Freemasonry in Princeton dates from the year 1820 when a number of brethren, members of Vincennes Lodge No. 1, organized the first Lodge under a dispensation issued to Randolph West as Worshipful Master, Wm. B. Dimick as Senior Warden and Walter Wilson as Junior Warden.
The Following year, 1821 the Grand Lodge issued a charter To Warren Lodge, Which was to be renamed Clinton Lodge No. 16, As another Lodge in the Eastern part of the State was already working under the name of Warren Lodge No. 16. Between 1820 and 1831, 59 members had been initiated, being made to the Grand Lodge since 1831, the Charter was arrested and Clinton Lodge No. 16 was removed from the roll of Lodges in Indiana. The Masters’ which served Princeton first Lodge during its short and historic reign were, in order of service: Randolph West, Wm. B. Dimick, John I. Neely, Joel F. Cassey, Wm. Jerauld, Holly Crawford, Thomas J. Evans, Wm. Chittenden, Basil Brown and Onastus D. Chaffee, The latter being Junior Grand Deacon of the Grand Lodge, when disaster overtook Clinton Lodge No. 16.
The History of Princeton Lodge No. 231 began 22 years after Clinton Lodge No. 16 became defunct. Six former members of Clinton Lodge No. 16 delivered a petition to the Grand Lodge for dispensation to form a new lodge. They were Samuel Hall, Wm. Jerauld, Holly Crawford, John Neely, John Arbuthnot and Joseph Chambers.
A Dispensation to institute was issued August 23, 1857. The organization was effected in the Odd Fellows Hall, located one-half block east of the northeast corner of the public square, by deputation from Vincennes Lodge No. 1, under direction of Capt. Dume, a special deputy of the Grand Master.
A charter was granted to Prince Lodge No. 231 F.& A.M. on May 25, 1858. The name of the Lodge was changed from that in the dispensation which was Princeton Lodge. The change resulted on the request of the brethren in honor of Judge William Prince, for whom the town(now city) of Princeton was named. He was also one of the first two persons in Indiana to become a Mason. Solomon D. Bayless, Grand Master, signed the charter. It named William Jerauld as Worshipful Master, John I. Neely as Senior Warden and John F. Howard as Junior Warden.
Prince Lodge No. 231 continued to occupy quarters in the Odd Fellows Hall for several months until found permanent quarters Kaufman’s Hall, located in the second story of a brick building near the northeast corner of the east side of the public square. It was in possession of these quarters when the Civil War began. Brother J.D. Kaufman’s served as Master during one of the years his Hall was occupied by the Lodge. From 1862 through 1868, the Lodge occupied the second floor of Hall’s block, on the northeast corner of the public square Brother John M. Ryan began his term of Master in 1868, the last year that site was in use by the Lodge.
Jessup’s block became the next meeting place. The Lodge used the third floor, rear section of the building that stood on the southeast corner of the public square. The Lodge remained at that location from 1869 to the close of 1890. The building was completely destroyed by fire on the night of February 9, 1886. The Lodge lost everything it possessed including records. While the building was being rebuild, the Lodge held its meeting in the work shop over Brother Jesse Kimball’s Tin and Stoveware Store.
In 1891, the Lodge moved into the William Pfohl building, located near the center of the east side of the public square. It remained at this location until January 1, 1895 at which time it moved to the third story of the Devin block at the southwest corner of the intersection of State and hart streets. The lease on this location expired on January of 1905 and was extended until February of 1905. The Lodge was without a home until May 9, 1905, when our new (and present) home was ready for occupancy.
It was during the year 1901 that necessity of a new Temple was brought before Brother Robert A. Woods, who was Master in that year. On August 1, 1904, the minutes read as follows: “Brother Robert A. Woods, on behalf of the building committee, reported progress on the new Temple and letting of Contract to J.H. Wagner for a sum of $10,000.00” The bid submitted was in the sum of $12,270.00, but the committee by reason of lack of funds, deemed it wise to cheapen the building by making changes and reduced by #2,700.00 the original bid.
On September 5, 1904, the cornerstone was laid in the presence of 100 members of Prince Lodge, many visiting brethren and a large group of citizens. As before mentioned, the lease on the Lodge Hall in Devin block expired and could not be extended beyond February 15, 1905. On that date we sold the furniture in those quarters and from that time until May 9, 1905, we were without a home of our own. Our business meetings were held for the most part in Brothers Kimball’s Tin Shop on the second floor. For Degree Work we rented the Odd Fellows Hall for one dollar per night.
On May 9, 1905, we met in our new Temple for the first time. It was by special dispensation from the Most Worshipful Master Geo. E. Grimes. The Temple was far from being completed, but the upper room was made adaptable and there our work progressed for several months. The day of dedication was January 11, 1906. It was performed under the supervision of the Most Worshipful Grand Master Alfred W. Emery.
On December 8, 1987 180 members of Owensville Lodge No. 364 Consolidated with Prince Lodge No. 231
On September 10, 2005 we had 100 Year Rededication of lying of the cornerstone. It was under the supervision of the Most Worshipful Grand Master Gail N. Kemp.
Prince Lodge would like to dedicate this brief history to the memory of our late brother Robert A. Woods, who laid the cornerstone to our Temple and was a dedicated Mason throughout his life.
Excerpted from “Brief history of Prince Lodge No. 231”
Compiled by Brothers Robert A. Woods, Wm. T. Lynn and John Foster (1968)