150TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE WABASH MASONIC LODGE

My Lambert Country Grade School Colleague
Dorothy Ann (Bingaman) Brady sent me an article from the Mattoon Journal Gazette describing the September, 2005 celebration of the 150 year anniversary of the Wabash Masonic Lodge 179. The top photo shows a marble marker located near the village of Paradise, Illinois where the Wabash Masonic Lodge was established in 1855. The village of Paradise is about one mile southeast of the south end of the current Paradise Lake. Several years later the lodge was moved to Etna and the bottom photo is of the firsrt Lodge building in Etna. That building was razed in the 1950s and the Lodge now meets in a single story building. where the celebration was held. My thanks to Bob Benefiel for his assistance.
In her letter, Dorothy Ann noted that when the Trilla Masonic Lodge closed, some of their members joined the Wabash Lodge. Thus for the celebration, she cooked six pounds of soup beans and ham, others brought at least twelve more pounds of beans and ham to add to the vegetable and beef soup, sandwiches and cakes thus about 100 dignitaries, members and wives were well feed during that joyous day in Etna.

From Bob Benefiel a native Etnaite:
"Neither of the buildings shown are still standing. Both have been razed. The Masons built a single story building where these stood and there is a fire station just south of it. There was a general store downstairs in the Mason's (North) building and Bob Young's ancestor may have, at one time, owned and operated that store. That store was the major "hanging out spot" where the loafers congregated. For some years there was a pool table in the back of the general store. That's where I practiced my skills when I was in high school. The south building was owned by the Odd Fellows and, at age 18, I was a member. My uncle, Cecil Benefiel, was secretary of both lodges for many years and lived just south of them. The Methodist women held their "Aid" meetings downstairs in the Odd Fellows building,
At one time, before the railroad was raised through Etna, both of these buildings were west of the tracks. They were moved east of the tracks just before the tracks were raised.
Incidentally, the Illinois Central Rail Road's spelling for the village was "Aetna." When there was a post office there, the Postal Service spelling was "Etna." The State of Illinois designation is "Etna." Now, Robert L., as to your former text:   The village of Paradise is not "abandoned." In fact, there are many, many, more houses there than there used to be. It's a Mattoon "bedroom" community. The marker pictured is really an engraved granite "grave stone" type. I believe it has a cast iron fence around it but I'm not sure."
LAWRENCE BRADY NOTES THAT THE BUILDINGS PICTURED WERE THERE IN 1966:
"i believe u   will find that the building was remodeled by tearing off the upper story and putting on another roof and other alterations to the building   i had the old building   insured and   did not   go to   selling insurance   until   1966,   so   the change   was made   shortly   after     that   LHB"
MARTHA (KRAFT) WILSON COMMENTS:
Jim recollects hearing stories that Paradise was once a thriving community, perhaps being a stop on the east-west early traveler routes.  He claims it is older than Mattoon, which came along with railroad travel.  In the last many years the small grocery store closed and more recently the seasonal spring greenhouse closed.  Now there is a small used car lot and several residences.
Only recently did we notice that the brick house of the Matthews family is gone.  We were shocked and commented it should have been on the historical register.  It was, as you said, on the north side of the highway. 
Being residents of Paradise Township our family has always said to one another as we part from any event, "see you in Paradise."  At times we get some stares!!
The present Masonic lodge hall in Etna is the remodeled lower floor of the original two story building.  That is where the celebration was held and continues to be an active chapter.  Originally, the two story building housed the grocery store on the lower level and the Masonic Hall was the upper floor.  A separate building a few feet to the south was a "town meeting hall" on the lower level with the Odd Fellow/Rebecca lodges using the upper floor for their meetings.  Perhaps those lodges maintained the lower level for the town's use.  That building is gone and the present fire station is part of that site and to the south.  The Odd Fellow/Rebecca lodge membership decreased and the ladies regrouped with another lodge in Mattoon.  Jim's mother, Margaret, was a 50+ member of that lodge.  We are not certain where the men's membership went. 
Jim's earliest memory of the grocery store owners was the Louthan family.  The Lowe's, of course, had the other grocery store on the north side of the street.
I SENT THE FOLLOWING EMAIL TO BOB BENEFIEL REGARDING MY MEMORIES OF ETNA:
"Robert, Thank you for your excellent summary of the Etna you knew. Also Martha's comments are very helpful. You did not mention one thing that meant much to my family in the 30s and 40s when I was living on the farm.
I think I recall the old frame Wabash Lodge Grocery Store building and I know that my folks were quite interested in it and may have told me about Robert Anderson and his store which might have been in that building but all that is a quite hazy. Not hazy is the many times I went with Dad to deliver grain to the big Etna grain elevator. We might have to wait for some time as a long row of trucks unloaded corn or soybeans. I also remember in the 1960s how sorry Dad was that the elevator operator a very friendly fellow whose name I forget went bankrupt and the elevator closed. That meant that we had to take our grain to Mattoon or Neoga which were farther away than Etna. Also I believe I recall a bad fire in the elevator due to grain dust exploding that put it out of business sometime in that period. I wonder if you remember anything about that fire. Bob"
BOB BENEFIEL RESPONDS AS FOLLOWS:
"There were two grain elevators in Etna that took in corn and soy beans and loaded it out on the ICRR.
The south elevator was owned and operated by Tom Ferguson. The north one by Frank Lowe and later by his son, Harry Lowe. (Harry was a short, rotund, bachelor gentleman who lived with two spinster sisters.) One of the sisters, Essie, ran the general store and weighed the grain vehicles. This north elevator burned, I believe, in the 1930s and I believe that it had been struck by lightning. It was soon rebuilt and back in operation. The Lowe's were never bankrupt --- they had scads of money and owned much prime farm land around Etna.
The south elevator closed, probably in the late 1940s. Tom Ferguson was an old man and retired. In later years (1970s, or so) both the Ferguson and Lowe elevators were razed, and a new Etna Grain Company was established by Cal Stickle. He did big business but operated with several huge bins to hold the grain and trucked it out rather than use the railroad which was no longer available. (In fact, I still have a baseball cap that says "Etna Grain Company" on the front.)"
RLY NOTES;
1. My Great Great Grandfather, Robert Anderson, came from Higginsport, Ohio to Illinois in the 1850s and operated a grocery store in Etna.
2. Relatives of my Dryden family came to Illinois in the 1830s via horses and wagon from Tennessee and initially settled at Paradise.
NEWSPAPER ARTICLES RE THIS CELEBRATION COURTESY OF CHRIS RANKIN
http://www.colescountyleader.com/news/newsview.asp?c=166903
http://www.jg-tc.com/articles/2005/09/16/news/news003.txt
Note that Lawrence Brady, long time member ot the Trilla Lodge is now an officer of the Wabash Lodge.

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