A Brief History 

Historian's Report from 1985

Wadsworth Lodge in Sparks?

Some of the "Old Timers" of Wadsworth Lodge No. 25 were rather shocked to learn that there were many "new" members who had no idea of the reasons why the first Masonic Lodge chartered in the City of Sparks was named "Wadsworth". This was a condition they felt to be totally untenable, so, under the leadership of Past Master Tom Swart, an historic pilgrimage was made to the town of Wadsworth, Nevada, on Saturday, June 22, 1885.

Wadsworth today is a sleepy little village located 29 miles East of Sparks, on the edge of the Pyramid Lake Paiute Indian Reservation, near the "Big Bend" of the Truckee River. Where once all east-west traffic, both rail and road, funneled through Wadsworth, the town is now bypassed by Interstate 80, as well as by the Southern Pacific railway (then Central Pacific), which was originally the reason for its existence.

The town was born in 1867, as a division point of the Central Pacific. At the height of its glory, Wadsworth boasted a 21 stall roundhouse, an impressive and commodious two-story depot that accommodated the division operating offices, the Nevada House Hotel, noted for its affluence and plush appointments, complete with sprinklers and fountains, and passenger trains lined up end to end at the depot.

The town was destined to become the victim of the realignment of the Central Pacific roadbed, which occurred between the years 1901 and 1904. The major realignment occurred in the stretch between Reno and Lovelock, which included the portion from Clark to Browns, where the tracks were moved to the south side of the Truckee River, stranding Wadsworth on the north side of the river. The change actually added five miles of track by way of Hazen to Browns, but it eliminated helper districts, except for that portion over the Pequop Mountains.

The realignment eliminated the need for the installations at Wadsworth, so, in 1902, plans were made to move the railroad's shops and facilities to the Mary Wall Ranch in the Truckee Meadows, three miles east of Reno. The Company moved its employees free of charge, and sold them building lots at the new site for $1.00 each. In 1904 Wadsworth Lodge's charter was relocated to its new home in Sparks, where it rejoined its members.

The new locality existed for quite some time without any official designation. At first it was called East Reno, sometimes New Reno. In August of 1903 it became Harriman, in honor of E.H. Harriman, whose company, the Union Pacific, had purchased controlling interest in the Southern Pacific Company, then owner of the Central Pacific. But, subsequent to a visit of that dignitary later in the year, it was discovered that he would prefer that a different designation be chosen. Accordingly, it was again renamed, this time in honor of John Sparks, rancher, mine owner and then Governor of the State of Nevada.

The Wadsworth Lodge trip to re-identify its roots was led by Tom Swart, Past Master, Past Grand Master Calvin J. Dodson, Past Master, Past Grand Master Illio Cecchini, Past Master, and O.H. 'Buck' Hatlestad, Past Master. With the aid of an 1897 Sanborn-Perris town map, they were able to locate the site of the Fraternal Hall on the South side of Main Street, just East of the current Post Office. The place is now a vacant lot, but before the building was destroyed by fire, it was owned by the Wadsworth Commercial Company, which in turn was owned by Carl Wallstab, who was initiated into membership in the Lodge in 1896. Fraternal Hall was occupied on the ground floor by a general store and a meat market. The second story was rented by Wadsworth Lodge #25, along with a Lodge of Odd Fellows, and a Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star. According to Lodge records, the rent was $30.00 per quarter.

As part of the day's activities, Brother Swart conducted a short discussion at the original Fraternal Hall site, illustrating his remarks with a picture display board erected for the occasion. He reiterated here that Charles A. Beemer and Edgar A. Shepley were the first two candidates raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in Wadsworth Lodge. Both were raised on the same night, but Brother Beemer was the first candidate. It is interesting to note that Brother Beemer served the Grand Lodge of Nevada as Grand Master, and that Brother Shepley served the Grand Lodge of the Philippines in that same capacity.

Past Grand Master Dodson recounted the names of the charter members and told of their previous affiliations, together with other pertinent and interesting facts in their lives. They are: Thomas L. Bellum, Edwin W. Fowler, Martin Kline, W.S. Bailey, W.E. Van Horn, W.E. Cobb, William Dunlop, F.C. Compton and Louis Hettenhauser.

Thomas Bellum, the Episcopal Minister in Wadsworth, was the first Master of the Lodge, and was also the first of six of our brothers to serve more than one year in that office. He served briefly as Master in 1895 under Grand Lodge dispensation, and then was elected in June 1896 when the Lodge was chartered. He was re-elected for the 1897 term as well, and it is to him that the solid foundation and initial success of the Lodge should be credited.

Past Grand Master Cecchini related the story of the Episcopal Church, which was constructed through the efforts of the Lodge's first Master. In keeping with the purpose of the excursion, the group next visited the church, a delightful little edifice, located at the north end of Reservation Street. Mr. Enzo Gori, a Wadsworth native, admitted the members to the sanctuary and gave an address on the history of the church. It is understood that regular services are no longer conducted there, but it is opened on occasion for special functions such as wedding receptions and the like. Brother Swart also added some anecdotes, among them the story of an old dog that would spend his days lying in the doorway of a local bar, but, when Father Bellum would turn on the lights in the church, the dog would come across the street and take a position in front of the alter. He slept there during the services, and Father Bellum would step over him carefully when taking up the collection. When the lights were turned out after the service, the dog would resume his station at the bar.

There still remains in Wadsworth the shell of the old school house. No longer in use, the windows and doors are boarded up, and the school is in a sad state of disrepair. Lunch was served in the schoolyard, during which the brothers were treated to a continuing display of old pictures of Wadsworth in its heyday. At this time the members present were entertained by Past Master Hatlestad, who talked of the three brothers who affiliated, and the thirteen who were initiated, passed and raised during the year 1896. The affiliates were, again, J.T. Walker, Ira Heber Kent and J.W. Smith. The initiates, in addition to brothers Beemer, Shepley and Wallsteb, were T.B. Holmes, E.A. Jackman, A.T. Clippinger, George W. MacPherson, Joseph Sturm, Frank L. Voorhies, A.C. Webb, E.A Lewis, R. Holmes and A.C. Fishburn.

The outing closed with a visit to the old Fraternal Cemetery, where some of our members are buried. With Worshipful Phil Anderson, Chaplain, presiding, a short memorial service was conducted at the grave of Brother E.A. Jackman, one of the first initiates. Flowers were placed on the grave, and a donation of $25 was made to the cemetery association to assist in the upkeep of the cemetery.

John K. Carr, P.M.

The Sparks Masonic Temple was constructed on B Street in 1921. From 1921 to 1993 the building housed businesses on the ground floor and offices on the second floor along with the lodge room. The dinning room was on the third floor. Today it is gone (torn down in 1993) as part of the Victorian Avenue (B Street) redevelopment.

(picture from the Jerry Fenwick collection)

Wadsworth Lodge as it now sits on 2425 Pyramid Way. Sparks, Nevada

Was dedicated and opened in 1995. Lodge room is to the right and dinning hall to the left.

The purpose, of course, was to relocate the actual site of the Fraternal Hall, and to recreate the first years of the Lodge.