The following is an excerpt from Brother Carlson’s “One Hundred Years,” printed and bound in celebration of Logan Lodge’s Centennial in 1988. This particular section provides a snapshot of Indianapolis at the time of our founding.
In writing about a century of progress, we must recognize that many changes have occurred in our world since Logan Lodge No. 575 received a charter in 1888.
Grover Cleveland was president of the United States at the time. Indianapolis was a small crossroads town of one square mile. The tallest building was five stories high. City streets were dirt, though one historian records that there were some 300 miles of "improved" streets and 2,865 street lamps. Meridian Street was laid out and exists yet today two and one-half degrees off true north-south compass position.
According to a paper of the time, the Herald, Indianapolis had a population of 125,000, 15 railroads with 120 passenger trains arriving and departing every 24 hours, a stockyards which frequently handled 300 carloads of stock daily, 1,416 retail stores and 26 miles of streetcar lines. The cars were drawn by mules to many of the 35 suburbs — Lawrence, Speedway, Brightwood, Haughville, Mt. Jackson, Broad Ripple, Irvington and many other suburbs that are still known to some of the brothers today. Meridian Street was paved with cedar blocks from New York to 16th Street. Sidewalks were wooden planks laid end to end.
Cows roamed the streets and grazed on the Circle (then called Circle Park and formerly called Governor's Circle). Barbed wire fences were used to protect property, although a law was being enacted to prohibit the use of such wire. Homes were lit by gas and candles and heated by fireplaces and potbellied stoves. Mail order houses were a common sight at that time. Some of these homes had been built with directions and materials from Sears & Roebuck.
The Governor's Mansion, located on the Circle, was never completed. His wife refused to hang out her washing for all to see. Pogue's Run was a small creek you had to cross to reach the Circle. That creek had to be rerouted for raising the railroad tracks serving the growing city and its new Union Station, which was completed in 1888. It was described as an excellent example of Romanesque Revival architecture. It was needed because of the ever-increasing rail traffic in and out of Indianapolis.
The new State Capitol was part of the city’s downtown in 1888. It had replaced a capitol building put up 50 years earlier, when the state capital was moved from Corydon. The State Legislature had passed legislation to build the new State House at a cost of not more than $2 million. Another local paper, the Evening Minute, had an item from a Boston newspaper marveling that the new structure was built at a cost of $136,000 less than was appropriated.
The telephone had appeared in Indianapolis in 1877, only two years after Alexander Graham Bell invented the device in Boston. The city initially had only two phones.
In 1889, construction started on a Civil War monument on the Circle. The General Assembly had appropriated $200,000 after the Grand Army of the Republic (one of whose founders was Gen. John A. Logan, after whom Logan Lodge was named) had raised the sum of $20,000. The state later upped its appropriation to $300,000.
One historian said the discovery of natural gas fields in northern Indiana catapulted Indianapolis from an agricultural economy to an industrial one. Although the city was not actually in the gas fields, it was close enough to benefit greatly.
The 1880s and 1890s were good for Indianapolis. Hotel trade was described as brisk. The Bates House was remodeled and the Denison had opened. The Spencer House, opposite the depot, was advertised as "the only hotel in the city thoroughly equipped with fire escapes" and an elevator, which ran "night and day."
English's Opera House opened in the 80s on the Circle. Actor Lawrence Barrett formally opened the English in "Hamlet,” at about the same time the cornerstone of the State House was laid.
As Indianapolis grew late in the century, income rose and the work week shortened—with the result that there was more leisure time. The 1880s and 1890s were called the "golden years" in Indianapolis; one writer described it as "an era of good feelings and good living, when pioneer hardships had all but disappeared and enlightenment and culture transformed existence into the good life."
In literature, it was the time of Lew Wallace, Maurice Thompson, Charles Major, James Whitcomb Riley and others. Riley had begun to tour neighboring states in 1879. The Fortnightly Club was started in 1885. All kinds of clubs sprang up: literary, musical, art, sewing societies and missionary groups. Composer Irving Berlin was born in 1888.
In 1903, the Wright brothers successfully made their first flight in an airplane, 15 years after Logan Lodge was chartered. In 1905, only 77,400 automobiles were registered in the whole United States. In 1925, the Model T Ford was priced at $260 FOB Indianapolis. The average income for a family was $25 a week. A.C. electricity, aspirin, the zipper, automatic telephones, radio, television, World War I and II, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, men on the moon and the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag with 39 stars were still to come.
Sometime in 1887, the Grand Master of the Ancient and Honorable Fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons in the State of Indiana asked a group of Masons, some of German descent located in southeast Indianapolis (Germantown), to consider the propriety of organizing a Lodge made up of brothers from that area. Five Masons met in the office of Brother Charles Rooker, which was in the rear of Staley's Drug Store at 651 Virginia Avenue, on June 30, 1887. There were 43 signers approving the chartering of another Lodge in this city. Some of the charter members of Logan changed their membership from Lodges as far away as Ohio, Kentucky and Illinois. The charter for Logan Lodge was issued on May 22, 1888, at the meeting of the Grand Lodge in Indianapolis. Logan Lodge No. 575, F. & A. M. held its first meeting on July 2, 1888, and its first officers were installed at that time. Prior to this, Logan Lodge operated U. D. (under dispensation).
General John A. Logan, or "Black Eagle" or "Black Jack,” which were his nicknames, was a statesman, a soldier and a Mason who was born in Illinois on Feb. 9, 1826. One of this Mason's well-known and celebrated contributions to society was "Memorial Day," which was inaugurated on May 30, 1868. General Logan died on Dec. 26, 1886. The idea to honor this great statesman, soldier and Mason by naming our Lodge for him was most popular among those present at that first organizing meeting. Thus we became Logan Lodge.