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A Partial History of the Bluffton Masonic Lodge #145

Wells County, Indiana, was organized as a county in February, 1837. Within the next few years a number of Free and Accepted Masons from other jurisdictions moved into the county. Some of these discussed among themselves the possibility and the desirability of having a Masonic Lodge organized and established in the county. In February, 1853, sixteen years after the organization of the county, this group of Masons applied to the Indiana Grand Lodge of Masons for a Charter for a Masonic Lodge in Bluffton. The application was granted, and on the 3rd day of February, 1853, a Dispensation for a lodge was granted and issued to them.


To All to Whom These Presents Shall Come Greeting:

Whereas it has been represented to us that at Bluffton in the County of Wells and State of Indiana there resides a number of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons who are desirous of associating together agreeable to the constitution of Ancient Masonry and it appearing for the promotion of the Royal Art necessary and proper that the said Brethren shall be enabled to work together as a regular Lodge of Masons.

Therefore I, Alexander C. Downey, Grand Master of the Most Ancient and Honorable Society of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons in the State of Indiana by and with the consent of the Grand Lodge testified by their Rules and Regulations do hereby constitute and appoint the Worshipful Arthur W. Sanford, Master, Oliver P. Gilham, senior warden, and John Morgan, junior warden, together with all, such Brethren as are now or may hereafter become members, a Regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Ancient York Masons by Dispensation by the title of Bluffton Lodge U D, and do hereby ordain that all Regular Lodges respect them as such, hereby granting them full power to assemble and work together as a regular Lodge; to receive and Enter Apprentices, pass Fellow Crafts and raise Masters according to the known and established custom of Ancient Masonry and not otherwise; also to exact from their members such contributions as they shall judge necessary for the support of the Lodge relief of their brethren in distress together with such contributions toward the Grand Charity Fund as are required by the Constitution of Masonry and the laws of the Grand Lodge of Indiana; commanding the aforesaid brethren to reverence and .obey their superiors in all things lawful and honest as become the honor and harmony of Masonry; to record in their Lodge Book this present Dispensation their own private regulation and their whole acts and proceedings from time to time as they occur; and by no means to desert their said Lodge hereby constituted or form themselves into separate meetings without the consent of the said Worshipful Master and Wardens; and are not to cease from their workings as a Lodge until ordered so to do by the Most Worshipful Grand Master for the time being; And I do enjoin and command the aforesaid brethren to make due return of this Dispensation to the Most Worshipful a copy of their private regulations and a copy of their proceedings had on said Dispensation to the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Indiana at their next Annual Grand Communication to be holden in the Town of Indianapolis on the fourth Monday of May next ensuing the date hereof until which time this Dispensation shall continue in force and no longer. All of which by their acceptance hereof they are bound to observe. And the Brethren aforesaid by their acceptance hereof acknowledge the said most Grand Lodge and Master as their superiors and promise due regard to such instructions and recommendations as they shall hereafter receive from them. For the more effectual preservation of these presents the same are hereby ordered to be recorded.

Given under the hand of Alexander C. Downey Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Indiana and the seal of said Lodge this 3rd day of February Anno Lucio 5853.

A. C. Downey Grand Master

Meeting Under Dispensation

On February 19th, 1853 AD 5853 AL the first meeting of the Lodge under Dispensation was held. The proceedings of the lodge at this session are fully recorded in the minutes of the meeting; a sample is printed below:

Be it remembered that on the 19th day of February AD 1853 the petitioners for a dispensation authorizing the establishment of a Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons in the Town of Bluffton Wells County and State of Indiana met at their lodge room  in said Town of Bluffton when upon inspection of the Dispensation issued by the Most Worshipful A. C. Downey Grand Master of Masons in the State of Indiana Bro. Arthur M. Sanford being nominated therein as Worshipful Master Oliver P. Gilham as Senior Warden and John Morgan as Junior Warden of Bluffton Lodge U. D.  They repaired to their respective stations and a Lodge of Master Masons was opened in due and Ancient Form, when its organization was completed by the appointment by the Worshipful Master of Bro. Jas. A. Williams treasurer, Jas. R. McCleery Secretary, Henry Courtney Senior Deacon, David B. McClure Junior Deacon, and Wm. Freeman Tyler.

At this meeting a code of bylaws for the government of the lodge and the members was adopted. These by-laws evidence the spirit and temper of the time.

The Preamble is as follows:

Whereas the more effectually to encourage sobriety suppress profanity and diffuse the sublime principles of universal benevolence and thereby carry out the genuine principles of Masonry the undersigned have associated themselves together under the name style and title of Bluffton Lodge No. 145 of Free and Accepted Masons; they do for their future government make and adopt the following bylaws:

The following is a summary of the bylaws:

Regular meetings shall be held on the Thursday of or next before the full moon in every month and on the second Thursday thereafter, and from March to September shall commence at 7 o’clock p. m. and at 6 o’clock the balance of the year.

The officers shall be Worshipful Master, Senior and Junior Wardens, Treasurer, Secretary, Senior and Junior Deacons, and Tyler, to be elected annually at the regular meeting next preceding June 24.

Every member shall pay fifteen cents per month (exclusive of Grand Lodge Dues) as regular lodge dues. The fee for the three degrees shall be fifteen dollars. Ministers of the gospel shall be required to pay only two dollars for the three degrees.

Art. 12. If any brother is guilty of using profane or immoral language, or becomes disguised by intoxicating liquors, or indulges in their habitual use, or is otherwise guilty of immoral and un-masonic conduct, he shall on due conviction be reprimanded, suspended or expelled, as the lodge may determine.

Adopted in open lodge at a regular meeting held February 19th AD 1853; AL 5853.

Also at this meeting a petition to receive the degrees by initiation was presented by each of the following men: Amos Townsend, Wm. H. Basset, Robert C. Bennett, Jr. Erastus Hathaway, Jacob Smith, George McDowell, Samuel C. Scott, Samuel Keller, Bowen Hale, and D. A. Drummond. The petitions were received and referred to the proper committees. At subsequent meetings, each of the above was duly elected to receive the degrees, and the degrees were conferred upon them.

The lodge had operated under dispensation from February 19, to May 19, AD. 1853, a period of three months. In that period it had held sixteen lodge meetings. And during that time it had received petitions from fourteen men to become members by initiation, upon which it had conferred the degrees.

Charter Issued

On June 16, 1853, the members met in their lodge room for their first meeting under a Charter. They now had a title and a number. This longed-for event is memorialized in the minutes of the meeting: “Hall Bluffton Lodge No. 145, June 16, AL 5853; AD 1853

“Be it remembered that on the 16th day of June, 1853, the members of Bluffton Lodge of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons met at their lodge room  in the Town of Bluffton under a Charter issued by the Grand Lodge of The State of Indiana, O. P. Gilham being therein appointed as Worshipful Master, James R. McCleery as Senior Warden, and John Morgan Junior Warden.

One Lodge – Many Places to Meet

The first room occupied by Bluffton Lodge No. 145 was the second or third story of what was then known as the  Bennett & Deam Buildings. The location is now designated as No. 116 and 118, North Main Street. The lodge continued to hold its meeting in that hall until 1870.

In August, 1870, the lodge through its trustees, J. Sharpe Wisner, James W. Spake and William H. Basset, leased the third story of the brick building then located on West Market street. The site of that building is now occupied by the Linn & Saurer building, 117 West Market Street. The lodge leased this building for eight years.

In 1876 The Gardner-Ogden Building was erected. This building is also called the Centennial Building. It is now occupied as the J. C. Penney Store, 118 West Market Street. The lodge leased the third story of this building in 1876, and occupied it until in 1890, when the lodge moved into its present rooms, 114 1/2 North Main street.  (This was above the Isch Hardware Store)

At times past, the members of the lodge have discussed the possibility and advisability of the lodge owning its own building. At one time the annual dues were increased for the purpose of creating a building fund, and a fund was started. Bank failures in Bluffton dissipated that fund, and dampened the enthusiasm of the members for the time.

Laying the Courthouse Cornerstone

July 9, 1889, the Board of Commissioners of Wells county invited Bluffton Lodge No. 145 F. & A. M. to take charge of the laying of the corner stone of the new court house then in course of erection. The time for the event as fixed by the Board was August 29, 1889.

The following named brethren represented the Grand Lodge Officers: Right Worshipful. J. J. Todd, Deputy Grand Master and special Deputy of the Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons of the State of Indiana; J. N. Templor, of Muncie, deputy Grand Master; E. J. Church, La Porte, Senior Grand Warden; H. F. Drown, Huntington, Junior Grand Warden; Isaac Underwood, Pennville, Grand Treasurer; Jerre North, Grand Secretary; Rev. W. H. Zanders, Grand Chaplin; William North, Portland, Grand Lecturer; R. S. Peterson, Decatur, Grand Marshal; John Branstetter, Pennville, Senior Grand Deacon; M N. Newman, Ossian Junior Grand Deacon; and William Stine, Ossian, Grand Tyler.

The following lodges were in attendance as lodges, Ossian, No. 297; Markle, No. 453; Zanesville, No. 517; Kings, No. 246; Decatur, No. 571; Mystic, No. 111; and Pennville, No. 212.

There were also brothers present from Portland, Hartford City, Eaton, Albany, Majenica and Mt. Etna.

A Grand Master From Bluffton

In the year 1890 Brother Jacob J. Todd was elected Most Worshipful Grand Master of the Indiana Grand Lodge of Masons.

This was the first time that Bluffton Lodge No. 145 was honored by having a member elected as a Grand Officer of the Grand Lodge. On January 13, 1891, Grand Master Todd installed the officers of Bluffton Lodge No.145  for the ensuing year.

Our First Master Mason

Brother Amos Townsend was the first candidate to receive the degrees in Bluffton Lodge No. 145. His petition to receive the degrees was presented February 19, 1853, at the first meeting under dispensation. He was raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason May 6, 1853. He was elected Worshipful Master of the lodge in June 1858, and served until June 1860. In June 1861, he was re-elected Worshipful Master, and served until June 1864. In December 1879, he was again elected as Master, and served until December 1880. In December 1883, he was elected Secretary and served continuously until July 1901, when he resigned on account of the infirmities of age, being unable to attend the meetings of the lodge.

In the year 1860, Brother Townsend was elected by this lodge to attend a Masonic School of Instruction at Louisville, Kentucky, taught by Brother Robert Morris. After attending that school Brother Townsend brought home with him a knowledge of Masonry which placed Bluffton Lodge No. 145 in the front rank in Indiana. His knowledge of Masonry, of Masonic law and usage; and the landmarks of Masonry, was of inestimable value to this lodge. He was the authority on all Masonic questions. Whether called upon to bring to light the young initiate; instruct in the sublime lectures; bury the dead; record the proceedings of the lodge; collect and account for the finances of the lodge, he was always true and faithful, and inflexible in his fidelity to duty. Fortunate indeed was the newly made brother who received his first instruction in Masonry from Brother Amos Townsend.

Friday evening, October 16, 1908, the lodge met in called meeting for the purpose of making arrangements for the funeral of Brother Amos Townsend, who died at his home on the morning of October 15, at the age of 91 years, 8 months and 25 days.

Still Searching for a Permanent Home

The question of the purchase of real estate upon which was contemplated the erection of a Masonic Temple was discussed by the members at several meetings of the lodge in the fall of 1936 and continued in the spring of 1937.

Finally in April, 1937, the lodge completed the purchase of Lot No. 40 on the plat of Studebaker’s addition to Bluffton, and also Lot No. 250 on the original plat of the town of Bluffton. This location is also known as No. 312 West Market Street. The amount paid for the property was $1,800.00. The lodge continued to hold this real estate until in 1942, when on November 10 the trustees were granted authority to sell it, and the property was sold to the Indiana Bell Telephone Company for $2,000.00, upon which said company contemplates the erection of its office building.

The Temple is Erected

In the mid.195Os, a movement was begun for the acquisition of a new and better location for the Masonic Lodge to Meet. A building committee was appointed by Worshipful Master Linn Gregg. Many locations and plans were discussed. It was not until 1965 that definite plans were formulated.   Land was acquired at the corner of Johnson and Cherry Streets and in 1966 the contract was let for the building of A New Masonic Temple. The construction was completed in 1967 and the Lodge moved into the new Temple for the July stated meeting. The Temple was dedicated on October 21, 1967.  Members of the Grand Lodge F. & A.M. of Indiana led by the Ill. Grand Master John L. Bloxsome conducted the dedication ceremonies.

 The following was printed in the original 1967 Dedication Program


 To the ancient Hebrews, the most sacred place of meeting was the Temple. The community life was centered in religious thinking. Therefore, the Temple became the center for any Hebrew community.

Much labor, materials and money were needed in the building of King Solomon’s Temple. The most advanced architecture and materials of the best quality, together with skilled craftsmen were necessary to achieve the Great Temple.  Because of the burning desire of the leaders and the people a master piece was done in record time.

Today we are dedicating this Masonic Temple for the people of Bluffton and Wells County. This Temple is not a place of worship as the ancient Temple was. It is the Temple of service to all through brotherly love as exemplified by each Masonic body.

After several years of thinking and planning for a new Temple, construction was begun and completed. The architecture is contemporary; the utility is outstanding. Bluffton lodge, F. & A. M., is very happy to have this new and unusual building to present to this community. It is more than a Masonic project. It is a project for the whole area. Masonry seeks to make a worthwhile contribution to the community through the activities of the Order of DeMolay for boys, the Order of the Rainbow for girls, the Order of the Eastern Star, York Rite and Scottish Rite bodies and Bluffton Lodge No. 145.

Past Masters

Arthur W. Sanford Febuary 3, 1853 – June 16, 1853
O.P. Gilham, June 16, 1853 -58
Amos Townsend, 1858-60
Newton Burwell, 1860-61
Amos Townsend, 1861-64
Thomas L. Wisner, 1864-66
Amos Townsend, 1866- 67
Thomas L. Wisner, 1867-69
J. Sharle Wisner, 1869-September 18, 1870 (died in office)
James W. Spake, A. Townsend and William Bassett, who filled the chairs as pro tem. masters until December, 1870
Newton Burwell, 1870-71
Jacob J. Todd, 1871-72
Thomas L. Wisner, 1872-74
Jere North, 1874-76
Jacob J. Todd. 1876-79
Amos Townsend, 1879-80
Jere North 1880-81
James R. Bennett, 1881-83
Cyrene Warner, 1883-85
James W. Spake, 1885-87
James H. Clifton, 1887-89
C.M. Miller, March – December, 1889
James P. Hale, 1889-91
C.M. Miller, 1891-93
Elmore Y. Sturgis, January-December, 1894
Horace L. Wisner, 1894-95
William A. Marsh, 1895-97
Samuel P. Roush, 1897-99
Joseph S. DeLong, 1899-1900
Samuel P. Roush, 1900-01
Charles E. Sturgis, 1901-02
Harry Lewis, 1902-04
Samuel E. Hitchcock, January-December, 1904
William W. Weisell, 1904-05
Herman W. Thoma, 1905-07
Charles A. Studabaker and Frank Ashbaucher (pro tem.), 1907-08
William H. Eichhorn and Samuel E. Hitchcock, 1907-10
Frank E. Ehle 1910-11
William R. Barr, 1911-12
John A. Park, 1912-13
Grant Pyle, 1913-14
Harry B. Wiltse, 1915-16
T.H. Koontz, 1916-17

From Plaques at the Lodge

1915-16 Harry B. Wiltse
1917 Thomas Koontz
1918 William L. Kiger
1920 W. H. Marquart
1921 William E. Franzee
1922 Hoyt H. Hartman
1923 John W. Carnall
1924 Cloid B. Ratcliff
1925 Jay C. Kennedy
1926 C. Verne McKinney
1927 Elmore D. Sturgis
1928 Hoover R. McCleery
1929 Henry Koenig
1930 Fred R. Carnall
1931 Lester D. Irey
1932 Lauran R. Poff
1933 Carl O. Shelley
1934 Otto H. Weilmann
1935 Ival L. Young
1936 Matthew Worthman
1937 Norman D. Shufelt
1938 Waldo S. Huffman
1939 William H. Thoma
1940 John R. Young
1941 Raymond N. Fitzpatrick
1942 Clinton E. Sowards, Sr.
1943 Lloyd E. Rose
1944 Elmer E. Anderson
1945 Floyd R. Spade
1946 Lewis A. Pence
1947 John S. Collins
1948 Richard N. French, Sr.
1949 Ralph Gordon
1950 Lawrence L. Lockwood
1951 Jean S. Stout
1952 George N. Heller
1953 Phill C. Dwinnell
1954 Robert K. Dental
1955 Truman W. Bierie
1956 Linn E. Gregg
1957 Carl G. Turckes
1958 Orlo Harshman
1959 Jimi L. McCunje
1960 Elmer E. Armantrout
1961 Cloyd E. Grover
1962 Thurl B. Kaufman
1963 James E. Lockwood
1964 Jerry L. Lockwood
1965 Howard Clevenger
1966 Richard B. Holsinger
1967 George W. Miller
1968 Frederick Hoeppner
1969 Milo C. Drabenstot
1970 Roger E. Deam
1971 Phillip D. Hoopingarner
1972 Irvin Nicholson, Jr.
1973 J. Robert Hiester
1974 Robert A. Cline
1975 Jerry J. Elliott
1976 Lawrence H. Brink, Jr.
1977 G. Allan Penrod
1978, 1990 Dale L. Brinneman
1979 Richard W. Mynatt
1980 James W. Fritz
1981 John S. McDonald
1982 Wm. Michael Ulmer
1983 Lyle J. Cotton
1984 Kenneth E. Yake
1985 David L. Kelly
1986 Robert H. Maxwell
1987 Dale C. Dickinson
1988-89 Kenneth E. Boots
1990 Michael E. Chaney
1991 Keith E. Schoeff
1992 David L. Goodwin
1993 Alvin D. Massey
1994-95 Quinn D. Curry
1996-1997 Robert L. Spidel
1998 Michael E. Chaney
1999 William Michael Ulmer
2000 Gary M. Ulmer
2001 Geoffrey A Foughty
2002 Brian E. Curry
2003 Larry L. Tschannen
2004 Bermon E. Pritt
2005 Neal C. Pitts
2006 Jerry A. Pugh
2007-2008 Kenneth E. Boots
2009 Richard McAffee
2010 John Dickason
2011 Michael Hostetter
2012 R. Scott Elzey
2013 Jan Martin Henline
2014 Frederick L. Lucabaugh
2015 Joshua M. Dunsmore
2016 David M. Barton
2017 G Timothy Simpson