From Masonic records we learn that Masonry came to Indiana erritory,
which is now the states of Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin and
Michigan, by way of our sister state, Kentucky.
To Vincennes Lodge No. 1, F. & A.M.,was given the honor of being the
oldest Masonic Lodge in continual existance in the Indiana Territory. As
early as 1807, local Masons wanted to form a Lodge in Vincennes and did
petition the Grand Lodge of Kentucky for a Dispensation. In January 1808
the requested dispensation was granted, but circumstances prevented
completion of the organization, and the dispensation expired. The Grand
Lodge of Kentucky issued a second dispensation in September of 1808,
and on March 13, 1809, Brother Jonathon Taylor, Past Master of Abraham's
Lodge No. 8, of Louisville, Kentucky, installed the officers and set the craft
to work. The officers installed were William Jones, WM, John Caldwell, SW,
and General Washington Johnston, JW.
On September 7, 1809, the lodge was regularly constituted as Vincennes
Lodge No. 15, F. & A.M. under a charter issued by the Grand Lodge of
Kentucky. The First officers installed under the new charter were Brothers
George Wallace, WM, William Jones, SW, General W. Johnston, JW,
Parmenas Beckes, the Treasurer, John D. Hays, Secretary, Charles Smith,
SD, Jonathon Bond, JD, Peter Jones, Steward, and Charles Fisher, Tyler.
At a preliminary meeting held in Corydon on December 3, 1817, General W.
Johnston as a representative of Vincennes Lodge No. 15, with
representatives from the Lodges located at Salem, Madison, Vevay,
Lawrenceburg, Charlestown, Rising Sun, Corydon, and Brookville, adopted
the following resolution: "That it is expedient and advisable that a Grand
Lodge should be at this time formed in the State of Indiana. Notice to be
given to the Grand Master of Kentucky."
The meeting for the permanent organization of the M.W. Grand Lodge of
Indiana was held at Madison, Indiana, January 12,1818, at which time
Brother Alexander Buckner was elected our first Most Worshipful Master.
On January 13, 1818, Vincennes Lodge was designated No. 1, and Brother
General W. Johnston was appointed to install Brother Elihu Stout as the first
Worshipful Master of Vincennes Lodge No. 1, F. & A.M.
General W. Johnston was the most distinguished member of this lodge and
it was through his personal efforts that Freemasonry was brought into
Indiana Territory. In the state, Brother Johnston was a man of prominence
and took an active part in the formation of State and Territorial Government.
It is said the few men, if any, did more to promote useful legislation to start
the wheels of State Government moving in the right direction than he.
From the early records the exact location of the first lodge room cannot be
found. It probably was in a tavern, as was the custom in early days, or
possibly in the old Territorial Hall. According to one historian, the lodge had
elaborately decorated quarters near the old Vincennes Steam Mill located
on part of what is now Harrison Park.
The earliest location, of which there is any documentary evidence, was the
third floor of the building formerly on the west corner of Main and Second
Streets, known as the Reynolds-Bonner Building, and that was previous to
1833. Other locations since that time were in Watson's Hall at Second, the
Knox County Courthouse on Fourth Street, the Gimbel Building, and the
Tindolph Building at the opposite end of Second Street.
In the year 1897, the lodge leased the entire third floor of the Graeter
Building on the corner of Main and Third Streets and furnished and
occupied this room until the present Masonic Temple at Fifth and Broadway
Streets was constructed. We learn from a letter written in 1826 by General
Washington Johnston, as High Priest, to the Worshipful Master of
Vincennes Lodge No. 1, that it had been proposed that a lot be purchased
and a suitable building be constructed where Masons may meet. In the year
1915 we find that Vincennes Lodge No. 1, together with the three bodies of
the York Rite, namely Vincennes Chapter No. 7, R.A.M., Vincennes Council
No. 9, R. & S.M., and Vincennes Commandery No. 20, K.T., took definite
steps in appointing a committee which, after due deliberation, resulted in
the purchase of a lot and the construction of the beautiful Masonic Temple
which we now call home.
On March 13, 1909, Vincennes Lodge gave its Public Centennial Celebration
in appropriate form. There were present on this auspicious occasion many
important and distinguished guests, including Most Worshipful Charles N.
Mikels, Grand Master of all Indiana Masons, and Virgil P. Smith, Grand
Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky. The cornerstone of the first and
only Masonic Temple built and owned by Vincennes Lodge was set in place
on July 20, 1916 with appropriate ceremony by Harry B. Tuthill, Grand
Master, and other Grand Lodge officers.
On October 25, 1923, occurred another event in the history of Vincennes
Lodge No. 1, F. & A.M. On this date the monument which had been erected
in Greenlawn Cemetery by the Grand Lodge in Indiana, and Vincennes
Lodge No. 1, was dedicated in grateful recognition of the distinguished
services of General Washington Johnston to the Masonic Order and to the
people of Indiana.
Thursday, January 26, 1939, the time set for the annual meeting of the
Vincennes Masonic Temple Association, marked another milestone in
Vincennes Lodge history. On that date, Masons celebrated the last payment
of the bonded indebtedness on the Masonic Temple. A dinner was served at
6:30 P.M., and the program which followed included the burning of the
mortgage and the cancelled bonds. In May, 1955, the lodge and dining
rooms of the Temple were fully air-conditioned.
On April 3, 1959, we celebrated our 150th Anniversary in due and ancient
form. Grand Master Theo Jena of Indiana as well as C. James Hyde, the
Grand Master of Kentucky, were among the many and distinguished guests.
Four Grand Masters of Indiana Masonry have held membership in
Vincennes Lodge. First was Elihu Stout, who also published the first
newspaper in the territory, was Grand Master in 1827-1828. He was followed
by John B. Martin, a tailor, in 1835-1836. Mason J. Niblack, noted jurist and
legislator, became Grand Master in 1897-1898. The most recent was Robert
R. "Gus" Stevens, who served as Grand Master in 1983-1984.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF MASONRY
In Vincennes, Indiana
Masonic Temple: 5th and Broadway Sts.
Vincennes, Indiana 47591
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1, Vincennes, Indiana 47591