It was in November, 1863, that Union Lodge #7 was born. Denver was a small frontier town with perhaps two to three thousand people. Only five years old but even then with a history. The Russell party made the first discovery of gold in this country in the fall of 1857 in the sands of the upper reaches of Cherry Creek. Russell and his party then moved down Cherry Creek prospecting as they went until they reached the Platte River. The date of October 23, 1858 marks the birth of the settlement, named Auraria after their hometown in Georgia, and was soon to be known as Denver. Word got out about the discovery of gold and soon there was an influx of men. Some of these men, the Larimer party, crossed over and named their encampment after the Territorial Governor of Kansas, James W. Denver.
A combination of events and the pending was back east rapidly increased the tensions of the population of Denver, this included the Masons. However, it is well known that Masonry functioned beautifully across the battle lines during the Civil War. William McKinley, then a Major for the Federal Army, and future President of the United States, received the Degrees of Masonry in a Virginia Lodge by Confederate officers. A good many incidents involving Masonic brotherly love are detailed in Allen Roberts’ book House Undivided, Including the formation of Union Lodge #7 on pg 189.
The vast majority of Denver Lodge No. 5 believed the cause of the Southern Confederacy to be a just one. Opposed was the Administration party represented by the Governor of the Colorado territory, his Secretary, and the Army group.
A Tradition of Leadership
In Denver’s early days, Union Lodge’s members played a part in founding the Denver Chamber of Commerce (John Evans and Roger Woodbury) and Denver Public Library (Woodbury). When Colorado became a state in 1876, its first governor was John L. Routt, a member of #7. Two other members have served as state governor, one as treasurer, three as attorney general, five in the U.S. House of Representatives, and one in the U.S. Senate, Thomas Patterson. Six members of #7 have served as justices of the Colorado Supreme Court and five as district judges. When the public schools of Denver were consolidated into one district in 1903, two members of #7, Aaron Gove and Lewis Greenlee, assumed positions as superintendent and assistant superintendent of the new district.
Mountains (the highest peak in Colorado is named for Union Lodge’s first Worshipful Master, Samuel H. Elbert), streets (Evans Avenue and Downing Street) and school buildings (Greenlee ECE K-8 School in Denver and Woodbury Hall at CU Boulder) attest to the leadership roles played by past members of Union Lodge. Its current members, if not as prominent as in pioneer days, still study the same lessons of personal integrity, respect for the opinions of others, and charity.
“There are none of us faultless, but there are no faults, however serious, that cannot be corrected by a sincere and earnest effort to change, aided by the broad mantle of Masonic charity…” – William D Todd, PM remarks at the 50th Anniversary of Union Lodge #7.
Excerpts taken from the 75th Anniversary Edition, compiled by George B. Clark.