The following history is from a
booklet printed for the 100 anniversary of Octagon Lodge in 1975. Octagon’s
last meeting in the Cornfield was held on
The “Cornfield Lodge of Tippecanoe County” is more accurately Octagon Lodge No. 511, F. & A. M., and is situated at Octagon, a crossroads 3 ½ miles north and 2 miles east of Montmorenci, Indiana. Over the years, Octagon has been served by a Post Office, several schools, a church, a store and a blacksmith. Only the Lodge Hall and a few residences remain on the fertile prairie soil where County Roads 750 N. and 450 W. intersect.
According to Brother David Enfield, son of the Lodge’s first Worshipful Master, Octagon received its name from the Octagon shape of the first school. The early builders had the idea that the schoolmaster could place his desk in the middle of the eight-sided room and see everything that went on around him. This 100-year-old theory is not greatly different from recent innovations that promote the open concept of teaching in our public schools.
The Lodge received its dispensation December 26, 1874 from the Grand Master of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Indiana, Lucien A. Foote and Grand Secretary John M. Bromwell. The first stated meeting was held January 16, 1875. The officers were Brother John Enfield, W.M. ; Bro. Oscar S. Morehouse. S. W. ; Bro. Ephriam C. Adams, J. W. ; Bro. W. H. H. Johnson, Treasurer ; Bro. Joseph N. Johnson, Sec’y. ; Bro. Martin H. Dowing as S.D. ; and Bro. Lewis Hains, J.D. Other members present were Bros. George Winchel and Jacob Smiley. Bro. Milton S. Morehouse was the first S.D. elected. The Lodge’s first petitions for membership were received February 6, 1875, being that of Philip Wendelborn and James F. Pierce.
The Lodge received its charter May 25, 1875, from the Grand Lodge signed by the Most Worshipful Grand Master Lucien A. Foote. The Lodge’s first Bible was a gift by David Reed, Sr.; a non-Mason, which after a good many years of service was given to his grandson, Chase O. Reed. Another Bible was presented to the Lodge by Leo J. Morehouse, which is still in use. Most of the working tools of Octagon Lodge were made by the Brethren, some of which are still in use.
Brother John Enfield, the Lodge’s first Master, died before the Lodge was a year old. The Master’s work was then taken up by Oscar S. Morehouse who served as Master for seven years. He was elected to other stations in the Lodge and much of the early success of Octagon Lodge No. 511 can be attributed to the faithful work of Bro. Morehouse. The Morehouse family has always been prominent in this Lodge and today we have nine members by the name of Morehouse.
Brother David N. Reed came into the Octagon Lodge from the Brookston Lodge in 1878. He was elected its third Master in 1879 and served in this capacity for three years. In the early days he presented the Lodge with a sheaf of wheat which hung over the J.W.’s station for 50 years. One story has it --- several members vouched for it --- that when the sheaf was taken down in 1949, one of the members sowed the seed and it germinated.
James C. Stockton, became the fourth Master of Octagon Lodge and served four years, starting in 1883. His Father and three brothers were members here. He also had six sons who became Masons, four of them at Octagon.
Brother William P. Wiles was Octagon’s fifth Master, first serving in 1885. He was elected to the Master’s chair ten times and served with distinction in other capacities. He died at the beginning of his tenth year as Master in 1912. From the house in which Bro. Wiles lived while Master, a piece of wood was taken and hewn into a gavel by P.M. and Sec’y. Blaine Crowl and presented to the Worshipful Master Ron Lyons for this Centennial year. A great-grandson, W. Harold Young, became affiliated with Octagon in 1975, continuing this family lineage as active participants at Octagon.
Brother Robert Williamson, had the distinct honor of directing Octagon Lodge for 11 years as Master, starting in 1892. He also had the unique privilege of raising three sons to the Degree of Master Mason.
Elsewhere in this document is a complete listing of Brothers who have earned the Past Master’s Degree at Octagon Lodge No. 511. No doubt the contributions of others are as noteworthy as that of the early Masters already mentioned, but space does not permit enumerating all accomplishments in detail.
Desire for Further Light!
A study of the early records reveals several remarkable traits of Octagon’s founders. First was their dedication and loyalty in attendance and the other work necessary to keep an organization going in a strictly rural community. Octagon was sometimes called “Mud Sock” because of the poor roads, often passable only by horseback. Noting the excellent attendance records and reports of activity requiring frequent travel to Lafayette and Indianapolis on Lodge business under these conditions is an inspiration to all. As present members and benefactors of this effort, we are grateful to them.
Brotherly Love, Relief and Truth
One is also impressed by the greater emphasis on charity in the early-recorded proceedings. This ranged from compassion in remitting dues of a Brother having economic problems to the assumption of Doctor, nursing and funeral costs when the need occurred. However, this response was not automatic. There were long deliberations and sometimes rejections to a request when the group felt that the Brother or neighbor could best handle the obligation on his own. They also bargained hard for a reduction in fees before assuming a Brother’s bills when they felt someone was taking advantage of his misfortune.
The financial records show that Octagon Lodge No. 511 loaned money to the Montmorenci Telephone Company. They apparently felt that this early utility was beneficial to the community and deserved help. The loan plus interest was paid back on schedule. Loans were also made on occasion to deserving Brothers. When the Home Hospital, a very important addition in Tippecanoe County, was being built, the Lodge had a desire to help in some way. Today there is a plaque on a door in the hospital verifying that Octagon gave $100 to help in its construction. When suggestions were first heard regarding the establishment of the Indiana Masonic Home, Octagon Lodge No. 511 instructed its Grand Lodge delegation to strongly support this effort. The Lodge then followed through with 100% cooperation in starting and maintaining this facility.
For 80 years the meeting hall for Octagon Lodge No. 511 was the old school building. At first this was a one-story structure. Then through and agreement with the township trustee, David T. Moore, the Lodge was given permission to add a second story and extend the building west for its own use. In 1914, a new school a few feet to the south was completed, and the township sold the old school building and one-acre to the Lodge. Time and the weather beat hard at the old structure.
The Building of the Temple
In August, 1953, construction was begun on a new Lodge Hall to the south.
It was built almost entirely by the members. Constructed of lightweight block, the Lodge hired a cement finisher and a couple of young men to lay stone, but otherwise labor was donated by members and friends. Brother Eugene Lamberson furnished the heavy equipment. Utilizing this team effort, an attractive two-story 32 X 55 foot building was erected for about $8000.
During the next 20 years, improvement and maintenance of the new Lodge Hall was accomplished in much the same spirit of fellowship and personal contribution. A new well was driven, plumbing was updated and two restrooms were added under the hard work and direction of Dale Schelle. Later a new furnace was installed and periodic interior improvements were made. A major remodeling effort was initiated in 1974 under the leadership of W.M. Ronald Lyons. The result was new plaster, a beautifully paneled meeting hall, new carpet and drapes, and an impressive lighting system. Again this was accomplished by financial contributions of the members and an extra ordinary physical effort by many Brothers. Charles Ewing, a loyal officer, using his cunning skills in plastering and carpentry, donated hours of time and many materials at cost to complete the remodeling. Chuck sets a wonderful example for all of us, being willing to use his talents to make the house of Masonry at Octagon more enjoyable.
There are now about 125 members at Octagon Lodge No. 511. Most are farmers from the surrounding countryside, but the total is diverse and includes small businessmen, tradesmen and professionals. A surprisingly large number of members now live outside the Lodge area, some outside the state of Indiana. For some reason, they like to keep their membership here.