With the contents of a time capsule sealed at the Raymond Masonic lodge in 1956 on display at the Raymond Timberland Library until the end of the month, the Herald endeavored to learn a bit about Freemasonry. To that end, Patrick Webb, a local Mason, was posed such questions as: Who exactly are the Masons? How far back do their origins date? Are they a secret society?
"The Freemasons have existed since at least the 1600's in England, perhaps much longer," Webb explained. "Some even claim kinship with the Knights Templar who protected Christian pilgrims to the Holy Land in the Middle Ages. The fraternity's early beginnings were in England, France, Ireland and Scotland. The Masons expanded their membership throughout the United States, beginning in the 1700's. There is no central headquarters. Each country, and each U.S. state and Canadian province, has its own Grand Lodge."
In terms of the history of the Masons locally, the old lodge in Raymond isn't the only one in Pacific County, and it was actually originally constructed in the South Bend area next to Bud's Lumber before the lodge later moved to Raymond. The other lodge in Pacific County, which is located in Ilwaco, has an interesting provenance, according to Webb.
"Ilwaco's lodge was formed in the late 1890's," Webb explained. "After the wreck of the British ship Strathblane, Peninsula Masons performed funeral rites for the Scottish captain and a half-dozen of his sailors who had drowned. They realized they had enough Masons living in the area to form a lodge, and did so."
In February 2016, the Raymond and Ilwaco lodges merged, Webb noted. Ilwaco 99 took the number of Gavel 48 of Raymond to become Occident 48. In terms of the Masons' reputation in the public mind as a secret society, Webb said much of it has been fueled by the creative imaginations of writers and film producers, "Masons have featured in popular literature over the years, including a half-dozen references in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes series," said Webb. "Rudyard Kipling wrote about them, including many poems and the story 'The Man Who Would Be King'. More recent books and films, including 'The DaVinci Code' and 'National Treasure', have delved into the mysteries, mostly with exaggerated claims, but they have given modern Masons an opportunity to tell their own story."
"Masons in the U.S. are happy to declare their membership and advertise their meetings," Webb continued. "Most lodge halls are clearly marked with the square and compasses symbol. The only secrets are the passwords of each degree and the private modes of recognition." Speaking of his personal experience as a Mason, Webb, who is a 59-year-old retired journalist who resides in Long Beach, explained he first gained membership in 1983. Born in England, Webb didn't become a Mason until after his emigration to the U.S. His title of junior warden places him third in line in terms of the Masonic lodge hierarchy.
Webb said he "enjoys the old-style ritual work and the camaraderie [of the Masons], which is prompted by the group's belief in the universal brotherhood of man."
Though as a self-proclaimed history buff he said he enjoys the speculation, Webb stated he is skeptical about there being direct links between Freemasonry and the Knights Templar.
Those with interest in the Masons can contact Regional Officer Michael Carmel of Long Beach for information. His number is 360-642-3636.