The History of Apache Lodge
As has frequently happened throughout the history of Masonic Lodges around the globe, they give birth to the emergence of new lodges for a variety of reasons. Apache Lodge No.69 grew out of the desires of a band of Masonic Brothers wanting to establish their own lodge and their own identity. All were members in good standing in Oriental Lodge No.20 at the time, and their quest for independence was amicably supported.
Preliminary conceptual meetings and planning sessions began in 1970, possibly as a Square & Compass Club, at Meldrum’s Mortuary (est. 1927 still at original location) at 52 N. Macdonald, Mesa. After many discussions, the brethren decided to name the lodge “Apache” because they wanted a lodge name that reflected an aspect of the South-West, as opposed to a traditional-sounding Masonic name. In June of 1971 the Grand Lodge of Arizona granted Apache Lodge a Charter and designated it No.69.
However, for four years after the Charter was awarded Apache Lodge No.69 held their lodge meetings at Oriental Lodge No.20 located at that time behind the old Guggy’s Restaurant in Mesa until January 1975 when Apache Lodge No.69 moved into its own Lodge after it was dedicated.
What took them so long? First of all, they had to settle on a location which was fortunately decided by Brother Frank Rowland and his wife donating property located on the south-west corner of the intersection of University & Sun Valley, Mesa. Secondly, the brethren collectively rolled up their sleeves after the Groundbreaking Ceremony in the fall of 1972 and began the laborious process of building a lodge from the ground up.
The three-year construction of the facility was chaired by Brother (now Past Master) Jim Gier: All work, except that of the drywall, was done by the brothers (primarily 8 to 10) of the lodge almost exclusively on the weekends; two operative masons initially donated several Saturdays and Sundays laying up the block walls, but were so impressed with the brethren that they later became speculative Masons — Jack Bell joined the lodge and the other one a lodge closer to his home; the brethren poured concrete floors and the foundation; the walls were laid up with 4x8x16 inch grey slump blocks; interior walls were wood and drywall construction; they got the roof done just before the rains came—to the relief of all.
Apache Lodge was forced to physically relocate their lodge building in 1987 to property behind Mesa Fire Station #213 located at 7809 E. University St., Mesa, because of city growth. The Lodge was highly motivated to relocate by the threat of a strongly implied application of Imminent Domain by the City of Mesa. In short, they decided to move it rather than potentially lose it. Through determined negotiations by the Lodge Board of Trustees, the lodge was able to get the developer to absorb all costs associated with the move which also included a suitable property swap, the moving of the facility, and modernization of the facility to meet changed city building codes. It is particularly noteworthy to share that the building was so well constructed by the brethren that it not only made it easier to transport it (in halves), there was no damage or degradation of the facility resulting from the move—which is highly unusual.
In June of 2007 the Board of Trustees, with the support of the brethren, sold the Apache Lodge building and associated property to a church consortium. This action was made necessary through a combination of mounting expenses and reduced membership; the lodge was fast approaching insolvency. Rather than allowing the Lodge to dissolve, they successfully petitioned Oriental No.20 (now located at 726 N. Center St., Mesa) to once again enter into a host-tenant relationship. This arrangement has proven to be mutually beneficial to the satisfaction of all.
TODAY: Apache Lodge No.69 is once again a thriving and vibrant Masonic Lodge by every meaningful measure: our membership is healthy and very diverse, we have a state-wide reputation for our excellence in Ritual, and we are very healthy financially.
A SPECIAL NOTE OF APPRECIATION to PM Jim Gier for his contributions as Chair of the original Building Committee and for his many detailed recollections, without both, the history of Apache Lodge No.69 could not have been written.