Monday, September 20, 2010

Historic Lodge: Chebanse Lodge No. 429

The Chebanse Railroad Station
I took a trip this evening up north to Chebanse, Illinois for a Scottish Rite Rendezvous, which is an education program for perspective members. Chebanse is just a few miles south of Kankakee, and I’ve passed it many times on my trips back and forth to Chicago, but never stopped before. It’s a town that struck me right off the bat as obviously rich in railroad history. The tracks cut more than a block-wide path through town, and off to the east side of the tracks sat what was obviously an original rail station, which serves as the Village Office now. I arrived very early, so I had a chance to take a long walk. Chebanse is a quiet little community, with some beautiful old homes, and perfectly maintained old churches. So now, Chebanse, you know who that weirdo was walking around taking pictures of the water tower, various churches, and the railroad depot this afternoon.

Stupid amateur photographer forgot
to take picture of the lodge itself. 
Just got the sign.  He's fired.
After my walk, I went back to Chebanse Lodge No. 429, which I learned has a history that stretches back to before the Civil War. It turns out the Masonic lodge is an important part of the town’s railroad history. The first floor was set up as a traveler’s rest. People traveling by train could get a meal there, and rent a cot with a straw mattress to rest between trains as they traveled.

After the presentation, my good friend Brother Cecil Rabourne took me upstairs to the lodge room to show me “the artifact.” I had a feeling they had one. It was even better than I thought. It was a trowel made with the iron tip of a Confederate flag standard taken from the 17th Virginia Confederate Calvary by Sergeant Duckworth of the 8th Illinois Calvary at the Battle of Gettysburg. Not only an artifact from Gettysburg, but a Famous American Freemason to boot! I was very, very happy.

The beautiful Chebanse Lodge No. 429.  Check out that altar!
Cecil let me examine it (big picture below), and photograph it, and then laid out the Gettysburg Battlefield on top of the secretary’s desk to show me exactly where it was captured. And, of course, as a bonus, the Chebanse Lodge has a beautiful lodge room, with rich furnishings and a gorgeous antique marble top altar. The rounded ceiling was especially stunning to me, with the four big lanterns that projected the Masonic square and compasses up onto it (picture below). I wish I’d had more time, but it was getting late, and I had a long drive home.

As I’ve said many times before, history is everywhere, all you have to do is look for it, and you’ll find it. Chebanse is certainly a good example of that. I had a great time this evening, ran into some old friends, met some new friends, and had a great meal (as so many travelers before me have). I’d like to thank Cecil Rabourne for taking me on the behind the scenes tour.

When I published my first book, Cecil called me, and I didn’t know him then, and asked me to come up and speak in Kankakee for the Kankakee Chapter of the Golden Eagles at the Homestead Restaurant. It was one of the first times I'd given an after dinner speech.  The meal was much better than the speech I gave, but Cecil picked up the ticket anyway. I’d like to congratulate Cecil for being selected by the Valley of Danville to received the Meritorious Service Award (the coveted red cap). It’s much deserved, Cecil.


The Chebanse Trowel Engraving:
"Iron Spear Head of Flag Staff
From
Flag of 17th Virginia Confederate Calvary
Captured By
Sergeant Richard Duckworth
8th Illinois Calvary, Co. K
Presented To
Chebanse Lodge No. 429 A.F. & A.M.
By A. W. & W.A. Duckworth"
 
The hanging lights cast the Masonic square and
compasses up to the ceiling of Chebanse Lodge.  Stunning!
The creators of this piece cleverly bent the prong of the Confederate
flag standard to create the trowel.  It hangs in their lodge in a display
case of the working tools of Freemasonry.  I failed to ask, but I'd
be willing to bet they use this trowel in their degree work to this day.


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