History of Jackson Lodge #146
HISTORY OF JACKSON LODGE, NO. 146, F. & A.M.
Freemasonry existed in Jackson County, Indiana, prior to the founding of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of the State of Indiana, in Madison, on January 12, 1818. Several of the militiamen stationed at Fort Vallonia during the Indian uprising of 1812 are known to have been Freemasons; one of them, Captain John Tipton, later served as Grand Master of Indiana.
Washington Lodge #13, at Brownstown, was chartered in 1820, shortly after the formation of the Grand Lodge. No other part of the County had a sufficient number of Masons to form a Lodge until on March 28, 1853, a group of Master Masons in the vicinity of Reddington petitioned the Grand Lodge for dispensation to form a Lodge of Master Masons in Reddington, to be known as Jackson Lodge. It is from that date that we derive the founding of Jackson Lodge #146, F. & A. M.
*1st Temple at Reddington, IN, Founded on March 28, 1853
The charter was issued on June 20, 1853; and, on July 11, 1853, the Lodge raised three Brothers to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason. The Lodge met on the second floor of a small general store owned by one of the charter members, Br. William M. Brown, who received $10 per year as rent. The first Worshipful Master of the Lodge was Rev. Br. Isaac Chivington, a large man (over six feet tall and weighing nearly three hundred pounds) who was serving as minister at Rockford Methodist Church when he became Master of the Lodge. Later, Rev. Br. Chivington moved West and carried the principles of Christianity and Freemasonry to the areas of Nebraska and Missouri, where he was called to the GAOTU in 1910.
*2nd Temple at Rockford, IN 1854-59
One year to the day after the Lodge was chartered, it moved, with permission of the Grand Lodge, to Rockford. Rockford then was a flourishing town, the terminus of the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis Railroad, with a post office and a grist mill which undoubtedly brought many of our Brethren to the community and necessitated the Lodge’s move. Owing to travel distances, a fleeting attempt was made to re-establish a Lodge at Reddington. A Lodge was chartered there in 1859, but was unsuccessful and its charter was surrendered in 1862.
The Lodge showed little progress during the next few years. This may have been due to the fact that Captain Meedy W. Shields had persuaded the Ohio & Mississippi Railroad (later the Baltimore & Ohio) to lay its track crossing the Jeffersonville, Madison, and Indianapolis Railroad’s track at nearby Seymour, a newly-platted community, instead of at Rockford, contributing to a speedy growth of Seymour. The O. & M. Railroad had an engine shop in Seymour; many of our early Brethren worked there or were affiliated with railroading in other capacities. There is a significant connection between Jackson Lodge #146 in its early years and railroading; that connection continued for decades, including Brethren such as Br. Russell Brock, an engineer on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad for forty years who served Jackson Lodge #146 as its Worshipful Master in 1959; and, who served as Grand High Priest of the Grand Chapter of Royal Arch Masons of Indiana in 1973-1974.
*3rd Temple at Seymour, IN SE corner of -2nd st and Indianapolis Ave, 1859-66
Br. T. J. Sweeny actively attempted to persuade the Lodge to move to Seymour in the late 1850s; and, on August 15, 1859, the Lodge moved to the southeast corner of Second Street and Indianapolis Avenue, in the Seymour Odd Fellows Hall. Meetings were changed to the first and third Mondays, as they remain today; formerly, Jackson Lodge #146 was a “moon Lodge,” meeting on Monday night before the first full moon or on the night of the full moon if the moon fulled on Monday night. The Lodge met in that location for seven years, with good success and growth, although there were ongoing differences with some of the Rockford Brethren, no doubt caused in part by the moving of the Lodge to Seymour.
In early 1865, the Lodge contemplated building a Temple of its own, but abandoned the idea because of a small membership base and financial weakness. However, later that year, an opportunity came to add a third story to a brick building then being erected on South Chestnut Street, for the Lodge. This offer was accepted, and the sum of $2,000 was spent by the Lodge and its members to secure and erect the needed space. The first meeting was held there on September 17, 1866. The Lodge’s Worshipful Master at the time of the move was Br. George W. Parsley. The new Temple, for some reason, was never formally dedicated; this may have been due to the presence of some debt for a part of the cost of the new facilities.
Shortly after moving into its new Temple, the Lodge added a new member, Br. Albert Priest Charles, who was to advance the stature of Freemasonry. Br. Charles, initiated in 1869, advanced rapidly in the Craft, served as Worshipful Master of Jackson Lodge #146 in 1871, 1872, 1874, 1878, and 1879; and was Grand Master of Indiana from 1884-1886. He is the only member of Jackson Lodge #146 to this point who has served Indiana Masonry as its Grand Master, reflecting great credit on Jackson Lodge #146 in his service.
Br. Charles reflected great credit on Jackson Lodge #146 in another capacity, as well. Br. Charles was an attorney whose knowledge of Masonic Law was considerable. He was consulted frequently by the Grand Lodge on matters of Masonic Jurisprudence over a ten-year period. He complied, indexed, and cataloged all of the Grand Lodge laws, rules, and decisions, which he maintained in his private library. Upon his death, in 1889, these were given to the Grand Lodge with the consent of his widow and formed the genesis for the Indiana Blue Book of Masonic Law, which has gone through several revisions and which exists today.
During this era, the Lodge also added another Brother who was to reflect great credit on the Lodge. Br. Gary Wirt, born in 1860 in Brownstown, had moved to Seymour and worked in the engine shops of the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad. He was Initiated, Passed, and Raised to the Sublime Degree of a Master Mason in 1883 in Jackson Lodge #146. He was a quiet, unassuming man who remained in the area as a member of Jackson Lodge #146 until the late 1880s, when he left the area and moved to the area of Delaware, Ohio, where he continued working in the railroad shops until he retired. In retirement, he formed a partnership with two other men involved in builder’s supplies and contracting. He enjoyed the fellowship of Hiram Lodge #18, in Delaware, although he never moved his membership from Jackson Lodge #146.
Following the death of his wife, Florence Lambert Wirt (apparently the daughter of one of his partners), in 1920, Br. Wirt moved to California and built a small home in Long Beach, California. In 1922, Br. Wirt executed a will which made provisions for a mentally and physically handicapped brother; and, which provided as its residuary clause that, should his brother predecease him, his estate should be equally divided between Jackson Lodge #146 and Hiram Lodge #18, to be placed in a special fund knows as the Gary Wirt Fund.
At Br. Wirt’s death, on November 6, 1924, the residuary clause of the will was triggered as Br. Wirt’s brother had predeceased him. The bulk of the estate assets consisted of shares of Signal Gasoline Corporation and Signal Oil & Gas Company stock, and related issuances, the value of which was debated by both Lodges. A claim was filed contesting the will by several Wirt heirs which resulted in protracted litigation in the California Courts, which the Lodges supported with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Eventually, on May 31, 1932, a decision of the California District Court of Appeal awarded the Lodges their respective bequests.
That decision, reported at 12 P. 2d 95+, contained language describing the two Lodges and their function and purpose which we would do well to keep in mind and which tell us something about who we are, as a Masonic Lodge:
They were not established or maintained for profit or gain. They were part of a state-wide organization. Their purposes were of a moral and charitable nature. The charitable activities, though in the main confined to members and their families, were, in times of stress or great public need, extended to include relief to those not affiliated with the order. The moneys collected by them were used in maintaining their organization, both local and state, and in carrying on their charitable work.
That decision became final when it was not appealed. Over time, the value of the bequest become apparent. While the 1924 balance sheet of Signal Gasoline Corporation showed assets of $782,629.46, the annual report of the Signal Oil and Gas Company and Subsidiary Companies for December 31, 1935 showed total assets of $5,524,811.45.
Eventually, the Signal Companies became Allied Signal Corporation; Jackson Lodge #146’s holdings at one time constituted ½ of 1% of all outstanding shares of Allied Signal. In recent years, the stock and its successor stock (for Allied Signal now is part of the Honeywell Corporation), has paid significant dividends, enabling the Lodge to fund a series of annual Jackson Lodge #146 Gary Wirt scholarships, which have paid out almost $500,000 in scholarships to children and grandchildren of Jackson Lodge #146 members. Additionally, Br. Wirt’s generosity to Jackson Lodge #146 has resulted in a Lodge free from many of the significant financial concerns which plague Fraternal organizations.
*5th Temple at Seymour, IN West Second St., 1901-79
The South Chestnut Street location continued to be the home of Jackson Lodge #146 for some thirty-four years. During that time, the Lodge placed on its records a resolution praising the late President and Brother James A. Garfield, who was assassinated in office in 1881. The resolution contained a glowing description of his work as President of the United States and as a Master Mason. In 1900, a committee was appointed to investigate the possible site for the erection of a new Temple. Following lengthy discussion, a location was approved and Travis Carter Company began work on the new Temple, at 210 West Second Street. The cornerstone was laid on April 15, 1901. Construction proceeded rapidly; and, on December 2, 1901, the Temple was dedicated and the first meeting was held there. Serving as Worshipful Master at that time was Br. Cyrus McCrady, who served in that capacity from 1900-1903.
This location was home to Jackson Lodge #146 for the next seventy-eight years. A building committee was formed on October 7, 1963, to begin consideration of a new site for the Temple. Br. Charles Spaugh was elected chairman; several sub-committees were established within the building committee. The site committee, chaired by Br. Robert E. Pearson, with the consent of the Lodge purchased property at 1818 N. Ewing Street on May 2, 1966 from Br. and Mrs. John H. Taylor, with life-time right of occupancy. An additional one hundred feet of ground on the north side of the property was purchased from Mr. & Mrs. Delbert Myers on March 18, 1970.
Following Br. Taylor’s death and the admission of Mrs. Taylor to the Indiana Masonic Home, possession of the property was obtained. The building committee secured the services of architectural firm Tislow, Hunter and Associates to prepare plans for the new Temple. Plans were selected and a ground-breaking ceremony was held on June 25, 1977. Construction was begun under supervision of William J. Abraham & Sons, Inc., of Seymour. The cornerstone was laid by Grand Master Roy O. Turner on November 5, 1977. Dedication of the new Temple was conducted on Saturday, March 24, 1979. Worshipful Master William S. Leslie opened Lodge in due form, with dedication being made by Grand Master William E. Hepley. Over 250 were in attendance for the dedication. A brief history of Jackson Lodge #146 was given by the dedication committee.
*6th Temple at Seymour, IN 1818 North Ewing St., 1979- Present Day
The present home of Jackson Lodge #146 is an imposing two-story colonial structure, cut into the hillside, with its west-facing front exposed on both levels with large white columns supporting the two-story porch roof. The lower level is constructed of concrete block, and contains a recreation room, a large social hall, a fully-equipped kitchen, and ancillary facilities. The building is beautifully landscaped, with paved parking. Rest rooms are located near the west entrance. To facilitate the use of the Temple by Brethren less capable of physical exertion and stair-climbing than they may have been in earlier years, an elevator was added to the Temple in 1992.
In 2014, Bayless Lodge #216 of Jonesville, Indiana merged with Jackson Lodge #146. Jackson Lodge is that much stronger to have these Brethren in our midst, and are thrilled to have joined with such a group of men, and the rich history of that Lodge is forthcoming.*
Presently, the Lodge has a membership of nearly 400*, down from its height of almost 500 members in the late 1950s and early 1960s. Membership in Fraternal organizations generally, across the Nation, has declined noticeably in the past fifty or so years; Jackson Lodge #146 has not been spared that decline. Freemasonry in Indiana had at its height in the late 1950s some 185,000 members. Today, that number is closer to 80,000.
Debate continues in the Fraternity as to the cause of the membership decline, and any number of causes are given. One concern of some Masonic scholars and leaders is that the Fraternity became complacent with large numbers of new members following World War II; and, that complacency led to stagnation.
Far from being stagnant, Freemasonry at Jackson Lodge #146 remains vibrant and enthusiastic. The Lodge is active in the Seymour Community, contributing time, talent, and money to various community projects and activities. It is through the hard work and dedication of all our Brethren that Jackson Lodge #146 will continue to grow and prosper. But more is required: That we exhibit the virtues of Freemasonry in our daily lives, in order to serve as examples, as “living stones,” of Freemasonry and its Three Great Tenets–Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth, bearing in mind always the simple but powerful admonition: Take a good look at yourself–you are someone’s impression of Freemasonry.
Writing in 1968, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Indiana and the 250th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of England, Past Grand Master and Grand Secretary Dwight L. Smith spoke of the coming tri-centennial of Freemasonry in its modern form, with the 300th anniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge of England coming in 2017-2018 and the 200thanniversary of the founding of the Grand Lodge F. & A. M. of Indiana coming that same time. We would do well to think about his words and his vision of Freemasonry, both for Jackson Lodge #146, and for the Fraternity generally:
For in A.D. 2017-2018 there will be another Year of Jubilee–the bicentennial of Freemasonry in Indiana and the three hundredth anniversary of that memorable Feast of St. John the Baptist when representatives of four old Lodges in London assembled in the Goose and Gridiron tavern and constituted the Grand Lodge of England. For good or ill, Freemasonry of this day will have made a contribution to the heritage of Brethren yet unborn.
When the trumpets sound again, God willing, let it be said,
That in a day when basic virtues were held up to scorn we continued to symbolize dependability, stability, and truth, and honor, and unshakable integrity;
That in a day of disagreement and misunderstanding and strife we labored to establish small units of friendship and understanding and brotherhood;
That even though common men and common things were exalted, we held to our standard of the uncommon;
That we gave our minds to great thoughts and great purposes even though other minds were wasted on petty fancies and selfish ambitions;
That in a day when the individual counted for less and less we insisted that his importance and worth were greater than ever before;
That we did not forget our precious legacy of dignity and modesty and delicacy even in a day of loudness and crudeness and coarseness;
That when other men lost touch with God we reaffirmed our trust in Him;
That when truth was assailed we were truthful, and when honesty was openly questioned we were honest, with ourselves and with all the world;
That fear and hopelessness only served as our summons to dauntless courage;
That although we builded temples and institutions of stone and brick and steel when the exigencies of the times demanded it, we did not neglect our basic purpose of laboring to make rough ashlars perfect.
The past, then, is prologue. Our goodly heritage is a trumpet call for a future in which Sons of Light will commit themselves, as John Ruskin would have them do, in humanity’s noblest of tasks:
Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build forever. Let it not be for our present delight nor for present use alone; let it be such as our descendants will thank us for, and let us think as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when these stones will be held sacred because our hands have touched them, and that men will say as they look upon the labor and wrought substance of them, “See! This our fathers did for us.”
–Prepared by Br. Steven K. Robison, PM, with credit to late Br. Russell Brock, PM, whose history of Jackson Lodge #146 appeared in “Our First One Hundred Years,” published in 1953; and, to Br. Donald B. Marcum, Jr., PM, whose “History of Jackson Lodge No. 146, F. & A. M.” appeared in “By-Laws and Rosters of the Masonic & Appendant Organizations of Seymour, Indiana,” published in 1991
*Revisions/Added by Br. Jon Patrick Sage, PM 2015