I recently came across a small book titled “Discarded Antlers” by J. Dale Standley that chronicles the history of BPOE 433 (Elks Lodge) in La Grande. In many ways, the history of the Elks is the history of La Grande and in the early days the Elks included the most influential men in town. Throughout the history of La Grande they’ve had an important influence for good through their leadership and philanthropy.
I’m presenting the history here as a series. Today is part one.
– Jay Mackley
… by J. Dale Standley
In April of 1988, after the installation of Exalted Ruler William Fitzgerald, I was asked to be the Lodge History Committee Charirman. As our La Grande Lodge had been instituted 90 years earlier, in 1898, I accepted the offer. As I studied the minute books, which had been water damaged during the fire, I began to piece together a chonological account of BPOE No. 433 history. I read one page of the account at each Thursday night meeting and it was well recieved by the Brothers attending Lodge. I also put a page in each Antlered Herd newsletter under the heading of “Discarded Antlers”.
It was by the suggestion of many Brother Elk members that I decided to put it into book form and sell it. The net proceeds will go to our national Elks foundation Scholarship program for the benefit of the youth of our nation.
I appreciate the help given me by one of our oldest members, Brother Victor Eckley, who is the Past Exalted ruler, Past Trustee, and Past District Deputy Grande Exalted Ruler. He was postmaster in La Grande for many years and before that Vic was our representitive in our Oregon Congress. Therefore, I dedicate the book to him.
Chapter 1 – The Beginning
In the fall of 1887 several young men in La Grande became interested in forming a lodge of BPO Elks in our city. Their interest was being fanned by the enthusiasm for the Elks Lodge by the men in Pendleton which had been organized within the previous two years.
One of the most enthusiastic men who joined the Pendleton Lodge was a railroad conductor, Ed Murphy. Another member of the Pendleton Lodge who worked hard to form La Grande Lodge was the manager of the mill at Perry. His name was Fred Stanley. He later was elected to represent Union County in Salem.
The necessary number of names were finally obtained. Application for a Lodge Charter was made early in 1898. On April 11,1898. Grande Exalted Ruler R. B. Detweiler granted our charter. He directed District Deputy Grande Exalted Ruler for Oregon Col. Mitchell of Portland No. 142 to proceed with the organization of our Lodge which was given No. 433.
Portland lodge No. 142 Grande Lodge officers who were going to initiate our Charter Members and institute La Grande Lodge No. 433 arrived in la Grande by train on the early morning of Saturday, May 14, 1898.
Notices had prviously been sent to all signers of the proposed membership list to be present at the Knights of Pythias Hall located in the Thorsen-Melquist Building, across the street from our present Lodge home. The Knights of Pythias Hall later housed the Standard Laundry.
After the prelimianry work of investigation was finished and the applications were completed, 40 candidates were initiated by Acting Grande Exalted Ruler Solis Cohn, assisted by Acting Grande Esquire Henry Griffin who had as his assistant a Baker City Elk who was well known to La Grande, Phil Nebergall.
Three of the Brothers were singled out to receive the Second Degree (J. Van Buren, George Beidleman, and Frank Geiser), much to their dismay but adding to the enjoyment of the rest of the Brothers.
After the initiation the Acting Grande Lodge Officers from Portland No. 142 instituted the Brotherhood of Protective Order of Elks No 433 of La Grande, Oregon.
After 40 candidates had been initiated, the Lodge was instituted, and we recieved our Charter, an election of officers took place.
Brother E. W. Bartlett was elected as our first Exalted Ruler. Nicholas Molitor was elected as Leading Knight.
That evening the first Elks banquet was held at Sommers Hotel and no better meal was ever served than by Abe Sommers. That night the liquor and wine may have brought on prohibition!
Judge Bill Smith was the Master of Ceremony at the banquet and he kept things moving at a never-a-dull-moment pace. The party broke up about daylight then the Brothers from Portland got on the early morning train without much sleep.
When the manager of the Sommer Hotel Bar counted the money in the slot machines he found seven $5.00 gold pieces in his count. No one ever admitted to making such a mistake.
To be continued… Chapter 2 – The Early Days