STORIES OF STANISLAUS
A Collection of Stories on the History and Achievements of Stanislaus County
Sol P. Elias
Dedication of Modesto's First School
In the presence of practically the entire population of Modesto, Stanislaus Lodge, No. 206, Free and Accepted Masons, on Wednesday, June 24, 1874, performed the ceremonies attending the laying of the cornerstone of the old red brick school house that for so many years stood at Fourteenth street and in which so many of the older residents received the rudiments of their education.
It was a gala day for the infant town when its citizens gathered to witness the dedication of this building to the cause of education – the first school house to be erected in the city of Modesto. It was with an intense feeling of interest and pride that the parents listened to the eloquent words of the jeweled officers of the Masonic Lodge as they solemnly spoke the ritual, deposited the casket that contained the memorials of the time into the cavity beneath the cornerstone, cemented the cap stone, and poured the corn, the wine and oil upon the firm rock upon which Modesto's educational system subsequently reared itself.
Previously invited to officiate at the laying of the cornerstone, the Grand Lodge of Masons of the State convened early in the afternoon of the day at the Temple of the fraternity in Modesto. Most Worshipful Grand Master I. S. Titus presided and appointed the following officers to assist in the function; Deputy Grand Master, William Grollman; Senior Grand Warden, J. J. Chapman; Junior Grand Warden, A. Hewel; G. T., E. B. Beard; G. S., L. B. Walthall; G. C., G. Belknap; Grand Orator, Hon. J. D. Spencer; Grand Marshal, George Buck; Grand Bible Bearer, I. W. Laird; G. S. B., W. B. Wood; G.S. D., W. J. Houston; J. G. D., J. H. Hays; Grand Stewards, H. M. Ross and John Visher; G. T., H. G. James.
At two o'clock a procession was formed in front of the Masonic Hall on Tenth street near “H”, and was arranged in order of march led by the Modesto Brass Band, followed by members and officers of the Masonic Lodge.
The pupils of the schools occupied a prominent position in the parade, the boys being led by their teacher, Mr. Crane, and the girls by Miss Maddux. Many citizens and parents were in carriages and on foot. The column then marched to the building where the exercises were held.
The ceremonies were opened by an appropriate prayer by the Chaplain. Major James Burney, the county superintendent of schools, veteran of the Indian warfare days of 1851, presided. In a brief address he stated the object of the assemblage and in behalf of the trustees of the Modesto school district invited the Masonic Grand Lodge of California, there assembled, to officiate in the laying of the cornerstone of the building.
The Most Worshipful Grand Master, I. S. Titus, responded as follows:
“Mr. Chairman and Members of the Board of School Trustees and Citizens of Modesto; The Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons has gathered here today, by your invitation, for the purpose of celebrating the anniversary of St. John, the Baptist – one of the patron saints of Masonry – by laying the foundation stone of a building in which will be taught all the elementary branches of knowledge incident to our system of public schools. The erection of this noble edifice to be dedicated to so great a purpose as that of enlightening the youthful mind justly entitles you to the highest commendation of all who interest themselves in the cause of education on the Pacific Coast. It will stand as an enduring evidence of future generations of the zeal and interest of a generous public in behalf of the moral and intellectual welfare of those who receive within its ample halls the rudiments of all the sciences advanced in this progressive period. It is a source of heartfelt joy to all the craft assembled here, to participate with you in the inauguration of this glorious work. We, as a Brotherhood, are essentially the friends of a complete liberal education, as none can enter the portals of our lodges as initiates who are unable to read and write. You do well to erect this educational institution to which the toddling footsteps of the infant classes, as well as the more sturdy youth of your neighborhood will daily repair to secure that degree of intelligence, trained by constant recitation and experiment, necessary for both sexes in adult ages to prepare them for the active contact with the world.
“May your teachers be endowed with the universal attributes of advanced education that pertain to their profession; may they have the glorious faculty of imparting knowledge to their pupils that interests them while it instructs, leading them to that highest standard of excellence which gladdens the heart of every lover of progress.”
The Grand Master then addressing the Senior Grand Warden said:
“Brother Senior Grand Warden: It has been the custom among the Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons, from time immemorial, to assemble for the purpose of laying the foundation stones of public buildings, when required by those of authority. The Grand Lodge of the State of California having been invited by the Trustees of this school district to lay the cornerstone of this building to be dedicated to educational purpose, it has by my order been convened, and it is my will and pleasure that it do now assist me in the performance of that pleasing duty. This you will communicate to the M. W. Junior Grand Warden, and he to the Craft, that they and all others present may be duly notified thereof.”
After the notification to the assembled Masons by the Junior Grand Warden, the Master continued as follows:
“Brother Grand Treasurer: It has ever been a custom of the craft upon occasions like the present, to deposit within a cavity in the stone placed in the northeast corner of the edifice, certain memorials of the period at which it was erected, so that if, in the lapse of ages, the fury of the elements, the violence of man, or the slow but certain ravages of time, should lay bare its foundation an enduring record may be found by succeeding generations, to bear witness to the untiring industry of the Free and Accepted Masons. Has such a deposit now been prepared?”
Response by the Treasurer: “It has, Most Worshipful Grand Master, and the various articles of which it is composed are safely enclosed within the casket now before you.”
The Master then said: “Brother Grand Secretary, you will read the record of the contents of the casket.”
The Secretary read the following, as the contents to be deposited in the cornerstone, which had been furnished him:
1st, A list of officers of the State of California.
2nd, A list of officers of Stanislaus county.
3rd, A slate tablet, containing names of District School trustees.
4th, A list of the officers of the Grand Lodge of F. and A. M. of California.
5th, A list of the officers and members of Stanislaus Lodge, No. 206 F. and A. M.
6th, The Stanislaus County News, under date of June 19, 1874.
A copy of the San Joaquin Valley Mirror of June 20, 1874.
7th, A copy of by-laws and list of directors of Farmers' Saving Bank of Stanislaus county.
8th, A Double-Eagle coin, by C. J. Cressey.
A Trade Dollar of 1874, by F. H. Ross.
A Trade Dollar of 1874, a half dollar, 1873; a quarter, 1873; a dime, 1873; by the Farmers' Savings Bank.
9th, A copy of the Pacific Methodist.
10th, A copy of the Methodist Church South Discipline.
The Master then said: “You will now deposit the casket in the cavity beneath the cornerstone and may the Great Architect of the Universe in His wisdom grant that ages shall pass away ere it again be seen by man.”
The casket, a leaden box, six by eight, and five inches deep, was then placed in the cavity by the Treasurer. After a song by the choir, the cap stone was lowered, placed and cemented.
The stone was then tried by the various officers, after which they poured the corn of nourishment, the wine of refreshment and the oil of joy over it. The Master closed the function with the following remarks:
“May the All-Bounteous Author of Creations lend aid to those who have conceived and thus far carried on the goodly enterprise; may He protect the workman employed upon this building from every accident, and long preserve it for the beneficent uses which it is destined to subserve; and may He grant to us all an over-bountiful supply of the Corn of Nourishment, the Wine of Refreshment and the Oil of Joy.”
A short address was then delivered by Hon. J. D. Spencer, the orator – then the editor of the Stanislaus Weekly News – after which the assemblage dispersed. The Masonic fraternity reformed their line and marched back to their hall.
The school was completed for the opening of the fall session of 1874. It was a two story brick building with a large belfry that surmounted the center of its roof. When this edifice was removed about fourteen years ago to make room for the handsome structure that now occupies the site on Fourteenth street, the rafters of the belfry were found to have carved on them the names of all the most prominent students during the period of its existence.
The memorials placed in this cornerstone were taken from the casket upon the demolition of this school and deposited in the cornerstone of the Seventeenth street school when it was constructed. The money was used to purchase the principal's chair of the latter school.
Transcribed by: Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.
Source: Elias, Sol P., Stories of Stanislaus – A Collection of Stories on the History & Achievements of Stanislaus County. Modesto, CA. 1924.
© 2012 Jeanne Sturgis Taylor.