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Presented at Adrian Commandery #4 2013 Inspection

Adrian Commandery has had a long history in Michigan.  There are many conflicting views on the timeline of our organization.  According to Monroe historical documents as documented by Talcott Wing, it was first organized under a charter from the Grand Commandery of New York as Monroe Commandery No 5.  (Not to be confused with New York’s Monroe Commandery No 12.)    Records were turned over at the formation of the Michigan Grand Commandery on Apr 5, 1857 and the Commandery number was changed to No 4.  Also at that time Emt Commander, James Darrah was elected as Grand Captain General of the newly formed Grand Commandery. [1]  It should be noted that the early Commandery adopted the ByLaws of  Jerusalem Encampment No 12, New  York which might lead one to believe we were formed from NY.

Alternate history, as orally given by WF King in 1898, we are told of the formation though a request to the Grand Master of the United States to form an Encampment, which was granted May 5, 1856, called Monroe Encampment.  Given the disparity and difference in historical timing as well as oral tradition, I am in keeping with a blend of the the tale from Talcott.

In a third alternate history it is noted that on March 29th, 1856, the M.E. Grand Master issued dispensation to create a Monroe Commandery and that on September 10th 1856 it was granted charter and soon after the officers were installed by SK John Gilbert. [4 pp 474].

There is some conflict regarding the delegation and numbering of Adrian No 4.  Not just with the members of Monroe No 12, but also with the members of Kalamazoo No 4, which was later introduced to the state as Kalamazoo No 8.  [3] Based on references it would seem that the conflict arises in where and when the designated creation dates can be found.  According to Freemasonry in Michigan, Peninsular Commandery in Kalamazoo should have the number based on dispensation by some 26 days.  That would also have made DeMolai Commandery move down the ladder to No 6.

On January 15th, 1857 the six Commanderies meeting in Michigan gathered to form the Grand Commandery of Michigan.  The committee nominated EC John Gilbert as its chair and James Darrah as its secretary.  These men along with Horace Roberts and Elias Cone made a draft Code of Statutes and Regulations for the proposed Grand Commandery. [4]  On April 8th, 1857 a convention was held in Detroit with Detroit, Pontiac, Eureka and DeMolai Commanderies to finalize a request to become a Grand Commandery.

I believe that the effect of Peninsular Commandery choosing to stay under the auspice of the Grand Encampment instead of joining the other commanderies in establishing a new Grand Commandery of Michigan ultimately led to the numbering difference.  There is interesting history on Peninsular’s issue with observing authority from the GC of Michigan which was not resolved until Jan 11, 1860. [5,6]


The first three officers of Monroe Commandery during its time in Monroe were: Darrah, EC.  JM Oliver, Generalissimo and Thomas Norman, Captain General. [1]   It is interesting to note that from 1856 through 1861 there are no special marks in the records other than “no business” or “no quorum” with little other business.  [3]  These names remained prominent in the Commandery for many years, noting that Darrah served as Commander from 1856 to 1859. [5]

At the special session of Grand Commandery in 1860/1, No 4 asked for dispensation to hold special meetings in Adrian.  With nearly half of the membership residing in Lenawee and with the War of the Rebellion, otherwise known as the American Civil War, no more meetings were held in Monroe.  As it was only one member resided in the city of Monroe with others having left the area.  Late in 1860, the Masonic Hall over Miller’s store in Monroe burnt and all of the Commandery property not already moved to Adrian was lost.  Due to the fire the dues of the commandery were remitted at the Annual Conclave that June.  At the 1862 session, represented by W.F. King, Adrian Commandery was issued a new charter (owing to the loss in the fire).  Some years later it was learned that the charter had not burnt, but was in fact in the possession of S.G. Clark who had recently received the effets of James Durrah who had died in the Army at Fort Monroe.

In June 1863 at 10:00 A.M. the Grand Commandery of Michigan resolved: “That the location of Monroe Commandery, No 4 be removed to the city of Adrian and that the name changed to Adrian Commandery, No 4.”

As a side, it is not surprising that Adrian was a booming place and the commandery would be formed here.  Southern Michigan, specifically Adrian, was a focus of Michigan, positioned to be a possible location for the state government at one point.  The amount of commerce in the area due to the crossing rail lines and proximity to Toledo and Monroe helped to boost its population.  (The Erie & Kalamazoo RR, eventually to become the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern RR, and later called the New York Central, was the first rail line in Michigan and was horse drawn from Toledo to Adrian. Adrian held three of the major lines forming a central triangle around the city, each of these lines became what we know today as: Conrail, Wabash and Detroit, Lima & Northern RR.  [7])

The first mention in the Adrian Masonic Lodge in Adrian of a Commandery being present was in Aug 15, 1867.  Looking over some of the information shows that the construction of the Temple in Adrian was difficult and that additional revenue received from the Commandery was welcome.  In the minutes it mentions the Commandery making use of the 4th floor until such time as the lodge room is completed. (Probably in the old state bank, which subsequently burned and all of the contents of the 4th floor were lost around 1890.)[9]

Some members of Monroe continued to labor to create a replacement commandery and on June 30th, 1868 a charter was granted to  Monroe, No 19.  Interestingly enough, Adrian Commandery began to confer degrees on behalf of Monroe.  Candidates would come into Adrian on the 9pm train then take the Orders and back on the 4 or 5am train to Monroe so they could still get breakfast and be to work in the morning! [3]

It is also relevant to note that Adrian and Monroe had close ties and were both found to have participated in the 60th anniversary of the War of 1812 parade marching in the 2nd division with Col. Luce acting as the Marshal.  The note also mentions commemoration plans for the Battle of the River Raisin.  [11]

During our history, Adrian No 4 has not been without conflict.  In April 25, 1889, William F King sent a letter to Grand Commander Charles Bigelow regarding jurisdictional claim of knighthood material.  It would seem that our distinguished companions of Ann Arbor Commandery No 13 requested a waiver of jurisdiction over a companion Knapp, then a resident of Manchester.  Adrian refused the request, but Ann Arbor proceeded against the refusal and conferred the orders of knighthood on the companion.  Not to be outdone, companion Knapp and the members of Ann Arbor employed an engineer who drew a map showing the center-line between the two Commanderies was in fact in favor of Ann Arbor.  [2]

It is interesting to also note that in 1893 there was an attempt by a group of brothers to form a new Commandery in Tecumseh.  The report on committees from the Grand Commandery read in their report: “That the petition of the Sir Knights of Tecumseh be not granted.  Your committee find that Tecumseh is only ten miles from Adrian Commandery, and, in the opinion of your committee, it would not be for the best interests of Templar Masonry to establish commanderies so near together — that it is far better that we should have one strong commandery rather than two weak ones.” [8]


Respectfully submitted,

Wesley W. Tapp, Commander, Adrian Commandery #4

Nov 2013



Longest Serving Commander: Wm F. King – 12/13 terms (long time jeweler in Adrian) [10]  (Also instrumental in bringing the OES to the United States and formed Grand Chapter in Adrian.)

SK, James Darrah, First Grand Captain General for Michigan


Past Grand Commanders:

PGC –  William E. Jewett 1895

PGC – Howard T. Taylor 1909

PGC – Corland Rule 2012


1 – History of Monroe County Michigan, pp 335, Talcott E. Wing 1890

2 – Proceedings of the Grand Commandery of Michigan 1889

3 – Looking backward, by WF King, PC/PDGC, April 8, 1898

4 – Freemasonry in Michigan: A Comprehensive History of Michigan Masonry from its Earliest Introduction in 1764, Volume 1, Jefferson Conover, 33deg. 1897

5 – Monroe Encampment No 5, Adrian Commandery No 4, unknown, 1989.

6 – Centennial Adrian Commander No 4 Knights Templar, SK Thos. VanOrden, PC, 1963.

7- http://www.michiganrailroads.com/RRHX/Stations/CountyStations/LenaweeStations/Adrian/AdrianMI.htm

8 – Annual Conclave Proceedings 1893.

9 – Centennial Adrian Lodge No 19

10 – The Jewler’s Circular, Volume 79, Issue 2

11 – http://genealogytrails.com/mich/monroe/history1812.html


Adrian Masonic Temple Dedication, abt 1924


Last Masonic Temple in Adrian.