Vicksburg Lodge #95, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, was instituted on July 8, 1888 by a delegation from New Orleans Lodge No. 30. The New Orleans Lodge was only three years older, having been established in 1885.
The Vicksburg Lodge had about twenty-five charter members. J. J. Hayes, who later became Mayor of Vicksburg, was the first Exalted Ruler. Some of the other officers were: Pat Henry, Lecturing Knight; D. S. Wright, Esquire; Julius Hoerner, Inner Guard; A. M. Paxton, Chaplain; M.F. Levy, Treasure; Robert Ernest. Organist. Other names listed on the Charter were: I.S. Irving, R.C. Allein, J.A. Galbreath, Sam Reis, A.M. Lee, A.S. Sharpe. T.E. Crutcher, and M.F. Smith. From the beginning this organization was different from other fraternal organizations. Its members represented all walks of life including business, crafts, professional and religious organizations of the city.
Elks first met on the second floor of the Irving Grocery Store on the corner of Washington and South Streets where Culkin Furniture Store is now located. The tornado which struck Vicksburg in 1953 destroyed the original building. After two years of operation at this location, the History of Vicksburg comments on the good work of the Elks. At that time the Lodge had some 70 members and by 1895, it had grown to about 100 members.
On August 2, 1902, the Vicksburg Elks purchased the north half of Lot 220, Square 5, Vicksburg Proper, from Mrs. Alice B. Clarke. Harry Yoste, Exalted Ruler and A. M. Paxton , Secretary at that time, were authorized to purchase this lot which was located on Walnut Street between Clay and China Streets. The following year on January 1, 1903, a contract was let for construction of new two story building. The brick, white-columned edifice was designed by architects Rawson and Pannack and constructed by F.J. McGraw at a cost of $25,000. The spacious building was completed on May 1, 1903. The top floor contained a ballroom fifty by fifty-five feet, and on the ground floor was a reading room, pool room, and a restaurant for members. The basement had much space and was used for a gymnasium.
During the yellow fever epidemic of 1907, the restaurant was open to the public as the city was practically deserted and almost every restaurant was closed. For many years the Elks building was the only place in Vicksburg large enough to accommodate conventions or public meeting, and use of the building was provided by the Elks for such events as a service to the community.
Notably, there were two Presidents of the United States entertained at the Lodge. Theodore Roosevelt, while bear hunting in Louisiana, was housed at the Carroll Hotel on Clay Street (located where the First National Bank Parting lot now stands), and was entertained at the Elks Lodge on Walnut Street. Later, when President William Taft visited Vicksburg he also was entertained at the Elks Lodge. Located next door to the Elks building was the Presbyterian Church on the site now occupied by the Vicksburg Apartments (formerly Hotel Vicksburg) on the corner of Clay and Walnut Streets. A new church was under construction at Cherry and South Street and nearing completion. On Sunday morning January 19, 1908, the Reverend J.S. Hilhouse told the congregation, “This will be our last service held in this church.” He was referring to their imminent move to the new sanctuary. However, that same night a fire erupted in the basement of the Elks building and it and the Presbyterian Church burned to the ground. Fire hydrants were hard to open, and the waterworks employees had to be called to get them to function. With high, cold winds, the fire spread to the Walnut Street Theatre on the north and across the street to the B.B. Club building (now the Vicksburg Police Department building), but fortunately these fires were extinguished with little damage. The sparks from the blaze ignited store awnings on Washington Street, and even P.J. Foley’s shop on Levee Street caught fire from the flying sparks.
The day after the fire, Exalted Ruler J.W. Garrett called a meeting of the Elks Governing Board, and made plains to rebuild. William G. Paxton was Chairman of the Building Committee. Other members were W.M. Drake, S. Wachenheim, P.M. Harding, Sam Brown, Jr., Alfred Woods and Lawrence Warner. This committee authorized rebuilding and work was begun with a few days. The new building consisted of three stories with full basement, and the contract price was $40,000. During construction, the Elks met on the second floor of the American Bank Building located on the southwest corner of Washington and Clay Streets.
Not only was the new Elks building used for conventions, it was also used as the headquarters for most of the parades held in the city. The Touchdown Club and other such public interest groups used the Lodge for their meeting at no cost. For many years the local Elks Lodge had their own band. They participated in local parades, and on many occasions gave band concerts from the spacious porch of the building. Ralf Lowernberg was the last band leader and served as the lodge secretary for more than 30 years. In those days he was known as Mr. Elk to the community.
For many years the Elks sponsored a Christmas program for underprivileged children, and for many this was the only Christmas they had. The Mayor of Vicksburg always played Santa Claus at this program, and each child received a toy and large bag of candy. The Elks continued their help for the needy each Christmas and now huge baskets of food and toys are given to families who might otherwise not have any Christmas at all. Our Lodge has always sponsored Little League teams and other youth groups, as well as our disabled veterans. For a number of years, monthly visits have been made to the Veterans Hospital in Jackson where cash is given by means of Bingo games and fruit is usually included. Christmas is always remembers with gifts such as toilet articles, clothing, games, and books.
During the polio epidemic of early 1950, iron lungs were donated by the Lodge to Vicksburg Hospitals. In 1953 during the Korean Conflict, President Harry S. Truman asked for three million pints of Blood for our service people and the Grand Exalted Ruler pledged one million pints from the Elks. Fifty-six pints were given locally by in the Elks and their friends in one afternoon.
As the order changed to increase family participation a need developed for more suitable facilities to include a swimming pool and more parking spaces. In 1966 the Elks building on walnut Street was sold to the Vicksburg Hotel for $50,000. A five-acre tract of land was purchased for $6,250 on Highway 61 Bypass from Theodore Paxton for a new building. Exalted Ruler, Raphael Franco appointed Dave Dogan as Chairman of the Building Committee. Others on the committee were the Trustees, John A. Luckett, Ernest L. Barlow, Judge James E. Nichols, Harry F. Hammett, and Jack L. Faulkner.
A contract was let to G. David Theobald, Building Contractor, on February 22, 1967 to construct a new Elks Lodge which included a swimming pool, a change house, patios, and walks for $100,223. A floor plan for the building was approved by the members and used for the construction of the building. Our present Lodge was completed and occupied on August 19, 1967. In this location we have continued the support of Grand Lodge and local programs in order to be worth of the Elks name.
As we look back over a wonderful past we charge our future Lodge leadership with the task of continuing the good works of Elkdom in Vicksburg.
The Vicksburg Lodge first started visiting the Jackson, MS Veteran’s Hospital in 1970 during Carton Rone’s administration. The only date the Lodge could get was the 5th Tuesday of the month. In less than one year, a date became available, and the Lodge started visiting the VA Hospital once a month. In the 43 years, the Vicksburg Lodge has been visiting the VA Hospital, there have only been three chairmen: James Murphy, Fred Gould and Sid Ervin.
To evening balance the number of Lodges in the North and South Districts in Mississippi, in 2013 Vicksburg Elks Lodge No. 95 was moved from the South District to the North District.
1990-91 Grand Lodge Tiler: Raphael Franco Sr.
|District Deputy South|
|1980-81||Francis P. Hanes|
|1986-87||Brady M. Morris|
|1998-99||Raphael Franco Jr.|
|District Deputy North|
|1901-04||Alex M. Paxton|
|1909-10||Louis A. Nichols|
|1982-83||Francis P. Haynes|
|2005-06||Raphel Franco Jr.|
Copyright 2016 Vicksburg Elks Lodge No. 95.