Charles A. Surber P.M.

Bridgeport Lodge No. 162 F. & A. M.

The History of Freemasonry can be divided into three periods, The Ancient or Legendary, The Operative and the Modern or Speculative.

The Ancient has been traced to the 10th Century B.C. when Masons or Stone Workers were employed in the building of “King Solomon’s Temple.”

During the Operative Period, Guilds or Associations were formed as Operative Masons.

The Modern or Speculative period occurred during the 17th Century. During this period Ecclesiastical Building declined. This caused many of the Guilds to accept members who were not a part of the Masons Craft. These were then called Speculative or Accepted Masons. This then became what is known today as Freemasonry.

In 1717 the first Grand Lodge was formed in London England. Lodges were at work in the American Colonies as early as 1730. The first being in Philadelphia.

In 1733 The Grand Lodge of England authorized a Grand Lodge in Boston. It wasn’t until 1752 that the Grand Lodge of Scotland authorized a regular Lodge in Boston followed by a Grand Lodge in 1769. After the war for Independence these two Grand Lodge’s combined to form one, severed from both England and Scotland.

The birth of the State of Indiana formally occurred on December 11, 1816 when congress passed a resolution admitting the territory of Indiana into the Union as a State with all the rights and privileges of the 18 previously admitted states.

When the Hoosier State was admitted into the Union a large number of settlers moved to the new state from Kentucky. Among these were Thomas Lincoln and his wife Nancy, a nine year old daughter, Sarah and a seven year old son, Abraham. One reason for their moving was to get away from the slavery controversy in Kentucky which they were opposed to. Their new farm home was in what is now Carter Township in Spencer County.

Abe attended school until he was almost sixteen, helping to clear the family land as well as hiring himself out to other farmers. His interest in law started while visiting the county seat at Rockport. Both Abe’s mother Nancy and his sister Sarah passed away while in Indiana. Shortly thereafter Thomas Lincoln, his 2nd wife and his family moved to Illinois after spending 14 years in Indiana.

Freemasonry in Indiana was introduced both from Kentucky and Ohio. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky authorized lodges at Vincennes, Charleston, Madison, Corydon, Salem, Lawrenceburg, Vevay and Rising Sun. Brookville the only other’ Lodge in Indiana at that time, received its Charter from Ohio. The Grand Lodge of Indiana was constituted at Madison on January 12, 1818. Alexander Buckner being the First Grand Master’. Those Lodges previously authorized by the Grand Lodge’s of Kentucky and Ohio then transferred to the Grand Lodge of Indiana.

When Indiana first became a territory in 1800 the capital was located at Vincennes, later being moved to Corydon in 1813.

In 1818 the Chiefs of 4 Indian tribes signed a treaty turning over the middle third of the new state of Indiana to the white man.

Governor Jennings was even then pushing for a new capital in the center of the state. A commission was appointed and these met at the William Connor Farm near’ the present city of Noblesville, the first white settlement in middle Indiana.

William and his brother’ John were Indian traders who had established trading posts along White River. William married the daughter of Chief Anderson, a Delaware Indian living in a village where Anderson is now located.

The new capital Indianapolis, approved in 1821 was a land of dense forest where game was plentiful, fishing good and also the home of Indians, was located at Fall Creek and the Wapahani River, now called White River„

Just nine years later, in 1830, Bridgeport, the first village to be laid out in Wayne Township outside the city of Indianapolis, consisted of six streets and forty three lots. The first school, a log building was built in 1830 followed by a Post Office in 1832. The village grew at a rapid pace until the finan­cial panic in 1837. Flour mills, saw mills, grocery and liquor stores, two cobblers with shoe stores, a wagon makers shop and an Inn were all opened prior to 1838. Both a Methodist Church and Friends Meetings were organized and met in Bridgeport or in the immediate area.

In 1842 a new brick school house was built and maintained by subscription until the 1850’s.

Indianapolis became a full fledged city in 1847 with the adoption of a charter, the election of city officials and the establishment of a free school system. Samuel Henderson became the first mayor.

On October 1, 1847 the first steam train reached Indianapolis. Indianapolis was now connected with the rest of the world VIA the Madison and Indianapolis Railroad.

Henry Ward Beecher gave this description after riding the first train out. It was a wood car, with boards from side to side, except when hauling hogs the boards were removed.

In the period between 1818 when Grand Lodge was constituted, and 1854, a large number’ of lodges were chartered in Indiana. Some in our area were Rockville, Lebanon, center (of Indianapolis), Danville, Marion (of’ Indianapolis), Noblesville, Anderson, Mooresville, Acton, and North Salem.

In 1854, Bridgeport, had a population of approximately 100 people. Several of these being Masons and unable to attend their own Lodges due to the transportation problems of those days – horse back or buggies, mud or plank roads and the dangers of riding through the forests and woods, requested permission from Grand Lodge to establish a Lodge in Bridgeport.

On February 6, 1854 Grand Lodge granted them dispensation to organize Bridgeport Lodge # 162 and issued a Charter on May 24, 1854. Grand Lodge report May 17, 1854 shows a total of 23 members.

In order’ to set a basis of time and to get our selves in perspective this was 5 year’s before Abraham Lincoln was elected president and spoke at the Old Bates House located on the corner of Illinois and Washington Street in Indianapolis on February 11, 1861 on his way to Washington, D.C. and the firing on Fort Sumter by the confederate army on April 12, 1861. This, you remember, was the start of the Civil War.

Those hardy pioneer Bridgeport Masons con­structed a two story frame building on the site of our former Lodge Hall on the corner of Bridgeport Road and Highway 40 then called the National Road.

The National Road sometimes called the Great Western Road, the Old Pike, the Government Road and the Cumberland Road, was the first east-west road across Indiana and the Nation. The road was the dream of President Washington who had blazed a trail over part of the road. How-ever, the road was not approved by Congress until after his death. Many small towns grew along the new highway with blacksmith and wagon shops, restaurants and Inns. Two of these were the Bolton Inn at Mt. Jackson and the Ohio House at Plainfield. The Federal Government operated the road 14 year’s up to 1848. It was then turned over to the State of Indiana who leased the road out to private companies who would keep the road in repair’ by charging tolls. The state then gradually resumed ownership.

The Iron Horse, however, became “THE” method of transportation and by 1855 seven more railroads entered the city of Indianapolis. A new depot erected on S. Illinois St., in. 1853 represented a major railroad first. Here for the first time in America all railroad trains could enter and leave the city from one central station. This station was replaced in 1887 with the present station.

The city of Indianapolis was prospering, having reached a population of 12,000 in 1855. Successful men earned as much as 1,000 dollars per year. Among the new stores was Clement Vonnegut’s Hardware Store, the H. Lieber Co., the New York Store, the Eagle Clothing Store, later to become L. Strauss & Co. three sewing machine stores and four book stores.

Industry included several wholesale groceries, druggists, wagon works, foundries and the new E.C. Atkins saw works.

Masonic Hall had been built and was the place where all important meetings were held, theater, plays, classical music and opera. Travelers entering the city had a choice of a dozen hotels, the most lavish being the Bates House which boasted the first built in bath tubs of tin and wood. The hotel was later sold to Henry Claypool for $160,000.

Temperance and slavery were the main political problems, including The Kansas-Nebraska Act which extended slavery to those two territories.

The first and only steamboat pulling a barge arrived in Indianapolis by way of White River on April 11, 1881. The boat, the “Robert Hanna” owned by General Hanna one of the contractors building the National Road was hauling rock and supplies for the National Road Bridge.

President Lincoln stopped in Indianapolis on February 11, 1861 on his way to Washington for his March 4th inaugural. A crowd of 30,000 along with Governor Morton and Mayor Samuel Maxwell met him and cheered his speech to them and the Nation from his train which had stopped at the crossing at Missouri and Washington Street. He then went to the Bates House for a reception.

On the morning of April 12, 1861 Indiana­polis and the Nation awakened to learn that the confederate army had fired on the Union Garrison stationed at Fort Sumter, located in Charleston Harbor-South Caroline. Civil War had started.

Indianapolis and Indiana was gripped in the fever of excitement of war’. Flags flew and volunteers entered the city by the thousands. Camp Morton and Camp Sullivan was set-up in the fairgrounds.

An Indianapolis inventor Dr. Richard Gatling came forward with a new weapon with 10 barrels that revolved and fired 250 shots per minute. The gun was manufactured and sold from Indianapolis.

In April of 1865 the Indianapolis Sentinel and The Journal reported the capture of Richmond and the surrender of Lee and his army. Indianapolis and the nation celebrated far into the night.

On the night of April 14, 1865, Good Friday, Abraham Lincoln was the victim of an assassin’s bullet as he sat in a box in Ford Theater in Washington, D.C. The nation was shocked and sorrowed, people wept, stores and industries closed. The funeral train arrived in Indianapolis on April 30, and the coffin was removed to the State House where it lay in state. More than 100,000 people stood in long lines in the cold, rain and wind, waiting patiently to pay their respects. Only a few people knew that the black train carried another smaller coffin, that of Willie Lincoln, dead for two years and kept in a Washington vault, was also going home to Springfield.

Indianapolis was now growing into a full grown city. Its tax rolls now were at $31,000,000, its streets were being paved and gas street lights were installed on 3 miles of city streets. Six national banks were operating, including the Merchants National and Indiana National Banks of today. New suburbs were rising- Brightwood, Belmont, Haughville, Mt. Jackson, Irvington and Woodruff Place.

The Street Railway Co., had been chartered in 1863 with horse or mule drawn cars. The Indianapolis City Hospital was unique in that it was the only public supported hospital in the state.

The Women’s Suffrage movement was grow­ing along with Women’s Clubs, the Y.W.C.A. and the Women’s Christian Temperance Association.

Indianapolis became the headquarters for many labor unions formed along Craft Lines, working for increased pay, sick benefits and an 8 hour day.

Among the new businesses was Eli Lilly Co. organized May 10, 1876 with a staff of 3 and $1400 in cash. L.S. Ayres took over the “Trade Palace” at 28 Washington St., five newspapers, The Journal, Sentinel, the Daily Commercial, the German Language “Daily Telegraph” and the Indianapolis Evening News. Ten weekly and fourteen monthly papers of various types were published. Politics, Murder, and Robbery was the news of the day.

A new city was built in the 1880’s and 1890’s following the panic of 1873, new business buildings, new club buildings, hotels, restaurants and bars.

New industry such as Bowen-Merrill Co. Printers, Thomas J. Madden & Co. Furniture, The Indianapolis Manufacturing Co. the world’s largest manufacturer of baby carriages, and The Parry Manufacturing Co. the worlds largest cartwagon and carriage making plant which became Chevrolet-Indianapolis and now General Motors Truck & Bus.

A new Union Depot, Tomlinson Hall, English Opera House and English Hotel all added to the new town. The city now with a total of 105,000 inhabitants, 175 churches, 500 grocery stores, 1100 factories, and 16 railroads with 150 arrivals and departures a day.

The school system has grown to include Shortridge and Manual Training High School, Butler University and two other medical schools.

Women wore shirt waists, long skirts, black stockings and high button shoes. Distin­guished men wore Prince Albert coats, high silk hats or derbies, grew mustaches and side burns, smoked cigars or chewed tobacco purchased at Charlie Mayer’s Tobacco Shop. Young sports of that day puffed on the new tailor made cigarettes called “Coffin Nails”.

Electric lights and telephones came along too and eventually eliminated the gas street lights. The horseless carriage was among the new marvels.

All this time Bridgeport Lodge was growing along with Indianapolis and Indiana. Unfor­tunately most of the early records of our Lodge have been destroyed as a result of two fires in our history; however, we do have minute books with records as far back as 1880.

The January 13, 1881 minutes have a very interesting, notation. This was the night of installation of officers and of all things the members present, a total of 10, enjoyed an oyster supper. The total cost was $7.60. This is the first record of the age old traditional oyster supper for installation at Bridgeport. Whether the tradition existed prior to this time we do not know since all prior records have been destroyed but it does indicate why our members refine to discontinue or replace the oyster supper with something else. It is a long time tradition of Bridgeport Lodge, over 100 year’s. Many of the installations were not public and no dinners were served.

Many of our members who live in Bridgeport and the surrounding area are strong sup-porters of the Bridgeport Fire Department so likewise is your Lodge even as far back as 1881. Our records show that on March 9, 1881 Bridgeport Lodge donated $5.00 to the Bridgeport Fire Department towards the pur­chase of a new fire engine.

Your Lodge continued to grow and by 1887 it became necessary to add on to their original building. The addition 22 ft. x 44 ft. was authorized on December 28, 1887. The cost not to exceed $900.00 the actual cost was $872.19.

At this time the Lodge owned six houses located south of the Hall which was rented for $1.00 per month. As a result of the stated meeting on January 25, 1888 the rent was reduced to $.50 per’ month.

Some time during this period sheds were built and a light provided to protect the members in caring for their’ horses and buggies and to protect them from the inclemencies of the weather while the members attended Lodge.

On Saturday night February 8, 1896 the Lodge Hall and its contents were destroyed by fire.

Immediately after, in fact too soon after plans were made for a new 3 story brick building to be erected. The cost not to exceed $3600.00. I say (too soon) because at a meeting on February 26, 1896 the members were informed by Grand Lodge that the meeting called on February 18, was unauthorized and all business handled was illegal and void. All plans and business was re-handled in the February 28, meeting.

At the next meeting March 25, 1896, while meeting in an old school house the contract was let for a new 30 ft. x 60 ft. store room, Public Hall and Lodge Hall. The contract was for $3769.00. Dues were increased from $1.00 to $4.00 per year.

Four months later July 22, 1896 the members again met in a new hall. The last meeting held in this same new building was on September 16, 1896. Dedication was set for September 30, at 7% o’clock, however, just a few days after the September 16th meeting; probably Saturday, September 19th a political rally was held in Bridgeport and the new building was lit up and the center of attraction. At the height of the festivities this new building caught fire and burned.

Once again a duplicate charter was obtained and meetings were again held in the old school house-heat furnished by fireplace, wood being the fuel and candles gave the light.

Yes, the Lodge was a “Blue Lodge.” Two buildings having been destroyed by fire in seven months. The second even before the new building could be dedicated and after having met in the new building only two months.

Again the hardy pioneers prepared to rebuild. Contracts were let to clean the brick. Insurance received was used to pay off notes and loans on the building destroyed, buy aprons and other items required. Only 8425.00 remained.

Installation with the Traditional Oyster Supper was on December 16, 1896 with 13 member’s attending.

Early in 1897 (February) a new building com­mittee was appointed and plans were made for a new two story brick building with a glass and iron front. The plans were accepted at the April 14, 1897 meeting. New cherry brick and white mortar was to be used on the out-side walls.

The May 12 meeting authorized a loan of $1,700 for 5 years at 7% interest to construct another’ building for’ lodge and business purposes. Contracts were let on June 9th for $2,215.00. The building was to be com­plete by August 1st.

On August 11, 1897 the Lodge again met in their own new building. The total cost was $2,218.16. This is the building that most of us remember. At this time, however, they had coal oil lamps, wood stoves, summer houses outside, (Som-er His, Som-er Hers). The refinements came later.

Our records show that Ancient Landmarks Lodge # 319 presented Bridgeport a nice set of jewels.

New carpeting and furniture was purchased in November as shown.






















































Purchased stove for $4.00 on condition that it give entire and complete satisfaction.

Records over the next several years are rather brief however, they show several in­teresting items.

January 18, 1902 – permission granted for Bridgeport Chapter Eastern Star to meet in the Lodge Hall providing that said Chapter furnish their own wood, oil for lamps and Tyler.

February 11, 1903 – permission granted to organize a Lodge at Plainfield.

October 29, 1903 – participated in laying of corner stone of Putman County Court House at Greencastle. Ceremonies conducted by Grand Master William E. English and other Grand Officer’s.

May 3, 1906 — donated $10.00 to San Francisco Fire Sufferers of the great earthquake and fire which had occured on April 6, 1900. Nearly 1,000 persons loosing their life and 28,000 buildings destroyed.

July 4, 1906 — paid off all Lodge indebtedness.

August 1, 1906 — received and paid for columns $52.50 present columns.

December 26, 1906 — granted permission to organize a Lodge to be known as Indianapolis Lodge.

February 12, 1908 — installed gasoline light plant $87.00.

November’ 29, 1911 — donation to Ben Davis Methodist Church for rebuilding buildings destroyed in cyclone.

May 29, 1913 — participated in laying of corner stone Danville Court House—invitation received through Danville Lodge.

December 10, 1913 — installed new 6″ well and pump. This well and pump evidently replaced the original and served the com­munity and travelers along the Old National Road for many years. It became known as the “Masonic Well” and was the only public watering place west of Indianapolis for both man and horse. Grand Lodge has erected a cast aluminum historical marker at the site of the well.

May 26, 1914 — trustees were ordered to wire the Lodge for electricity.

April 12, 1916 — donated $100.00 to furnish one room at the new Masonic Home at Franklin, opened in 1916.

August 9, 1916 — West Newton Lodge granted permission for dispensation.

December 6, 1916 — hot air furnace pur­chased at cost of $192.00.

December 26, 1917 — donated $100.00 to Red Cross.

November 13, 1918 — fourteen member’s in service of our’ country.

May 14, 1919 — dispensation granted for Evergreen Lodge at 2511 W. Washington St.

For’ our Eastern Star members; permission was granted to form an Eastern Star in 1902, again in 1919, committees appointed December 2, 1925. Another new committee June 2, 1926 consisting of L.A. Milhouse, Perry Westenbarger’ and Owen Waters and again a new committee January 5, 1927 Brothers Earl Bell, William F. Summers and Earl Rybolt. It seems it took 25 year’s to get the Star but it did get started and has con­tinued to grow and serve well in the Lodge and in the community with many of its members serving in the highest offices of Eastern Star in Indiana.

February 2, 1927 — since the organization of the Eastern Star things have changed and at this meeting the Lodge purchased a piano for the use of the Eastern Star.

April 6, 1927 — the Trustees were instructed to erect a double toilet to be fitted with a blind and electric lights. Yes things have changed. One of our past Matrons once stated that it wasn’t until after the Star was organized and the Lodge cleaned that we found one of the pictures on the wall was that of George Washington.

Having covered the early history of Bridgeport Lodge, I want to very briefly mention some of the more important events occurring in the later years.

The Lodge celebrated its 100th Anniversary on May 24, 1954 with a dinner, rededication ceremony, entertainment and presentation of 25 year pins.

Many years passed, history was made, wars and depressions caused heartaches and sorrow, through all this Bridgeport Lodge continued to grow until it became necessary again to formulate plans for another new building. The plans were drawn, financing arranged and we moved into this new building in December 1958. This building cost 8159,721.48. Much different that the 82280.00 that the previous one cost.

One of the most recent happy occasions was the Saturday night of October 19, 1963 when we celebrated the burning of the mortgage for this building with a pitch-in family style dinner and entertainment. At this dinner an enlarged copy of the mortgage was cut up into small strips and each person present was permitted to burn his or her portion.

October 7, 1989 we celebrated our 135th anniversary, One hundred and thirty five years of service to God, our members, the Masonic Fraternity and to the community.

Bridgeport Lodge will continue to grow, to serve and will continue to be known as one of the friendliest and one of the best lodges in the Indiana Masonic Fraternity.


I would like to recognize all the various authors whose publications have been used to provide the background information used in preparing this brief history of Freemasonry and Bridgeport Lodge # 162 Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Indiana.

Goodly Heritage – Dwight L. Smith

Indianapolis-The Story of a City – Edward A. Leary

A Sketch Book of’ Indiana History – Arville L. Funk

Indiana – George So Cottman The Indiana Freemason

The Indiana Monitor

The Staff of the Indianapolis Public Library

The Staff of’ the Avon Public Library

Bridgeport Lodge Minutes-1880 to Present