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Published: Tuesday, 9/10/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Fort Meigs celebrates 2 Masonic milestones

Founding of Army Lodge to be commemorated

BY JANET ROMAKER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Doug Towslee places a flag with 15 stars at the memorial marker at Fort Meigs. The Masonic Order in northwest Ohio will mark its 200th anniversary of the founding of the Army Lodge No. 24. Doug Towslee places a flag with 15 stars at the memorial marker at Fort Meigs. The Masonic Order in northwest Ohio will mark its 200th anniversary of the founding of the Army Lodge No. 24.
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On a bluff overlooking the Maumee River rapids, Fort Meigs was built — in cold weather, in knee-deep mud — in response to British attacks on American forts in the Northwest Territories during the War of 1812.

It was a time of disease, brutal battles, and the reality of life in a war zone: death.

Because of the background of some of the officers and soldiers serving under General William Henry Harrison at the fort, a Masonic group was established on Sept. 13, 1813. Known as the Army Lodge No. 24, the official charter provided that the lodge was to be at “Camp Meigs or any other place where the casualties of war may desire.”

This, said Byron Stickles of Maumee, “implies that one of the major functions of the lodge was to organize a burial squad to ensure that any Mason who was killed in action or who died while on active duty could be afforded the proper Masonic last rites.”

According to records, there was only one Masonic Army Lodge during the War of 1812, and that was the one at Fort Meigs.

When the War of 1812 ended, and as soldiers returned to their homes, Lt. Almon Gibbs lowered the flag, one last time at Camp Meigs. The flag was retired, and Army Lodge No. 24 was disbanded, but not forgotten.

In Waynesfield (now known as Maumee) Mr. Gibbs organized the new Northern Light Lodge No. 40 Free and Accepted Masons on March 5, 1817. The northwestern-most lodge in the frontier, it is considered a “direct descendant” of the Army Lodge No. 24, said Mr. Stickles, 82, historian for the Northern Light lodge.

Byron Stickles, historian and past master of the Northern Light Lodge No. 40 in Maumee, in the lodge in Mauee, Ohio. Byron Stickles, historian and past master of the Northern Light Lodge No. 40 in Maumee, in the lodge in Mauee, Ohio.
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On Friday at Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, two milestones for the Masonic Order of northwest Ohio will be celebrated and commemorated — the 200th anniversary of the founding of the Army Lodge No. 24 at the fort and the 100th anniversary of Royal Arch Masonry Fort Miami Calumet Chapter No. 191.

About 400 to 500 people likely will attend the event, including Masons and their families from across the region, said Mr. Stickles, event chairman.

Activities include the presentation and the raising of a 15-star flag (a replica of the one from 1812), plus a procession of five officers in authentic 1812 uniforms to signify the original founding Masonic officers. Then, the 1812 flag will be symbolically retired. Two officers in modern-day military attire will present the current flag of the country.

Plans call for tributes to recognize three “pioneer” Masonic lodges in northwest Ohio: the Northern Light Lodge No. 40 in Maumee; the Wood County Lodge No. 112 in Bowling Green, and the Phoenix Lodge No. 123 in Perrysburg.

Highlighting the event: dedication of a new Memorial Walkway, honoring founders and members of Army Lodge No. 24 who served during the War of 1812, including “some of whom gave their lives in the fray,” said Mr. Stickles, historian of the Northern Light Masonic Lodge and a 60-year member of the Masons. He said The Blade helped defray expenses for the walkway project.

During a Tuesday tour of the lodge on Wayne Street, Mr. Stickles a 60-year member of the Masons, recalled that the Northern Light decades ago was considered as a “moon” lodge. Lacking street lights back in the day, the community was a dark place to be out and about at night. Thus, Masons met on full-moon nights, he explained.

From left: Volunteers Ben Driver of Maumee,  Carl Battig of Holland, and Doug Towslee of Maumee, facing left,  work on the walkway honoring Masons who served in the War of 1812 at Fort Meigs. From left: Volunteers Ben Driver of Maumee, Carl Battig of Holland, and Doug Towslee of Maumee, facing left, work on the walkway honoring Masons who served in the War of 1812 at Fort Meigs.
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Mr. Stickles said he has a “very soft spot in his heart” for the lodge at Fort Meigs where young men — boys, as he called them — who had left their homes came to this area to fight for their country.

Robert Rill, Jr., 49, who lives near Swanton, will serve as master of ceremonies for the Friday celebration. Junior Grand Warden of the Grand Lodge of Ohio Free and Accepted Masons, Mr. Rill said the Friday event is important as Masons remember their roots and continue today their principles, such as fellowship, belief in a Supreme Being, and service to community and family. During the War of 1812, the Masons demonstrated “service to one’s brother,” he said.

Northern Light, often called the Mother Lodge because many area Masonic lodges started through it, merged with Calumet Lodge No. 612 in 1997 and Sanford L. Collins Lodge No. 396 in 1995.

The Royal Arch Masonry Fort Miami Calumet Chapter “is part of our rich, local Masonic heritage,” Mr. Stickles said. Located in Maumee in the same temple as the Northern Light lodge, it is one of the earliest local Royal Arch chapters in the area.

“The Royal Arch branch of the Masons in Ohio is over 200 years old, and we are privileged to have Fort Miami Calumet Chapter in our area,” Mr. Stickles said. “This is a major milestone for them, and we are pleased to include their 100th anniversary in this celebration," Mr. Stickles said.

The Friday event serves as a reminder of the importance of Masons who fought during the War of 1812, Mr. Stickles said.

“The Masonic Order played a vital role in keeping the country together,” Mr. Stickles said, noting Masons were among Americans who “stood up and believed in what is right.” They were among those who helped save our country, right here in this valley, he said, and that is well worth a special time of celebration and remembrance.

Contact Janet Romaker at: jromaker@theblade.com or 419-724-6006.



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