The Early History and Growth of Naja Temple

Taken from an article in the Nov-Dec 1943 issue of the Naja News Nuggets, written by Joseph A. Poznansky of Sturgis, SD

Naja Temple was instituted under dispensation issued by the Imperial Potentate at a meeting held on October 28, 1892. There were Nobles present from Tangier (Omaha), El Riad (Sioux Falls), and Sesortris (Lincoln). It must have been a colorful ceremony as Noble W.J. McMackin was installed as Potentate. Petitions were received from nearly every town in the Black Hills, and though little is said of that day in the records, it must have been one that those earnest Nobles remembered the rest of their lives.

This was not the first Naja Temple in Shrinedom. At one time there was a Naja Temple in Albany, New York, but because there were two Temples in that city, Naja voluntarily withdrew and left the field to Cyrus Temple.

The name Naja comes from the far east meaning Serpent and when one was spoken of as being Naja, the inference was that one was as wise as the serpent. It is pronounced as though spelled Naya.

The second meeting of Naja Temple was held on December 17, 1892 and Charles Waite was elected to fill the Recorder’s vacancy when D. E. Cummings resigned.

On August 11, 1893 the Temple held its first election under its charter which had been granted by the Supreme Council at Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, a report showed cash on hand in the treasury of $248.59. A half year later, at another meeting the bylaws were adopted and an assessment of $3.00 for each Noble was levied.

The first of many marvelous parades was put on by Naja Temple on January 27, 1894. It must have been a glorious sight for that typically western city to see the Nobles in full costume, headed by the kazoo band marching down the street. Notation is made that Illustrious Potentate J. H. Mauritius of Sesortris Temple installed the newly elected officers.

As the years went by, the ranks of Naja swelled and each year the sands of the desert grew hotter as more and more novices gathered to learn the mysteries of the Shrine. After their eventful journey over the hot sands, they partook of refreshments and ZemZem Water until the wee hours of the morning.

Although rationing of tires and gasoline was unheard of in those early days some of the meetings were almost a year apart. Illustrious Potentate McMackin served until the election of December 1895, when J. W. Freeman was elected to the honorable position.

The meeting of December 18, 1897 was important as well as constructive. The Recorder in his report recommended that the Recorder and Treasurer be provided with a set of books to be kept in regular form; also that a warrant book be secured and all funds paid only on warrants drawn on the Treasurer in accordance with the bylaws. It was also recommended that these officers be provided with tin boxes in which to keep their records. These resolutions were adopted and Naja started becoming a part of history. An amendment to the bylaws was also adopted: “Annual dues shall be $2.00.” Nobles in arrears for one year were to be notified and suspended after two months notice. The Recorder would receive the sum of $5.00 for recording each regular and special meeting. Up to this time there were no dues, only an assessment had been levied. Also the Recorder had never received anything for his services except a “thank you.” This year also marked the beginning of benevolent activities. The South Dakota Childrens Home in Sioux Falls was voted a contribution of $25.00.

At the meeting held on December 29, 1900 it was voted that all the surplus funds were to be invested in Masonic Temple stock. The architect, J. W. Gibbs, donated 150 shares of Masonic Temple stock and 50 shares were received from F. C. Hein as fee for his entrance to the Shrine.

Although nothing is said about it, it seems that by this time the Temple had a Shrine Band and during the Ceremonial in 1905 it was the big attraction in a spectacular parade.

On a hot day in July, the 21st to be exact, in the year 1906, the Nobles obeyed the call of the Potentate and assembled to receive and entertain, as becomes his rank, the Imperial Potentate, Noble Alva P. Clayton. It was decided to select a patrol to announce and introduce the Imperial officer. Eight Nobles were appointed to perform the task and the Imperial Potentate was announced, received and introduced to the Nobles of Naja Temple. The honored guest delivered an inspiring address. The Imperial Potentate Alva P. Clayton was made an honorary member and a private session followed the degree of Title. Our history does not tell us of any other Imperial Potentate being received as an honorary member, so we assume that he was the first one to be honored in such a way.

A special session was held May 29, 1908 and thirty-two petitions were received and elected. Visiting Nobles from Medinah, Algiers, El Kahir, El Riad and Tangier were present and no doubt Potentate Grantz was especially proud of this large class.

The banquet given by the Sisters of Isis, an organization of wives, daughters, sisters and mothers of Shriners on September 25, 1908 was remembered long afterwards. History tells us that each lady wore a white fez to the banquet.

At a special meeting held May 29, 1909 the Recorder called attention to the fact that El Riad Temple had been invading our jurisdiction by initiating candidates belonging to our Temple. A claim of $1,000.00 was made on El Riad Temple. The claim was settled with a check from El Riad for $427.50. It was agreed that Naja Temple held jurisdiction over all that part of South Dakota lying west of the Missouri River.

At the annual session held December, 1910 D. H. Crary was elected Potentate. It is an interesting fact that during the year 1942 his son, Gerald D. Crary was Potentate of the same Temple and both father and son have given much to the Temple.

The Recorder’s notes of December 19, 1912 were signed by our very worthy Recorder, Noble Carl H. Kubler.

And so the past becomes ever brighter until we come to the pages of the present, and we can dimly see the days in the future. In 1942, at the Fall Ceremonial, we celebrated our 50th anniversary. Visiting Nobles from all over the country were present and it was a gala affair. El Riad Temple from Sioux Falls sent their band to help us entertain our Noble guests. Potentate Gerald D. Crary added another number of novices to the ranks of Naja Temple.

Postscript: It is interesting to note that at the time this article was written (1943) the population of Rapid City was about 14,000. The combined population of Lead and Deadwood was about 12,000. Spearfish stood just over 2,000. When Naja Temple was chartered, in 1882, population figures are hard to come by but we believe Lead and Deadwood would have been in the 5,000 range and Rapid City was somewhere between 200-500 and was known as Hay Camp.

Certainly, times have changed, but human needs have not. There is still great enrichment found in the camaraderie of Shriner members, and great needs to be filled – especially for families and children – where the Shriners can play an important role. We invite anyone interested to join us for the fun and for the satisfaction of making a real difference in our community.

Past Potentates

Imperial Past Potentate:
*Gerald Crary 1956-1957
Dale Claymore
Kip Wagner
Timothy J. Rensch 2017
Jeff Schroeder 2016
Mike Stirling 2015
Dan Arnio 2014
Willis Kopren 2013
Casey Derflinger 2012
Dave Ruth, Jr. 2011
Steven Hendrickson 2010
Clyde Smith 2009
Robert “Bob” Helmer 2008
Dean Cape 2007
Alton Palmer 2006
Douglas Kloppel 2005
Rodney Baumberger 2004
Floyd A Rummel III 2003
Donald A Livesay (Hon) 2002
Wallace E Evans 2002
Pat Roberts 2001
John H. Jackson 2000
*David D. Valandry+ 1999
David A. Jones 1998
*Marvin Erickson 1997
Gene Kinney 1996
*James M. Parke 1995
Lowell C. Holmgren 1994
Dwayne Walliser 1993
Lyle E. Collins, Sr 1992
*Bernard ‘Bud’ Paradis 1991
Marvin Olson 1990
Don Mattson 1989
*}Roy Stacey 1988
*John Shepard 1987
Alvin Dyer 1986
*J. Wes Schwietert 1985
James Kelley 1984
*Lloyd West 1983
James Shevling 1982
Wesley Sorensen+ 1981
*Floyd Hesler 1980
*Charles Linander 1979
*Oakley Lamphere 1978
*Encell Raetz 1977
*Milo Rypkema 1976
*Kenneth McColley 1975
*Ned Wick 1974
*Charles Q. Mateer 1973
*Glenn Best+ 1972
*Lisle Owens 1971
*John Hammond 1970
*J. Wilson Sweaney 1969
*Jelbert Morcom 1968
*Joseph Bottum 1967
*Robert Swanson 1966
*L.T. Van Syoc 1965
*E.E.Wick 1964
*William A. Grieb (Hon) 1963
* Ernie Grieb 1963
*Fred Gellerman 1962
*George Bennett 1961
*Gerald Neugebauer 1960
*John Moodie 1959
*R. Rowbatham 1958
*S.S.Schouweiler 1957
*Kenneth Arthur 1956
*Carl W. Holmgren 1955
*Philip Dyer 1954
*Clem Knecht 1953
*Arvid Bill Eklund 1952
*William Schoen 1951
*George Hunter+ 1950
*Ora Horsefall 1949
*Stanton Neil 1948
*William F. Grieb 1947
}Demit *Deceased +Past MSA Pres