Mohave York Rite History

In the beginning:

York Rite Masonry in Northwest Arizona is relatively youthful, having its roots started by the Chapter and Council in Needles, CA, Commandery in San Bernardino, CA and with the able assistance of the York Rite Bodies in Phoenix, Prescott, Scottsdale and Yuma.

Prior to 1963 there were no York Rite Bodies in Mohave County. The nearest Bodies were in Needles, Havasu Chapter #148 RAM and Centennial Council #57 R&SM. York Rite members in California who desired to belong to Commandery had to travel to St Bernard Commandery #23 KT in San Bernardino. The members in Arizona mostly belonged to Ivanhoe Commandery #2 in Prescott.

In the early 1960's separate movements began to Charter Commanderies in both Needles and in Barstow, California, located about half way between San Bernardino and Needles. A feeling that developed at this embryonic stage was neither would survive if both were Chartered and as there were more potential members in the Barstow area the idea of Chartering in Needles was discouraged.

The York Rite established in Mohave County:

Sir Knight Jesse C. Wilmot, a railroad Conductor living in Needles, California, still felt that a Commandery in this area was necessary, would round out York Rite Masonry and would be viable. Wilmot, with others, had previously spearheaded the Chartering of Centennial Council in Needles.

In this same time frame, there were a number of Companions living in the Kingman and Bullhead City area who were conferred the Degrees and joined Chapter and Council in Needles. Several had gone on to take the Orders and joined Ivanhoe Commandery #2 KT in Prescott. These members, with Sir Knight Wilmot, pressed on with the idea of forming a Commandery in Arizona, rather than California and as a result in 1963 formed Mohave Commandery #13 KT in Kingman. Jesse C. Wilmot was the Eminent Commander under dispensation and on October 26, 1964 became the Charter Eminent Commander. Sir Knight Wilmot was later appointed and elected to the Arizona Grand Commandery line and was honored as RE Grand Commander in 1976/1977, the only member of Mohave Commandery to have been thus honored.

In 1970, Mohave Commandery moved it's Charter from Kingman to Riviera (Bullhead City) shortly after Mohave Valley Lodge #68 F&AM was constituted, in order to take advantage of the momentum of the new Lodge and also to be closer to the Needles, California area from which many of the members lived. Few members from the Kingman area had been attracted to the Commandery after its formation and this appeared to be an appropriate move.

For many years potential members living in Arizona received dispensations to receive the Capitular and Cryptic Degrees in Needles and thus were able to join Mohave Commandery. Similarly, Companions living in California received dispensations to join Mohave Commandery in Arizona. For a number of years, Havasu Chapter and Centennial Council in Needles would join with Mohave Commandery in Riviera in holding Festivals, conferring the Capitular Degrees on Friday afternoon and evening and the Cryptic Degrees Saturday morning in Needles, then traveling to Riviera and conferring the Orders on Saturday afternoon and evening. Many potential members of the proposed Commandery in Barstow received the Degrees and Orders in this manner. Unfortunately however, that Commandery was never Chartered. The Kingman Bodies just lost the last members who lived in the Barstow area.

The York Rite leaves Mohave County and Needles, the first consolidation:

Parker Chapter #19 RAM was also formed in 1970 in Parker, Arizona with William J. Stephenson, III as the Charter High Priest and Agaman Council #12 R&SM was formed in 1974 in Parker with William J. Stephenson, Jr as Charter Illustrious Master.

Many of the members of these Bodies took their Degrees with the assistance of Scottsdale Chapter #18 RAM and Scottsdale Council #11 R&SM who traveled to the river to confer. In addition some of the new members traveled to Phoenix and Yuma to receive the Degrees when they were not conferred in Parker. Many members in the Kingman and Bullhead City areas demitted from Needles to Parker.

The greatest membership of the Parker Bodies and Mohave Commandery occurred following the Goldwater/Rhodes Festival in April of 1978.

In 1976, both Havasu Chapter #148 RAM and Centennial Council #48 R&SM gave up their respective Charters thus losing York Rite Masonry in Needles, California. Most of the remaining members transferred their membership to Morongo Valley Chapter #158 RAM in 29 Palms, CA and Valley Council #27 R&SM in San Bernardino, though many transferred to the Parker Bodies.

Mohave Commandery #13 KT, still in Riviera, was now stranded without a nearby Chapter and Council to funnel members. Although in 1978 Mohave Commandery reached its all time record membership following the Goldwater/Rhodes Festival, in the years following membership began to decline and interest wanned.

Parker had no Commandery, thus, naturally, in 1982 it moved again, from Riviera to Parker, forming the Parker York Rite Bodies as Parker now had Chapter, Council and Commandery.

The York Rite returns to Mohave County, the second consolidation :

By 1985, the membership living in the Needles/Kingman/Bullhead City area felt it was time to form a Chapter nearer to home, thus King Solomon Chapter #22 RAM was Chartered in Kingman with Eugene V. Moran as High Priest under dispensation and LeVerne N. Kennedy as Charter High Priest. Most of the membership of Parker Chapter #19 RAM living in these areas demitted into the new Chapter.

In 1989, as a result of a lack of participation and an aging and declining membership, the Parker York Rite Bodies were about to give up their respective Charters. Many discussions were held with the Grand Officers and members from various areas that desired to have the Bodies moved.

On April 5, 1989, at a special meeting of the Parker York Rite Bodies and the Grand Officers, an agreement was made whereby Parker Chapter #19 RAM would be consolidated with King Solomon Chapter #22 RAM in Kingman, the Charter and membership would be in Kingman, with the hope someday Parker Chapter would again reactivate their Charter.

At the same time, the Charters of both Agaman Council #12 CM and Mohave Commandery #13 KT were also moved to Kingman, thus forming the Kingman York Rite Bodies.

Mohave Commandery also made the full circle, Chartered in Kingman, moved to Riviera, moved to Parker and finally returning to Kingman.

About 30 Companions dropped their membership upon the move from Parker to Kingman and more with the next two dues notices, with losses continuing for two years. The combined membership was equally distributed in Kingman, Bullhead City, Needles and Parker.

The Colorado River Fall Festival:

The stage was again set for the Bodies to give up their respective Charters ... aging membership, few candidates, lack of participation and rising expenses.

But in 1991, the Kingman York Rite Bodies, with the assistance of the Phoenix and Yuma York Rite Bodies as well as other individual efforts, initiated the Colorado River Fall Festival, a two day class held every fall. This Festival resulted in doubling the membership of the Kingman Bodies in the first two years it was held and had a net gain of membership for many years.

In 1992, the Festival became multi-jurisdictional with Degree teams from California and Nevada participating, in addition to Arizona.

More recent events:

Currently the membership is again declining; the membership in Parker has disappeared, Lake Havasu City is a handful, however we have gained many new members in the Bullhead City and Kingman areas. In the past there have been efforts to start a Chapter or reactivate Parker Chapter #19 in that in Parker or Lake Havasu City.

As of January 2003, the Bodies returned to the Hall of Mohave Valley Lodge #68 F&AM in the  Mohave Shrine Club Building in Bullhead City. This move was instigated from the loss of our Lodge Hall in Kingman and there being more active members in Bullhead City than in Kingman.

In January of 2013, we began splitting the meetings between Bullhead City and Kingman - the first six months of the year in Kingman and the last in Bullhead City. This was a result of more active members in Kingman than Bullhead City.

Currently, our challenge is to attract members who are not necessarily on the road to become a Shriner as their membership qualifications have changed. Most of these have already become Scottish Rite Masons and are looking for a higher education in Masonry – the York Rite.

In conclusion:

Over the years, those Bodies that have practiced York Rite Masonry in Northwest Arizona had their ups and downs with many moves, but by a continual effort by the membership, York Rite Masonry has survived and is here to stay stronger than ever.

King Solomon Chapter was named after our first Most Excellent Grand Master.

Agaman in Agaman Council means purple in Hebrew, the color of our Order.

Mohave Commandery was named for the County in which it was chartered.

Time Line

  • 1964  Mohave Commandery #13 KT chartered in Kingman
  • 1970  Mohave Commandery #13 KT moves to Riviera (Bullhead City)
  • Parker Chapter #19 RAM chartered in Parker
  • 1974  Agaman Council #12 CM chartered in Parker
  • 1975  Havasu Chapter & Centennial Council return charters in Needles, CA
  • 1981  Mohave Commandery #13 KT moves to Parker
  • 1985  King Solomon Chapter #22 RAM chartered in Kingman
  • 1989  Parker Chapter #19 RAM and King Solomon Chapter #22 RAM merge
  • Agaman Council #12 CM moves to Kingman
  • Mohave Commandery #13 KT moves to Kingman
  • 1991 First Colorado River Fall Festival
  • 2003 King Solomon Chapter #22 RAM moves to Bullhead City
  • Agaman Council #12 CM moves to Bullhead City
  • Mohave Commandery #13 KT moves to Bullhead City
  • 2013 Bodies begin splitting meetings between Bullhead City and Kingman

 by Peter M. Stronge, KYCH

Reproduction of part or totality of this article free with reference to the author for Masonic Bodies; only by written permission of the author for all others.

 

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