Postcard of original Greenfield Elks Lodge
From the beginning in 1913 with 44 members, the Greenfield Lodge of Elks has enjoyed a steady growth to its present stature of over five hundred members in the year 2012. In 1913 when it was known as the “Baby Lodge” of the state, it was thoroughly publicized and highly complimented at a dinner given at the Copley-Plaza in Boston on February 22, 1913 when Elk members were present from all over New England and other sections of the country.
The first quarters of the Lodge were in Foresters’ Hall in the Gazette building on Bank Row. With the steady gain in membership the need for larger quarters became imperative and on April 26, 1913, the present attractive home on Church Street, was purchased from Mrs. Rosa Starkey, possession to be taken about the first of July.
The committee that negotiated the purchase was Charles O. Douville, William Donaldson and Frank J. Lawler. The Lodge set a record in the nation by purchasing a home in the same year that it was organized. Title to the land was taken in the name of a corporation which was formed on July 16, 1913 under the certification of Frank J. Donohue, then secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The incorporators were Walter S. Carson, Barney J. Michelman, George F. Merrill, James W. Black, Charles O. Douville and Charles M. Savage. The corporation was established to promote the social welfare of its members and purchase real estate and erect buildings on the same for maintaining prominent quarters for the accommodation and association of its members and their guests.
At a meeting held at the Devens Hotel on June 7, 1913, the officers were entertained at dinner with a few invited quests and pledges of approximately $6,000 for the purchase price were reported. Among the first contributors was Frederick R. Hollister of Boston.
After the arrival in town of Admiral and Mrs. Charles E. Clark in June, 1913, Greenfield Lodge of Elks sent them a bouquet of roses in recognition of Admiral Clark’s service in bringing the “Oregon” from the
Pacific to Cuban waters in record time. At the meeting of June 28, 1913, a letter was read from Mrs. Clark expressing appreciation of the gift.
During the organization of the Lodge, Brother Daniel W. Ragovin was helpful in aiding the Charter Members to perform their duties, but because he was only nineteen years of age was ineligible to join. This, however, did not prevent Dan from assisting at the functions of the Lodge., and he could be seen carrying furniture down Federal Street for the storage at the Lawler Theatre where Lodge plays and functions were held. He also supplied numerous folding chairs to the Elks Home from his furniture store on Bank Row when it was first organized. Dan is still with us and visits the Lodge when his health permits. In effect he claims a Charter Membership.
As members of “Elkdom”, we are all acquainted with the Elk on the Trail and how it came about through the efforts of members of the Greenfield Lodge.
In the spring of 1923, there was an early thaw and a resulting break-up of the ice on the Deerfield River between Charlemont and Shelburne Falls, and in one low area on the highway known as Route 2 near Charlemont, the river overflowed its banks and water then froze over the surface of the highway to a height of 10 to 12 feet in this area. It was necessary to blast a single lane through this ice so that cars could travel the road. Much publicity was given this incident at the time. Richard Sears of Boston came to this area to take pictures of this situation for the movies. The Lawler brothers, who were members of the Greenfield Lodge, ran the local Lawler Theatre, and Tom Lawler was then Exalted Ruler. Mr. Sears contacted Tom Lawler whom he knew well and ass a result of that meeting, Mr. Sears came to the meeting of the Elks, and was invited to say a few words regarding the Charlemont ice jam. During this short speech, Mr. Sears made the following comment: “Yor area is beautiful, and what a nice thing it would be to have some sort of memorial on the Mohawk Trail in memory of the Elks who lost their lives in World War I. A committee was immediately organized consisting of James B. Kennedy, Barney J. Michelman, Thomas L. Lawler, Charles Fairhurst and Walter S. Carson. The cost of the Elk on the Trail Memorial was approximately $6,000 and the committee signed a note in this amount to obtain the money and later on made pocket watch fobs and the ladies’ pins for their dresses and sold them for fifty cents each. The committee was able to raise or obtain the money to pay the note and at the dedication had approximately fifty girls selling watch fobs for fifty cents each. The committee was fortunate in paying all expenses of the state
Convention being held at Greenfield at the time, including the expense for the Dedication for Elks on the Trail Monument and had a balance of $1800 to turn over to the Greenfield Lodge. The laying of the foundation for the granite boulder on which the Elk stands, was an important event for the local members. There was a party held at the site which included members of Adams Lodge, North Adams Lodge and the Greenfield Lodge. These Lodges were very helpful in this event.
The Granite Boulder which forms the foundation for the Elk, came from Chester, Mass. And weighed 26 tons in its original rough shape before it was chiseled down to its present shape. Two large trucks carried the boulder over the highways and bridges. It had to be hauled over the roads at midnight, and after three days after the stone or boulder was erected, the permit to allow the hauling of the boulder over the road was received. This permit described the allowed route to travel and the manner in which it must be done. It is understood that by using two large trucks in transporting the same, they were able to do it legally without said permit. The land upon which the Memorial stands was donated to the Elks without charge. The committee and the Brother Lodges of North Adams and Adams turned the complete Memorial over to the Massachusetts Elks Association with all bills paid in full. A portion of the money used to pay for the memorial was obtained from contributions of different Lodges throughout the state. There were many dignitaries at the Dedication including J. Edgar Masters, Grand Exalted Ruler; James R. Nicholson, Past Grand Exalted Ruler; and John P. Brennan, President of the Elks Association.
In presenting the memorial to the Mass. Elks Association, James B. Kennedy, chairman of the convention committee said:
"As Chairman of the Elk on the Trail Committee appointed by the several Lodges in Massachusetts to erect this Elk on the Trail Memorial in memory of our Brothers who lost their lives in the World War, Mr. President, my pleasant duty is now completed and I present to you and through you to the Mass. Elks Assoc, this Elk on the Trail Memorial, and may it inspire the passersby with the deep sympathy that Elks hold for their departed Brothers.
"I trust this Memorial will stand the test of time and will serve well the purpose for which it has been erected,
and may it assist in putting a little sunshine and happiness in the hearts and homes of those who furnished these brave sons."
1913 Walter S. Carson
1914 Francis J. Lawler
1915 James W. Black
1916 John J. Kelley
1917 William Donaldson
1918 Barney J. Mickelman
1919 James B. Kennedy
1920 William C. Burns
1921 William H. Barr
1922 August G. Keller
1923 Thomas L. Lawler