Fraternity and History
The Past And Present Of Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge No. 262
by Sean S. Dykhouse, PM
The true meaning of fraternity is brotherhood, it has long been established. The group of men that meets under the auspices of the Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan and under the charter of Lodge No. 262 is no different, yesterday, today and tomorrow. The members are brothers all, and their history is just as much a family tree as a listing of historical events one might find in a club’s written timeline.
The original lodge of Freemasons which met in the Ann Arbor, Michigan area was officially founded in 1827, known as Western Star Lodge and received its dispensation on January 16 of that year. A Grand Lodge must hand out the dispensation for a new Lodge, and the Grand Lodge of Michigan had only just been formed as an organization in June of 1826 by the five lodges which predated Western Star Lodge. These earlier lodges had been operating under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodges of New York. They were Zion No. 3, Detroit No. 137, Monroe No. 375, Oakland No. 343, and Menominee No. 374.
Among the founding members of the Western Star Lodge was Mr. Henry Rumsey, the blood brother of one of the two men who founded the city of Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor was founded in 1824 by John Allen of Virginia and Elisha W. Rumsey of New York, who traveled from Detroit by one-horse sleigh with the purpose of establishing a town and selling land. John Allen sold the house he originally built in the area; at the corner of what is now Huron and First Streets, to his brother James in 1824. James Allen constructed on the log cabin home and increased its size to open it as “Allen’s Tavern,” which became well known as “Bloody Corners” because the building had a vivid red paint finish. It was in this very tavern that in 1827 the first Masonic Lodge in the area was formed by a number of local Freemasons including Henry Rumsey, brother of Elisha Rumsey. Western Star Lodge No. 6 received dispensation from the Grand Lodge of Michigan on January 16, 1827.
Unfortunately the Western Star Lodge of Washtenaw County was but short-lived due to the public scrutiny placed on Freemasonry in America as a result of the “Morgan Incident,” an alleged New York attack against a man named William Morgan. Morgan had allegedly announced he planned to publish the secrets of Freemasonry to the general public as the result of a personal vendetta combined with some personal profiteering. As the story goes, Morgan was supposedly kidnapped by Freemasons and held in a New York jail before his disappearance in 1826.
The Morgan Incident led to widespread anti-Masonry in the general population and many good men quit their lodges and denounced Freemasonry as a result. In the Ann Arbor area, members of the Western Star Lodge No. 6 are documented as speaking out against the craft and even John Allen, who was a made a Freemason at the second meeting, as well as Judge Samuel Dexter, went into the business of publishing an anti-Masonic newspaper named the Western Immigrant. By September 17, 1844 the Grand Lodge of Michigan had reformed and helped to re-organize a number of the lodges that had been in the area before the national anti-Masonic climate had taken hold. In Ann Arbor, a brand new lodge was formed instead and it was named Oriental Lodge No. 15 when it was officially chartered on January 13, 1847. This lodge was beset by obstacles to success, however, and lost a number of members due to the California gold rush of 1849 as well as societal factors including a generation gap. By 1858 the Grand Lodge of Michigan had revoked the charter but the Oriental Lodge had not met since August of 1856. During this very time a number of Ann Arbor Freemasons were in the process of building their own Lodge, having demitted (officially left and filed for the paperwork of an authorized membership change) from the Oriental Lodge. This new group was officially chartered as Ann Arbor Lodge No. 85 by the Grand Lodge of Michigan in June 16, 1857, and assumed control of the location and furniture held by the prior Lodge, which was at 109 North Main Street on the third floor of the building.
This location over the next few years and by the late 1860s was the home of the Ann Arbor Lodge No. 85, Golden Rule Lodge No. 159, Washtenaw Chapter No. 6 of Royal Arch Masons, and Ann Arbor Commandery No. 13 Knights Templar. This crowded environment led to a quarrel known as the “Lost Charter Incident” in which occurred on January 27, 1869.
The point of contention that started this incident was the migration of the Ann Arbor Lodge to a new location that had been built and apparently already leased by several of the members at 215-217 South Main Street. Such argumentation and confusion ensued in the discussions in Ann Arbor Lodge No. 85 on how to decide whether to move and how to divide up the furniture of the lodge that it was discovered the charter of the lodge was missing from it’s usual frame. This is an important point because in Free and Accepted Masonry a lodge with no charter document can do no official work without special dispensation by the Grand Lodge, rendering null and void any further voting or official decisions made. While the charter has not to date been found, and was not found on the evening of January 27, 1869, the furniture was divided among the other Masonic bodies in the area, the Golden Rule Lodge, Washtenaw Chapter and Ann Arbor Commandery. The Grand Lodge of Michigan granted special dispensation to Ann Arbor Lodge to meet on three further occasions but only to wrap up any loose ends. A new lodge would have to be formed. Thirteen brothers who had left the closing Ann Arbor Lodge petitioned the Grand Lodge of Michigan and were officially granted the dispensation on March 22, 1869 to form the Fraternity Lodge No. 262 at the new location on 215-217 South Main Street.
Starting with a pool of 45 member Freemasons in 1870, the Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge reached milestones in membership as the years passed, having over two hundred members at the turn of the twentieth century, and reached a peak of membership to-date of over 725 members in the 1920s. Membership declined sharply during the 1930s as a result of the inability of many members to pay their dues during the Great Depression. A postwar boom occurred in the 1950s but not so high as the 700s in the earlier era. By the year 2000, membership had decreased to fewer than 200 members with only 30 or so active Freemasons attending lodge meetings.
The Lodge at 215-217 South Main Street in Ann Arbor was home to Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge until 1885 when the Lodge moved to the third floor of a building at the corner of Huron and Main Streets. This location was where the leather and wood-engraved furniture in use even now in the year 2002 was purchased in 1904. A move to a new temple built specifically as a Masonic Temple in Ann Arbor occurred in 1925, after over 15 years of planning, financial maneuvering and construction. This new temple building was built at 327 South Fourth Avenue starting in October, 1921. This building stayed in use by all the Ann Arbor Masonic Bodies, and indeed space on the ground floor of the building was even leased to the local presiding legal system.
However, in the 1970s a move from this location in downtown Ann Arbor was forced as the building’s next-door neighbor, a Federal Government center, demanded to purchase the land under the imminent domain rights owed to government under real estate law. The governmental plans for the land were originally unpublished but later announced to include a training center for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
A legal battle to this challenge was mounted but failed, and in 1978 a new building was dedicated on West Liberty Street, just outside the city limits of Ann Arbor, which housed the Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge as one of several Masonic Bodies who lease space from an overseeing Masonic Temple Board. The land on Fourth Avenue was never built into a training center or any other structure, and now serves as a parking lot for the fleet of United States Postal Service trucks that deliver mail from the building’s storage center. From this new location, a number of recent and present efforts have begun; while membership in Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge #262 has declined due to the average age of members continuing to grow, a generation gap in the last few years is beginning to close. With over 100 members on its rolls, the Lodge has now 10 or more of its almost 35 active members under the age of 30, and all the Freemasons in the line of Lodge Officers are performing their stations for the first time. In 1999, the Lodge had its first website on the Internet, created by the Treasurer, Arthur Davidge, Past Master of the Lodge and avid computer worker. In 2002, three or more of the enquiries made about membership in Freemasonry have come in as a result of this website. Announcements for degrees and special communications such as Lodge Officer installations are scheduled at meetings and posted to the Lodge website and announced via a statewide email list of Freemasons facilitated and hosted by the Grand Lodge of Michigan.
Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge No. 262 holds business meetings called “regular communications” which are open to Freemasons of the third degree on a monthly basis and opens to confer degrees to candidates and brothers of the lodge on a regular and almost monthly basis. Regular social events for members occur twice monthly and special family social events are at least once each spring and autumn season. The members of the Lodge participate in personal charitable events including fundraising for the Salvation Army, the Ann Arbor Men’s Shelter and are regularly occurring participants in a volunteer effort for the public schools as directed by the Grand Lodge of Michigan called the Beacon Project.
Globally, Freemasons have always supported and in many cases, created public schools. Michigan Freemasons were primarily influential in the Juvenile Diabetes Program and the Student Model Assistance Program that aids teachers in identifying substance-abusing students. In 1817, Michigan Freemasons provided two-thirds of the total amount subscribed to start the University of Michigan. This is still commemorated on the University’s Ann Arbor campus in ‘Mason Hall’ named after Steven T. Mason, a Freemason.
Applauded by the Michigan State Department of Education and Governor John Engler, the Beacon project was a gift of 200,000 hours of volunteer labor to the Michigan Public School System given by the Free and Accepted Masons of Michigan.
The original impetus for the Beacon Project came from Bob Conley, the Grand Master of Michigan Freemasons in 2001 when the project was launched. “This pledge gives Masons the opportunity to make a difference and make themselves known. Too long in the background, and often shrouded in mystery, our Fraternity is eager to demonstrate its important role in society. Masons need to revitalize, to make real, the values and commitments they stand for and it’s my job as Grand Master to support that goal. Beacon is the perfect vehicle for that,” said Conley. Beginning in January 2001, a statewide team of Freemason volunteers statewide began working with local elementary schools, in roles from mentoring to grounds keeping, Michigan Freemasons continue to improve the understanding and education of children in their communities.
Since the beginning of the Beacon Project, Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge Beacon Coordinator, Seymour D. Greenstone, Past Master of the Lodge, has put in weekly visits to an Ann Arbor elementary school to volunteer as a reading instructor and assistant. Beginning in October, 2001, Brothers Fraternity Lodge No. 262 began volunteering at the Ann Arbor Public Schools African American Academy known as the “Saturday Academy” in 3-4 hour increments, providing assistance of at least two brothers each visit. Their names are listed here to recognize and applaud their efforts: Justin Krasnoff, Past Master of the Lodge, Karl W. Grube, Lowell Easton, Michael Kennedy, Vance Power, Brian Shorkey, and Sean S. Dykhouse.
As of this writing the Lodge claims 133 dues paying members and 120 life and prepaid members for a total of 253. Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge No. 262 has seen an overall drop in membership over the last twenty years but has improved the ratio of dues paying and prepaid members over life members. When the Masonic fraternity is described as being benevolent, it is often with a soft and subjective reverence offered by a member of the organization. Many Local Freemasons in its 178-year history have very positively influenced the Ann Arbor community. The University of Michigan, for example, was made possible by a gift of monies from three philanthropic individuals in Detroit, two of whom were freemasons. Many of the early members of the Ann Arbor-Fraternity Lodge have been recognized for their efforts as the years go by, but you may still see their impact even today. Many buildings, organizations, and streets in the city of Ann Arbor are named for freemasons - see if you recognize the names such as Zina Pitcher King, Charles E. Hiscock, Elmer E. Beal, and Rudolph E. Reichert. Their lives are long over but their gifts and contributions to our story continues to grow and flourish.
Anderson, Leigh C., and Bebout, Gaylord N. Jr. Centennial History and Roster 1870-1970, Fraternity Lodge No. 262 F. & A. M. Ann Arbor: Private Printing 1970.
Bidlack, Russell E. John Allen and the Founding of Ann Arbor. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1962.
Grand Lodge of Michigan, “The Beacon Project,” , June 2002.
Greenstone, Seymour. Interview by author. Ann Arbor, Michigan, October 2002.
Mackey, Albert Gallatin. The History of Freemasonry: Its Legendary Origins. New York: Gramercy Books, 1966 (reprint).
Macket, Albert Gallatin. An Encyclopædia of Freemasonry and its Kindred Sciences. Mew York and London: The Masonic History Company, 1918.
Wood, Jack. Interview by author. Detroit, Michigan, September 2002.