Montgomery County Masonic Lodge History

Updated: Sep 17, 2021


Mt. Moriah Lodge #51 Chartered 1848 Hillsboro Illinois
Mt. Moriah Lodge #51 Chartered 1848 Hillsboro Illinois

We give a list of the Masonic lodges of the county, with their present officers and membership. As the lodge of Hillsboro, Mt. Moriah, No. 51, A. F. & A. M., is the oldest and to an extent the parent of all the others, we give here a brief history of its organization and growth. The first recorded communication was held August 31, 1839. A dispensation was applied for under date of August 18, 1839, to the Grand Lodge of Missouri, and subsequently granted under the name of Mt. Moriah Lodge, with only a few members, and a charter subsequently obtained as Hillsboro Lodge No. 33 with C. B. Blockburger as the w. m.; Hail Kingsley, s. w.; Martin Kingsley, j. w.; M. L-. Stinson, secretary; Aaron Knapp, Tyler, and Stephen Abbot, treasurer. The lodge worked under that charter till after the Grand Lodge of the State of Illinois has been organized in 1840. C. B. Blockburger was the moving spirit in the organization and was the worshipful master in 1839 and 1840 and also during 1841 and 1842. After the charter had been granted by the Grand Lodge of the State of Missouri, the first permanent place of meeting was in the second story of the brick building now occupied by Warren Neff as a residence. It was then the property of C. B. Blockburger. The first man to take the degrees in the lodge and in Montgomery County was J. Brockfield. He was initiated September 7 and raised December 14, 1839. In 1840 a second story was built over the tin shop of Mr. Blockburger just north of the Neff residence, as a lodge hall, on a contract with Mr. Blockburger. The first officers elected under the Missouri charter were: C. B. Blockburger, w. m.; Hall Kingsley, s w., and Martin Kingsley, j. w., appointed by the Grand Lodge; and Jacob Lingofelter, treasurer; J. B. Collins, secretary ; Alfred Durant, s. d., and Ira Boone, j. d.


On February 22, 1841, the lodge, then having a membership of eighteen, celebrated Washington's Birthday, this being the first public function ever held in Montgomery County by a Masonic body. The lodge continued to act under its Missouri charter until 1848, when the charter was obtained from the 11linois Grand Lodge and the Missouri charter surrendered, and the name Mt. Moriah No. 51 obtained. The first officers under the new charter were: Ira Mlllard, w. m.; Ira Boone, s. w.; Jeremiah Hart, j. w., John S; Hillis, treasurer; John H. Rolston. secretary; M. J. Blockburger, s. d.; McKinzie Turner, j. d.; J. C. McHenry and W. S. Shawn, stewards, and Jacob Lingofelter, tyler. Succeeding Blockburger in the chair, under the Missouri charter, was Ira Millard, 1843 and 1844. In 1845, under the direction of Alfred Durant as worshipful master, a dispensation was obtained from the Grand Lodge of Illinois, and in 1848. while Ira Millard was again worshipful master, a charter was obtained as Mt. Moriah No. 51, under which name and number the lodge has continued to work till the present. There was considerable difficulty in obtaining a charter from the Illinois Grand Lodge, owing to the fact that there was friction between the grand lodges of the two states. The Grand Lodge of Missouri did not want to concede the rights claimed by the Grand Lodge of Illinois, and even some of the members of Hillsboro lodge did not have the confidence in the stability of the Illinois Grand Lodge that inspired them to cooperate with the others in working for a transfer of allegiance. This difference led to much discontent, so that in 1846 the charter was arrested, the lodge being allowed to retain its property and effects. During October, 1846, the grand master of the state of Missouri recommended to the Grand Lodge of Illinois that the lodge be allowed to reorganize under its old charter, and in future report their work to the Grand Lodge of Illinois. The Grand Master of Illinois, William Lavely, resented this apparent attempt to dictate to the Illinois Grand Lodge, and in his reply said: "Not being able to understand by what rule the Grand Lodge could resuscitate the charter granted by another Grand Lodge, and by it subsequently forfeited, and authorized the members under it to reorganize and work, and not desiring to countenance in any manner whatever the continued infringement upon our jurisdiction as assumed and exercised by the most worshipful grand lord of Missouri in holding on to other lodges in our state with such pertinacity, as she continues to do, notwithstanding the repeated efforts on the part of this Grand Lodge to have our sister Grand Lodge of Missouri withdraw her jurisdiction from our rightful territory. After stating my objections to the brethren at Hillsboro to granting their request or of complying with the recommendation of the most worshipful grand lord of Missouri, I tendered them the aforesaid dispensation under which they might organize and have a legal existence until the present meeting of the Grand Lodge, not requiring any fee at the -time, which dispensation they accepted. In view of all the circumstances attending the cause, I would recommend that their work be approved, that a charter be granted, and that the fees for both the dispensation and charter, except the grand secretary's fees, be remitted." Accordingly, under this recommendation of October 4, 1848, Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 51 was legally chartered by the Grand Lodge of the State of Illinois. Ira Millard was then the worshipful master and continued to fill the chair till 1850, when Joseph Itolston was elected as his successor. In 1855 the lodge joined in with the Odd Fellows and built a lodge room over the brick drug store of Dr. Haskell, now the office of J. J. Frey & Company, the cornerstone being placed at the southwest corner of the building where anyone can plainly see it today. This cornerstone was laid by District Deputy Grand Master James H. Hibbard. In 1867 Stokes Clotfelter made a proposition to the lodge to build a third story for the lodge purposes over his proposed brick store building, and the proposition was accepted. The hall was completed and occupied for the first time on May 7, 1868.


The first officers elected after the new hall was occupied were: O. H. Shlmer, w. m.; Wooten Harris, s. w.; W. P. Johnson, j. w.; J. W. Rolston, treasurer; C. M. Wooll, secretary; John Watson, s. d.; Amos Miller, j. d.; M. L. Morehouse and W. F. Stoddard, stewards, and George L. Warren, tyler. The members who -were raised just before and during the first year in the new hall were as follows: L. H. Mossier, September 26, 1867; W. H. Auginbaugh, September 10, 1867; J. R. Barry, January 7, 1868; David S. Gilmore, March 19, 1868; Charles P. Newman, January 30, 186S; Chris Hossman, February 20, 186S; James F. Futchinson, February 20, 18.68; Robt. Y. Bryan, February 20, 1868; Noah Draper, March 26, 1868; W. H. Logan, March 26, 1868; Marcus L. Cooper, March 26. 1868; Thomas J. Reeves, February 11, 1868; Thomas W. McDavid, May 20, 1868.


Those who have filled the worshipful master's rhair since the granting of the charter have been as follows: 1848, 1849. 1856, Ira Millard; 1850, 1851, 1850, 1857, 1860, Joseph Rolston; is52, 1853, 1854, 1858, McKenzle Turner; 1859, 1861, 1862, L. R. Slaghter; 1863, H. C. Coaleton; 1864, 1865, 1868, 1871, Fred Noterman; 1866, 1867, 1869, 1873, I. H. Shimer; 1870, 1879, J. W. Edwards; 1872, Wooten Harris; 1874, John Watson, Jr.; 1875, James A. Brown; 1876, 1877, 1878, Norman Michael; 1880, 1881, 1883, 1884, 1892. 1897, Mathias W. Miller; 1885, 1886, 1887, 1888, 1895, 1901, Amos H. Clotfelter; 1889, Amos Sawyer; 1890, C. W. Bliss; 1893, 1894, John j Greene; 1896, C. A. Ramsey; 1898. 1899, 1902, 1903, Josiah Bixler; 1900, 1904, W. M. Neff; 1005, 1906, John T. Kester; 1907, 1908, H. R. Crawford; 1909, R. E. Gifford; 1910, 1911, Walter R. McLean; 1912, 1913, James Welsh; 1914,1915, John E. Potter; 1916, J. F. M. Greene, and 1917, William Mailman. Since the organizing under the present charter in 1848, the rolls of this lodge have contained the names of many of the best and strongest men in the county, and many lodges in other jurisdictions have been aided greatly by those who took their degrees in Mt. Moriah Lodge. The lodge has at present a membership of 166.


As stated, Mt. Moriah No. 51 is the oldest Masonic lodge in the county, being about seventy-seven years old at time of writing. The other lodges of the county follow in the order of their organizing. Charter Oak Lodge No. 236, at Litchfield, was organized October 7, 1857, and has a membership at this time of 109, with C. O. Richards as w. m. and Henry C. Gorin as secretary. That lodge, together with the Litchfield Lodge and the Royal Arch Chapter, of Litchfield, have recently fitted out the old Opera House of Litchfield as a Masonic Temple, and the accommodations there at this time are by far the best in the county.


Donnellson Lodge No. 255, at Donnellson, was organized October 4, 1858, and is now fifty-eight years old. It has a membership of fifty-three and is presided over at this time by Raymond AI. Harwood as w. m. and C. C. Mansfield as secretary. Many of the prominent men in the county in an early day were members of the lodge.

Irving Lodge No. 455. at Irving, received its charter October 4, 18(i5, on the same day that Nokomis was recognized by the Grand Lodge. It now has n membership of sixty-eight and the gavel is wielded by Brother R. Canady, while Brother Joseph Platt keeps the records.


Nokomis Lodge No. 456 received its charter on the same day as the above and has a membership at present of 155, being the second largest in the county. William Van Russell presides and Walter C. Hovey wields the quil1.

Walshville Lodge No. 475, at Walshville, was authorized by the Grand Lodge to confer the degrees October 3, 1866. At one time this lodge had a membership of over fifty, but being in a small village it has not the material to draw from as have the city lodges, and consequently has now a membership of only twenty-two, but is growing. A. F. Minor fills the East and Elbert Shields manages the secretary's work.

Butler Lodge No. 459, at Butler, was organized in 1S6f i and for a short time promised well, but its proximity to other stronger lodges created an indifference that resulted in the surrender of its charter in 1878, at which time it had a membership of thirty-one members.


Litchfield Lodge No. 517, at Litchfield, was organized October 3, 1867, and at this time baa a membership of 108. The Oriental chair is occupied by A. P. Pugh, and Brother F. C. Blackwelder acts as secretary. An effort was recently made by this lodge to unite with Charter Oak and thereby increase the usefulness of the order in Litchfield and at the same time reduce expenses, but owing to some friction the effort proved to be futile.

Fillmore Lodge No. 670, at Fillmore, was organized October 3, 1871, and now enjoys a membership of seventy-two members. The worshipful master is J. F. Wolcott and the records are kept by C. E. Landers.

The last lodge in the county organized was at Coffeen, their number being 906, and their charter was dated October 7, 1908. W. R. Haller presides and A. Studebaker fills the secretary's chair. This lodge has the distinction of having on its rolls the two oldest Masons living in the county, W. H. Cook and B. F. McLain, both of whom have been members of the order for considerably over fifty years. These lodges are choice in the selection of their members and usually have the support of the cream of their communities. As their members are usually highly respected gentlemen and they are insistent on the members refraining from discreditable conduct, the result of the influence of these lodges on the moral and uplifting character of the communities in which they are located is highly salutary.


OLD TIME MASONIC CELEBRATION

Every town or community has its past events that are, often reverted to in reminiscent moments with pleasant memories. We could mention many in Hillsboro and in other towns that, to those who remember them, are looked back on with fond recollections. We, however, content ourselves with one. On June 24, 1841, the Masonic lodge of Hillsboro celebrated what is known in Masonic circles as St. Johns' day. The place of meeting of the lodge at that time was over the old frame building recently torn down by Howell & Dorsey, then known as Blockburger's tin shop. In accordance with arrangements the members met at the lodge rooms and formed a procession under the ance of D. D. Shumway and John H. Ralston, marshals of the day. This procession was led by the members of the lodge, among whom were :

C. B. Blockburger, Hall Kingsley, Martin Kingsley, Jacob Lingofelter, C. B. Collins, Alfred Durant, Ira Boone, A. Kuapp, J. M. Ralston, Allen Caraker, Stephen Abbot, M. P. Nickolson, D. D. Shumway, Robert Crow, C. B. Hartwell, Ira Millard, A. Stotsbury, Joslah McHenry, A. H. Knapp, William Shawn, Thomas H. Cory, A. S. McMellon, C. J. Richardson, Beniah Kelley, Dr. John S. Hillis, Philip M. Millard, M. J. Blockburger, William H. High, William Wood, McKinsie Turner, Caleb S. Canaday, C. S. Shannahan, Thomas A. Gray, Horace Mansfield, William Cannon, and William B. Herricfc Among the Masons in line as visitors may be named: J. T. Broadley, of Clinton; Z. Case, of Clinton; William Hodge, William C. Greenup, and H. Eccles, of Vandalia ; J. B. Clark and B. F. Burke, of Harper's Ferry, Va.; H. C. Roman, A. S. Thompson and A. B. Hodge, of Vandalia; James King, of Decatur; M. C. Hereford, of Virginia; J. H. Hereford, of Tennessee; Co1. John Seward and Israel Seward, formerly from New YorkT H. Wilcox, of New York; Seth Blanchard, of Missouri; and George Burnap, of 11linois. The procession formed and marched to the Methodist Episcopal Church, which then stood where the pool room of Henry Crees is now 1ocated, and the following exercises were carried out: Rev. William Randall led in prayer, and then N. M. McCurdy, of Vandalia, delivered an oration. 0thers spoke more briefly and after the conclusion of the formal exercises, the procession reformed and marched to the Academy building, which then stood on the east side of Main Street, opposite the residence of J. K. McDavid, where a banquet to the lodge and visitors was served. After the banquet and several .postprandial addresses, the procession was again formed and returned to the hull. In looking over the list of Masons and visitors present on that memorable occasion we know of no one who today is among the living. But we can name about twenty-five who have descendants now living in the county, who doubtless remember hearing their parents speak of' that occasion.

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Jeff Dunn

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Historical Society of

Montgomery County

Advisory Board

Illinois State

Historical Society