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In Vincennes, Indiana

From Masonic records we learn that Masonry came to Indiana Territory, 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 first Masonic Lodge organized in the Northwest Territory. As early as 1806 the resident Masons expressed a desire to form a Lodge in Vincennes by petitioning the Grand Lodge of Kentucky for a Dispensation. In the year 1807 the requested dispensation was granted, but circumstances prevented completion of the organization, and the time linit of the dispensation ran out. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky did renew that dispensation, and on March 13, 1809, Brother Jonathon Taylor, a 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 W. Johnston, JW.

On September 7, 1809, the lodge was regularly constituted as Vincennes Lodge No. 15, F. & A.M. under the charter issued by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, bearing the date of August 7, 1809. 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, IN, 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. Jonston was the most distinguished member of this lodge and it was through his personal efforts that Free Masonry 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 and Busseron Streets, 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 by General Washington Johnston, as High Priest in the year 1826 to the Worshipful Master of Vincennes Lodge No. 1, it was proposed at that time that a lot be purchased and a suitable building ber constructed for Masons to meet in. In the year 1915 we find that Vincennes Lodge No. 1, together with the three bodies of the Yorkrite, 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 committe 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 Kentucky Grand Lodge.

The sornerstone 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, wich was 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 in cluded 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, our 150th Anniversary was celebrated 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. Stevens, who was Grand Master in 1983-1984.