|HISTORY OF ELKS OF LODGE NO. 997, 1905-2005
On August 26, 1905, acting upon the application of Michael H. McGrath, Charles W. Spear,
Arthur Sticker and Timothy C. Leahy, a dispensation was granted by Grand Exalted Ruler
Robert W. Brown for a lodge of Elks to be located in Northampton, Mass., and to be
designated as Northampton Lodge No. 997 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
On September 25, 1905, this lodge, with a membership of 45, was instituted by District
Deputy James R. Nicholson who later became Grand Exalted Ruler. Many Grand Lodge
officers were present, as well as delegations from every lodge in Western Massachusetts
and from lodges in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.
The following citizens of Northampton constituted the charter members:
Theobald M. Connor Egbert I. Clapp John J. Raleigh
Richard J. Rahar William L. Gillern Albert G. Beckmann
Arthur B. Whitbeck M. C. Bailey W. A. Bailey
T. R. Hennessy F. A. Dayton Charles H. Bowker
J. H. Riley William Grant J. T. Keating
A. F. Henna George P. O’Donnell George E. Holton
Edwin D. Leavitt T. R. Moakler David S. Cassidy
Alfred H. McCormack D. E. Dickinson C. D. Chase
M. J. Fitzgerald M. J. Garvey George F. Birge
James H. O’Dea Philip Gleason John J. Delaney
Perry F. Brown William M. Kiely Thomas F. Ahearn
Timothy A. McCarthy Eugene E. Davis J. F. Laury
Harry C. Graves Patrick J. Murphy C. W. Nay
William G. Quinn William H. Feiker Richard W. Irwin
J. H. Alpin C. S. Cutler W. H. Carson
Immediately following the ceremony of initiation, the new lodge held a business session
and elected the following officers:
Richard W. Irwin, Exalted Ruler
George P. O’Donnell, Esteemed Leading Knight
William H. Carson, Esteemed Loyal Knight
William H. Feiker, Esteemed Lecturing Knight
James H. O’Dea, Secretary
Clarence D. Chase, Treasurer
Patrick J. Murphy, Tiler
Trustees: William A. Bailey, Theobald M. Connor, Richard J. Rahar
Exalted Ruler Irwin then appointed Thomas F. Ahearn, Esquire
Egbert I. Clapp, Chaplain
Albert G. Beckmann, Inner Guard
During the session, Springfield Lodge, our “Mother Lodge”, presented the new lodge a
beautiful clock suitably inscribed, which still hangs in the reception room of our new home.
At the conclusion of the business session, which was held in the Masonic Hall, the
assembly adjourned to Red Men's Hall, located at that time at the corner of Main and
Pleasant Streets, where a banquet was served for 250. The hall was appropriately
decorated with American flags and with the emblems and the colors of our Order. Exalted
Ruler Irwin presided and the principal address was delivered by Past Grand Exalted Ruler
Jerome B. Fisher. It was a joyous occasion, with the hospitality, the good fellowship, the
music, and the inspiring speeches.
The memory of that night will long endure. A new life was added to the city of Northampton,
destined to become a great force in community welfare. For nine years the lodge held its
sessions in Forester's Hall, and during that period the membership grew to 200 members,
the scope of its services was extended, and there was an ever increasing need for a larger
With the large increase in membership, the purchase of a home appeared to be a sound
business enterprise, and accordingly a committee was appointed to make a survey of
suitable locations. The committee agreed upon Lyman Hall, so called, on Center Street,
and on March 15, 1913, the property was purchased for $15,000 and transferred to a
The history of the prior structure can
be traced back to April 15, 1851,
when the Center Street Methodist
Episcopal Church was dedicated.
This structure remained a house of
worship until October 20, 1892, when
it was purchased for the Home
Culture Club by George W. Cable.
Officials of this organization effected
extensive architectural changes.
The Home Culture Club occupied this building until Andrew Carnegie contributed $50,000
for the present People's Institute. On March 2, 1911, the second floor was leased by W. R.
Cook for a theater. Cook's Theatre, still well remembered by some of the town's people,
proved very popular as a movie, vaudeville, and wrestling center.
A committee consisting of Past Exalted Rulers James W. O'Brien, George P. O'Donnell and
William H. Drexel; James Whalen, Myron C. Bailey, and Richard J. Rahar was appointed
and authorized to have full charge of the details necessary for the alterations and
financing of the project.
A first mortgage note for $20,000 was obtained and bonds for $15,000 were issued, to be
secured by a second mortgage note. All of the bonds were purchased by the members.
On November 25, 1914, the new home was dedicated, with all the ceremony worthy of such
an occasion. Brother James R. Nicholson was called upon to dedicate the home.
Harry E. Bicknell was Exalted Ruler at the time of the dedication. The Lodge continued to
grow in numbers and in resources, and in a short period of time the last payment was
made on the mortgage, the bonds were called in, and on May 8, 1924, the burning of the
mortgage was celebrated with a fitting ceremony.
Past Exalted Ruler James W. O'Brien Sr., Chairman of the building committee, touched the
flame, Brother John F. Malley, later Grand Exalted Ruler, gave the principal address, and
Exalted Ruler Edwin H. LaMontagne presided. Each member of the Lodge received a
beautiful billfold suitably engraved, as a memento of the occasion.
In 1926 Northampton Lodge 997 entered the ritualistic contest for the cup given by Past
Grand Exalted Ruler James R. Nicholson. To secure permanent possession of this cup, a
lodge must be successful in three consecutive annual contests. Previous to 1926, the
Lodge had not been a contestant, but in that year, the officers, led by Exalted Ruler
William A. Ouimet, won the third consecutive year, and the cup was given a permanent
location in our home.
In our first 75 years of fraternal activity, the Northampton Lodge contributed over a quarter
of a million dollars to charity. Its largest single contribution was in 1927 when the Cooley
Dickinson Hospital conducted a drive for its reconstruction and improvement. At that time
the lodge purchased a complete unit, costing $15,000.
At the time of the Connecticut River flood in November, 1927, the Elks Home was
converted into a refugee camp. Fifty cots were set up, and with the co-operation of the
Grand Lodge, families driven from their homes were sheltered and fed for two weeks.
Tuesday evening, Sept. 25th, 1930, Northampton Lodge of Elks observed its 25th
anniversary at a banquet held in the Hotel Northampton with 250 members attending, with
Exalted Ruler Gordon P. Trowbridge presiding. Honored guests of the evening were the 19
living charter members of the 45 who instituted Northampton Lodge on Sept. 25, 1905.
They were presented life memberships in the lodge by Past Exalted Ruler Ernest M. Torbet.
The principal speaker was Grand Exalted Ruler Lawrence H. Rupp of Alan-town, Pa. Other
speakers were Dist. Deputy Michael L. Eisner of Pittsfield, and Past Grand Exalted Ruler
John F. Malley of Newton. Rev. James M. Burke gave the invocation and the official
welcome was extended for the city by Mayor Homer C. Bliss, a member of the lodge. The
history of the lodge was read by Edward L. O'Brien, secretary. Major Charles S. Riley, a
past exalted ruler, and 1st vice president of the Massachusetts Elks Association, also
spoke. A birthday cake with 25 lighted candles was placed at the head table. Past Exalted
Ruler Reese J. Richards of Montreal offered the 11 o'clock toast. Exalted Ruler Trowbridge
presented the Grand Exalted Ruler with a silver service on behalf of the lodge.
The following charter members were presented life memberships: Thomas F. Ahearn,
Myron C. Bailey, Albert G. Beckmann, Charles H. Bowker, Perry F. Brown, D. Eugene
Dickinson, William H. Feiker, Michael J. FitzGerald, William L. Gillern, William Grant, Harry
E. Graves, Thomas R. Hennessy, Richard W. Irwin, William M. Kiley, John F. Leary, Edwin
D. Leavitt, Patrick J. Murphy, James H. O'Dea and Richard J. Rahar.
A dinner dance was held on Monday night at the Draper Hotel for Elks and their ladies.
As the years passed and the membership continued to grow, it became evident that the
basement floor of the home was in need of repair. In 1940, a committee headed by Past
Exalted Ruler Jerome Kelleher was appointed to procure plans and to have general
supervision over the alterations at a cost of $16,000, for which the lodge secured a note.
In May, 1941, the beautiful Rathskeller was dedicated, with District Deputy John Keefe of
Springfield Lodge as the principal speaker. In two short years the note was paid and the
When our country entered World War I, many Northampton Elks answered the call to arms,
and their names were appropriately inscribed on a tablet in the reception room. During the
war the lodge played an important part in the activities supporting the government and war
In World War II Northampton Lodge had 57 members in the service of there country. Every
member was anxious to assist in some way in the war effort. Working in cooperation with
the Grand Lodge War Commission, several members worked hard and faithfully, backed
by the entire membership. The committee in charge of the sale of bonds to members sold
more than $200,000 in War Bonds. The lodge also received a Reward of Merit from the
War Department for recruiting men for the Army, Navy, and Air Force. Likewise, it was
complimented for recruiting nurses. In both wars the lodge room was thrown open for
public and patriotic meetings.
In April, 1949, an organ was presented to the lodge by J. Paul Boyle in memory of Ernest
M. Torbet, a Past Exalted Ruler, Past District Deputy, and an Honorary Life Member of the
Northampton Lodge of Elks, No. 997.
The membership of Northampton Lodge was greatly saddened to learn of the death of
Exalted Ruler Edwin Rennison on December 2, 1954. Brother Rennison was the first
Exalted Ruler of the lodge to die while in office.
In its 100 years of Elkdom, Northampton Lodge has been honored by having 10 of its
members appointed by the Grand Exalted Rulers to serve as District Deputies in the district
of Massachusetts West. They are in order of their appointments:
1908 Richard Irwin 1920 Seelye Hitchcock
1932 Ernest Torbet 1945 Michael J. Fitzgerald
1955 William A. Ouimet 1964 John F. Murphy
1971 Maurice J. Carlson 1984 Paul Roberts
1995 William Karparis 2005 Barbara Franklin
On Monday evening, September 26, 1955, Northampton Lodge of Elks observed its 50th
anniversary at a banquet held at ToTo’s on Route 5 a week before it burned to the
ground, with over 250 members attending, with Exalted Ruler Harry Jekanowski presiding.
The speaker of the evening was Grand Exalted Ruler John L. Walker. Distinguished guests
introduced were Past Grand Exalted Rulers James R. Nicholsen, John F. Malley and E.
Mark Sullivan, Grand Treasurer Edward Spry, Vermont State Elks Association President
John A. Fine, Massachusetts State Elks Association President Michael McNamara,
Massachusetts State Elks Association 1st V. P. John A. Murray. Reverend John Stanczyk,
pastor of St. John Cantius Church, gave the invocation and the official welcome was
extended for the city by Mayor James Cahillane, a member of the lodge.
The playing of Bingo was legalized in Massachusetts in 1971, with all proceeds going to
charity. Our lodge filed an application in November 1971 to permit the playing of Bingo at
our Center Street Home. The application was acted upon favorably and the first Bingo
night was held on January 5, 1972 under the direction of Past Exalted Ruler Robert
Cloutier. The games have been played weekly, on Wednesday nights, ever since.
Charity is the cornerstone of every Elk Structure and the Northampton Lodge, No. 997 has
continued to contribute to charities since it made its first contribution in 1908.
A project to provide additional income to the lodge was begun in 1974 by erecting a booth
at the Three County Fair. A suitable location was obtained with the help of Past District
Deputy John F. Murphy. Hot Dogs, Kielbasa grinders and Golompki were sold at the booth.
Every Exalted Ruler arranged for the manning of the booth during Fair Week until the 80’s
when it no longer was a viable fundraiser.
Patriotic citizens, organizations and members of the armed forces were invited to attend
the Flag Day exercises of Northampton Lodge of Elks, held in the Northampton High
School auditorium June 17, 1945. Of special interest was the awarding of war bonds to the
eight high school students who were winners in their respective schools in the first annual
essay contest sponsored by our lodge. The essays were written on the subject, “What the
American Flag Means to Me, “ and the contest was conducted in all high schools within the
area covered by the lodge. A $25 war bond was awarded to the winner from each school
and a $100 war bond to the writer of the essay judged the best. The recipient of the grand
prize was invited to read the winning essay during the exercises.
The Flag Day Essay Contest has been conducted each year since its inception in 1945
and several hundred high school students have participated in it.
In commemoration of our 75th anniversary, but more importantly in commemoration of Flag
Day, our lodge planned a full day of celebration. A parade was held in the morning in
Leeds with the Flag Day Ritual conducted at the Leeds School. In the afternoon a parade
was held in Northampton with the Flag Day Ritual conducted at Pulaski Park. Exalted Ruler
Robert Chisholm presided at both of the observances.
Scholarship applications sponsored by our lodge have been honored many times by the
Elks National Foundation.
As membership in the Lodge continued to grow and maintenance costs for the present
structure continued to increase, it was felt that a new home site might be advisable. A
committee was appointed in 1970 to select a new site. The location selected was on Rocky
Hill Road on Route 66. Before plans were finalized to move to the new site on Route 66,
the property known as the Williamsburg Golf Club became available. The following notice
was sent to all members:
NOTICE OF MOTION OF IMPORTANCE TO ALL MEMBERS OF
NORTHAMPTON LODGE OF ELKS, NO. 997
In conformance with Grand Lodge statutes, the following motion will be presented and
voted upon by the membership at the regular Lodge meeting scheduled for TUESDAY,
MARCH 21, 1972 at 8:00 P.M., at the Lodge Home, 43 Center Street, Northampton, Mass.
MOTION - That the Vote of the Northampton Lodge of Elk, No. 997, taken January 20,
1970, as amended March 16, 1971, relating to the authorization of the Building Committee
appointed by the Exalted Ruler, to construct a new Lodge on Rocky Hill Road, Route 66, at
a cost not to exceed $450,000.00, subject to the approval of the Grand Lodge, be
VOTED: That the Building Committee appointed by the Exalted Ruler and approved by
the membership be authorized to purchase, acquire, construct and renovate all facilities
necessary to a full Lodge program on property now owned by the Williamsburg Golf Club,
Inc., on Route 9, Williamsburg, Mass, the total cost of the same not to exceed
$450,000.00, subject to approval of the same by the Grand Lodge.
In April 1972, Northampton Lodge approved the purchase of the Williamsburg Golf Club
and authorized the Building Committee to enter negotiations.
Northampton Lodge of Elks continued to operate its Home on Center Street and the facility
in Williamsburg known as the Beaver Brook Country Club. After seven years of operation
of the two facilities, it became apparent that it was not financially feasible to continue the
operation of both and the Beaver Brook property was sold in October 1979.
Late in the summer of 1972 police officers on patrol in the King Street area noted the smell
of smoke and traced it to the Northampton Lodge of Elks. A fire, which had been
smoldering for some time, did major damage to the kitchen and smoke damage throughout
the building. The complete renovation of the kitchen was necessary.
In 1980 the membership of our lodge was 719. The membership represents men in all
walks of life, attracted to one another by the desire for social and fraternal fellowship. As a
Lodge of Elks, we have always endeavored to maintain a high standard, not only in
Elkdom, but in the community. We have been generous in offering the use of our Home for
any civic enterprise. We have gladly served with other organ-bodies in promoting any
movement that would be for the happiness of our neighbors and the welfare of the
The 1980's played witness to significant change within the Elks organization, membership
declined reflecting a national trend within fraternal organizations. Membership dipped
below 700 from over 1000 ten years earlier. In 1982 the Lodge Room was condemned
necessitating a structural stabilization of the roof trusses, a re-roofing of the entire building
and a new ceiling in the Lodge Room at a cost of $65,000.
Weekly Bingo games continued to be a major source of income for the Elks spearheaded
by Robert Cloutier, P.E.R., and Robert Tatro, P.E.R. and assisted by many loyal Elks. In
1984, Paul Roberts, P.E.R. brought great honor to #997 when he was appointed District
Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler. Lodge activities continued to be strong. Flag Day in 1983
generated a huge parade with over 100 marching units with Lieutenant Governor John
Kerry in attendance. Youth Activities were strong during that period led by P.E.R., Paul
Diemand and member Tim Diemand. Ed Sheehey, always a popular Elk, was named Elk of
the Year by then Exalted Ruler Bob Stone in 1985.
In order to defray some current and future financial expenses, a special Mortgage
Reduction Committee was formed in 1986. This Committee, co-chaired by Dan Ruddy and
Frank Perman, was successful in raising over $35,000 to offset mortgage expenses. A
subsequent Building Study Committee was named and a kitchen expansion project was
completed in 1987.
The 1990's provided for some remarkable changes within the Northampton Lodge of Elks
and not all changes were deemed positive. Membership continued its decline and with the
advent of many new restaurants and events in Northampton, parking became a larger
problem for the Elks as well as the City of Northampton. With only 7 Elk parking spaces
available, members found it difficult to just “stop-by" the club.
In 1995 B.P.O.E. #997 was honored once more to have William Karparis, P.E.R. appointed
District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler for the Western District and member Kerry O'Brien
was elected to Life Membership in early 1996. Also in1996, the Grand Lodge under
pressure gave its go ahead to admit women. In that year, for the first time in history, the
Northampton Lodge initiated its first female member. Most but not all members took this
change in stride. Elk’s generosity continued in many ways with scholarships for youth
support for our veterans at the VA Hospital in Leeds and elsewhere, and youth activities. In
December 1998, 560 dinners were served by Elks to youth athletes from across the City.
As the 1990's drew to a close, the membership had to vote to sell the building at 43 Center
Street, its home for 85 years. The membership now at 460, the lowest ever, coupled with
an expensive building to maintain and the lack of parking and amenities made this decision
for survival mandatory.
A new era…
The Elks Lodge on Center Street sold for $600,000 during June of 2000. Preceding the
sale, a grand good-bye party was held at the old Lodge on May 7, 2000 from 1:00 P.M.
until closing. Many members, old and new, stopped to say good-bye to an old friend.
Hands shook, some tears fell and the Eleven O’clock Toast was given for the last time at
43 Center Street.
Barbara Franklin, Exalted Ruler during the 2000-2001 year named a Futures Committee
co-chaired by Raymond Capers, P.E.R., and Gerald Clark, Trustee, to spearhead a
committee to find a suitable site for a new Elks Lodge. In the meantime through the
cooperation and generosity of others, Elks meetings were held at the American Legion on
Riverside Drive in Florence. Bingo was held at the St. John Cantius Church recreation hall
and new member initiations were held at B.P.O.E. #1296 in Greenfield, always a friend to
the Northampton Lodge.
The Elks were on a mission. Over 40 potential sites were looked at or considered for a new
home. As months went by lodge members became slightly anxious and hopeful about their
future. A new Elks year began with George Russell, as Exalted Ruler. During his tenure
(2001-2002) the Trustees of the Lodge were given the go ahead to enter into a Buy and
Sell Agreement for $150,000 for a 3 acre parcel of land at 17 Spring Street in the Florence
section of Northampton. Associated Builders, a design/build firm from South Hadley was
chosen as builder and a small mortgage was secured from Florence Savings Bank. The
groundbreaking ceremony for the new site was held on June 14th, 2003 (Flag Day) with
Mayor Claire Higgins, Mayor City of Northampton, the featured speaker.
The build out of the new Lodge took approximately
six months and the Elks Lodge opened its doors to
members on December 8th, 2002, approximately
18 months after leaving its previous location.
The dedication of the Northampton Lodge #997 was
held on March 8th, 2003. Members of the Grand
Lodge, State Association, Past District Deputies,
officers, members of Northampton Lodge #997 and
members of Northampton, city government, including
Mayor Claire Higgins, attended. The dedication
suite of officers included: Raymond Avezzie, P.E.R., Springfield #61, Charles Dumas, P.D.
D., Springfield #61, Gordon Grimes, P.D.D., Ludlow #2448, Bruno Kissell, P.D.D., Adams
#1335, James Roche, P.D.D., Springfield #61 and Carl Dawson, D.D.G.E.R., MA West,
Pittsfield #272. Guest speakers included: Robert Heman, Jr. Area 1 Representative, Grand
Lodge, William Hopkins, III, President Mass. Elks Association, Mayor Claire Higgins, Mayor,
City of Northampton, Allison McCrillis Lockwood, Historian and Writer.
During the 2001 period and onward, a resurgence of interest in the Elks occurred related
to its new location and building plans. Membership increased significantly (approaching
700 by 2005) and the Elks were given national recognition for increasing their membership
by 40% in one year. At one initiation ceremony in 2003, 86 new members were brought
into the ranks.
In 2005, we find the Northampton Lodge to be a very active one with younger newer
members becoming more involved and sharing their enthusiasm with others. Boy Scout
Troop #109 was adopted in 2004 as a benefit to both organizations. New programs and
activities are beginning at the Lodge quite consistently. In this year 2005 Northampton
Lodge #997 is also honored that member Barbara Franklin, P.E.R. was appointed to
District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler, for the West District.
Financially, the Northampton Lodge of Elks is strong and there is a sense and feeling of
optimism among members for the future yet no sense of complacency.
In this year of 2005, the 100th anniversary of Northampton Lodge #997 is upon us and we
owe a deep debt of gratitude to those who have gone before us for their guidance,
leadership and perseverance that inspires us to continue their legacy. As we ponder the
future, we remember our absent members, look toward continuing our charitable mission
and dedicate ourselves to love of home and family and friends.
PER Raymond L. Capers, Historian
Past Lodge Historians:
PER Frederick C. Tilley
Edward L. O'Brien
Frederick D. Meehan