February 9, 2018

Territorial Masonry: Eufaula Lodge No. 1 AF&AM

 By T.S. Akers

By the 1820s the southwestern border of the United States reached to Fort Smith, Arkansas. In order to protect the border, Colonel Matthew Arbuckle established Fort Gibson in 1824 at the confluence of the Grand and Arkansas Rivers. After the Indian Removal Act of 1830 the post would take on a peace keeping role between the Plains Indians and the Five Tribes who came to call the new Indian Territory home. The placement of Fort Gibson proved to be a detriment to the Army as the post flooded often and many a soldier died of disease; but the post was in relative proximity to Tahlequah, capital of the Cherokee Nation, and Park Hill, home to several leading Cherokee statesmen.[i] It was here that Freemasonry arrived in the Indian Territory and a charter was issued to Cherokee Lodge No. 21 on November 9, 1848, by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.[ii] In time the Fraternity would flourish across the Five Tribes, including the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.

While Tahlequah was fast becoming a bustling tribal capital, Fort Gibson was the center of military operations and commerce in the Indian Territory. Though Fort Gibson was just twenty-five miles from Tahlequah, the distance often made it difficult for the Masons there to attend lodge without interfering with their duties on post. As such, it was on November 5, 1850, that Fort Gibson Lodge No. 35 was chartered. Within two years another lodge was established near a frontier post, Choctaw Lodge No. 52 at Doaksville, near Fort Towson. The desire for Freemasonry amongst the Cherokees was further fueled in 1853 when Flint Lodge No. 74 was established at Flint near present day Stillwell. As can be discerned, the first four lodges established were composed mostly of Cherokee and Choctaw citizens. Though several Muscogees were Masons, they chose not to affiliate with lodges in the region.[iii]

Old Creek Agency in the 1850s
An oil painting by Vinson Lackey
(From the collections of the Gilcrease Museum)

It was in 1855 that the prominent Creek citizen George W. Stidham led the movement to establish a lodge within the Creek Nation.[iv] Stidham had been made a Mason in Washington, D.C., while attending to tribal affairs and had taken numerous “higher degrees.” Legend has it that Stidham, the Rev. C.M. Slover, and Joseph Coody (a member of Cherokee Lodge) traveled by horseback to Little Rock, Arkansas, to obtain a dispensation for a new lodge.[v] And thus, on November 9, 1855, Muscogee Lodge No. 93 was chartered at the Creek Agency by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas.[vi] At this time, the Creek Agency was located at the base of Fern Mountain on the southern bank of the Arkansas River.[vii] In addition to Stidham, other notable Creek citizens held membership in Muscogee Lodge, including Samuel Checote and Daniel N. McIntosh.[viii]

George Washington Stidham
(Courtesy of the National Anthropological Archives, Smithsonian Institution)

The annual reports to the Grand Lodge of Arkansas show that Muscogee Lodge No. 93 had 26 members in 1856. This number had grown to 41 by 1859. Masonry in the Indian Territory prospered until the outbreak of hostilities in 1861.  All of the Five Tribes became embroiled in the conflict and Masonic activity in the region ceased. The proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas make particular note of lodges being destroyed as Federal troops moved through that state.[ix]

The lodges of Indian Territory were carried on the rolls of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas through the Civil War, though no dues payments or annual reports were being sent to Arkansas. By 1865, the Indian Territory lodges were considered to be in default. To remedy this, they were required to provide copies of their charters, to prove they still existed, and remit their outstanding dues by June 1, 1866, or their charters would be withdrawn. Having received no response by the given date, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas withdrew the charters of Fort Gibson, Choctaw, and Muscogee Lodges in 1867.[x]

The reality of the situation was that the charter of Muscogee Lodge still existed. Joseph Coody had carried the charter with him throughout his service with the Confederacy.[xi] As men returned to what was left of their homes, they began to resume their Masonic activity when possible. Those Indian Territory lodges that responded to the notice sent them by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas reported that few of their members were left in the region. Cherokee Lodge for example, had also saved its charter, but only had 5 members still within the jurisdiction of the lodge.[xii]

After the war, Stidham moved to Eufaula and opened a store. It was in the second story of that edifice that Muscogee Lodge reconvened.[xiii] The Brethren labored diligently until early 1874 when they again journeyed to Little Rock, Arkansas, to make payment for all accounts due and insure their charter was valid.[xiv] For the sum of $80, Muscogee Lodge was able to settle their accounts and secure permission to resume labor. Unfortunately, Muscogee Lodge’s original number had been reassigned by the Grand Lodge of Arkansas and a new charter was issued as Muscogee Lodge No. 90.[xv]

The year 1874 was a busy one indeed for Muscogee Lodge. Having just restored their charter in the spring, their presence would be requested in the fall for the purpose of forming a Grand Lodge. Again traveling by horseback, George W. Stidham along with the Rev. H.F. Buckner arrived in Caddo, I.T., after two days ride. Along with representatives of Doaksville Lodge No. 279 and Caddo Lodge No. 311, the Grand Lodge of Indian Territory was formed on October 5, 1874. The first Grand Master was Granville McPherson, editor of the Caddo Star, with Stidham serving as Grand Treasurer and Buckner as Grand Chaplain.[xvi] Owing to the numbering under the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, the lodges of the newly formed Grand Lodge of Indian Territory became Muscogee Lodge No. 1, Doaksville Lodge No. 2, and Caddo Lodge No. 3.[xvii] Muscogee Lodge would change its name to Eufaula Lodge in 1889.[xviii]

While the town of Doaksville and its lodge is nothing more than a memory, in 1981 the Masons of Eufaula Lodge No. 1 AF&AM broke ground on a new meeting hall. There they remain as a monument to those early Brethren of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation.


[i]  “Fort Gibson,” Oklahoma Historical Society's Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, <http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/F/FO033.html>, Accessed 4 November 2012.
[ii]  Charles E. Creager, History of Freemasonry in Oklahoma (Muskogee, Oklahoma:  Muskogee Print Shop, 1935), 20.
[iii]  Creager, 23-28.
[iv]  Ibid., 28.
[v]  “Eufaula Masonic Lodge:  Oldest in Oklahoma,” The Indian Journal, 2 March 1922, p. 3.
[vi]  Creager, 28.
[vii]  Thomas F. Meagher, "Map of the Old Creek Agency: 1851-1876" Oklahoma Historical Society Map Collection (Tulsa, 1938).
[viii]  Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge AF&AM of the Indian Territory (Caddo: Oklahoma Star, 1875), 24.
[ix]  Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge F&AM of the State of Arkansas (Little Rock: 1856-1862).
[x]  Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge F&AM of the State of Arkansas (Little Rock: 1865-1867).
[xi]  “Eufaula Masonic Lodge:  Oldest in Oklahoma.”
[xii]  Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge F&AM of the State of Arkansas (Little Rock: 1867).
[xiii]  “Eufaula Masonic Lodge:  Oldest in Oklahoma.”
[xiv]  “Eufaula Masonic Lodge #1:  Sesquicentennial Anniversary,” The Indian Journal, Spring Expo 2005, p. 19.
[xv]  J. Fred Latham, The Story of Oklahoma Masonry (Guthrie: Grand Lodge of Oklahoma, 1978), 10-11.
[xvi]  Creager, 41-46.
[xvii]  “Eufaula Masonic Lodge #1:  Sesquicentennial Anniversary.”
[xviii]  Proceedings of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge AF&AM of the Indian Territory (Muskogee: Phoenix Steam Printing Company, 1889), 66.

1 comment:

  1. I will visit the Lodge of Indian Degree! TFA
    Raffaele Maddaloni Italian Master Mason of Caradoc Lodge No.1573
    Swansea South Wales UK