Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Minnesota

Rochester Lodge No. 21

Lodge History

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  1. In the Beginning 1857-58
  2. The Six Temples of Rochester Lodge
  3. The Five Brothers Mayo
  4. Acknowledgements


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In the Beginning 1857-58

The Rochester Lodge first met under a dispensation granted by M. W. Grand Master A. T. C. Pierson on August 24, 1857.  The lodge was organized just three years after the first land claims were established here in Olmsted County.  The original meeting place was on the second story of a wooden store building on Broadway Ave.

On December 30, 1857, Rochester Lodge U. D. elected its officers for the ensuing year. The Lodge was formally chartered by the Grand Lodge of Minnesota under its current name and number on January 8, 1858.  Other lodges chartered the same day were Caledonia No. 20, Pleasant Grove No. 22 near Stewartville, North Star No. 23 at St Cloud and Wilton No. 24 at Pemberton.  Rochester Lodge No. 21's first elected officers were installed on February 27, 1858.

The first recorded by-laws contained only three sections.

  • Section I described how any Master Mason in good standing could be admitted to membership into the lodge. 
  • Section II described how new applications for initiation shall be made and handled. 
  • Section III dictated that each candidate shall pay for the first degree the sum of $10.00, for the second degree the sum of $5.00, and for the third degree the sum of $5.00.

These by-laws were undoubtedly considered incomplete because, within that first year, Lodge minutes indicate that two committees were organized to amend them.  The amended by-laws set the dates of stated communications as they are to this date.  The date of the annual election of officers was fixed.  The dues of the lodge was set at ten cents per week payable quarterly.


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The Six Temples of Rochester Lodge

The original meeting place of Rochester Lodge No. 21, and our first temple was on the second story of a wooden store building which was situated on the west side of Broadway, in the middle of the block between Third and College Streets, which are now 3rd and 4th Streets SW.  This building belonged to Bro. David LeSuer, and the lodge quarters were occupied by a millinery shop during the day and were also shared with at least two other fraternal bodies, the Good Templars and the Oddfellows.

The Lodge moved to its second home in 1861.  It was on the second floor of a harness shop located on the southwest corner of Broadway and Forth Street, which is now 1st Street SW. We stayed in this location for about four years, until 1865. Little information exists about these facilities since there are minimal minutes during this span of time. This was undoubtedly due to the absence of brethren during the Civil War.

In 1865, with its ranks expanded by returning veterans, the lodge sought quarters which they could own.  An arrangement was made with Bro. R. B. Graham to construct and take ownership of the third floor of a building that he was erecting on the southeast corner of Broadway and Zumbro Street, which is now 2nd Street SW.  The brethren moved in late is 1865, and would occupy these quarters for over 35 years.  In 1875, to better manage this property, our Temple Association filed the first articles of incorporation.

Near the turn of the century, the lodge had grown and prospered with the community, and the lodge rooms were too small for future use.  Land for a new home was purchased in May of 1897 on the Northwest corner of 1st Avenue and 2nd Street SW.  For three years, the Temple Association deliberated on ways and means to erect a suitable building, which would both house the lodge and provide an income for its maintenance.  In 1900, the Doctors Mayo and Stinchfield in conjunction with Weber & Heintz Druggists, offered to rent the entire first floor for ten years, allowing the $30,000 building project to get underway.  Ground was broken and the cornerstone laid in the summer of 1900.  The building was completed and occupied in January of 1901.

This fourth temple would have served the lodge and affiliated bodies for many years, but unfortunately it was totally destroyed by fire on January 24, 1916.  The fortunate aspect of this event was that most of the lodge records and most of the furniture and equipment managed to be saved.  In 1917, a new building rose out of the ashes of the old one, and this fifth temple was dedicated on September 20th of that year.  This building was rendered as fireproof as the technology of the time would allow, making use of concrete, stone and other flame retardant materials.

That fifth temple had become a landmark in the midst of downtown Rochester.  We would undoubtedly reside there to this day but for downtown redevelopment, specifically the expansion of the Mayo Clinic in the downtown area and also the service-oriented business that supported it.  In 1987, the lodge was caused to relocate to its current location which is outside of the downtown area. A building at the southwest corner of 2nd Street and 20th Avenue SW was purchased and renovated.  This Masonic Center is a single story above ground building which also contains income generating commercial space on its North side.  The temple board, incorporated in 1875, continues to manage this property to this day.  Pictures of this temple and some of the previous temples may be seen in our Picture Gallery.

The Rochester temples grew and evolved as the city of Rochester evolved, from a farming community, to a world class medical center and also high technology center.  One must remember that a Masonic Temple is nothing but an empty space without light and sound for most of its existence. Only when occupied by people does it come to life.  Thus the most elaborate edifice or the rudest loft are only as great as the brethren who come together in them.

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The Five Brothers Mayo

The title of this article refers to the Masonic brethren of the Mayo family and not just the two commonly known Mayo brothers, Will and Charlie.

Dr. William Worrall Mayo was first drawn to Rochester in May of 1863, having been named the examining surgeon of the Enrollment Board. He began examining volunteers and screening men conscripted for military duty in the Civil War.  In Rochester, Dr. Mayo was, in the years to come, destined to lay the foundation of the Mayo Clinic which evolved under the guidance of his gifted sons, William James (Will) and Charles Horace (Charlie).

Three months after arriving in Rochester, William W. Mayo petitioned Rochester Lodge for the degrees of Masonry.  Dr. Mayo was initiated as an Entered Apprentice on September 21, 1863, passed to the degree of a Fellow Craft on October 5th and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on October 19th.  Dr. Mayo's associate at the Civil War examining board was Dr. Hector Galloway who was also a member of Rochester Lodge.  His may have been the sponsoring influence that led to the first of the Mayos into the fraternity; but that is only conjecture.  No actual record is available.  The minutes, laid up among the records in the archives of the Rochester Lodge were skimpy during this period, and while the 1916 temple fire did not consume the minute books, it did consume the files of petitions and other documents.

In January, 1864, Dr. Mayo brought his wife, son William James, now two and a half years old, and daughter Gertrude to live in a house he had built on the ground where later the first Mayo Clinic building was to be erected.  Here his next son, Charles Horace, was born on July 19, 1865.  This son would become the second Mayo in Masonry.  His older brother, Will, almost saw light, but not quite.  Time and circumstance interfered.  In 1865 through 1868, Dr. Mayo became a member of the York Rite Bodies in Rochester.

There is no evidence of Dr. Mayo's activity within the Lodge, either as a officer or as a ritualist.  His growing medical practice, his increasing family, his envolvement in local and state politics, and his travel to eastern medical centers in search of the latest medical knowledge makes any extensive involvement in Masonic activity improbable.  Dr. Mayo served as president of the Minnesota Medical Association, served several terms as a member of the Rochester School Board, as the city's Mayor, and he also served in the Minnesota State Senate.  Dr. Mayo made his living as a physician and surgeon, however he had a great impact on the schools, public buildings, and infrastructure of the growing City of Rochester.  Dr. Mayo went far beyond ritual and the accumulation of offices, titles and honors; he put into practice the precepts of Freemasonry as he lived his life among and for his fellow men.

Dr. Charles H. Mayo was the second member of the Mayo family to become a Freemason.  Dr. Charlie, as he was called, returned to Rochester after receiving his M.D. degree in 1888.  He joined his father and older brother, Dr. Will, who had returned five years before.  Dr. Charlie petitioned to Lodge for membership on December 23, 1889, he was initiated as an Entered Apprentice on January 24, 1890, and eventually raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason on May 12th.  Like his father before him, Dr. Charlie became a member of the York Rite Bodies in 1922-23. 

At the turn of the century, the Mayo's were key in the construction of the new Temple at 2nd Street and 1st Avenue SW.  They worked with the Temple Association contributing loans and lease agreements for the commercial space on the first floor of the building.  Those leases were surrendered is 1915 when the doctors had built on the far side of the block, the red brick building locally known as the Nineteen-fourteen Building.  The first floor of the Temple building was now leased to Weber and Judd as a drug store.

The work load of the Mayo brothers during these decades was very demanding.  They read extensively about what was happening on the frontier of medicine, and followed their father's practice of visiting great surgeons and watching them work.  They were now being called upon to report their own achievements as diagnosticians and a surgeons with a burgeoning practice.  Dr. Charlie did not seem to give a great deal of time to Masonry although in his day to day activity he certainly gave a great deal to mankind.  In 1929, Dr. Charlie was appointed Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of Minnesota and served in that capacity. In 1921, Dr. Charlie became a Thirty-second Degree member of the Scottish Rite.  In 1935, he was elected by the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction to receive the Thirty-third Degree. 

On January 12, 1920 the third generation of the Rochester Mayos asked to be received into the Masonic Fraternity. Petitions were received from Charles William Mayo, who preferred to be called Chuck, and from his cousin, John Mayo Berkman.  Chuck, now 22 years old, and John, 21 years of age, were both students an Princeton.  Received also that evening was the petition of Dr. William James Mayo, Charlie's brother and partner.  Dr. Will, however, never came to the Temple to receive his degrees.  At age 59 time was passing him by.  Travel, the responsibilities of the Clinic and the Mayo Foundation, his surgical case load, plus the increasing attrition of age were among the factors that blocked his path into the Masonic Fraternity.  On several occasions, it was suggested that Dr. Will be make a "Mason at Site" by the Grand Master.  This never occurred because his brother, Dr. Charlie, objected.

Chuck Mayo and John Berkman were initiated as an Entered Apprentice on August 1, 1920, passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft on September 6th, and raised to the degree of a Master Mason on September 13th.  On September 8, 1924 the last of the Mayo petitions was read in Rochester Lodge.  It came from Dr. Chuck's younger brother, Joseph Graham Mayo.  On December 22nd, Joe was entered as a Masonic Apprentice.  On December 28th, Joseph Mayo was passed to the degree of a Fellowcraft.  Not until the next autumn, on September 7th, was the Third Degree conferred.  Joseph Mayo went no further into the labyrinth of Masonry's complex structure.  In November, 1936 while hunting along the Mississippi River near Alma Wisconsin, his car was hit by a train coming from Chicago.  Both Joe and his dog, Fossie, were killed.

Dr. Charles W. Mayo did seek more, further and added light in Masonry.  In December 1922 he was received and exalted to the Royal Arch in Halcyon Chapter.  In December of the following year, Dr. Chuck received the Orders of Templary in Home Commandry No. 5.  He was created a member of the Osman Temple in June of 1960, and did not become a member of Scottish Rite until 1967.  His father, Dr. Charlie, was had been created a Noble of the Osman Temple in 1906, and was a life member.

In all but one aspect, Chuck's career in Masonry paralleled that of his father.  Chuck did not attain the Thirty-third Degree.  Both father and son were Grand Orators of their Grand Lodge, Chuck having been appointed in 1967.  In his address before the Grand Lodge on March 28, 1968 he delivered his oration.  His closing words were an affirmation of faith: "There will always be doctors because they are necessary.  There will always be those who will accept the calling, for that is what it is.  The problems are many and they will grow, but they will be solved because they must be."

On July 28, 1968, while on a Sunday drive around the Mayo family estate, Chuck died in an auto accident.  Dr. Charles W. Mayo was the last of the Mayos on the Mayo Clinic Staff and the last of the Rochester Mayos in Freemasonry.

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The information contained in this history was extrated from the Rochester Lodge No. 21 125th Anniversary booklet published in 1983.  Special thanks must go out to W.B. J. Kenneth Allsen for use of his article titled "The Five Temples of Rochester" and to W.B. Julius W. Opheim for use of his article titled "Four Doctors Mayo In Masonry".

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