1895 Centennial 1995

(This is a copy of a speech given by Gary A. Sherritze, PM, during the Centennial Celebration of
Converse Lodge #601. It contains a brief history on the construction of our lodge and the people
that had a great deal of responsiblity in making Converse #601 a reality.)


"The assignment you gave me to secure the past history of Converse Lodge, I hope will meet with your approval. According to Brother Raymond Thomas, a Charter was granted to the first Masonic Lodge in Converse on May 30, 1860. Its title was Xenia Lodge #267. It was located on the present corner of Jefferson and Marion Streets, where the stop light is today. It was active for 20 years at which time the Lodge building burned down destroying practically all of the records. The Charter was surrendered on May 25, 1880. On August 29, 1894, a Petition for Dispensation to the Grand Lodge was drawn up and signed by 16 Master Masons, members of Samaritan Lodge #105 of Marion, Indiana, Greentown Lodge #341 and Somerset Lodge #383. The Dispensation was granted on November 6, 1894. Converse Lodge U.D. was called to order on November 12, 1894 and the Worshipful Master read the dispensation which included the Brothers Morton Garrison, Worshipful Master, Joseph J. Sumpter, Senior Warden, Cassius M. Blue, Junior Warden. The Worshipful Master then appointed the following officers: John S. Martin, S.D., L.H. Corner, J.D., William E. Alexander, Secretary, George W. Day, Treasurer and Lemuel M. Reeves, Tyler. Grand Lodge granted Converse Lodge U.D. their charter on May 28, 1895 in Indianapolis, Indiana, and constituted and appointed Brothers Morton Garrison, Worshipful Master, Joseph J. Sumpter, Senior Warden and Cassius M. Blue, Junior Warden.

Converse Lodge U.D. was officially constituted on July 10, 1895 by Deputy Grand Master C. W. Prather who read of his commission from Frank E. Gavin, Grand Master. The Deputy Grand Master then installed the following as regular officers of Converse Lodge No. 601, F&AM: Morton Garrison, W.M., Joseph J. Sumpter, S.W., Cassius M. Blue, J.W., George W. Day, Treasurer, William E. Alexander, Secretary, John S. Martin, S.D., L. H. Corner, J.D. and J.C. Dumbauld, Tyler. A letter contained in the minutes addressed to the Lodge in the summer of 1894 from the then late Brother Cassius Blue stated that in the early history of the Lodge a number of good Brothers were responsible for instituting a Masonic Lodge in Converse. At that time he stated that the country was undergoing a serious business depression and that it took much urging on the behalf of the
 membership to take hold on an adventure of such great and important undertaking. During this time a vacant second story room was rented from Brother Alexander Keyes and located in what was then the Marburger Hardware building which is now owned by Lawrence Hall.

The minutes reveal that meetings began October 1, 1894 and continued in this building until February 10, 1897. After which time the brick building located on the corner of Jefferson and Water Street, then owned and occupied by Brother Victor Losure, was rented for $150.00 per year. On January 17, 1912 , it was reported that the Miami Hotel (which building was torn down and replaced by our new Temple) could be purchased for $3,000.00 with no money down at a rate of 5% interest. A committee was appointed for the solicitation of funds to make a partial payment on the building. Rather than go in debt and pay the rate of interest asked, they reported that there were no funds were available at the time and the proposition was tabled. On February 17, 1912, a group of Members agreed to contribute $480.00 to start a fund for the purpose of making a down payment on the hotel building. Again, this did not meet with the approval of the membership so all was lost. As the years went by, Brother Lessley 0. Shaw purchased the building they occupied. On March 21, 1922, he offered to sell the building for $4,500.00 with a down payment of $1,500.00, with the balance to be paid at prevailing interest rates, which was also turned down. On June 21, 1922, a committee was appointed to interview Mr. Clark May (the owner of the hotel building at that time) relative to purchasing the hotel building. After much deliberation, Mr. Macy submitted a proposition of $3,000.00 initial purchase price with a down payment of $1,000.00 and the remaining $2,000.00 to be paid in two years at 6% interest. A motion was made and seconded which was carried unanimously to purchase the building. The Worshipful Master, Brother Elzie Kling, instructed the Trustees to close the deal. On August 22, 1922, a mortgage note was drawn on the First National Bank for $2,000.00 and signed by the three Trustees, namely Brother Harry 0. White, Brother James D. Watson and Brother Lee Hatfield, with the note being paid in full on January 22, 1927. Although information stating when the Lodge actually took possession of the building is not recorded in Lodge minutes, it is believed to have occurred in 1924 after the necessary repairs had been made to the building enabling the members to move Lodge items in and conduct meetings. The minutes reveal that because the floor covering was not included in the purchase price a committee was appointed to make a deal with Mr. Macy to purchase a floor covering. After much deliberation, it was purchased for $40.00. At that time, a vote of thanks was extended to Brother Harry 0. White for his contribution of a Rough Ashler and the Perfect Ashier Stones, which are now on this platform.

We now come to the year of 1925 where the minutes state Brother Otto M. Whitmire was elected Treasurer of the Lodge. He held this position for 36 years. The minutes also show that on October 27, 1926, the Lodge participated in the laying of the Corner Stone for the Converse gymnasium with the Deputy Grand Master and Grand Senior Warden also participating. It is noted that on April 23, 1928, a Minstrel show, sponsored by the Eastern Star, was held in the Gym to help defray some of the expenses of the Lodge. The admission was 25 cents and 35 cents. Brother Charles Hyman, W.M., and Brother Syl Rennaker, Secretary, were in charge .of the occasion. Many instructive meetings were held throughout the year. One such meeting was held on March 31, 1932. Brother Oscar E. Bowman was W.M. promoting the celebration of Washington’s birthday anniversary, which was open to the public. Brother Bowman introduced Brother Harry Moore, a 33rd Degree Mason from Samaritan Lodge #105 in Marion, who introduced Brother John R. Brown, also a 33rd and speaker for the evening. His subject was “Washington the man and the Mason.” There were eight Lodges represented for this lecture. Another meeting was held on May 25, 1932, to confer the Master Mason Degree on Brother Charles Green. This was also the 40th anniversary of the Chartering of Converse Lodge #601. A special program was prepared for this occasion, including special guests Most Worshipful Grand Master and the Right Worshipful Grand Warden who each responded with worthy remarks on Masonry. Brother Raymond Thomas also gave some early history of the first Lodge chartered in Converse, followed by Past Master Cassius Blue being presented a Holy Bible by Past Master Brother Charles Helms.

The new Lodge was completed in 1975. The Masons moved to the current Temple and held their first stated meeting on October 1, 1975. Converse Lodge #601, F&AM had their Ceremony of Dedication of the new Masonic Hall on August 28, 1976. Ronald K.
 Smith, Grand Master and his Grand Officers performed the ceremony and Architect was Dariton J. Lavengood, P.M., Gary A. Sherritze, Worshipful Master.

This year, 1995, Converse Lodge #601, F&AM is 100 years old. The ceremony for the
Re-dedication of the Masonic Hall will be performed June 17, 1995, with Darrell A.
Veach, Grand Master, presiding and Darlton J. Lavengood, P.M. Architect, Sherman
Dedman, Worshipful Master.

All through the years, our members have contributed their time and money to beautify our Temple. Much credit is given to the Eastern Star Chapter for their help. To this end we are enjoying the heritage of their toils. This is an occasion that should go down in history as the progress from our brothers and sisters, who have always answered the call when an emergency arose that a new Temple was needed. They have given of their time, energy and generous contributions to provide the principals upon which our Masonic Lodge was founded. This evening, we pause in reverence to recall their sacrifices and that their toils will not have been in vain. Furthermore, may we all count our blessings to cherish our heritage.

In closing, I would like to read a short poem entitled “My Creed”

To live as gently as I can; To be, no matter where, a man;
To take what comes of good or ill; And cling to faith and honor still,
To do my best, and let that stand, The record of my brain and hand;
And then, should failure come to me, Still work and hope for victory.
To have no secret place wherein, I stoop unseen to share or sin;
To be the same when Fm alone, As when my every deed is known;
To live undaunted, unafraid, Of any step that I have made;
To be without pretense or sham, Exactly what men think I am.
To leave some simple mark behind, To keep my having lived in mind,
If enmity to aught I show, To be an honest generous foe,
To play my little part, nor whine, That greater honors are not mine,
This, I believe, is all I need, For my philosophy and creed."

Thank you for listening,

       Gary A. Sherritze