Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Washoe Lodge Was Once An Active Masonic Lodge In Nevada

Photo of Washoe Lodge #2, courtesy of the University of Nevada Reno. Identification: UNRS-P1991-44-12; Ca. 1863-1888; Collection name W.A. Kornmayer; Collection number, NRS-P1991-44.

Washoe City and the surrounding valley were once known for significant economic and agricultural industriousness.

Within the social milieu of the new decade of the 1860s that saw significant economic changes — before Nevada statehood — were Freemasons who wanted to create a Masonic Lodge in search of that brotherly fraternity that an active lodge can further cement.

"The urge for Masonic intercourse in Washoe City was felt by the sojourning brethren, resulting in the establishment of a lodge under California registry," stated the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Mason of Nevada on its website*. ( "It is inconceivable, but it is nevertheless true, that but small attention was paid by the officers of the Grand Lodge of California, to the organization of Washoe lodge, No. 157 chartered under California register in July 1862."

If I correctly understand the Washoe Lodge's history, it was charted as a Nevada Lodge in 1863, ceasing to be a California-affiliated lodge.

This photo was been cropped on the left to provide a more concise view. Photograph of Washoe City (ghost town) in 1943. The buildings on the right and in the center appear to be in the University of Nevada Reno-confirmed photo of Washoe Lodge #2. Note the three windows in the central building. Courtesy of UNR. Photographer: Gus Bundy. From the UNR Gus Bundy Collection. Image ID: UNRS-P1985-08-01125. Collection ID: UNRS-P1985-08.

"It is interesting to note, that at that time Washoe Lodge had an enrollment of 36 members," according to the Nevada Masons. "Not an unusual numerical list it is true, but among its number were those who were nevertheless sincere and devoted brethren, through whose instrumentalities the lodge grew and spread its Masonic light; men who figured prominently in municipal, county and state affairs, and brought fame and honor to themselves and the section from which they hailed; some of whom afterward crossed over into California, becoming identified with its commercial, industrial, political and social life, adding luster to the honor roll of that state. For, the Masons who pioneered the way in Washoe Lodge were men of outstanding merit and integrity; they took a leading part not only in Masonic affairs, but in public life as well; some of them attained not only public honor, but also became wealthy."

The Nevada Masons' website mentions a few prominent men, so if you want to learn more about them, I strongly suggest you visit the website.

The Lodge cannot be separated from Washoe Valley's and Washoe City's golden days, as noted by the Masons:

"The history of Washoe Lodge begins in the winter of 1860-61, and is cast in that period of glamour and excitement, attendant upon the discovery and development of The Comstock Lode, dating from Jan. 28, 1859, when James Finney, or 'Old Virginia,' made a rich strike in Gold Hill, and Henry Comstock, Patrick McLaughlin, Peter O’Reilly, Emanuel Penrod and Kentuck Osborne came into the picture, and Sandy Bowers and his wife Eilley Orrum, rose to opulence, whose reckless extravagance and final relapse into almost poverty, is a story of human pity and interest." 

In colorful writing, the Nevada Masons' website notes the synergy between the growth of Masonry in Nevada and The Comstock Lode:

"The story of the blue-black clay, secret of the wealth of the Comstock, at first cursed by the miners and thrown upon the dump as worthless — but afterward by an accident found to contain $1,595 in silver, and $4,790 in gold values per ton — precipitat{ed} a 'rush,' the scenes and excitement of which no pen could hope to portray, for they are deep-dyed with the richest color of comedy, pathos and tragedy, acts of heroism, self-denial, intrigue, shame and honor, but inextricably interwoven into the history of Washoe County.

"For when the great discovery was made on Mt. Davidson, or Sun Peak Mountain, Washoe Valley leaped into prominence for it had fuel and timber for building, plenty of water and fine rich land for farming; and from it the Comstock could be and was supplied. It soon assumed importance and following the necessary location surveys made in the spring of 1861, Washoe City came into being, began to grow and for the next five or six years, enjoyed a substantial and steady expansion."

In 1866, Washoe City became the county seat of Washoe County; however, it's a distinction that would be short-lived:

"With the coming of the V. & T. Railway, {Washoe City's} decline commenced," the Nevada Masons note. "Reno wanted the county seat, and on Aug. 5, 1868, a petition signed by 750 residents of Reno was sent to the county commissioners asking for the removal of the county seat to Reno. This petition was denied, but another was framed and sent in February 1870. Washoe City made a protest, and sent William Webster and William Boardman to plead their case, while Thomas E. Hayden appeared for Reno. The petition was withdrawn, but another was soon presented."

A special election was held on June 14, 1870 to settle the matter.

"Reno won by a vote of 544 to 362," according to the Nevada Masons. "Washoe then applied to the courts for redress, resulting in a bill being sent to the Legislature, which was passed, declaring Reno to be the county seat on and after April 3, 1871. It was the doom of the valley city; an early exodus of many of the residents followed, business became stagnant and, while for the next 18 years or more, a settlement continued to exist on the old site of the town, yet its progressive spirit was broken, and one by one its citizens departed to other fields."

Washoe City slowly declined. I've found several photos that may or may not be Washoe Lodge No. 2; however, there is one from the University of Nevada Reno that clearly states it is the site of the lodge. From that photo, it appears that others may also show that building. Any suggestions and/or corrections would be appreciated.

There are many misconceptions about Free & Accepted Masons, so I refer readers to an excellent rebuttal to common fallacies regarding Freemasonry that the Grand Lodge of Virginia published: "Myths of Freemasonry."

* Quotes from the Nevada Masons' website have been edited for AP Style.

Masons are free to use photos I've personally taken however they want, commercially or noncommercially.

Silver City's Amity Lodge Remains Active Masonic Lodge

Travelers might notice the well-cared-for white building with blue trim in Silver City, Nev., without realizing it is part of a living history that dates all the way back to the origins of The Comstock Lode.

Silver City's Amity Lodge No. 4 F. & A.M. — located at 175 Main St. — was chartered in 1863.

"Amity Lodge No. 4 had its beginnings as Silver City Lodge No. 163," according to Amity Lodge's website. "Sojourning Masons living in Silver City, Nevada, under the guidance of Brother John C. Currie expressed their desire to organize a lodge, by framing a petition to the Grand Lodge of California.

Amity Lodge, Silver City. © Glenn Franco Simmons.
"A dispensation was granted by Grand Master William C. Belcher on March 20, 1863, to the sundry Brethren at Silver City, Nevada Territory, and a charter was granted by the Grand Lodge of California on May 15, 1863, as Silver City Lodge No. 163.

"The officers and members included — John C. Currie, W. M.; Charles F. Brant, S. W.; William B. Hickok, J. W.; August Koneman, Treasurer; Henry W. Arnold, Secretary; James A. Cowden, S. D.; Moses J. Rourke, J. D.; Henry Lun, Tyler. Other members included Master Masons M. J. Henley, R. P. Kerr, and Robert H. Watson.

"Lodge membership increased to 36 Master Masons, 4 Fellow Craft, and 12 Entered Apprentices in 1865, when the Lodge severed it connection to the Grand Lodge of California, and united with other Lodges in the organization of the Grand Lodge of Nevada, from which it received a charter at the time as Amity Lodge No. 4 on January 16, 1865.

"Its first Master, Brother John C. Currie, withdrew, and united with Virginia City Lodge at Virginia City, and was elected Grand Master of Masons of the State of Nevada, and also served as Mayor of Virginia City. Brother Richard T. Mullard was the last Master under California jurisdiction, and Master under newly formed Amity Lodge No. 4, he would later became Deputy Grand Master."

There is a stated meeting first Thursday of each month at Amity Lodge.

To contact the Lodge, here are its mailing details: P.O. Box 11332, Reno, NV. 89510-1332.

An excellent historical resource about Freemasonry in Nevada is located on the History of the Grand Lodge of Nevada webpage. The Grand Lodge's home page is also a good starting point to learn more about Freemasonry and Freemasonry in Nevada.

There are many misconceptions about Free & Accepted Masons, so I refer readers to an excellent rebuttal to common fallacies regarding Freemasonry that the Grand Lodge of Virginia published: "Myths of Freemasonry."

(Photos taken by Glenn may be used without restriction by Masons. For Masons, photo credit is not required.)

Amity Lodge in Silver City. © Glenn Franco Simmons.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Virginia City Justice Statue Has Her Eyes Wide Open

© Glenn Franco Simmons.
One of the most-impressive buildings in Virginia City, Nev., is the ornate — by Wild West standards — Storey County Courthouse at 26 South B. St.

Located near the equally historic Piper's Opera House, the courthouse is an impressive structure that must have magnificent views of Virginia City northward, from its second-story windows. Whether standing inside or outside the courthouse, which features a jail and courtroom, it is easy to imagine the destinies of lives forever changed in this building.

The National Park Service's "Three Historic Nevada Cities" series features historically important information about Carson City, Reno and Virginia City.

"The Storey County Courthouse was built in the high Italianate style that embodies 19th-century ideals of decorative opulence as well as law and order," according to the NPS."

It replaced the first courthouse, which was destroyed the catastrophic Virginia City Great Fire of October 1875.

"Reconstruction began in 1876 and the present building, designed by the San Francisco architectural firm of Kenitzer and Raun and built by contractor Peter Burke, was completed in February 1877," according to the NPS. "The total cost of construction, including fixtures and the jail, was $117,000, a remarkable sum even for the Comstock boom years."

It even features a memorable and iconic sculpture.

© Glenn Franco Simmons.

"A life-sized figure of Justice stands as sentry at the entrance, but she is not blindfolded, a rare occurrence in our national symbology," according to the NPS.

The Comstock Historical Marker (No. 8) that is located outside the courthouse (at the time this photo was taken) states that "over the years, a legend has evolved that she {Justice} was one of only a few created not blindfolded."

"The courthouse's statue of Justice is the only one to grace the exterior of a Nevada building," according to OnlineNevada. "The full-sized, zinc figure came from New York and cost $236, including shipping. Local folklore maintains it is one of two or three in the nation without a blindfold, presumably because the Wild West needed Justice to pursue crime vigorously. In fact, Justice with eyes exposed was a common option in the nineteenth century, and over twenty examples survive throughout the country."

In Virginia City, all enforcement had to have its eyes wide open because it was the epitome of Wild West skulduggery.

"The fa├žade of the building was decorated with elaborate ironwork, painted contrasting colors, and a pediment that included the date of construction, 1876, also the national centennial," the NPS states.

The NPS also said the Storey County Courthouse is the most opulent of all Nevada courthouses built in the late 19th century.

© Glenn Franco Simmons.
"Far exceeding the cost of its counterparts, the building served the state's richest community," the NPS states. "Ironically, the county built the courthouse at a time when the boom economy of Virginia City was on the verge of collapse. Perhaps due to the inevitability of a downturn, local leaders rebuilt their town following the devastating 1875 fire in grand style.

"The Storey County Courthouse remains a vivid example of this community's rebirth in the face of economic decline. A portion of its restoration was funded through a grant from the National Park Service's Historic Preservation Fund."

It is a building that needs to continue to be kept up because of its historical significance as not only a courthouse, but also a jail.

"Storey County's two-story Italianate structure includes a two-tier jail, a spacious courtroom, and large iron-sheathed vaults for records," according to OnlineNevada. "Electrified during The {Great} Depression, the courtroom features Art Deco style light fixtures. The building is one of two 19th-century courthouses (the other being in Eureka) still serving local government."

According to another Comstock Historical Marker (No. 17) outside the courthouse, "This two-story jail was completed in 1877, and featured 10 individual cells, each of which had bunkbeds and 'state-of-the-art' plumbing for the day."

Men and women were jailed there.

"Women were housed on the second level and men on the first floor until 1963, when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that males and females could not occupy the same facility without being physically separated," according to the marker. "There was heavy wire mesh strung between the posts of the second level to prevent falls and mingling of the inmates.

"The jail operated continuously from 1877 until September of 1986, when the county's insurance carrier decided it was unwise to operate it with only one fire exit in the event of a fire. Inmates were then housed at the Carson City Sheriff's Jail, for a fee, until the current jail was opened in 1992 on the outskirts of town on Truck Route, SR341."

Security was built into the jail.

"The walls of the jail were covered in boiler plate, after a successful escape in 1897 by an alleged murderer who had worked on the building as a bricklayer," according to the marker. "'Red Mike' Langan knew the walls had not been properly filled with rubble material as required and was able to dig his way out and escape. The county went to great expense to see that this did not happen again."

The marker makes no mention of Mr. Langan being caught, and I have not been able to determine if he was re-imprisoned.

"The doors of the jail were built by C.F. Nutting of San Francisco, the same company that supplied the vaults in the rest of the courthouse," the marker notes. "The stone floors are made of 'Kate's Peak Andesite," a very dense and heavy granite which was quarried from the hills a short distance to the east of Virginia City."

© Glenn Franco Simmons.

© Glenn Franco Simmons.

Victorian Savage Mansion A Rare Beauty In Comstock Lode

© Glenn Franco Simmons.
Hidden below the main street of Virginia City is an example of Victorian splendor.

It's a refined beauty painted in a beautiful yellow that would make two of California's cities with significant preserved Victorian structures — The Victorian Seaport of Eureka and The Victorian Village of Ferndale — envious. Rising out of a still-steep hillside at 146 D  St. in the epicenter of the richest U.S. silver ore discovery is the Savage Mining Building, also known as the Savage Mansion.

"This magnificent 21-room Second Empire Style building was constructed by the Savage Mining Co. in 1861," according to the National Park Service's webpage about what is often referred to as the Savage Mansion.

"The ornate building is an excellent example of the architectural elegance associated with the offices and residences of the mining elite," the NPS states. 
"The top two floors of the building served as the mine superintendent's residence, while the ground floor was the mine office."

Photo example of a Lincrusta frieze.
Courtesy of Wikipedia. Public domain.
The beautifully adorned building is privately owned. The NPS said it presently serves as an office building.

"{It} has been restored with attention to its distinctive architectural features, such as the mansard roof, dormer windows and delicate gingerbread trim," according to the NPS. "The interior boasts 14-foot-high ceilings, a seven-foot copper bathtub, a {Lincrusta} frieze in the main hallway and early Victorian furnishings."

Aside from its architectural important, the Savage building is also historically important — perhaps most notably because a U.S. president once spoke there to a gathered crowd who must have been impressed that so distinguished a person would make a stop in the Comstock capital.

"Ulysses S. Grant is said to have stayed in the house in 1879 and addressed crowds in a speech from the porch. During this time, a Mrs. Monoghan, whose husband had been killed in one of the mines, served as a housekeeper to the superintendent.

"When the mines closed down in 1918, the Savage Mining Co. deeded the land, house and furnishings to Mrs. Monoghan."

In the rough-and-tumble and oft-greedy world of The Comstock Lode, such a gesture was probably not too common.

The NPS said it is being used as office space. When I was there, a woman came out of the building and moved her car for me so I could get some better shots, which I appreciated a lot.

In this photo, one can clearly see the porch from
which a former U.S. president once gave a speech.
© Glenn Franco Simmons.

"The term 'mansion' has been liberally applied in the Comstock to include any large and vaguely residential building," the NPS sates. "This has been done for promotional purposes and is far from being an accurate characterization. Even the most elaborate dwellings in Virginia City would be considered no more than ordinary houses in any urban setting.

"In the case of the Savage, Gould & Curry and Chollar properties, all referred to as mansions, the term is a complete misnomer, having been applied to buildings that served primarily as offices for major mining companies."

I was reared in a small, forested valley not far from a small city with a unique historic Victorian architectural history of The Victorian Seaport of Eureka, Calif., and I have to say that this former office would be considered a mansion, even among Eureka's beautifully preserved Victorians.

This Virginia City landmark would also be at home in one of my favorite cities in California, The Victorian Village of Ferndale.

Call it what you want, it's a true beauty.

(Editor's note: These photos were taken with my smartphone. I plan to return to Virginia City to take photos with my professional gear, which will enable me to take much better photos. My dream is to be able to tour this grand Victorian and take photos inside.)

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Prominent, Distinguished San Francisco 'Great Diamond Hoax of 1872' Investors Taken For A Ride Like Theranos' Backers

Horace Greeley (1811–1872). 
As C.C. Goodwin postulated in his literary masterpiece titled “The Comstock Lode,” more money probably exchanged hands in stock ownership and stock scams, as well as those who supplied all the material needs of the mining companies.

The public interest in vast riches that could be relatively easy to access was palpable in 1872.

First, there was the false claim of a mountain of riches that was reported to contain silver.

“An announcement in the Tucson Weekly Arizonian in April of 1870 catches the mood of the moment: ‘We have found it!” according to “The greatest treasures ever discovered on the continent, and doubtless the greatest treasures ever witnessed by the eyes of man.’

“Located in the Pyramid Mountains of New Mexico, the ‘it’ was a new mine dubbed the Mountains of Silver. Bankers hurried in, miners claimed stakes, investors sought capital in distant cities and surveyors laid out a town nearby. But in the end, the much-touted venture did not yield enough of the stuff for a single belt buckle.”

Then there was the diamond rush in South Africa.

“At about the same time came news of a diamond rush in South Africa, the third major diamond find known to the world after one near the city of Golconda, India, and an 18thcentury site discovered by the Portuguese in Brazil,” according to the Smithsonian.

“Stoked by the tall tales of early 19th-century trapper-guides like Jim Bridger and Kit Carson about diamonds, rubies and other gems that could be scooped right off the ground, avaricious dreamers were soon looking for precious stones in Arizona and New Mexico, where the terrain was said to resemble South Africa’s.”

Adding to the diamond fever, diamonds were found in during the initial California Gold Rush.

“And so the stage was set for the ‘Great Diamond Hoax’, a brilliantly acted scam by two Kentucky grifters that would embroil, among others, some of California’s biggest bankers and businessmen, a former commander of the Union Army, a U.S. representative, leading lawyers on both coasts, and the founder of Tiffany & Co.,” according to the Smithsonian.

In 1872, The San Francisco Chronicle said the hoax was “the most gigantic and barefaced swindle of the age.”

What was the “Great Diamond Hoax” and how did it start?

Charles Lewis Tiffany (left) in his store, ca. 1887. What investors did not  know was that Tiffany was not qualified to judge the gems from the bogus gem field. Source: Wikipedia. Public domain.

“The diamond hoax of 1872 was a swindle in which a pair of prospectors sold a false American diamond deposit to prominent businessmen in San Francisco and New York City,” according to Wikipedia’s “Diamond hoax of 1872” page. “It also triggered a brief diamond prospecting craze in the western USA, in Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, and Colorado.”

The scheme began in 1871 when two Kentucky cousins, Philip Arnold and John Slack, traveled the very long distance to San Francisco, Calif.

Crucial to their skulduggery was successfully convincing potential San Francisco investors that they were privy to a diamond mine. They even produced what was said to be a bag of diamonds and deposited it in the Bank of California — which had significant investments in The Comstock Lode of Nevada in the Virginia Mountain Range.

So how could they produce a bag of diamonds? The answer can be found in an April 2014 issue of The San Francisco Chronicle.

"Arnold was a born con man, Slack his close-mouthed foil," The Chronicle notes. "The 40-year-old Arnold was a small-time miner who was working as a bookkeeper for a drill manufacturer that used diamond-headed bits. He pilfered a bag of uncut diamonds from his work and acquired some garnets, rubies and sapphires, probably by trading with Indians. These were the raw materials of the scam.

"The two crooks could not have chosen a better time to work a hoax. San Francisco was in the grip of a delirium of greed unrivaled since the Gold Rush."

Not only was San Francisco gripped with gold fever, but Virginia City and the rest of The Comstock Lode was in the midst of a silver and gold rush — at the time, the largest known deposit of silver in the world. (Quartz was also mined.)

Wild rumors were spun with a storyteller’s expertise, and in the social currency of the time, it was said that anyone could get rich, and quick, on The Comstock Lode — whether in Six Mile Canyon (current spelling), Virginia City or Gold Hill.

Arnold and Slack played potential investors with the expertise of a conductor leading an orchestra.

William Ralston, founder of the
Bank of California. Public domain.
“Prominent financiers convinced the ‘reluctant’ Arnold and Slack to speak out on their find,” Wikipedia states. “The cousins offered to lead investigators to their field.”

Yet investors were still not convinced, so they hired their own mining engineer to examine the diamond field.

The brothers had an answer for that.

“They planted their diamonds on a remote location in northwest Colorado Territory,” according to Wikipedia. “They then led the investors west from St. Louis, Missouri in June 1872. Arriving by train at the town of Rawlins, in the Wyoming Territory, they continued on horseback. But Arnold and Slack wanted to keep the exact location a secret, so they led the group on a confusing four-day journey through the countryside. The group finally reached a huge field with various gems on the ground. Tiffany's evaluated the stones as being worth $150,000.”

The cousins’ trickery worked for now.

“When the engineer made his report, more businessmen expressed interest,” according to Wikipedia. “They included banker {William Chapman} Ralston, Gen. George S. Dodge, Horace Greeley, Asbury Harpending, George McClellan, Baron von Rothschild, and Charles Tiffany of Tiffany and Co.

“The investors convinced the cousins to sell their interest for $660,000 ($13.8 million today) and formed the San Francisco and New York Mining and Commercial Co. They selected New York attorney Samuel Latham Mitchill Barlow as legal representative.”

The investors remind me of those who invested in the alleged fraud of Theranos — the company that promised to miniaturize blood testing but ended up in a shocking Silicon Valley scandal.

These investors, like Theranos, had distinguished and prominent board members who new little about the “gem field” they were going to commit significant sums for investment.

The “gem” investors even called in a powerful U.S. congressman to help them solidify their stake in what they thought were fields of riches.

“Barlow convinced them to add U.S. Congressman Benjamin F. Butler to the legal staff,” Wikipedia said. “Barlow setup a New York corporation known as the Golconda Mining Co. with capital stock of $10,000,000, while Butler was given one thousand shares for amending the General Mining Act of 1872 to include the terms ‘valuable mineral deposits’ in order to allow legal mining claims in the diamond fields. The U.S. Attorney General, George H. Williams issued an opinion on Aug. 31, 1872, specifically stating that the terms ‘valuable mineral deposits’ included diamonds.”

The entire scheme was a comedy of errors worthy of a Shakespearean play.