The Hancock-Henderson Quill, Inc.
by Dessa Rodeffer, Quill Publisher/Owner
150 years ago in 1856, a group of 7 or 8 La Harpe men met in a home in the south part of La Harpe to form the first Masonic Lodge. Among these charter members was Coleman Simpson, who was elected as the first Worshipful Master.
The group built a building which later burned down, and the lodge was moved to the two top floors of the Hardisty building on the east side of the park.
In 1985 a new modern 40 x 80' building was constructed on a lot on the corner of First and Center Streets.
The La Harpe Masonic Lodge will be celebrating their 150th anniversary with a public rededication ceremony at 2:00 p.m. this Saturday which will be conducted by the Grand Lodge of Illinois.
Over the 150 years, the La Harpe Masonic Lodge has remained a stable institution formed for the betterment of mankind.
"Our ritual doesn't change and our beliefs are solid," said John Louden, of La Harpe. Louden is a past Worshipful Master of the La Harpe Lodge, and also served as Grand Master of Illinois in 1995-96.
Many times the Masonic Lodge is said to be a secret society, but Louden said, "Masons are very visible as they proudly display decals on their vehicles, also, pins, rings, and other jewelry all of which publicly identify them as Masons. We publish our meeting dates and Masonic events in the local newspapers. Masonic lodges and meeting places, more often than not, occupy places of prominence in the community. Masons make no attempt to conceal their activities in and around the lodge, thus, Masonry cannot hardly be called secret.
"Members come into the lodge of their own free will and accord and then, if they choose, learn the floor work and ritual. They must believe in God, or a supreme being. Religion and politics are not discussed.
"Although Masonic teachings are religious in nature and follow events of the Bible found in the Old Testament, Masonry is positively not a religion.
"Salvation can not be attained through Masonic membership. Any Mason who believes his lodge can replace his church is sadly mistaken and needs to reevaluate his priorities. God and church come first, then Masonry, in that order, always, with no exceptions," said Louden.
"The Masons stand for brotherly love, relief, and truth," Louden continued, explaining brotherly love as concern for others, and relief - helping those in distress or in need, and truth - being honest in what you do and say. "The truth will set you free," Louden explained.
"We also learn the four cardinal virtues. Temperance: to control vices; fortitude: to stand up for what is right; prudence: wise thinking; and justice: giving everyone their just due."
La Harpe Masonic Lodge was the 195th lodge formed in the state of Illinois.
"We currently have 120 members in the La Harpe Lodge. Masonic membership has dropped across the nation," he said. "As moral character declines, it is understandable. Masonic membership in Illinois has dropped as well, from a high of 250,000 in 1959 to around 90,000 members today.
"In La Harpe, the Masons have been able to serve with a very diversified membership: bankers, farmers, laborers, merchants, lawyers, truckers, ministers, all types of professions," Louden said.
"We have become more a part of the community since 1985, when our temple was moved to ground level. We do charities and fundraisers, have given money for equipment for the fire department, and have helped the needy in various ways."
"The Masons are known for their philanthropies, the most famous of which is providing health care for crippled children, and for burn victims at our burn centers, all of which is free of charge to patients. Masons nationally donate more than one million dollars per day to various charities."
Today, the fraternity's purpose is still the same, to improve the community by offering a gathering place for men to encourage truthfulness, brotherly love, admiration, respect for others, and to provide relief for those in need.
Jo Campbell is currently serving as Worshipful Master of La Harpe Lodge. William Burt, currently serving as Senior Warden, is anticipating election to Worshipful Master in December.
The members of the La Harpe Lodge warmly invite and encourage the public to attend the 2:00 p.m. 150th Anniversary Rededication Ceremony on Saturday, October 21, at the Lodge Hall in La Harpe.
The La Harpe Mason Lodge is located across from the Village Park on Center Street.