No. 353 continued to grow and prosper through the 1960ís and 70ís. The members of Beloit Lodge No. 353 were proud of their lodge and of the heritage of the brothers who had gone before them.

As with many lodges, in the 1980ís, the membership of Beloit Lodge No. 353 was slowly dwindling. The decision was made to darken this lodge. The charter of Beloit Lodge No. 353 was canceled on August 28, 1987 and the lodge, on that date, officially merged with Morning Star Lodge No. 10.

In 1998, the Brothers of Good Samaritan Lodge No. 135 F. & A.M. of Clinton Wisconsin felt that they could better serve their God, Their Country, Their neighbors, and themselves with a higher quality of service by closing their lodge and merging with ours. The merger was met with mixed emotion. Sadly, Good Samaritan Lodge was not able to continue their devoted work solely within the community of Clinton, but by the action of this merger, they were able to continue their love for Freemasonry, their devotions to the Craft, and contribute to the Greater Beloit area in a positive way.

Although Good Samaritan Lodge No. 135 was in this position, they still felt that one of the most important duties they had was to, some how, help the community of Clinton. Therefore, when the merger took place it was decided to set up an endowment fund, with some of the assets of their lodge, to help with further education for the community of Clinton, Wisconsin school district. Every year, since the merger, a scholarship has been given to at least one graduate of the Clinton High School. It is hoped that this fund will continue to grow and allow scholarships to be given every year in the future, not only to help the community, but to keep the memory of Good Samaritan Lodge No. 135 F. & A.M and itsí 130 years of continual community service alive.

This brings the history of Morning Star Lodge No. 10 to the current year, 2003. It is a proud and grateful group of brethren that still work, to the best of our ability, to continue to build upon the 157 years of service to the Craft and our community.

And so it was, with those fourteen pioneers that gathered in autumnsí brilliance in October of 1836 in the hills of New England, resolving to find a new homeland in the beckoning west, and founding a Masonic Lodge to preserve something precious for their posterity.

They were the real beginning ... and to them, all admiration, respect and honor must be given by those of us who keep the faith today.