The historic Keystone Lodge No. 161 in Milton, California has been destroyed by a fire that started at 9:00AM Saturday, according to a police report. The cause of the fire is under investigation.
From the Sierra Nevada Geotourism Map Guide:
Completion of the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1871 marked the birth of the town of Milton. Named after Milton Latham, one of the railroad's construction financiers, this town was the first in Calaveras County to have a railroad. Freight and passengers continued their journeys to other parts of Calaveras County by wagon and stagecoach.
The town was created after the construction of the rail line known as the Stockton-Copperopolis Railroad and was the terminus for this line. In the late 1880s, Milton was one of Calaveras County's liveliest towns. The rail line from Stockton was originally planned to be extended to Copperopolis, but the market for copper declined after the Civil War and hampered long-term growth in Milton. Rail service declined until it was discontinued in the 1940s.
Today remnants are left of the town, including a Masonic Hall and the Milton Masonic Cemetery. The Milton Masonic Keystone Lodge No. 161 is still in use, and remains in good condition. It was constructed in 1871 as a saloon and later became a town hall before being purchased by the Masonic Lodge in 1881, and was moved from Copperopolis to Milton. In 1962, the Grand Lodge F. &A. M. of California erected a marker. The maker is located in Milton, at the intersection of Flint Street and Milton Road, on the right when traveling north of Flint Street. A map to the marker can be found here. The inscription on the marker reads:
"Keystone Lodge No. 161, F. & A.M., instituted in Copperopolis Dec. 19. 1982, at the height of the copper mining boom. Moved to 1881, to Milton, the terminal of the Stockton & Copperopolis Railroad, which, because of the collapse of copper mining, never reached its intended goal. Dedicated to those who sought to perpetuate the moral teachings of Freemasonry. To them we gratefully acknowledge our debt."
Milton Latham, the town's namesake, served as California's sixth governor in 1860 for a brief time- just five days- before filling in the Senate position as David Broderick's replacement after Broderick was shot in a duel. Latham's governorship has the distinction of being the shortest in California's history.
The lodge celebrated its 150th anniversary in October of 2012.
UPDATE: From a story and photo by Travis Taborek on the Calaveras Enterprise website on 1/25: