Nearly 100 years ago, on May 20, 1916, Masons from throughout the state gathered in Southern California to witness Grand Master Francis V. Keesling lay the cornerstone for Covina’s first permanent building, designed by Masonic architect John F. Blee.

A record number of Masons, as well as the committee on arrangements, representatives of Masonic organizations, and Covina municipal officers, business leaders, and citizens attended the ceremony. Thousands of people lined the avenues along the lines of the march to the Home, and more than 600 automobiles were parked near the ceremony.

To mark the occasion, 9-year-old Herbert E. Brown, a ward of Pentalpha Lodge No. 202 in Los Angeles, gave a speech on behalf of the Covina children:

Most Worshipful Grand Master: The children of the Masonic Home, whom you are remembering to-day on this most happy event in the history of your Grand Lodge, desire to express to all the Masons of California, through yourself as the representative of the Grand Lodge, their deepest gratitude and most sincere appreciation for providing us with this beautiful Home.

You have selected a wonderful place for us, facing the big blue mountains, with the great San Gabriel Valley spreading before us, with its thousands of orange groves and beautiful homes resting under their own vines and fig trees; and with the fragrance of the orange blossoms constantly carried to us by the gentle breezes of the ocean, we here commune with all nature in her happiest mood.

To-day, Most Worshipful Sir, you are to lay a cornerstone whereupon you will erect a superstructure that will provide the comfort and training of many worthy children, and we pledge you at this time that we· children who are fortunate enough to share your generous car: will strive at all times to make ourselves true cornerstones whereupon we will build characters that will reflect credit upon your most worthy institution. We ask you to accept this silver trowel in behalf of the children of the Home, and as you cement this cornerstone to this building you will at the same time cement our hearts to the Fraternity in everlasting obligation and appreciation.

Brown then presented Keesling with a silver trowel bearing the following inscription: Right Worshipful Francis Valentine Keesling by the Children of the Masonic Home at the laying the cornerstone of the buildings of Masonic Orphan’s Home at Covina May 20, 1916. GRAND LODGE OF CALIFORNIA.

According to an account in the 1916 Grand Lodge Proceedings:

When the boy had finished, there were tears in the eyes of every hearer, and it was with difficulty that the Deputy Grand Master could reply, which he did in part as follows:

“No one within the hearing of little Herbert’s voice but who has been profoundly affected. Would that the entire membership of the Fraternity were here for the beneficent effect this incident would have had.

“This is a great work which the Fraternity is doing, but it is not the greatest work done by the Institution. The greatest work is that which promotes good citizenship, thereby insuring life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, under which circumstances such great work as this may be done. The environment of the Home is entirely befitting. Here God’s sunshine is less interrupted. Here the mountains are majestic and the plants and trees bloom and fructify in bountiful beauty. May the happiness resultant from it all, assisted by the efforts of the Fraternity in its ministrations, be transfused into the hearts and souls of the little ones who will be our wards in this institution.”

Masons from all across the state will travel to Covina on June 26th to celebrate the city’s centennial anniversary. Interested in attending? Visit for more information!

Republished with permission from the
California Grand Lodge: