Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Washington
The history of Occident 48
By Norm Grier
The lodge’s history stretches back to the conclusion of the nineteenth century.
The story began with a tragedy.
On Nov. 3, 1891, the British sailing ship Strathblane wrecked on the beach 10 miles north of Ilwaco.
This would spark the formation of Occident Lodge 99, among Masons living on the Long Beach Peninsula, June 12, 1895.
Capt. John Cuthell drowned during the wreck, but First Mate James D. Murray was saved by holding onto the tail of a huge horse which was trained to swim in rough seas.
Cuthell and Murray were members of Mother Kilwinning Lodge, located on the estuary of the Clyde River in Scotland.
Although no lodge existed in Ilwaco, Murray asked local Masons to perform a Masonic funeral services for his captain and proper services for six of the crew who drowned. All were buried in the Ilwaco Cemetery.
Judge C.C. Dalton, who rode the horse that rescued Murray, invited him to stay with him in Ilwaco.
When Murray sailed home to Scotland, he related details of the shipwreck and the kindness of the Masons and citizens of the area.
Capt. Cuthell’s widow asked for a stone to be placed on her husband’s grave.
As a gift to thank the Ilwaco-area Masons, Kilwinning Lodge created a gavel from timber from a wrecked ship that had formed part of the Spanish Armada in 1588.
Murray returned to Ilwaco and married C.C Dalton’s sister, Frances. C.C. Dalton would become the fourth master of Occident 99.
Occident 99 secretary H.F. Corey took the Kilwinning gavel to the 1897 session of the Grand Lodge of Washington and Grand Master Yancey C. Blalock governed using the gavel throughout the session.
In 1930, the lodge moved to its present home at 205 E. Spruce Street, in Ilwaco. Grand Master William Bates was present for the dedication service. The Kilwinning gavel is on display in the front lobby.
When Murray returned to Ilwaco, he arranged for a stone marker to be placed on Capt. Cuthell’s grave. The six seamen’s graves were marked by wooden crosses.
Their identities had been lost until the Ilwaco Cemetery built a memorial to them. Ron Hylton of Pentilla’s Chapel by the Sea in Long Beach was instrumental in investigating, contacting agencies in Scotland and England, to discover the names of the six drowned seamen.
A stone honoring the six men was placed and paid for by Pentilla’s Chapel. It was dedicated Nov. 3, 1966, by Vicar Blaine Hammond of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church of Seaview. Members of Occident Lodge 99 attended the dedication.
Feb. 27, 2016, Occident 99 became Occident 48 following the merger with Gavel 48 of Raymond. A reconstitution ceremony was performed by Grand Master Donald G. Munks and his Grand Lodge team.
About the writer: Norm Grier has long shown a special interest in the history of Masonry on the Long Beach Peninsula. He joined the lodge in the 1950s and was its master in 1960. He took over as chaplain some 40 years ago, a position which had been held by his father, William Grier, for many years.
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OUR COMMUNITY SERVICE
Sam Roberts, grand secretary of the Freemasons of Washington, second right, was the guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Occident Lodge No. 48 in Ilwaco Feb. 2. He is pictured with, left to right, Mike Carmel of Long Beach, district deputy; Walt Twidwell of Brooklyn, senior deacon; and Ron Robbins of Ocean Park, master. Roberts spoke about the need for civility, issuing a challenge to all members of Freemasons’ lodges to set a high example for positive and civil public discussions, especially with people with whom they may disagree.
Civility is a priority, says grand secretary during Ilwaco visit
One word was on the mind of the grand secretary when he visited Occident No. 48 in February.
Sam Roberts issued a challenge to Masons everywhere to set an example for others to follow.
He said recent commitments by the grand lodges of Washington, California and British Columbia, Canada, have inspired other jurisdictions to unite in a belief that it is time for Masons to step up.
“Freemasonry is the last stronghold of civility,” he said, urging members to recall the memory of long-time Ilwaco chaplain Norm Grier, who died in December. “Norm Grier was a ‘civil’ human being. I’m going to ask you to pick up the banner by being the best example of civility in every case. ‘What would Norm do?’ That should be your motto.”
He noted that many churches with dwindling congregations — not all, but many, he stressed — have moved toward an entertainment mode in an effort to retain members.
Lodge members need to pick up that slack if moral lessons are missing.
“If people become ‘uncivil’ then society collapses,” said Roberts, referring to road rage, unchecked behavior by young people, and a general trend of a disrespect for solid values, including the flag and military uniforms.
“Every time you have the opportunity to demonstrate civility, do so,” he said. “We as Freemasons should stand up for civility and will not tolerate anything less.”
Occident 48 members Walt Twidwell, Ed Cox, Les Moore, Dick Rodlun and Mike Thornton all pitched in with related comments, lamenting changes they have seen or experienced in modern society that signal to a decline in civility.
Roberts commended all, and said in practice, civility means politeness, showing tolerance, having patience with neighbors with whom you disagree, not talking about people behind their backs, and following the ‘Golden Rule,’” he said.
“The best, ‘last bastion,’ is in this room — Freemasons.”