A Lodge Raised From Ashes

Blink and you’d miss it, but driving on switchbacks and blind bends through the Colorado Rockies had made me more observant than usual and I was already on high alert for anything that would pique my interest.

So when I glanced at what seemed to be an innocuous marker stone at the side of Colorado State 91 near Leadville, my brain decided to inform me that it had Masonic connections.

Years of studying, researching, and writing about Freemasonry must have etched the symbol of the square and compasses firmly into my subconscious.

‘That stone was Masonic!’
My partner didn’t even raise an eyebrow, he had become used to my sudden excited outbursts. ‘Do you want to go back? I’ll look for somewhere to turn.’
Somewhere to turn on hairpin bends is a feat in itself. But this guy is a pro; a retired police officer unfazed by pulling a precarious U turn, which we achieved quarter of a mile later on a slip road that snaked down to a mine.



The Masonic Marker stone on Colorado State Highway 91 near Leadville.
IMAGE LINKED:  Photo copyright: Philippa Lee, 2022.

Retracing our route, we crunched slowly onto the gravel layby overlooking Robinson Lake.

The marker stone was indeed Masonic – storm-grey granite, perched about four feet high on a pedestal within a fenced in area.

Commanding in its view of the valley beyond, elegantly engraved with the square and compasses, and an image of the original lodge building. On it was the following humble inscription:

In this valley the towns of Robinson, Kokomo and Recen existed.
Kokomo was the site of the highest Masonic lodge in the USA.
Corinthian Lodge No. 42
A.F. & A.M.
1882 – 1966

In the mid-nineteenth century Kokomo in Summit County, Colorado, took its name from nearby Kokomo Gultch, which in turn was named after Kokomo in Indiana.

The Pike’s Peak Gold Rush trickled into the area in the 1860s, when placer gold was discovered. Prospectors arrived in earnest, and subsequently discovered vast deposits of silver in an area known as Tenmile Valley.

More intensive mining was only established in 1877 after lead-zinc-silver ore became the main resources in the nearby mining town of Leadville. From this influx of treasure seekers, the community of Kokomo was born.



Information boards next to the Masonic Marker at the overlook on Colorado 91.
IMAGE LINKED:  Photo copyright: Philippa Lee, 2022.

In 1879, the small town, consisting of all wood buildings, was razed by fire. The tenacious townsfolk rebuilt Kokomo and an all important feature – the post office – was established.

A letter dated May 31st, 1880 (a year prior to a second fire in 1881) from prospector T. D. Armstrong to his mother, describes the mining camp at Kokomo:

Kokomo is situated in Ten Mile Creek, six miles from the summit of the snowy range on the Pacific Slope.

It is claimed to be the highest city in the world, its elevation being over 11,000 feet above the level of the sea.

The original town of Kokomo. Built entirely of logs was destroyed by fire in March 1879. The present city is built mostly of substantial frame buildings, very few of which are painted.

There were two sawmills, one planing mill, four blacksmith shops and all other enterprises incident to a new mining camp are fully represented.

T. D. Armstrong, Kokomo, Col. May 31st, 1880. [Source: ghosttowns.com]

By 1881, there are records that indicate Kokomo was booming with a population of around 10,000.

Sadly, it seemed lessons were not learnt from the previous fire, and the town burned once again that same year, leading to a general steady decline and a merger with the adjacent mining community of Recen.

Corinthian Lodge No. 42 –a Lodge raised from the ashes



Historic American Buildings Survey, C., Welles, F., photographer. (1933)
Masonic Temple, Kokomo, Summit County, CO. Summit County Kokomo Colorado, 1933. Documentation Compiled After.
[Photograph] Retrieved; from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/co0029/

One important part of the community of Kokomo that was raised from the ashes of the 1881 fire was Corinthian Lodge No. 42.

The timeline of the lodge has been documented by the Grand Lodge of Colorado A.F. & A.M. and Longmont Freemasons

On April 16, 1881, a dispensation was granted to Corinthian, No. 42 and sponsored by Ionic Lodge No. 35 of Leadville.

The officers were John N. Harder, W.M.; F. H. Sutherland, S.W.; Albert L. Ordeau, J.W.; and B. C. Ross, Secretary.

Their first meeting U.D. was May 3, 1881. On September 19, 1881, the Charter was read and Corinthian Lodge No. 42 duly opened by J. M. Fox acting for Grand Master Robert A. Quillian.

On Oct. 13, 1881 a disastrous fire destroyed the biggest part of Kokomo including the Lodge Room.

On Jan. 11, 1882 with a special dispensation from Ionic Lodge No. 35, the lodge was convened and an election held. A regular meeting was held on Jan. 21, 1882 and business resumed.

On Aug. 15, 1882 the Brethren rented the Odd Fellows Hall and meetings were held there until September 18, 1888 when the present Temple was purchased.

During 1888, No. 42 bought furnishings and refurnished the building; then the Odd Fellows rented from them.

The dining room has been used for a church, voting place, parties and dances, also for an evening school and a post office.

Bro. Ben F. Rich is the one Mason most responsible for not allowing the Charter to lapse, during the lull of mining activities in the area when the resident membership dropped to a minimum of one.

M.W. Grand Master Alphonse A. Burnard visited on July 24,1900.

In December 1933, it was found that the acting Treasurer had taken all the money but $6.00. However, he deeded his home to the Lodge and the loss was recovered.

On May 25, 1943, Grand Master Howard T. Vaille visited No. 42 and told the Master to “hold on to that Charter” and with the help of lodges of Leadville, Breckenridge, Eagle, Minturn and Fairplay it has been done.

This Lodge is the highest in the world except the one in Peru, South America. Many railroads have made their appearance at Kokomo but there is none now.

Also of the many Custom Mills and Smelters which were in operation nearby, none remains. At present there are a few mills cutting mine timbers for the mines which are operating.

[Source: longmontmasons.org]



Masonic Marker Stone depicting the old Kokomo Masonic Lodge Building, which stood at an elevation of 10,618 feet.
IMAGE LINKED:  Photo copyright: Philippa Lee, 2022.

During the 1890s, Kokomo was – at 10,618 feet above sea level – the highest elevated town of any in the state, and so Corinthian Lodge No. 42 has the historical record of having been the ‘highest Masonic lodge in the USA’, and the second highest in the world!

Longmont Freemasons wrote this wonderful tribute in their centennial history of Freemasonry in Colorado:


    On the Highest Masonic Hill


Corinthian, No. 42 of Kokomo not only can boast of being the highest Lodge in the United States, elevation 10,618 feet, but also of having had a Master with one of the longest services on record.

Benjamin F. Rich refused to let the Lodge die though the area was depopulated, and the membership dropped to as low as twelve.

W. Bro. Rich enlisted the cooperation of the Grand Lodge so that an annual meeting could be held to maintain the charter.

When he was presented with a 5O-year pin and Colorado Certificate in 1942, Grand Secretary Patton noted that W. Bro. Rich had been Master for twenty-four of the 50 years.

Charles L. Young, Grand Lecturer, was impressed with the surroundings and effort. In 1936 he said:

“The hall was lighted by old oil lamps, the Temple was built of logs, the furniture was several generations old, and without any stretch of the imagination, we were taken back to the early days in this jurisdiction.

We speak off-hand of the antiquity of our Craft but to have these facts brought home, it is necessary to attend a meeting of this type.

Statistics are dry reading, historical dates are easily forgotten, but a contact with the past through personal touch stays long in the memory.

We sincerely hope that the little Lodge at Kokomo, headed by its beloved Master, W. Bro. Ben F. Rich, may continue to keep the torch lighted on the highest hill that we in the lowest valleys may take heart.”


[Source: longmontmasons.org]

Again in 1955 he commented:

“This Lodge has only one resident member. It owns its own Masonic Temple which has been reconstructed inside by their own manual labor. The officers have to drive many miles in order to get together and learn their work. They know and perform their work exceedingly well. When I made an official visit to this Lodge there were 24 members of the Lodge present who had driven from as far as Salida on the west to Olney Springs on the east and they had 22 visitors who likewise had driven many, many miles. This year they raised five of their own candidates.”


[Source: longmontmasons.org]

Like most of the mining communities, Kokomo’s silver bubble gradually burst, mines in the area closed and inhabitants moved elsewhere in search of new lives and work.

However, even with Kokomo in decline, Corinthian Lodge still had a considerable membership. Charles Young ended his commentary above, by stating:

Loyalty of the members and widespread cooperation of other brethren have united to give Corinthian a current, membership in 1960 – 151.

[Source: longmontmasons.org]

Corinthian Lodge No. 42 – a lodge with altitude – ceased to exist after 1966; no doubt the remaining members consolidated with lodges in nearby Leadville, or Breckenridge.


Remnants of a ghost town – Robinson Lake and the Tailings Pond are all that remains of the mining communities of Kokomo, Recen, and Robinson
IMAGE LINKED:  Photo copyright: Philippa Lee, 2022.

By the mid-1960s, Kokomo’s post office closed its doors for good, and the population was close to zero. The land was bought by Climax Molybdenum Company who then began to use it for dumping ‘tailings’ in the 1970s.

Today, visible in the valley beyond the marker stone are Robinson Lake and the Robinson Tailings Pond – the only remnants of a former boom town, which became just one of America’s many ghost towns.


Remnants of a ghost town – Robinson Lake and the Tailings Pond are all that remains of the mining communities of Kokomo, Recen, and Robinson
IMAGE LINKED:  Photo copyright: Philippa Lee, 2022.

Further reading / resources:

Paper – ‘Freemasonry in Pike’s Peak Country‘, Ben Williams, AQC 2021 (PDF)

For fascinating photographs of Kokomo and Recen in the 1800s/1900s

Article by: Philippa Lee. Editor

Philippa Lee (writes as Philippa Faulks) is the author of eight books, an editor and researcher.

Philippa was initiated into the Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons (HFAF) in 2014.

Her specialism is ancient Egypt, Freemasonry, comparative religions and social history. She has several books in progress on the subject of ancient and modern Egypt.  Selection of Books Online at Amazon

Freemasonry on the Frontier

Edited by Dr John S. Wade

A collection of seventeen original papers by leading Masonic researchers and academics tracking the evolution of Freemasonry in America from the original thirteen colonies to the Pacific Coast.

Contributors include Ric Berman, Brent Morris, Mike Kearsley, Barry Hoffbrand, John Wade, Adam Kendall, and Andreas Önnerfors, members of Quatuor Coronati Lodge,

and a number of outstanding American scholars: Ben Williams, Hilary Anderson Stelling, Hans Schwartz ,John Kyle Day, Jeffrey Croteau, Andrew Hammer, Daniel Gardiner, and Walter H. Hunt,

as well as two brilliant European writers, Peter Lanchidi from Israel and Leif Endre Grutle from Norway


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