Harry S. Truman Attended Hiram Lodge Meeting In Kahoka
By Kevin Fox
American humorist Will Rogers once said, “There are two great eras in American History. They are the passing of the buffalo and the passing of the buck!” Will Rogers’ humor is ageless as it almost always hit the mark. But there was a time, at least for a short time when, passing the buck ended on the desk of Missouri’s own Harry S. Truman.
2009 marks Harry Truman's 125th birthday, and it also marks the 100th anniversary of his becoming a 3rd Degree Mason. A York and Scottish Rite Mason, Truman was the Grand Master of Missouri from 1940 to 1941.
So the question bears asking what does all this have to do with Kahoka and local news? I already had respect for Harry Truman prior to joining the St. Francisville Lodge #588 A.F. & A. M., but almost immediately upon joining I began hearing about Harry Truman coming to Kahoka way back when.
As the saying goes inquiring minds have to know, so I began my search. As best I could make out from the stories told to me, was that in 1941 Harry Truman came to Kahoka to assist in the Cornerstone Setting Ceremony for the new City Hall building in Kahoka, which was a part of the WPA program under President Roosevelt. This could have very well been a duty Br. Truman would have performed, as he was Grand Master for the State of Missouri, elected to that position at the Annual Session of the Grand Lodge held September 24-25, 1940. He held that position until October 1, 1941. And what further sold the idea that he was here is that the cornerstone bears his name and title. But in searching the record books of Hiram Lodge #362, they had no record of Harry Truman attending the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony, which was held on August 28, 1941.
So what about the stories of Harry Truman being in Kahoka at Hiram Lodge? Well, they are true.
Further research revealed that on Friday evening, November 22, 1940, nine months prior to the Cornerstone Laying Ceremony, Harry Truman was in attendance at Hiram Lodge. At the time he was a U.S. Senator, and five years away from being President of the United States. Br. Truman’s purpose for the visit to Hiram Lodge was to pay an official visit and to present a 50-year pin to Henry E. Sever.
This is how the records read: ”The W.M. (Worshipful Master) was informed that the R.W. (Right Worshipful) Br. Harry S. Truman, Grand Master of the State of Missouri was here to pay an official visit. The Grand Master was escorted in and was escorted in by past Masters and was introduced by District Deputy Grand Master Harold M. Jayne. After some remarks others were invited into the Lodge. Br. J.R. McLachlan introduced Brother Henry E. Sever (who had joined the Lodge in 1890 and became a Master Mason that same year. He was presented a 50-year pin by the Right Worshipful Brother H.S. Truman. A program was given and a talk by the Grand Master. Several Lodges were in attendance including Fairmont, Eldorado, Canton, St. Francisville, Peaksville,
Williamstown and Gorin. Refreshments were served by the Order of the Eastern Star. “
Although it’s difficult to read the names, as they are written by hand along the inside of the page, here are some of the members present as can best be deciphered, Marshall Story, O.J. Buck, John Townsend, Bruce Smith, W. B. Calvert, Chas. Feldman, Chas. Wendling, J.L. Gitting, Tom Riley, A.A. Schoeing, James Carder, L.E. Moore, Kyle Peterson, Dr. J. R. Bridges, H.H. Lewis, J.R. Mclachlan, R.C. McKee, M.L. Clay, Frank Bridges.
An account of the evening was also found in the Kahoka Gazette Herald dated November 29, 1940, “Last Friday evening a dinner in honor of H.E. Sever, of Chicago, a retired publishing executive was held at the home of J.R. McLachlan, Past Grand Lecturer of the A.F. & A. M. of Missouri. Others present were Harry Truman Grand Master of the A.F. & A.M. of Missouri, H.M. Jayne of Memphis District Deputy Grand Master, Ralph Hill Worshipful Master of Hiram Lodge, Dr. J.R. Bridges, a member of the Hiram Lodge for more than fifty years, Harry Lewis, Frank Bridges and Marion Wilson.
The dinner preceded a meeting at the Masonic Temple at which Mr. Sever was presented with a button exemplifying his half-century of membership in the local order. In a quiet but impressive ceremony Sen. Truman presented Mr. Sever with the button, congratulated him and complimented him on his long membership and the service he had rendered to the communities in which he chose to reside,
Sen. Truman then asked Mr. Sever to make his reply. It was obvious that he was deeply moved and very proud of the rare honor received by him. In his reply he sketched his early life in Kahoka leading up to his affiliation with the Hiram Lodge.
Masons from Clark County and adjoining counties attended the ceremony.
It was just after five o'clock on April 12, 1945, that Truman received an urgent summons from the White House. When he arrived, Mrs. Roosevelt told him, "The President is dead." Truman asked, "Is there anything I can do for you?" But Mrs. Roosevelt responded, "Is there anything we can do for you? For you are the one in trouble now." At 7:09 that evening, Harry S. Truman was sworn in as the 33rd President of the United States.
The next day, Truman told reporters on Capitol Hill,
" Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now. I don't know ifyou fellows ever had a load of hay fall on you, but whenthey told me yesterday what had happened, I felt like themoon, the stars, and all the planets had fallen on me."