By Joann M. Ringelstetter
In the autumn of 2011, Ruth and I passed through the small town of Wayland (pop. 966) in the southeast corner of Iowa. As we drove down Main Street, we saw an old building that looked like it might have had quite a history. It was then the Wayland Museum, but I wanted to know more.
Recently, through the kindness of Larry Roth, owner of the Midwest Memories Museum in Wayland, I discovered that Wayland was called Crooked Creek in the late 1830s when the first settlers arrived. In 1851, its name was changed to Marshall and then changed again around 1879 to Wayland.
A man named Thurston Mosher constructed the building around 1856 and opened a store, which also served as the local post office. Over the years, this building was home to a variety of businesses, including a meat market, a picture studio, a doctor’s office, and a millinery shop. After the millinery shop closed, it served as a private home.
As I photographed the museum building, I noticed another old building on the corner and I knew I wanted to photograph that building, too. As I pointed my camera toward it, a man came around the corner and said, “Hurry up and get your photos. We’re tearing it down tomorrow.”
This building was built in 1883 as the home of Adoniram Lodge #120, an organization for Masons living in the Marshall (Wayland) area. Adoniram Lodge was officially chartered in 1858, occupying two prior buildings that were both destroyed by fire – the first one in 1858 and the second one in 1883.
Masonry (or Freemasonry) is the oldest fraternity in the world. Many of the Founding Fathers of our country were Masons. Masonry emphasizes self-improvement and social betterment. During the 1800s and early 1900s, before many of today’s governmental social programs were established, Masons provided much-needed assistance to members of the community.
The minutes from Adoniram Lodge meetings, which have been preserved through the years, bear witness to the Masons’ goal of making the world a better place. Funds have been used to supply food, clothing, fuel, rent, medical services, and assistance for widows.
Both the store building and the Masonic Hall served their communities well. According to Mr. Roth, the Masonic Hall was indeed torn down and the store building will soon suffer the same fate due to its state of disrepair. The good news is that, in May of 2012, the Wayland Museum merged with the Midwest Memories Museum.
As I stood photographing that day and chatting with the nice gentleman who informed me of the fate of the Masonic Hall, the following conversation took place. (I never got his name, so I will refer to him as Gentleman).
Gentleman: "So, do you and your sister just spend your time traveling around the country photographing old buildings?"
Joann: "I wish that’s all we did, but we both work in high-stress Information Technology jobs. Every chance we get, we hit the backroads. Photography is my meditation."
Gentleman (after giving my comment some serious thought): "Well, I suppose with a job like that, you NEED medication."
Oh, how that struck my funny bone, but I didn’t want to offend him, so I thanked him for the conversation and headed back to the car.
As soon as I got in and slammed the door, I burst into laughter and shared the humor with Ruth, who also got quite a charge out of it. With smiles on our faces, we left the small town of Wayland and headed for the backroads of Iowa to finish out our day.