Early Masonic History—Wayne Lodge No. 25, F. & A. M.
By Hon. John W. Dawson
Turning today from biographies and recollections of the pioneers of Fort Wayne, which have occupied my attention for a fortnight under the caption of "Charcoal Sketches," I propose in this issue of the Sentinel to give a brief of the rise and progress of Wayne Lodge No. 25, of this ancient and useful order, up to 1847.
2 , 1823, and before the organization of Allen County, Grand Master John Sheets, resident at Madison, issued a dispensation, attested by Grand Secretary William C. Keen, also residing at Madison, to Alexander Ewing, Worshipful Master, John P. Hedges, Senior Warden, and Benjamin Cushman, Junior Warden, together with all such brethren as thereafter might become members, to organize a lodge to be known as Wayne Lodge No. 25, in the town of Fort Wayne, Randolph County, Indiana. The dispensation was presented by Worshipful Alexander Ewing, to a meeting of Masons held in this place in May of that year (1823), at which meeting there appeared, in addition to those entrusted with and named in the dispensation, Captain James Hackley, Benjamin B. Kercheval, Master Masons, and visitors Master Masons General John Tipton, of Pisgah Lodge No. 5, of Corydon, Indiana; Anthony L. Davis, of Franklin Lodge No. 28, of Kentucky; Richard L. Britton, of St. John's Lodge No. 13, Ohio; John McCorkle, of [Franklin Lodge] No. 14, Ohio; and Robert A. Forsyth, [of Mt. Zion Lodge No. 1, Michigan]. On reading the dispensation, the Lodge was opened in the first degree in ancient form—consisting of Alexander Ewing, Worshipful Master, John P. Hedges, Senior Warden and Secretary pro tem, Benjamin Cushman, Junior Warden, James Hackley, Treasurer and Senior Deacon pro tem, and Benjamin Kercheval, Steward and Tyler pro tem. On June 6, the next meeting was held, at which the Worshipful Master appointed Charles W. Ewing, Secretary; James Hackley, Senior Deacon; Robert Hars, Junior Deacon; Benjamin B. Kercheval, Treasurer; and William Hedges, Steward and Tyler.
Thus constituted, this Lodge proceeded to work under the same authority until November 17 of the same year, under a dispensation of Deputy Grand Master, Thomas Douglas, of Madison, dated October 10, General John Tipton, afterward U. S. Senator from Indiana, instituted the said Lodge in due form. Alexander Ewing, Master; John Tipton, Senior Warden; Benjamin B. Kercheval, Junior Warden; Charles W. Ewing, Secretary; Anthony L. Davis, Treasurer; James Hackley and Hugh B. McKeen, Deacons; and James Wyman, Steward and Tyler. The first regular election took place on
the Christmas [December 15] of that year, and General Tipton was chosen the first elected Worshipful Master after its organization. The first application for degrees was unanimously rejected. General Tipton was re-elected in June 1824 and again on December 6, and re-elected each successive term till June 3, 1828. The first initiated member of this Lodge was Lambert Cauchois, August 6 , 1824. The first celebration of St. John's Day was held June 24, 1825—General John Tipton, orator. First public installation of officers, December 27, 1825, at the house of Hugh Hanna. The first Masonic burial May 26, 1826—the body of Captain James Hackley, who committed suicide by hanging—as I noticed in the DAILY SENTINEL on April 3, 1872. This burial of a felo de se, though out of order, was given to gratify the widow, who as I have already said, was a half Indian daughter of Captain Wells, a Christian, and intelligent lady, and generally respected. This was an act becoming the order—they could not serve the dead—but would relieve the distressed. On June 24, [1826,] the order had their first public dinner, prepared by Alexander Ewing. At the meeting held June 27,  the brotherhood appropriated fifty dollars for the relief of Captain James Riley, a brother Mason then in great affliction from disease, and then in the town en route for the East for medical aid. This is the Captain Riley who laid out Willshire, Ohio and surveyed all the lands in this region as well as a large body in Ohio, and to whom I referred in the first part of my "Sketches." He came here from Willshire in March of that year, by boat on the St. Mary's River, in order to have the benefit of constant medical attendance. Here he stayed until early in July, and then was removed on a feather bed, lying in a boat, and proceeded down the Maumee. In the SEQUEL to his NARRATIVE, page 26, he adds; "With my son James and proper attendants on board, we cast off, and was accompanied for several miles down the river by the Masonic Fraternity, who extended their brotherly kindness as far as possible, and are entitled to my warm and grateful consideration." He reached Fort Meigs on July 5, sailed for Detroit and reached New York on the twenty-fourth.
Here I will correct an error, made in my first notice of Captain Riley, wherein I state that he died at Mogador. It was on March 13, 1840, that he died on a voyage from New York to St. Thomas, and within two day's sail of that port. He was on the eighteenth committed to the deep, blue sea, "On whose bosom he had spent so many years of active enjoyment, as well as of toil and peril."
The next death after Captain Hackley was Alexander Ewing, the father of William G. Ewing, Charles W. Ewing, Alexander Ewing, Jr., and George W. Ewing, all now dead. This event took place January
5 , and his burial was on January 27 , 1827. Joseph Holman was elected Master, in June , 1828, and was succeeded by Dr. Lewis G. Thompson, December 1, 1828; he by Anthony L. Davis, June 1, 1829; he by Colonel Hugh Hanna, January 23, 1830 [December 7, 1829]; he by Absalom Holcomb, June 7, 1830; he by Samuel Hanna, June 6, 1831; he by Anthony L. Davis, December 1 , 1831; he by Captain Henry Rudisill, February 20, 1833; he by Major Samuel Edsall, June 10, 1833, at which meeting a committee, theretofore appointed, reported that they had sold the Lodge lot and premises for $1,328. This lot was that on which Hill & Orbison's warehouse stands, at the west end of Columbia Street, north side, on the Canal Basin, and the house was a two-story brick, completed about mid-summer, 1830.
From June 10, 1833, after a labor of ten years, the Lodge ceased to work. It was reorganized and worked a few years between that and the year 1840, of which, it is regretful to say, no record is left of the proceedings -- human memory alone can tell, and only a very few of those who know, live to bear the testimony of what was done.
On March 3, 1840, after public notice given to consider the propriety of again setting to work, a meeting was held, at which, Henry Rudisill presided as Worshipful Master; Samuel Edsall, Senior Warden; Horace B. Taylor, Junior Warden; Charles E. Sturgis, Secretary; Francis Comparet, Treasurer; Thomas Daniels, Senior Deacon; William Rockhill, Junior Deacon; and Absalom Holcomb, Tyler. It continued to work prosperously until the autumn of 1847. When failing to report its dues to the Grand Lodge, its charter was suspended, and the Lodge ceased to work. On May 30, 1849, its charter was restored, and it proceeded. It was just on the eve of this suspension in 1847 that Joseph Johnson and I were entered, passed, and raised, but of which there is no recorded evidence; the only memoranda in my possession, being a receipt of Secretary Samuel H. Shoaff for $15 initiation fee dated May 14, 1847. Mr. Johnson and I were offered together, but my case was put over for a while to enable Judge Samuel Stophlet and me to reconcile a "bout" which we had in the very "nick of time." It grew out of my opposition to the nomination of Judge William G. Ewing for Congress in a Whig Convention just held in Bluffton, Indiana and will form the subject of another sketch, in connection with Judge Ewing's celebrated Coonskin bill. He had theretofore endeavored to get through the Legislature, in order to checkmate the American Fur Company in its opposition to his firm in buying furs in Indiana.
In closing this sketch, I have called the roll of all who are named in it, and only John P. Hedges and Samuel H. Shoaff are alive to answer; and of those at the reorganization of the Lodge in 1849, only Mr. Shoaff, Captain William Stewart, and Peter Kiser survive . . .
Since the foregoing was in type, a few thoughts have occurred to me on the same subject, and which are deemed of such consequence in this connection that they are added:
Wayne Lodge 25, was organized within the pickets of the "Old Fort" in a room at that time occupied by General Tipton, and in the same room the Order worked for some time thereafter—then in a room in Washington Hall, southwest corner of Barr and Columbia streets, and in different places thereafter, until the society had built and occupied Masonic Hall. The reason that the Lodge ceased to work was the result of the anti-Masonic feeling which, though a mere lad, I remember. Public opinion in the United States grew wild, and the storm swept on like a furious hurricane, causing every opposition to fall before it. This feeling grew out of the abduction of Morgan, at Batavia, New York, by a few over-zealous Masons, because he published what was called an exposition of the secret work of the Order. This abduction caused no excitement in Canada, just across the line, between New York and that Dominion, but in the United States political demagogues seized on it, and it became the rallying cry of one party, while the friends of the Order had to succumb, and the work, therefore, was retarded many years, even until public mind returned to its polarity.
In 1872, the Daily Sentinel published a series titled Charcoal Sketches of Old Times in Fort Wayne by John W. Dawson. As part of that series a slightly updated version of the preceding history by the title “Early Masonic History — Wayne Lodge No. 25. F. & A. M.” appeared on April 5, 1872, and then once again in the Weekly Sentinel on April 17, 1872. In 1958, the Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society transcribed Dawson’s Charcoal Sketches including this updated version of Wayne Lodge’s history with some minor edits to publish them in a booklet titled after the series. That society’s transcription with a few additional edits follows.
The original history that appeared in 1858 also made its way verbatim into the History of Allen County Indiana, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of its Prominent Men and Pioneers, published by Kingman Brothers in 1880. Presumably supplied to them by the Lodge as a written request for the same was read at the stated meeting, July 29, 1879. Then an excerpt of it appears once again in a Fort Wayne paper in April of 1965 citing the History of Allen County Indiana previously mentioned as its source.