FARMERS LODGE # 168 Ancient Free & Accepted Masons

"A Lodge with History, Making History."

"Seeking Our Masonic Treasures - February 2, 2008"

or, "A Groundhog Day Adventure in Iowa."

Kinross, Iowa, Brick Block in the Early 1900s - Would the Masonic artifacts still exist?  As of February 5, 2008, the lodge building would be razed, and anything in it forever buried in the rubble that would be bulldozed into the basement.

While setting up the room for the last lodge meeting, I asked Brother "Bus" Seitsinger about the different places the lodge used to meet in the old days.   There were a couple places up north in a place called Foote, Iowa.   Foote is an archaic name attached to the old post office at Hinkletown.   The P.O. was moved to Greene Valley in the 1880s, but from the early days everything within a few miles of Hinkletown was called Foote, due to the area covered and served by the post office.   Back then, even Greene Valley was called Foote.   Eventually, the railroads went through at three nearby places other than Hinkletown and Greene Valley, and both places died a slow death, along with Foote, which was discontinued as a post office in 1903.  For the men of the lodge, which started in 1863, enough people had moved away from Foote by 1901 that they also decided to move the lodge.   Since most of the men had moved their families to Kinross, a new railroad town in Liberty Township, Keokuk County, that's where the lodge decided to move.    In 1900 a new brick block was built in Kinross, with some fine new stores and a couple two-story brick buildings that became the "anchor" of the business district.  There was a bank, a restaurant, a hardware store, and feed store, among other businesses that made up that brick block.   The block fronted the railroad depot and was quite the busy place on any given day.  The Farmers Lodge moved to the second floor of the new brick block in 1901.   It was quite spacious, and at the opposing ends of the large room were built fancy platforms for the Worshipful Master and the Senior Warden. 

As time has its way with anything man constructs, the old brick block was falling in on itself by early 2008.  They tell me it started with a big wind storm in the 1970s, then a tornado in 1984.   They repaired the roof, but it never was the same after that.  Once the roof starts to go in a building, everything else goes too.   The two buildings were the last remaining piece of the old brick block, the rest having been torn down years ago.  I remember a picture postcard created by a Mr. Kerr, a druggist of Kinross, with the old brick block in its glory, and a trolley car transposed in front as an advertising gimmick.   Anyway, back to Brother Bus and his story.   He mentioned that they had to vacate the two-story building in a hurry, to find a new place for the lodge to meet.   He said he wasn't certain they were able to remove all the lodge belongings.   Well, being in the process of writing up the lodge history, that's all we needed to hear.  Perhaps there were some old lodge treasures in that building.  This sounded like an adventure waiting to happen.  A couple discussions took place, and then the news that the building was going to be torn down the following week, it was literally falling in on itself; much of the first floor was setting in the basement.   Several men of the lodge arranged a quick expedition to Kinross, in the snow, to ascertain a plan for entry and determine the owner for permission.  The city fathers of Kinross had just taken possession and were planning demolition within a few days.  The place had become too unsafe to leave standing.  Were there old lodge treasures to be found?   Could there be old records, working tools or lodge jewels?  The place had been left standing open for 30 years.   It was unlikely, but the curiosity and sense of satisfaction in knowing, either way, kept the brothers plotting forward.  Permission for entry was granted and a "rescue mission" took shape.

The interior of the brick block at Kinross, with much of the first floor having fallen into the basement.   On the second floor, freshly fallen snow covered the area.  A space underneath the Senior Warden's platform was filled with books and records.  A lodge member leafs through old Grand Lodge books dating back to 1864.  Much of the material had rotted beyond recognition, but a Farmers Lodge record dated 1872, barely legible, helped fill in some gaps of membership for the written lodge history.  This showed that some influential businessmen of Williamsburg, Iowa, belonged to the Farmers Lodge at Foote, Iowa, when the lodge met in Greene Township, Iowa County.  As we gathered the records, the old books were tossed out the 2nd floor window to members waiting below.

The second floor of the brick building at Kinross, where Farmers Lodge # 168 met regularly from 1901 through the 1980s.   Note the remains of the platform for the Worshipful Master at the far end.  Photograph taken from the Senior Warden's platform.  In all, 21 various books and an old lodge return from 1872 were retrieved.  Members salvaged a few bricks for mementoes of the occasion.   Former residents of Kinross will remember the height of business activity of the old town, and the place of businesses and organizations that once thrived in the brick business block.  Lodge members are gathering and preserving this history.  If you have an old photo or family history to share, please Contact Us!

      

Above:  Left - Volunteers peer out second floor window.  Right - Cornerstone of 1900 brick block H.T. Dildine, M.A. Fischer.

Lodge Artifacts  found in second floor of old 2-story lodge building in Kinross include Grand Lodge proceedings beginning  in 1864 up to 1948, and an annual Farmers Lodge return from May 1872. 

The building was demolished  within a few days of the rescue mission.   Long time members say the building became too cold and drafty in the winter and in disrepair when they vacated in the late 1980s, and moved to the Christian Church in Kinross.  A tornado damaged the roof of the lodge in 1984, minutes after a lodge meeting. 

 

Grand Lodge Proceedings and other artifacts removed from the old Kinross brick block just days before demolition. 
Not quite the National Treasure or Confederate Gold, but still important to the brothers of the lodge.

                          

Left: After a day of adventure, the Masonic brothers, family and friends pose for a group photo.   Our "treasures" having been found and retrieved, consisting of old lodge records.  Lance, at right,  a volunteer, gives a general "thumbs-up" of satisfaction. 

Members of Farmers Lodge # 168 meet in the old brick building in 1963.


EARLY LODGE HISTORY:
Organized in Washington County by Men from Richmond and Daytonville who moved to Foote


Civil War Soldier from Foote, Iowa.

  The Farmers Lodge #168 Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons of Kinross, Iowa has a particularly rich tradition that began 145 years ago at Foote P.O., Greene and Fillmore Townships, in Iowa County in the year 1863.   This is one of the oldest and longest continuously operating lodge organizations in the  area.  Historically, the Farmers Lodge was organized by officers and members of the Dayton Lodge # 149, near Wassonville, Lime Creek Township, Washington County, and who were also charter members of the Masonic Lodge # 96 at Richmond, Iowa that was organized in 1855.   Many of these same men met in special session at the Dayton Lodge  and asked for a dispensation in May 1863, to begin a new lodge in Greene Township, Iowa County, slightly south and east of the Greene Valley School.   The Farmers Lodge was officially chartered in 1864.  Nelson Rogers, formerly of Richmond, became the first Worshipful Master.  Nathan Littler, elected to the Iowa House of Representatives in 1863 and merchantile business partner of Harmon Henkle of Hinkletown, visited the lodge regularly and was instrumental in its upbuilding and success.

The lodge experienced significant growth 1863 -66, during and immediately following the Civil War, with several veterans returning home to Foote, and becoming members and officers in the lodge.   The heritage of this fraternal brotherhood includes some very unique individuals.

Sgt. Nicholas C. Messenger, Company I, 22nd Iowa, was a hero at Vicksburg, who on the 22nd of May, 1863, led a group of men to capture Fort Beauregard.  His valiant efforts have been described in several accounts by notable war historians of the time regarding his heroic actions.  Nick Messenger enlisted from Foote, Iowa on August 18, 1862, and was mustered out on July 25, 1865. 

 

Jerome Palmer, Company B, 28th Iowa

 

Flag from Company B, 28th Iowa Infantry, hand sewn by the ladies of Marengo, Iowa County, Iowa, was carried by into battles by Company B and bears the artillery shots and blood stains of one of its carriers.  The large flag is now preserved at the Iowa Masonic Library and Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

Jerome Palmer (left), one of our early lodge members, enlisted in Company B, 28th Iowa Infantry on July 24, 1862 and served in the Civil War for three years.  He was promoted to company fifer on April 6, 1863, and was in battle with the flag.  He mustered out at Savannah, Georgia on July 31, 1865, and returned to the Foote area, working with Harmon Henkle and Franklin Pettibone, both lodge members, at Hinkletown, Foote P.O.  He married Pettibone's daughter Mary Ann.

 

Benjamin F. Booth and David W. Connelly left the Foote neighborhood to enlist into Company I, 22nd Iowa,  along with several of their friends.  It was the beginning of a journey that would lead to their capture at the Battle of Cedar Creek on October 19, 1864 and imprisonment in some of the worst of human conditions ever experienced, first at Libby and then the infamous Salisbury prison.  In prison Booth noticed that Confederate and Union men who were Masons had a special bond, even though they were on opposing sides.  He vowed if he got out of there alive he would join the lodge.  He weighed 81 lbs. at the time of his release, and returned home with typhoid pneumonia.  Thanks to the loving attention of his wife Sarah, Benjamin F. Booth returned to good health, and he and his neighbor David Connelly both joined the Farmers Lodge # 168, while remaining in the Hinkletown area until the early 1870s, when B.F. Booth moved to Victor, Iowa, in Hardin Township, Iowa County.  He and Sarah later moved to Brooklyn, Iowa and then to Indianola.  In 1897, Booth published his book Dark Days of the Rebellion, Life in Southern Military Prisons (at right), with the diary of information he kept on scraps of paper while in prison.  Although published a full 30 years after the war, the country was not yet ready to revisit the tragic experience, and Booth's book did not sell well.  

Benjamin F. Booth, an early member of Farmers Lodge #168 wrote his account of life in Libby and Salisbury prisons during the Civil War.  Booth Publishing Company, Indianola, Iowa, 1897.   His work was republished by Steve Meyer, Meyer Publishing in 1996, with some nice commentary and interpretation of the times.

     Several more Civil War soldiers returned home to Foote and joined our Lodge:


 

The businessmen of Hinkletown (above) were the principle officers and members of Farmers Lodge # 168 during the 1870s.  Each of their business locations is noted in the map above (1874).  These included Edwin H. Dixon, James A. Miller, John F. Baughman, William Watkins, William Carter, C.F. Lytle, B. F. Pettibone, Adam Wiseman and Philetus Axtell.  Harmon Henkle, the namesake of Hinkletown, was an early lodge member in 1863, and was treasurer for several years.  His general store is shown at the far right, north side of Main Street.  Philetus Axtell's blacksmith shop is located on the left end, north side of Main Street (marked "B. Sh.") Jerome Palmer worked for Henkle and Pettibone. These dozen businessmen of Hinkletown were key leaders of Farmers Lodge # 168 during the peak of Hinkletown's existence.

 

Edwin H. Dixon was a sergeant in Company D, 18th Iowa Infantry.  When he returned from war, he engaged in the mercantile business at Hinkletown, Foote P.O. (at left), with business partner James A. Miller.  Miller moved with his parents to Iowa in 1854 and entered land in Greene Township, near the site of the Greene Valley School, and what became the first location of Farmers Lodge # 168.  After the breaking out of the Civil War, he journeyed over to Illinois and enlisted in 1864, Company B, 150th Illinois Infantry. His career as a soldier was cut short by the close of the war in 1865, when he was mustered out and came back to Foote.  Dixon and Miller both joined the Farmers Lodge, each holding officer positions during the time they ran the general store on Hinkletown's Main Street.  Philetus M. Axtell was a Corporal in Company H, 2nd Iowa Infantry, and when he returned became one of multiple blacksmiths at Hinkletown, and a lodge member and officer during the 1860s.  Jerome Palmer, was a fife player for Company B, 28th Iowa Infantry, a lodge member and officer, and business associate of Harmon Henkle and B.F. Pettibone.  John F. Baughman, Physician and Surgeon, was the town doctor for Hinkletown, also located on Main Street.  He was Secretary of the Farmers Lodge for several years during the 1870s.  William Watkins, who settled at Foote in 1852, operated brick manufacturing for 14 years at the Hinkletown site, and was an officer in our lodge during the 1870s.  William Carter also ran brick manufacturing at Hinkletown and was a lodge member during the 1870s.  C.F. Lytle, also a member and officer of Farmers Lodge operated a general store and was post master of Foote Post Office on the south side of Hinkletown's Main Street.  B. F. Pettibone and Adam Wiseman, both lodge members, operated the Henkle sawmill during the 1870s.  Harmon Henkle, an early lodge member of 1863, ran several businesses in Hinkletown, including the Pioneer General Store of Henkle and Littler.  Nathan Littler, Henkle's partner, was a State Representative and Lodge member from Washington County, visiting our lodge often.

General Store letterhead of Dixon and Miller, 1879, Foote, Iowa County, Iowa.  Both were Civil War veterans and Lodge Officers.

Map showing Hinkletown, Foote Post Office and proximity to the English River, and the village of Green Valley, 1874.  The Farmers Lodge # 168 began meeting in adjoining Greene Township (to the east), occasionally at the Foote Post Office at Hinkletown, and in the 1880s, over the general store at Green Valley, located on the English River (see Green Valley Mill on map above.) 

        

Hinkletown, Foote P.O., 1874:  (Left) From the Atlas of Iowa County, Iowa,  Harrison and Warner, Clinton, Iowa, 1874.  This is the earliest known published layout of Hinkletown.

By this time the town had begun to experience a decrease in size and population, with the relocation of Harmon Henkle, an early lodge officer, his family and several business associates, to the new railroad town of Keota, Iowa, nine miles directly south, in January of 1872.  Farmers Lodge member Jerome Palmer built Henkle's new general store in Keota.  Henkle, Palmer and several of their Hinkletown associates helped organize a new Masonic lodge in Keota, Adelphi Lodge # 353.  Hinkletown rebounded for a short period, until another railroad town of Kinross, four miles south, was established in 1879. 

Edwin H. Dixon and James A. Miller, both Civil War veterans, and lodge members opened a store on the north side of the Main street, (above left), and C.F. Lytle operated the store and Post Office on the south side of the street. 

In 1901, the Farmers Lodge #168 petitioned the Grand Lodge of Iowa to be able to move to Kinross, the new center of population, after several of the lodge members and businessmen of Hinkletown physically relocated their businesses and homes to Kinross.

Our lodge was able to grow again at Kinross, and for many years met in the 2nd floor of the 2-story brick block downtown. 

Above: 1864 Officers and Members of Farmers Lodge # 168

Above: 1866 Officers and Members of Farmers Lodge # 168

Above:  1868 Officers and Members of Farmer Lodge # 168

Above:  Farmers Lodge # 168 and Order of Eastern Star in the 1979 Centennial Parade at Kinross, Iowa.  Fifty-year members John Davisson and Lee Schmelzer rode the float and helped the community celebrate.

Below: The Schools at Hinkletown that educated our lodge members for the future.

The second Hickory Ridge Schoolhouse at Hinkletown was built about 1874. This photo was taken approximately 1899 - 1901.  The first school was a log cabin built by early settlers in the summer of 1849 and was documented by Jeremiah M. Suiter and brother Mordecai Suiter, settlers of 1846.  The first school was called Hickory Grove, and was built on a hill just west of Hinkletown.  Mordecai Suiter was a member of Farmers Lodge # 168.  Several students who attended this school became members of our lodge.

 

The third Hickory Ridge Schoolhouse at Hinkletown was built in 1906.  This photo was taken on July 4, 1907.  Teacher - Nellie Kernan, Photographer - V. L. Berryhill.  Our current W.M. of Farmers Lodge # 168 attended this school, and he was nearly taken up by a tornado there in 1937.  He was headed out the front door to the outhouse when the funnel came across the field toward the school. A school mate chased Don down the road and pulled him into the road ditch just in time.

Harmon Henkle of Hinkletown, Treasurer of Farmers Lodge # 168 for several years, Charter member of Adelphi Lodge # 353, Keota, Iowa.  Started first general store and bank at Keota, Iowa.

 

Farmers Lodge # 168 to be        featured in the upcoming:

 Video Documentary

Currently in Production:

"Rediscovering Hinkletown"

A Prairie Ghost Town

Scheduled for Release 2008

If you have photographs or stories to share,

CONTACT US!
 

 

 

 

Portrait of Harmon Henkle at left:  From A Genealogical and Biographical History of Keokuk County Iowa, Chicago and New York, The Lewis Publishing Company, 1903

     

Our Farmers Lodge members who were Civil War heroes and veterans are being reenacted by the 24th Iowa Infantry, 1st Wisconsin Cavalry, and Red Cedar Regulators.

Copyright 2007 - Farmers Lodge # 168 and English Valleys History Center, North English, IA

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