We owe our origin as a Lodge to a few young and progressive men who, becoming weary of the prosaic ways of rendering the work in their respective Lodges, and despairing of making a change by isolated efforts, discouraged as they were by many of the older brethren, thought by combining a unity of action with their unity of purpose, to make more manifest the benefits of our Institution by more earnest if not better work. This was no easy task, and much credit is due to the energy and perseverance of our Charter members.
—Brother Willis D. Engle, on the occasion of the celebration of the fourth anniversary of Mystic Tie Lodge, May 28, 1873
Mystic Tie Lodge #398
Chartered: May 28, 1869
As we begin a new year and enter into a new decade, Indianapolis celebrates its Bicentennial. The brethren of Mystic Tie Lodge helped to build this city and to make Indianapolis what it is today. From the first master of the lodge and five-term Indianapolis Mayor John Caven, to the prolific architectural firm of Rubush and Hunter, to the “godfather of historic preservation in Indianapolis,” H. Roll McLaughlin, the brothers of Mystic Tie have laid the city’s foundation and shaped its structure with the working tools of both operative and speculative Masonry.
Mystic Tie Lodge moved to its stunning new home in the Scottish Rite Cathedral in December of 2017. The Scottish Rite Cathedral is a masterpiece of architectural design, recognized by the International Association of Architects as “one of the seven most beautiful buildings in the world.” Designated as significant by the National Register of Historic Places, the Cathedral serves as a continual reminder to Freemasons of where we have been and how we got here.
Upon reflecting with solemn reverence and humility on the storied history of the Mystic Tie Lodge, and with admiration of and gratitude to those who lit the way before us, we look forward to a new dawn. Mystic Tie is set to burgeon into a premier lodge in downtown Indianapolis. We helped build this city. We make good men better. We have a bright future before us.
—Glenn A. Blackwood
142nd Worshipful Master
On behalf of Mystic Tie, Lodge #398 F&AM
That sacred and inviolable bond which unites men of the most discordant opinions into one band of brothers, which gives but one language to men of all nations and one altar to men of all religions, is properly, from the mysterious influence it exerts, denominated the mystic tie; and Freemasons, because they alone are under its influence, or enjoy its benefits, are called "Brethren of the Mystic Tie.”
—Albert G. Mackey, The Mystic Tie, 1867
National Historical Setting
It was November of 1868 and all the country was astir with activity. The smoke from Civil War campfires had given way to the dust of countless travelers riding to set in motion both in North and South the forces of reconstruction and recovery. In like fashion, the West, while extending its frontier and pushing transcontinental railroads through mountain and plain to the Pacific, sought to move gradually out of its great agricultural and mining heritage to meet the developing and threatening urban and industrial challenges of the burgeoning empire builders of the East. The whole country, debt-ridden, and weary of internal conflict, now reached for order, stability, and national solidarity. It was an era of change, adjustment, and progress, which was inspired by a sense of national destiny, was based firmly upon the fundamentals of individual enterprise and strong character, and was illumined in the hearts of many by a deep, abiding faith in a just and omnipotent God.
The representative American of that day in his struggle for security and status had built up a regard for equality among all men that influenced his every thought and action, affected most of the relationships of his life, and brought simplicity and wholesomeness into his social patterns. He began to develop a liking for poems he could recite, tunes he could sing, and pictures which told a story; and he was soon to be introduced to an organization which would meet these tastes in ample measure.
Reflecting his deeper desire for an institution with high moral standards and unimpeachable ideals of belief and conduct, around which men could forever rally for mutual good and for the benefit of all mankind, Freemasonry, after flourishing in England since the formation of its first Grand Lodge in 1717, appeared in America and spread rapidly throughout the Colonies. Descending from Virginia by way of Kentucky, Masonry came to Indiana where, in 1809, Vincennes Lodge No. 15 under charter of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky became the first Lodge established in the Indiana Territory. In the next decade the Grand Lodge of Indiana was founded at Madison in January 1818, less than two years after Indiana in 1816 entered the Union as its 19th State.
In the benevolent form, lofty ideals, and Biblical language of Masonry men everywhere glimpsed the tremendous potential offered by the brotherhood for achieving in vital and orderly fashion the great American dream, already taking shape, of the greatest possible number of people; and, thus, Masonry advanced with great strides in Indiana. At the end of its 50th year in May 1868 the Grand Lodge reported that charters had been granted to 363 Lodges in various parts of the State and that 23 Lodges were currently under dispensation. It was indeed an auspicious time for the humble advent of a new Lodge, destined for greatness in the years to come.
First Quarter Century of Mystic Tie Lodge
Late in the evening of Saturday, September 6, 1868 a small but earnest group of 17 dedicated men, all Master Masons and members in good standing of other Lodges in the city, met in the Lodge room of Centre Lodge Number 23 for the purpose of discussing the steps necessary for the formation of a new Lodge. Their names were: John Caven, E. J. Hardesty, John Reynolds, Charles W. Hewes, Jr., E. S. Folsom, H. S. Bigham, Charles E. Brigham, George B. Engle, Jr., G. W. Davis, Henry C. Adams, George W. Sloan, William S. Cone, A. B. Howard, Austin B. Prather, Melville Strong, Joseph W. Smith, and Eben Smith.
After harmonious discussion, with John Caven acting as Chairman, it was unanimously agreed to proceed as follows:
- To prepare a petition signed by the 17 men to be forwarded to the Grand Lodge requesting permission to organize a Lodge to be named Mystic Tie Lodge, and
- To recommend to the Grand Master the appointment of John Caven as Worshipful Master, George B. Engle, Jr., as Senior Warden, and Joseph W. Smith, as Junior Warden.
At the request of the Chairman the following officer designations were made by unanimous agreement: John Reynolds, Treasurer; William S. Cone, Secretary; E. J. Hardesty, Senior Deacon; A. B. Howard, Junior Deacon; Charles Brigham, Steward; Austin B. Prather, Steward; and Hayden S. Bigham, Tyler.
Under date of November 17, 1868, over the signature of Grand Master Martin H. Rice, the Grand Lodge granted a dispensation to Mystic Tie Lodge No. 398; and the first meeting of the Lodge was called to order by Worshipful Master John Caven on November 24, 1868 in the Lodge room in the Aetna Building on North Pennsylvania Street. At this meeting, as directed in the dispensation, a set of By-Laws was drawn up providing for proper operation of the Lodge, and a copy was forwarded to the Grand Lodge.
The record shows that at the meeting of the Lodge on:
- January 5, 1869, William H. Craft was the first man initiated as an Entered Apprentice.
- March 2, 1869 Brothers Melvin Jillson and W. Albert Wheeler were the first passed to the degree of Fellow Craft.
- March 30, 1869 Brother Melvin Jillson was the first raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason.
The Lodge continued to work actively in processing candidates for degrees; and when the Grand Lodge granted a charter to Mystic Tie Lodge under date of May 25, 1869, the roll of members had increased from 17 to 32.
Presentation of the charter, consecration of the Lodge, and installation of Lodge officers made the evening of May 28, 1869 a gala occasion in the life of the young Lodge. All the ceremonies were conducted by Grand Lodge officers who filled the officer stations of the Lodge, with Right Worshipful William T. Clark, Deputy Grand Master, sitting in the East. It was a matter of regret to everyone that Brother John Caven was unavoidably detained out of the city and could not be present at the ceremonies and the banquet which followed. His installation as Worshipful Master was deferred until the meeting of the Lodge on June 12, 1869.
Evidence of early attention by the Lodge to the Masonic principles of brotherly love and of provision for the relief of distressed brethren appears in these two resolutions adopted by the Lodge in its first meeting in July 1869:
Whereas Centre Lodge No. 23 and Marion Lodge No. 35 kindly extended to us the use of their aprons, jewels, working tools, and fixtures until a regular charter should be received, it is resolved that the thanks of Mystic Tie Lodge be unanimously tendered to these Lodges as a token of our appreciation of their very generous actions toward us. Be it further resolved that the members of this Lodge will ever cherish the kindly feelings of brotherly love which now exist between them and the members of these Lodges, and that starting under their guidance we will endeavor to raise a structure which will be an honor to the Craft."
Whereas the By-Laws of the Indianapolis Masonic Relief Committee having been read and accepted, and a committee named to represent this Lodge, and an annual contribution having been agreed on, it is resolved that this Lodge participate in the work of the city-wide Committee for the relief of distressed Masonic brethren.
Thus, in the first few months of its existence Mystic Tie Lodge set the tone of a relationship with the brethren of other Lodges and of active participation in Masonic relief work that has not only persisted for ten decades but has greatly expanded in depth and scope through the years.
The records show that at the meeting of the charter members on September 6, 1868 when the petition was written, the name Mystic Tie Lodge was unanimously chosen because of its beauty and the wealth of suggestion it contains. The 17 men expressed it as follows: “We believe that the word Mystic suggests something occult, ancient, and emblematic; and the ancient mystics aspired to direct communication with God through inward perception of the mind. And the word Tie symbolizes that fraternal bond which makes us truly one society of friends and brothers where no envy, discord, or confusion is permitted. It so joins us together that we are able to lend our common strength toward lifting a fallen brother and raising him to manhood and usefulness. It anchors us securely against the tides of adversity, sorrow, and suffering, and makes us aware that kindly hands are out stretched to aid and support us. It seems to us that the name Mystic Tie stands as a synonym for all that Masonry teaches and all that Masonry means."
Most Masons agree that, in choosing the name of Mystic Tie for the Lodge, the charter members made an almost perfect selection. It appears to be a reference to that indescribably beautiful bond that fills the hearts of all men of good will with love and concern for the welfare, comfort, and safety of their fellows. Some believe that it implies acceptance of the traditional yoke of obligation to the needy, the helpless, and the unfortunate, carrying with it both the exercise of restraint and the fulfillment of a solemn vow. To others it includes a feeling of awe or wonder, something not to be defined yet underlain with magical properties. And to still others, it possesses a deep spiritual meaning which is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence resulting perhaps from a man's direct communion with his God, when through immediate intuition or spiritual insight his attainment of direct knowledge of God and of spiritual truth enables him to transcend the usual experience of most men.
Dr. Albert G. Mackey writes in his authoritative Encyclopedia of Masonry under the term "mystic tie": "It is that sacred and inviolable bond which unites men of the most discordant opinions into one band of brothers, which gives but one altar to men of all religions, is properly from the mysterious influence it exerts denominated the mystic tie; and Freemasons, because they alone are under its influence, and enjoy its benefits, are often called Brethren of the Mystic Tie."
To me, a humble craftsman, the name of our Lodge suggests the blood tie between kinsmen. It suggests also something of the primitive mystery and venerable allure of our Ancient Craft. It is a term white with age, made poetic by countless associations; and implicit in its glowing loveliness is the eternal beauty of true brotherhood.
On October 8, 1871 the city of Chicago burned to the ground in one W of the worst fires in the history of the world. Millions of dollars worth of property was destroyed; 300 persons were reported killed; and 90,000 were left homeless. The reaction of the Lodge to this sad news was constructive and swift: at the meeting of October 23rd a resolution was passed directing the Treasurer to send $100 to the Masonic Relief Committee for the relief of Masons in Chicago "who were sufferers in the terrible fire." At the next meeting of the Lodge Worshipful Master John Caven read this letter of acknowledgment and grateful thanks received from the Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Illinois:
Your letter of October 7 with enclosure is received. Be pleased to convey to the generous contributors of your Lodge, on behalf of the needy and destitute sufferers in Chicago's calamity, many heartfelt thanks. The amount will pass to my Masonic Relief Board and will be judicially and fraternally dispensed. Your accompanying kind expression of sympathy places us under added obligation to you.
Yours truly and fraternally,
(s) G. C. Cregier, Grand Master."