Monday, April 8, 2013

History of York Rite Masonry in Idaho - Part II: Chivalric & Cryptic Masonry

Continuing from History of York Rite Masonry in Idaho - Part I: Royal arch Masonry, here is the history of Cryptic and Chivalric Masonry in Idaho

Instead of continuing this series by starting with the Cryptic Masons just as it is presented to a new initiate, I will be starting with the Knights Templars for reasons which will be explained below.

Templar Masonry

Though third-in-line of the York Rite bodies the Templar orders stand as second oldest of the York Rite bodies in Idaho (and in most of the US), but the Grand Commandery of Idaho sits as the oldest Grand body of the three York Rite organizations in Idaho.

There existed five Commanderies in Idaho before a Grand Commandery was formed. The first Commandery was given dispensation on May 24, 1882, and chartered as Idaho Commandery No.1 on September 11, 1882; 14-years after the first Royal Arch Chapter was established in Idaho. This Commandery existed just under 22-years prior to the formation of the Grand Commandery.

It would be nearly 9-years before the next Commandery was formed and on August 20, 1891, Lewiston Commandery No.2 was chartered. The third Commandery, Moscow Commandery No.3, was established on August 11, 1892. Gate City Commandery No.4 was the fourth Commandery that was chartered in Idaho and that occurred on August 29, 1895. The final Commandery to be chartered prior to the formation of the Grand Commandery was Coeur d'Alene Commandery No.5 and this occurred on August 4, 1904.

According to the Proceedings on August 31, 1904, Sir Knights from these five Commanderies met and organized the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar of the State of Idaho. Assembling in the Asylum of Idaho Commandery No.1 where the Eminent Commander, John McBirney, called a meeting to order and on motion, Sir Knight James A. Pinney was chosen as Chairman and J.O. Baker as Secretary. After reading the warrant issued by the Most Eminent Grand Master of the Grand Encampment, it was moved to form the Grand Commandery. Sir Knight James Pinney acted in place of the Most Eminent and filled the chairs and held the first elections where he was elected as the first Grand Commander. The officers were as follows:
George H. Olmstead, Deputy Grand Commander
Edward L. Ligget, Grand Generalissimo
John McBirney, Grand Captain General
Daniel W. Church, Grand Senior Warden
Hiram T. French, Grand Junior Warden
John D. McConkey, Grand Prelate
Charles Himrod, Grand Treasurer
J.O. Baker, Grand Recorder
Fred G. Rice, Grand Standard Bearer
I.C. Hattebaugh, Grand Sword Bearer
F.G. Boston, Grand Warder
N.W. Hawn, Grand Captain of the Guard (modern day Sentinel)
Those present were installed in their respective chair and those not present were by order of the Grand Commander to be installed in their respective Asylum. Sir Knight Robert B. Horrie as acting Grand Marshal, proclaimed the officers installed for the first Grand Conclave.

I am happy to say that the original 5 Commanderies are still in operation today. Idaho has never been a large state, our population today is just over 1.5-million people, and our Masonic membership has never been as large as some other states. As with many Masonic bodies across the US and globally, we saw a large decline in our membership and for a while, many Commanderies closed or came close to losing their charter, but in Idaho, a few Commanderies have stayed open due to the hard work of the Sir Knights. One such instance I recall was when a new Eminent Commander started attending my Commandery's meetings and practices, to observe and learn. To do this he had to drive 6-hours (one way) to do so, but in doing this he gained a stronger understanding of the ritual and Drill and Ceremony that he was able to revitalize his Commandery to keep it running.

Cryptic Masonry

The last body to form in Idaho was the Council of Cryptic Masons (or commonly referred to as a Council of Royal and Select Masters).

The first Council in Idaho, Idaho Council at Pocatello was issued a Dispensation by the Officers of the General Grand Council on December 15, 1896. This Dispensation was annulled on October 11, 1897, however. On January 24, 1912 the General Grand Council reissued a Dispensation to Idaho Council No.1 in Boise and chartered it on September 27, 1912. This Council existed 22-years prior to the formation of the Grand Council of the State of Idaho.

On August 31, 1916, Bannock Council No.2 was founded in Pocatello, 18-years prior to the establishment of the Grand Council. A third Council was established in the northern town of Coeur d'Alene who charter was arrested prior to the Grand Council formation. The fourth Council was King Solomon No.4 which was chartered in Payette on September 21, 1921. Meneleck Council No.5 was formed in Gooding on September 9th, 1924, but would later combine with Twin Falls Council No.7.

Cryptic Freemasonry came to Idaho due to the efforts of the Companions of Cyrus Chapter No.2, Royal Arch Masons, who requested that the Chapters in the Idaho Territory be empowered to confer the degrees of the Cryptic Rite and that the same was referred to the Committee on that subject.

Once these 4 Councils were formed they would eventually petition the General Grand Council, of Royal & Select Masters of the United States of America, and receive permission from the Most Puissant General Grand Master, Robert A Woods, to form the Grand Council of Idaho. This would happen upon the call from Companion William Wallin and the Companions assembled at the Hall of King Solomon Council No.4 in Payette, ID, on the 16th of May, 1934.

Companion Wallin was selected by those present to preside over the committee that would establish the Grand Council and Companion Frank Ensign was chosen to serve as Secretary. The meeting proceeded with all the formalities that were needed to form the Grand Council that would conform with the General Grand Council and with the consent of the constituent Councils. Elections were held and the following officers were elected to serve the first Grand Council:
William Wallin, Most Illustrious Grand Master
Albert E White, Right Illustrious Grand Deputy Master
John W Shore, Right Illustrious Grand Principle Conductor of the Work
Edward H Way, Illustrious Grand Treasurer
Frank G Ensign, Illustrious Grand Recorder
J Glover Eldridge, Illustrious Grand Chaplain
Albert W Stone, Illustrious Grand Captain of the Guard
Dell O Bellamy, Illustrious Grand Conductor of the Council
Edward CS Brainard, Illustrious Grand Steward
Jesse E Retherford, Illustrious Grand Sentinel
These officers were installed by Robert A. Woods, General Grand Master, and Albert A Jessup, Installing Grand Marshal.

Three of the four founding Councils are still in operation today. As I noted above, Meneleck Council No.5 would eventually merge into Twin Falls Council No.7 since it put too much strain on the membership to have 2 Councils exist in such close rural proximity and Twin Falls won out due to it being a regional hub.

It's interesting to note that York Rite Freemasonry has always been small in Idaho and that we see similar names appear across the bodies as we do today.


1. Denslow, R. V., & Turnbull, E. R. (1956). History of Royal Arch Masonry (Vol. 2). VA. 882

2. Freemasonry in Idaho. (n.d.). Retrieved from Eagle Rock Lodge No.19:

3. Hodson, J. M., Upton, W. H., Brown, J. W., & Hedges, C. (n.d.). Masonic History of the Northwest. Retrieved from Grand Lodge of Ohio:

4. Idaho. (n.d.). Retrieved from Encyclopedia of Freemasonry:

5. Proceedings Grand Commandery of the State of Idaho. (1904-1910). Boise, ID, USA.

6. Proceedings of the Grand Council of Royal and Select Masters of the State of Idaho. (1934). Payette, ID, USA.

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