Really Good Question Steve:
When I started I had one mod, who was one of the first few members, you need to remember in the beginning of a forum, membership growth was far and few between - it was necessary sometimes to have a member post some questions to get the ball rolling. Nothing staged, but have someone asking questions so post count can climb.
Up until I met Dallas (PDMattox - for those who don't know) I never met a mod, but long before Dallas was a Mod, Robo and Eviend and several others came in to help and we actually had a mod group nearing a dozen people, far too many and with way too many ideas of what was important I found out.
The most important issue has been and always will be the safety of the membership, and what violates a member's good standing - I had a basic set of rules established, but many of the mod staff had issues with the rules and my mistake was in trying to run the forum democratically using a true one member one vote system - it was a nightmare. Today, we post issues for each other to comment on and decide what to do from there, no voting, just logical discussions about issues - the way it should be and honestly, the only way it can work.
That original moderator had become a real ying-yang and started PMing members speaking about issues discussed in our mod forum (sort of our cone of silence - what happens in a mod forum, stays in the mod forum) and because issues concerning members are talked about in there, letting out info to any member often gets back to a member who has violated some rule and he/she runs a muck. In otherwords, this first Mod had become a turncoat, decided he was going to leave anyway and wanted to do as much damage as he could on the way out the door.
Instead though, the people he PMed ended up writing me or other mods and quite quickly the original mod found himself out the door forever with no real harm done. A few of this "Early big staff" were apposed to his banishment and left on their own, mostly trickling out, not voting on key issues, etc. and Eventually it was Eviend, Robo and me.
I met Buzzbee (Ken) next in the forum, he was fired up at a post that I wrote which was written in total sarcasm to someone who was trashing the fact people used anything chemical (right down to powdered sugar) he called such members as poluting the planet, killing all that is natural and pure, and Buzzbee mistook my sarcasm written as a reply to the powered sugar post - I was over the top, but in context it all made sense. I think Buzzbee missed the first part of the post, and tore me a new one. After explaining why I said what I said, he appologised, agreed in whole and I liked his way of thinking.
About that same time the last two fellows TWT (Ted) and Dallas came along, it was right around the birth of Ventrilo Chat and they were some of the first people there were to chat with. Ted came to the rescue and made Mod when spammers practically destroyed our old PHP forum, they were logging in with spam to adult sites, pramacies online - all that crap. We didn't have a real varifier to make sure it was a human signing up after a version update of the software and spammers were coming quicker than could be deleted.
Dallas was the first to suggest voice chat as a means of communicating actually, it came up in a conversation and we searched out programs - I'm a little fuzzy about how Ventrilo first came up, but it was hosted on my computer, later Buzzbee's and finally on a secure and dedicated server that does nothing but host Ventrilo Voice chat.
Ted also then took on the extreme job of saving the cookbook forum which also had been over run (even worse) by spammers, this was during a sad time when my Mother passed away and I was pretty useless to anyone. This got Ted into Mod status, so he could take on the job of deleting all spam posts and members in the two forums.
So after a few months (if that) of being on Ventrilo, Buzzbee and Dallas were good sensible online friends who I knew would be ideal additions to the staff and I asked them to join.
Mind you, during this time the old forum was wearing itself out, it needed someone technical to handle the software and programming part, something that I seriously lack in. Robo came forward with an idea to move us from the old PHP to the current SMF forum software - I really didn't know his talents as a programmer and he still amazes me, that was when he was moved up to Technical Administrator, a position that were are very lucky to have him piloting for us.
So, to answer you Steve, I never met anyone prior before they were mods, and didn't start meeting anyone until Dallas and his family when I flew down to his home, then got to meet Ken and his Family a year later when Dallas visited me and my wife, after that Ted and his family came and stayed with us on their way to Maine. I still haven't Met Robo or Eviend - I surely hope to someday soon, most likely I'll catch up with Rob at a Beekeeping Gathering somewhere - but Eviend may take a while, he's in Oslo, Norway.
So that's the story (as best as this fading mind can remember) it is interesting though - we are a great group, they often put up with my hissy fits which usually ends up with me putting a foot or two in my mouth, but in the end it is a great group of guys highly dedicated to the forum and we are all lucky to have them.