Brother Russ Gilliam has been the secretary of Argus Lodge #545 for over 8 years and has also served as the lodge’s treasurer. He was led here by a rich Masonic history within Argus Lodge – Russ was just a young boy running around the Lodge with his grandfather, father, and brother, helping them restore the building the Lodge it is today. In our interview with Bro. Gilliam we discuss Argus Lodge’s outdoor degree ceremonies, the appeal of the Lodge, and the many charitable initiatives Argus is involved in.
Tell us about Argus Lodge.
Argus Lodge was established on April 20, 1886 in Canfield. The name Argus comes from Greek mythology. It was a giant with a hundred eyes, some of which were always awake. Hence, Argus means one who is very vigilant, someone who is a watchful giant.
We have had 3 official homes, moving into our current temple in 1979. The temple was built entirely by the brethren of Argus. It sits on 44 acres of land acquired from 2 of our brethren after their farms were bisected by State Route 11. The property also houses a pavilion and camping sites for the recreation of the members, an outdoor amphitheater and several miles of nature trails, including a Past Master trail with a marker for every Past Master that served Argus along with trails for Entered Apprentices, Fellowcrafts, and Master Masons. We also have an outdoor altar and chapel hand-carved from sandstone.
What is the community of Canfield like?
Canfield is a typical small city. It was the original County Seat of Mahoning County until it was moved to Youngstown. We host the 4th of July Parade, numerous activities and concerts on the city green and are passionate about local sports, as the high school football team recently won the Division Ill state championship.
Tell us about your outdoor degrees. How did this start?
The first outdoor degree was for Entered Apprentice’s on September 15, 1972. The first outdoor Master Mason degree was held in June 1975, with special props, lighting effects, costumes and working tools. Worshipful Brother Wally Moore was behind all of the beauty of that first outdoor Master Mason degree ceremony. He is the one who foresaw the beauty of the ritual being performed outdoors.
The outdoor Master Mason ceremony is held in June and includes special banners used for the lecture. The outdoor Entered Apprentice ceremony is held in September and also performed in the amphitheater. The outdoor Fellowcraft ceremony is held in the pavilion, with the lecture and “G lecture” performed on the trails, including winding stairs and a “G” hanging on a tree. Each of the degrees is unique and need to be experienced to be appreciated.
How do the Brothers of your lodge engage with the outdoor degrees?
The brethren enjoy and look forward to the outdoor degrees. As the Master Mason degree includes a larger cast, the brethren enjoy participating, whether on the Team or holding a banner. We used to have buses from Pennsylvania and Canada bring brethren from those jurisdictions to witness the Outdoor Master Mason ceremony. We still get many visitors from other lodges, districts and jurisdictions for all 3 degrees.
Does your Lodge hold any community or charity events?
Argus participates in the Annual 4th of July Parade, holds a Car & Bike Show, Fish Frys, a Strawberry Festival, and a Corn Roast. At one time we held Civil War Reenactments, as a number of our brethren are reenactors. We also sponsor a team in the Canfield Little League; the Argus Lodgers.
Argus Lodge is also involved with the local Special Olympics as one of our brothers, Michael Baltes, is a Special Olympian. Some other organizations we work with are Friends of Fido, a local non-profit that saves dogs from the dog pound and we raise awareness for Scleroderma research, a rare disease that increases joint pain in the hands. We also sponsor a Templar Chapter, and an assembly of Order of DeMolay.
Does your Lodge have any upcoming events you’d like to share?
- March & April: Fish Fry, it spans the last 4 Fridays before Easter
- May: Car & Bike Show
- June 2: Outdoor Master Mason raising ceremony
- Sep 15: Outdoor Entered Apprentice raising ceremony
- Oct 6: Outdoor Fellowcraft raising ceremony
What about this Lodge made you want to be part of it?
Argus Lodge is home. It’s where I grew up, almost literally. My grandfather, Russell W. Gillam, and father, Russell W. Gillam Jr, were members when I was growing up. My father was Master in 1979 when the temple was being built and dedicated, and at the same time my grandfather was his Chaplain and helped to stain the ceiling of the lodge room. My brother, R. Christopher Gillam, and l, as kids, would run around the construction site, doing odd jobs and assisting. My brother and I both joined when we turned 21 and have each been Worshipful Master of Argus, me in 1996 and Chris in 2010, with our father serving a second time in 2013 before being made a District Deputy for the 24th District. I served as Treasurer for 5 years before taking over as Secretary for the past 8 years. Argus holds a special place in my life and there is no other lodge I would ever want to be a part of.
Does your home Lodge host any interesting events or support local charitable organizations? Email us at OhioLodgeLife@freemason.com for a chance to be featured on our blog!