LIMA — The Order of the Eastern Star’s exact beginnings are unknown, but what is clear is by the late 1800s, the movement was going strong in Lima.
Lima’s Masonic group went to meeting with fellow Masons in Ada and were impressed with a dinner served by Eastern Star women there, according to the local group’s history booklet. Because Masonry is open only to men, the Eastern Star organization was a way to include their wives and daughters in some of the pomp and circumstance as well as the causes — civic duty, support of charities and support of Christian morals. The name is a reference to the star the wisemen followed to reach Christ.
The Lima group researched the Eastern Star and decided to start a chapter. The Ada group helped institute it. Trinity Chapter 16 Order of the Eastern Star was chartered in 1892, and 20 people — it includes both men and women — paid membership dues the following year.
Lettie Lown was the first Worthy Matron in those years, when yearly dues were $2. The first issue was where to meet. Masonic law forbade women to meet in their halls, so they met at several rooms around town before the Masons opened their doors.
The local Eastern Star held a social on the lawn of Worthy Matron and Patron Roush in 1897 to celebrate the opening of the first paved street in Lima — West Spring Street.
By 1900, there were 64 members and the group had helped a chapter in St. Marys begin.
In 1901, a new Masonic Temple was dedicated, and the women furnished the curtains, a mirror and a table.
In 1902, the group held Shakespearean recitals at Masonic Club parlors. Entry was only a dime, but the group netted almost $90.
On Oct. 21 and 22, 1903, Lima played host to the Grand Chapter meeting for the state. There weren’t enough hotel rooms in town for the 1,200 or so visitors, and a notice was published in the newspapers asking for people to rent out their spare bedrooms.
“It must be understood that the public is not permitted to enjoy the work of the Eastern Stars, for the reason that it is as much a a secret order as the Masons, whose wives and daughters are the only ones eligible to membership. But the event has been of great benefit to Lima both socially and financially …” a Times-Democrat story reported Ot. 21, 1903.
By 1906, Trinity Chapter had 130 members and had helped sponsor a second chapter, this time in Waynesfield.
A 1918 flu epidemic in addition to a war era saw a lot of canceled meetings, but the women rolled bandages and prepared aid for the war when they gathered.
The first Worthy Matron, Letta Lown, died in 1922.
The pomp was edged up a notch by the 1930s. In 1936, the women purchased matching dresses for meetings and installations. The first gowns were pink lace with sashes and slippers that were blue. The following year, the dresses were made of white lace. The Worthy Matron chose the dresses for the officers, remembers Phyllis Wentz, who has been a member of the chapter for 63 years. They were often made to order at wedding dress shops like Shenk’s in Delphos.
Wentz, whose father was a Mason, joined because she liked the charity work of the chapter. She served as Worthy Matron from 1957 to 1958 and again from 2005 to 2006.
In 1939, the group had 575 members. In 1946, it had 911 members. In 1949, it started the Lima Assembly of Rainbow for Girls as a way to groom girls to later become members of the Order of the Eastern Star. Members are still required to have a tie to a Mason, but the rules have been loosened.
Trinity Chapter has held many fundraisers through the years, including Valentine’s parties, bake sales, cookbook sales, and today it serves meals at the lodge that are open to the public. The group supports nursing homes for their members. They also have the tent at the Allen County Fair that provides a cool place to sit on benches and rest. The group has about 200 members today.