Masons give back

By on December 26, 2010

Local fraternal organization promotes good works and good character
by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—Most of us have heard of the Shriners and their children’s hospitals that treat burn, spinal cord and orthopedic conditions free of charge for any child under the age of 18. What we may not realize is that all Shriners began first as Masons. The Masons are a fraternal organization that welcomes every race, religion, opinion or background. The mission is to promote friendship, morality and brotherly love among its members.

Blackberry Masonic Lodge in Elburn has been helping local charities throughout its 150-year history.

“The tradition of the Masonic lodge is more for local charities,” said Past Master Paul Thorn. “We have contributed to the food pantry, Conley Outreach, inner-community baseball and academic achievement award sponsorship.”

Blackberry Lodge also set up a trailer at Elburn Days to register kids for the Illinois Child Identification Program (IL CHIPS). Parents bring their kids in not only to have their picture taken, but also to record any identifying mannerisms or gestures that would help in their rescue should they go missing.

“We talk to the child and see what little characteristics they might have. We make a point of putting that on the disk,” Thorn said. “It really helps the police. We see if they have a tendency to look up or down, what their skin complexion is or if they have a tendency to shuffle their feet when they are standing or talking.”

With three million members nationwide, the Masons are the largest and oldest fraternal organization in the world. They were thought to have been started by stone masons who built the great cathedrals in the Middle Ages, but no one knows their origins for certain.

Some of their mystique comes from the secrets they keep, but in fact those secrets were made public centuries ago by London newspapers. Ben Franklin, a Mason, said that the Masons are a society with secrets, not a secret society.

Personal betterment is the goal of each member. The society uses metaphors and symbols from geometry and architecture to build character, one principle at a time.

“They join for the betterment of themselves. We look at not what you can gain from membership, but for what you can give, what makes you a better person,” Thorn said. “The more people look into themselves, the more they are willing to give. We want people to know you’re a Mason, not by what you wear, but by how you act.”

Fifty years ago in Elburn, the Masonic Lodge played a real social function for its members. With big dinners and card games following, it was an outing every two weeks for the men of the community, Thorn said. Today, it’s not the social function it once was. Fathers are busy taking kids to games and can’t make meetings as regularly.

Still, one of the goals of the Masons is to make good family men. Blackberry Lodge is starting a program to invite interested men for a casual meal at 6:30 p.m. before the second Tuesday of the month meeting. They will have a chance to meet the members and learn more about what the Masons do. Meetings take place at 121 Main St. on the third floor.

For more information, call Tim Ward at (630) 510-7663 or Paul Thorn at (630) 365-6217.

History of the
Blackberry Lodge

Nov. 5, 1859: The first meeting of the Masonic Lodge was held.

Oct. 3, 1860:
Blackberry Lodge #359 was officially named. The members voted to establish Blackberry Cemetery at the corner of Route 47 and Keslinger Road.

April 19, 1865: Members were invited at attend Memorial Services for Abraham Lincoln.

1909: Lodge meetings were held on the third floor at the location of the present building. The first floor, which currently houses the Elburn Herald, was then a pool room and barber shop.

1918: After a fire destroyed the building, the Masons raised $13,000 in three days and voted to build a new temple.

1919: The members held a celebration to lay the cornerstone of the new building. A band from Oak Park, Ill., presented a concert. Deposited in a copper box placed inside the cornerstone were several items from the times: a Holy Bible, copies of the Elburn Herald and the Aurora Beacon, a picture of the Elburn baseball team of 1912, a flag, a list of veterans from World War I, the names of the faculty and teachers of the Elburn Public School, and a list of officers and Past Masters, among other things.

1960: The lodge held its 100th Anniversary celebration. It listed 417 members.

2010: Meetings are held on the second Tuesday of each month. Anyone interested in learning more about the lodge is invited to a casual meal held at 6:30 p.m. before the meeting. Call Tim Ward at (630) 510-7663 or Paul Thorn at (630) 365-6217 for more information.