Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Part II from Pleasant Grove: Minnesota’s oldest Masonic Lodge January 30, 2017


Masonic Lodge 22, Pleasant Grove, Minnesota

ON AN OCTOBER STOP in Pleasant Grove, Minnesota, I walked the gravel road from the town hall to the old Masonic lodge. Yes, you read that right. Gravel. Not a single paved street in this unincorporated village that is home to Minnesota’s oldest Masonic lodge chartered in 1858.


Parked next to the Masonic Lodge.

In this settlement, you will see too many vehicles with hoods up, wood stashed in the backs of abandoned pick-up trucks, sizable wood piles and at least one grand brick and limestone house atop a hill.


A garage next to the town hall.

Most motorists likely wouldn’t even bother to turn off Olmsted County Road 1 into this berg. It’s that unassuming. But then I am not anyone. I delight in discovering these mostly unnoticed places that others pass by.

An extraordinarily lovely historic home in Pleasant Grove.

An extraordinarily lovely historic home in Pleasant Grove.

While Pleasant Grove, which lies some 15 miles south of Rochester, may not be all neat and city-ish proper, it is still home to some. Knowing small towns as I do, I expect I was being watched while poking around.




As I climbed the wooden steps to Masonic Lodge 22, I was hoping to get inside. But that was wishful thinking. Nothing’s unlocked anymore. Instead, I settled for peeking inside a front window to view a spacious room with what appears to be a kitchen in the rear.




This structure, built in 1868 and rededicated in 2003, has been home to local Masons for more than 150 years. They meet here twice a month, except in the summer when it’s once/month.




According to a sign out front, Lodge 22 meetings were initially held in the Green Mountain House. Google as I might, I could find no online info about that house.




This historic structure also served as a store and meat market when it was built.




So what, exactly, is a Mason? According to the Grand Lodge of Minnesota, freemasonry is the oldest and largest fraternal order in the world—a universal brotherhood of men dedicated to service, God, family, fellowman and country.




No mention of men laying stone.

FYI: Please check for one more story in this three-part series from Pleasant Grove. Click here to read my first story.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


Rural Americana: A personal tour of historic Canton, Minnesota October 18, 2012

The water tower in Canton, on the other side of the roof line seen here in the foreground.

LeROY HAYNES WAS BRUSHING green paint onto wainscoting in the sunny warmth of an October afternoon when I happened upon him in Canton, a town of 328, in southeastern Minnesota near the Iowa border.

He was, he said, in the process of sprucing up Lumber Yard Antiques, the shop he and wife Kathie opened in July. Kathie’s originally from Canton where the couple now lives only three blocks from their antique store.

When the lumber yard moved here, it added the front red part of the building onto the former Masonic Lodge building on the right. The first floor of this complex now houses Lumber Yard Antiques.

They named their business after the lumber yard previously housed in the building complex which some 10-plus years ago was home to another antique shop and before that Canton city offices. The older part of the Haynes’ shop, the Masonic Lodge building, was once rented out by the Masons and used as a grocery store, barbershop and even as apartment space.

See what you learn when you start a conversation. I learned even more when I spotted a cut-out of Tonto and the Lone Ranger and mentioned to LeRoy that I’d seen one just like it in the basement of an antique shop in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

The Lone Ranger and Tonto cut-outs, photographed last fall in Stockholm, Wisconsin.

Imagine my surprise when LeRoy informed me that the cut-out had come from Stockholm, where he once sold his antiques and collectibles at A+ Antiques & Oddities.

It is a small world.

Beautiful 1950 Homer Laughlin china for sale at Lumber Yard Antiques.

LeRoy and I hit it off marvelously and soon he was offering to take me and my husband into the upstairs of the former Masonic Lodge. I had my doubts as this Presbyterian minister led us past a jumble of boxes, over broken glass and finally weaving our way up a steep and dark stairway littered with piles of bird poop. And I was wearing flip flops.

Inside the former Masonic Lodge, the second floor of Lumber Yard Antiques. Can you see the potential here?

But it was worth the climb when LeRoy led us into a spacious room with incredible potential, despite the crumbling ceiling and general disrepair. The wood floor and the step-up small “stages” on both ends of the room—something to do with Masconic ritual, LeRoy said—instantly ignited my creative thoughts. This, I told our tour guide, would be perfect for theatre and/or music.

Canton’s original depot, recently reroofed.

I don’t know that LeRoy and Kathie share my vision. But they have been thinking preservation as has a railroad buff from California who bought the next door vintage railroad depot, sight unseen, according to LeRoy.

Inside the depot.

The depot came next on our tour (LeRoy’s been entrusted with a key) and I was just as delighted to get inside this historic building.

The door LeRoy unlocked into the depot. Love it.

The California man has a vision to create a historic site in Canton and a Canton Historical Society has been formed. Plans are to seek grants to restore old buildings like the depot.

Old elevators like this are disappearing from our small towns, replaced by large, generic storage units. The Canton Historical Society hopes to save Canton Feed & Seed and other old buildings in town as part of an historic site.

And that pretty much ended our tour of the portion of Canton which lies off the main route past town, Minnesota Highway 44. Had we not driven into town via the back way, past the elevator, we may have missed all of this, and that personal, historic tour by LeRoy.

Exterior details on the old Masonic Lodge building.

Outside the back door of the antique shop, this tangerine hued vintage truck contrasted against the gray metal caught my artist’s eye.

A broader view of the scene directly across the street from Lumber Yard Antiques and the depot. Pure rural Americana.

FYI: Lumber Yard Antiques is open from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. “most days,” LeRoy says, but will be closed from January – March. My apologies for failing to photograph LeRoy and Kathie. What was I thinking? Clearly I was not.

CLICK HERE TO READ a previous post from Canton. 

© Copyright 2012 Audrey Kletscher Helbling