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Monday, October 09, 2017

Indiana's Historic Adam's Mill and its Masonic Connection


Indiana Brethren, here's a possible Masonic project worth pursuing, especially for lodges that are clustered between Lafayette and Kokomo, Frankfort, Delphi, Camden, and Logansport. In 1973, the Grand Lodge erected an historic marker at Adam's Mill, near the tiny village called Cutler, along Wildcat Creek. It reads:


Wild Cat Lodge No. 311 F.& A.M.
 Organized June 25, 1864, the Lodge used the third floor of the Adams Mill as meeting place until autumn 1867, one of two known Masonic Lodges in Indiana to have started in a flour mill.
The picturesque old mill on Wild Cat Creek in southern Carroll County wrote a brief but sentimental chapter in the story of Freemasonry in Indiana. Erected in 1845 by John Adams, the Adams Mill replaced an earlier saw and flour mill complex built possibly as early as 1832. Later it became the property of Warren Adams, a Freemason. When the brethren in and near Cutler organized Wild Cat Lodge No. 311, Brother Adams became a charter member and provided quarters for the lodge in a 17 x 24 room on the third floor of his mill.

The Adams Mill was a busy place for about three years in the 1860s. In addition to its regular business of grinding feed and making flour, it housed the Masonic lodge and the post office. Wild Cat Lodge moved their meetings across the road to a new general store three years later in 1867 (which no longer stands), then finally into little nearby Cutler where the railroad passed through a few decades later. When a generator was installed at the mill in 1913, it powered the streetlights in Cutler a mile and a half down the road.


Lodge room once used by Wild Cat Lodge 311 from 1864-67

The Mill was restored by Brother and Mrs. Claude W. Sheets in 1940 and opened in 1951 as a museum for displays illustrating the kind of farming tools and transportation facilities used in Indiana in the late 19th Century. It continues to fulfill this purpose today, and the third floor is set aside as the Masonic lodge appeared in the 1860s, though all that's left today is a lonely Master's podium, an American flag, and a few photos from the 1973 plaque unveiling. Adams Mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 as a significant and well-preserved example of a very early gristmill.

Lodges in the tiniest of places often struggle, and the lodges in this region reflect the enormous changes in both Indiana communities and the fraternity. On May 1, 1987, Wild Cat Lodge No. 311 consolidated with Flora Lodge No. 605; then in 2004, Flora Lodge consequently merged with Mt. Zion Lodge No. 211 in Camden. Over the years, Masons from former lodges in both Deer Creek and Delphi also merged into Mt. Zion Lodge.

The Masonic marker remains in place today as you approach the historic, restored Adams Mill, and it even looks brand new. Adam’s Mill has been turned into a museum, campground, and a popular wedding venue, and it even has vacation cabins today. Only Millersville Lodge in Indianapolis shares this unique type of early meeting location in a mill during their histories in Indiana.

The nearby covered bridge over Wild Cat Creek was nearly destroyed in the 1970s, just after the marker was erected at the Mill by the Masons. However, it was restored in the late 1990s, and this very tucked away location is a uniquely Indiana attraction to seek out and visit.

My point is that the current owners are well aware of its former heritage, and took the time, effort and money to recently make the Masonic plaque look brand new. The old lodge room is described on tours as such, and I spoke with the owners casually last week. Adam's Mill is a non-profit 501(c)3 charity and can issue tax deductions for donations. And they would be very interested in discussing a deeper historical tie in to the Masonic Lodge that once occupied it so long ago. Their video below includes the brief story regarding the lodge.




This would make a great place to do an annual degree for lodges anywhere nearby for a truly unique experience that doesn't exist anywhere else in the state. On major holiday events, you could also demonstrate an officer's installation or a non-tyled recreation of a Masonic meeting for tour groups, dressed in clothes of the period. You'd have to seek out more furniture as was done for Schofield House in Madison, but it would be a place much easier to get to for Masons in the more northern reaches of the state. All it would take are some dedicated volunteers with dogged determnation to find or create the furniture and decor. Area lodges could pool their resources and make this a joint project.

I don't believe any of the Museum's leaders, investors, or officers are Masons, but the owners are eager to do anything to that brings more attention to their attraction, and Freemasonry could use all of the public exposure it can get right now. The contact name is Al Auffart at amauffart@gmail.com and the website includes their phone number as well.

http://www.adams-mill.org/about

They're having a Halloween "Haunted Mill" tie in later this month, and it would be the perfect time for some brethren to at least go have a look.

If you're not in Indiana, look around your state for opportunities like this. There are unique, historic locations all over the country where early Masonic lodges used to meet, and these types of tiny museums are always looking for ways to connect with their communities and their states. Freemasonry has played an historic role in every state, so why not find a unique way to call attention to it, rekindle it, and to remind people how important this fraternity has been—and still is today!

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