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Lodge Spotlights

An Interview with Tippecanoe #174

By April 4, 2024No Comments

We recently sat down with Bro. Bathgate from Tippecanoe Lodge #174 in Tippecanoe, Ohio. Through our conversation, we learned about the dedication this lodge has to its degree work, brotherhood, and community. Read our full conversation about the impact this lodge is making on our fraternity.

Tell us about Tippecanoe Lodge. What makes it unique? What is it known for?

Charted in 1849, Tippecanoe Lodge #174 is a Lodge that prides itself on the experience it provides to its members and candidates. We focus on awe-inspiring degree work, educating our members, encouraging true fellowship amongst the Brothers, and promoting a Lodge that is welcoming to all Brothers. 

What is the community of Tipp City, Ohio like? What is your Lodge’s interaction in the community

Tipp City is very much your typical smaller Ohio town with a close knit community. It’s not a “one stoplight town” but it’s one that does tend to have close relationships within the local area. This feeds into how Tippecanoe Lodge interacts with the town. For example, our Lodge has always tried to tie our donations or time volunteering to local organizations, schools, and charities rather than national, well known causes. In order for our Lodge to be successful, we need to have local connections to the community, in order for our community to know who we are and what we do. 

We’re active in the annual town festival and yearly events, but we’re also asked to assist with local initiatives which to be honest, we’d much rather do. It’s the blend of public events where everyone sees us but also the activities we do behind the scenes that we probably take more enjoyment from. 

We’re aware your lodge has an emphasis on recruitment, ritual, and fellowship. Can you tell us more about that?

Roughly twelve years ago, several members of our Lodge sat down and asked the question, “Is this what you expected when you joined Freemasonry?” which is a difficult question to ask when you think about it. Most Lodges are filled with local traditions that you try to respect and Past Masters who take great pride in what the Lodge accomplished years ago but at the same time, we need to recognize that the status quo isn’t working or won’t work in order for the Lodge to be successful for the next generation. It was around this time that Andrew Hammer’s book, Observing the Craft was out which sort of became the blueprint for changing our Lodge. 

First was the ritual and making our degrees an excellent experience for both the candidate and our Brothers. This not only included the high standards of the ritual but also introducing music, candles, installing a high quality audio/video system, high quality dinners before the Degree, as well as use of the Chamber of Reflection and other smaller improvements throughout the Lodge. It was both a physical change as well as mental change to ensure that everyone knew we were there to provide that Candidate the best degree possible.

Second, Tippecanoe’s model of fellowship is nothing more than an outcome of creating a Lodge environment where the Brothers truly want to be at Lodge and not miss a meeting or an event. For example, consider our dinners before Lodge. We moved the dinner before the 1st stated meeting to a private area in a local restaurant. Brothers pay for their own meal but it also allows them to get a chance to sit down and not worry about who is cooking and even enjoy a glass of wine or other beverage. The dinners before the 2nd stated meeting are held in the Lodge dining area but we’ve upped the expectations: real plates instead of paper plates, asking a Brother to be in charge of the meal as opposed to cooking the meal so that we can cater the dinner as needed. Brothers will come to dinners if you make it worth it. This is especially true amongst the younger Brothers who join our Lodge and meet their expectations of what they expected when they joined Freemasonry.

After Lodge we have a fellowship at either the local pizza place or downstairs at the restaurant next to our Lodge which encourages Brothers to get to know one another as well as ask questions that they might otherwise feel uncomfortable asking in Lodge. The fellowship after Lodge has been just as instrumental growing our Lodge and keeping our members active. The conversations in a social setting allow a younger member to perhaps ask the question he didn’t want to bring up in Lodge. I like to say that I’ve learned more at the round tables of that restaurant than I have in the Lodge room. 

Finally, I wouldn’t say Tippecanoe prides itself on recruitment. If anything, recruiting is a word we’d probably refrain from using. Our opinion is that if you have a product that is unique, attractive, and something that a man would want to be a part of, then recruitment will take care of itself. We put into place a “strong suggestion” that any man who wants to join our Lodge should come to at least two dinners before turning in his petition to join our Lodge. This allows two things: first, it provides a hint to the man of what Freemasonry is and what our Lodge is about. Second, it allows our Lodge to get to know the prospective member before any petition is ever turned in. Some men are not good prospects for our Lodge and admittingly, our Lodge isn’t for all men. We try to respect the process and take the time to get to know the Brother rather than accept any petition that comes our way and rush them into the Lodge. After years of doing this, we have found that the Brothers who have joined our Lodge in this manner have been the most active and frequent members of our Lodge and in fact, are now either Past Masters or currently in the Officer Line. 

What is the relationship between Brothers in the lodge? How do they interact with each other and engage in Lodge events?

I’ve been part of this Lodge now for almost fifteen years and I was lucky enough to be part of the group that changed who Tippecanoe Lodge is. Looking at my Lodge now,  looking at my Brothers who are part of Tippecanoe, they are the most impactful and meaningful group outside of my family that I have in my life. I’d expect all of the Brothers of Tippecanoe to say the same. We are a Lodge of multiple backgrounds, races, religions, and a wide range of ages all brought together through Freemasonry and Tippecanoe Lodge. We have been with each other through good times like the birth of a new child, celebrated life’s accomplishments with one another like opening a new business, and cried together as we carried the casket of a Brother to his final resting spot. It’s honestly to the point where if someone misses a Lodge meeting there’s an army of people calling that person after Lodge to make sure everything is okay. 

There’s one thing we want everyone to know: Tippecanoe is a friendly Lodge! We make a point for all Brothers to shake hands with everyone before Lodge starts. If you don’t know someone, go up and introduce yourself. If there is a visiting Brother from another Lodge, make sure to shake his hand and welcome him to your Lodge. We’ve gained a lot of Members over the past years by Brothers of other Lodges who say, “Wow, this is a friendly Lodge! This is so unlike my Lodge. I wish my Lodge was like this.” 

Does your Lodge have any upcoming events you’d like to share? What about this Lodge made you want to be part of it? What type of Mason does it attract?

Tippecanoe Lodge recently celebrated 175 years of Freemasonry in Tipp City on Saturday, March 17th 2024. It was a chance for many of us to reflect on the later part of those 175 years to take a breath and reflect but it also proved that we need to continue working, examining the process, and adapting in order to hit 200, 300 years.

When I joined Freemasonry, I knew very little about the Fraternity other than what I could read or Google at the time. After becoming part of the Lodge, I would imagine our Lodge was like so many other Lodges in Ohio: declining membership, Stated Meetings that were filled with the reading of minutes, struggling to get Brothers together to hold a degree or volunteer for an event, and the education program as the last topic of the night with someone reading a pamphlet written generations ago. Young men come into the Lodge and look around and probably never return. That wasn’t and isn’t working.

Through similar conversations amongst the Brothers about what they were expecting when they joined Freemasonry, this started a plan to transform the Lodge into what it is now. I would point out:  It’s one thing to start a whole new Lodge based on the Traditional Observance concept but it’s a completely different set of challenges transforming a Lodge with generation after generation of traditions and getting all Brothers onboard and committed. Sadly, we lost one or two Brothers who stopped coming to our Lodge because of the changes we implemented. I get it, change isn’t easy and some changes aren’t for everyone. While we lost one or two Brothers along the way, we gained twenty to thirty. 

Fast forward to today and we have one of the youngest Officer lines in the state with most stated meetings averaging close to thirty members. We’re as strong as ever and the bonds of fellowship amongst the Brothers of Tippecanoe is inspiring.

As I close out this list of questions, I go back to my first inspection and conferring of the Master Mason degree. It might have been the first time where we had all the concepts of what we were trying to do together for a degree. It was a defining moment in our Lodge but more importantly, we just gave a degree that was awe-inspiring. We had changed the DNA of our Lodge, conferred the Master Mason degree the way we wanted to do it. And at the end of the degree, and almost immediately after we closed the Lodge, I looked at my then Senior Deacon who looked saddened, maybe stunned and I asked, “Hey, are you okay?” 

His response floored me and to this day, I remember his words, “that’s the experience that I expected.”

That’s what we want to do every meeting and every Degree at Tippecanoe Lodge # 174.

Read our interviews with Wauseon Lodge #349 and Oak Harbor Lodge #495 to learn how Ohio Masons are making an impact in our state!