History of Hancock Lodge #101
As the century developed to the west, through Pennsylvania, Virginia and the Carolinas, Masonry came to Indiana at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The founders of Masonry came to Hancock County as individuals in the 1820’s, 30’s and 40’s but it was not until 1818 a sufficient number had met and became acquainted with each other as Masons. The outgrowth of these early acquaintanceships and meetings was a request for dispensation to Elzur Demming, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of the Jurisdiction of Indiana, February 22, 1849. The First worshipful Master was James B. Rutherford, Harry Pierson Senior Warden, James Bracken, Junior Warden, with the Master Masons Col. George Tague, Orlando Crain, Morris Pierson, James Shipman and Nathan D. Coffin. The newly appointed Worshipful Master selected Orlando Crain to serve as Secretary, Gearoge Tague as Treasurer, James Shipman as Senior Deacon, Nathan Coffin as Junior Deacon and Morris Pierson as Tyler. In addition to these local members attending a March 1st 1849, meeting is found the name of A.G. Selma of Center Lodge No. 23 and Henry B. Hill and Elihu Coffin of Golden Rule No. 16 of Knightstown.
The contract for the first regular lodge room was made on the 8th day of March, 1840, between the Oriental Evanic Order of Brothers of the County of Hancock, or the Sons of Temperance, signed by Alfred Skinner and Dr. Noble P. Howard, and for the Lodge, Henry Pierson and J.R. Bracken. This was a two-story building commonly called the Seminary which stood on what is now know as the intersection of South Pennsylvania and Depot Streets. Later the building became nationally know as the residence of Ruben Riley, the father of the Hoosier Poet, James Whitcomb Riley.
This Lodge met under dispensation until May 28, 1850, the time of the issuance of the Charter. Those initiated while under dispensation were Robert E. Barnett, Jonathan Rawls, John Templin, John Shipman, E.B. Chittenden, J.K. Nixon, Adams L. Ogg, Cornwell Meek, John Milroy (on demit), B.T. Butler and George Henry. The Lodge organized and became operative under the Charter on June 20 1850, with the following officers: James Rutherford, Worshipful Master, Robert E. Barnett, Senior Warden, James Bracken, Junior Warden, Morris Pierson, Treasurer, Jonathan Rawls, Junior Deacon, and E.B. Chittenden, Tyler.
According to the records, the first member raised as a Mason was P.H. Foy. He had received part of the degree work while the organization was operating under dispensation so thus became the first Mason raised under the Charter.
Hancock Lodge 101 F. &A.M. is very fortunate as compared with many of the sister lodges in that the original minute books have been preserved. The Lodge has not experienced serious fires.
Concrete evidence is found in these old minute books as to the part the membership of Hancock Lodge contributed to the development and advancement of the business, religious, educational and social features of this immediate community. The members were farmers, business and professional men, interested in all phases of the community’s problems and from the records there were evidently many debates as to problems confronting the community.
Membership continued to grow thus necessitating additional quarters. The Trustees consisting of Andrew T. Hart, Robert E. Barnett and James Rutherford, to obtain land and submit building plans for a new home made plans. In 1853, the land located at the southeast corner of Pennsylvania and West Main Streets was purchased and a contract for the erection of a three-story brick building was entered into with various material dealers and builders.
The cornerstone of this new building was laid with appropriate ceremonies August 15th, 1854, by Right Worshipful Elijah Newlan, Deputy GrandMaster of the Grand Lodge of the State of Indiana. The Building Committee consisted of James R. Bracken, Chairman, Ruben A. Riley, Samuel Longnecker, Benjamin F. Duncan, Adren Rivett and Nathan D. Coffin.
On July 5, 1855, the then new lodge hall was dedicated with what was termed a “grand festival” and it continued to be used as a Lodge Hall and meeting place until 1896 when the Lodge moved into our present quarters.
This short history of the Hancock Lodge No. 101 F. & A. M. would not be complete were not the following paragraphs concerning the building of the lodge hall in 1854 repeated. They were written by the late Ephraim Marsh 33 ° and deposited in the corner stone of the present lodge building.
“The building of the old hall in 1854 taxed the Masons to their fullest financial capacity. For a long time the fate of the enterprise hung in the balance, as is shown by the report of the Building Committee which reads as follows: “The character and standing of the Lodge is at stake in this enterprise. The Committee did excellent work, with great interest in the success of this project. Having advanced thus far, it would leave a very unfavorable impression, numbering as we do within our ranks so many of the ablest and best men of our County, if we fail.”
“Thanks to those noble and true Masons who by their money and labor built the lodge hall and laid the financial foundation of this Lodge deep and broad, today Hancock Lodge is one of the wealthiest and most prosperous in the State. Will we be recreant in this trust? God forbid!”
The growth of Masonry throughout the County and in Greenfield had been very steady. Hancock Lodge No. 101 F. & A. M., with a membership of 142, felt their quarters were becoming too congested and there was a disposition on the part of the majority that larger, more commodious quarters should provided in order to properly care for the organization and meeting place of the Chapter, Council and Knights Templar.
With these facts in mind, the Worshipful Master, Charles Downing, in the Spring of 1894, appointed a Building Committee with instructions from the Lodge to see what properties might be available to purchase, with the view in mind of erecting on said property a suitable home for the above mentioned branches. This real estate committee consisted of Samuel P. Gordon, John T. Duncan, D. B. Cooper and Ephraim Marsh, with the Worshipful Master Charles Downing serving as chairman. This committee was authorized to purchase the property provided the price did not exceed $9,000.00
On February 5, 1895, the following Resolution was adopted:
“Whereas, the Masonic Hall, the home of this Lodge, is regarded by a large number of brethren to be in an unsafe condition from fire, ET; and“Whereas, the same is greatly out of repair and will need in the near future the expenditure of a large amount of money to place it in proper repair; and
“Whereas, it is rumored that certain parties will give a fair, adequate price for said building; and
“Whereas, it is understood that certain parties are willing to donate suitable grounds for the site for a temple which will be adequate to the growing needs and wants of this Lodge;
“THEREFORE, Be It Resolved, That a Committee of five be appointed, of which the Worshipful Master shall be chairman, the other members of the Committee to be selected by the Worshipful Master, with full power and authority to sell real estate of said Lodge known as the Masonic Hall, for the highest and best price that can be obtained and on as favorable payments, etc. as can be obtained, and when the Committee has decided to sell said property, that the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Secretary be Authorized and empowered to make, execute and acknowledge a sufficient deed of conveyance or the same to the purchaser thereof, and said Committee be empowered to receive a deed of conveyance for any real estate that it may select, in the name and for the benefit of said Lodge.”
The Committee negotiated the sale of the Lodge Building at the southeast corner of Pennsylvania and West Main Streets for the sum of $5,000.00. The completion of this sale led to the negotiations with John Ward Walker and Sarah M. Walker, Philander H. Boyd and Davis & Randall for the real estate on which the present Temple is located, for the sum of $8,854.16. This purchase was approved April 2, 1895 and subscriptions in the sum of $4535.00 are listed in the minutes of the same meeting.
After obtaining the title to this real estate on May 7, 1895, the method of financing was evolved and approved and a Committee authorized to employ architects and obtain bids for the new building. In the minutes of August 6, 1895, Heinzman Brothers of Noblesville, Indiana were awarded the contract in the sum of $26,998.00 and the construction started immediately thereafter.
On October 10, 1895, the corner stone of this building was laid with full Masonic form. In the latter part of 1897, the new Lodge rooms were furnished in a very complete and calibrate manner with provisions made for the caring of the paraphernalia of the Council, the Chapter, the Commandery and the Eastern Star.
By 1896 the storeroom and offices on the second floor were well rented, thus bringing revenue which would help take care of the very large debt the officers and members assumed in the construction of such copious quarters.
The membership as of January 1st, 1950 as reported to the Grand Lodge shows 587 members.
At this time, it is only fitting that due tribute be paid to the members and officers for their foresight in the making of such an investment, and exceedingly high tribute to their confidence and faith in the Order of Free and Accepted Masons.
The officers of Hancock Lodge No. 101 F. & A. M. are united in the thought much of the success of the Lodge is due to the sister lodges having been chartered and established in Hancock County, therefore the numbers, lodges and first officers are recognized since several of them are very large successful lodges, who are invited to participate in this centennial celebration.