Priscilla Chapter celebrates 100 years

PORT GAMBLE — After 100 years, the women of the Order of the Eastern Star Priscilla Chapter No. 96 celebrated their charity work and their pride Tuesday evening by sharing stories, music and laughter — as they have for the past century.

Since June 1907, the Port Gamble group, along with the Masons, have been operating out of the Masonic Lodge and building their own community group within the town.

“Really, in early Port Gamble, Eastern Star was the whole social life,” said Priscilla Chapter Worthy Matron Emily Moore, who has been a member for nearly 40 years. The position of worthy matron is the presiding officer, and her counterpart is the worthy patron, filled by a member of the Masons. “My father and brother were Masons in Seattle. It’s a social group based on the Bible, and all the fun we have with all the charity we do.”

To be in the Order of the Eastern Star, a woman must be related to a Mason, such as a father, grandfather, brother or uncle. It is the only requirement to join.

The Priscilla Chapter was named so after Priscilla Mullins, a young woman who traveled on the Mayflower to what is now Massachusetts. She was admired by the first worthy matron of Port Gamble, Lillian Todhunter, who named the chapter after Mullins, Moore said.

“I’ve only been in since 1979,” said Priscilla Chapter member Petty Poynor. “We’ve had some grand representatives, a couple of grand officers and even one grand matron.”

The group not only does charity work, but also provides a chance to socialize in the community, something that has changed since 1907 when it was much harder to travel to other towns. Linda Ransier, who has been a member for 46 years and whose mother was in the Order of the Eastern Star before her, remembers Christmas parties in the dining hall of the Port Gamble Masonic Lodge. Santa Claus always had a package especially for her, and she said it’s a vivid and happy memory from childhood.

The building housing the Masonic Lodge had actually been located across the street, but the organization was moved in 1872 after the structure caught fire.

History similar to this and pride in charity work are the primary reasons for the celebration, Ransier said.

“This chapter stuck out for its friendliness and willingness to work together,” said Priscilla Chapter member Bernice Zachau. She has been an Eastern Star member for only five years, but added she has felt at home since joining the group in 2005.

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