Rumors, whispers and outright questioning had occurred between the Brethren of Mahoning Lodge #394 F. & A.M. and Sincerity Lodge F. & A.M. of Ohio for many years, "Should we consolidate?"
Mahoning Lodge #394 F. & A.M. had a long and glorious history beginning in the city of Niles, Ohio in the year 1867. Eventually, in 1923, a magnificent, new Masonic Temple was built. Sojourners working and living in the Niles area decided to form another new Lodge in 1924 which was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Ohio as Sincerity Lodge #694 F. & A.M. in October 1925. Since that time, the two Lodges had pleasantly coexisted while maintaining the utmost dedication to Freemasonry. Many joint programs and special events were enjoyed together during the many years that both Lodges occupied the same Masonic Temple.
Throughout the years though, the reoccurring question had come up about consolidating the two Lodges together. With declining memberships in both Lodges and no longer seeing the need for two Lodges in Niles, W.B. Kenneth P. Riley of Mahoning Lodge confronted W.B. James C. Cunningham of Sincerity Lodge in the year 2003 and asked the question once again, "Should we consolidate?" They were both in agreement that, yes, in the best interests of Freemasonry in Niles, the time had finally come to join forces together.
Each Worshipful Master appointed six Brethren from their respective Lodge to constitute a joint committee to consider the question of consolidation or merger of the two Lodges and to guide the process until finished. Including the Worshipful Masters the composition of the joint committee included W.B. Richard H. Stephens, W.B. Andrew Konsol, W.B. David A. Dull, Sr., W.B. Ralph G. Meckler and R.W.B. David A. Rich representing Mahoning Lodge and W.B. Thomas A. Redmond, Sr., W.B. Brian S. Williams, W.B. Charles W. Chagnot, Jr., R.W.B. Curtis A. Miller and R.W.B. Marc A. Stevens from Sincerity Lodge. Several other interested Brethren sat in on the meetings of the committee from time to time.
Beginning on August 18, 2003 at the joint committee's first meeting, it was quickly decided that the Lodges should merge together rather than consolidate. A merger would combine the membership of both Lodge together into a new Lodge with a new name and number. A consolidation would have the surviving Lodge absorb the membership of the other Lodge into it. The Brethren felt that the honorable and distinguished histories of both Mahoning and Sincerity Lodges should remain separate with a new history being created by a new Lodge - a new beginning had dawned.
During the merger process, the committee kept the members of both Lodges apprised of questions being considered, continually soliciting opinions from the Brethren through letters, questionnaires and thoughtful discussion during Lodge meetings. It was decided to develop the plans for merging slowly with the knowledge and recommendations of the memberships of both Lodges. This proved to be a wise and prudent decision. Little in the way of negative responses or opinions were raised throughout the process of merging. All the Brethren felt informed and were made part of the process from the very beginning. The joint committee continued to work over the next several months on the wording of Standing Resolutions for the new Lodge as well as the Uniform Code of By-laws that would be presented at the first organizational meeting.
A number of names for the new Lodge were suggested with Niles McKinley Lodge being the favorite of the majority of Brethren. The name not only represented the physical location of the new Lodge but also the historical background of the city of Niles, Ohio. Brother William McKinley, 25th President of the United States and a Freemason, was born in Niles January 29, 1843.
Letters of intent to consolidate were exchanged in September 2003 between the two Lodges and the merging process began. A Resolution to Consolidate was presented to the Lodges and approved by the Brethren. The Grand Lodge of Ohio was kept informed of our progress during the merging process and the help and assistance of M.W.B. George O. Braatz, Grand Secretary, was graciously accepted and appreciated. The Secretaries of the Lodges provided a joint merger package to M.W.B. Braatz. It was determined that all pertinent sections of the Grand Lodge Code pertaining to consolidation of symbolic Lodges had been met. M.W.B. Steven J Krekus, Grand Master of Masons in Ohio, approved the merger and we were informed by the Grand Secretary that M.W.B. Krekus set the effective date of our merger to be February 19, 2004.
The date for our first organizational meeting was set for Monday, March 1, 2004, 7:30 P.M.. A dinner preceded the meeting at 6:30 P.M. that was very well attended by Brethren from across the 25th Masonic District. There were between 140 - 145 Brethren in attendance at the meeting that was opened in 'ample' form by our Grand Master. Several current and Past District Deputy Grand Masters, our Grand Chaplain, R.W.B. Curtis A. Miller, and our Grand Tyler, R.W.B. Donald C. Scherer assisted M.W.B. Krekus as officers for the opening of the meeting. Brethren from Hebron Lodge #575 F. & A.M. made the trip from Mercer, Pennsylvania to enjoy the evening as well as the Grand Master of Prince Hall Masons of Ohio, M.W.B. Gregory S. Snead and several Prince Hall Grand Lodge officers. M.W.B. Krekus read the Dispensation he signed allowing Niles McKinley Lodge #794 F. & A.M. to operate. He appointed and then installed the new officers of our Lodge.
The first officers of our Lodge include W.B. Charles W. Chagnot, Jr., Worshipful Master; W.B. W. Douglas Nutter, Senior Warden; W.B. Thomas A. Redmond, Sr., Junior Warden; W.B. Andrew Konsol, Treasurer; R.W.B. Marc A Stevens, Secretary; R.W.B. David A. Rich, Chaplain; W.B. James C. Cunningham, Senior Deacon; Bro. Joseph P. Scarnecchia, Junior Deacon; Bro. Allen L. Geist, Senior Steward; Bro. John W. Schuster, Junior Steward; Bro. Vernon W. Souders, Tyler; W.B. Brian S. Williams, Lodge Education Officer; W.B. Thomas A. Redmond, Sr., Assistant. Lodge Education Officer; R.W.B. David A. Rich, 1-year Trustee; W.B. Donald S. Miller, 2-year Trustee; W.B. Richard H. Stephens, 3-year Trustee and W.B. Donald R. Mackey, Fellowcraft Team Captain.
The approval of the new Uniform Code of By-laws and Standing Resolutions for our Lodge were presented and approved by the Brethren as were several other items of business. A number of dignitaries extended their congratulations and support and M.W.B. Krekus closed the Lodge again in 'ample' form. It was a very auspicious beginning. A night that those in attendance will long remember.
Niles McKinley Lodge #794 F. & A.M. of Ohio began its new journey with 349 members. It is the responsibility of these Brethren to build a new foundation for Freemasonry in the coming years that will prove to be straight, well-built and true. May future generations of Masons in Niles, Ohio proudly remark that these Brethren built our Lodge on a square and solid foundation and truly stood as just and upright Masons.
We're stepping out again in faith with the purchasing of a newer building with the help of William Farr Lodge #672, the Niles York Rite, and Sunrise Chapter of Eastern Star. The building in Niles has become almost impossible to maintain because of dwindling membership and the moving of Ida McKinley Chapter of Eastern Star to Cortland, Ohio. As of January 2009, we have begun meeting at 1350 Shannon Rd., Girard, Ohio, a former Jehovah Witness Church. The sanctuary has been remodeled to accommodate a lodge room and plans are being made to expand the building with a new Fellowship Hall and Kitchen. Again, exciting times for our Lodge and hopefully one of opportunity and growth.