Brief History of Cotner Lodge No. 297

Early in January, 1917, four Master Masons---Hiram B. Young, Charles W. Jester, Charles J. Miller and Clyde C. McCord, in company together discussing Free Masonry, were struck with the idea of organizing a Masonic Lodge in Bethany. Naturally, a few obstacles appeared in the way of the establishment of such an order here.

Again reasons were evident why there should be a Lodge here. Many of the best citizens of this community would not be attracted to the order because of the inconvenience, and for the same reason some of the less desirable might attempt to enter the fraternity who would not enter where they were better known.

At length after discussing all these points it was decided to take an inventory to ascertain how many in the community belonged to the fraternity, whereupon it was gratifying to learn that there were over thirty, twenty-five of this number expressed a willingness and a desire to sign a petition to start a Lodge in Bethany. Following are their names:

Angola Lodge No. 236 Clyde C. McCord
Arconia Lodge No. 31 William N. Armstrong
Aurora Lodge No. 68 Alden Lee Hill
Compass & Square Lodge No. 212 Gustave Hald
Cowles Lodge No. 296 Frank R. Shuman
Cubit Lodge No. 237 Imon T. Hensley
East Lincoln Lodge No. 210 John T. Graham
Charles W. Jester
Robert M. Robotham
Hiram B. Young
Fairfield Lodge No. 84 Stephen J. Epler
Golden Sheaf Lodge No. 133 Alva Wilson
Humbolt Lodge No. 40 George C. Aydelott
Kenesaw Lodge No. 104 Elbert J. Latta
Keystone Lodge No. 263 Andrew D. Harmon
Lincoln Lodge No. 19 Walter C. Clark
James S. Tewksbury
Mason City Lodge No. 170 Andrew L. Weaver
North Star Lodge No. 227 Cecil C. Donley
Charles J. Miller
Douglas H. Roberts
Platte Valley Lodge No. 32 Harry G. Knowles
Spearfish Lodge No. 18 Edwin S. Luce
Trestle Board Lodge No. 162 Arthur J. Bailey
Wausa Lodge No. 251 William R. York

Later, Douglas H. Roberts wishing to wait till the lodge was regularly organized, before identifying himself with it, requested that he be permitted to withdraw. His request was granted.

William A. Armstrong failing to furnish either demit or certificate, did not qualify.

For various reasons there were others that did not sign the petition, many offering as a reason the fact that their residence was not permanently established in Bethany. No one, however, was urged to sign the petition, but each one acted of his own free will and accord with the best interest of the fraternity in view.

A great deal of interest was manifested in the new order, not only among the brethren, but also among the people in general.

Not having any hall at this time, our meeting places were quite irregular, sometimes in the school house, sometimes in the city hall, and sometimes the college chapel; but always secure from public interference.

Early in the organization the following officers were chosen:

Worshipful Master Elbert J. Latta
Senior Warden Frank R. Shuman
Junior Warden Stephen J. Epler
Treasurer Hiram B. Young
Secretary Walter C. Clark
Senior Deacon Arthur J. Bailey
Junior Deacon Imon T. Hensley
Trustees Charles J. Miller
Charles W. Jester

Later: Bro. Epler moved away and Cecil C. Donley was chosen to the position of Junior Warden.

Brother Sam Whiting of Lincoln was employed to give us instructions. The school of instructions continued for eleven nights and was well attended, during which time much interest was aroused, and much good accomplished.

The petition, together with the fee of $25.00, was forwarded to the Grand Master April 19, 1917, but owing to the lateness of the Masonic year Grand Master Viele referred the petition to the incoming Grand Master.

We, as a lodge, were examined on May 30, 1917, by Most Worshipful Brother Samuel Whiting, who represented Most Worshipful Grand Custodian Robert E. French.

The prayer of the petitioners was granted by Grand Master Temple and the Lodge was publicly instituted by Brother Samuel Whiting, June 18, 1917. Brother Whiting was so authorized by the Grand Master. This was an eventful day for the brotherhood in Bethany, and an enjoyable time for the community.

We were recommended and given every assistance by the brethren of North Star Lodge No. 227, University Place. Peace and Harmony prevailing.

Officers

June 1917 to June 1919

Worshipful Master Elbert J. Latta
Senior Warden Frank R. Shuman
Junior Warden Cecil C. Donley
Treasurer Howard Harvey
Secretary Walter C. Clark
Senior Deacon Arthur J. Bailey
Junior Deacon Imon T. Hensley
Stewards Leslie J. Strain
Claude L. Ackerman
Ray E. Witham
Tyler John W. Wall
Trustees Charles J. Miller
Charles W. Jester
Edward S. Luce

On June 5, 1918, a Charter was granted by the Grand Lodge and on June 27, 1918, Cotner Lodge No. 297, A. F. & A. M. was publicly constituted, with the following Charter Members: