Diveristy in Friendship
by Antone R.E. Pierucci
Celebrate the roots of California freemasonry with this stunning coffee table book
Masonic Gold is the stunning coffee table book chronicling the history and development of 20 Masonic lodges in California’s Mother Lode, spanning more than a century and a half from the Gold Rush through the present. The limited-run, 8×10 inch book is 164 pages of engrossing photography, storytelling, and profound connections to a singularly proud heritage shared by all California Masons.
Whether you’re a Masonic history lover or brand new to the craft, Masonic Gold offers unique insight into the crucial role the fraternity played in the formation of the Golden State—and continues to play today.
Learn about the colorful miner Masons who helped develop the Grand Lodge of California and formed the backbone of the state—men like Edward Myers Preston, the father of the California’s most famous reform school; James Graham Fair, the railroad and mining magnate; Bull Meek, the legendary stagecoach driver and Wells Fargo agent; and even Benjamin Thorn, the county sheriff who nabbed Black Bart. And, of course, there was that young upstart writer who went by the name Samuel Clemens.
All of them were Gold Country Masons, pioneers not only within the fraternity but also towering figures of business, culture, and politics that reshaped California and the world. Check out a sneak preview below and a special excerpt by Grand Master (and Gold Country Mason) John E. Trauner.
Excerpt from Masonic Gold
My wife, Dana, and I live in the small gold-mining town of Rough and Ready, where my great-grandfather John Francisco came in search of his own California dream. He arrived here from the island of Faial in the Portuguese Azores. With tensions still running high following the Mexican-American War, he shortened his surname to Frank. Learning of a Portuguese-settled mining camp in the California foothills, John Frank made his way by ship to San Francisco, and from there traveled to the settlement named in honor of Zachary Taylor’s troops.
By now it was the late 1850s, and he arrived just in time to see the first wave of miners abandon the area. In their wake were scores of Chinese laborers reworking the claims for overlooked gold dust. So my great-grandfather turned to ranching. He purchased several abandoned claims and sent the deeds to Washington, D.C., where in 1878 President Rutherford B. Hayes recognized them as land grants. And on that property, John Frank began raising cattle.
I still live on that ranch, just as John Frank, my grandfather Manuel Frank, and my mom and dad, Doris Frank and John T. Trauner, did before me. Decades after the Gold Rush had come and gone, my father, known as Tommy, tried his hand at mining, working as a mucker and later a powder man in the Northstar and Idaho-Maryland lode mines of Grass Valley. After World War II, he came back to Nevada County and spent more than 30 years working in public service.
My father was raised a Master Mason in Madison Lodge No. 23, where he was a 20-plus-year veteran secretary before passing away in 2004. In 1988, he served as lodge master. A few years later, I followed in his footsteps and was also initiated into the fraternity at Madison No. 23. The miner ethic still runs deep in the blood of Gold Country Masons. Certainly it does in mine.
The fact is that Freemasonry faces unique challenges in the Mother Lode. An aging population, stagnant or declining membership, and lodge consolidations mean that in some cases, the future of the fraternity in this area can feel uncertain.
That instability can’t cloud what is a singularly proud—and important—heritage. This is the region that has given our state numerous grand masters, countless legislators, and many of the businessmen who were responsible for building our state. In a very real sense, the stones that form the centers of commerce in San Francisco and Los Angeles come from the Mother Lode. The money that paid for them came from its gold, chiseled and panned and mined out of the ground by the hands of Masons. And the ethics and values that undergird our state’s institutions are founded on Masonic ideals.
The boom-and-bust cycle of growth and decline has existed in Gold Country for a century and a half. Through it all, our lodges have shown determination, scrappiness, and creativity. The grit I see when I look around me is frankly inspiring. I see examples of the Mason Miner spirit all over the region: In lodges like Harmony No. 164, Nevada No. 13, and others, which lend one another support in fulfilling officer’s stations and conferring degrees. In lodges like Mountain Range No. 18, which embraced change to better serve their members by becoming a daylight lodge and moving from Camptonville to Nevada City. In the support network that members of Hiram No. 25, Placerville No. 26, and Drytown No. 174 formed to support elderly brothers in their county. And in the renaissance that’s underway in Auburn, where Eureka No. 16 has embraced its history as a lodge of ritual excellence.
It’s true, keeping the Masonic fire going here has been a struggle. But in examples like these, you can see the flame was never totally extinguished.
It’s time we breathe new life into it.
I believe ours is a history worth preserving, worth carrying forward. The spirit that inspired people like my great-grandfather are still alive in our Gold Country lodges; it’s my hope we can amplify it for the next generation of Masons.
As I begin my term as grand master, I am intent on honoring that heritage and moving it forward. This book is one attempt to celebrate that legacy, to spotlight the foundational history of the 20 Masonic lodges and halls that make up the Mother Lode, and to recognize the ways they continue to influence our community for the better. I’m proud to be part of Masonic history, and I believe the best days of our craft lie in front of us, not behind us.
—John E. Trauner,
Grand Master of Masons in California
Madison Lodge No. 23
California Freemasonry: Rooted in the Gold Country, Forged in Ideals