University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
Link to University of Wisconsin Digital Collections
The State of Wisconsin Collection

Page View

Cartwright, Carol Lohry; Shaffer, Scott; Waller, Randal / City on the Rock River : chapters in Janesville's history
(1998)

11. Social and political organizations,   pp. 189-207


Page 192

Janesville, is historically significant and individually potentially eligible for the National
Register of Historic Places and is listed as a contributing resource within the Old Fourth Ward
Historic District).
Fraternal Groups
On one hand, fraternal groups helped form a social order in American society and have
performed many important social and charitable activities for their communities and the
nation. On the other hand, fraternal organizations have historically been class-oriented and
discriminatory in their membership. There are two types of fraternal groups: the club or social
group that emphasizes fellowship and secrecy, and the benevolent or insurance-providing
societies that emphasize insurance services for their members. The Masons are the oldest
fraternal group of the social type. Their first Wisconsin lodge was established in Wisconsin at
Green Bay. In 1843, there were also lodges at Platteville, Mineral Point, and Milwaukee. By
1865, there were about 150 lodges in the state. Other historic fraternal groups include the Odd
Fellows, and the temperance group, the Good Templars. (Wyatt 1986: Social and Political
Movements, 5-1-54)
Between 1866 and 1910, fraternal activity peaked. New groups established in Wisconsin
included the Knights of Pythias, Shriners, Eagles, Elks, Foresters, and Modem Woodmen.
Insurance-providing groups also flourished. Female auxiliaries followed, the most well-known
being the Masonic Auxiliary, the Order of the Eastern Star. Fraternal groups were often formed
along ethnic lines; such membership requirements held up until the mid-twentieth century,
when minority groups challenged such policies as discriminatory. After 1910, the fraternal
groups generally stopped growing. Economic changes and changing social customs had a
detrimental effect on lodges. And more recently, the discrimination charges resulted in bad
publicity for many groups. Most communities, though, still have one or more active fraternal
groups. (Wyatt 1986: Social and Political Movements, 5-4-5-6)
Masons
Several Masonic lodges were founded in Janesville. The first was the Western Star Lodge No.
14, Free and Accepted Masons, established in 1848. In 1850, Masonic chapter No. 5 of Royal
Arch Masons was formed, and in 1855, the Janesville Masons established the Janesville Blue
Lodge No. 55, Free and Accepted Masons, which would become the leading lodge in Janesville.
The Janesville Masons also formed several other lodges, including the Janesville Commandary
No. 2 Knights Templar, Cebal Council No. 2, Royal and Select Masters, Order of the Eastern
Star No. 69, Zion Shrine No. 15, Jobs Daughters, and Order of DeMolay. (Brown 1908"541, 544,
551; Butterfield 1879:579-580; "History of Masonic Lodge No. 55," RCHS files)
Janesville's Masonic lodges met in rented halls in commercial blocks in Janesville's downtown.
When Morris Smith erected his large commercial block on the northeast corner of North Main
and East Milwaukee streets (not extant) in 1872, the Masons rented an upper story of the
building as their Masonic Temple. They remained in the Smith Block until 1905, when they
purchased the old Court Street Methodist Church (38 S. Main St.). The Masons remained at
this location until 1966, when they moved to a new temple at 2322 E. Milwaukee St. (Brown
1908:566; "History of Masonic Lodge No. 55," RCHS files)
The most significant extant home of the Masons in Janesville is the old Court Street Methodist
Church (38 S. Main St.). In part because of its association with the historic Masonic groups, the
church was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1977 and is a contributing
resource in the South Main Street Historic District. The modem Masonic Temple at 2322 E.
Social and Political Organizations
192


Go up to Top of Page