Ashland Elks

Elks dignitaries stand in front of Ashland’s Elks Lodge on Center Street circa 1929. 

ASHLAND – The history of how one of Ashland’s well-established community service organizations got its start is an interesting one.

Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian was born on Oct. 22, 1842, in London, England. He was the son of a clergyman and became a successful singer and dancer in London but migrated to New York City in November, 1867, looking to expand his career.

Others in the Big Apple’s entertainment industry soon gravitated to the young Vivian who was very talented and possessed a vibrant personality.

New York City Blue Laws generally prohibited working, sporting, playing, and frequenting tippling houses (drinking establishments), and strictly enforced Sundays as a day of rest and relaxation from “unlawful” behaviors. Because of these Sunday restrictions which originated from the days of early England, Vivian and his theatrical friends started meeting privately for their own version of “Sunday Fundays.” The group eventually referred to themselves as the Jolly Corks.

In 1867, one of the members of the Jolly Corks died leaving his family destitute. In response, the Jolly Corks decided in addition to their Sunday fellowship, they needed a long-lasting organization to help others in need.

On Feb. 16, 1868, they established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks and elected Vivian to lead their new organization. Their social activities and benefit performances quickly grew interest in membership not only in New York, but around the United States.

The Elks eventually asked the New York legislature for a charter, which was issued in 1871, and allowed for a Grand Lodge to issue other charters to cities throughout the United States.

On July 9, 1919, Ashland, Ohio, Elks Lodge #1360, received their charter. The new organization in town was located in the former Dr. George W. Hill residence located at the southwestern corner of Center and West Washington Streets.

The Hill home was passed on through two other owners before the Trustees of Ashland Elks Lodge purchased the home in 1919 for $15,000.

Before the Elks bought the Center Street building, they met at the Knights of the Pythias Hall in the Mason Building on Main Street. Their first officers were T. S. Brindle, T. E. Shinn, Dr. E. O. Furrow and Herbert E. Echelberger.

In the spirit of Charles Vivian’s showmanship, in the early 1920’s the Ashland Elks sponsored what is known as the Elks Jollies at the Ashland and Loudonville Opera Houses.

Follies

An Elks Program book from “The Jollies of 1920” which features a photo of the original home at the corner of Center and West Washington Streets.

The Follies were very popular events and included many types of lighthearted foolishness including routines and skits from jokesters, magicians, and minstrel groups. Cast members included both local and traveling talent.

Perhaps the most famous people participating in the Elks Follies were the men who staged the productions. At that time, they went by Sam and Henry, but they were actually Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll, later known as Amos ‘n’ Andy from radio fame.

Eventually, the Elks added a lounge area and parking lot to the back of the Center Street property but the original home was razed and a new brick building was built in its place in 1966.

The current building includes an upstairs lodge room, kitchen, dining area, lounge and basement.

Charles Vivian’s legacy grows on today as the Ashland Elks Lodge just celebrated its 100th anniversary serving the Ashland area community. Members are hosting a special dinner for a visit from the Grand Exalter Ruler, Robert Duitsman from Carson City, CA, on Aug. 14.

The Elks Lodge is also planning a 100th anniversary open house celebration on Sept. 28, 2019. It is open to the public and includes live music, food trucks and lodge tours.

Mr. Vivian’s initial vision to help one family who lost their father became a mission “To inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to recognize a belief in God; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; to cultivate good fellowship; to perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization, and to provide for its government, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America will serve the people and communities through benevolent programs, demonstrating that Elks Care and Elks Share.”

Here in Ashland, members devote much of their time to community service projects including the area’s annual Flag Day ceremony, drug awareness, various veterans’ causes, scholarships, cerebral palsy, and promote youth activities.

The Board of Trustees recently estimated the Ashland Elks has donated $4 million to local causes over the past 100 years. 2019-20 Exalted Ruler, Tom Mansberger, states, “It has always been a privilege for Elks to serve this community and we look forward to another 100 years of that service in the future.”

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