Masonry has been a predominant factor in the history of the City of Riverside from its infancy, as with the founding of our Country.
For all practical purposes, Riverside's origin dates from September 1870, when John W. North and perhaps not more than twenty families, arrived in this area and purchased approximately 8,000 acres of land, under the name of Southern California Colony Association. This land was the heart of what was later known as the City of Riverside. Within nine years, the area had been surveyed, the city named, and the initial steps taken to form the first Masonic Lodge.
By 1925 we find a City of about 26,000 people, which already had in existence: Evergreen Lodge No. 259, F. & A. M., chartered in 1880; Riverside Chapter No. 67, Royal Arch Masons, chartered in 1886; Riverside Commandery No. 28, Knights Templar, charter granted in 1887; Ungava Chapter No. 106, Order of the Eastern Star, instituted in 1890; and the Order of the Amaranth, Magnolia Court No. 51, chartered in 1924.
At that time (1925) Evergreen Lodge had about 500 members and there were discussions among the Sojourning Masons about establishing a second Lodge in the City. Under the able director of Wor. Bro. Henry D. French, for many years Inspector of the Masonic District, and a group of Masons, most of whom had their memberships in Eastern Lodges, organized what is now Riverside Lodge No. 635, F. & A. M. On January 20, 1926, twenty-eight Brethren, reognizing each other as Master Masons, met at Reynolds Hotel (9th Street and Orange) at High Twelve to take measures necessary to establish a Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in the City of Riverside, California. After luncheon they repaired to the Sun Parlor. Bro. William Cyrus Gunnerson was called to the Chair and Bro. Joseph Shipp Bordwell was elected Secretary. Riverside Lodge was selected as the name. (Actually, preliminary meetings had been held as early as October 21, 1925, in the upstairs room of the Palace Cafe, 757 West Seventh street, in Riverside, At a meeting on October 28, 1925 an election was held for the three principle offices of the new Lodge. Those elected were: Bro. William C. Gunnerson, Master, Bro. Henry W. Coil, Senior Warden and Bro. Lewis Edwin MacEwen, Junior Warden. On December 16, 1925 Bro. MacEwen withdrew as Junior Warden and Bro. Guy S. Harts was elected.)
A Petition for Dispensation to the Grand Master of Masons in California - the Most Worshipful Albert E. Boynton - was prepared and signed by the brethren. A fee of $75 was required to accompany the Request for Dispensation. This amount was raised by an initial contribution of $4.50 by each of the Brethren. Demits were ordered from each Brother. These 28 Brethren were from 22 different Lodges, from 15 different States and Mexico. These States were: Massachusetts, Tennessee, Alabama, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Missouri, South Dakota, Kansas, Oklahoma, Wyoming, Washington and California (six were from Evergreen Lodge).
The Brethren met weekly at the Reynolds Hotel until on February 25 arrangements were completed with Evergreen Lodge to meet in the Masonic Temple on Thursdays for business and practice. Evergreen Lodge supported the new Lodge and assisted the officers by coaching and otherwise in perfecting the organization of the new Lodge. A Petition was served on Evergreen Lodge by Bro. Henry Coil on January 23, 1926, to officially inform them that a new Lodge was being formed in the area. Evergreen Lodge at their meeting of February 5, 1926, decided to endorse and support the new Lodge in all respects.
On March 12, 1926, the Officers of the new Lodge to be formed were invited by Evergreen Lodge to confer the First Degree on three candidates. The Master and each Warden conferred one of the Degrees. On March 17, 1926, they attended a School of Instruction by Wor. Bro. Baker, Grand Lecturer. The next day Wor. Bro. Henry French, Inspector of the 98th Masonic District issued certificates of qualifications for the Master and each Warden, and sent the Request for Dispensation to the Grand Secretary, to be laid before the Grand Master.
The Grand Master would not accept Bro. Joseph S. Bordwell's demit from Sonora, Mexico, except when applying for affiliation. Bro. Bordwell resigned as Secretary and Bro. Raymond P. Allen was elected to replace him.
The Grand Master, the Most Worshipful Albert E. Boynton signed the Dispensation on March 20, 1926, and ordered Wor. Bro. Henry French to institute the new Lodge, to be called Riverside Lodge. On March 25, 1926, the Brethren assembled in the Riverside Masonic Temple at 7:30 p.m. where Wor. Bro. French was present and who proceeded to Institute the new Lodge. The Grand Master's Dispensation was read and in accordance with the authority vested by the instrument, the Inspector invested the following Brethren with jewels of their offices:
- Master: Bro. William Cyrus Gunnerson
- Senior Warden: Bro. Henry Wilson Coil, Sr.
- Junior Warden: Bro. Guy Sylvester Harts
- Treasurer: Bro. Raymond Treat Sullivan
- Secretary: Bro. Raymond Philip Allen
- Senior Deacon: Bro. Andrew Watson Wade
- Junior Deacon: Bro. John Henry Prater
- Marshal: Bro. Fred Lee McEuen
- Steward: Bro. Rich Kay Craig
- Steward: Bro. Claude Theodore Chamberlain
- Tiler: Wor. James Percy Robeson
The first Stated Meeting under the Charter as Lodge No. 635, Free and Accepted Masons, was held on Thursday, November 4, 1926, in Riverside Masonic Temple, now called Evergreen Temple, on 11th street in Riverside.
The first annual Installation of Officers after receiving our Charter was held January 20, 1927, with Wor. Bro. Oakley K. Morton, Inspector of the 102nd Masonic District as Installing Officer.