Ottawa County officials have made no definitive plans for a cornerstone-laying ceremony at the site of a future courthouse, but they are firm on two details - there will be a ceremony and it must be a grand event.
Commission chairman Russell Earls, his fellow commissioners and Ottawa County Clerk Reba Sill expressed their desire to see countywide participation when the day comes to set the new courthouse cornerstone.
Earls said Monday that he hopes to see all area marching bands, municipal officials and area residents gather together. But, he said that the crowd will likely not compare with the estimated 2,000 people who gathered for the building's 1916 laying of the first cornerstone.
“This building belongs to everyone in the county,” said Sill said.
Miami Masons Gary Johnson and Norman Ruth attended Monday's meeting of the county commission to provide the details of previous ceremonies at the courthouse where two cornerstones are currently set into northeast walls.
One was set in 1916, the other in 1954. Both contained small vaults housing documents, newspapers and miscellaneous items from their respective time periods.
Johnson confirmed that the contents of the 1916 cornerstone were removed in the mid 1950s when the building was renovated and expanded.
The items were transferred to a subsequent cornerstone where they joined an assortment of similar items.
Commissioners expressed their desire to see all three of the cornerstones gathered together and placed side-by-side for placement as deemed appropriate by Oklahoma's Grand Masonic Lodge.
Upon formal request by county officials, a new stone and inscription will be provided by the Grand Lodge of the Oklahoma Masons, according to Johnson.
The Grand Lodge, which is located in Guthrie, must conduct the ceremony, according to rules of the Masonic Order.
“It is quite an honor to see those kind of ceremonies,” Ruth said.
Johnson said the cornerstone ceremony is rich in Freemason tradition and includes a parade of members who march together in a celebratory event that is one of the few public displays of a Masonic ritual event.
“It is an impressive ceremony,” Johnson said.
Earls said that, since he become aware of the history behind the cornerstones, the importance of continuing the tradition has become a priority.
County officials plan to create a third time capsule of information and items that will be sealed into the newest stone.
Earls, District 1 Commissioner John Clarke and District 2 Commissioner Kenneth Palmer are now considering a formal request that - upon the planned demolition of the courthouse - the Grand Lodge of Oklahoma release the contents of the 1954 cornerstone to the county for display in the new facility.
The stone and the contents are the property of the Masons until the fraternal organization formally releases it.