Nashville Indiana Lodge #135 Free and Accepted Masons

The History Nashville Lodge 135 F & AM

1851 - 1962

By Ralph Burkholder

 

The history of Nashville Lodge #135 F & AM, Nashville and Brown County are so inextricably intertwined that in many cases they are one and the same.  The following was published as a history of the lodge in 1962 for the dedication of the present Lodge Building.  Please keep in mind this document was written in 1962 and has not since been updated.
 

The Beginning

Nashville was only 15 years old when early settlers thought about forming a Masonic Lodge in 1851.

Originally called Jacksonburg, in honor of General Andrew Jackson, Nashville then was a tiny village with a cluster of log houses, a couple of general stores, a blacksmith shop, and, on the outskirts, some grist mills and tanneries.

A few dusty roads led into the village.  Over these the hardy mountaineers who migrated to Brown county from Kentucky, Tennessee, and the Carolinas drove their teams of oxen and horses to the village for the meager stock of supplies carried by the shopkeepers of that day.

The countryside was wild.  the hills were covered with great stands of virgin oak, poplar, walnut, sycamore, beech and hickory trees.  Bears were plentiful. Deer grazed in the lush undergrowth.  At night the cry of wolves echoed through the hills.  Panthers or "catamounts" as the early settlers called them menaced livestock and sometimes lone travelers.

Although Indiana had become a stat in 1816 and the government was offering generous inducements to have the territory settled, there is no record of any permanent white settlers in Brown County that year.

There is a dispute over who may have been the first permanent settler.  Some believe it was old man Schoonover, who located on the creek which bears his name.  Others contend it was Williams Elkins,  the first settler in Johnson Township, and the man after whom the village of Elkinsville (No longer exits as a village due to being acquired for Monroe Lake) was named.

Schoonover may have settled in Washington Township as early as 1817, but most accounts place him in the county no later than 1820.  A semi-barbarous German, Schoonover preferred the wilderness to the company of other settlers, and made a meager living by trading trinkets and ammunition to the Indians for their furs.  His love of solitude made it difficult to find accurate accounts of his life.

Elkins, on the other hand, is easier to trace.  Some early residents said he may have come to Johnson Township as early as 1816 or 1817.  Certainly he was here in 1819.  In any event both men were living in Brown County in 1820, and very likely were here several years earlier.  But aside from Elkins, Schoonover, and Davit Johnson, another very early arrival in Johnson Township, no other settlers arrived in any numbers until the decade of the thirties.  By 1830, however, it was estimated 150 persons had settled in what was to become Brown County.

One reason for the slowness of settlement was that the Indians were still in possession of lands in what is now Brown, Monroe, and Bartholomew counties.  This was the undisputed domain of the Miamis originally, though later the Delawares, Shawnees, Wyandottes, Kickapoos, Wabash, and other homeless tribes moved in.  these tribes were here when the first settlers came and they mingled with one another freely and, for the most part, peaceably, until they were moved to other territories about 1820.

The huge tract of land in which Brown and surrounding counties are now located was ceded to the United States by the Miamis and Delawares in a treaty worked out at St. Mary's, Ohio, in October, 1818.

With the news of this settlement, white settlers began to invade the area in search of land and homes.  Most of these early settlers were from southern states.  At least two-thirds came from Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and the Carolinas.

They were a roughly-clad, hard-fisted, coon-skin-hatted breed, afraid of neither man nor beast.  Most of them arrived with all their worldly possessions in wagons drawn by oxen.  Others rode in with no possessions save the buckskin shirts on their backs and rifles slung across their saddle pommels.

The first roads or trails in the county were "surveyed" by the oxen and horses that sought the easiest footing through the hills.  Hence the many winding roads of the county which follow valley bottoms alongside streams and creek beds.

Although primitive in the extreme, the county had two strong appeals to the settlers who cam from Virginia, the Carolinas, Tennessee, and Kentucky.  First,  the hills and rolling country reminded them powerfully of the homes they had left.  Second, it was high ground and therefore healthy.  There was little of the flat, marshy, mosquito-breeding ground that produced so much yellow fever and malaria where the disease bearing mosquito bred, sometimes wiping out entire communities.

As the word of this healthy new territory spread eastward, settlers began to come.  From 150 persons who had settled in Brown County by 1830, the population jumped to an astonishing 2,364 in the next decade, its healthful climate and its tremendous natural resources were the two principal attractions.

In 1836, the Indiana General Assembly created Brown County from parts of Jackson, Bartholomew, and Monroe Counties. Bloomington and Columbus were already bustling communities when this step was taken.  In August of that same year, Nashville was laid out by Banner C. Brummet, then county agent.  A man named James Dawson prepared the plan for the town and became the surveyor under whose direction the lots an streets where measured.  The first sale of lots took place on September 12, 1836, and continued through the autumn months.

Lots Sold Cheaply

All records relating to these first purchasers have been lost or burned when fire destroyed the County Court house, but it is known that the first 50 lots were sold for $694.87, of which $91.60 only was in cash.  The remainder was in notes, one-fourth due in eight months, another one fourth in 18 months, and the final fourth in 24 months.

Sale of lots continued slowly through 1837 and 1838 until sales finally totaled $759.37 in March of 1838.  Only $260.31 was in cash, and the balance in notes.

That sales lagged should not be surprising, for it was in 1837 that the disastrous "panic of 1837" struck like a lightning bolt.  The panic was world-wide, but it was particularly acute in the United States where the fictitious paper values of soap and slaves, land and railroads, bank stocks and shoes, and everything else fell with a resounding crash.  In the East, starving people paraded the streets.  In the Middle West there had been a shortage of food crops for two years, and farmers, merchants, and banks went down together.

Undoubtedly those then living in Brown County felt the blow less than their neighbors in the East.  They had little to begin with.  But they were on their own land; they had roofs over their heads, and they could grow food and shoot game to eat even if they had neither jobs nor money.

This was the economic climate when Nashville was in its infancy.

A few years earlier, in 1835, Banner C. Brummet built the first house in the village, a log structure about 150 yards from the present "poor farm."  About the same time Isaac Matthews build a log cabin in the northwest part of the town.  W. S. Roberts build a large log cabin in May, 1836, before lots were laid out, and stocked it with $1,500 in merchandise he bought from Bloomington.  Roberts was wiped out by the panic of '37 but in 1839 managed to start in business again.

Records of the period show that Elijah Preston came to Nashville at about this time.  He was a gunsmith and a blacksmith.  Others who build cabins were Lewis E. Wayland ad David Dietz.  the latter build a double-log cabin, living in one room and stocking the other with a general assortment of goods valued at about $2,000.  Banner C. Brummet opened a grocery and a liquor store about 1837.  William Davison also began selling liquor then.  P. C. Parker was the first tavern keeper.  William Followell began selling liquor also, as did Pierson Brummet.

Nashville - Population 75

If emphasis appears to be heavy on the establishment of taverns and places selling liquor, remember that this was before drug stores, movies, radio, television, and drive-ins.  Liquor was not only for diversion, but the only medicine available for diarrhea, the "ague", and other perils of the period.

Nearly all the early businessmen sold liquor. James Taggart sold merchandise and groceries for a short time in this 1837 - 38 period.  Elijah Presto, an early tavern keeper, sold out to Thomas Chinn.  Chapman & Lowe conducted a tavern and "hotel" called the American Tavern, later selling to Sylvanus Manville in the early 40's.

The population in this period was about 75.  Nashville was a dusty, lusty, little village, with a growing reputation as a "resort for sporting characters."  Weston A. Goodspeed, an early historian of the period, described activities:

"Horse-racing was a favorite pastime, and when that became too dull a fight was projected and enjoyed, or perhaps a game of cards was played on a stump in the court house square as a settlement of who should treat to a quart of whisky.  all this was called gaming, and was fined by the early laws before justices."

"Another amusement was shooting at a mark, either for pleasure or profit.  Turkeys were shot for, but the drinks were settled oftener this way than any other... it will be noticed that the county seat contained a great many liquor establishments.  it was thought nothing of then, and cannot be judged by the standards of today.  All drank then..."

Fights Were Frequent

"Fights in those days were very frequent and were projected in a perfectly friendly way to settle who was the best man.  Any and all comers were required to show their mettle and muscle.  Friendly and neighborly relations were resumed when the fight was over."

While Nashville was bustling with activity, various enterprises appropriate to the times were being established in Washington Township.  As early as 1830, Edward David erected a combined grist and sawmill in the eastern part of the township.  A small dam was constructed on the creek, with a raceway of perhaps 100 yards furnishing the power for the saw and nigger-head stones used to grind grain.  Two years earlier Jonathan Fox constructed a horse mill in the eastern part near salt creek.  The extraction of salt was another profitable business.  In 1840 some 1,600 bushels were obtained for the market.  Another profitable cash crop of the period was tobacco.

As early as 1839, Henry Sipes conducted a small distillery about a mile and a half out of town.  later John Genolin, Sr. Set up a distillery in Nashville.  Benjamed Huntington started a tannery southeast of Nashville early in the 40's, opening with four vats and gradually increasing them to eight.  this enterprise passed on to T. S. Calvin, who later sold to Shotwell & Larkin.

Although Nashville was perhaps the largest community in the county in the 30's; it was not the oldest.  Jackson township, then a part of Monroe County, was formed in March, 1825.  The Young and Fleener families were among the first settlers there along with Georgetown, now Bean Blossom, in 1833.  In 1835, he built the old George Gove Mill, the forerunner of a number of enterprises in and around Georgetown that made that area famous.  The Jacob McNeeley tannery, for example, had somewhere between 40 and 50 vats which produced leather that was well known in the eastern markets.  The town was famous for its horse racing in those early years.

No records exist as to who may have been the first white settlers of Hamblen Township, but it is believed that the first appeared as early as 1820 and by 1824 ten or twelve families were living within the present limits of the township.  Eliakim Hamblen, Thomas Waltman, and William Taylor set up water mills in the township early in the 30's and ground grain for the settlers in the area.

The record of land entries in the 30's shows many names that are still familiar to old-time residents - James Taggart, Pleasant G. Weddel, James Calvin, James Culley, William Culley, Levi Petro, John Mcllvain, Stephen Kirts, Preston Goforth, John and Abe Prosser, S. S. Parsly, Jesse Hamblen, Daniel King, and others.

Rich Natural Resources

The attractions for these early settlers were the rich valleys of upper bean Blossom, with fine timber, fertile valleys, and abundant water.

Van Buren township was one of the first four created in 1836 and was named in honor of Martin Van Buren, eighth president of the United States.  Here, as in other townships, white settlers began to arrive about 1820, and by 1830 a scattering of log cabins existed throughout the township.  James Taber,  Brown, James Williamson, the Hattens, the Hamptons, and the Gosses were among the first to arrive.

The third of Brown County's townships, Van Buren, was called "the garden spot of the county," rich and fertile, ideal for wheat, corn, most well-to-do farmers of the entire county.  Because of its scattered population, communities did not develop in Van Buren until the 50's.  Christiansburg was founded in 1850 by Thomas Carmichael.  Pike's Peak was founded about the time of the Civil War:  New Bellsville at a much later date; and Buffalo about the end of the civil War.

Johnson, the last and smallest of the county's townships, had one of the county's first settlers in William Elkins, but developed more slowly than the others, probably because of its isolation.  Its only community of note, Elkinsville, started up sometime during the 50's. It was a thrifty, thriving little community by all accounts, but has almost vanished since good roads came into existence. (It has since disappeared due to the building of Lake Monroe.)

Among early residents are many who's names still carry a familiar ring in the county - men like James Arwine, John S. Arwine, Hezekiah Deckard, James Fleetwood, Solomon Fleetwood, John Grimes, Joseph Hedrick, Stephen Harper, John Hatchet, Jacob Lutes, Thomas Lucas, Zachariah Polly, William See, Hiram Shipley, Hammond Wilkenson, Simon Weatherman, William Followell, William Sullivan, and Nathan Davis.

"Primitive and crude" is perhaps the term that best describes the way of life of Brown County's settlers in the 30's and 40's.

The first homes thrown up were log cabins, of course, cut on the spot.  When a new settler appeared, neighbors all turned out to help him raise his cabin.  So glad were settlers to see neighbors come in that they were always ready, not only to help with their buildings, but provision them until they could get on their feet.

These early cabins were built of round logs, with a clapboard roof, stick and clay chimney, huge fireplace, dirt hearth, and a loft which could be reached by a pole stairway.  here, frequently, was where the children slept.

The men wore buckskin breeches, shirts, and rough shoes.  the women's dresses in winter were made of woolen goods called linsey; in summer, of cotton stripe.

To give you some idea of what constituted the personal property of one of the old settlers, here is a court inventory taken after his death by the guardian of the deceased's infants:

"Four head of horses, eight head of milk cows, two head of steers, five calves, feathers for two beds, three coverlids, five bed quilts, two sheets, nine delf plates, pewter plates, dishes, and spoons, one earthen pitcher, one tin coffee pot, one shovel plow, two hoes, a number of hogs, two metal pots, one draw knife, one pigon and churn, one small wheel, two weaving slays, two bells, two empty barrels, one rifled gun, one dutch oven, two chairs, one mans saddle, one sieve, one ax, one tin bucket."

But whatever their hardships, whatever their lack of comforts and conveniences, the early settlers were  in little danger of starving.  Deer, wild turkey, squirrels, and fowl were plentiful.  Later, as they added pigs, cattle, and poultry to their possessions, they were sure of a meat supply the year around.  Milk was plentiful although coffee was something of a luxury.

Hard money was scarce, and much of their trading was by barter.  Transportation in the earliest days usually was by wagons drawn by oxen, with carriages coming in shortly after the settlers had gained a firm foothold and could raise grain and grass to feed horses and other livestock.

By all accounts, Brown County was fairly isolated.  mails were irregular, coming usually by way of Bloomington.  Early settlers paid as much as 25 cents for a letter, which in that day, consisted of several pages, folded with a blank page on the outside, upon which the superscription was written.  The main roads to the outside were either by way of Columbus or Bloomington.  There was not direct road from Nashville to Georgetown (Bean Blossom).  To reach that community one had to travel by way of what is now known as the old Helmsburg road.

This, then, was the kind of county our pioneers found in the 1820's and 1830's when they first came to Brown County.  This was how they lived, how they made their living, and how they fared in the earliest days of our history.

It is interesting to note, too, how that first rivulet of settlers changed into a steady stream, so that the population increased to 2,364 by 1840 and to 4,846 by 1850 when some of our pioneer residents first thought about forming a Masonic lodge in Nashville.

Growing Pains of a Lodge

No record, either written or passed down by word of mouth, exists as to the first informal meetings to discuss formation of a lodge.

The group must have been small, and probably met in someone's home in the village. In any event, the first record shows that dispensation was granted from the Grand Lodge on May 28, 1851, with Thomas M. Adams as Worshipful Master.  The others at that first meeting were Lawson Hopper, William B. Hogueland, James S. Davis, Walter Hotchkiss, and Nathan Walker.

Adams, one of the early residents of Nashville, was a merchant and sizeable land owner.  He had served as county clerk and county recorder in the 30's, was county auditor in 1841, and later served several terms as school commissioner.  The land on which the present lodge hall stands, as well as the county home and new high school, was once owned by Adams.  He sold the tract for $5,000, according to early records.

Along with James Taggart, P. C. Parker, Williamson Wise, Charles Bolt and others, he helped raise a company to serve in the Mexican War in 1846.  He served as First Lieutenant of the company and became its commander.  Captain James Taggart was mortally wounded by rifle fire in the battle of Buena Vista.

Adams, who was to guide the lodge during its first five formative years, was typical of the caliber of men who were members of the first lodge.  All six were solid, reputable citizens, and leaders in the community.

After working under dispensation for a year, a regular lodge was chartered on May 26 1852, and became Nashville Lodge No. 135 F. & A. M.

The first meetings were held in a large log building constructed by W. S. Roberts, who received $35 a year rent for the use of his upstairs quarters.  The first meetings were by candlelight.

Even at that modest figure difficulty apparently arose between the lodge and Roberts over the rent or perhaps over the quarters.  In any event, minutes of the period show various actions taken to sell stock to buy a lodge hall, to investigate the cost of building, or to rent other quarters.

Apparently all differences were reconciled for the studies were abandoned and the lodge continued to rent from Roberts until September 22, 1866, when it moved into quarters owned by John Genolin.  This was a build that had been used as a grist mill.  the lodge occupied the third floor of this old building.

From the beginning, Nashville lodge's membership embraced businessmen, merchants, farmers, and the leading lawyers, doctors and other professional men of the community.

Like the community itself the lodge endured rough going in the early days, but it watched with close concern over the welfare of its members.  It loaned small sums to those in distress.  It helped its sick.  It remitted the dues of those in want.  Its members often could be seen officiating at the funerals of departed brothers.  The sight of its members wearing aprons marching in a body to the cemetery to conduct the last rites for a departed brother was a more familiar one to residents of that day than it is today.

Typical of the rather ornate language of that day is the following resolution on the death of Cyril Chamberlain in 1863:

"Whereas, by the providence of Almighty God, in whom we trust, our worthy brother Cyril Chamberlain, was overtaken by the all devouring scythe of time, and departed this life, the 6th of December, A.D. 1863:

"Resolved, that by the death of our lamented brother, Nashville Lodge No. 135 has lost a true member, and we a faithful brother and the fraternity at large a good Mason,

"Resolved, that the wife and relatives of our departed brother, have our sincere condolences in this their sad bereavement.

Nelson J. Larkin

Thomas M. Adams

The resolution was ordered ad printed in the Nashville Union, and a printed copy sent to the deceased's family.

As in any closely knit family, there were bound to be grievances.  The minutes of September 4, 1852, note the report of a committee appointed to examine into grievances complained of by Brother H against Brother M:

"The provocation by Brother M was not such as would justify him in the use of the violent language employed, but ... the conduct of Brother H was calculated to irritate Brother M and did not strictly conform with the fraternal relations of Masonic Brethren.

"The result teaches us the salutary lesson that Masons cannot be too careful in the use of moderate and brotherly conversation, in their intercourse."

The first members ever initiated by the new body were S. Manville, J. L. Dew, James D. Martin, Zachariah Kelly, and Shadrach Chandler.  In 1852, the year they received their charter, they also initiated Dr. John S. Arwine and William Calvert.  that year the initiation fee was $15.

By the end of 1859 lodge membership had increased to 24.  It may be interesting to note who those members were: Dr. John S. Arwine, J. J. Larkins, T. L. Lucas, Thomas M. Adams, Eugene Culley, J. R. Browning, J. L. Dew, S. G. Pettigrew, J. Arwine, S. Manville, W. B. Hogueland, J. H. Davis, W. S. Roberts, Zachariah Kelly, J. W. Mcllvane, C. C. Hanna, A. Anderson, C. H. McCarty, A. Cox, B. S. Roberts, B. B. Kelly, G. W. Coffland, A. L. Clark, and Jesse Brandon.

Brandon, incidentally, was publisher of the Nashville Union, which he founded in 1861 and conducted during the fiery years of the war and after until his death in 1866.  Times were so difficult during part of this period that the lodge accepted a subscription of the Union in payment of Brandon's lodge dues.

In 1857 another panic, known as the "Panic of 57" had struck the country.  It was not nearly so serious, nor did it continue as long, as the memorable depression of 1837.  However, 6,000 business concerns failed throughout the country; hard times spread everywhere and continued for two years.  This was probably the reason why Nashville lodge abandoned all plans for new quarters and continued to meet in the uncomfortable and noisy quarters in Roberts' building.

Not only did hard times bedevil the lodge but political ferment was stirring in Brown County over slavery and other issues.  The campaign of 1860 found every township divided in its sympathies.  Torchlight processions, noisy demonstrations, vociferous speechmaking occurred nightly.  After the returns were all in and Abraham Lincoln's election assured, men thought that the ferment would die down.  Instead, it increased.  The southern states, one after another enacted their ordinances of secession.  Men were torn in their loyalties.  They did not know their own minds. Although the lodge itself was outside politics, its members as individuals, took immediate and vigorous part in behalf of the union.

After the fall of Fort Sumter in April, 1861, a public meeting was called with Eugene Culley, a Mason, as chairman to take action regarding the attitude of the community.  W. W. Browning and T. D. Calvin were among the Masons at that meeting who urged the county to start raising a company of men to help quell the rebellion.  If there was any division of feeling with the lodge members, it was not disclosed by the records.

As a result of this public meeting, a company was quickly formed and chose James S. Hester as its Captain, Browning as First Lieutenant and W. A., Adams as Second Lieutenant.  In July, Governor Morton accepted the company which was then shipped to Madison to become Company C of the 22nd Regiment.  This outfit saw three years service in the field.

In August and September of 1861, scores of Brown County men volunteered for service in a company formed in Bloomington.  Others went to Columbus, Morgantown, Indianapolis, and elsewhere to join.  In all, Brown County furnished more than 200 men during 1861 alone.

The following year after the government issued a call for 300,000 men, Brown County responded with two full companies.

Among those actively engaged in raising volunteers, Masons will remember the names of Browning, John Calvin, J. K. Matheney, Jackson Woos, and others.

The officers of Company D, which became a part of the 82nd Regiment, included W. W. Browning, Captain; D. B. Adams, First Lieutenant; and John Calvin, Second Lieutenant.

The officers of Company H, were John M. Matheney, Captain; Jackson Woods, First Lieutenant; and David S. Story, Second Lieutenant.  These companies saw service at Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Mission Ridge, Kenesaw Mountain and Sherman's march to the sea.

In the call of October, 1863 for still another 300,000 men, Brown County furnished a half company.  The 35 who joined were recruited almost entirely by Lieutenant Timothy D. Calvin.  They became a part  of Company I of the 120th Regiment, which saw action at Kenesaw Mountain, Atlanta, Jonesboro, and Columbia Tennessee.

Under the last call of the war, in December 1864, one full company was raised in the county to become Company K of the 145th Regiment.  The company was commanded by Volney P. Mason as Captain; John C. Hester as First Lieutenant, and Franklin P. Taggart as Second Lieutenant.  The Colonel of the Regiment was W. A. Adams of Brown County.

Altogether Brown County furnished nearly 1,000 men to the Union cause, a significant answer to charges that Brown County was filled with disloyal elements.  Actually, all counties in Indiana had disloyal organizations sincerely opposed to what they called a "wicked, unnecessary, fratricidal war." Brown County did have this element, but it was never as numerous as the historians have made it appear.

Minutes of this period show the lodge remitted the dues of all members who joined the Army of the united States.  Among those  so honored were Brothers W. W. Browning; H. M. Daggy, who died of wounds received at Rome, Georgia; John Matheny, J. Brandon, Hugh R. Butler, Timothy d. Calvin, and others.

All through this trying period, lodge affairs were under the wise guidance of two men - Thomas M. Adams, who had served as Worshipful Master through the first five years, and was returned in 1861, and Dr. John s. Arwine, the kindly, God-fearing physician, who served continuously as Worshipful master from 1862 to 1866.  Dr. Arwine served nine terms in all in that office.

These men held the lodge together and slowly added to the membership.  The lodge took in Hugh R. Butler and Will A. Adams in 1863; John Calvin, Zapheney Arto, and Alfred Williams in 1864, and Frank Taggart, John N. Voris, and Richard L. Coffey in 1865.

The rapidity with which antipathies were buried is indicated by the fact that shortly after Captain Taggart was taken in, the lodge also took into its ranks a man who had fought in the rebel ranks, Benoli S. Roberts.

The community and the county settled down more to peaceful pursuits.   Members were steadily added, and on August 25, 1866, inspected the brothers of Morgantown Lodge as to their qualifications to organize.  In December, they recommended a dispensation for Morgantown.

Meanwhile, the county was growing.  By 1860, some 6,500 persons had settled in the county.  In the next ten years, it rose to an estimated 8,681.  Nashville also was growing, though more slowly.  the population was about 220 in 1860 and 260 in 1870.

The lodge, keeping pace with the population growth, was approaching the 50 member mark.  In 1869, for example, it had taken in Nathaniel D. Cox, William Cookson, William B. Williams, B. F. Miller, Jon W. Watson, Newton Parsley, Paul Busey, and F. D. Woods. I in 1870, it added Martin E. Phillips, E. M. Farr, Alfred Stanton, Thomas Waltman, Henry S. Zody, W. I. Mead, William M.. Waltmam, and William Spaulding.  Waltman is mentioned here because he was to figure so importantly in subsequent developments of the lodge.

During those post-war years, it was common practice of the lodge to loan money to brethren in need.  The loans were not large, but they were numerous, and apparently nearly all were repaid by the recipients.

In 1869, the lodge gave a banquet for Thomas Adams and William Hogueland, two of its most respected members, who were leaving the state.

The following year there was much agitation for a new lodge hall.  A committee was appointed in January to ascertain whether a hall could be build, and reported in May that it had met with a committee of the M. E. Church and recommended the building of a Masonic Hall over the church the same size as the church.  The recommendation was rejected.

Snider Hall was then considered for a meeting place, but a committee reported in June that the hall was unsafe for meetings.  Another building committee reported that a new hall could be build for $1,200, exclusive of plastering and foundations.  W. W. Taggart donated ground for the hall on the northeast corner of his property.  A motion was made and passed to issue $2,000 in 6 percent bonds for the project, and the contract was ordered let.

Then, for reasons not recorded, all action toward building a new hall was rescinded and the lodge voted in December to continue renting from John Genolin.

Minutes of this period disclose numerous incidents of mediating differences between brothers and numerous charges of un-Masonic behavior with appropriate sentences.

Some notes from the minutes of the period from 1864 to 1875 perhaps will indicate better than anything else the activities, concerns, and spirits of the period.  Here are just a few of the highlights:

June 18, 1864: Brother Daniel Marsh was given $2.50 to aid him during a protracted illness.

December 10, 1864: Agreement reached to rent upstairs room from W. S. Roberts for $35 a year, payable in advance.

January 7, 1865: Initiation fee raised to $20.

March, 1865: Brother ................. reprimanded for intoxication.

February 4, 1865: Brother James L. Dew obtained six spittoons for lodge for $1.50.

December 2, 1865: Lodge re-rented quarters from Roberts for $35 a year.

December 31, 1865: Membership stood at 27.

March 24, 1865: W. S. Roberts requested to have downstairs quarters vacated and kept quiet during meeting nights.

April , 1865: Charles C. Hanna died.  Lodge paid 27.75 for burying clothes, $11 to J. L. Dew for making the coffin, $8.85 for tinning the coffin and $4 for digging the grave.

September 22, 1866: Lodge rented upstairs hall from John Genolin for $50 annually.

December 1, 1866: Lodge recommended dispensation for new lodge at Morgantown.

February 16, 1867, Brother John S. Arwine purchased four kerosene lamps for lodge for $8.25.

May 18, 1867: Lodge raised $15 to send to Cherokee Lodge N. 66, Rome Georgia.

December 31, 1867: Membership increased to 31.

December 31, 1869: Membership increased to 39.

1871: John Genolin hall re-rented.

1874: Membership increased to 53.

1875: Lodge considered petition of Bean Blossom for dispensation.

1875 -1910: Division

This 35 year period of Nashville Lodge no. 135 was characterize by a disastrous split in its membership, by a long had struggle to recover from the formation of Bean Blossom Lodge No. 527, and by internal dissention among the fewer than 245 members who remained.

To understand the split, it is necessary to remember that Bean Blossom, or Georgetown, as it was originally known, was a thriving community in its own right and as old, if not older, than Nashville.

As early as 1839, it had one of the largest and finest tanneries in the state, a jewelry manufacturing plant, a newspaper, grist mills, taverns, churches, schools, and a population that had reached 100 by 1875.

Despite the fact that Nashville was only five miles away, Bean Blossom was difficult to reach.  There was no direct road.  Travel to Bean Blossom meant taking what is now known as the old Helmsburg Road.  It was, therefore, a  self contained community, proud of its growth and independent in its thinking.  It was almost inevitable that its residents should desire a lodge of their own.

In 1875, therefore, Masons living in Jackson Township asked for a lodge of their own.  The Nashville lodge recommended that dispensation be granted the Bean Blossom body.  A charter was formerly granted in 1876, and with tat approval almost half the members of Nashville Lodge withdrew and transferred their membership to Bean Blossom Lodge No. 527.

The leader in that move was William "Yankee Bill" Waltman, who became its first Worshipful Master and served in that capacity for thirteen terms.

"Yankee Bill" was one of the most colorful personalities in the county.  A tannery worker in Georgetown in his youth, he was admitted to the bar in 1874, was co-founder of the Brown County Democrat, built one of the first homes in Brown county on what is now known as the Bean blossom Overlook and was one of the principle figures in promoting the Brown County Old Settlers Association.  He called his home "Mountain View."

Waltman, in fact, not only was a power in the ranks of the Bean Blossom lodge but went on to become deputy Grand Master of Brown County.  Since travel was slow and difficult in those days, it was necessary for the grand master to have deputies who could represent him in carrying out inspections and appearing at dedications and other ceremonial functions.  Waltman served with distinction in that capacity.

The loss of Waltman and about 25 other members to Bean Blossom was a grievous blow to the Nashville lodge.  But relations between and other members of Bean Blossom were frequent visitors to the Nashville lodge.

In this period of tribulation, Judge Richard L. Coffey appeared on the Nashville scene.  He was to exercise as much influence in the Nashville lodge as Waltman did in the Bean Blossom body.  A native of Monroe County, Coffey farmed, taught school, studied law, and finally came to Brown County in 1864 where he taught school and began to practice law.  He was appointed Common Pleas Judge about 1866, served in the State Senate four years, and later served eight years as school trustee.

A measure of the esteem in which he was held is indicated by the fact that he served as Worshipful Master twelve terms in all.  He served continuously from 1870 to 1880, with the exception of 1875 and 1876, and again in 1882, 1883, and 1894.  He died in 1901.

For almost 20 years after the famous split-off, membership in the Nashville lodge was almost at a standstill.  It hovered around the 25 member mark, sometimes slightly above that figure, often below.  Not until the 90,s did the lodge show signs of real recovery.

A contemporary of Judge Coffey's and a one-time law partner was Washington C. Duncan, who served as Worshipful Master in 1887 and 1888.  Duncan, who taught school in Brown County for a number of years, "read" law in the office of Judge Coffey and finally set up practice in partnership with W. W. Browning in Nashville in 1878.

Duncan served as prosecuting attorney for Ninth Judicial Circuit, comprising Brown and Bartholomew counties, and was nominated by the Democrats of Brown, Bartholomew and Monroe counties for the State Senate.  After one of the most heated campaigns on record, in which he locked horns with Judge Coffey of Nashville and Henry Doup of Bartholomew county, Duncan was elected in the fall of that year.  In 1892, he moved to Columbus where he continued his practice and held a number of political and civic posts.

Both Duncan and Coffey contributed greatly, however, to holding the Nashville lodge together in what was its greatest period of tribulation.

In this period, the Nashville lodge lost a number of its pioneer members through death.  W. W. Browning, Worshipful Master in 1867 and a prominent attorney in the community, died March 22, 1885, while attending sessions of the General Assembly. On May 24, 1885, another Mason of long standing, James  McGrayel, died.  John S. Williams, a State Legislator , died March  13, 1893, and Nelson H. Franklin, a lawyer, on April 16, 1894.  Eliakim Hamblen, a prosperous farmer and former county clerk, died April 25, 1898.

By 1880, the population of Brown County had reached 10,264, and by 1890 nearly 11,000 - a third more than today's population (1962) - and the county was able to sustain two Masonic bodies without difficulty.  From 1900 to 1905, minutes disclose a new surge in interest in the lodge and the initiation of some 28 new members.

In this period there emerged from the ranks of Masonry, two more strong figures who were destined to play important roles in both the Nashville and Bean Blossom lodges.  They were William A. Coffey, who first became Worshipful Master of the Nashville Lodge in 1899 and Sylvester Barnes, a greatly respected school teacher and school administrator, who became Worshipful Master of the Bean Blossom lodge in 1906 and served eight other terms in the next quarter  century.

Coffey and Barnes became fast friends.  Barnes was a frequent visitor in the Nashville lodge and was called on many times by Coffey to help in degree work.  Barnes, now in his mid-80's and slowly going blind, has vivid memories of those trips:

"I'd get a postcard from Bill, saying he needed my help in conferring a degree, so I'd hitch up my horse and drive over to help out.  I always felt close to the Nashville boys and felt at home there as much as in my own lodge."

In fact, it is still his lodge, years later, after Bean Blossom lost its charter, he transferred his membership to Nashville.

Another educator of distinction in the Nashville lodge, and a contemporary of Barnes', was Simon P. Neidigh, who served as County Superintendent of Schools from 1881 for a number of years.  He is credited with elevating the standard of Brown County schools to a new high.

With Nashville's new growth the question of a new lodge hall was re-opened in 1906.  A committee of three was appointed April 7 to purchase a suitable site.  On May 5 the committee agreed that lot 117 in the old plat of the Town, better known as the "Old Mason Property," was the best choice.  The lodge purchased the lot for $250 from William A. Mason.  No further steps toward building seem to have been taken at this time.

Meanwhile fate, in the form of one of the most disastrous fires in Nashville's history, intervened.  This 1909 fire destroyed the Knights of Pythias hall, which stood near the site of what is now the Village Green Building, and many buildings to the east and south of the K. of P. hall.

With the Knights of Pythias homeless, the lodge appointed a committee consisting of G. W. Long, John B. Seitz, and Joseph A. Lucas to work out plans with the Knights for a joint fraternity building.  The two groups agreed on a plan whereby the Masonic share was not to exceed one-fourth the entire cost.  the Mason's share actually was only $1500, not including $175 for the purchase of a fourth interest in the lot.

The result of these efforts was the three story brick building which still stands on Main Street.  It was completed and occupied in 1910, with the two lodges occupying separate lodge halls on the third floor.  The second floor was rented out as office space, the first floor to merchants.  One of the early tenants of the east half of the first floor was old Calvin Bros. hardware store, operated by Dennis and Duard Calvin, Masons, who occupied these quarters continuously for more than 40 years.  The west half of the first floor had a succession of tenants, including the Brown County Democrat, the Post office, a restaurant, and others.

This was the first permanent home of the lodge during the first 58 years of its existence.  It continued to be for the next half century.

Construction of the hall, which was by far the largest building in Brown County, was a fitting climax to a period which saw the lodge almost "go under" after the formation of the Bean Blossom Lodge, by 25 years' struggle thereafter to hold the lodge together by much dissension and bickering among remaining members and, finally, by a resurgence of interest after 1900.

1910 - 1962 From Rags to Riches

Then next 52 years after 1910 were years of peace within the lodge, steady growth in membership, and solid entrenchment in the community.

These were the years, too, when Brown County began its gradual transition from rough pioneer living to the civilized modernism which marks it today.

The county had reached the peak of its growth  in the 1900's about 11,000 people, and thereafter there was a slow by steady decline in population as the area slowly was stripped of its magnificent virgin timber, farming began to decline, and residents moved elsewhere for work in factories and better opportunities.

A few cars were beginning to appear around 1910.  "Yankee Bill" Waltman's tall figure could be seen touring the county in a high-wheeled chain-driven module.  A few other venturesome souls bought cars and caused many a runaway as they coughed and sputtered noisily along the rutted country roads.

Progress was on its way.  In 1911 the lodge replaced its kerosene lights with a carbide illumination system similar to the old carbide lights with which automobiles then were equipped.  Then this system gave way permanently to electricity in 1917 or 1918 when the town installed its own electric light system.  Other old landmarks began to disappear.  The old Genolin Building, which stood across the street from the present Post Office and in which the lodge met so many years, was destroyed bin another great fire.

At the same time Brown County began to attract attention that was to make it not only the best known county in Indiana but famous throughout the country.  Artists were largely responsible for spreading its fame.

Attracted by its beautiful timbered hills, the magnificent coloring of its fall seasons, and the abundance of rich pioneer subject matter, artists began to come to Nashville from all parts of the country.  Log cabins, rail fences, the purple haze in the hills, and the colorful characters who made up the population provided a wealth of fresh subject matter.

One of the first artists to come here was Adolph R. Shulz, a tall, distinguished, bearded figure, who came from his home in Delavin, Wisconsin, early in 1900, arriving as he said, "by train to Columbus and then to Nashville by delivery rig."  On his second trip in 1907, he was convinced he should move here permanently.  He did so the following year, accompanied by his young artist wife, Ada Shulz and their young son.  Adolph R. Shulz transferred his lodge member ship from Delavin to Nashville.

In the art colony that grew steadily in size were other Masons, men like John William Vawter, the greatly beloved artist who not only sketched Brown County scenes with a skilled brush but illustrated some of James Whitcomb Riley's books of poetry; Dale Bessire, orchardist and artist who captured the purple haze of Brown County hills and valleys as few others ever did; Edward K. Williams, he gentle kindly artist whose water colors of Nashville and Brown County scenes have never been surpassed, and L. O. Griffith, who had a national reputation as an etcher and painter.

Vawter, Shulz, Bessire, Griffith, and Williams were leaders among the gifted group of artist who were instrumental in spreading the fame of Brown County as an art colony throughout the country.   In Chicago, St. Louis, Cincinnati, and even in New England, Brown County was better known than it was to many Indianans who lived next door to its charms.

There were other Masons who contributed to the spread of Brown County's fame.  It is generally known that Kin Hubbard, creator of the widely syndicated "Abe Martin" feature in the Indianapolis News, drew heavily on Dennis Calvin for much of the material which appeared in his daily feature.  Hubbard spent many hours around the big pot-bellied stove in Calvin's Hardware, soaking up the native wit and humor which flowed from Dennis and other colorful characters who dropped in for a lazy hour.

The masons of that period as in earlier years, were a colorful, story-telling lot, yet a fine cross-section of the community's business, professional, political, and cultural life.  They included the leading doctors, merchants, artists, writer, farmers, craftsmen, and political leaders of the period.  Many of its members served in World War I and , as was customary from the Civil War on, their dues were remitted while they were in service.

In the decade from 1910 to 1920, the lodge grew steadily, initiating some 55 new members.  The lodge was once more on a solid footing financially and fraternally.  Its membership was approaching the 90 member mark.  In 1921, the lodge decided to purchase another quarter interest in the building from the Knights of Pythias, thus becoming a full half owner.

The decade now known as the "Roaring Twenties" saw the lodge continue to prosper and the first beginnings  of trouble that were to beset the neighboring Bean Blossom lodge.  The Bean Blossom body had met for many years in an old two-story frame structure that stood near the southeast corner of the Bean Blossom intersection.  When the old hall became decrepit and unfit for meetings, its members decided to build new quarters in Helmsburg.  The lodge build a fine, two story brick building, south of the railroad tracks on the old Helmsburg Road, going deeply into debt as a result.

Its struggle with this indebtedness was intensified by the great depression which rocked the country in he fall of 1929 and continued far into the 30's.  The bankers closed in, demanding more security.  As a result, members of the Bean Blossom lodge began to dropout rather than be held individually responsible for the debt.  This only deepened the lodge's financial difficulties.  In 1933, it lost its charter, leaving Nashville No. 135 the sole remaining Masonic body in the county.

After its dissolution some members transferred to Nashville.  Others, feeling closer kinship to Morgantown, transferred to that body.  There are a number of Masons in Nashville who were members of Bean Blossom Lodge No. 527.

Thus fell the curtain on a chapter in our history that almost spelled disaster during the formative years.  Indeed, for a considerable period prior to the turn of the century, it actually appeared that Bean Blossom might become much the stronger lodge.  Its membership at one point was larger than Nashville's.   It was further buoyed up by the coming of the railroad through Helmsburg, leading many of its residents to believe that it was the coming community and would outdistance Nashville in size, prestige and importance.

These hopes never materialized.  The railroad never brought Helmsburg the growth it hoped to achieve.  Nashville, as the county seat, continued to grow and be the center of county activities and the lodge grew with it.

Nashville weathered the depression years of the 30's without undue difficulty.  The Masons were comfortably solvent but the Knights of Pythias succumbed and ceased as an active lodge.

The 40's, once again war years, saw younger lodge members off to theaters of action in the Pacific and in Europe, and saw the deaths of such widely known figures as John William Vawter, the artist; Charles H. Kirts, a longtime Mason; John Dennis Calvin, former Sheriff and beloved hardware merchant; Nathaniel Merida, longtime Mason, Richard Houston, and Dr. Louie Richard Crabtree.

As the lodge turned into the centennial decade of its existence, it marked its 100th anniversary with a banquet for 156 persons in the old Nashville High School gymnasium.  Masons and guests from Indianapolis, Franklin, Bloomington, Morgantown, and other nearby cities attended.

Fred King, master of ceremonies, gave the history of the local lodge, its officers, and its charter members, while Lawrence Taylor, editor of the Indiana Free Mason magazine, gave the major speech of the evening.

On October 4, 1954, a testimonial dinner was given at the Abe Martin Lodge honoring Wayne Guthrie, widely known staff member and columnist of the Indianapolis News, the only member of Nashville Lodge elevated to the Thirty Third Degree of the Scottish Rite, N. M. J.

The dinner drew a number of dignitaries of the Grand Lodge and Scottish Rite, including Grand Master Elmer C. Forks; W. Henry Roberts, P. G. M., Scottish Rite Deputy for Indiana, and James C. Gipe, secretary of the Valley o Indianapolis, each of whom paid tribute to Guthrie.

Karl L. Friedrichs, secretary of Murat Temple, A. A. O. M. S., and eight others who were members of Brother Guthrie's class when he received the Thirty Third Degree in Chicago, also were present to pay their respects.

Guthrie who was born in Brown County and spent much of his youth among its rolling hills, has been a member of Nashville lodge since 1919.

Two years after this event, in 1956, the Lodge once more began planning a new home.

The old hall, which had served so well for almost a half century, was rickety, inconvenient, and no longer adequate.  The building was sorely in need of repair and extensive renovation.  It was felt that larger and more modern quarters were needed for a membership  which was rapidly approaching the 200 mark.