History of Yucca Valley Lodge #802 F&AM
Before WWII, Yucca Valley was primarily ranchland and some homesteads. It was popular with people suffering from lung ailments and arthritis, but there was not enough here economically to grow a city. Residents looking for work generally went “down the hill.”
After World War II, however, the economy of Yucca Valley boomed. People began looking for retirement or vacation homes away from the smog and problems of cities. Because the water was more readily available in Morongo Valley and 29 Palms those areas grew first. The real trigger was the Marine Corps Base replacing the Navy Glider Base, and both Twentynine Palms and Yucca Valley blossomed.
Freemasonry experienced a similar growth surge following WWII as well, which ultimately led to the formation of our Lodge. Veterans were looking for the comradery of fraternal organizations and found Masonry. Veterans, retirees, escapees from the cities and active-duty members of the armed forces who were already brother Masons in the local area found each other.
On March 10, 1956, a group of Masons got together to form an unofficial Masonic Club, dubbed the Desert Sojourners Club. The first meeting of the club was on April 13, 1956. The club met initially at the Community Hall in Joshua Tree, CA, but they knew they needed their separate Lodge building.
So, on January 11, 1957, a building committee was formed to find an appropriate site in Yucca Valley for a Masonic Temple, which became the Desert Sojourner’s Club, Inc. That site was found and is the current Lodge grounds.
In April 1958, the lot was cleared for preparation of the Temple, plans were drawn up, permits were granted, and the ground was broken on July 18th for the foundation. While constructing the Temple, the Yucca Valley Masonic Club was officially formed in June 1959.
The construction of the Temple was donated with over 3000 hours of donated working hours, it being deemed the Sojourner’s Building. The building was completed on January 9, 1960. Afterward, the Club requested permission of the Grand Lodge to become a Lodge.
The Grand Master of California, the Honorable Joe L. Shell, granted permission to the Yucca Valley Masonic Club to form a Lodge in May 1960, becoming Yucca Valley Lodge U. D. (Under Dispensation) instituted June 11, 1960.
The initial membership of the Lodge was 47 Charter Members. The first Master of the U.D. Lodge was Clarence E. Miller, who turned over the Master’s position to Louis L. Cunningham after a few months.
Disaster struck when a fire nearly destroyed the Sojourner’s Building on April 5, 1961, gutting the building and causing over $25,000 damage. In today’s dollars, that would be $177,321.00! Insurance covered the loss and rebuilding began in earnest.
The Lodge was granted its charter on October 11, 1961, to form a Lodge from the Yucca Valley Masonic Lodge U.D. to become Yucca Valley Masonic Lodge #802 F&AM (Free and Accepted Masons)
On February 26, 1963, the Yucca Valley Masonic Lodge Temple Association accepted the ownership of the Sojourner’s Building as the Temple for the Lodge.
Of particular note, on March 2, 1968, Masons from the Lodge laid the cornerstone for the Yucca Valley High School, which was attended by 22 California Grand Lodge Officers. This began the YV Lodge’s long association with public schools.
On May 16th, 1974, a ceremonial burning of the Temple’s mortgage was held, which was attended by over 100 people and celebrating 14 years of efforts and payments.
The Lodge has been in continuous operation ever since, waxing and waning with the times, having a current membership of about 50 members.