The first large migration into the Indiana Territory took place after the War of 1812 with the first settlers populating the area along the Ohio River. Indiana became a state in 1816. As the volume of migration increased, the population settled in a northerly and westerly directions. Huntington County was established in 1832 and “the town of Mt Etna was located on a bluff above the Salamonie River and was laid out in 1839” (Huntington County History Book, 1914, p. 361).
The town’s location was at a point where four townships intersected and two well-traveled roads crossed. What eventually would become Indiana State Road 9 had become the major north/south route from Ft Wayne to Indianapolis. State Road 124, an east/west road from the Ohio state line half way across the state, where it joined US 24 near Logansport.
An outgrowth of the Civil War in the northern states was the creation of a veteran organization named the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR). The young men who had served together came home with the desire to continue the sense of friendship and camaraderie developed during their years in service. The GAR helped fulfill the veterans’ need for male companionship and it could be said to have helped introduce an environment for the growth of fraternal organizations.
Mount Etna Lodge #333 was created in 1866 after a request was made to King Lodge #246 in Warren, Indiana, recommending the formation of a Lodge in Mt Etna. A charter was issued by the Grand Lodge of Indiana the following year and continues to be prominently displayed near the entrance to the Lodge. “On March 21, 1866, Mount Etna Lodge, No. 333, Free and Accepted Masons, was organized…By 1885 the membership was but twenty-five, but since then there has been a revival and in 1913 the lodge reported fifty-three in good standing”. (Huntington County History Book, 1914, p. 362).
Once the pioneering activities of the first-generation settlers was complete, such as clearing land, building houses and farm buildings, and establishing small local industries, more time and attention was available for social activities. Leisure time increased, discretionary spending was more readily available, and joining organizations became a popular pastime.
The earliest available Lodge record is a small pocket size ledger with dates that range from 1866 to 1871. Most entries are on separate pages with member’s names and payment of quarterly dues in the amount of 75 cents. Minutes as such are not included, but other miscellaneous entries detailed when members were raised. Undated entries included; “received on rent from different members $55, hall rent $50, loaned cemetery $55”. While these amounts may seem small by today’s standards, keep in mind that member dues were $3.00 per year. These same entries beg answers to the questions, “What was being used as a Lodge Building and what was being rented that required the amount of $50 or $55?
By 1903 discussions were begun to build a new Lodge building and by 1908 the building was completed. The thick walled cement blocks used were actually made in Mt Etna with the sand coming out of the Salamonie River. The building was only half its current size, with the downstairs rented as a grocery store. Six months after paying off the building loan in 1914, talk began for the need to build an addition. No information is available as to when the north half of the existing Lodge building was added, but it doubled the size of the building and added a basement under the addition. From the time the first part of the building was completed, the intention was to rent the first floor to a business to offset some of the cost of operation. The first receipt for rental of the grocery store was recorded in 1914. Over the years several different individuals operated the store with the last receipt for rental recorded in October, 1944, when it apparently closed. During the 1950’s the northern half of the first floor of the Lodge building was used by the Mt Etna Conservation Club with “match shoots” being held in the basement. The back part of the first floor was used as a meeting place for the local Boy Scout Troop.
The Mt Etna Order of Eastern Star #581 was dedicated on January 26, 1952, with 30 original members. Through the years of its existence this chapter appeared to be both active and well attended. Like many Masonic organizations, a membership peak was reached in the 1970’s and a long slow decline occurred over the next several years with the chapter closing in 1988.
In 2016 the Mt Etna Lodge celebrated 150 years as a chartered lodge. Over its many years it has experienced the ebbs and flows of membership and has, at times, struggled to continue. Today the Lodge is in very good condition with a dedicated group of members. Its variety of activities and outreach, financial stability, and strong friendship and bond among members enhances its appeal.
Mt Etna Lodge #333 is still an active lodge and continues to imbue the same Masonic principles as it did at the time it was founded, the tenets being brotherly love, relief, and truth. The triad ideals are expressed today through socialization, family involvement, and benevolence, the hallmark of the Mt Etna Lodge’s past, present and future.
Indiana Freemason Magazine - Winter 2015
Indiana Freemason Magazine - Summer 2015
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