History

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JUSTICE LODGE NO. 949: The Only lodge to merge with Oriental No. 33

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Membership in multiple lodges was not permitted in Illinois until 1975, as was also the case in many other jurisdictions, and it was customary for new lodges to be “spun off” once a lodge had attained a certain level of membership, with would-be new lodge members required to dimit from their old one prior to joining the new one. Having members prove their sincerity by casting their lot together, it was thought, would ensure success and provide leadership opportunities for charter members to serve as officers in their new lodge.

Justice Lodge No. 949 was one such lodge, started when a request to establish a new lodge received dispensation from Most Worshipful Grand Master Albert B. Ashley on July 10, 1911. The lodge was instituted the next day by Right Worshipful District Deputy Grand Master Harry W. Harvey of the Second District, who presented the dispensation and installed the first slate of officers.

The dispensation listed 22 brethren, with 43 signing the petition for a charter; records indicate a majority dimitted from Oriental Lodge No. 33. During the dispensation period the lodge was known as Justice Lodge U.D. and Grand Lodge proceedings show that they received 54 petitions of which 39 candidates were elected, two were rejected and 13 were not acted on. Remarkably, they initiated 36, passed 21, and raised 21 in just a three-month period.

At the Annual Meeting of Grand Lodge in October, 1911, the District Deputy reported favorably: “The record of Justice Lodge has been very well kept and we recommend it for a model for lodges working under dispensation in the future; we recommend that a charter be granted to this lodge as Justice Lodge No. 949.”

Justice Lodge No. 949 was chartered October 10, 1911, and met at the West Chicago Masonic Temple, 12-24 S. Oakley Blvd., in what is now Chicago’s West Town neighborhood. The cornerstone was laid Novemer 2, 1907, and the building (see above) is presently owned by a community church. No evidence exists to suggest that the selection of the name “Justice”—one of Masonry’s four cardinal virtues—was intended to reflect a membership composed of judges, attorneys, law clerks or police officers, although there have been lodges with a majority of members drawn from these professions. The lodge attained an impressive peak membership of 560 in 1929 prior to the Depression and then gradually declined.

Justice Lodge consolidated with Oriental Lodge No. 33 on June 19, 1958, and correspondence in Oriental’s archives indicates that accelerating membership losses following the Korean War and rising expenses of operating in the city were the main factors in its demise. Only a few artifacts from Justice Lodge survive including a member token (top), and an engraved square and compasses (right), which are still used occasionally on Oriental’s altar. The Justice Lodge U.D. constitution and by-laws, first minutes book and attendance register are also preserved in Oriental’s archives, and the Grand Secretary’s office retains the lodge’s charter.

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Justice Lodge was not unique; 60 Oriental brethren dimitted to establish Shalimar Lodge No. 1131, chartered October 13, 1925. An article in Oriental’s trestleboard entitled “Oriental Has a New Baby” stated: “After several unsuccessful attempts in the formation of a new lodge with a nucleus from Oriental, Shalimar Lodge No. 1131 was constituted Oct. 23, 1925. Not only has the formation of this lodge had the hearty support of Oriental Lodge but it has also had the support of the Grand Master and the entire Grand Lodge. Oriental congratulates them on obtaining their charter and wishes them prosperity in all the years to come.” Unfortunately, Shalimar Lodge went defunct only eight years later on September 21, 1933, yet another victim of the Depression.

Philip Schwartz