Noblesville Elks Share a Rich Local History
Writer / Christy Heitger-Ewing
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, originally founded in 1868 as a social club in New York City, is one of the oldest and largest fraternal organizations in the United States. Today, close to 1.4 million men and women are involved in more than 2,200 Elks lodges located in all 50 states and Washington, D.C.
Noblesville became a chartered Elks Lodge in 1900. Through the course of the last 121 years, it has resided in three locations, the first of which was on Conner Street. It remained there for more than seven decades before being moved out towards Fox Prairie Golf Course from 1972 until 1995. At that point it was moved to South 9th Street as members wanted to return to downtown.
Pete Smith, a retired area educator and varsity boys basketball coach, has been a member of the Elks since he was 21 years old, making this his 40th year.
“My father was involved in the Elks so I was eager to get involved,” says Smith, who was the Exalted Ruler of the Noblesville lodge in 2019. Today he serves as the chaplain.
Attorney Trampas Whalin is the current Exalted Ruler. Dave Cox, who owned Hare Chevrolet, was the Exalted Ruler in 1972 and installed Smith into the position.
According to Smith, the Noblesville Elks organization is nearing 500 members. Franklin has around 1,000 members.
“There are over 50 lodges still operating in Indiana, with Noblesville and Franklin as two of the most successful ones,” Smith says.
The Elks are passionate about supporting the National Veterans Service Commission.
“We’ve stocked the veterans food pantry in Indy often, and try to help Hamilton County veterans as opportunities arise,” Smith says.
Long before the Indiana University (IU) Simon Cancer Center was founded in 1992, the Indiana Elks Association was generously funding cancer research at the IU School of Medicine. In the past 50 years it’s been a major project for state lodges, generating close to $4.5 million for cancer research for both IU and Purdue.
Last year leaders of the Tyler Trent Foundation singled out Noblesville’s lodge as a great supporter of their cause.
“Our Noblesville Elks has been one the largest contributors to cancer research in the state,” Smith says.
Every August for the past 35 years, the Noblesville lodge has hosted a charity golf tournament at Fox Prairie Golf Course. In recent years their Steve Renner Golf Outing has had a full field of 144 players, limited to 36 teams since the course can only hold so many players. This year they raised more than $26,000 for the Elks cancer research program.
“We help a plethora of great organizations in Hamilton County,” Smith says, mentioning feedingteam.org, the website for Feeding Families Hamilton County, and Fueled for School, which provides nutritious meals for food-insecure youth in Hamilton County.
The Noblesville Elks are also big supporters of the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville. In addition to donating dollars, they regularly feed the kids in their after-school programs. Plus, they help with Stuff the Bus, a school readiness program that helps low-income students in need of school supplies and backpacks.
The Elks Hoop Shoot will take place on Sunday, December 12 at the Boys & Girls Club. This marks the 50th year for the event in the U.S. There have been several state champions from Noblesville. Several children advanced to the national finals, including Kelly Clark in 1995 and 1996, Brett Clark in 1997, Ryan Cline in 2008 and 2010, and Sarah Yount in 2010. They have three age categories in each gender (8-9, 10-11, and 12-13), so there are six national champions every year (three girls and three boys). Cline, who went on to become a starter at Purdue, was a national champion in 2010.
Hoosier great Steve Alford was a national champion from the New Castle lodge, and former Pacer Chris Mullin was a national champion from his lodge in the state of New York.
“There have been NBA and WNBA players who [advanced to] nationals as children,” says Smith, who was an Indiana high school varsity basketball coach for 27 years, and coached at Noblesville and Carmel.
His last stop before retiring from coaching in 2018 was at Guerin Catholic, and the school won two state basketball championships.
“We’ve had some really good shooters who ended up having great basketball careers,” Smith says.
He notes, however, that not every great free-throw shooter plays high school basketball.
“You get a diverse group of boys and girls who compete,” he says.
To participate in the Hoop Shoot, athletes must be between 8 and 13 years old. Competitors needn’t sign up ahead of time or qualify for the event. Anyone who fits in this age group is able to participate, as long as they are in the required age bracket as of April 1, 2022. Doors open at 10:30 a.m., and competition begins at 11 a.m.
The Elks Lodge is located at 35 South 9th Street in Noblesville. For more information, call 317-773-4182 or visit elks.org.