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Mt. Baker Lodge 73, Knights of Pythias,

By Phyllis Hyatt (who who passed away in 2010,
the widow of Charles Hyatt, author of the Clear Lake history book)

      JournalEd. note: This story is provided as an example of how we want to profile clubs and organizations that have contributed to the history of Sedro-Woolley, Skagit county and the Northwest. Do you know the history of your own club or know someone who does? Please email us if you do.
(Knights of Pythias building 1945)
This photo of the Knights of Pythias building was taken in 1945, long after the second and third stories were added. It is on the west side of the 800 block of Metcalf in Sedro-Woolley. —Photo by Miles, Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, March 15, 1945

      On May 18, 1891, 38 citizens were issued a warrant to establish a Knights of Pythias lodge in the town of Woolley. Mt. Baker #73 was formed under the rules and regulations of the Grand Lodge of Washington and the Supreme Lodge of the United States. The designation was changed to Sedro-Woolley in 1906 when the two towns of Sedro and Woolley consolidated. The Lodge continued to operate under the warrant until July 14, 1910, when a charter was duly executed by the Grand Lodge of Washington. Mt. Baker #73 continued to operate under this charter over 100 years later.
      For many years the membership rented hall space from Truth Lodge, IOOF [Odd Fellows] for $6.00 a month. At an unknown date, meetings were moved to a second-floor room in the Bingham Bank building after the present brick building was completed in 1905. On Jan. 14, 1909, fire gutted the interior of the bank building, destroying early lodge records and paraphernalia. Also destroyed were professional offices on the second floor, the bank premises and A. H. Holland Drug on the main floor.
      [JournalEd. note: the Odd Fellows hall was originally located on the south side of Ferry street on the alley between Murdock and Puget. Around the turn of the century the building was moved to Murdock street, where it later became the Eagles Hall in 1924, after the Odd Fellows constructed their building at the southeast corner of Woodworth at Metcalf. The Murdock location is where the new American Legion stands in 2001. The old wooden building burned in 1949 and a new Eagles building was constructed there in 1953. The Eagles moved in 1998 and the American Legion bought the premises.]

      In March of 1909, the members decided to take the insurance money and buy a lot on Metcalf Street for $1,800. This was to be paid at the rate of $800 down and $200 a year until retired. The lodge borrowed $3,000 with the lot and $100 personal notes of the members as security and erected a one-story building on the site. The building was then leased to help pay the cost of construction. For many years it was the "Princess Theater" and in 1918, a long-term lease was issued to George White. He opened a dime-store known as White's Variety and it remained a variety store when it was owned later by George Goss.
      In March of 1915, Burlington Lodge #163 consolidated with Sedro-Woolley, and Concrete Lodge #174 surrendered its charter in February of 1916. First mention of adding a second story to the existing building was made just a month after the Burlington consolidation but it was not until 1922 that actual work began on the addition. The completed hall was dedicated Dec. 15, 1922, by Grand Lodge officers. The lodge hall and meeting room was on the second floor. The dining room and kitchen on the third floor were added to the original plan and financed by personal donations of the members.
      Also in 1922, the Knights of Pythias were active in sponsoring the Boy Scout movement in Sedro-Woolley. In order to receive a charter, the scouts had to have a responsible organization behind them and the Knights worked actively for over twenty years, not only on organization, but through their own troop, to establish scouting in Sedro-Woolley. [Records of the American Legion George Baldridge Post #43 show that they joined as a sponsor of the original troop.]
      The affiliated order of Pythian Sisters was chartered in 1924. Mrs. Vivian (Emil) Jock was the first presiding officer of Temple #92.
      Skagit Lodge #18 of Mt. Vernon surrendered its charter in 1953 and in 1937 the Eagle Lodge #38 of Lyman consolidated with Mt. Baker #73. This [Sedro-Woolley] lodge then became the only remaining Knights of Pythias organization in the Skagit Valley. The Lyman lodge building was sold and proceeds were used to reduce the $6,000 mortgage carried on the Sedro-Woolley hall.
      The late Paul Rhodius brought distinction to Mt. Baker #73 when he became the first local Pythian to receive state honors. Paul served as Grand Chancellor of Washington for the 1928-1929 term and was later further honored by being named district representative to the Supreme Lodge of the United States. Paul Rhodius also served our community well as a druggist, greenhouse owner, mayor and postmaster.
      During the war years, from 1941 to 1945, members participated actively in defense projects, serving a air raid wardens and holding membership in the Community Council. They contributed time and money to the Service Men's Center, supplies for the auxiliary hospital and gifts for service men.
      Pythian Sisters received their share of state honors when the late Jesse Cockreham became Grand Chief of Washington for the 1941- 1942 term. Mrs. Fern (Andy) Hansen also received the highest state honors for service as Grand Treasurer from 1945 to 1950. Fern also served as representative to the Supreme Temple of the United States in 1968. While serving as Grand Chief, sister Jesse was instrumental in obtaining the dishes used by local Pythians. The service for 125 was purchased from Wishkah Temple #35 of Aberdeen when it suspended operations. The dishes are marked with the Pythian emblem and are unique and irreplaceable.
      On March 22, 1945, the day finally arrived when the Knights and Sisters held a joint meeting to celebrate the burning of the mortgage; 125 members turned out for the banquet and impressive ceremonies signaling the end of a 36-year burden.
      Contests were begun in 1946 to encourage high school students to learn the art of public speaking. The yearly contests were sponsored by the Supreme Lodge and prizes awarded to local, regional and national winners. The contests were conducted in the local high School for several years and were finally dropped for lack of interest in the school.
      A boy's model airplane club was sponsored for a time and in l953 the Knights organized Little League baseball in Sedro-Woolley. Members worked diligently to make it a successful program. A Pythian acted as General chairman and organizer with member participation in coaching and training. Dinners wore sponsored to raise funds and were later discontinued when the program became self-sustaining. The Sedro-Woolley Little League Association was organized about 1970 and assumed responsibility for continuation of the program
      At the end of 1972, the Pythian Sisters were no longer able to continue and surrendered their charter. Those who wished to retain their membership transferred to Bellingham Temple #122. Bellingham Lodge #156, Knights of Pythias, surrendered its charter at the end of 1981 and several members transferred to Mt. Baker #73, making Sedro-Woolley the only remaining lodge in Skagit and Whatcom Counties. Pythian Sister Temple #22 of Bellingham continued to operate as of 1993.
      In 1992, Paul Kelley, owner of Cascade Fabrics, purchased the lodge building on Metcalf street and much of the lodge furnishings and paraphernalia was donated to the Sedro-Woolley Museum. A sampling of the unique Pythian emblem-marked china was also donated to the museum with the remainder donated to Solidarity Lodge #396, Vassa Order of America, in Mt. Vernon.
      Proceeds from the sale of the building were invested in a Scholarship Trust Agreement for the benefit of deserving students at Sedro-Woolley High School. In the first scholarship year of 1993, four $900 awards were presented. The fund will continue to benefit students for many years to come.

Rhodius, Devin and Curry, "Big Three" in K.P. Lodge
From the Sedro-Woolley Courier-Times, March 15, 1945
      The Sedro-Woolley Knights of Pythias lodge which next week celebrates the completion of its payments on its fine building on Metcalf street, owes much of its continued financial and social success through the past 35 years to three men. They are Paul Rhodius, H.L. Devin and W.H. Curry. Others were instrumental in handling the lodge affairs before the early 1900s, but these three men formed the backbone of the lodge from that time until a few years ago when Curry and Devin died. Paul Rhodius is still active in the lodge, but mostly in an advisory capacity.
(Harry Devin)(Paul Rhodius)
Harry L. Devin (left) Paul Rhodius (right)

      Rhodius joined the lodge here in 1903. For more than 25 years he held the position of master of the work, which meant that he was responsible for organizing and drilling the lodge ritual teams, and was in charge of putting on this work in the initiating of candidates. The local lodge came to be considered as the model Knights of Pythias lodge in the state and in 1928-29 Rhodius became grand chancellor of the Pythias lodge for the state.
      For more than 25 years, Harry Devin, as keeper of records and seals (secretary), and Harvey Curry, as master of finance (treasurer) sat at the same desk every night at the lodge hall and carried out their duties faithfully in guiding the financial destinies of the chapter. The pictures of these three men now hang above the desk at the head of the lodge room.
      There have been many other so-called "wheelhorses" in the lodge, including William T. West, Dr. George A. Jones [Sr.], the late Q.P. Reno, C.P. Gable, Ben D. Vandeveer and others, but "the three musketeers" deserve the great credit that the Knights of Pythias order gives them for their work in the Sedro-Woolley chapter over a long period of years.

History of the national Knights of Pythias
Full story at: http://www.pythias.org
      The Order of Knights of Pythias is a great international fraternity which was founded in Washington, DC, February 19, 1864, by http://www.pythias.org/rathbone/ Justus H. Rathbone, and embraces more than two thousand subordinate lodges in the United States and Canada, with occasional lodges having been formed elsewhere. The primary object of fraternal organizations is to promote friendship among men and to relieve suffering. Each organization adopts some outstanding principle as its objective. The individuality of an order is determined by its ideal sentiment. The distinguishing principles of the Order of Knights of Pythias are "FRIENDSHIP, CHARITY and BENEVOLENCE".
      It bases its lessons and builds it ritual largely on the familiar story of the friendship of Damon and Pythias, who were historical characters living about four hundred or more years before the beginning of the Christian era. They were members of a school, founded by Pythagoras, who was known as the father of Greek philosophy.
      To become a member of the Pythagorean Brotherhood, certain very rigorous tests were demanded and applied, some of which are very similar to the ritualistic work of our order today. The object of the organization was the moral uplifting and purification of society. Strict morality, absolute truthfulness, honor and integrity were thoroughly inculcated in the minds of its membership. It was a maxim of Pythagoras that the two most excellent things for man were "to speak the truth and to render benefits to each other." The outstanding feature of the society, however, was the marvelous friendship and loyalty which bound the brotherhood together with hoops of steel, which was so remarkably demonstrated in the incident which forms the historic basis of our order.
      Damon had opposed the pretensions of the king of Syracuse, who had gained the throne by fraud, and as a result he was condemned to death. Pythias became a hostage for Damon, while the latter was permitted his liberty to bid his wife and child goodbye. Each was willing to die to save the other's life. Their loyalty to each other, the adventures that beset them, and the outcome of this noble friendship, form the basis for one of the most beautiful stories of history as exemplified in our ritual.

The Drama - Damon and Pythias
      John Banim, Irish poet and dramatist, wrote a play based on this friendship, which was first produced in London in 1821, and has since been staged many hundreds of times. Familiarity with the Banim play encouraged Justus H. Rathbone to organize a fraternal order on the basis of such friendship. Its first small group of members took the vows of the new order with their hands placed upon a pocket Bible that had been given Mr. Rathbone by his mother. This Bible is still cherished as a treasured relic of the Order, and many thousands of others have been privileged to become members in what is known as "Rathbone Bible Classes" the original Bible being used to obligate them.

Abraham Lincoln and our ritual
      The Order began, of course, during the Civil War, and its founder believed that it might do much to heal the wounds and allay the hatred of civil conflict. President Abraham Lincoln, being advised of the contents of the ritual and its teaching, said: "The purposes of your organization are most wonderful. If we could but bring its spirit to all our citizenry, what a wonderful thing it would be. It breathes the spirit of Friendship, Charity and Benevolence. It is one of the best agencies conceived for the upholding of government, honoring the flag, for the reuniting of our brethren of the North and of the South, for teaching the people to love one another, and portraying the sanctity of the home and loved ones. I would suggest that these great principles by perpetuated and that you go to the Congress of the United States and ask for a charter, and so organize on a great scale throughout this nation, and disseminate this wonderful work that you have so nobly started. I will do all in my power to assist you in this application and with your work."
      The suggestion made by the President was adopted. An application was made to Congress for a charter, and the Order of Knights of Pythias was the first American Order ever chartered by an Act of the Congress of the United States.
      In the Order's ritualistic work, every sentence has a meaning and every paragraph a beautiful and inspiring lesson. The flag of the country has an honored place at every meeting and the Holy Bible is the supreme Book of Law. The Order does not seek to shape any man's creed, but Pythianism is the practical application of religious and charitable principles to every day life. We have a heritage of which we are proud and our precepts and teachings lead men to higher ideals of life. We invite like-minded men of good character to join us in making these ideals the dominant factor in modern living

Links, background reading and sources
      We also want to note that Sedro-Woolley's first realtor and the early publisher of the Skagit County Times, Ambrose B. Ernst, was a charter member of the Knights of Pythias in 1891. Anyone interested in the very early history of Woolley, which has recently surfaced, and of the club, will want to read our exclusive profile of Ernst. Wehave a number of stories about other clubs and organizations in Sedro-Woolley. Please note: some of these stories are from our old website and the links from them may not work. Please return here or to our Free Home Page to get the proper links. We eventually hope to profile all the lodges and fraternal groups. Can you provide family memories or copies of documents or photos that will help update this section? .

Updated October 2018. Story posted on March 18, 2002, moved to this domain Oct. 31, 2011
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