Warren G. Harding Lodge #260
F&AM of Washington
Poulsbo, WA

How to become a Mason.

George Russell
the First Worshipful Master

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The formation of Warren G. Harding Lodge began when a group of Masons, most of whom belonged to Franklin Lodge #5 in Port Gamble and other nearby lodges, decided to form a new Masonic Lodge more conveniently located to their homes. Transportation by highway at that time was not available in our area, and any type of transportation was very slow and often arduous. This was the time of the Model T Ford cars and other similar makes which were quite primitive by today's standard. The roads were not paved as they are today, but consisted of pit-run gravel on top of a cleared trail. Occasionally some oil might be applied, like old crankcase oil, to merely help hold the dust down near some of the homes. Wet weather turned most of the roads into almost impassable quagmires of mud and potholes. Only a few of the Masons in the area then owned automobiles and most of those were completely open or, at best, with a windshield supporting a canvas covering for a top. There were no side enclosures on most cars and with the small, thin tires then available, a set would last only about 3500 miles. Winter travel was a very cold, wet, and adventurous proposition.

Fraternal organizations were popular in those days as a forum for men to meet and converse in a friendly environment. Radio was in its infancy, and television was not yet invented. Therefore, these fraternal meetings were just about the only avenue for men to meet and enjoy an evening of fellowship with friends. This is what prompted the desire for those Masons living in the Poulsbo and Keyport area to have their own Lodge, closer to their homes.

This group of men, after seeking instructions from the Grand Lodge of Washington, formed The Poulsbo Masonic Club in December 1920. They rented a portion of the top floor of the Kitsap County Co-Operative Association grocery store building in downtown Poulsbo. (The walk-in vault for the Co-Op, located at the back of the first floor, is still in place, and used for storage by the Lodge today.) Access to the third floor was by way of a stairway from Front Street to the second floor and then on up to the third floor using an inside stairway. The west portion of the third floor was partially finished and this was rented for \$200 for 2 years, or $8.33 a month. A kitchen, of sorts, with a wood burning cook-stove was located at the rear on the east side of the building behind an open net loft. It is presumed that the members of the Poulsbo Masonic Club made improvements to the otherwise unfinished net loft and adjacent areas.

The Poulsbo Masonic Club was well organized and met regularly for three years. During this time they corresponded with the Grand Lodge of Washington concerning the formal procedures necessary to obtain a Charter to form their own lodge. One question that obviously arose was what to name the new lodge. Liberty Bay Lodge was suggested; also Golden Fleece Lodge, since Brother Henry Ames' home lodge was Golden Fleece Lodge #27 of Litchfield in another state. The original application to Grand Lodge for a Petition For Dispensation shows the name requested for the new lodge to be Golden Fleece Lodge. This resulted in some confusion at the time because another group of Masons in the State of Washington was also considering this name for their new lodge.

On August 4, 1923, eighteen members of the Poulsbo Masonic Club, mostly from the Poulsbo/Keyport area, petitioned Franklin Lodge #5 for dimits and a recommendation that they be allowed to apply to Grand Lodge for a charter. Minutes from a Franklin Lodge #5 meeting of the same date show that a motion was duly made, seconded, and carried to give their hearty approval to the request.

Since the name Golden Fleece was then in contention, and since the 29th president of the United States, Brother Warren Gamaliel Harding, had passed away only two days previous, the name Golden Fleece was scratched out and the name Warren G. Harding was substituted. The petition was granted by Franklin Lodge and presented to Grand Lodge. The Grand Master approved the application on August 20, 1923. Warren G. Harding Lodge was then formed and allowed to work Under Dispensation.

The Lodge met regularly, often twice a week, and enjoyed many pleasant evenings with oyster stew often on the menu. At the new location in Poulsbo most of the men could walk to the Lodge Hall and little driving in the rain or snow was necessary. Many hours of good fraternal fellowship occurred during these early years.

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The original eighteen Masons who formed Warren G. Harding Lodge were:
Name Home Lodge Office Held Under Dispensation
Alf Hostmark Franklin Secretary
Elmer Borgen Franklin Sr. Steward
Henry Nordahl Franklin Tiler
Chris Mortenson Franklin  
George Russell Ionic No. 90 Master
James B. Morford Franklin Sr. Deacon
Elias J. Eliason Franklin  
Melvin A. Borge Franklin Marshal
Chris Twedt Steadfast No. 216  
William F. Colbert Bremerton No. 117 Jr. Steward
Marius J. Mesford Franklin Jr. Warden
Andrew Fosse Franklin  
Paul Paulson Franklin Sr. Warden
Anton Larson Franklin  
Otto K. Strizek Lafayette No. 241 Treasurer
Ole L. Hansen Franklin  
John G. Thornburg Franklin Jr. Deacon
Henry Ames Golden Fleece No. 27 Chaplain

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We presume that WB George Russell was selected as Worshipful Master while the Lodge was under dispensation because he was the only Past Master in the group. He had served in that capacity in Ionic Lodge #90 in Seattle. The brethren of the new Lodge Under Dispensation met regularly over the next several months until May 15, 1924, when the minutes of that meeting show that, "Under order of special business, it was a duly carried motion that ordered a petition for charter be prepared and presented to Grand Lodge of The State of Washington by the following delegates: George Russell, M.J. Mesford, and James B. Morford." And then the minutes of a July 17, 1924 meeting read that, "Also reported by WM George Russell, A. Hostmark, J. B. Morford, and M.J. Mesford who attended a meeting of Grand Lodge at Bellingham that a charter was granted to Warren G. Harding Lodge of Poulsbo, Washington."

The charter was issued bearing the date of June 11, 1924. The first meeting under the new Charter was on Sept 18, 1924. WB George Russell was installed as the first Master of Warren G. Harding Lodge #260. Br. Paul Paulson was installed as Senior Warden and Br. Morius Mesford served as Junior Warden. Shortly thereafter, Br. Paul Paulson was stricken and died on the 9th of November 1924, which left a vacancy in the line in the position of Senior Warden.

At the next election, for the year of 1925, Br. Mesford was elected Worshipful Master; Br. J.B. Morford, Senior Warden; and Br. J.G. Thornburg, Junior Warden. Fate again, was not kind to the Senior Warden position as Br. Morford died on September 21, 1925. The Lodge minutes note that after each death, the Station in the West was draped for a month of mourning.

For the year of 1926, Br. Thornburg was advanced to Worshipful Master with Brs. Elmer Borgen and Arthur J. Lee as the Wardens. Br. Borgen may have been somewhat reluctant to take the Senior Warden office, given its past history.

During the early years, the Lodge was very busy with degree work, often holding two Special Communications a week and raising as many as ten Master Masons each year. Visitation of Masons from adjacent lodges and lodges from as far away as Seattle or Tacoma occurred at nearly every meeting.

Shortly after the Charter was granted, a committee was formed to search for property on which to construct a permanent Masonic Hall. Several properties were investigated, priced from $350 to $3000. However, no further action was taken, presumably because the Lodge could not raise that kind of money. The Lodge continued to meet in the Co-Op Building and eventually purchased it after the grocery store was closed. Warren G. Harding Lodge #260 continues to meet in the same building to this day.

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