HISTORY OF GILA VALLEY LODGE
Florence was a growing city in the late 1880’s and the largest in the area. Included in this large influx of people were many Freemasons from other parts of the country. Initially meeting informally at the A.O.U.W. (American Organization of United Workers) building, a group of Freemasons started to form plans of a Masonic lodge in Florence. The first communication of Gila Valley Lodge, was held in Florence, Arizona, on February 14, 1890, and was composed of the following people: Geo. W. Brown, Wm. E. Guild, Francis W. Stillman, O. H. Carpenter, I.T. Whittemore, Jere Fryer and William Ruggles Kenworth. The lodge received its charter on November 15, 1890 and was made the ninth lodge in Arizona. A special communication of the grand lodge was held on the same day in Florence, and Gila valley lodge’s new hall was appropriately dedicated, Grand Master g. W. Cheney, Past Grand Master Geo. J. Roskruge, Junior Grand Warden Jacob Abraham, Past Master Chas. A. Fisk and other prominent Masons assisting.
One of the founding members of Gila Valley Lodge wrote in his journal at the time. “when I came here, I saw more drinking and gambling and Sabbath- breaking and learned of more meanness than I had ever known before. There had been efforts of the Baptists, Methodists, an Episcopalian, and three Presbyterians to organize a church. Each gave up in despair”
Florence Gila Valley Lodge No. 9, Free and Accepted Masons, is over 120 years old and is the oldest Masonic body in Pinal County.
Instituted in 1890 by 23 Charter Members, Gila Valley Lodge predates Arizona’s Statehood, making it one of the original 13 Arizona Territory Lodges. As such it is privileged to maintain the “A.T.” [Arizona Territory] designation along side of its name. The Lodge was formally constituted November 12th 1890 under the jurisdiction of the then MW:. Grand Master G.W. Cheney.
The Gila Valley Lodge is one of the original Arizona Territory Lodges left in the state, the lodge also remains the only Lunar Lodge in Arizona.
In times predating the availability of automobiles and electric lighting, Lunar Lodges would meet by the aid of the full moon. This not only provided an easy-to-remember schedule for the members, it also provided light for the ceremonies without fear of eavesdroppers.
It was not uncommon for some members to have traveled by horseback from as far away as Aravaipa on the San Pedro. They could be sure of arriving at meeting time because of the schedule based on the moon, which also provided light for their safe travel. Gila Valley Lodge No. 9 is one of approximately 100 Lunar Lodges nationwide, and remains the only Lunar Lodge west of the Mississippi.
Gila Valley Lodge No.( (F&AM)’s first official board was:
George Brown Worshipful Master
William E. Guild Senior Warden
F.W. Stillman Junior Warden
Rev. I.T. Whittemore Secretary
O.H. Carpenter Treasurer
A.J. Doran Senior Deacon
A.H. Adaller Junior Deacon
J.H. Laudike Senior Steward
Jerry Fryer Marshal
F.B. Maldonado Chaplain
F.A. Adams Tyler
One of the 23 Charter Members of Gila Valley Lodge No.9 (F&AM) was Joseph Henry (J.H.) Kibbey. J.H. Kibbey would later go on to be appointed as the 16th Arizona Territorial Governor by the then President, Theodore Roosevelt. J.H. Kibbey served as the Arizona Territory Governor from 1905-1909. Second to last Gov before it became a state. The 17th and final Territory govenor was Richard Sloan, a past resident of Florence (lived in the house where the newspaper is now on Main St), frequent visitor of Gila Valley AND was the sitting judge that tried Kibbey’s brother for Murder when the trial moved to Tucson!
Gila Valley Ldoge No. 9 has met in the City of Florence dating back to their Charter Date in 1890. Meetings and ceremonies of the new lodge were held in the new Masonic Hall, built special for its home when the Lodge was organized.
The Hall, reputed to be one of the finest Masonic Halls in Arizona, was constructed at the upper story of the new store building belonging to prominent Merchant and Charter Member F.B. Maldonado.
This remained the meeting place for Gila Valley Lodge No. 9 (F&AM) until a fire gutted the upstairs of the building. The ground floor of which still remains, and for a period of time, was used as the Florence Market. As a result of the fire, much of the historical records where destroyed.
The lodge would later acquire its current building during the 1950’s which was originally built as a World War II military barracks. The building was relocated from its original location on the military base to its current location at 150 S. Main Street and has remained there ever since. It continues to serve as the meeting place for Gila Valley Lodge No. 9 to this day.