The History of the B.P.O.E. #484
The early history of the New Castle Lodge No. 484 B.P.O.E. is somewhat obscure. And, while 100 years may not seem like too long a time, it should be remembered that our founders probably were thinking more about the immediate future back in 1899 than they were in preserving a record for 100 years or more hence. Most of the recollections of the early days are from hearsay or from legend.
It is disputed as to where the first meetings of the New Castle Elks lodge were held. The lodge was actually instituted on May 9, 1899. And the most authentic version – although it may be disputed – is that the first meetings of the order were in rooms on the second floor of a building known as the Shroyer building.
The building was at the corner of Main and Broad Streets on the present site of the Citizens State Bank. Some of our members may recall Neff-Barr drygoods store was on the ground floor of this old building for many years. The Shroyer building was erected by a pioneer citizen of New Castle and was wrecked several years ago to make way for the new bank home.
There is also one more definite date in the history of New Castle Lodge 484. That was July 12, 1900, when the charter was presented. The charter contains the names of 26 members. The Anderson lodge was in charge of the presentation.
The presentation ceremony was held on the third floor of what was then known as the Murphy building on the southeast corner of Main and Broad Streets. This building, which still stands was known later as the Goodwin Building, and today houses the New Castle Chamber of Commerce and other city/county offices.
In those days, one of the most active clubs in New Castle was known as the New Castle Club. Its members contained many prominent young men of the community and the story goes all of the members became Elks and since the New Castle club had the club rooms, the Elks Lodge moved in and took over the quarters. The members joined the Elks enmass. The third floor location has become a tradition. Even before the Elks, it was the first meeting place of the New Castle Masonic lodge and after the Elks it was the second home of the Moose lodge.
Our written records start with a program dated May 10 & 11, 1910. The program was saved from one of the many Elks Minstrels that were held as a fund-raiser for the organization. This particular one was held at the Alcazar Theatre and featured Elk Brothers James Morrup, Maurice C. Goodwin, Willard Beck, Charles Ogborne, Milford Wigel, George Schmidt, Henry Thomas and others. The program shows advertising from nearly all New Castle businesses that were operating at the time. Some of them were Lee Livezy – Jess French Piano Sales Representative, Clinton & Cannon Livery, Feed and Sale Stable located on Ross St., Chas. B. Thompson – Abstracts, Insurance, Real Estate and Loans, Martin, Martin and Co. – Buy your anthracite now, Maxwell-Briscoe-Newby Motor Co. on Broad Street, Central Trust & Savings Co., Finnegan Brothers – leading decorators located on Broad Street, and many others.
Many of the Elks Meetings from 1912 until 1920 covered such items as announcing who was ill, who passed away, possible new members, initiation of new members, repairs needed to the Elks home, developing a constitution and by-laws, keeping the old coal furnace running, and deciding how much to charge for dues. Donations to charitable causes were also important as they still are today.
One of the interesting things the minutes of each meeting show is the location of members. Each time a member joined, resigned, took a leave of absence (called a dimit), moved to another town, moved to another state, joined another Elks lodge, go married, or died – it is recorded. Our records actually offer a complete history on hundreds if not thousands of men that have been members during our 100 years.
Officers were nominated every year in late March or early April. Election of officers was held each April and installation was held shortly thereafter. The installation of officers was a big affair for all involved. Formal dinners for all of the men were held after the installation was over. Some of the dinners included rabbit, short ribs, and turkey.
The treasury was a constant concern. At one time, a type of stock was sold to members to help build up funds for the Club. In later years, members or their widows were permitted to cash in their stock and be paid interest on it.
On occasion, one of the brothers would get out of line in the social rooms and have to be reprimanded. One such incident started when of the brothers threw a missile across the room at another member. The brother was ordered to make an apology in the lodge room to other members.
Ladies were not permitted in the Elks home until the mid 1912’s. At that time an annual ladies evening was held, where dinner was served and musical entertainment was provided. Of course the ladies in attendance were the wives of members, this was not for single women. In later years the club allowed women to enter the club on the first Tuesday of each month.
1917 shows the concern the men had for their community when they voted to donate $500 to the New Castle Tornado Relief Fund. 1917 also shows the patriotism the lodge brothers had. When World War I broke out, the lodge collected funds, sent packages to service men, helped families here at home, and helped to pay for funerals for those who didn’t have the money to do so.
After the war was over, the lodge continued to help children with medical needs, donated regularly to the Red Cross and the Salvation Army and was one of the first to donate a substantial amount of money to the New Y.M.C.A.
Prior to 1925 it appears to be common for the lodge to help women find their husbands. If a man walked out on his wife, the lodges across the United States would send telegrams to each other looking for the missing husband. If he was found, the husband was sent home (usually by train) at the lodge’s expense.
The Fire Works Displays were also a project of the Elks. The brothers were a major component for several years in seeing that the fire works were purchased, the bands were hired, and the food was served. The people of Henry County came out in force to participate and show their appreciation in the annual July 4th celebration.
By the early 1930’s the Elks had shown their support in numerous New Castle Community Projects. To name a few: collecting funds for Memorial Park, sending money to local orphans, donating funds for the Soldiers’ Monument for veterans of the Civil War, donating to the Christmas Cheer program, donating to the Family Welfare Society, donating to the Henry County Tuberculosis Association, and donating a large amount of money to build a Hospital here in Henry County.
The Depression Era didn’t seem to have much of an impact on the Club. The one thing that is printed – if a brother was low on funds to pay his dues, the club would allow him to pay a smaller amount or another brother would pay the dues. Many times, if a brother appeared to be in need – the other members would join together to help out.
Flag Day was another important event each year. A large celebration was held each year on the lawn of the Elks home. The public was invited and food and entertainment was provided. A well-known speaker was asked to give the address each year.
Increasing the membership was also important up through the 1930’s. On one membership drive 99 new members were initiated. The group was so large, the lodge rented the Grand Theatre for the event.
Through the mid 1930’s charity was still a big priority. Individuals and local organizations were donated to at almost every meeting. Keeping records of individual members was still very important. In 1935, the remaining living Charter Members were honored – 4 were still living.
1935 also showed some pleasant discussion of a new sewer system being installed in New Castle. The work was being done by PWA workers. This was the Roosevelt era when the Public Works Act was developed to strengthen the work force of the United States.
Cars were becoming part of the lives of the men in the club. However, a sad note came up often when these same men who enjoyed the new cars were also killed by them.
Donations to the Episcopal Church, the Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, the First Christian Church, and Presbyterian Church were also given to their building funds.
During the later part of the 30’s the Elks home saw a newly remodeled kitchen, new furniture and new decorating. The bowling teams were still strong and the club was still growing with new members each month. Golf Tournaments were also popular with the men. The top prize of $100 was considered substantial for the day.
The Elks and the Local Parent Teacher Association joined forces to earn money in the amount of $100 to supply milk at school to under nourished children. 1939 also saw the Elks join the Nation in communicating the Standardization of traffic rules and codes.
In the early 1940’s the new Henry County Hospital was open and in full operation. Although the service was greatly needed in the county, many of the county people had no medical insurance as most of us have today. The lodge assisted in paying hospital bills for lodge brothers and their family members on several occasions.
By 1941 members are leaving to train with the various branches of the United States Military. Of course, the lodge supported the National Defense Program and supported those serving our country. World War II was by now in full force and many of New Castle’s young men were serving. The Elks donated not only money, but food, cigarettes, clothing, first aid supplies, sent Christmas packages, and sent letters.
Throughout the 1940’s the lodge increased its charity to children’s needs. The lodge donated money for operations and medicine, crutches, food, clothing, and more. The lodge also paid for students to attend camps and attend education functions. Scholarships to college were started, and sports events for students were endorsed.
By 1945 the lodge had purchased in excess of $21,000.00 in War Bonds to support the United States and those fighting for us. In addition, the lodge increased its donations to the Red Cross substantially.
By the end of the 1940’s the lodge had tripled in membership and the demand for a larger home was heard daily. The membership started plans for a remodeling project to accommodate its members, their need for social space, and a need for families to join them. December 1, 1949 the lodge votes yes to the building project.
The early 1950’s show increasing membership, continued charity donations now in excess of $1500 per year and the main charity being directed toward youth. The lodge minutes show on several occasions that the race of the youth was not an issue when donating to youth. The club shows donations to both white and black youth for participation in dinners, sports activities, clothing, medical needs, and many other causes.
The lodge continues to record all possible information about location, health, and death of its members. The Red Cross is still receiving large donations for its work. In 1951 the lodge donated another $500 to the Y.M.C.A’s rehabilitation program.
Travel being very easy now, larger groups of members traveled to the State and National Elks Conventions each year. Larger groups were joining in Elks activities at the local lodge and membership was still growing.
1952 saw the first Elks “Tom and Jerry Party”. If you remember 1952 you will also know that television was the big thing now (no colored TV yet). $10 was donated to the Soldiers and Sailors Home at Knightstown to purchase a television set for the colored ward.
The 50’s also saw the development of the Heart Fund, the Blood Bank, and the Cancer Society. The local lodge donated regularly to these three organizations. The First Aid unit was in the middle of a fund drive to build a new place to house the First Aid.
Near the end of the 1950’s the Charity donations were topping $2000 per year, with 90% of the donations going to Youth in Henry County. Americans were over the Korean War, and men were getting back to work here in the County.
In the 1960’s the club saw a major expansion to the building with the addition of the new dining room and bar area added to the south of the home. Donations were continuing to be given to the area Youth in the form of sponsoring sports teams, sending youth to camp, and giving scholarships. In addition donations were made to charity for the needy, cancer society, the Y.M.C.A., Clothe a Child, Charity Christmas Baskets, and the Robinson Youth Center as well as other groups.
The lodge saw yet another war in the 60’s. The Vietnam War. Member’s sons and daughters were going to war this time. The younger men were not joining the club as readily as their fathers had. Membership continued to grow, but at a slower pace.
Through the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s the club has continued to grow to more than 600 members. The use of the club facilities and as an organization has grown dramatically by the women of Henry County, with first Women being permitted to join as a full member in 1998.
The club has developed into a positive Henry County Organization that continues to be devoted to Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity. The charities and activities in which the Elks help to support each year continues to grow.
No one knows what the future holds, but all B.P.O.Elks members will continue to donate their time and money to help others. They will continue to show brotherly love and fidelity. And, each Elk member will continue to support Justice (and freedom) for all.