Recently, the brethren of Cataract Lodge No. 2 met at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis to honor the life of Alfred Elisha Ames, the lodge's first Master, as well as Minnesota’s first Grand Master.
Alfred Elisha Ames, a physician, came to St. Anthony in 1851. Ames was made a Mason in 1840 in Joliet Lodge in Illinois. He chartered and served as Master in Lodges in Belvidere, Rockton, Roscoe and Rockford, all in Illinois. While active in his practice and his community, he suffered from ill health and came to Minnesota for its invigorating climate. As he established his practice at St. Anthony and identified fellow masons, He investigated and examined them until he had nine with which to form a lodge. Being well known to the Grand Master of Illinois, he petitioned for a charter to form Cataract Lodge of St. Anthony on December 13, 1851 – one hundred sixty one years ago last week. Following due investigation and consultation with the recognized Lodge in St. Paul, a dispensation was granted.
The first meeting convened at the home of Ard Godfrey, the lodge treasurer. The officers included A.E.Ames as Master, William Smith, Senior Warden, Isaac Brown – the first Sheriff of Hennepin County, Junior Warden, and Col. John H. Stevens as Secretary. Among the first candidates for the degrees of Cataract Lodge were Charles T. Stearns and Franklin Steele.
On February 23 and 24, 1853 a convention of representatives from the three lodges then existing in the Territory of Minnesota convened at the Farrington Building home of St. Paul Lodge - one of the three. Following discussion and negotiation a constitution was written and endorsed and a Grand Lodge was formed with the first officers elected including:
Grand Master; Alfred Elisha Ames, Cataract Lodge
Deputy Grand Master Aaron Goodrich, St. Paul Lodge
Senior Grand Warden Daniel F. Brawley, St. Paul Lodge
Junior Grand Warden Abraham Van Vorhes, St. Johns Lodge
Grand Treasurer Emanuel Case, Cataract Lodge
Grand Secretary J. George Lennon, Cataract Lodge
Senior Grand Deacon D. W. C. Dunwell, St. Paul Lodge
Junior Grand Deacon David B. Loomis, St. Johns Lodge
Grand Standard Bearer Sylvander Partridge, St. Johns Lodge
Grand Marshall A. T. C. Pierson, St. Paul Lodge
Grand Pursuivant Henry N. Setzer, St. Johns Lodge
Grand Chaplain Rev. J. S. Chamberlain,
Grand Steward Lott Moffet, St. Paul Lodge
Grand Steward Charles W. Borup, Cataract Lodge
Grand Tyler William Hartshorn, St. Paul Lodge
While he was active in all the Bodies of Masonry, Dr. Ames heart was in the Ancient Craft Blue Lodge. He was the founder and first Master of Cataract No. 2; also the founder and later the Master of Hennepin Lodge No. 4 for eight years. He was one of the founders of KhurumLodge No. 112 of Minneapolis, and was the first Master of that Lodge at the time of his death. He held the office of Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter Royal Arch Masons, in 1861, and M. W. Grand Master of the Grand Council, Royal and Select Masters, in 1871 and Grand Commander of the Grand Commandery of Knights Templar in 1867. He was also a 33º Mason, an Active Member for Minnesota of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite, Southern jurisdiction.
In 1851, the University of Minnesota was established as a preparatory school with 20 students and one teacher. It was founded seven years before Minnesota gained statehood. And every year since 1932, the University has paid tribute to its founders with either a Founders Day or a Founders Week.
According to University Archives, a convocation was held on April 21, 1932, for the first Founders Day, to honor the eight men who were responsible for planting the seeds of the University: Alexander Ramsey, William Rainey Marshall, John Wesley North, Henry Hastings Sibley, Henry Mower Rice, Dr. Alfred Elisha Ames, Edward Duffield Neill, and John Sargent Pillsbury. In recent years, Founders Day is celebrated in February to coincide with the execution of the school's charter on February 25, 1851.
The untimely death of Dr. Alfred Elisha Ames, our first Grand Master, occurred September 23, 1874. On the following Sunday the Grand Lodge convened and, with the respect due a most worthy Mason, accompanied him to his last resting place, according to the custom among Masons. The funeral was attended by a large gathering of his many friends and Masons from Minneapolis and other parts of the state.
In the twenty-three years he lived in Minnesota he was continually active in public life. He was one of the founders of the City of Minneapolis, an early representative of the territorial council, judge of probate, postmaster of Minneapolis, and for many years was a member of the state normal school board. In 1871 he and Dr. David B. Knickerbocker founded a hospital for destitute sick people which later became St. Barnabas Hospital – and ultimately Hennepin County Medical Center. In 1855 he was the first president and one of the founders of the Hennepin County Medical Society. But most of all, he was a country doctor in the pioneer days who worked alone among the sick and afflicted, without the aid of nurses or hospitals.