Mt. Olivet Lodge No. 226

Christiansburg, Ohio

A Brief History of Ohio Freemasonry


Ohio Masonic history begins Jan. 10, 1789 in Marietta with the funeral of Brother George Varnum. Individual Masons had been in the Ohio Territory prior to that: George Washington as a surveyor, George Rogers Clark at Fort Washington in 1780, Josiah Harmar at Fort Harmar in 1785, Rufus Putnam, Manassah Cutler and Arthur St. Clair at Marietta in 1788.

The first meeting of a Masonic Lodge in Ohio was on June 28, 1790 when Jonathan Heart and eight others opened a lodge which is today known as American Union No. 1. This was originally an army lodge chartered by the Provincial Grand Lodge of Massachusetts in 1776. Massachusetts Lodges do not have numbers. Additional lodges chartered in Ohio included Nova Caesarea No. 10 at Cincinnati from New Jersey, Erie No. 47 at Warren from Connecticut, New England No. 48 at Worthington from CT, Mingo No. 78 from Pennsylvania, Amity No. 105 at Zanesville from Pennsylvania and Scioto at Chillicothe from Massachusetts.

While these lodges were forming St. Clair became governor and was defeated by the Indians where Jonathan Heart was killed. Anthony Wayne defeated the Indians at Fallen Timbers and signed the treaty of Greenville. Ohio became the 17"' state under Governor Thomas Worthington. During the first week of January 1808 twelve masons from six lodges met at the state capital Chillicothe to form a Grand Lodge. [Mingo Lodge had ceased meeting in 1806.] James Kilbourne the delegate from New England lodge was not admitted because the lodge had not yet been chartered. The remaining delegates wrote a constitution, elected Grand Officers and went home planning to meet again in 1809.

Remember in 1808 there were no computers, no airplanes, no interstates, no television. Travel was slow and dangerous. There were no Masonic Centers, no rituals, no inspections, no district deputies. Thomas Jefferson was president. George III was still king of England. Napoleon was master of Europe. Beethoven was writing symphonies in Vienna. Fulton had a steamship on the Hudson River. Slavery was legal. Spain controlled Texas, Mexico and South America. Ohio University had three students.

In 1809 Rufus Putnam declined to serve as Grand Master. American Union Lodge got mad because Samuel Huntington the governor of Ohio was elected Grand Master and refused to attend Grand Lodge until 1816. Lodges were opened in the Entered Apprentice, then went up to Fellow Craft and then to Master Mason. Uniformity of ritual was unknown. Some lodges portrayed the Royal Arch Degree but the Council Degrees and the Orders of Commandery were not. There were no dues cards.

In 1810 Lewis Cass was elected Grand Master. He was later elected Grand Master of Michigan. At this communication new lodges were chartered: Morning Dawn No. 7 at Gallipolis, Harmony No. 8 at Urbana and Mt. Zion No. 9 at Mt. Vernon. During the War of 1812 Army Lodge No. 24 was issued a dispensation to work at Camp Meigs. Its Worshipful Master was Col William Preston Anderson from Tennessee, the Senior Warden was Lt. Col. William McMillan from Cincinnati and the JW was Capt. Charles Gratiot of the Corps of Engineers. The lodge was never chartered and its number was given to Warren Lodge in Piqua in 1841. In 1816 the Grand Chapter was formed. In 1818 Sandusky's streets were laid out in the form of a square and compasses.

Before 1820 Thomas Smith Webb and John Snow had moved to Worthington and John Barney who served as Grand Master for six years had moved to Worthington. John Barney had become a traveling lecturer. In 1823 efforts to form a General Grand Lodge failed and in 1824 Ohio was divided into nine districts. In 1825 General Lafayfette visited Ohio and two lodges were named for him. There are also two lodges named Hamer. [at Owensville and Wapokoneta and one Franklin and one Benjamin Franklin and one Hiram and one King Hiram. In 1826 Bro. David Hudson started Western Reserve University.
On Sept. 12, 1826 William Morgan disappeared from Batavia, New York without a trace thus issuing in the Anti-Masonic craze which lasted for a decade. Governors DeWitt Clinton of New York and Duncan McArthur of Ohio refused to renounce the craft. Of the 101 lodges in Ohio in 1826, 45 ceased to meet. One of them was Erie No. 3 which closed in 1828. It did not reopen until 1854 as Old Erie.

The name Erie had been taken by Lodge No. 239 in Milan in 1853.] Only 17 sent delegates to the Grand Lodge in 1837. The 1830's saw a resurgence in Masonry as Most Worshipful Brother William J. Reese became the leader of Ohio's Masons. He was the first to give a report of his activities to the Grand Lodge. It is said he was the first Scottish Rite Mason in Ohio.

Two important events occurred in Ohio Masonry in 1843. The first was the Baltimore Convention which was called to provide a uniform ritual. This did not happen although most US Grand Lodges have adopted the Webb ritual. The convention approved the Webb lectures and directed that all business should be conducted in the Master Mason Degree. It also approved the Moderns method of wearing aprons and giving passwords for degrees. The same year the Grand Commandery of Ohio was organized. In 1846 Masonic scholar, writer and publisher Cornelius Moore began printing the Masonic Review at Cincinnati. During the Mexican War more than forty high ranking officers became members of the Aztec Club which was composed mostly of Masons. Lee and Grant who were not Masons belonged to the club.

In 1847 seven Black men from Cincinnati went to Pittsburgh, were raised in a Prince Hall Lodge and formed St. Cyprian Lodge No. 13. In 1851 this lodge, Corinthian No. 17 and True American No. 26 formed the Grand Lodge of Ohio, Prince Hall Affiliation. This Grand Lodge subsequently created 46 lodges in eleven states. In 2001 the Prince Hall Masons had 62 lodges in Ohio with 4359 members. A motion to recognize the Prince Hall Grand Lodge was tabled in 1877. In 1995 Prince Hall Masonry was finally recognized as legitimate.

In 1853 Brother Lorin Andrews became President of Kenyon College. He was the founder of the Ohio State Teachers Association. He was the first to volunteer to fight in the Civil War and served as Colonel of the 4th Ohio Volunteer Regiment. He died of typhoid Sep. 18, 1861 at camp in West Virginia. In 1856 District Deputies were appointed to visit lodges and in 1858 the use of Masonic emblems on business cards was prohibited.

Dispensations for seven Ohio Regimental Lodges were issued during the Civil War. Pioneer No. 4 has been mentioned. Its Master was Dr. Jacob Cantwell who was also Deputy Grand Master of the Grand Lodge. The Senior Warden was his brother James who was killed at Second Bull Run Aug. 29, 1862. Benedict Lodge No. 55 was named for Gen. Lewis Benedict who was killed in 1863. Its Master was George Stafford a lawyer from Cleveland. Candy Lodge No. 66 was named for Col. Charles Candy. Its Master was Abram Shepherd from Mechanicsburg. The Senior Warden Sgt. Ross Colwell died of wounds at Harpers Ferry Nov. 17, 1862. Washington Lodge No. 68 was organized in Henry County. Its Master was regimental quartermaster James Haley of Napoleon. Senior Warden Robert Scott rose to Major General and was a carpetbagger Gov. of SC in 1868. Union Lodge No. 82 was organized by the Cantwell brothers of the 4'h Regt. and Pioneer Lodge. Ward Lodge No 17 was named for its Treasurer Durbin Ward who was a well known Democratic politician from Lebanon. The Master was Bonham Fox from Harveysburg who moved to Kansas in 1868. The Senior Warden was James Stinchcomb who took command at Chickamauga when Ward was wounded. Secretary Dr. Washington Schenck reported Col Connell was raised on the Shiloh battlefield. Shiloh Lodge No. 77 was organized by William Mason, Jr. from Marietta. After the war he was the county treasurer and postmaster.

In addition to Bro. Cantwell, Cols. George Webster of the 98th OVI was killed at Perryville and Barton S. Kyle of the 71" OVI was killed at Shiloh. Both were former Senior Grand Wardens. Confederate prisoners held at Johnsons Island were permitted to hold lodge meetings. Future president William McKinley was raised by a Virginia lodge.
The first Ohio Masonic library was opened in Cincinnati in 1866. In 1870 $10,000 was collected to build a widows and orphans home. When the plan fizzled, the money was returned. In 1872 the Masonic Veterans Association, which still exists, was organized. During the 1880's James A. Garfield a former professor at Hiram College was assassinated.

Lafayette Van Cleve served simultaneously as Grand Chaplain for the Grand Lodge, Chapter, Council and Commandery. In 1885 a new problem caused some lodges to have their charters pulled by Grand Master S. Stacker Williams. Some Masons were joining the clandestine Cerneau Scottish Rite. They went so far as to contend the Grand Lodge had no right to determine what other Masonic bodies could be joined. New England Lodge tried to resign from the Grand Lodge. The question was settled by the courts who said the Grand Lodge had the authority to expel members who did not obey its rules. At this time the Test Oath was added to the Master Mason Degree by Grand Master Leander Burdick.. Lodges owing allegiance to Cerneau Masonry soon died out. The Eastern Star was denied the right to meet in Lodge buildings. [Ten years later this decision was reversed] In 1886 the state was divided into 15 districts. By 1890 the state had 500 lodges.

John Day Caldwell was honored for having served as Grand Secretary for 37 years. An inventory of the Grand Lodge Library showed 23,892 books. In 1892 the Ohio Masonic Home was built. At a cost of $104,000. Asa Bushnell of Springfield who had provided the land on which it was built was made a Mason "at sight". He was later elected Governor of Ohio. 1,500 Knights Templar and 2,100 masons attended the dedication ceremonies. The Grand Lodge determined it was a Masonic offense to traffic in liquor. By custom Grand Masters were limited to a one year term. In 1895 candidates were required to pass an examination in each degree before progressing. The minimum dues were at $2 per year.

83 of the 266 sailors who were drowned when the Battleship Maine sank were said to be Masons. As the Grand Lodge celebrated its Centennial 5834 persons were in the Cincinnati procession. President Teddy Roosevelt and Vice President Charles Fairbanks [both Masons] sent telegrams of congratulations. William Howard Taft was made a Mason at sight and served as President and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Ohio had 72,339 Masons.

In the 20th Century Masonry survived five wars and a Great Depression. Ohio Masons have been active in every field of human endeavor. William Cunningham and John Reeves wrote the 3 volume history which sold for $4. Barton Smith and Robert Ralston headed the Scottish Rite NJ. Eddie Rickenbacker became the leading US ace. Ralph Rickley left half a million dollars to the Masonic home. Harding and Cox ran for President. John Wyllis, W. D. Packard and Alexander Winton built automobiles. Dr. Elmer Am was the president of the George Washington Masonic Memorial. Robert Clegg revised Mackey's Encyclopedia. John Glenn orbited the earth. Andrew White headed the Masonic Relief Association. Royal Scofield was president of the Philalethes Society. Frank Weise was the Supreme Tall Cedar. Powel Crosley, Jr. built radios, refrigerators, cars and took the Reds to the World Series. John Bricker and James Rhodes attended Grand lodge as Governor. Tad Clypool was Imperial Potentate. Vernon Stouffer sold frozen foods. Red Blaik coached Army and Weeb Eubank won the Super Bowl. Brian Donlevy and Clark Gable won Oscars and Roy Rogers was a singing cowboy. At Ohio State Howard Bevis and Novis Fawcett were president while Lynn St. John was athletic director and John Wilce was football coach and Ernie Biggs was trainor. Pete Henry made the College and Pro Hall of Fame. Karl King and Henry Fillmore and Frank Simon composed band music. Thor Johnson conducted the Cincinnati Symphony. Cliff Arquette was Charley Weaver while Clyde Beatty had a circus. Homer Rodeheaver wrote gospel hymns. Henry Busse played the trumpet and Ted Lewis the clarinet. Ken Burkhart called balls and strikes while Junior Norris made baskets for the Dayton Flyers. Wendell Willkie ran for president and Ken Blackwell for Governor. John Robinson wrote "Born in Blood". Ed Selby as General Grand High Priest started RARA. Edward Deeds founded Delco. Ray Evans won the Pulitzer Prize for cartooning. Winfred Fouse started General Tires. Fred Gruen made watches. Frank Hoover made vacuum cleaners. General Curtis LeMay bombed Japan. Norman Vincent Peale preached. Reuben Robertson and his son were president of Champion Paper. Finally Lowell Thomas left us with those famous words. "So long until tomorrow.-

Thus we end this brief history of Masonry in Ohio. But even as we speak, Masonry continues. Future historians will, it is hoped, write its ongoing progress. It is up to us to create events for them to record. This is not the beginning of the end, but only the end of the beginning.

This article is said to have be written by Norman G. Lincoln, KYCH and Past ILL Master of the Ohio Council of Research, Grand Council R&SM of Ohio.  A special thanks to him for providing for our reading enjoyment and Masonic knowledge the history of Freemasonry in Ohio!                        Signed Mt. Olivet # 226 Webmaster

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