The North East Lodge #266 Hall later became a school.
A casual glance at the map of California will show how appropriately North East Lodge #66 of Fort Bidwell was named. It was up in the northeast corner of Modoc County, about seven miles west of the Nevada state line and ten miles south of Oregon. With exception of Cow Head Lake, its location, (which was a military post from 1866 to 1892), is probably the northeastern-most point of significance in the state. Yet, because of a fire that destroyed its hall and records on July 24, 1948 and forced it to meet in the Temple of Surprise Valley Lodge of Cedarville, its history depends mostly on reminiscences and a few data from Sherman and the Grand Lodge Proceedings.
North East received its dispensation from Grand Master Clay W. Taylor April 1, 1882 and its charter October 12 of the same year. Its first meeting place was the Odd Fellows Hall, which it subsequently came into possession of and used until the fire of 1948. George Martin Kober, a physician stationed at the fort, was first Master; Alfred M. Hamlin, Senior Warden; and James B. Smith, Junior Warden.
According to a letter written by Kober to the Alturas Plain Dealer over half a century later, North East had 12 petitioners for dispensation; his was the 12th. It seems that he had joined Surprise Valley Lodge, (twenty-five miles away), in order to help organize a new one closer to home. He was persuaded to do it, he said, by Surprise Valley brethren who lived around Fort Bidwell, and who apparently had the notion that they needed twelve members to open a lodge.
An idea of the steadiness of North East’s membership may be gained from the fact that, up to May of 1949, only 165 names had been entered upon its rolls from the day it was established. This can mean only one thing: when a man joined that Lodge, he was usually in it for a long time. There was something about it that held the loyalty of its members despite the coming and going of the soldiers at the fort and occasional suspensions for non-payment of dues.
Also, despite its backwoods environment, it was an enterprising Lodge. Kober accredited it with holding the first St. Johns Day celebration in Surprise Valley. This celebration, held June 22, 1883, was well-attended by the brethren of Modoc County, California and Lake County, Oregon. It was a real news item for the Lake County Examiner: “At 11 o’clock sharp,” this journal noted, “the procession, headed by the Alturas Brass Band, marched from the Masonic Hall up Main Street, countermarched to the garrison, around the same, and countermarched to the Town Hall, where the exercises were held…” Then followed a lengthy description of the program, covering all the prayers, songs, orations and music. A long poem composed by Past Master Kober was printed in full. Even the banners carried in the parade, which were made by the ladies of the town, were described.
Coming own through the years, however, we find that no biographical data have been made available on the early members of this interesting Lodge. To this day, its most outstanding member appears to have been its first Master, George M. Kober. He is best remembered for only three things: for being first Master; for his lifelong membership; and for bequeathing to the Lodge $10,000 for “investments.” Little is known of his personality and life aside from the fact that he lived to a ripe old age and died, presumably in Washington, DC, April 24, 1931.
On July 1, 1962, North East joined Surprise Valley and became Modoc Lodge #235.
(The above text was abbreviated in the interest of website space. For a complete manuscript, please contact the Lodge Secretary).
North East Lodge #266
Fort Crook Lodge 250 F&AM