On Thursday, Indiana Past Grand Master Mike Brumback let it slip that he had the combination to the massive Grand Lodge vault in the basement of Indiana Freemasons Hall. Such a revelation could not go unchallenged, and when he opened it, sure enough, it yielded up treasures.
Treasures, at least, for Masonic history nerds.
The paw prints of Past Grand Secretary Dwight L. Smith are evident. At some point on or before the GL’s 150th anniversary in 1968-69, Dwight had apparently put out the word that he wanted to collect and protect copies or originals of the oldest physical documents he could find from lodges around the state. There’s an entire shelf of early 19th century handwritten minute books with notes inside stating they had been microfilmed by the Indiana Historical Society in 1969.
In the top photo by Bill Sassman, Mike Brumback and Chris Hodapp peer into the handwritten Grand Lodge minutes from December 24, 1838. They were written by then-Grand Secretary Abraham Harrison, and probably have not been looked since at least the 1960s – likely even before that.
Grand Lodge used to meet twice a year, and this was just fifteen years after the City of Indianapolis was created in the wilderness. During the 1800s, Grand Lodge used to meet the day before Christmas (wives were doubtless thrilled over that) and then a second time in May. The 1837 minutes noted that the May meeting was to be held on the Thursday before the General Assembly convened (since many of our early members were also part of state government). If you have ever been curious how we picked the third week in May for our annual communications, that’s how.
These minutes also predate the first purpose-built Masonic hall in the city by about thirteen years. Early meetings were held in the public room of a local inn and tavern, Blake and Henderson’s Washington Hall, which was also the usual meeting spot for Centre Lodge 23, the first Masonic lodge chartered in the new capital city.