Excerpts from a history of Wayne Lodge given in 1911, at the 88th anniversary of the formation of Wayne Lodge.
Wayne Lodge No. 25 is the oldest Masonic body in northern Indiana. The history of Wayne Lodge is necessarily the history of Masonry in this part of the state, and, in fact, practically the history of Fort Wayne itself, as its early membership comprised the men whose names are inseparably linked with the history and development of northeastern Indiana. In 1823, when the dispensation was granted to a small handful of Masons, who were authorized to meet and transact business under the name of Wayne Lodge, there was but a little cluster of cabins then constituting the village known as Fort Wayne, and all gathered closely about and within the protection of the fort, which had lately been abandoned by the soldiers. At that date, it is said, that there was not a white man’s house between here and the Michigan line, and none between Fort Wayne and Chicago, which itself was but a fort and Indian trading post and of no more importance than Fort Wayne. The dispensation of Wayne Lodge dated March 22, 1823, and signed by John Sheets, G. M., and Wm. C. Keene, Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Indiana, antedates the formation of Allen County.
The first election of officers was held December 25, 1823, and John Tipton was elected W. M., which position he continued to hold, through successive elections for five years, and was, in fact, as shown by the records of the Lodge of those days, the active, as well as the nominal head of the organization. Tipton was known as Gen. John Tipton from services rendered in the Indian wars; was eventually a U. S. senator from Indiana, and a grand master of Masons, and for many years was in charge of the government land office in Fort Wayne. Alexander Ewing was a revolutionary officer and a keeper of the tavern on the southwest corner of what are now Barr and Columbia streets, and the progenitor of the family of that name, which to the present time, are extensive land owners in this city and vicinity. John P. Hedges had been an employee of the Commissionary Department while the fort was garrisoned, and Benj. Cushman was shortly after elected one of the first associate judges of the Circuit Court. John McCorkle, among those who attended the first meeting, was one of the owners of the town plat of Fort Wayne, and Robt. A. Forscyth was a paymaster in the U. S. army.
From this it will be seen of what sturdycharacters the early membership of Wayne Lodge was composed, and in this connection, I want to name others who were prominent in the first ten years of the history of the Lodge, as found in its minutes book, and whose names and high character are known by everybody who has any knowledge of the early history of Allen County. Among these are Hugh Hanna, Wm. N. Hood, Cyrus Taber, Joseph Holman, Stephen Coles, Samuel Hanna, Wm. Rockhill, Henry Eudisil, Allen Hamilton, Francis Comparet, Samuel Edsell, and many others.
From 1 history, prepared by Bro. Robt. S. Robertson, we learn that Wayne Lodge first had temporary quarters in the old fort, and afterward moved to what was known as “Washington Hall” on the southwest corner of Barr and Colombia streets, then to the Masonic Hall above referred to. The meeting of March 2, 1840, at which an effort was made to re-organize, it is understood was held at Riser’s Hall, which some of the brother’s will even now remember was on the corner of the alley on the east side of Calhoun street, between Main and Columbia. It is understood that when a re-organization was perfected, and regular meetings were again held, commencing in 1856, that the meetings were held in this same hall until the Lodge moved to the MacDougal Block at the corner of Berry and Calhoun streets and afterwards to the Seidel Block, and in 1886 into the present Masonic Temple and Opera House.
(Editor’s note: In 1923, Wayne Lodge moved to the Scottish Rite building at the corners of Washington and Clinton and then in 1926 into the present day Masonic Temple also on Washington and Clinton.)
While Wayne Lodge, as an organization, has not been continuous since March 22, 1823 to the present time, and while its charter has once or twice been forfeited, it has never lost its identity in name and number, and no other Blue Lodge in Indiana has ever born the title or number of ” Wayne Lodge No. 25.” Other Lodges of a smaller number were organized, but 1 am credibly informed that Wayne Lodge today is the third oldest Lodge in Indiana. In other words only two Blue Lodges exist today which were organized earlier than March 22, 1823.
Other Lodges today bear numbers smaller than 25 by reason of the fact that the Lodges to which these numbers were first assigned, disorganized, and the numbers were given to Lodges organizing later. We have an instance in Fort Wayne of such an occurrence, in the fact that Home Lodge, instituted July 17, 1868, bears a smaller number—342—than Sol. T). Bayless Lodge 359, which was instituted on June 4, 1866, more than two years before. Without any question, the most eminent of these splendid Masons, measured by devotion to the Order, was Sol D. Bayless, W. M. of this Lodge for five years, from 1861 to 1864 and again in 1873, and in whose honor our local Blue Lodge, No. 359, was named. He also instituted, under dispensation, Summit City Lodge, which held its first stated meeting on June 16, 1854.
Source: History of Wayne Lodge, No.25, F. & A.M., Fort Wayne, Indiana, 1911. Held at the Fort Wayne Allen County Library.
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