Masonic Lodge celebrates 150 years in Farmington

By: Sherri Kolade | Farmington Press | Published April 29, 2015


FARMINGTON — The Farmington Masonic Lodge 151 has remained a civic and social bastion in the city since its inception in 1863.

The 12 founders of the then-Farmington Village formed the lodge when they were also busy creating what is now Farmington.

Longtime member Hal Groat, who joined the Redford Masons’ youth division, DeMolay, in 1958, said the lodge’s impressive history isn’t why he became a member at 13 years old. It was because of his father, who joined the Farmington lodge in 1958. 

“After my dad passed away in 1995, I thought I would try to find out what my dad knew,” the 70-year-old Farmington Hills resident said. “(With) him being such a wonderful man, now I know being a Mason makes you a better man, a better father and a better husband. All of our brothers learn to become, over time, better people. You live by a code … for our country and for our God.”

Groat, who joined the Farmington Masonic Lodge in 2008, said the lodge is celebrating 150 years in business after the charter was issued on Jan. 11, 1865.

Grand Lodge Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan issues the charter as the official document allowing the creation of a Masonic Lodge, according to lodge documents.

“They had 46 members at that time,” Farmington member Wayne Turton said in an emailed statement.

“There were 150 other (lodges) in the state of Michigan that preceded us, and many more that followed us,” Groat said.

There are several hundred lodges in the state. It is estimated that there are roughly 5 million Masons worldwide.

Groat added that founding community members came from all over to the village to establish their lives.

“Many of them were Masons, and many of them were taking the role of village fathers and saw to it that they needed a place to meet as Masons and brothers,” Groat said.

From 1865 to 1872, the lodge members gathered above a dry goods store on Grand River operated by first Lodge Master Oliver B. Smith.

Members met there, on the north side of Grand River just east of Farmington Road, until a fire burned the block down and destroyed the store and meeting space.

“It was held in different places, and the fathers came together and said, ‘We need to build a city hall,” Groat said.

The lodge moved into the Warner Building on Jan. 31, 1874.

In 1875, the village fathers secured property for a new Town Hall, on the northwest corner of Grand River and Farmington roads. The first floor was the Farmington Township Hall, and the second floor was the Masonic Hall, where the lodge remains today. Farmington remained a village until 1926.

Notable lodge members include Michigan’s 26th governor, Fred M. Warner; Farmington mayors Arthur G. Lamb and Howard M. Warner; Farmington Hills mayors Earl C. Opperthauser and Charles H. Williams; and Oakland County Sheriff John F. Nichols.

Groat said Farmington Masons have made a “concerted effort” to reintegrate themselves into the community.

“I think we retracted away from the community,” he said. “Since we’ve had mayors like Tom Buck and City Manager Vincent Pastue, we have worked together as a team to reintegrate the Masons back in the community.”

Wayne Turton, a Farmington Masonic Lodge member for 60 years, said the lodge originally had quite a bit of community influence. 

“Most of the first mayors of Farmington were members of the fraternity, and a lot of the (City) Council were members of the fraternity and very active in the community, and helped build the community,” Turton, 86, said.

Turton added that Masonic influence has somewhat waned because membership has “dropped considerably.”

He said the group had well over 200 members in the 1960s. There are now only about 100 members.

“I think people aren’t joining anything like they used to,” Groat said. “The Masons used to be the center of activities for the city.”

Turton, who now lives at the Michigan Masonic Home in Alma, was grandmaster of the Michigan Masons in 1990. He transferred to Farmington from an Ohio lodge in 1960.

The Grand Lodge office is located in Alma and governs 290 Michigan lodges.

“I joined because I found out that most of the people that I looked up to in the community belonged to the Masonic Lodge, and I said, ‘That sounds like something that I could enjoy,’” the former Farmington Hills resident of 53 years said.

The Farmington lodge grants scholarships to Farmington Public Schools students and contributes to several community activities.

During an April 20 Farmington City Council meeting, city officials read a proclamation in recognition of the Farmington Masonic Lodge’s 150th anniversary, which was celebrated Jan. 13.

The lodge is planning a rededication event for August.

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