Pictorial History

The Pictorial History of Fort Wayne, Indiana

1917 – By B. J. Griswold

Organization of Wayne Lodge of Masons

The year 1823 marks the beginning of fraternal societies in Fort Wayne, with the organization of Wayne Lodge No. 25, Free and Accepted Masons. General John Tipton appears to have been the moving spirit in the matter. On March 22 John Sheets, Grand Master of Masons in Indiana, granted a dispensation to Alexander Ewing, Worshipful Master; John P. Hedges, Senior Warden; Benjamin Cushman, Junior Warden, and others, to form a Lodge to be known as "Wayne Lodge, of Fort Wayne, County of Randolph, Indiana." At the first meeting, held in May, there were present, in addition to those already mentioned, Captain James Hackley and Benjamin B. Kercheval, together with the following-named visitors: General Tipton, of Pisgah Lodge, of Corydon, Indiana; Anthony L. Davis, of Franklin Lodge, Kentucky; Richard L. Britton, of St. John's Lodge, of Ohio; John McCorkle, of Lodge No. 14, Ohio, and Robert A. Forsythe. The Lodge was opened with John P. Hedges, Senior Warden and Secretary pro tem; Benjamin Cushman, Junior Warden; James Hackley, Treasurer; and Benjamin B. Kercheval, Steward and Tyler pro tem. At the June meeting Mr. Kercheval was elected Treasurer; Charles W. Ewing, Secretary; James Hackley, Senior Deacon; Robert Hars, Junior Deacon, and John P. Hedges, Steward and Tyler. On November [October] 10, the charter was granted. On the evening of November 17, in the rooms of General Tipton, enclosed within the palisades of the fort, the following officers were installed: Worshipful Master, Alexander Ewing; Senior Warden, John Tipton; Junior Warden, Benjamin B. Kercheval; Secretary, Charles W. Ewing; Treasurer, Anthony L. Davis; Senior Deacon, James Hackley; Junior Deacon, Hugh B. McKeen; Steward and Tyler, James Wyman. On the occasion of the meeting on Christmas night [December 15], General Tipton was elected to the office of Worshipful Master, a position which he held for five years.


Herewith is shown a reproduction of a portion of the crumbling, discolored original charter granted to Wayne Lodge No. 25, Free and Accepted Masons, October 10, 1823, by the Grand Lodge of the state. This was the first secret society organized in Fort Wayne. The original charter, framed, hangs on the wall of the lodge room in the Masonic Temple [then in 1917 and still today in 2018]. Tracing by B. J. Griswold.

Although Wayne Lodge is today a most substantial organization, the story of its earlier years is one of heartaches and difficulties. During the first five years, the order continued to meet in one of the buildings of the old fort, and in Washington Hall, the County Seminary, and the courthouse, although efforts were begun in 1825 to establish a lodge hall owned by the organization. Because of financial and other difficulties, the work of building was delayed. At length, in 1829, the Lodge purchased from John McCorkle, John T. Barr, and Joseph Holman a lot near the northeast corner of Columbia and Harrison streets, the site of the establishment of S. Bash and Company, and there erected a brick building. On June 3, 1833, the lodge found it necessary to sell the lot and building to the highest bidders—Joseph Holman, Richard L. Britton, Francis Comparet, Alexis Coquillard, and Hugh Hanna— for $1,328.

The suicide of James Hackley, husband of Rebekah, daughter of Captain William Wells, presented a troublesome problem to the Wayne Lodge of Masons in 1826. Hackley's death was the first in the Lodge since its organization. Some objection was made to conducting the funeral because of the nature of the death, but, according to the records, the members "turned out to gratify Mrs. Hackley." Hackley had taken his own life, by hanging, after a vain attempt to murder his sister-in-law, Mrs. Turner, against whom he had become enraged because of a dispute over the partition of their property in Spy Run. Mrs. Turner escaped by leaping from an upper window of her home. The details of the incident are given by John W. Dawson in his "Charcoal Sketches," and these agree in all respects with the story as repeated by the late Mrs. Lucien P. Ferry, who was then a girl of twelve years.