A History of Newburgh Lodge No. 174, F. & A.M.

A History of Newburgh Lodge No. 174, F. & A.M. provides a historical account of the lodge, detailing its founding in Newburgh, Indiana, in 1854. It traces the origins to an inaugural meeting under a dispensation with key figures like Draper Chipman and Azel Freeman leading the masonic lodge. The narrative connects local events such as the burial of Mason John W. Palmer in 1851, hinting at an earlier Masonic presence in Newburgh. The book also paints a vivid picture of Newburgh in the 1850s as a bustling river port with significant economic activity and cultural vibrancy, suggesting these factors contributed to the establishment of the Masonic lodge.

I have provided you an index to the genealogical information found in the section on “Our First One Hundred Years” 1855-1955. You will also want to look at the various list of membership included towards the end of the book to see if a Newburgh ancestor is listed.

Table of Contents

A History of Newburgh Lodge No. 174, F. & A.M. provides the following information:

  • The First Hundred Years of Newburgh Lodge No. 174, F. & A. M., p. 8
    • Genesis of the Lodge, p. 13
    • The First Decade – 1855 to 1864, p. 44
    • The Next Forty Years, 1865 through 1904, p. 65
    • The Last Fifty Years Summarized
  • Roster of Newburgh Lodge, No. 174, F. & A. M. 1855-1955, p. 83
    Contains a list of all 633 members.
  • 50-Year Members, p. 90
  • 25-Year Members, p. 90
  • Past Matrons and Patrons of Friendship Chapter No. 32, Newburgh, p. 91

Genealogical Index

Bates, Daniel F, p. 44
Bell, Silas, p. 61
Bennett, M. W., p. 27
Brizius, Charles, p. 67
Brizius Family, p. 77
Bruner, Thomas, p. 40
Bullett, George W., p. 56
Butterworth, William, p. 79

Chipman, Draper, p. 15
Collins, Salvin W., p. 64
Cowan, J. D., p. 24

DeBruler, Fletcher, p. 35
Dennison, Lewis, p. 32
Donaldson, James, p. 57

Ewen, George, p. 33

Finney, Joseph, p. 59
Fellows, Dorus, p. 53
Fish, A. Judson, p. 31
Fisher, John P., p. 15
Frame, D. M., p. 71
Frary, Calvin, p. 35
Freeman, Azel, p. 19
Frisbee, A., p. 21
Frisbee, Jonah, p. 33

Garwood, William S., p. 55

Hall, Benjamin, p. 28
Hathaway, George, p. 23
Hawley, John, p. 77
Hazen, Albert, p. 29
Hazen, Zavan, p. 45
Hazen, Zavan, p. 76
Hunt, W. W., p. 77

Knapp, John J., p. 61

Lewis, Dr. Eli, p. 29

Moore, Joel W. P., p. 21

Pace, T. N., p. 49
Palmer, John, p. 8
Pepmiller, F. L., p. 67
Perrin, W. M., p. 13
Phar, V. K., p. 27

Reed, Samuel, p. 73
Robertson, John S., p. 64

Slaughter, Dr. R. C., p. 25
Slaughter, William W., p. 66

Taylor, Gurley, p. 66
Tilman, Dr. J. R., p. 46

Genesis of the Lodge

If there is a record of a meeting of Masons in Newburgh prior to June 6, 1854, it has escaped the attention of the writer. That there must have been is suggested by the fact that a fee had been received by the Grand Lodge on May 31, 1854, along with a petition for a Lodge dispensation to operate until a charter could be granted. On June 6, 1804, the organizing group met for the first time under dispensation with Draper Chipman as Worshipful Master; Azel Freeman, Senior Warden; Alpha Frisbee, Junior Warden, pro tem; J. W. B. Moore, Secretary, pro tem; George Hathaway, Treasurer, pro tem; W. M. Morrison, Junior Deacon, and George Hathaway again, doing double duty by being recorded as “acting Tyler.” These then must have been the men who were the prime movers and who “sparked” the Lodge into being.

The Warrick Democrat for Tuesday, September 23, 1851, carried the following notice: “Died, on board the steamer Julia Dean at Scuffletown Bar, on the 16th inst., Mr. John W. Palmer, of Dresden village, Tennessee. (The deceased was a member of the Masonic fraternity, and there being several of the Order on board his remains were interred in the burial ground at this place.) Tennessee papers please copy.”

We would like to think that perhaps the demise of this man and the interment of his earthly remains in the old Newburgh Cemetery by Brother passengers on a boat might have been the spark which ultimately led to the formation of Newburgh Lodge. There must have been Masons in Newburgh in 1851 and the necessity for fellow travelers taking over the last rites of a Brother would most certainly have made them aware of the desirability of a Lodge in their town. But this is, of course, pure speculation and with so much known fact to write about we shall be on with it.

Just what kind of a town was Newburgh in the early fifties? What of it remains today and what changes have taken place? Scuffletown Bar is still upstream but boats no longer become stranded in periods of low water—the modern dams and locks have taken care of that. The old cemetery is no longer used but Mr. Palmer now lies in company with many early members of our Lodge.

Newburgh in the 1850’s was a booming village. It was fifty years old in 1853 if we accept the arrival of John Sprinkle as the date for the “founding” of the town. During that fifty years it had become an important shipping point on the river at which all of the boats, both large and small, stopped to pick up or discharge freight and passengers. In 1850 it was reported that “boats are arriving and departing almost every hour of the day.” The Lexington, Columbian, Bostona, Atlantis, Oregon, the Alexander Scott, and the Gem, are but a few of the many packets which made Newburgh a regular port of call on their way to New Orleans, Pittsburgh or Louisville.

On January 18, 1851, the J. M. Niles “took on board, for New Orleans, about 1200 sacks of corn.” And it was reported at the same time that “every storehouse in town is full of freight, awaiting shipment to New Orleans.” That this latter statement was no idle boast is suggested by the fact that the next week the Belle Key took 20 hogsheads of tobacco and four barrels of eggs; the Lexington, 800 sacks of corn; and the Alexander Scott loaded 145 barrels of lard, 322 sacks of corn, and two barrels of eggs.

These are just selected figures—a few of many like instances—serving to indicate the extent of trade that Newburgh was enjoying. Most boats took on a “few head of cattle” at the same time as the other commodities. This would be expected, but it may come to the reader as a surprise to learn that nearly 17,000 pounds of “dressed” flax and 165 bushels of flaxseed were a product of nearby farms. The big surprise was an entry of “six pounds of silk cocoons.” How they got on the list I’ll never understand.

Calvin Frary, publisher of the Warrick Democrat, and of whom we shall read again later, was enthusiastic in his editorial comment on the town and its prospects. At the close of the year 1850 he had an editorial in which he estimates the population at not “much short of six hundred.” He states that the “increase in population of the town, for the last three years, has averaged 50 per cent yearly, while the increase in business has been much greater.” He also asserted that “the business done in Newburgh during the business portion of the year… greatly exceeds that of any other town, of twice its size, in Southern Indiana.”

Continuing, he indicates that a business to the extent of $120,000 to $135,000 per year was being done by only three of the larger merchants. There was “one pretty extensive clothing store, one clothing and dry goods store, two drug stores, two grocery and provision stores, and a tinning and stove establishment.”

The town also boasted of a “liberal proportion of enterprising and industrious mechanics, such as saddlers and harness makers, boot and shoe makers, wagon makers, coopers, blacksmiths, carpenters, etc.

” There were two “steam flouring mills in operation… ” which turned out “not less than 12,000 barrels of flour…” and the “steam saw mill” which was “one of the best in the Western Country” cut ‘1,500,000 feet of lumber” annually.

Houses and new business buildings were going up. The Central Plank Road from Newburgh to Boonville and Lynnville was under construction, financed by private capital raised largely in Newburgh. A charter was obtained in 1851 for “organizing a company to be called the Newburgh and Vanderburgh Railroad Company. The object of this company is to connect Newburgh with the Evansville and Illinois Railroad, at the nearest and most practicable point, which we think is some six miles from Newburgh, thus giving our town all the advantages of the Evansville and Illinois Railroad”.

In 1852 there was a meeting of citizens to consider “the propriety of a survey and estimate of a branch of the Wabash and Erie Canal from Newburgh.” Such a branch was estimated as being no longer than “‘five miles in length’ and could be constructed at a cost which would “fall short of twenty-seven thousand dollars.” This meeting had probably been instigated as a result of the fact that “six canal boats passed this place on Friday morning last, bound for Evansville— where boats are concentrating preparatory to the opening of the canal.” The good citizens of Newburgh had reason to urge for a branch of the canal with such material evidence of their prospective isolation by progress floating in front of their very eyes. But the branch was never built—and just as well, for the Wabash and Erie Canal was a failure.

Culturally the village was all abustle too. A Mrs. Dunning was operating a music school where the “piano forte, guitar, etc.,”’ was taught for $10.00 per quarter, with an ‘additional charge of two dollars for the use of instruments.”’

Delaney Academy had for several years been in successful operation with regular five-month sessions each beginning the ‘2nd Monday in February and September.” The incredible curriculum was made up of “Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and Geography with use of the Globes; English Grammar, History, and Composition; Mental and Moral Science, Mathematics, Astronomy; Chemistry and Natural Philosophy with use of Apparatus; Greek and Latin Languages.” All of this for an unbelievably small fee and “good boarding could be obtained in private families at from $1.25 to $1.50 per week.” A “Rev. Mr. Cowan” was given much of the credit for the academic success of the academy and he may very well be the J. D. Cowan who will be mentioned later as the first man raised in Newburgh Lodge.

“Cotillion Parties” at Hazen’s Hotel, or at the Mr. Spitz’ Washington Hall, together with annual visits by Spaulding & Rogers Circus with performances given on the “Floating Palace—A Vast Amphitheater . . . with 110 arm chairs, 500 cushioned settees, and 1000 gallery seats…” provided entertainment. Also, probably well attended, were the “Lectures on Phrenology and Magnetism” given by “Madam Casler.” Of a more serious nature, but equally well patronized, were the semi-annual “exhibitions” by students at the end of the terms at Delaney Academy.

Itinerant “Daguerreotype Artists’ put in an occasional appearance and there are probably a good many examples of their craft in the form of pictures “set in lockets, breast-pins, etc. … ” still in the possession of Newburgh folks.

The major complaint pertained to the mails which were carried by boat. Sometimes weeks would go by without a mail being left or picked up and this, it is difficult for us to realize today, was of utmost seriousness in the 1850’s.

This then, was Newburgh. A village in the process of growing; a thriving bit of Indiana somewhat different, in many respects, from other parts of the state. With so many activities, so much business. so much growth, it is not to be wondered at that a Masonic Lodge in town was inevitable. The wonder is that it had not been organized earlier. And do you know—we still think that the death of Mr. Palmer, on the steamer Julia Dean, stranded on Scuffletown Bar, and his burial by Masonic Brothers who were passengers on the boat, had something to do with the birth of our Lodge. Is it mere coincidence too, that two days later, on September 18, 1851, a “Mr, William Perrin, of Ohio died.” This also happened on a stranded boat—the Col. Dickerson. “(The deceased was a member of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, and his remains were interred in the burying ground at Newburgh … by direction of members of the Order who were on board the boat at the time.) It was not long afterward that the Odd Fellows organized a Lodge in Newburgh—maybe as the result of a similar stimulus.


Black, Glenn A., Down through the years : a history of Newburgh Lodge No. 174, F. & A.M., Newburgh, Indiana, Franklin, Indiana : Indiana Freemason, 1955.



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