Fort Crook Lodge 250 F&AM

Modoc Lodge 235 was originally Surprise Valley Lodge #235 located in Cedarville, California.  North East Lodge #266 in Fort Bidwell joined Surprise Valley and became Modoc Lodge #235 in 1962. 

Surprise Valley Lodge was the first Masonic Lodge organized in Modoc County.  It got its start July 27, 1873 when nine brethren met at the home of Robert Weld Minto in Eagleville to discuss ways and means of getting organized Masonry into that remote section of the country. 

As their first order of business, these Brother Masons appointed William H. Hornbeck as chairman and William T. Cressler as secretary.  They then chose the name Surprise Valley for the proposed lodge, taking it from the surrounding valley.  James Josiah Dorris, who does not appear to have been present, was elected first Master.  To Frank McClintock and Emory J. Nichols, respectively, went the offices of Senior and Junior Warden.  Also, a number of committees were appointed.  One was to begin construction of a Lodge Hall, another was to take subscriptions for furnishings, and so on. 

Owing to their backwoods location, however, their work proceeded somewhat slowly.  Modoc was still a part of Siskiyou County, roads were practically non-existent and communications exasperatingly slow.  But, eventually Lassen Lodge recommended their petition for a dispensation and its Master certified Dorris’ qualifications to do the work.  The dispensation was granted by Grand Master J.S. Titus April 8, 1874 and the first meeting was held under it on May 23.  A Grand Lodge charter followed on October 16th of the same year. 

Though the material available on Surprise Valley Lodge is quite limited, we learn from Sherman and Grand Lodge Proceedings that  it was somewhat in the same position as Janesville Lodge when it came to officer material, (persons qualified to be and interested in being Lodge Officers).  Dorris led off with two consecutive terms in 1874 and 1875.  He was succeeded by John Heath Bonner, who was the first Inspector of that District and who served eight terms as Master from 1876 to 1893.   The Lodge had only nine different Masters during its first 28 years of existence. 

Surprise Valley’s growth was considerably different from that of Janesville.  From its first returns of 15 in 1874, it moved up to 31 by 1900 and from there to 71 by 1950.  It eventually dropped off to 51 by 1940.  It merged with North East Lodge #266 July 1, 1962 and became Modoc #235. 

So far as can be discovered, neither Sherman nor any other Masonic source throws much light on the private lives of any of Surprise Valley’s members.  But, in the histories of Modoc County we find that its first Secretary, William T. Cressler, and its second Master, Bonner, owned the first trading establishment in the county.  It was located in what is now the oldest building in the county, crude log structure built in 1865 by a man named Townsend, who was shortly thereafter killed by Indians.  Because of its location on the trail used by emigrants coming down from Oregon to the California gold fields, its proprietors did a thriving business. 

Bonner was also much interested in another project, the building of the road over Bonner Grade which was named after him.  It was the first road between Cedarville and Alturas and was maintained by Bonner until Siskiyou County took it over in 1871. 

(The above text was revised and abbreviated in the interest of website space.  For a complete manuscript, please contact the Lodge Secretary). 

This building, serving as home to Warner Mountain Weavers, began as the Deep Creek Schoolhouse in 1874.

The Masons, who had organized the area's first Lodge in Eagleville in 1873, added a second story to the existing building and used it for their meeting hall for many decades.

A great number of Surprise Valley's founding fathers were members of fraternal organizations such as the Masons; some social historians have speculated their isolation in the remote and sparsely settled region led to the rapid growth of groups such as the Masons, Oddfellows, Knights of Pythias and others that were once active in the valley.

When the Chase family bought the building from the Masons in 1998, the windows were not only heavily draped and shuttered but boarded over with plywood. "It was pitch black inside!" remembers Bonnie. The ladies of the Eastern Star met in the downstairs room while the Masons held meetings in the space overhead. When they sold the building, they left several long, sturdy tables and green benches the Chases still use.

Today, the downstairs is a light-filled store where customers might not only shop for unique woven items and fiber art materials but where they can take lessons in knitting. Bonnie has a line of hand-dyed yarn she sells under the label Deep Creek Yarns. Warner Mountain Weavers also features local handcrafts such as pottery, jewelry, handmade knives, and a variety of soaps and lotions. 

Modoc Lodge 235

Surprise Valley Lodge 235