Marshfield’s early Elks Lodge celebrates expanding membership
By Kris Leonhardt
The beginnings of the Marshfield Elks Lodge date back to the early days of New York City when in 1867 two entertainers stopped at an establishment following a musical performance. Charles Vivian and Dick Steirly met up with Hughey Doughterty, Cool Burgess, and Henry Vandemark, and Steirly suggested that the gentlemen shake dice.
“Vivian replied that he never handled the cubes but would show them a new game,” said James Nicholson in his “History of the Order of Elks.”
“Calling for three corks, he gave one each to Steirly and Vandemark, keeping the other for himself. He asked Cool Burgess to be the judge and Dougherty to count ‘1, 2, 3.’ They rehearsed the trick of each dropping his cork on the bar and picking it up as rapidly as possible, several times, the idea conveyed to the initiated being that the last man to lift his cork was to buy.”
Vivian then gave the word of command, and Dougherty counted. He and Steirly passed their hands over their corks while Vandemark, eager to lift his cork from the bar, was both first and last to pick it up and consequently was “stuck” for the round.
The group continued the ruse, gaining drinks from unsuspecting targets and initiating members into their “Jolly Corks” club. Upon meeting other members, the “Corks” were required to show their cork, which they were obligated to carry at all times, or they would be forced to purchase a drink.
As membership grew, the club became active in the community, and differences began to erupt among the group members. The organization, not able to resolve its differences, split in two.
One of the groups would put its ideas into action and in 1868 would form the charter lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
Instituted by the newly formed Stevens Point Lodge #641, the Marshfield Elks Lodge #665 would induct 36 charter members into the fraternal society in February of 1901.
The ceremony, which took most of the afternoon and evening, included a 78-plate banquet at the Marshfield armory, welcoming visiting Elks from Stevens Point, Fond du Lac, Waukesha, Oshkosh, Milwaukee, Antigo, and Wausau.
With no clubhouse established, the group, under the leadership of Exalted Ruler Dr. H.A. Lathrop, would begin to hold meetings in temporary accommodations until a more permanent location could be secured.
In March of 1918, the Marshfield Elks announced that they were nearing an important milestone for the club.
Just one year earlier, the lodge had finally obtained a perpetual home. Upon relocating to the clubhouse, membership had doubled in size. Now nearing their 200th membership, the club looked to expand and announced plans to construct a 40-foot addition to the back of the building as well as a second story.
Today, the club continues as a fraternal society from its clubhouse at Second and Maple, providing civil and municipal aid to the Marshfield area-wide community. The club works with local youth, the needy, veterans, and the disabled while providing scholarships to area students and conducting numerous community support programs.