Jackson Lodge No. 17, F. & A.M.

  Adam W. Wygant, W.M.    Stephen D. Vining, P.M. 
 Worshipful Master Secretary
 (517) 745-1699 (517) 914-8400

The following article was reprinted from Masonic News
(Centennial Edition)
by the Grand Lodge of Michigan F. & A. M. 1826 - 1926

Pioneers Brought Masonry to Jackson

By Henry Hunt

The craft in Jackson are enjoying the growth in membership so generally prevalent throughout the nation. This interest is not confined simply to any particular portion of the organization, but is being displayed in Blue Lodge, Chapter, Council and Commandery, and also in those auxiliaries recognized by the grand bodies of the jurisdiction. All are adding new members, all are favored with zealous, capable officers, and all are splendidly exhibiting the virtues which characterize the Craft, and which account for its continued life through the centuries.

There are over 4,000 Masons in the city, Jackson Lodge, No. 17 having 1,594; Michigan Lodge, No. 50, 1,225; Jackson Chapter, No. 3, 1,022; Jackson Council, No. 32, 690.

In addition to the membership of the Lodges it is estimated there are about 500 unaffiliated Masons living here, many of whom attend the meetings of local Lodges, while retaining, through sentiment, membership in the Lodge where they were raised.

The Masons of Jackson have quarters which clearly indicate the good health of the organization. The Temple furnishes a gratifying contrast to the humble rooms which sufficed in the early days for the meetings. Its facilities embrace a Lodge room, with gallery and all the requisite rooms for the ritualistic work; modern equipment in lanterns, slides, and musical instruments, with quarters for non-member singers, who can be heard but cannot see, all of which enable the Brethren to work most effectively.

In addition to these features the Temple has a basement dining room, with spacious kitchens and serving rooms, a popular club room and parlors, with an electric elevator at the service of those unwilling (or unable) to climb the stairs.

In this connection it may be well to give the location of former Lodge rooms, some of which have yielded to the improvements which the city’s growth have brought into being.

The first Lodge room was that used by St. John’s, No. 3, in 1845, and by its successor, Jackson Lodge, No. 17, located in the present Dwight Block, then called the Merriman Block. In 1852 the Lodge was in a building where the Peoples National Bank now stands, and in 1853 two Lodges united in using the third floor of the present Beacon Drug Store, on the SE corner of W. Michigan Avenue and S. Jackson Street. For one year after its organization Michigan Lodge, No. 50, met in the block now the site of the Allen Bennett Block. These rooms were expected to meet the needs of the craft for years, but in 1870 another move was made to secure more spacious quarters, this time occupying the third floor of the Keystone Block, on the corner of Liberty Street and Otsego Avenue. From this place the Craft moved, in 1877, to the third floor of what is now the L. H. Field company store (SW corner of W. Michigan Ave and S. Jackson St.), where they remained until the completion of the present temple in 1905. This is an account of the migrations of the Lodge rooms. Each being a “statelier mansion” for the Lodges than the quarters from which they moved.

In some features the first days of Masonry in Jackson are like those of the beginning of the order in that tradition must be relied upon. But these facts are vouched for in the past, so can be accepted as correct in essential things.

Jackson’s first Lodge was originally located in the village of Brooklyn, strange as it seems. St. John’s Lodge was formed in 1838, just six years after the first settler drove his axe in the forests there, acting under a dispensation granted by the Grand Lodge of New York. After a few years it was moved to Napoleon, but returned, in 1843 or ‘44 to Brooklyn. Two years later it disbanded and the membership joined with St. John’s, No. 3, of Jackson, organized under a charter granted by the Grand Lodge of Michigan. Many of the members of the Brooklyn Lodge lived in Jackson, and these naturally wanted to have Masonic facilities at home, especially as Jackson had by this time definitely outgrown Brooklyn.

St. John’s Lodge, No. 3, operated for two years, but, in 1847, surrendered its charter, serious discord having crept into the membership. Almost immediately one of the factions secured a dispensation from the Grand Lodge for a new lodge, and on January 4, 1848, the Grand Lodge granted a charter for “Jackson Lodge, No. 17.” The first officers were Paul B. Ring, Master, Czar Jones, S. W., and Wm. N. Choate, J. W.

The other group sought to obtain recognition for another Lodge, and received a dispensation in 1849, but this was not confirmed by the Grand Lodge, and the effort was abandoned.

In 1852, however, another effort was successful, and a charter was voted on (for Michigan Lodge, No. 50) January 15, with Fidus Livermore, W.M., Michael Shoemaker, S.W., and James C. Wood, J.W.

The subsequent growth of each Lodge demonstrated the need of two Lodges, for each has prospered, with an annual increase which steadily moves the total membership upwards.

In point of continuous existence, Jackson Chapter is the oldest Masonic organization in the city, having originated under a dispensation granted by Deputy Grand High Priest Jos. K. Stapleton, of Baltimore, Md., on February 8, 1847, with Czar Jones, High Priest, Paul B. Ring, King, and Benj. Porter, Scribe. The first meeting for work was held March 31, 1847. On Sept. 10, 1847, the Grand Chapter of Ohio granted a charter. This foreign charter was superseded by one granted by the Michigan Grand Chapter in 1874. Jackson Chapter, No. 3, united with No. 1, of Detroit, and No. 2, of Niles, to form the Grand Chapter of Michigan in January, 1848.

Jackson Council, No. 32, was formed Sept. 24, 1870, under a dispensation, the charter being granted Jan. 11, 1871. First officers were J. L. Mitchell, T. I. M., Ira H. Smith, D. T. I. M., and Thos. C. Wilder, P. C. W.

Up to 1860 those Jackson Masons desiring the orders of knighthood were forced to petition Eureka Commandery, No. 3, at Hillsdale. But under a dispensation granted Feb. 13, 1860, Jackson Commandery, No. 9, was organized, with the following as officers: Benj. Porter, E. C., Jas. A. Dyer, G., Harvey Foote, C. G., Chas. A. Weismore, P. This authority continued until June 6, 1868, when a charter was issued. It is worthy of mention that through all these years the Commandery was sustained by the zeal and interest of Benj. Porter, who served as Eminent Commander throughout. In 1869 he declined re-election and John L. Mitchell was elected as his successor.