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A Brief History Of Equality and Equality Lodge No. 2

Salt is the theme of the early history pertinent to the area that includes the village of Equality in Gallatin County, Illinois. One of several counties that were once a part of Gallatin County is appropriately named “Saline”.

That the Indians utilized this area as a source of salt, a vital necessity, is definitely established by the finding of various relics. The French made their presence known as early as 1685. It is recorded that “About 1685 an expedition came to the salt springs here to establish a traffic in salt in order that the Royal Subjects of His majesty King Louis XIV might have a regular supply of aforesaid commodity”. Approximately one block southeast of the present Lodge Hall is the location of the fort the French established sometime between 1730 and 1735. France released her holdings to the English in 1763 and it is reasonable to assume that some organization was maintained until the coming of the George Rogers Clark Expedition into the Northwest Territory for the purpose of establishing forts and raising forces to expel the English in 1778. Masonry played an important part in the organization of the new line of forts even to the point of employing secret Masonic terms as passwords from post to post.

About two miles from the present Lodge Hall site is an area called “Half Moon Lick”, where the French operated salt works on a large scale. On account of the low and swampy terrain, and poor geographical defense from possible Indian attacks, most dwellings were abandoned for the nearby ridges and hills, the present site of Equality.

The Post Office for this community was established in 1810. On July 20, 1827, the name of the Post Office was changed from Saline to Equality. That was subsequent to an act of the General Assembly of the State Of Illinois dated January 26, 1826, which was “to locate permanently the seat of justice in Equality…and to authorize the County Commissioners to lay off and plot the Town Of Equality and convey lots as therein provided for…” The name “Equality” is from the French word Egalite meaning equality. The French historian Volney, who visited Gen. Leonard White here about 1796, suggested the name. This territory had been called “Salines of the Wabash”.

Equality Lodge No. 2
In 1827 the Court House began construction and stood on what now is known as the Public Square. It was in the Court House that the early meetings of this Lodge were held. Equality Lodge No. 2 was working under a charter granted by the Grand Lodge of Kentucky as Equality Lodge No. 102 when the Grand Lodge of Illinois was organized in 1840. The early records of this old lodge are no longer in existence. They were loaned in 1868 to the Deputy Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge, who was appointed to write the “History of Masonry in Illinois” and were probably lost in a fire, which destroyed the Grand Secretary’s office in Springfield February 22, 1871.

The first meeting of Equality Lodge, Under Dispensation, was held April 7, 1837, when it was instituted pursuant to the dispensation granted by Wm. Brown, Jr., Grand Master of Kentucky in 1836. The fire in which the Kentucky Grand Lodge records were lost destroyed the original petition and the exact date of the dispensation is not known. The meeting of April 7 was in charge of James C. Weller, a member of Clinton Lodge No 82 of Princeton, Kentucky, who acted as Worshipful Master, assisted by the following officers: H. P. Williams, Senior Warden; Arnold B. Dake, Junior Warden; Absalom Ashby, Secretary; Willis Hargrave, Treasurer; Israel D. Towle, Senior Deacon; C. C. Lockett, Junior Deacon; Thomas Pruett, Steward; Edward Jones, Tyler.

This lodge was opened on the Third Degree after which it moved in procession to the courthouse in Equality where James C. Weller installed the following officers: Arnold B. Dake, Worshipful Master; William Siddall, Senior Warden; Edward Levell, Junior Warden; Absalom Ashby, Secretary; Willis Hargrave, Treasurer; Israel D. Towle, Senior Deacon; William Burnett, Junior Deacon; S. D. Hawke, Steward and Tyler.

The next meeting was held April 11, 1837, when petitions were received. Many meetings were held during May and June to confer degrees. The festivals of the two Saints John, which occur on June 24 and December 27, were usually celebrated. Equality Lodge elected officers on these dates.

After a letter was written by Wm. J. Gatewood and forwarded to the Grand Lodge of Kentucky on August 5, 1837 asking for a charter, the lodge was constituted as Equality Lodge No. 102 on September 22, 1837 by James C. Weller, Deputy Grand Master of Kentucky.

On July 20, 1839, a request was received from the “Bank Of Illinois” at Shawneetown, asking the lodge to lay the cornerstone of their “new banking house”, which was done “according to ancient form”. This building is still standing and is described in a history written in 1887 as being “a massive stone structure, four stories high, with five massive corrugated Doric columns in front, built at a cost of $80,000.00″.

On November 19, 1839, the following resolution was passed:

“Resolved, That a committee (consisting) of Brothers William J. Gatewood, Edmund Jones, and Tarlton Dunn, be appointed to correspond with all the subordinate Lodges of this State, with a view to the reorganizing of the Grand Lodge of the State of Illinois.”

The first Grand Lodge of Illinois was organized in 1822 and met for the last time of which there are any records on January 23, 1827. During the next two or three years all Masonic lodges in Illinois went down under the bitter anti-Masonic persecution of that day. During the following ten years Kentucky and Missouri chartered about ten lodges in Illinois.

A meeting was held in Jacksonville April 6, 1840. A committee was appointed to examine the credentials of delegates and proxies. The Grand Lodge was organized, officers elected and Jacksonville selected as the meeting place. It was called from labor to refreshment until April 28, when the Grand Master was installed by proxy. The next day, April 29, the other officers were appointed and installed. Equality Lodge No. 102 was still working under their charter from Kentucky.

The following quoted excerpt from the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky was furnished the Equality Lodge by Bro. W. K. Walker, Librarian of the Grand Lodge of New York:

“August 31, 1842…Bro. Secretary submitted to the Grand Lodge two communications form a committee of Equality Lodge No. 102, praying a remission of their dues, and leave to surrender their charter, with a view to attach themselves to the Grand Lodge of Illinois, which communication being read—

“Bro. Swigert offered the following preamble and resolution, which was read and adopted: Whereas the since the establishment of Equality Lodge No. 102 in the State of Illinois, by this Grand Lodge, there has been formed in that State, a Grand Lodge, and whereas the members composing said Lodge having expressed a desire (on account of convenience to them) to withdraw from under the jurisdiction of this Grand Lodge, with a view to attach themselves to the Grand Lodge of Illinois—therefore,

“Resolved, That this Grand Lodge will cheerfully surrender their jurisdiction over said Lodge, and accept the surrender of the Charter of the same, whenever tendered, and recommend to the said Lodge to remit the dues of its members so far as their situation will permit.”

It was not until the meeting of December 27, 1843, however, that the charter was received from the Grand Lodge of Illinois and Equality Lodge was opened for the first time as Lodge No. 2.

From a book of Equality Lodge published August 1937 and edited by Carrol J. Maas.

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