The year 1859 was an important year both for the Free and Accepted Masons of Decatur and the people of the entire United States. The new Republican party was very busy laying plans for the presidential election of 1860. Its principal point of stress was the “non-extension of slavery”. Stephan A. Douglas had been driven into a defensive stand by Abraham Lincoln in their debate at Freeport, Illinois in 1858 where Douglas had propounded his “Freeport Doctrine”, a statement which greatly angered the South where Douglas was henceforth held in disrepute. In this same year of 1859, John Brown made his raid on the arsenal at Harper’s Ferry and tried to arouse the slaves of Virginia into a revolt against their masters. Secession was openly and widely discussed in the South.
In this troubled year of 1859, a group of Decatur Master Masons decided to begin the formation of a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons in Decatur. The purpose of such an organization is well stated in the records of the Lodge when it states:
“In all ages Societies have been organized and institutions found, having for their object the amelioration of the conditions of man. Among these none have more successfully withstood the test of time than the ancient and honored institution of Free Masonry. This inculcates benevolence and charity, and the practice of those virtues that elevate and adorn society; and reminds man both by precept and practice, of his duty to his fellow creatures, and to his God. It teaches him to alleviate the wants and soothe the sorrows of the desolate and friendless, to visit the sick, clothe the naked, feed the hungry, and extend a helping hand to the widow and orphan. The purity of its principles softens the asperities of the human character, and unites by the indissoluble ties of Brothers by Love, Relief, and Truth, in one common Brotherhood, men of every nation and every condition of life. Ancient Free Masonry is based upon the broad principles that all men, by the practice of those virtues that elevate him in the scale of his moral being, thus rendering him more the image of his Creator, are equal. Its members are alike entitled to its honors, and equally participate in its benefits. We meet not to revel in conventionality or to engage in political or religious strife. Ours is not a school of politics or religion, where harangues are delivered to influence a brother’s faith. Each individual is left free to choose, according to the dictates of his own conscience, that creed of politics or religion, as shall best accord with his own sense of right and justice. In a word we associate on the level as brothers, that, by unity and concert of action, benevolence and all the better characteristics of our nature be brought into a more lively and useful exercise.”
In an undated copy of a Petition to the Grand Lodge the petitioners state; “That they are desirous of forming a new lodge in the town of Decatur to be named Decatur Lodge. They therefore pray for letters of Dispensation or a Warrant of Constitution to empower them to assemble as a legal lodge to discharge the duties of Masonry in a regular and constitutional manner according to the original forms of the Order and the regulations of the Grand Lodge.”
Nominations for officers recommended in the petition. were;
Nelson P. Dory – First Master
David Showers – Senior Warden
L.N. Coverdale – Junior Warden
Signing the petition in addition to the above nominees were Henry Banta; J. P. Porter; E. G. Coverdale; Asa Woodward; O. T. Hart; R. B. Allison; T. J. Tolan; S. S. Mickle; H. L. Phillips; G. W. Barton; James Stoops; Wm. L. Smith; G. A. Woodburn; James B. Simcoke.
In response to the petition to the Grand Lodge of Indiana, a Dispensation was received and a copy of it made in the Secretary Record Book No. 1. The Dispensation and a copy of all procedures pertaining to it were sent back to the Grand Lodge. This Dispensation was dated November 17, Anno Domini 1859 — Anno Lucis 5859. A formal printed Charter dated May 29, 1860, was received and remained the property of the Decatur Lodge. Both of these documents were signed by A. C. Downey, G.M., and Francis King, G. Secretary. The By-Laws, article 2, mention the warrant of the Lodge and the date May 29, 1860, but it would seem that the earlier date, November 17, 1859, should be considered as the effective date of this Lodge’s beginning for it was soon after this in November that the organization meeting was held. Thus Decatur Lodge No. 254, F. & A. M., came into being.
In the original By-laws there were thirty-five articles to guide the members in conducting the meetings of the Lodge and its business, It is interesting to note that according to Article 15, “The stated meetings shall be held on the Wednesday of, or immediately preceding the fulling of the moon of each month: The hour of meeting shall be at six O’Clock in winter; and seven and ½ O’Clock in summer”.
In those far away times, in the year just before Civil War rent the nation asunder, the fees for the three degrees were $15.00; with $5.00 due with each application for membership. The dues at that time were $1.00 per year.
On April 12, 1861 Fort Sumter was attacked and the nation was plunged into the bloody Civil War. There is no record of how this affected Lodge No. 254 during the first year of the war, but by August of 1862, the Lodge was definitely affected. By that time there were fourteen petitions for initiation and membership. Because time was of the essence, as these men were volunteers for the U. S. Army, the Lodge voted that it be declared an emergency, the rules be suspended, and the three degrees of Masonry be given the applicant volunteers as fast as it could be done.
In accordance with this decision three sessions were held on August 15, one at 9:00 A. M.; one at 1:00 P. M.; and one at 6:00 P. M. On the following days many meetings were held; two on the 16th at 9:00 A. M. and 8:00 P. M.; one on the 17th, two on the 18th at 9:00 A. M. and 7:00 P. M.; one on Aug. 26 and one Sept. 23. In October meetings were held on the 1st, 4th, 6th, 7th, 11th, 14th, 18th, 20th, 23rd, 25th, and 27th.
For the year 1862 the Lodge gave 33 C A degrees, 32 F C degrees and 31 M M degrees. No doubt the brothers could look back on this year with a great deal of pride but also with a sigh of relaxing relief. Among the applicants given degrees in that August of 1862 was John J. Chubb, who went into service as a Second Lieutenant and was the captain in command of Company I, 89th Indiana Volunteer Infantry at the time of its mustering out in July of 1865.
In December of 1865 it was decided to go from one to two stated meetings (communications) per month. In the meeting of December 30 a previously appointed committee reported and moved to hold meetings on the first and third Tuesday of each month. An attempt was made to substitute “the Tuesday previous to and the Tuesday prior (They probably meant following) the full of the moon”. The original motion was finally carried.
About this time too, the Lodge began to think about its own home. The members were meeting at this time in a hall rented from Yager and Company. This was on South Second Street, probably about 119 S. Second, where the Kent Realty Company is now located. On January 30, 1866 the trustees of the Lodge were instructed to buy a part of Lot No. 53. This was on the east side of 2nd. Street, the middle lot of a three lot layout between Madison and the alley to the north. They were instructed to buy a plot of ground with on 18 foot front, 132 foot deep on which a meeting hall might be built. Price limitations were designated as 21 to 43 cents per foot. At the February meeting this lot purchase order was countermanded and in a July meeting the Lodge voted to issue 5 year bonds bearing 10% interest, the money thus raised to be used for adding a third floor as a Masonic Hall on the Dorwin Building that was then being built. Bonds in the amount of $700.00 were sold and contracts were let. The principal contract was let to Chubb, Blood, and Wilson. The records on this are rather meager, but in 1888, when the matter of hall lease came up in connection with certain roof repairs, some of the members of the then defunct Lodge No. 254 were contacted. The information was elicited at that time that, due to the fact the Lodge had financed the building of the third story, the Lodge was to have the privilege of leasing the same, rent free, for a period of forty years. From the records it seems that the Lodge experienced much roof trouble from time to time and in 1886 an entire new roof was put on at a cost of $250.00. This was paid for by the sale of non-negotiable bonds to various Lodge members. This meeting hall was located in the three story portion of the building now occupied by the G. C. Murphy Company on Inlot No. 59. This lies on the West side of North Second Street about half way between Monroe Street and the alley to the south. The Masonic emblem still appears in a concrete block insert on the front wall of this three story structure.
During the first eleven years of Lodge No. 254 the officers took office July 1st. of each year and served until the last of the next June. In the year 1869 this was changed by order of the Grand Lodge, and S. S. Fickle was the first W. M. to hold office for a calendar year, starting his term January 1, 1870.
During this period, an interesting series of events showed the persistency of one person at least in his efforts to become a Mason. A petition was received by the Lodge from this aspirant on October 19, 1869, and was referred to a committee. On November 16, the committee reported favorably and a ballot was taken. The ballot was returned unfavorable to the petitioner and the Worshipful Master declared the candidate rejected. On December 11, 1869 this applicant’s petition was re-submitted and referred to a committee. On January 11, 1870, the committee reported favorably and a ballot was taken. The ballot returned negative, and a second ballot was then ordered by the W. M., which likewise was unfavorable. Immediately the petition was re-presented and again referred to committee. On February 15, the committee reported favorably and again, after the vote was taken, the ballot was unfavorable. The petition was immediately re-submitted. On March 15 by motion the petition was withdrawn. But this man was indeed persistent, for at the July 12, 1870, meeting, his petition was again presented to the Lodge and again referred to a committee. On August 9, the committee was not present for a report and action was deferred to the next meeting. On September 6th the committee reported unfavorably, a vote was taken and the candidate rejected. The records show no further effort on the part of this persistent applicant for Lodge membership.
In December of 1869 charges were preferred against twenty-nine members for nonpayment of dues, and in the same meeting it was voted to pay six per cent interest on all orders against the treasury if, for want of funds, the bill could not be paid at that time. These two steps, and especially the latter, would seem to indicate financial difficulties in the Lodge.
The membership roll as of January 1871 showed 84 members in Lodge No. 254.
On July 4, 1872, the Lodge participated in the laying of the cornerstone of the New Adams County Court House. The Most Worshipful Grand Master Fetto was present and laid the cornerstone “with appropriate Masonic ceremonies. After the laying of the cornerstone, a procession proceed to the grove and the Most Worshipful Grand Chaplin gave a “most excellent and appropriate address for the occasion
In the March 31, 1874 meeting, a charge of un-Masonic conduct was brought against Moses Louthan. He was charged with violating rule No. 108 of the Grand Lodge by selling intoxicating liquor as a beverage in the town of Monroe, Adams Co., Indiana. In the meeting of May 12, Brother Louthan was adjudged not guilty because the accused stated that he had ceased selling intoxicating liquors. This seems to be the first of a series of attempts by the Lodge to keep its membership in correct order as for as alcoholic beverages were concerned. In January 1865 charges were brought against A. C. Gregory of un-Masonic conduct, specifically, drunkenness. In the same meeting a petition was received from the accused for a demit and a bill of $4.95 for over payment of dues. This petition was deferred to a later meeting. At trial on March 23 the case was finally dismissed. In April, James R. Bobo, who had acted as attorney for the accused, asked for a certificate to indicate that Brother A. C. Gregory “is free from all charges on the books of this Lodge”. This was refused but he was issued a certificate saying. ‘This is to certify that A. C. Gregory has paid all dues and demands due this Lodge”. Judge Bobo then pressed for the demit for Brother Gregory which was granted in May.
In February, 1876 resolutions were received from Jefferson Lodge No. 104. These were read, approved, and spread on the record. One of these shows the interest of the time in combating the evils of the liquor traffic. The Resolutions quote from the general rules of the Lodge. “The use of intoxicating liquors as a beverage, or the manufacture or sale of intoxicating liquors to be used as a beverage, is a Masonic offense, and if o brother persists therein after being admonished by the Lodge, it is the duty of the Lodge to suspend him. Every Lodge is prohibited from conferring any of the degrees of Masonry upon anyone who is in the habit of becoming intoxicated or who makes it his business to manufacture or sell intoxicating liquors to be used as a beverage”.
In March of this same year a committee of three was appointed to wait on a brother of the Lodge to ascertain if the report were true that he was in any way engaged in the sale of intoxicating liquors. In the some meeting a committee of three was appointed to wait on another brother and to admonish him against using liquor as a beverage.
During this period the Lodge seemed to be in considerable difficulty both financially and in discord among the brothers. This is reflected in a speech by the incoming Worshipful Master Isaac Strass, in 1877, which was spread on the record by vote of the Lodge. The new Worshipful Master said, “First I will state that I believe this Lodge is in a very critical condition financially, morally and any other way you might name it. Brethren, there is no earthly use in having such a Lodge, and I ask one and all of you in behalf of Masonic order where brotherly love prevails and friendship exists beyond the grave to assist me to bring this lodge to rectitude before God and man, and the community at large shall mark us out as models of the world. We now begin another year, or a new year and there seems to exist in our order (that) which is grossly un-Masonic, and I will say to you, let bygones be bygones, and live and act as Masons ought to. Let no strife exist among you, and to brethren who are in the arrears of dues, let me say this to you, pay up your dues, don’t let any charges be preferred against you and recollect the solemn vows you took upon yourself”.
One week after this expression of grave concern for the Lodge, a committee of three was appointed to raise money to fit up and refurnish the Lodge room and “the money raised to be used for no other purpose”. Another indication of financial trouble occurred in the following June. A communication was received from the Grand Lodge, was read, and after due consideration, it was decided not to send a representative to a special session “as our finances is in the same condition as those of the Grand Lodge”. From this and from information derived from another source, it is assumed that the financial condition of both Lodge No. 254 and the Grand Lodge was very unsatisfactory.
Two and a half years later it seems conditions had not changed much, at least as far as Lodge No. 254 was concerned, for in November of 1879 Corns and Christen were appointed as a special committee to “confer with all the brethren of this Lodge and specially invite them to be present at our next stated communication”. In the meeting of February 24, 1880, the secretary reported that “The financial condition of the Lodge being in a very debilitated condition, a considerable discussion was had concerning it, but to no valuable purpose”.
In 1881 Decatur Lodge No. 254 F. & A. M. was coming to an end. On June 15, the Lodge received an invitation to participate in the laying of the cornerstone of the new Methodist Episcopal Church building, this new building located at the corner of Monroe and 5th Streets. In the June 21 meeting on motion it was ordered that the Lodge turn out as a body to assist in laying of the above mentioned cornerstone, which event was to take place July 4th. John J. Chubb agreed to see that the aprons were washed and ready. The minutes of the June 28th meeting were written on a loose sheet of paper but never transcribed into the bound minutes book. In this meeting the readmission of A. C. Gregory was denied, V. D. Belt was given a demit and the Lodge adjourned to 9:00 A. M. July 4, 1881. This ends the records of Lodge. No. 254 with no information or hint given as to why there were no more meetings or why it ceased to function. The members evidently took part in the Methodist cornerstone laying as a book of by-laws and membership roll was found in the cornerstone when it was opened in 1966. We can only conjecture that financial difficulties and friction among the Lodge membership brought it to this termination in 1881. This seems to be indicated both by the earlier included note from the speech of J. Strass, Worshipful Master on January 2, 1877, and. by various references in the records of the secretary concerning the great need for money and the difficulty of collecting dues. Also the Grand Lodge of Indiana, when contacted for possible information, indicated that financial difficulties caused the Lodge to cease functioning.
But Masonry would not die in Decatur. On June 9, 1883, a meeting was held by some of the Master Masons of the old Lodge No. 254 to attempt another Masonic organization. Attending this meeting were J. S. Coverdale; R. S. Peterson; B. W. Sholty; R. B. Allison; James R. Bobo; N. Blackburn; D. C. Townsend; Wm. Pillars; G. Christen; Willard Steele; E. G. Coverdale and L. Barckley. From this and other meetings grew the decision to petition the Grand Lodge for letters of Dispensation to allow them to assemble as a legal lodge and to discharge the duties and functions there of. In meeting on June 17, 1884, the charter for Decatur Lodge 571 F. & A. M. having been received, it was read in its entirety and entered as part of the minutes of the meeting.
By direction of the Grand Master of Indiana, James R. Bobo was appointed as installing officer for the officers of the new Lodge and proceeded in this same meeting of June 17, to install said officers. J. S. Coverdale was installed as Worshipful Master. At the time of this installation, Brother Bobo reported twenty members of the new Lodge to the Grand Lodge; fifteen charter members, three by demit, and two by initiation. Thus Decatur Lodge No. 571 F. & A. M. was on its way. The meetings of the new Lodge were evidently held in the old Lodge hall, the third floor of the Dorwin Building, for in the meeting of July 1, 1884, a committee was appointed to contact T. T. Dorwin concerning the renting of “this hall”.
From the time of the re-organization of the Decatur Lodge until late in 1886 there did not seem to be much growth in membership, but in early 1887 new interest was indicated by the addition of several members. In March of 1887, T. T. Dorwin and Daniel Railing, two old timers of old Lodge No. 254, came back as members of the new Lodge. In October of 1887 an application was received from John W. Tyndall and this application was referred to a committee one member of which was J. T. Merryman, later judge of the Adams Circuit Court. Brother Tyndall was raised to Master Mason in February, 1888, and in this same meeting the application of John F. Snow was received. He became a Master Mason in August of 1888. Mr. Snow later become County Superintendent of Public Schools and also wrote Snow’s History of Adams County, a book that is much sought after in these days. In 1889 B. Kalverisky became a member and over the next several years he must have been very active for his name appears with unusual frequency.
On September 15, 1891, four members of former Lodge 254 petitioned for membership in Lodge No. 571. They were Sampson Pillars, George H. Martz, Henry Steele and David Showers. A month later these men were voted on and all were accepted except David Showers.
In the meeting of August, 1889, and following meetings, a lodge member was accused and tried on charges of “gross and unmasonic conduct”. The charges were brought by the Junior Warden and listed as follows:
No. 1. Came into lodge room intoxicated on July 9th and remained greater part of the meeting.
No. 2. Came into the lodge room intoxicated on June 29th, the day of the funeral for brother L. N. Coverdale.
No. 3. He is in the habit of becoming intoxicated and appears on the streets and sidewalks in that condition.
Trial was held in the lodge hall and the third charge was dropped. The Lodge voted him guilty on the first count and not guilty on the second count. The Lodge voted as punishment suspension for a definite period of time and he was suspended for six months.
On October 21, 1890, a new charge of drunkenness on the public walks of the city and in the lodge hall prior to the opening of Lodge was filed against him. Trial was set for November 1st. As a result of this trial James R. Bobo was forever expelled from all rights and benefits of free masonry
Surrounding lodges were to be notified of this suspension. A resolution to declare him a non-affiliated Mason was presented to the Lodge in the April 25th, 1893, meeting. This was referred to a committee but the committee referred the matter back to the Lodge without recommendation. After considerable discussion the committee was asked to consider the resolution for another month. Then J. S. Coverdale, who had presented the resolution, asked leave to withdraw the same and it was granted. On March 20, 1894, the resolution was again presented to the Lodge and was referred to a committee. On April 17th the committee reported favorably, a vote was taken, and with a majority of the ballots being fair, he was declared restored to a non-affiliate Mason.
As was stated earlier in this writing, a new roof had to be put on the lodge hall. On December 15, 1891, a committee reported that a completely new roof of tin had been put on to replace the old, unsatisfactory felt roof. The new roof was of tin sections soldered together.
Another and rather interesting change took place in the physical properties of the hall in 1893. In meeting on February 28th a bill of $42.00 was allowed for plumbing in the hall for the installation of natural gas lights. Another bill of $4.00 was allowed for hooking gas heaters in the lodge room and the anteroom. These lights replaced the old kerosene lights and the heaters replaced the old wood burning stoves.
In minutes of the meeting of March 4, 1899, we find the first mention of leaving the meeting place on the third floor of the T. T. Dorwin Building. But the Lodge did not move at that time. On April 14, 1900, a lease was signed for three years for “the third floor of the building located on the middle 22 feet of inlot No. 59, in the original plot of the town, now city of Decatur”. The lease was for $50.00 per year and the contract was signed with Samantha N. Dorwin. This is the same third floor hall built in 1866 by the Lodge of that day.
In 1902 a committee was appointed to investigate the cost of fitting the lodge hall for lighting with electricity. This was just ten years after the Lodge had gone from kerosene to gas lighting. One would surmise that the change was not only due to the availability of electricity but also due to the failure of the gas supply about that time.
On March 10, 1903, on authority of a motion made, seconded and carried, the W. M. appointed a committee to investigate and report on the advisability of (building a new hall). When the minutes were read on April 14th, the words in parenthesis were lined out and the words (buying a lot) substituted. In this meeting the committee reported and the members, by ballot, chose to buy the J. S. Bowers lot on Second Street for $3,800.00. On April 16th the trustees were ordered to make the purchase arrangements. The Blue Lodge had on hand at that time $2400.00. On May 12th the Worshipful Master appointed a committee to visit members of the Lodge to learn the amount of stock each member would subscribe toward the purchase price of the lot.
As the new century got under way, a rather unusual item of interest appeared in the records. From the time he become a member of the Lodge, the name Barney Kalverisky appeared with great frequency, indicating a very active membership. On January 30, 1900, the minutes of the meeting listed as Tyler, Barney Kalver, and from that time on Barney Kalver it remained.
At the turn of the century the initiation fees were $20.00 and dues were $2.00 per year. In 1910 the initiation fees were raised to $25.00, a $10.00 increase over the fees at the inception of the Lodge in 1859. In February, 1904 Article XI of the Bylaws was amended to raise the membership dues to $3.00 per year. In 1915 this Article was again amended to raise the dues to $6.00 per year. This must have been felt to have been an excessive raise, as the dues were decreased to $5.00 in 1921. The dues remained at $5.00 per year until 1928, when, by resolution to amend the Bylaws, Article XI was amended to raise the dues to $7.50 per year, payable in advance for each year. Later the dues went to $10.00 per year and in 1956 the attempt was made to raise them to $12.00 per year. The vote to amend was carried by a vote of 15 to 13, but the W. M. decided it lost because a 2/3 majority was thought necessary, and it was decided to ask the state office for a ruling. On October 9, 1956 a communication from the Grand Secretary, Dwight L. Smith was read which stated that a simple majority was sufficient for a change in Bylaws and that the vote to change the Bylaws on dues in the September meeting therefore, was carried. The yearly dues were later raised to $15.00 per year where they now stand.
Early in the new century the Lodge again became interested in a new Lodge home. In 1904 considerable interest was shown in trying to lease the third floor of the “Big Store”, then being built at the northwest corner of Second and Madison Streets. There seemed to be considerable maneuvering done in connection with this proposed new location. On June 14th, the trustees were authorized and empowered to contract for this new location for five years at a yearly rent of $204.00. Then it was moved that authorizations thus far voted be rescinded and that L. G. Ellingham be authorized to deal for the new Lodge room. On June 28th, by resolution, the trustees were again authorized to lease a room for 10 years, the rent not to exceed $17.00 per month. Certain door and plumbing requirements were set up as requirements for leasing. The records say nothing of moving into this new hall, or of the new hall itself as a new home. Evidently this change never took place for in 1912 the question of a new meeting place again came up. In July of that year a committee was appointed to investigate plans for a new home or building. This committee included Chalmer C. Schafer, O. L. Vance, Bill P. Schrock, Oscar Hoffman, and French Quinn. This committee was to report at the next regular meeting. However the next meeting in which this committee is noted was May 26, 1913. A report was made, a discussion was held, and $25.00 was appropriated for the use of the committee in furthering plans. In a meeting on June 10, 1913, the W. M. was authorized to appoint a committee to prepare plans toward raising necessary funds for a new home. This was a rather large committee made up of, C. C. Schafer, L. C. Waring, C. A. Dugan, Harry Moltz, W. P. Schrock, John Heller, Roy Archibald, D. E. Smith, D. F. Quinn, Dick Myers, George T. Burke, and Lee Vance.
In October 1914, J. D. Hale submitted a proposition to sell the lot owned by the Lodge. All members were to be notified to be present at the November meeting for consideration of this proposal. In the November meeting it was moved that the trustees be authorized to give an option on the lot, to net the Lodge $4,500.00, provided that on option could be secured on the old K. of P. lot for $5,000.00. This motion was voted down but it showed continued interest in, and activity toward a new Lodge home for the Masons of Decatur. In April, 1915, the committee on new Lodge quarters reported that Mr. Fred Schafer would build a third story on his new store, then being built. Plumbing and wiring was to be put in by the owner and steam heat by radiators was to be furnished. Partitions were to be put in at places desired by the Lodge. The lease was proposed for ten years at $600.00 per year rental, lease to be renewable at the end of the ten year lease period for another ten years. A $500.00 bonus was to be paid to Mr. Schafer “when said room is ready”, and an additional $500.00 cash bonus at the signing of the second lease. On December 1, 1915, the trustees were asked to execute the lease for the new quarters.
Now housed in their new third story quarters, the Lodge evidently dismissed the idea of a building on their own lot, for early in 1919 the members again talked of selling the lot owned by the Lodge. This lot was on the east side of Second Street with a frontage of 43 2/3 feet and a depth of 132 feet. The north west corner of this lot was just 65 feet south of the alley opposite Court Street and contained parts of inlots 47 and 48. The agreement to sell was made February 13, 1919 between the Lodge and the Erwin Real Estate Agency. It provided for $100.00 cash on date of sale contract and the balance of $3900.00 to be paid in cash when contract was finally closed. If balance was not paid in thirty days from closing of sale contract, the property was to revert to the Masonic Lodge and the $100.00 cash payment to be retained by the Lodge as full Liquidated damages. In April the Trustees reported the lot sold and were authorized to execute a deed and to use the money from the sale to apply on notes then due at the bank. This was all cared for by June 10, 1919.
Just prior to listing this lot for sale, the State Fire Marshall had ordered that the buildings on the lot be torn down within sixty days. The large building was sold to Don Beery for $75.00 and the outbuildings to the same buyer for $6.00.
Since the sale of this lot the Lodge has owned other lots in the west part of town but the value of these lots was not great, one half of one lot being sold for $25.00.
As one goes through the records of the Lodge some names catch the eye and cause a reaction more than others. For another person other names might be more outstanding. To mention some (it is impossible in a short history to mention all) is not to say that others should not be mentioned, but a personal acquaintanceship, or a better knowledge of one individual over another, is often the deciding factor. In 1909 George I. Burk made application for membership, was referred to a committee and accepted on demit. In 1911 his two sons, Avon and Sim were elected to take the degrees. In 1915 Charles E. Spaulding, then Superintendent of Schools in Decatur, made application for membership. He was not accepted the first time, made re-application in 1916, was accepted and raised to a Master Mason in May, 1916.
By December 31, 1916, the membership roll listed 158 members. In January 1917, an unusually large Lodge meeting was held at which there were sixty-eight brothers present, seven visitors, and six candidates were raised to Master Masons. In the meeting of September 9, 1919, eight new petitions were received, seven were elected to degrees in the October 14 meeting. Between the meeting of September 9 and October 14, there were six called meetings for conferring degrees. This general period seems to have been a very busy time for the Lodge. Although not stated as such, this could well have been a result of the First World War.
But even though there seemed to be considerable growth, things were not running altogether smoothly. On January 14, 1919, the auditing committee reported a discrepancy of $26.25 in the treasury records over the Secretary’s records. The committee advised greater care in records by both the secretary and the treasurer. This is but one of several auditing committee reports with such discrepancies mentioned and requests made for more record forms and greater care in the use of these forms, correct dates, amounts, etc. At this meeting it was also pointed out that there was $1,000.00 in back dues unpaid. Perhaps to inspire better service from the secretary, the Lodge voted in 1921 to raise the amount paid that officer from 25¢ to $1.00 per meeting.
On October 18, 1925 arrangements were made for last rites of the Lodge for Barney Kalver. These were given on the 19th. The Lodge met and then proceeded to the grave of the departed Brother Kalver where the last rites of the order were performed. No name has been mentioned oftener, nor any Brother apparently more faithful over a long span of years, than the deceased.
Although from time to time a note appeared in the records of the Lodge concerning gifts of money to the Indiana Masonic Home, the first notice of the use of that Home by the local Lodge did not appear until 1925. On March 10, of that year, a letter was received from Brother Simeon P. Beatty relative to the admission of his mother, widow of Amos. P. Beatty, into the Indiana Masonic Home. A committee made up of Daniel Sprang, John W. Tyndall, and Jonas S. Coverdale, was appointed to look after an application for Mrs. Beatty. In April the committee reported to the Lodge and the report was incorporated in the form of a resolution. On May 12, word was received from the Home that the application for Mrs. Beatty was received, accepted, and approved, and that the applicant would be taken in her turn. The Home evidently had more applicants than it could handle, for about a year and a half later the Home was asked again to admit Mrs. Beatty, the Lodge pledging to receive back the application if she should have to be discharged from the Home “for good and sufficient reasons”. If she dies at the Home, it would stand the expenses of burial and headstone if burial is at the Home burial grounds; if body is shipped away by request, the person or Lodge making the request should stand the expenses. In October 1926, the admission had not yet been completed and the matter was referred to the original committee. There is no further information on this in the records but it is presumed that admission was finally attained.
Other requests for admission to the Home followed soon. In June 1927, the Lodge received a petition for admission to the Home from John Wm. and Max McCorey. The required resolution was adopted by the Lodge and the Home committee took the matter in charge. In 1927, November, the Lodge adopted a resolution for the admission of Mrs. Phillip L. Andrews to the Masonic Home. In December 1929, the Lodge was petitioned for the admission of the McCorey children to the home. The Lodge adopted a resolution and the matter was referred to the Home committee. Having found no further references to these resolutions, it is presumed the admittances were completed.
Along with giving help to needy cases through admission to the Indiana Masonic Home, the Lodge extended help in another way. On December 14, 1926, the motion was made, seconded, and carried that the dues be remitted for 1926 for the following persons; W. H. Ziegler, Frank Parrish, Vane Thompson, Arthur Beery, Jonas Coverdale, Benjamin Sholty, and R. E. Smith. The same was done for specified members in 1927 to 1938 inclusive. In 1932 the proposition of remitting the dues for all members over seventy-five years of age was discussed. No action was taken. In 1942 it was agreed to remit the dues for all members seventy-five years of age or older. At this time dues were remitted for thirteen members and in 1943 for nineteen members.
Some of the above mentioned remittances of dues were no doubt in answer to need growing out of the great depression that started in 1929. Those who did not live through that period have difficulty in understanding conditions of those years. In 1935, charges were filed against thirty-five members whose dues were at least three years in arrears. In October of that year, twenty-five were declared suspended indefinitely for non-payment of dues. Twenty-nine other charges were “continued or dismissed for reasons of dues payment, or part thereof, or necessary arrangements made therefore”
In December of 1935 four petitions for restoration because of inability to pay dues was asked by the following:
1. A minister, age 48, living in San Francisco.
2. A student age 34, at Bloomington, Indiana.
3. An unemployed person, age 59.
4. An unemployed person, age 30,
These petitions were continued from meeting to meeting until finally on March 10, 1936 the petitions were approved and the petitioners restored with dues remitted, but each brother had to pay the Grand Lodge dues. Those were times that tried not only men’s souls but also their will to go forward.
As was found now and then in the records of the Lodge, and as it is found in about any group made up of human beings, not all members of Masonic Lodges are above reproach. In 1941 two members of Lodge No. 571, one a member of the House Committee, were accused of mis-appropriation of Lodge and House Committee funds and drunkenness at the Lodge Hall. They were tried on October 14, 1941, found guilty, and notified of the Lodge’s action by mail. The minutes do not state just what the action was.
In February of 1943, dues were remitted for fourteen members of the Lodge who were called to active service during World War II. In February 1945 dues were remitted for twenty-eight service men and five members seventy-five years of age or older. The Lodge had, by this time remitted dues for a number of years to such older members, and also for those who had been members fifty years or more. This was brought to an end however, by the Grand Lecturer who pointed out that this was a direct violation of the laws of the Grand Lodge. On order of the Lodge, the Secretary was instructed to write to the affected members, telling them why it was no longer possible to carry on the practice of remitting dues.
In spite of the depression, Decatur Lodge began talking again about a new location for a Lodge Home. In May 1934, it was moved, seconded and carried that the trustees confer with the officers of the R.A.M. and of the O.E.S. as to the advisability of a new home and asked to report at the next meeting. In June the trustees asked for, and were granted, more time in which to consider the matter. In November of that year the trustees were authorized to enter into a preliminary contract with the necessary parties and report their progress to a meeting to be called by the W. M. It was not until April 9, 1935, that anything definite was reported, and by then a lease was on accomplished fact. Decoration of the new home was left to the trustees and a committee of the Order of Eastern Star. In August the trustees made a progress report, and moving plans were discussed. Thus Lodge No. 571 soon found itself at home in a new location, the McConnell Building on lot No. 246, N. Third Street.
In the minutes for the meeting of December 27, 1933 was found the first notice of a Past Master degree being conferred on a Worshipful Master elect. The second such notice was January 3, 1935. After this it was a yearly practice.
In June, 1935 the first notice of last rites for the dead being given at a funeral home was included in minutes. Heretofore they had been at the home, the church or at grave side.
In April 1936 we have the first mention of lambskin aprons. The secretary was instructed to investigate prices and report at the next meeting. At the next meeting the secretary was authorized to order six dozen aprons.
Also in 1936 another interesting happening occurred. In connection with Decatur’s Centennial celebration, the cornerstone of the Methodist Episcopal Church was opened for any interesting facts that could be used in connection with the Centennial. In it was found a roster of Lodge membership and Bylaws of 1881. This was the same cornerstone the old Lodge No. 254 had helped to lay in its last known meeting July 4, 1881. The Lodge was invited to place a new roster and By-laws in the cornerstone before it was resealed. This was found when the cornerstone was opened at the time of the building of the new church in 1965.
In 1942 our nation was again engaged in war, World War II. An order was received from the Grand Lodge directing the W. M. to appoint a committee on war service. This was read to the Lodge and discussed. The purpose of the committee was to aid our service men from the home Lodge in every way possible arid to immediately start writing a letter each week to each service man. This was taken under advisement. Brother Arthur D. Suttles volunteered to write the letters until the committee could be appointed. On June 9, letters written by Mr. Suttles were read and signed by all officers and members present. By order of the Lodge it was ordered that a small gift accompany each letter.
In August of this year the Lodge was called upon to accept with regret the resignation of Brother Frank S. Shoaf as Senior Warden. He had been called into the service of his country. The Lodge presented him with a pen and pencil set and tendered him its good wishes. The Lodge backed up the men in service by giving $125.00, over a two year period, to various organizations for aid in the war effort. The gifts went to such organizations as “China Relief” – – “U.S.O.” – – “Red Cross” – -“Salvation Army” — “County War Fund,” and others.
Early in 1944, Edward F. Jaberg, W. M. raised the question of By-laws. He pointed out that the few copies remaining were of the 1899 edition and included none of the changes voted since that time. New By-laws were drawn up and presented for approval at the May, 1944 meeting. On June 13, the new By-laws were adopted by a majority standing vote. At the July meeting a communication showed that the new By-laws were approved by the Grand Lodge and were therefore in effect. The minutes of this meeting showed 204 paying members.
By now the lease period on the McConnell Building was approaching its termination date and as it was thought there was no better place available, the trustees were ordered to proceed with re-leasing. It was re-leased on October 1, 1945, for ten years for the same rent of $50.00 per month. Permission was obtained to make improvements in the heating and ventilating systems. Other improvements were also undertaken at this time. A committee was appointed to buy and install new furniture at a cost of $783.00. It was voted to install a water cooler at a cost of $325.00. The committee which had earlier been instructed to purchase and set up a pool table was instructed to proceed as rapidly as possible with this. Air conditioning was discussed in July of 1948 and the trustees were instructed to investigate the matter. This was again brought up and discussed in February and March of 1949 but no action was taken.
The years 1944 to 1951 was a period of much growth for the Lodge. From the 204 memberships of 1944, the records of the Grand Secretary showed 351 in March of 1951, for which the Lodge paid $518.00 in dues to the Grand Lodge. This was indeed a great increase in a seven year period. In 1951 the Lodge voted to raise the dues from $7.50 to $10.00 per year, and the initiation fees from $40.00 to $50.00. These changes were sanctioned by the Grand Lodge in mid year.
In this same year progress was initiated in the music phase of Lodge work. It was decided that an organ be purchased, either the one then in the hall on trial or another one, whichever was recommended by Brother Harold Mumma. An organ committee consisting of Gene Hike, Harold Mumma and Ted Hill was appointed. It was also authorized to accept gifts from any individual or organization interested in the purchase of such organ.
In continuation of this period of growth, the Lodge received ten petitions in December, 1955, under Ted Hill as W. M. In an all day meeting on March 24, 1956, under Weldon Bumgardner as W. M., seven of the above ten and one other were raised to Master Masons. Some Past Masters presided in the East during parts of this memorable day.
It should be noted that, as the years go by, a Lodge or any group does not just experience growth. The passing years take their toll. All too frequently notations were found of the last rites of the Lodge being given for some departed Brother. There seemed to be an unusual number of these occasions for the years 1958-1962 inclusive. During this five year period last rites were given for twenty-five persons, all but one members of this Lodge and this community, and one with a membership extending over a 62 year period. This was Brother Norman Lenhart.
Dreams seem to stay with us and at times seem very real. Sometimes it is the power of a dream that drives us on to new accomplishments. From back in the days of the old Lodge No. 254, when they thought of buying on eighteen front foot lot on which to build a meeting hail, right down through the years, the dreams of a Lodge Home has been a recurring one. In 1956 a report was heard that the K. of P. Hall might be for sale. After discussion the trustees and Harold Mumma were appointed to investigate the report. At the next meeting in July it was reported that a majority of the committee thought the Lodge should not purchase this building due to the need of immediate expensive repairs and the high cost of upkeep. In July of 1959 interest was again expressed in the K. of P. Home and the trustees were again asked to investigate. After an inspection and lengthy deliberation, it was decided as before that repairs and upkeep would be too costly.
In this year of 1959 the Lodge reached its 75th anniversary and celebrated with a banquet at 6:30, May 26, and the Lodge meeting followed. Present for the banquet and introduced were Grand Master J. Carl Humphrey and Past Grand Master Theo. J. Jena. In the Lodge meeting the Grand Master was conducted to the East and given the gavel to preside. After a few remarks Grand Master Humphrey returned the gavel to W. M. Eichenaur to preside over the meeting. In this meeting Norman Lenhart was presented a gift for his 60 years of membership, P. G. M. Jena presented Al Beavers with a 25 year award and G. M. Humphrey presented Orie Newhard a 50 year membership award.
In an effort to widen the beneficial influence of the Masonic program W. M. Robert Workinger was given the consent of the Lodge to move toward the establishment of a DeMolay chapter here. A meeting was held with the DeMolay Secretary and the District Governor Divellbiss to discuss plans for the local chapter. In October of 1963 the New Haven degree team of DeMolay put on an impressive demonstration of degree work for the local Lodge. A rush party was set for December 2nd. and on January 14, Brother Workinger announced that plans were being made for DeMolay initiation on February 22nd. Thus was initiated and begun another project by the local Lodge.
A very different and unusual meeting was held August 11, 1965. A meeting called a Low Dell Meeting was held in the stone quarry near Linn Grove. Stations of bales of straw and lanterns for the Three Great Lights were used. A special dispensation from G. M. Don Burton was obtained for this meeting and special security measures were used such as several Tylers, etc. Thirty different Lodges were represented with a registered attendance of 168 persons.
In the middle of the 1960’s several changes took place in the church setup in Decatur, leaving two church buildings un-occupied. In November of 1965 a discussion took place relative to the possible acquisition of one of these buildings “that is or will be for sale”. The discussion ended with the Worshipful Master appointing a committee to investigate and report their findings to the Lodge. W. M. Donald Norquest appointed Robert August, Robert Workinger, Niland Ochsenrider, Richard Maloney, Don Cochran, and Harold Mumma to the committee. In December the committee made its first report. At that time the Lodge asked the committee to endeavor to come to an understanding as to the price for which a church building could be purchased and the approximate cost of preparing such church for a Lodge room. In October, 1966 Chairman Mumma made a written report on the Christian Church, the report in the form of a motion to be voted on in the November meeting. The report was as follows:
1. The trustees of Decatur Lodge be authorized to exercise the option held by us on. the building known as the First Christian Church, Second and Jefferson St., Decatur, Indiana in the amount of $12,500.00.
2. That they be authorized to pay $2,000.00 upon approval of the option, as a binder. The balance of the said price to be due when the church officials give a merchantable title. (This to be approximately thirty days after the church moves into its newly purchased building. Present thinking is that this will not be before April 1, 1967.
3. That all the pertinent information relative to the building cost and repairs be incorporated in a letter to all members, advising them that disposal of this motion will take place at the November stated meeting.
4. That this motion be laid on the Secretary’s desk for the legal period and to receive a final vote on November 8, 1966.
In the November meeting the project was thoroughly discussed again, slides were shown, and questions answered. Then Brother Mumma moved that the Decatur Lodge purchase the First Christian Church for the price of $12,500.00. The motion was seconded and carried. The committee was retained to work with a finance committee to complete the purchase arrangements and undertake needed remodeling.
This in due time was completed and the Lodge held its first meeting in its new home building on September 12, 1967.
Under the leadership of Robert Raudenbush, W. M. a dedicatory ceremony was held in the new Lodge Room on the afternoon of March 30, 1968, and that evening a banquet was held in the Decatur Community Center. In attendance and taking a leading port in the ceremonies was Grand Master L. Bloxsome and several other officers of the Grand Lodge.
At last a dream had come to fulfillment. Decatur Lodge has a new home in a good building all its own. That which was begun as a dream with the members of the Old Lodge in the 1860’s, and which had been re-dreamed from time to time, has been realized in the 1960’s.
One cannot but be surprised and gratified at the great number of community leaders who have through the years been identified with Decatur Masonic Lodge. One is impressed with the spread of membership, covering a great number of vocations and types of work in the community, preachers, teachers lawyers, judges, doctors, dentists, business men, industrialists; administrators, laborers, etc. Name about any kind of wholesome work or activity and representatives have been members of the Masonic Lodge. It is truly an organization of wide outreach and therefore with a tremendous opportunity to help mold a community and our complete society for a continuously better tomorrow.