Tiffin Lodge, many names - One Fraternity
The first Masonic Lodge in Seneca County was chartered on January 25, 1825, in Melmore Ohio. The founding members formed LaFayette Lodge No. 77. At first, meetings were held in the homes of the members and often a log hut was used for Lodge meetings. During the spring and summer of 1828, a Masonic hall was built in Melmore at the cost of $440.00. It was built above Honey Creek, near the covered bridge. During the existence of Lafayette Lodge No.77, all business was transacted in the Entered Apprentice Degree. The By-Laws specified that the Lodge should be opened at 2:00 PM and closed by 9:00 PM. The fees were $5.00 for each degree. No dues were charged except twenty-five cents per year for Grand Lodge dues. The Secretary received twenty-five cents and the Tyler fifty cents for their services at each meetings.
The first communication to be held in Tiffin was on August 10, 1833. They originally met in a building owned by Richard Sneath. Soon thereafter they met on the second floor of the first Seneca County Court House on Court Street by the alley. At the first meeting of Lafayette Lodge held in Tiffin, when they made ready to pass the ballot box on a candidate, it was found that the ballot box had not made the move to Tiffin and the balloting had to be postponed until the next meeting. From this date, for a period of almost three years, meetings were held alternately between Melmore and Tiffin. From 1836 on, all meetings were held in Tiffin.
The last recorded meeting of Lafayette Lodge No. 77 was held September 1, 1838, at which time the various means and plans were discussed as to the future of the Lodge, owing to the severe persecution of its members. From 1839 to late 1841, no meetings were held because of the very strong anti-Masonic feelings generated from the “Incident of Morgan,” and was at its height at that time. In 1839, the Lodge hall in Melmore was sold to Ester Hill, who converted it into her residence. It was during this time period that the original charter of LaFayette Lodge was lost or stolen.
On November 18, 1841, a number of the members of Lafayette Lodge No. 77, together with several unaffiliated brethren residing in the vicinity, met at Tiffin and drafted a petition to the Grand Lodge of Ohio for a dispensation to receive a renewal of their Charter and to resume work. On January 29, 1842, Lafayette Lodge was reorganized and the name changed to Sandusky Lodge No. 77, Free and Accepted Masons.
When the Lodge reformed, they met in an old brick building on South Washington St. which was owned by Josiah Hedges, and for a time afterwards was occupied by Grey & Stevenson. In 1851, they moved into a two story frame structure that stood on the river bank at the mouth of Rock Creek which was occupied by B. Land and J. M. WIlson. The Advertiser Tribune occupied this building for a number of years after. In 1853, Sandusky Lodge No. 77 moved their meeting place to the John G. Gross building over the Old Webster Hall, more recently the location of Schwable Hardware, which now is a parking lot for the county.
A second Lodge was formed in Tiffin. Tiffin Lodge No. 320 was chartered on October 20, 1859. For a few years, Tiffin had two Lodges meeting within the city. On July 9, 1866, Tiffin Lodge No. 320 voted to surrender its charter and consolidate with Sandusky Lodge No. 77. At this time the name was changed to Tiffin Lodge No. 77 Free and Accepted Masons. The Lodge and its name have remained unchanged since that time.
On March 24, 1883, the last lodge meeting was held in the John G. Gross building. The Lodge moved to the Grummel-Remmele block for the next few years until a permanent home was found in the Flege, Loesser, and Grammes Building. These rooms were above what are now the Meyer’s Building, Larry’s Shoes, and DP’s Bar. This Lodge hall still remains as one large room over those businesses. It was occupied for a time by the Fraternal Order of Elks.
In November 1901, the Masonic Lodge moved to the Remmele block at the corner of Madison and Washington St. In the next few years, the Masons had the idea to purchase the building they occupied. They formed a building committee to address the feasibility of such a purchase. The report of the committee in January of 1909 stated that purchasing the current building would not be financially feasible at this time. They did not believe the Masons of Tiffin could raise the funds necessary to purchase and maintain the building they occupied. They also recommended a permanent committee be formed to look into the finances of the Masonic bodies and invest as they found prudent with the aim of soon purchasing or building a structure dedicated to Masonry in Tiffin.
Such a committee did form and in early 1912, another committee was formed which had members from all the Masonic Bodies in Tiffin. Their purpose was to study the feasibility of purchasing or building a structure wholly owned and operated by the Masonic bodies in Tiffin. In May of 1912, the committee made a report to each of the Masonic bodies in Tiffin. The report listed the recommendation for the new structure which included business rooms and a ballroom on the first floor, a dining facility with full kitchen in the basement, a club area for the members on the second floor, and dedicated meeting rooms on the third floor. To ensure there would be other revenue generating possibilities when the structure was completed, it was strongly recommended the building be located “within the zone or sphere of the business section of the city.”
They had located property on South Washington Street that was then owned by George Loomis and the Smith estate. Purchasing these properties would cost an estimated $10,500 at that time. The construction was estimated to cost between $45,000 and $50,000 depending on the materials and final designs. Those properties were indeed purchased and the location is the site of the current Masonic Temple.
Contributions from members were expected to reach approximately $20,000 (a considerable sum for donations in those days). Stocks were sold to members and the Masonic bodies for $100 a share, and discussions were held on the possibility of offering bonds for sale with an interest rate of 4% to be redeemed by the Tiffin Masonic Temple Corporation. 259 shares of stock in the Tiffin Masonic Temple Company were sold to 47 members between November 23, 1912 and September 6, 1921. At $100 per share, the members bought $25,900 worth of interest in the new Masonic Temple, quite a sum of money to be raised during that time period.
Construction began on the current Masonic Temple in 1913, with a cornerstone laying event which drew close to 1000 Masons and friends. The cornerstone laying ceremony was conducted by the Grand Lodge of Ohio with the entire compliment of Grand Lodge officers present. Presiding over the ceremony was the Grand Master of Masons in Ohio, Most Worshipful Brother Frank Marquis of Mansfield. There were also in attendance several representatives of all the York rite bodies in Ohio, the Grand Chapter, Grand Council, and Grand Commandery.
At the opening of the Grand Lodge session, H. H. Frazier, chairman of the general committee for the day, presented the Grand Master a walnut gavel that had been turned from wood taken from a sewer trench 10 feet below the street level of the temple. The wood was part of the old Corduroy Road, often called Plank Road, that had been in use seventy five years before. It was used throughout the entire ceremony. A squad of special policemen had been sworn in the day before to look after the autos of visiting Masons. The special officers were members of Tiffin Lodge.
The construction was completed in 1915, at which time all the Masonic bodies meeting in Tiffin moved to their current location. This building has been the continued home of all Masonic bodies in Tiffin to its present day. The one hundredth anniversary of the Lodge was celebrated in 1942. In 1992, the Grand Lodge of Ohio helped celebrate the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Lodge by holding a reconsecration ceremony with most of the Grand Lodge officers present. The one hundred seventy fifth anniversary occasioned a reconsecration of the Lodge in 2017 by the Grand Lodge of Ohio.