Robertson – 1897
Wayne Lodge No. 25
By Bro. Robert S. Robertson
In the times of old, when might made right, and when every man looked upon the other as an enemy until friendship were proven. Masons met in the secluded valley, or upon the heights, in the one case to escape observation, in the other to observe, and thus be free from the spying of eavesdroppers, and alert to ward off the approach of enemies.
Paradox as it may seem, the Masons, dwellers in the Valley of Fort Wayne, occupy the summit of the heights, for we are at the summit of the water flow to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and to the Gulf of Mexico, and at the same time are in a basin as we go towards the poles. In other words, do we travel east or west, we descend from the summit. Do we travel north or south we must ascend out of the valley and climb the heights, so that we fulfill the ancient precepts, by locating our Lodge at once in the valley, and upon the mountaintop.
The history of Masonry in Fort Wayne is almost, if not quite, coeval with the history of the place itself. To be sure, long years passed after adventurous footsteps of the whites had trodden a path to and from the Indian Village of Ke-kion-ga, before anything like a permanent settlement had been made at the meeting of our waters. Years which were full of adventure, of scalping and burnings, of torture by fire, and torture by captivity and degradation, while the masters of the region were the savage red men; but no sooner did the first lapping of the wave of civilization ripple and break over its sands, than with it came the precepts, the teachings, and the practice, of Ancient and Accepted Free Masonry.
The war whoop had scarcely ceased resounding, the red man was still here, the wolf was still howling about the settler's cabin, when a little band of brethren, faithful to the teachings of Mother Lodge, but far away from its shelter, met and organized a Lodge in the wilderness, at the summit of the parting waters of the Maumee and the Wabash, in the Valley of Fort Wayne.
In 1823, when but a little cluster of cabins nestled near the fort so lately abandoned by its military occupants; when northward there was not a white man's house to the Michigan line, and none between Fort Wayne and Chicago, which itself was but a fort and Indian trading post, of no more note than was Fort Wayne; when perhaps not one hundred voters lived in all that is now the County of Allen; when there was no newspaper within one hundred miles; when the state was only seven years old; when Indiana Territory had been organized but twenty-three years; and a year before the County was organized; this little group of the faithful petitioned the Grand Lodge, itself scarcely out of infancy, and located at Madison, on the Ohio River, for a charter and dispensation for Masonic work.
On March 22, 1823, John Sheets, Grand Master of Indiana, granted a dispensation to Alexander Ewing, Worshipful Master; John P. Hedges, Senior Warden; and Benjamin Cushman, Junior Warden, together with all such brethren as might thereafter become members, to form a Lodge to be known as "Wayne Lodge of Fort Wayne, County of Randolph, Indiana." Alexander Ewing was a revolutionary officer, the keeper of a tavern on the southwest corner of what are now Barr and Columbia streets, the progenitor of a family of much note in all this region. A great-grandson, George W. Ewing, III, is a member of Wayne Lodge and has just become a member of the Lodge of Perfection and Darius Council. John P. Hedges had been an employee of the commissary department, while the fort was garrisoned. Benjamin Cushman was soon after elected one of the first Associate Judges of the Circuit Court.
General John Tipton, a hero of the Indian wars and of Tippecanoe, a United States senator from Indiana, and Grand Master of Masons before the close of his remarkable career, was occupying rooms, or a building within the pickets of the abandoned fort, and there was held the first Masonic Lodge in all this region.
At the first Lodge meeting, held sometime in May, besides those named in the dispensation there were present as participators Captain James Hackley and Benjamin B. Kercheval, and as visitors General John Tipton, of Pisgah Lodge No. 5, of Corydon; Anthony L. Davis, of Franklin Lodge No. 28, of Kentucky; Richard L. Britton, of St. Johns Lodge No. 13, of Ohio; John McCorkle, one of the proprietors of the town plat of Fort Wayne, of [Franklin] Lodge No. 14, of Ohio; and Robert A. Forsyth, a paymaster in the United States Army, [of Mt. Zion Lodge No. 1, of Michigan].
The Lodge was opened in Ancient form on the first degree, with Alexander Ewing, Worshipful Master; 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.
Their next meeting was on June 6, when Kercheval was appointed Treasurer, Charles W. Ewing, Secretary; James Hackley, Senior Deacon; Robert Hars, Junior Deacon, and William Hedges, Steward and Tyler.
Those named above were the charter members.
On October 10 of that year, a charter was granted, and John Tipton authorized to constitute and form Wayne Lodge No. 25, which duty he performed November 17, he joining by demit. The officers installed were:
- Alexander Ewing, Worshipful Master;
- John Tipton, Senior Warden;
- Benjamin Berry Kercheval, Junior Warden;
- Charles W. Ewing, Secretary;
- Anthony L. Davis, Treasurer;
- James Hackley, Senior Deacon;
- Hugh B. McKeen, Junior Deacon;
- James Wyman, Steward and Tyler.
The first election of officers was held December
25  of that year and General Tipton was elected Worshipful Master. He was re-elected until 1828 and was an efficient officer and worthy member.
The first applicant for degrees was unanimously rejected. Lambert Cauchois was the first to be initiated, August
16 , 1824.
The first celebration of St. Johns day was June 24, 1825, when General Tipton delivered the oration. I would give something to see the manuscript, for the brave old fellow scorned the trammels of a spelling book.
The first public installation of officers took place at the house of Hugh Hanna, December 27, 1825.
The first Masonic burial was that of Captain Hackley, May 26,
1827 . He was a suicide, but the Lodge is recorded to have "turned out to gratify Mrs. Hackley."
1827 , Alexander Ewing prepared the first Masonic banquet in Fort Wayne, and a few days later the Lodge made a loan of fifty dollars to Captain James Riley, the Arabian traveler, author of "Riley's Narrative," proprietor of Willshire, Ohio, and the surveyor of most of the lands about Fort Wayne, to enable him to go east for medical treatment.
The second Masonic funeral was that of the first Worshipful Master, Alexander Ewing, January
5 , 1828 . He died two days before.
Masters elected were as follows:
- “Joseph Holman, June 2, 1828;
- Lewis G. Thompson, December 1, 1828;
- Anthony L. Davis, June 1, 1829, [and December 4, 1931];
- Hugh Hanna,
January 23, 1830[December 7, 1829];
- Absalom Holcomb, June 7, 1830;
- [Allen Hamilton, not recorded, about December 1830];
- Samuel Hanna, June 6,
- [James Hudson, June 4, 1832];
- Henry Rudisill, February 20, 1833;
- Samuel Edsall, June 10, 1833.”
The first bylaws adopted in 1823 provided a fine of 25 cents for the absence of either the Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens, Secretary, Treasurer, Stewards and Tyler, and a fine of 12 ½ cents for Deacons and members, unless they presented satisfactory excuse. Anyone appearing in the lodge room intoxicated was to be reprimanded for the first offense, suspended for the second, and expelled for the third. The bylaws numbered sixteen, provided minutely for almost everything that could properly come before the Lodge, and are an evidence of the care and painstaking of the committee, which prepared then. After being adopted, they were signed by the members present.
After leaving the temporary quarters in the fort, the Lodge was held in "Washington Hall," on the southwest corner of Barr and Columbia. Then a lot was purchased at the northeast corner of Columbia and Harrison, where the Bash block now stands, [incorrect location - the Bash block stood at the current northeast corner, that corner would have been under the waters of the canal turnaround basin next to the Masonic Hall, but the S. Bash and Co. offices were on the north side of West Columbia in a building that sat on the footprint of the old hall] and a brick lodge room erected, with anteroom and preparation, or "goat" room upstairs. This must have been completed about 1831, as, on February 7, 1831, a committee reported on the brickwork and plastering, but could not tell the "precise" number of brick on account of the snow.
At the June meeting in 1833, a committee reported that they had sold the lot for $1,328 to Joseph Holman, Richard L. Britton, Francis Comparet, Alex Coquillard, and Hugh Hanna. It had been appraised at $1,200.
This was because the Lodge had suffered, like all others, and ceased to work regularly, on account of the anti-Masonic excitement growing out of the disappearance of William Morgan in 1826.
On February 20, 1833, the first meeting held since
May 7, 1832 [June 4, 1832], the Lodge adopted the following resolution.
"Resolved, that whereas owing to the great excitement prevailing in this section of the country and elsewhere, against the Masonic institutions and Masonry in general, this Lodge has not held her regular meetings for seven or eight months past,"
"Therefore, resolved by unanimous consent, that the proceedings shall be as valid and have the same effect as if the same had been done and transacted at the regular meetings of the Lodge, and that all bylaws, rules, and regulations in any way contravening any of the proceedings of this meeting is hereby suspended."
The Lodge was reported on to Grand Lodge in 1833 and 1835 as meeting irregularly, but as the Grand Lodge itself was almost dormant, it took no steps to revoke the charter or arrest it. The Lodge held meetings irregularly and must have initiated members, the records of which were either never made, or were lost.
It is worthy of note that in those troubled times when Masons were boycotted in business and ostracized socially until many were bankrupted and had to seek their fortunes in new fields, one Jared Darrow came to Fort Wayne from western New York, but located on a farm near Roanoke. His coming here was solely on account of the Morgan uprising. He often visited the Lodge in Fort Wayne, but it is not known that he became a member. Sometime later Stephen Brown Bond came from Lockport, New York for the same reason. He too was a Mason. He married the daughter of Darrow, and two sons, Charles D. and Jared D. Bond were worthy Lodge members. [Charles was a member of Wayne Lodge and later a charter member of Summit City No. 170.] In addition, a grandson, and the husbands of two granddaughters are members of our Lodge of Perfection and Council of Princes of Jerusalem. The family has been and is, among our best.
2 , 1840, an earnest attempt was made to reorganize, and the fraternity met at Kiser's hall [not possible as Kiser's hall was not built until 1849], on Calhoun Street, just south of the alley between Main and Columbia Streets, accepted a dispensation and resolved to reorganize as a regular Lodge, with Henry Rudisill as Worshipful Master; Simon [Samuel] Edsall, Senior Warden; Horace B. Taylor, Junior Warden; Charles E. Sturgis, Secretary; Thomas Daniels and William Rockhill, Senior and Junior Deacons, and Absalom Holcomb, Tyler. They seemed to have labored under the impression that their charter had been revoked, and applied for another, which was granted, but the error was discovered, and it continued to work under the old, and the Lodge is now the oldest chartered Lodge in the state [this is simply not true]. There seems to be a hiatus in the Lodge records from 1833 to 1856 [perhaps the 1849-1856 minute book was misplaced at this time?], except for the record of this one meeting in 1840.
It seemed to work under difficulties until 1847, and the records are wanting, but in that year the charter was declared forfeited for non-payment of dues, and work suspended until July 4th, 1849, when the day was celebrated by a restoration of the charter under date of May 30, and resumption of Masonic work under Henry Rudisill as Worshipful Master, Samuel Edsall, Senior Warden, and Samuel Shoaff, Junior Warden. The Grand Lodge records of that year show that:
"The Most Worshipful Grand Master presented a communication from Wayne Lodge No. 25, under suspension for non-payment of dues and failing to be represented, praying the restoration of its charter. Which was read, and on motion by Bro. Kromer referred to the committee on charters and dispensations."
Later appears the following:
"26th. Fort Wayne No. 25. — They have examined some letters addressed to the Grand Lodge and individual brethren from Fort Wayne, asking the Grand Lodge to restore the charter of Fort Wayne Lodge No. 25.”
“The brethren at Fort Wayne have twice forfeited their charter, having had it restored at their request without charge. The present application is too informal in the opinion of your committee, to be granted, especially upon which to restore a forfeited charter. The brethren should apply first for a dispensation and having thus restored themselves to the confidence of the Grand Lodge, will be entitled to a charter at the next regular communication. They, therefore, recommend the adoption of the following resolution:”
"Resolved that a dispensation be granted to the brethren at Fort Wayne, when they make application therefor, in proper form."
The petition would seem to have been presented [probably not, see added quote], for later, the following appears:
[“Bro. Morris moved that so much of said report, numbered 26, as relates to Fort Wayne Lodge No. 25, whose charter was arrested, be amended by striking out the resolution granting a dispensation, and inserting in lieu thereof, the following, viz:”]
"Resolved that a charter be granted to the petitioners at Fort Wayne, as Fort Wayne Lodge No. 25, and that Henry Rudisill be the Worshipful Master; Samuel Edsall, Senior Warden; and Samuel Shoaff the Junior Warden of said Lodge, and that the same be without charge to said Lodge."
It will thus be seen that the existence of Wayne Lodge has not been continuous, so far as shown by the records. There is another paragraph in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge, which shows that the charter of Wayne Lodge was at one time stolen and a duplicate was asked and ordered issued.
The old charter is signed by John Sheets, Grand Master; Ex-Governor Jonathan Jennings, Deputy Grand Master; Ex-Governor Thomas Posey, Senior Grand Warden; John H. Farnham, Junior Grand Warden; and William C. Keen, Grand Secretary.
Before the closing in 1833, the Lodge had 54 members. Of the members prior to 1860, only David F. Comparet, Martin E. Argo, Leopold Falk, Philip Grund, and George H. Wilson are believed to be living, and the latter has been Treasurer of the Lodge since 1865 continuously.
From Kiser's, the Lodge moved to the McDougal block, thence to the Seidel block, and in 1886 to the Temple. May our Mother Lodge always flourish.
The booklet published in 1898 by Journal Co., Printers, in Fort Wayne is the source of this transcription. Corrections and comments not original to the piece made by the transcriber use strikethroughs and brackets.