New Castle Lodge No. 91, F. & A. M.
From a small book, its pages yellowed from age, we find these words written: “Franklin Woodward was made a Mason in this place working under a dispensation from the Grand Lodge,“ the only record of first Master taking any degree work. From these simple words we can only conclude that Franklin Woodward was made a Mason in the Loge which he was to serve as the first Master.
Like all good and great things, our lodge had a simple beginning. Some good men of the community had a good idea, assembled themselves in a small room and discussed the possibilities of a Masonic Lodge in New Castle. From the records, some of these men were Masons and somewhere not. From this meeting a delegate was selected and asked the Grand Lodge of Indiana to issue a charter for the Masonic Lodge to be known as the New Castle Masonic Lodge. On the 31st day of January 1850, the Grand Lodge of the State of Indiana gave this group of men from New Castle the authority to operate a Masonic Lodge under dispensation.
The charter members of this lodge were Franklin Woodward, B. W. Scott, J. H. Healey, John C. Beck, W. H. Beck, Ralph Brookshire, John King, Jesse Ice and William M. Millikan. These men were all pioneer type solid, plain citizens.
Between January 31 and May 1850, at which time the charter was granted by the Grand Lodge of Indiana, they received and conferred the degrees o Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason upon sever others:
Jacob Mowrer, William Grose, John W. Grubbs, Joshua Holland, Edward B. Newman, John Taylor, and James B. Huffman.
The first report to Grand Lodge indicates the following officers:
Franklin Woodward…………………………. W.M.
Jesse H. Healey………………………………. J.W.
John C. Beck…………………………………S.D.
William H. Beck……………………………. J.D.
The above named sixteen men, therefore, were the pioneers – the charter members to whom we are indebted to the introduction of Masonry to New Castle, Indiana.
EXCERPTS FROM SECRETARY’S MINUTES
Due to the lode records of the first seven years being destroyed in greater part, you will note that what information we were able to gather was rather sketchy.
It is known that the Myles Murphy building on the corner of Main and Broad Streets which is still standing and is known in 2022 as the Henry County Chamber of Commerce and New Castle Henry County Economic Development Corporation, was the first home of this Masonic Lodge. An organization known as the Sons of Temperance occupied rooms on the second floor of this building and the Masons were able to sub-let their rooms for the sum of $20.00 per year. This agreement held forth until December 11, 1854, when a committee from this lode signed an agreement with the Fidelity Lode No. 59, I. O. O. F., to use their lodge rooms in the same building for the sum of $25.00 per year with certain agreements attached. A you will notice in later years, apparently all fraternal orders used this location for their meetings.
In September 1857, the first printed copies of the by-laws of the New Castle Lodge were issued. Three hundred copies were printed by I. S. Drake at a cost of $15.00 or 5 cents per copy. Also, in September the Lodge took an active part in bringing about a settlement between two brothers where a debt of money was involved. Apparently in the early days the Masonic Lodge, as well as other fraternal orders, worked out financial law disagreements between brothers, in order to maintain peace and harmony in the community. Characteristic of the times and brotherly feeling that prevailed for many years, is show by the following paragraph taken from the minutes of the November 25, 1857, meeting.
“On motion of the committee consisting of Brothers Leonard and Holland were appointed to inquire into the condition of Widows Duggin and Bundy and if necessary, supply things needed. A motion was made to allow the bill of $17.94 to Dave Brenneman for ten and one-quarter cords of wood furnished to Widow Williams last fall.”
A LODGE HOME ACQUIRED
On St. John’s Day, December 28, 1893, the new lodge at 206 S. 12th Street was dedicated. This building was also occupied by the Alcazar Theatre until 1927, when it was remodeled for the sole use of the Masons.
On May 22, 1950, the New Castle Lodge celebrated the end of the first 100 years.
NEW BUILDING DESIGNED
After having resided in the building 103 years and after many years of planning, ground was broken at 251 W. Indiana 38 in the spring of 1996. The effort to get a new building built would not have been accomplished without the invaluable leadership of Larry Frost. The new lodge building was completed in December 1996. The last meeting in the old building was held on December 20, 1996, where the installation of officers for 1997 was conducted.
New Castle Lodge No 91 of Free and Accepted Masons was dedicated on October 18, 1997. The dedication was performed by the officers of the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana with Past Grand Master John Grein presiding.
The building at 206 S. 12th Street was sold to the Henry County Commissioners to be used as government offices and the Health Department and other reside there today in 2022.