Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I had a great day in lodge on Saturday.

Do we say that often enough?

I had a great day in lodge on Saturday. My mother lodge, Broad Ripple #643 made the long, arduous pilgrimage to the river town of Madison, Indiana, the birthplace of Indiana's Grand Lodge. Many young Freemasons in Indiana are unaware of the Masonic treasure hiding in an unremarkable brick building on a quiet street in Madison, Indiana. It is a place every Indiana Mason should visit, and even better, the perfect setting for a new candidate's initiation into the Craft.

Our candidate was a fine young man, but the day was made especially poignant by his father presiding over the degree, while his father-in-law looked on. And even though the truly horrid weather raged on outside, it was a great day in lodge.

Since our last trip down, a local lodge in the area has donated furniture, rods, etc, which makes it a little less of an expedition than it used to be. We no longer have to bring so much stuff with us to perform the degree.

Madison is a terrific place to explore. Maybe you saw the eponymous movie last year about the annual boat race on the Ohio that takes place annually. Its physical setting couldn't be more beautiful. Homesteaders began populating the area in the early 1800s. In about 1810, settlers purchased 65 acres of land from the Indiana Territorial government for about $2.50 per acre and christened the town "Madison" after the reigning President of the United States. Indiana became a state in 1816, and Ohio and Kentucky lodges banded together quickly to form a new Grand Lodge of Indiana.

The Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of Indiana, was organized in what we today call Schofield House on January 13, 1818. Built in 1816 in the federal style, this is believed to be the first two-story tavern house in Madison. The five lodges chartered at this first meeting were Vincennes #1, Madison #2, Charlestown #3, Lawrenceburg #4 and Corydon #5. Alexander Buckner, of Charlestown Lodge was the elected the first Grand Master.

The large lodge room on the second floor was originally for overnight traveling guests. They were served their meals in the kitchen on the first floor, and the room directly below the lodge room was a tavern from which the brethren could order their wine, whisky and ale. The corner room was a general store, where, among other important items, their treasured cigars were available.

In 1972 the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in the Valley of Indianapolis purchased the property from the heirs of Mrs. Charlotte Schofield for eventual presentation to the Freemasons of Indiana. It was turned over to the Masonic Heritage Foundation, and extensive restorations were made. The building was opened to the public as a Masonic museum on April 19, 1975.

The upstairs is suitable for conferring degrees on candidates, but most would agree that the Entered Apprentice degree is the simplest to perform in the small room. It does not lend itself well to the MM degree, as there is limited floor-space and limited areas for seating. Be aware that the stairs leading up to the lodge room are steep and most certainly NOT handicapped accessible.

In 2005, the Schofield House is open from April 5th until October 31st; Monday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 10:00AM until 4:30PM, and on Sundays from 1:00PM until 4:30PM. It is also open November 1st through April 4th by appointment. Nestled on the Ohio River, beautiful and historic Madison, Indiana is a terrific place to spend the day or a whole weekend, and the area is dotted with wonderful Bed & Breakfast establishments. Your ladies will not be bored while you are engaged in Masonic activities. There are also a number of nearby restaurants and taverns for your post-degree celebration, including the nearby Historic Broadway Hotel and Tavern, which dates from 1834 and is the oldest continuously operated hotel and tavern in Indiana. Which is still cigar friendly, by the way. And the perfect place to end a great day in lodge.

For tour information about Schofield House, or to schedule the restored lodge room for a degree, contact Curator Melvin Vonderheide at 812-265-4759.

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