Collecting Fraternal New Mexico


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I’m not only crazy about fraternal collecting and Lodge life, I’m also crazy about my husband, my pets, sci-fi movies, and (another big one) New Mexico. I am a born and bred New Mexico boy, having grown up my whole life in Albuquerque. I’ve travelled all over the world, pretty literally, but I am always glad to get back to my dusty little city.

No giant shock, then, that I also have a niche in my collection for objects that originate in New Mexico. Even things that I might not otherwise collect become instant must-haves if they are from my fair state. As a result, I have a small but growing sub-collection of objects that are Local. Mind you, there isn’t a huge amount to go on: fraternalism has never been as big a Thing in New Mexico as it is in other states, even states directly adjacent. Many national organizations have only a token presence here, and some are gone from the state altogether.

Central New Mexico, for instance, was once a strong area for Knights of Pythias, centered around Socorro. There was a DOKK Temple in Silver City in 1903. That Temple, christened “Al Kahira,” later seems to have moved up to Albuquerque, in 1941, to be newly headquartered at the Pythian Hall at 3rd and Gold. But KoP is, far as I know, now completely gone from New Mexico, as there is no longer a Grand Lodge with jurisdiction here. That is a shame, in my opinion. (Incidentally, I would go nuts were I ever to find an Al Kahira fez!)

No longer with us, either, in the Land of Enchanment are the Improved Order of Red Men. Usually, I wouldn’t collect a photo in such terrible shape as this one, but this ca. 1930 snapshot of Red Men from Hurley, NM was absolutely not to be missed. The interesting details it contains also make it quite worth it. Is that a plug-in campfire?

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There are Elks here, of course. Not elk…well, yes there are plenty of elk in New Mexico…but Elks. BPOE, that is. I’m uncertain if there are IBPOEW, although down the way, toward the South end of the city, there is a building that appears to be an Elks lodge, but which is not noted on the BPOE website, so I have my suspicions. The Elks are quite big in New Mexico, especially down south. The Carlsbad Lodge is a truly massive organization. I had lunch there once while attending the (Masonic) Grand Lodge Communication being held across the way at a community center.

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And they’ve been active in New Mexico for decades. Based on the details of this GSP, I date it to the 50s.

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Odd Fellows continue to grace and enrich our state, I am pleased to say. The IOOF Grand Lodge for New Mexico is actually just around the corner from my own AF&AM Masonic Grand Lodge.

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The railroad towns of New Mexico—and we have as many as any other place, or we did back when—were heavily IOOF territory. Vaughn, NM these days might not even have a supermarket (I think they do have a grocery), but in the 19-teens it was enough of an iron horse boom town to apparently warrant its own Odd Fellows Lodge, in addition to the one just over the hill in nearby Duran. They consolidated in 1922, as evidenced by this form, which is a beautiful little piece of ephemera.

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Freemasonry is actually going pretty strong in New Mexico. Our Grand Lodge was organized in 1877, having descended from Ancients in Missouri, which in turn hearken back to the Ancients of North Carolina, by way of Tennessee (who are Moderns now, which is interesting). In addition to our Subordinate Lodges, we have Shrine (AAONMS), OES, Amaranth, White Shrine of Jerusalem, York & Scottish Rites and all of their myraid appendages, Sojourners, and Allied Masonic Degrees. Who knows what I’ve left off there. The only larger bodies, nationally, that we are missing would be Grotto (MOVPER) and Tall Cedars of Lebanon. Not all of our Lodges are growing, or even holding steady. But overall, we are getting younger and younger as a group. The current incoming lot, which includes me I suppose, filling in behind the lost generation, is largely in its 20s and 30s, and many Lodges in New Mexico have (or recently had) Masters in that age range, as well. Chapman #2, Temple #6, and Sandia #72 spring to mind, and I’m sure that there are others. Our sitting Grand Master is only 38!

I don’t know for certain, but when I bought this photo it was suggested that this might be a portrait of the Brethren of Gate City Lodge No. 11, in Raton, NM. Who knows. Some day I might manage some research that will confirm such a thing (it would be neat). I tried emailing Gate City years ago and their listed email address was dead. Ho Hum. Until then, I’m calling it Gate City 11!

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The Great Depression might have throttled American fraternalism, but the Shrine never gave up, and always insisted on continued extravagance and display. Here, the Ballut Abyad Band is pictured at the Silver City train station, looking like they are ready to parade.

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And of course…fezzes. Who are you talking to here? I actually entered these two BA pieces into the State Fair last year, in the Antiques and Collectibles competition. The lady at the registration desk looked at me like I was crazy, and said in a deeply condescending tone, “…fezzes?” (My husband almost slapped her.) But I was not to be deterred. I smiled and chirped right back, “Yes, ma’am! Fezzes!” Shaking her head, still kind of sneering at me, “Well…are they at least…old?” “They’re from the 40s, ma’am.” She kinda raised an eyebrow; she’d had a moment to look at them, and they really are beautiful pieces. She shrugged and made out the tags.

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The White Shrine of Jerusalem is a Christian body appended to the (Masonic) Knights Templar. There aren’t many of them still around, although I believe they are still currently active in New Mexico. This fez suggests that at some point they were expert paraders. I gotta watch for photos of these ladies.

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2 comments on “Collecting Fraternal New Mexico

  1. Jason Castlebury says:

    Don’t know how to send you pictures of Elks wearing apron’s or the apron pictures that I have taken of apron’s in framed pictures on the walls of Elks Lodges that have been passed down threw the ages.
    Most Elks do not wear apron’s any more as it is not required any more by the Elks Grand Lodge that was in New York City at the time of 1895 when the vote to not require the Grand Lodge officer’s or the subordinate lodge officer’s to wear them aswell. I wear a designed replica BPOE lodge apron only during initiation was when you wear the Elk apron. Their are some Elks that wear replica aprons like Trenton NJ Elks do wear an apron or two as shown on their web sight ! I myself would love to buy a real BPOE apron that is the style of apron I want. Any how how can send the images to this sight or to you???
    Because I’m not aware how to do this from my iPhone!

  2. Jason Castlebury says:

    If you have any question’s about Elks send to the email of jmcdrums@aol.com
    I’m sure I can send photos of lodge rooms that are awesome and elks wearing aprons and elk apron designs and the fathers of the Elks fraternity.

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