I have started this blog to have a place to keep all the amazing stories of the men who have been members of Friend Lodge #352 in Ozark, Missouri. About a year ago I was made a Master Mason in Friend Lodge and I quickly found out that it was in trouble. The building that these men meet in and hold lodge is crumbling. It is to the point that it cannot be insured and therefore cannot be used for lodge functions. The structure is failing, but the men who call it home are resolute and refuse to let the lack of a building stop them from keeping this lodge and its history go dark.
In our effort to raise enough funds to not only acquire a new lodge, but also to get the liability of a dilapidated, crumbling building off our hands, we discussed the fact that Friend Lodge was founded in 1870 and how we couldn’t let down the hundreds of fine men who have kept Friend Lodge afloat for over 140 years. Since I am a self-described history buff, this immediately caught my attention. When I hear a date like 1870, I think back to what life must have been like. For a small town in southwest Missouri, five years after the Civil War and the assassination of President Lincoln, I’m sure life was very tough. Just trying to survive was enough, but several men got together and started Friend Lodge during the strife of reconstruction. This was a time when there were still public hangings on the town square, amendments ensuring slavery was a thing of the past were still being debated in the past, and the state of Missouri was looking to adopt a new Constitution in light of emancipation.
I looked into who the founders of Friend Lodge were and found them to have a fascinating story. Their names were Hiram and Elias Friend. Back in 2012 we were looking for any and every way we could pull together enough money to buy a new lodge (and we’re still pulling together money any way we can), but I thought it would definitely be worth my time to show the story of our founders and what Friend Lodge means not only to the men who are members, but also to the communities Friend Lodge serves and the Freemasons who call the members of Friend Lodge brothers. We worked with a man who has produced promotional videos and created a brief video (see below) telling how Friend Lodge came about and contributes to the community in hopes that people would see what Friend Lodge has done and would want to give back to the fine men who have given to the community for over 140 years.
In addition to the story of our founders, I have found stories of members of our lodge that are incredibly amazing. Their stories weave throughout major events of American history and these Freemasons have contributed to amazing causes that have made history as well. From men who helped blacks by operating an underground railroad during the Civil War, to a member of the lodge who owned a bank in Ozark during the Great Depression and refused to foreclose on his customers, the men of Friend Lodge have done some incredibly amazing things and their stories mainly sit in books in our lodge.
I have used the books our lodge has kept, plus any obituaries, ancestry information, websites, resources our local library may have, and census data to try to pull some of these stories together I’ll be posting on this site. I thought these Freemasons should have their stories told rather than kept in a musty book in a lodge only a few have access to. I’ve tried to pull together as much information I can and have tried to make sure the information is as truthful as possible. In most cases I have tried to find multiple sources before assuming a story is true. Sometimes multiple stories of an event or life can’t be found. If that’s the case, I’ll try to be sure and mention it. I’m no historian and don’t claim to be one. I absolutely love history and the men of Friend Lodge have a fascinating history all their own that deserves to be told. I only hope I can do justice to their legacy.
Finally, if you feel compelled, PLEASE contribute to our fund to save the lodge and these amazing stories and pieces of American history. We need a building to meet in and store the artifacts and history we have from the past 143 years. The video below was created as a plea to ask people for their help. Thank you.