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Jaffa Shriners History

The dream of forming Jaffa Temple began to unfold in the late 19th century among a number of Nobles who held membership in Syria Shrine, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. By 1902 there were about 200 Nobles residing in the Altoona Area and it was this group that met and formed the Altoona Shrine Club on October 23, 1902.

The dream of a Shrine Center in Altoona started to show realism in early 1903 with the Charter being granted on July 9, 1903. The charter outlined Jaffa’s jurisdiction as follows: Counties of Blair, Potter, Cameron, Centre, Clearfield, Clinton, Jefferson, Cambria, Huntingdon, Mifflin, Fulton and Bedford and to the jurisdictional lines between Syria Temple in Pittsburgh and Jaffa in counties of Somerset, Westmoreland and Indiana, and concurrent jurisdiction with Zem Zem of Erie in Elk County. Jaffa’s jurisdiction extends from the New York to Maryland line, east to Lewistown and west to Blairsville.

The newly constituted Jaffa Shrine had no permanent home. On June 26, 1909 ground for a new Shrine Center was broken at 709-711 Chestnut Avenue. The new Shrine Center was dedicated on August 25, 1910 with the induction of 111 new novices and the formation of the Jaffa Improvement Association.

As Jaffa’s membership grew, the Shrine Center on Chestnut Avenue to seemed to get smaller. On June 1, 1928 ground was once again broken for our present facility on Broad Avenue.
The current Shrine Center Facility was dedicated on September 25, 1930 celebrating 27 years of growth and development.

Supporting Jaffa Shrine are 17 marching units, 16 shrine clubs, the Altoona Valley or the Ancient Order Scottish Rites, and many Masonic Lodges throughout the 16 county jurisdictions.

The Jaffa Shrine Center is a mid-eastern designed architectural landmark within downtown Altoona.

Our Facility is currently used for all shrine functions plus civic events, concerts, banquets, trade shows and much more.

Origin of Jaffa Temple – Written by Henry Lape ©1904

If I am rightly informed, in 1887 there was but one member of the Mystic Shrine in the City of Altoona, Noble H. P. Wilson.

In 1888, Nobles Harry F. Ferguson and Warren S. Lee followed and raised the number to three.

In 1889, Nobles Andrew S. Stayer, Edward Hair, John White, Jr., and honorable Martin Bell took the Degrees, making eight Nobles in Altoona and vicinity.

One by one the Nobility grew in our midst, until 1902, when we numbered almost 200 in Altoona and surrounding country, of about which 90 held membership in Syria Temple.

At the dedication of Syria Temple on October 23, 1902, the Nobles from Altoona, who were in attendance, assembled on the third floor of the Syria Temple, and organized the Altoona Shrine Club, and proceeded to elect temporary Officers with the following result: President, George F. Jackson; Vice-President Wilbur A. Rice; Treasurer, William W. Rudisill; Secretary, McClellan Wilson; and adjourn to meet in Altoona on call of the President.

At the subsequent meeting of November 13th, the action of the Club was: ratified, and the Officers chosen at Pittsburgh were made permanent.

A great deal of interest was manifested in the Club by the Nobles of the different Temples and ‘the many pleasant social, gatherings indicated that peace and harmony prevailed.

The greatest and most pleasant feature in the history of the Shrine club was the Reception and banquet held on February 6, 1903, under the supervision’ of the following committee: Noble McClellan Wilson, William H. Carson, William W Rudisill, Harry E. Ferguson, John Henry Lape, Thomas J. Hemphill, John K. Ray, Mahlon Cryder, Conrad Wendroth and Charles T. Derick.

There was 160 present and one and all accorded it the Social Event of the Season.

The sentiment grew from time to time and the distance along the horizon you could see the word temple looming up, and the handwriting on the wall indicated Oasis Altoona; the longer we gazedthe more distinct it appeared, which was very evident and convincing that we should have a Temple located at Altoona.

After due consideration. Noble Charles F. Breisacher suggested the name Jaffa, and on motion of Noble A. S. Stayer the name of Jaffa was adopted for our new Temple.

The Secretary procured a blank whereby to petition the Imperial Council for a charter. The necessary signatures were secured, and Noble George F. Jackson was delegated, with the following Nobles, William W. Rudisill, Wilbur A. Rice, H. L. Nicholson, William H. Irwin and John Dowling, as a committee to attend the Imperial council at Saratoga, NY, and present the petition and pray for its favorable consideration.

After the committee arrived at Saratoga they were informed that protests had been entered by Syria, Irem, Rajah and Zem Zem Temples, against granting a charter to Jaffa Temple, which seemed discouraging for the time being, but they applied the old rule essential to human life— “Seek and ye shall find; ask and it shall be given unto you; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” The Committee not only knocked, they commenced hammering; they wanted in; and through the intercession of Illustrious Noble Edwin B. Hay, of Almas Temple, Washington,
D. C., Past Imperial Potentate, Illustrious Noble Francis Hemperly; a charter was granted July 9, 1903, and Jaffa Temple an assured fact.

In the evening of October 2, the Officers with a large delegation of Members from Syria Temple arrived.

October 3, 1903, Acting Imperial Recorder, Illustrious Noble George W. McCandless called the Temple to order at 9:00 AM, in the East Side Theater, and read the commission issued by the Imperial Potentate Illustrious Noble George H. Green, deputizing Imperial Treasurer, Illustrious Noble William S. Brown, Illustrious Potentate of Syria Temple, to constitute and create Jaffa Temple Ancient Arabic Order Nobles of the Mystic Shrine.

Acting Imperial Potentate, Illustrious Noble William S. Brown, assumed his station and with the assistance of Illustrious Nobles George W.McCandless, George C. Johnstone, Warren LaRue Thomas, Phillip C. Schaffer, Edwin B. Hay, Francis H. Hemperly, John K. Ray, Harry Letsche. Harry L. Trees, A. V. Holmes, James H. Willock, Jay C. Grove and Peter Barkey, proclaimed, at nine o’clock and forty five minutes, Jaffa Temple duly constituted according to the Constitution and Laws of the Imperial Council.

After the election and installation of the Officers, Illustrious Noble Warren LaRue Thomas, of Kosair Temple. Louisville, KY, marched to the edge of the stage — every Noble thought he had part of the scenery belonging to the theater tied up to take along to Pittsburgh as a souvenir — but to our great surprise, he unveiled the massive package and unfolded a most beautiful, magnificent and costly banner, and in behalf of Syria Temple, and with the eloquence characteristic of Noble Thomas, presented the handsomely embroidered banner to Jaffa Temple. The banner was received on behalf of Jaffa Temple by Illustrious Noble Edwin B. Hay, of Almas Temple. Washington, D. C., who, in an eloquent and pleasing manner, thanked the Officers and Nobles of Syria Temple for their kind consideration, and assured them that the Nobles of Jaffa Temple held their Mother Temple and its Officers in the highest esteem.

Past Imperial Potentate, Illustrious Noble Phillip C. Schaffer and Past Potentate, Illustrious Noble Francis H. Hemperly, of Lu Lu Temple, were separately introduced, and made a few well-chosen remarks which were cordially received.

Illustrious Noble Jay C. Grove and Peter Barkey, Potentate and Recorder of Zem Zem Temple, we are sorry to state, were obliged to leave for home early in the afternoon, owing to some important and special business.

The First Officers of Jaffa Temple were as follows:
George F. Jackson Illustrious Potentate
William Rudisill Chief Rabban
McClellan Willson Assistant Rabban
Charles T. Derick High Priest and Prophet
S. Grant Steel Oriental Guide
Harland L. Nicholson Treasurer
John Henry Lape Recorder
John Dowling 1st Ceremonial Master
W. Harrison Walker 2nd Ceremonial Master
Harry W. Swoope Director
William H. Carson Marshal
Andrew S. Stayer Captain of the Guard
William G. Breisacher Outer Guard
Samuel A. Martin Captain of Patrol
Edgar B. Greene Alchemist
Harry E. Gamble Chief Musician
Harry F. Faber Musical Director

Jaffa Temple commenced its existence with One hundred and Sixty-four Charter Members and a class of Two Hundred and Thirteen Novices, making a membership of Three Hundred and
Seventy-Seven on the day of Constitution.

During the year we created One Hundred and Fifty- seven Nobles, which increased our membership to Five Hundred and Thirty-four, of which four have demitted and seven have been summoned to the unseen Temple above. Our present membership to dats is Five Hundred and Twenty-Three.

Es Selamu Alekium.

John Henry Lape, Recorder


Randy L. Colyer
Gary W. Smith
Chief Rabban
Eric L. Ramsey
Assistant Rabban
Dwayne E. “Butch” Garman
High Priest and Prophet
James F. Abbott
Oriental Guide
Aaron J. Lantzy
Robert P. Baranik

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Upcoming Events

Chicken BBQs
Potentate’s Trip
Thu, February 8, 2024
Winter Basketball League
Ride for Love
Sat, August 10, 2024
Jaffa Bowl-A-Thon
Fri, October 13, 2023
BINGO – Kiddies Christmas Party
Sun, March 10, 2024
One Day Masonic Journey
Sat, March 23, 2024
Wed, April 10, 2024
Walk For Love
Sun, June 9, 2024
Sportsmen’s Raffle
Sun, October 6, 2024
Cash Raffle
Sun, October 1, 2023
Annual BINGO – Jobel Court No. 11
Sun, November 5, 2023
Craft Show
Sat, November 9, 2024
Church Service
Sun, November 17, 2024
Kiddie’s Christmas Party
Sun, December 10, 2023
Annual Meeting And Election
Sat, January 6, 2024
Beer & Wine Festival
Sat, January 13, 2024
Jaffa Mounted Patrol Night at the Races
Sat, May 4, 2024
Jaffa Shooters Club Event
Thu, January 26, 2023
Pending Events