By Robert Barron, Staff Writer
The Masonic Lodge has a storied history around the world, and Enid is no different.
Enid is home to two lodges, Enid Lodge No. 80 and Garfield Lodge No. 501. The Enid lodge was started in 1894, a year after the Cherokee Strip opening. It began as territorial lodge No. 19 when chartered by the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma Territory. The early meetings were held in a building owned by another fraternal organization, the International Order of Odd Fellows. The Masons paid $3 rent per year and did the janitorial work at the building. In 1897, the lodge number was changed to 80, and the organization has 200 members today.
Masonry as a secretive organization is one of the most misunderstood in Am-erica today, members say. Richard Ramer, who became worshipful master, or head of the lodge, during installation of officers Thursday, agrees.
“Masons are an organization of good men who learn to become better through doing good work,” he said.
Contrary to what many believe, Masonry is not a religious organization, although its works are based on Judeo-Christian biblical references. Members of any religion are welcome to join the Masonic Lodge. Ramer said the local lodge has many Jewish members.
“It’s left to each man to determine his faith. We use our symbols and traditions to guide the men in improvement,” he said.
Those symbols and traditions remind Masons how they are to act and to approach other people. Ramer said they all are positives. Essentially, Masonry is a fraternity focused on self-improvement and brotherhood. Organizations under the Masonic banner include Order of the Eastern Star organization for women, DeMolay for young men and Rainbow for young women.
“Masonry holds charity as one of man’s chief virtues, and Masonic lodges participate in many local programs, as well as partnerships with charities and other organizations,” Ramer said.
A goal of both lodges in the approaching year is to increase their community work, he said.
The Enid lodge manages Midgley Museum through a trust established by the Midgley family, with members of the Eastern Star working as volunteers.
In the past year the Masons have aided the Masonic Widows Fund and Prevent Blindness Oklahoma at Enid High School. The fraternity helps provide for vision testing for Enid students. The lodge also established a fund for Rainbow Girls, a lodge for young women, where they learn ethics and morality, and facilitated an annual essay contest for high school seniors on behalf of the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma.
Lodges are supported by their dues. Money received through fundraisers is used to support the causes the lodge has adopted. Ramer said one of the strengths of Oklahoma Masonry is the Masonic Charity Foundation, which matches a portion of money raised by local lodges to have a greater impact on causes of interest. One of the major causes of Oklahoma Masons has been the Oklahoma Educa-tional Television Au-thority.
Garfield Lodge is involved with Nor-thern Oklahoma De-velopment Auth-ority, according to Worshipful Master Justin Winbolt, and currently is working on a drawing, with proceeds going to Garfield County Rural Health Project to provide home health care for those who cannot go to the doctor as often as they need. During the past year, members also have assisted with the YMCA Adopt A Child program, Christmas in Action and OETA.
Winbolt said he has a simple philosophy. Every Mason will take every good man by the hand and make him better. As a fraternal organization, members also help each other. Recently, the lodge raised $875 in one evening to assist a member in economic difficulty, he said.
Masonry is based on biblical teachings and fosters the growth of men from entered apprentice, through Fellow-craft to becoming a Master Mason, the highest level that can be achieved in the lodge, Ramer said.
“We look at those levels as the growth of a man from youth, through middle age to an old man,” Ramer said.
In 1901, the lodge ac-quired a building at the southwest corner of the downtown Square at Independence and Maine, which today houses Family Vision Clinic and formerly was home to Lynn Smith Photography.
The organization later moved to a building at Broadway and Washington, but it lost the building during the Great Depression. How-ever, the building was purchased by oilman Charles Knox, who allowed the Masons to continue meeting there.
Garfield Lodge No. 501 currently meets in the building, according to incoming Worshipful Master Justin Winbolt. Enid Lodge No. 80 meets on North Indepen-dence.
Garfield Lodge was started following a rift in Enid Lodge No. 80 in 1961. Winbolt and Ramer said they plan to help bring the two lodges back to cooperative terms through combined degree teams and their community works.
Garfield Lodge officer installation will be Saturday. There are 215 members in the Garfield Lodge.
Masonry was once a secretive organization, but has opened up in recent years. Winbolt said all of the organization’s rituals are available on the Internet and all of the secrets can be found.
“The real secret to me is after doing the work and sitting in the lodge and helping the community, having that good feeling after doing something good,” Winbolt said.
During his year as leader of Garfield Lodge, Winbolt hopes to raise enough money to build a new lodge. The lodge already owns the property, and he hopes to have it done by installation of officers in 2011.