District No. 3200

The History Of Fort Madison Lodge 374

This page is a work in progress. It will be updated as I discover important events in the history of Lodge 374, or, more likely, when someone "mentions" some egregious error. The photo above is the original front facade of our Lodge building. In the 1950's it was replaced with a "modern" red brick facade.



Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 of The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of The United States of American was chartered on May 26, 1897. On June 2, 1897, District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler H.D. Cousins opened Grand Lodge and installed Fort Madison's first set of officers: James B. Gilliam, Exalted Ruler; J.W. Albright, Esteemed Leading Knight; W.J. McCray, Esteemed Loyal Knight; John G. Griggs, Esteemed Lecturing Knight; J.R. Robertson, Secretary; Ernest Burster, Treasurer; E.C. Weber, Esquire; Charles H. Kistner, Inner Guard; Martin Christ, Tiler; and Frank A. Heady, Organist.

The Lodge was originally located on the third floor of the Democrat newspaper building at the Southwest corner of 6th Street and Avenue G. The annual rent was fifty Dollars! There had been no provision to heat the lodge room, and no funds were available to buy a stove and fuel. Accordingly, at the meeting on November 18, 1897, it was decided to shut off electricity and close the Lodge room for the Winter. As you will read later, this wasn't the only time heat proved to be a problem for Lodge 374.

On June 7, 1898 Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 filed "ARTICLES OF INCORPORATION" under the laws of Iowa. The new corporation was named Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 B. P. O. Elks. These articles of incorporation contained the restriction, "[T]his corporation shall have the power to borrow money to affect the object thereof and issue its obligations therefor (sic), but in no event to exceed the sum of $500.00 and the total liability shall not exceed $1,000.00...". Officers signing the incorporation were: J. D. M. Hamilton, Exalted ruler; J. W. Albright, Esteemed Leading Knight; Allen W. Smith, Esteemed Loyal Knight; John G. Griggs, Esteemed Lecturing Knight; J. Ross Robertson, Secretary; and Earnest Burster, Treasurer. Trustees named in the articles of incorporation were: C. B. Anthes, T. H. Johnson, and A. J. Windmayer. This duration of this incorporation was twenty years.

Starting its second year of existence Lodge 374 began to consider the acquisition of a permanent home. Leases on the Masonic Hall, the G.A.R. Hall, I.O.O.F. Hall, and Concordia Hall were considered. At that time Concordia Hall (This is the East part of our current building) could have been purchased for four thousand dollars. On November 3, 1898 the Lodge received an offer to rent the Old Armory Building for $133.33 annual rent. This proposition was accepted and the Lodge executed a three year lease on the Armory.

On January 5, 1899 the Lodge moved into its new quarters. On January 23, 1899 the new facility was dedicated with Exalted Ruler J.D.M. Hamilton leading the special ritualistic dedication ceremony. It cost nearly fifteen hundred dollars, but Fort Madison Lodge 374 had its first home. C.B. Anthes donated a billiard table, rack, and cues. H.J. Richers donated a pool table and re-covered both tables free. A.W. Fletcher donated a gas stove for the kitchen.

The first telephone was installed in the Lodge in 1901.

At a specially called meeting on August 23, 1904 the members present voted to acquire Concordia Hall (the East two-thirds of our present building) for three thousand dollars. The first regular Lodge meeting in this new building was held on July 6, 1905, and the building was dedicated in November 1905. We have the original land patent for the Concordia Hall property. It is dated the nineteenth of June 1844 and is hand signed in ink by John Tyler, President of the United States. (Scroll down to read the section of this history dedicated to the current Lodge building.)

The lodge organized many activities to raise money during the 1905 to 1920 era. Wrestling matches, renting lodge rooms, band concerts, minstrel shows and moonlight river excursions on the "Elk" a private boat owned by thirteen Members of Lodge 374.

On August 25, 1919, Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 filed "ARTICLES OF RE-INCORPORATION" as Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks. This re-incorporation was for a term of fifty years and removed the indebtedness provision of the 1898 incorporation. The officers signing the 1919 re-incorporation were: R. A. Gardner, Exalted Ruler; M. R. Powers, Esteemed Leading Knight; A. B. Schultz, Esteemed Loyal Knight; Sidney W. Lent, Esteemed Lecturing Knight; Clarence S. Pratt, Secretary; and P. J. Robinson, Treasurer.

In the late 1920's and into the 1940's the Fort Madison Lodge began serving an evening meal on Saturdays. Henry Rump owned a small grocery store in town and began bringing over an armload of vegetables, cold meat, crackers and cheese and set it out for the boys to eat. One of the members would cook up a pan of roast beef now and then and set it out on Saturday night. Finally, O.M. Jeffries, the Exalted Ruler (1928-1929), ordered the Saturday night feed be a regular affair.

In 1931, an Elk's Drill Team was organized.

With the food business under way in the lodge, other forms of entertainment and revenue were also enjoyed. Slot machines were a big hit in those days. Evidence of the slot machines can still be found in the building. There remains an old fuse box, abandoned for function years ago, in which one of the fuse blocks is labeled, "lights over slot machines!" Glenn Peck, at the time a sixty-one year member of the lodge, recalls that there was a lot of money being made from "other sources" in the Treasurer's report. "It was always three to five times greater than the other sources of income for the lodge," said Peck. Sadly, Glenn died February 17, 2003. He was a 67 year member of Fort Madison Elks Lodge Number 374.

There was an annual Elks picnic where fried chicken with all the fixins' was served. But again, the big money maker was the slot machines and craps table set up in a large tent on the premises. The lodge always made several hundred dollars at these functions. There were monthly dances in the large upstairs room at the lodge and the crowds were large.

In 1942, the Fort Madison Lodge had its first bowling team.

The Fort Madison Lodge celebrated its Golden Jubilee in 1947 under the administration of Exalt Ruler Chester W. "Chet" Sloan. The other Lodge Officers were: William F. Maize, Esteemed Leading Knight; Leslie G. Hall, Esteemed Loyal Knight; Charles H. Schaeffer, Esteemed Lecturing Knight; Roy G. Weddington, Secretary; Arthur L. Emard, Treasurer; Richard L. Fehseke, sr., Esquire; Roy W. Dietchler, Chaplain; Leon Black, Inner Guard; R. Henry Vierth, Tiler; Charles W. Storms, Organist; Henry B. Helling, Chairman of the Trustees; Orval V. Arnold, Trustee; and William S. Kern, Trustee.

Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 and its members have been active in community projects and affairs. As an example the following excerption is from the June 3, 1948 Lodge minutes, "Brother Hall, Chairman of the Donations Committee, read a request for a donation of $5000. (sic) to purchased Rodeo stock. Brother Ochsner moved that the Lodge purchase $5,000. of the Rodeo Stock and when paid the $5,000. be placed, at the approval of the Board of Trustees, for a memorial of the Elks of Fort Madison Lodge #374. Seconded by Brother Kopp. Carried." The first Tri-State Rodeo was held the weekend following Labor Day in 1948, and has continued on that "weekend" every year since.

After World War Two membership grew rapidly. The Lodge held a smorgasbord in the upstairs Lodge rooms and people literally lined up down the stairs, out the front door, and down the street waiting to be seated. Our Lodge sent bowling teams to the Elks State Bowling Tournament, and in the 1970's the Fort Madison Lodge held the State Bowling Tournament here.

A community project the Fort Madison Elks Lodge operated from the late 1940's or early 1950's until the 1980's was selling programs each year at The Tri-State Rodeo. Many local Elks remember hawking the programs and later enjoying E. A. "Pat" Patterson's hospitality shed! A practice started about this time and continuing through today is placing United States Flags on the light poles in the Downtown Business District. We also actively promote our local scholarships and the "What the Flag Means to Me" essay contest.

In the mid 1980's the Lodge fell on tough times. The financial woes were primarily caused by an inefficient heating system but exacerbated by declining dinning room business. Beyond fixing the heating system, the Lodge officers quickly acted to put the Lodge on a firm financial footing. Weekday lunches were cancelled. The Lodge only served food on the first and third Fridays and at special Lodge social functions. The Lodge was open at least six days a week every week and remains so to this day. In 1987 Exalted Ruler Walt Barr started a membership recruitment effort which resulted in fifteen new members being initiated between July 1 and October 31 of that year.

By the early 1990's the Lodge mortgage was paid in full, and Lodge 374 had a reasonable bank balance. We still don't "do lunch" but we have Friday night food service every other Friday. We have also greatly increased the number of special occasions where food is served. Like many Lodges we could always use more members, and, in particular, more active members. Through it all we have managed a slight membership increase.

On April 1, 1995 William "Bill" Bailey became Exalted Ruler of the Fort Madison Lodge. Things were good, Bill and the rest of us saw clear sailing ahead, but it was not to be. In the Fall of 1995 Robert "Sam" Sampsell our Lodge Secretary for something like twenty years entered the hospital for what was thought to be a routine heart bypass. Tragically, Sam did not survive. The Secretary in an Elks Lodge is like the ball bearings and grease in a wheel. If they're good everything is great, and Sam was good! We survived using temporary Secretaries and leaning heavily on Bill Bailey. In 1997 Robert E. "Bob" Britton, jr.,PER was elected Secretary. Bob held the position until April 1, 2004 when he stepped down to assume his duties as Vice President Southeast of the Iowa Elks Association.

The "Downtown Hoedown" was started in 1991 in response to a suggestion by then Rodeo General Chairman Tom Skewes. Tom wanted a pre-Rodeo event held in the downtown district. The Elks responded by holding a open air dance in a large municipal parking lot just to the West of our building. The eleventh annual "Downtown Hoedown", scheduled for Sunday, August 31, 2003 was cancelled because of heavy rain. This was the first cancellation in the history of the event. Mr. Skewes is a member of the Fort Madison Elks Lodge.

During May of 1997 Fort Madison Lodge 374 celebrated its centennial. Terry L. Strah was the Exalted Ruler when commemorative ceremonies were held on Saturday, May 24, 1997. The ceremony included mounting the gold Grand Lodge commemorative centennial plaque on the West wall of the dinning room.

At Midnight April 1, 2003 Carol Cowles became the first female Exalted Ruler of Fort Madison Lodge 374, and with the 2004-2005 lodge year Carol became the first female Trustee of Lodge 374.


Twelve members of the Lodge served in the armed forces during the Spanish American War.

Sixty-six members of Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 served in World War I. Lester D. Harter, a pilot shot down behind German lines at the battle of Verdun, was the Lodge's lone casualty.

World War Two claimed two of our members. On September 28, 1944 Frederick A. Saar became the first casualty of World War II from Fort Madison Lodge 374. Mr. Saar lost his life in the fighting in Italy. On June 1, 1945 George A. Beck, jr. was listed as missing in action in the South Pacific and was officially declared a casualty of WWII on June 1, 1946. Mr. Beck served aboard a B-29 bomber which was shot down.

The names of those members who served in the military during the Spanish-American War, the Great War, and World War Two are memorialized in the Golden Jubilee book published by the Lodge.

Regrettably, we don't have records of those who served in Korea, Vietnam, or Desert Storm.

No members of Lodge 374 were in military service during the 2003 Iraq Campaign.


In later years he was simply known as "Senator Joe" in the Halls of Fort Madison Lodge 374, but in 1917 Joseph R. Frailey, PER was elected President of the Iowa Elks Association. He was the eighth individual to serve as Exalted Ruler of B.P.O. Elks number 374 with his term being in 1905 - 1906. We have found a little history concerning Senator Frailey using various web searches. He was a Second Lieutenant for Company F of the Iowa fiftieth Regiment in the Spanish American war. He was a 1924 delegate to the Republican National Convention. Mr. Frailey was an Iowa State Senator in the 1920s and 1930's. On September 7, 1933, Senator Frailey presented the Lodge with the pen Iowa Governor Herring used to sign "the beer bill" into law. The W.A. Sheaffer Pen Company encased the pen in glass, and attached a bronze engraved plaque describing its significance. This pen still hangs in our Secretary's office. According to our lodge records, Senator Frailey died on October 5, 1944.

C.E. "Eddie" Richards, jr., PER, was elected President of the Iowa Elks Association in 1947. At age 32 Eddie became the youngest President in the Association's history. Eddie served as Exalted Ruler during the 1942-1943 Lodge year. Dubbed "Mr. Fort Madison", Eddie is amongst the most important figures in the history of Fort Madison, and, most likely, the most influential individual of twentieth century Fort Madison. While others may share in the credit, Eddie was the "spark plug" that built many of the post World War Two housing developments, produced much of the industrial expansion of the late 1950's, 1960's and 1970's, and establishing the Tri-State Rodeo as the premier annual event in Fort Madison. October 3, 1970 was declared C. E. "Eddie" Richards day in Fort Madison. The venue in which the Tri-State Rodeo is held is named C. E. "Eddie" Richards Arena in his honor. Eddie passed away on April 20, 1994. Elizabeth Richards, Eddie's wife, and two of his daughters still live in Fort Madison.

Al Humphrey, PER, PSDGER - Al was President of the Iowa Elks Association in 1973. Al was then elected to the Board of Grand Trustees, and then served at Special Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler. Yes, that title is correct. For a number of years, Al was Special Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler for Iowa while Foster Sears, PGER was the Iowa Sponsor. Al is an Iowa State Elks Association "Elk of the Year"! Al served as Exalted Ruler of Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 during the 1967-1968 Lodge year. He also served as Vice President Southeast of the Iowa Elks Association, and District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler. While Al is no longer active in the administration of Lodge 374, he still frequents the Lodge and our social functions. Al has owned a jewelry store in Fort Madison for fifty years and continues to report for duty each business day.


From the Lodge Golden Jubilee book, "At a special called meeting on August 23, 1904 for the purpose of receiving propositions on properties for sale which could be used as an Elks Lodge, three possible properties were submitted, and after serious thought was given to all three the members present voted to secure Concordia Hall (the East two-thirds of our present home). A committee composed of Brothers O. R. Johnston, C. L. Okell and F. C. Chambers were appointed to sell stock to members only for the Elks Club House Company, which company had purchased Concordia Hall for $3,000.00."

On December 16, 1904 a Warranty Deed conveying what was then known as Concordia Hall from J. T. and Nelly Stevenor and Jacob and Johanna Bergthold to the Elks Club House Company for three thousand dollars was recorded in Lee County, Iowa. The East two-thirds of the current Lodge building located at 719 Avenue H was purchased.

Several improvements were immediately made to the Concordia Hall property. The first was construction of a two story porch on the front of the building costing four hundred nineteen dollars. The next improvement was the installation of a new steam heating plant at a cost of eight hundred forty-one dollars. The first meeting in the new building was on July 6, 1905, and the Lodge building was dedicated in November of 1905. It is believed some of our regulars were in attendance when the "first cold one" was drawn in the present building!

Yes, we have remodeled since 1905. Actually several times. However, if you tear into one of the brick or plaster interior walls you may still find the gas piping that fed the original gas lights. Electric lights were installed in March, 1907.

For the benefit of those on the East coast, we have electricity (both single and three phase for the technically inclined), hot and cold running water, and even an Internet connection. Long ago our "outdoor privy" was banished to the roof of the high school building during homecoming week. However, during our rodeo you might see a horse tied up at the Lodge.

A Warranty Deed conveying Concordia Hall (719 Avenue H) from the Elks Club House Company to Fort Madison Lodge No. 374 Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was recorded in Lee County Iowa on February 13, 1909. The consideration was five thousand dollars.

In early 1909 the Lodge voted to remodel the Lodge rooms and authorized the Trustees to borrow up to six thousand dollars to complete the remodeling according the plans and specifications. The project was completed in April 1910 at a total cost of $6,241.75. It took until 1916 to repay the loan. In July 1919 the Trustees were authorized to borrow ten thousand dollars from Fort Madison Savings and Loan Association in order to redecorate and make other improvements to the Concordia building.

On August 19, 1929 a Warranty Deed conveying lot number 122 in the City of Fort Madison from Lena Ernst Rawlins and Alfred J. Rawlins to Fort Madison Lodge No. 374 Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was recorded in Lee County, Iowa. The consideration was four thousand dollars. The Lodge had purchased the property located at 721 Avenue H which is adjacent to and immediately West of the 719 Avenue H property. Thus, our building is actually the amalgamation of two separate structures.

In October 1932, the Lodge authorized the Trustees to proceed with the remodeling of the property at 721 Avenue H. Interior access ways between the structures were establish on both the first and second floors, and the steam heating system already serving the Concordia property was extended to serve 721 Avenue H. The total cost was not to exceed nine thousand dollars.

In 1942 a "ladies cocktail lounge" was built in the front of the 721 Avenue H property. It opened on July 8, 1942. A contest was held to name the new facility, and on August 6, 1943 Mrs. J.W. Schultz was awarded a twenty-five dollars war bond for submitting the name "The Elkove", a name that is still in use. Also, in this period a stag bar was installed in the rear of the 721 Avenue H property.

Unfortunately, in the late 1950's a "modern" brick facade covered the original outside front of our building. About the same time larger electrical services were installed, as were water-cooled air conditioners. Our Lodge is less than a thousand feet from the Mississippi River. Accordingly, the water table isn't very deep. There were several of these water-cooled air conditioners, and the cooling water was drawn from a shallow sand point well behind the building.

In the mid 1970's the Lodge underwent a major remodeling. A large dinning room was built in the majority of the first floor of the Concordia property with its own bar area. Today this area is known as the "Elkove". The stag bar was moved so that it was directly behind the Elkove bar. The two being separated by a wall with a single door allowing communication between the bars. The 1970's remodeling also included upgrading the electrical system on most of the first floor to circuit breakers (replacing fuse boxes), the wiring was in conduit (replacing knob and tube wiring), and utilized grounded outlets. New plumbing was installed to serve the bars and waitress station, and an air-cooled 15 ton (180,000 BTU) air conditioner was installed to service the new Elkove. This air conditioning system reliably cooled most of our main floor until a major refrigerant leak was discovered in April 2004. New Elkove air conditioning was installed on May 3, 2004.

For most of its existence the entire Elks building was heated by radiators using steam generated by a large boiler. Yes, most of this system was the same as was installed in 1905. The boiler had been converted from coal to natural gas. In the Fall of 1986 the operational cost of the boiler system (as much as $2,000.00 per month for natural gas not to mention maintenance on the antiquated boiler) became too much and the building was closed. Interestingly, the second paragraph of the Lodge history in our Golden Jubilee book reads, "It seems a bit strange now that at one time the members had to close up quarters for the Winter because they couldn't afford to buy a stove to furnish heat."

To keep the Fort Madison Elks alive Lodge meeting were held in the back meeting room of Mike's Supper Club, and Friday night "social sessions" were held in Jack Norton's garage!

Thanks to some quick thinking, some damn hard work, the financial help of a number of members, and the tolerance of our bank the building reopened in April of 1987. A brand new and very efficient heating system was soon installed. The new heating system was coupled with an existing, but efficient, air conditioning system. The only draw back was the new climate control only served the restaurant and lounge area. To heat the restroom and kitchen areas small forced air electric heaters were installed.

The Elkove lounge area was remodeled around a u-shaped bar in the late 1980's, and the dinning room was extensively redecorated soon after the bar renovation was completed. During this time most of the old radiator and piping from the original steam system was removed. You wouldn't believe what a radiator weighs if you've never helped move one!

In the Spring of 1992 a high efficiency forced air gas furnace and electric central air conditioning system was installed to provide climate control to the rest of the ground floor.

To date we do not heat nor cool the upper stories of our Lodge building. However, the old water cooled air conditioning remains in place but has been disconnected.


This section promises to be fun and possibly dangerous!

Some of the material in this "cyber" history of Fort Madison Lodge Number 374 has been shamelessly plagiarized from a lodge history compiled in 1997 by Former Esteemed Leading Knight Greg "Snickers" Smith.

What wasn't "ripped-off" from Greg's written history was blatantly robbed from the Golden Jubilee commemorative book published by the Lodge in 1947!

last revision: 05/03/2004. -- Elkove air conditioner replacement. 05/05/2004 -- Editorial changes only.

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