Vevay is ‘birthplace’ of Masonic Lodge in state

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As Switzerland Lodge #122 moves into a new home, part of the ceremony on Saturday dealt with the long history of Masons here.

The Armstrong Tavern, now the home of Kenny and Carolyn Miller, was the location of the very first meeting of Masons in Indiana. Today, there are more than 400 lodges throughout the state.

Here is some history of the Switzerland Lodge, as it was presented on Saturday:

Although currently known as Switzerland Lodge #122, Vevay Lodge came into existence almost 200 years ago. In all probability the Lodge was organized sometime during the fall of 1817. Vevay or Switzerland Lodge was the second Lodge to be chartered by the Grand Lodge of Indiana. Vevay Lodge #7 was chartered in 1819.

Little is known of it’s early members, its doings or its meeting places. The Old Armstrong Tavern at the corner of Market and Liberty Streets in Vevay was the meeting place for the early members. The Armstrong Tavern House was erected in 1815 and still stands today. Grand Lodge records reveal meetings for Lodge #7 were Thursday on or before the full moon.

Records show William C. Keen as first Worshipful Master who was also Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Indiana from 1819 until 1826. Early records state that William C. Keen was the life of the Lodge. He was also the cause of its untimely death. As written by Benjamin V. Welch, former Secretary of Switzerland Lodge #122, “The Lodge existed less than a score of years, was in difficulties from the start and ended in disgrace. One man given too much authority and being greedy for self-aggrandizement, an opportunist given the opportunity, was the only transgression.” Thus Vevay Lodge #7 came to its end. It existed for about six years, its charter was arrested after four years.

Freemasonry wasn’t evident again in Vevay until 1850 when Masons who lived in Vevay sent a petition to Grand Master Elizur Deming asking for a dispensation to hold a Lodge. The Grand Master issued a dispensation dated April 11, 1850, naming Elijah Collins as Worshipful Master, George Knox as Senior Warden and E. Charles Sugg as Junior Warden. The Lodge received its Charter from Grand Lodge on May 30, 1851. In the Charter George G. Knox is named Worshipful Master, Joseph Malin, Senior Warden and Francis S. Lindley, Junior Warden.

After Switzerland Lodge #122 received its Charter in 1851, meetings were held for two years in the Hall of Indiana Lodge No. 6, I.O.O.F. In 1853, the meeting place was the Temple of Honor Hall. In 1855, the Lodge moved to a room in the old Switzerland County Courthouse, which had been built in 1815.

In 1858, Switzerland Lodge #122 used the Indiana Lodge of Odd Fellows Hall for about three years, then they moved into the Hall of Phoenix Lodge of Odd Fellows in a third story room of the LeClerc House. The Lodge stayed at this location until 1877. A third story room in the building owned by Ulysses P. Schenck at the corner of Pike and Ferry Streets was used until July 1, 1938. The Lodge was then moved to the northwest corner of Main and Ferry Street above the Vevay Deposit Bank.

Switzerland Lodge #122 celebrated its Centennial on August 16, 1951 with the following officers presiding: Max Rosenberger, Worshipful Master; Dutch Peters, Senior Warden; Ben Welch, Junior Warden; Charles Cheever, Senior Deacon; Dick Trinkle, Junior Deacon; Chuck Geiger, Tyler; and Paul Merz, Master of Ceremonies.

Switzerland Lodge moved to the Reveille Building over the Post Office on Pike Street, July 1, 1981. Records state that the Charter was moved the 28th day of October 1981 to that location.

Bennington Lodge #257 gave up its Charter and transferred to Switzerland Lodge #122, August 12, 1996, after many years in the county.

Switzerland Lodge #122 celebrated 150 years on April 28, 2001 with the following officers presiding: Thomas Conroy, Worshipful Master; Jason Jenkins, Senior Warden; Glenn Taylor, Junior Warden; Donald Allen, Treasurer; James F. Baker, Secretary; George Armes, Senior Deacon; Ray Bruce, Junior Deacon; Nelson Turner, Senior Steward; Robert Curlin, Junior Steward; Dennis Napier, Chaplain and Ronald Thornton as Tyler. Brent Wayne Judy, youngest Master Mason ever in the history of Switzerland Lodge #122 was appointed ambassador for the 200th year Anniversary, by Grand Master Gail Kemp.