The Gold Rush fever of the Pikes Peak region in 1858 was intoxicating. It entranced men of all descriptions, fortune-hunters, prospectors, and rovers, eager for quick wealth and excitement. Its hurriedly-formed wagon trains departing from Missouri river outposts threw together for 700-mile, month-long journeys, men of every ilk, many of them fleeing from the rigidity of law and order and civilization.
But its lure was irresistible to Masons, too. Many members of the craft responded to the sudden challenge of the frontier. And having been forced to associate with adventurers of dubious backgrounds during the tedious overland journey, upon arrival in the new country they quickly sought the company of their brethren. Within ten days after the founding of the first permanent settlement at Auraria, at the junction of Cherry Creek and the Platte, the first informal assemblage of seven Masons was held in what was to be the Territory and then the State of Colorado.
Andrew Sagendorf, one of the group, told the Grand Lodge in 1912:
“The first meeting of Masonry in Denver was held in W. G. Russell’s cabin on Perry street, near the site of the first bridge, early in November, 1858. The exact date I cannot give.
“Bro. (Jim) Winchester presided. . . but as he was absent much of the time, Bro. Henry Allen generally occupied the Worshipful Master’s station. No stated time or place of meeting was observed; it was generally once a week and at the most secure and convenient cabin.
“These meetings were kept up quite frequently during the winter of 1858-59 and the spring of the latter year. In the summer but few meetings, if any, were held, until the Dispensation for Auraria was received.
“All of the safeguards of the Fraternity were as vigilantly guarded as they are today.”
J. D. Ramage, one of the “Original Seven,” differs slightly in his remembrance of the meeting which he says was on November 3rd, 1858. After being accosted by the salutation “Ho, that tent over there,” from a man (Henry Allen) who at the same time made use of a Masonic expression, he narrates:
“I accompanied Brother Allen to his abode, and there found Bros. W. M. Slaughter, Dr. Russell, Andrew Sagendorf, and I think, Oscar Lehow. These brethren together with Brother Allen and myself, made the first seven :Masons, according to my knowledge and belief, who ever met in Colorado, having in contemplation the application for a charter, and a seven who stuck together, as Masons should do. through thick and thin.”
“We agreed to meet every Saturday night and as our object in locating in Colorado was to get gold (we were supposed to be out prospecting during the week) we decided that any ideas conccrning the country we were in which might come to us, news of any mines we might discover, or any information which might be beneficial to the brethren, MasonicalIy or financially, would at the next meeting, be given to the Masons there assembled. We had some ecry pleasant meetings.”
It has been said that in every pioneer settlement of the West first came the church, then a school, and then the Masonic Lodge but in Colorado this order was reversed. Years ago, the Rev. John M. Chivington, first presiding elder of the Methodist Church in this area and first Grand Master of Colorado, wrote: “On May 8, 1860 I arrived in Denver, published an appointment, and preached the following Sunday in the Masonic Hall. Henry Allen founded a Masonic Lodge in Colorado long before there was a church or school”
Allen was thus acknowledged the father of Masonry in Colorado. He became Master of Auraria Lodge under dispensation.