By Jan Wyllie
In 1895 there were 3 prominent gentlemen living in Port Huron who belonged to the Flint Lodge of Elks #222. These 3 men, David McArron, B. J. Karrer, Sr. and Frank S. Beckton, conceived the idea of establishing a lodge of Elks in Port Huron.
In the early part of 1896, 34 prominent business and professional men and on April 28, 1896, a lodge was organized here. District Deputy Joseph B. McInnes of Grand Rapids Lodge #48 came here to assist in the organization. At that time, he was assisted by members of Saginaw Lodge #47, Flint Lodge #333, New York Lodge #1, and Duluth Lodge #133.
The initial meeting was held in Woodmen Hall which at the time was over Knill Drug Store, on the N.E. corner of Quay Street and Huron Avenue. The meetings were held there until 1902 when the quarters became inadequate and it was necessary to move.
On September 12, 1902, Port Huron Elks Lodge 343 engaged the 3rd floor of the Moore block and furnished it ready for occupancy. The opening in the new Lodge rooms was on October 9, 1902.
During this period there was great interest taken in ritualistic work, so much so, that on June 27, 1908, a team went to Kalamazoo and won the much coveted state trophy for that work against such men as “Puss” Palmer, who was the Attorney General of the State of Michigan. The trophy is still on exhibit in our Sylvie Room.
The Lodge prospered and became the social center of Port Huron. In 1910, the Moore Block quarters also became inadequate. A movement was started to build a new temple in Port Huron. On June 24, 1910, a resolution was passed authorizing the Exalted Ruler to appoint a committee of 3 to investigate the advisability of erecting a Temple, select a site, secure options on such property as would be adaptable, purchase or otherwise secure the necessary land.
An appointed building committee submitted a report to the Lodge on October 7, 1920 to the effect that suitable property was available at Pine and Military Street and it was decided to purchase that site.
The corner stone was laid on October 9, 1910 and the Temple opened on October 9, 1912. A formal ball was held on December 3rd that year.
The Temple became increasingly popular and in November 1922, the First Mortgage Bonds were paid off. During the depression years, the Lodge had rough sailing to meet the payment of the Second Mortgage Bonds. However, the crisis was met in 1941 and to signal its freedom from debt, the Lodge burned the mortgage on the Temple.
In 1970 the Elks were dying a slow death and the building needed much maintenance. A group of several younger members formed to see what could be done and they came up with a proposal to sell of the old building and purchase enough property for a lodge and a golf course which was approved at a special meeting with over 200 members in attendance.
On November 16, 1971 the committee formed a non-profit corporation called 343 Valley, Inc.
On December 5, 1971, 343 Valley purchased 3292 Beach Road (our present location) from Hidden Valley Country Club, Inc. and the Oxbow Island from Andrew Bryan for $210,000. A down payment of $50,000 was made with the balance on a land contract.
On February 25, 1972, the downtown bar and most of the bar contents were sold for $30,000 and we moved our daily operations to 3292 Beach Road. The land contract was paid off in 11 years and all the 343 stock was repurchased by the Elks within 13 years.
Through the years there have been tons and tons of volunteer work and fundraising efforts to improve upon what we started with. Thanks to the many efforts of the Lodge Improvement Committee, monies have raised have paid for the majority. New entry, new chairs, new carpet, painting, new air conditioning, heating, and much more.
Sources and information presented in this article can be found here.
Jan Wyllie has been a member of the Port Huron Elks Lodge 343 for the past 22 years being initiated on August 8, 1996. She was the second woman to join the Elks after the first woman, Marion Evans who was initiated on January 25, 1996. Jan has been the editor of the P.H. Elks Lodge newsletter called the Expositor since April 1997 through the present with a little break in the middle from June 2006 to March 2010. Jan has been an Officer of the Lodge several times being Lecturing Knight, Loyal Knight, Inner Guard, Tiler, Esquire, Chaplain, Trustee and Chairman of the Board of Trustees. Through the years she has sat in for absent Officers on numerous occasions. She has chaired many events at the Lodge including Children’s Christmas Party, Easter Egg Hunt, New Year’s Parties, Super Bowl Parties, Expositor Parties, Family Picnic, Spam Fest, and many more. She continues to this day to make posters for events, tickets for events, programs, and more.
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