EUFAULA MASONIC LODGE OLDEST IN OKLAHOMA
(from the INDIAN JOURNAL Thursday, March 2, 1922, page 3)
Eufaula Lodge number 1, A. F. & A. M., the oldest lodge in the State of Oklahoma, dates its beginning and history from the year of 1855. At this time the then Indian Territory was very sparsely settled, consisting principally of Indians, augmented by those white men who were real pioneers and missionaries in the Indian country.
Prior to 1855, the Reverend C. N. Flover, a Methodist minister, had come into the Creek Indian country. He was a Mason at Van Buren, Arkansas, several years, the exact date is not known, before coming to the Indian country. George W. Stidham, and old-time Creek Indian, was living in the Creek nation. George W. Stidham was a leader among his people and had gone to Washington on tribal affairs several times. During these visits to Washington he had been made a Mason in a lodge at Washington, D. C., and had also received the highest degree in masonry while in Washington. Joseph Coody, a citizen of the Nation of Cherokee and Creek descent, was a Mason, as records of Eufaula lodge show, but the place of his former membership is hot known.
These three, Geo. W. Stidham, Reverend Flover and Joseph Coody, with other members of the Masonic fraternity then in the Creek Indian country felt the need of a regularly constituted lodge.
At this time, 1855, the Indian agency was located some seven or eight miles northwest of Muskogee. These three men and masons, met at the agency, by appointment. They had decided to obtain a charter for a Masonic lodge. They mounted their horses and rode to Little Rock, Arkansas and obtained a charter from the Grand Lodge of Arkansas, to establish a lodge in the Creek Nation, "at the town of Creek Agency", and the lodge was named "Muscogee number 93" and the date of the charter is November 9th 1855. The three principal officers of the lodge were George W. Stidham, W. M.; Wm. Whitfield, S. W; and Albert Barnwell J. W. This was the first Masonic lodge established in what is now Oklahoma. The lodge continued to work under its original charter for a number of years.
At the early out-break of the Civil war, George W. Stidham, who was still master, joined the Confederate army. Joseph Coody was senior warden, but did not join the Confederate army until later. The war suspended Masonic activities, and when Joseph Coody went into the Confederate army, he took charge of the original charter of the Lodge, and the jewels of the officers and carried them with him throughout the entire war.
After the close of the Civil war, and the return of George W. Stidham and Joseph Coody, Stidham moved to Old Eufaula, which is about one and one-half miles east of the present site of Eufaula, and erected a store and a dwelling. Acting under the original charter Masonic activities were renewed, meetings of the Lodge were held in the second story of the residence of Geo. W. Stidham.
After the building of the Katy railroad the old Town of Eufaula was moved to its present site. George W. Stidham moved his store, and built on the present site of the W. L. Belt Trading Company in Eufaula. There was a second story or floor to the store and the Masonic lodge held its meeting there. On the first day of April, 1874, the Grand Lodge of Arkansas renewed the old charter but changed the number of the lodge from Muskogee number 93 to Muskogee number 90. The lodge operated under its renewed charter and new number until October 7, 1874. Masonry had grown by this time in the Territory to such an extent, that a closer relation between the lodges was needed. A general convention of Masonic lodges in the Indian Territory was called for October 5th, 6th and 7th, 1874 o meet at Caddo, I. T. The delegates from Muscogee Lodge, No. 90, Eufaula, I. T., were George W. Stidham, F. Crabree and Reverend H. F. Buckner.
The convention was held and it was decided to organize a Grand Lodge of Indian Territory. The Masonic "Grand Lodge of Indian Territory" was perfected on the 6th and 7th of October 1874. Muscogee lodge number 90 at Eufaula, I. T., became a constituent lodge of the Grand Lodge of the Indian Teritory; was given a charter and was known or numbered as Muskogee number 1.
Some of the old settlers or pioneers who were members of Muscogee Lodge number 1, Eufaula, I. T., are: George W. Stidham, Joseph Coody, Reverend H. F. Buckner, R. C. McGee, Dr. H. Lindsay, H. C. Ernest, F. Crabtree, Dr. Leo Bennett, W. E. Gentry, j. M. Perryman, Pleasnat Porter, J. J. McAlister, D. B. Whitlow, C. E. Foley, and many others. Mr. C. E. Foley is still living at Eufaula and retains his membership in the present Eufaula lodge, number 1, A. F. & A. M., and identified with all masonic activities.
One of the best known and well loved Masons in Oklahoma, is Brother J. S. Murrow of Atoka, Oklahoma. It can not be definitely stated that he was ever a member of the Eufaula lodge No. 1, but in the very early days he was present at lodge meeting on various occasions. As early as February 25, 1876, by resolution of the Lodge, he was authorized to present certain matters to the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory; and as late as August 27th 1880, he was refunded by the lodge certain moneys which he had expended for the benefit of the lodge.
Another interesting feature abut Eufaula lodge number 1, in its early days is that its membership it was able to confer and exemplify the first three degrees in the English language and the Creek Indian language. As early as 1882, other Masonic lodges that had been established in the Indian Territory requested Muskogee lodge number 1, now Eufaula lodge number 1, to confer the degrees on ceertain applicants who spoke the Creek Indian language, and who were not sufficiently proficient in the English language to receive the degrees in that language.
Muskogee lodge number 1, at Eufaula, I. T., continued to operate under its charter from the Grand Lodge of the Indian Territory, until after statehood. On February 11th 1909, it became a constituent lodge of the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma, and was given a charter and retained its number and is now known as Eufaula Loge No. 1, A. F. & A. M., of the Grand Lodge of the State of Oklahoma.
There is much that could be said about the early history of this lodge of which its membership could be justly proud.
[an error occurred while processing this directive]