Shriners Welcomed to Fargo
In early June of 1915, there were second-fiddle headlines to US President Woodrow Wilson making plans to send a message to the German Kaiser over the sinking of the Lusitania. What was this adjoining big news that the Fargo Forum featured on nearly one third of the front page? It was a welcome to Fargo for the nearly 700 Shriners heading to the city.
The red fez revelers had begun to descend into the Red River Valley to attend the Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. It was billed as the greatest event of its kind ever held in the State of North Dakota.
The gathering came a day after many of the Shriners attended the summer reunion of the Scottish Rite gathering that had ended the previous evening. In addition to the 700 Shriners “were nearly 100 novices who are to be given the work this evening that will make them fledged members of the order.” The novices had been assigned to sweep portions of Broadway, Fargo’s main street, as well as work on a new portion of the downtown Masonic Temple. The paper reported that “every bunch of novices was closely guarded and directed by members of the El Zagel Patrol, who saw to it that their conduct was above reproach and that they did their work well. The novices were easy to recognize as they were all decked in white gowns and white shoes. The report added: “Occasionally one of the white-gowned victims was instructed to mount some elevation and give an address to the throng of people who gathered wherever a bunch of novices were at work.”
A Northern League baseball game with Shriners in the bleachers followed in the early afternoon. And the late afternoon featured a parade, billed as one of the largest parades ever to be seen in Fargo. A grand gathering of marching Shriners started at the old downtown Temple and weaved their way around the city and back to the temple.
Founded in 1890, the El Zagal chapter is still going strong today.
Datebook by Steve Stark
June 4, 1915 Fargo Forum and Daily Republican