The Mazomanie Historical Society has opened a mid-season new exhibit which correlates to the All Around Downtown-1850-1900 exhibit that opened earlier this year. The focus for the satellite exhibit focuses on secret societies and fraternal organizations that formed in the Mazomanie area during the last half of the 19th century.
Secret societies provided many important benefits to their members, not the least of which was a sense of community. Indeed, it has been said of this period that a town was not truly established until it had its own Masonic lodge.
Crescent Lodge No. 97, Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons was formed in Mazomanie when a dispensation was granted in 1857 for the organization of a lodge and in June the following year a charter was granted. As membership in these types of organizations has dropped in recent years, many have disbanded or consolidated with neighboring lodges. The Black Earth and Mazomanie Masonic lodges have combined as Crescent Valley Lodge No. 97 and now meet in the Masonic building in Black Earth while the Masonic building in Mazomanie is used for other purposes.
In 19th century America one’s community and peers were often defined by secrets. This was the golden age of fraternalism and the United States had literally hundreds of such organizations. Each had their own “mystic” traditions and esoteric rites. For most, these groups served purely social purpose. Others joined secret societies for business connections, financial protection and even insurance benefits. All found—in an age before T.V. and the Internet—an appreciated escape from everyday life.
The Mazomanie Grange, Patrons of Husbandry, No. 318 was organized January 10, 1874 and its purpose was to promote economic and political well–being of the community and agriculture, and to create direct cooperation between farmers and consumers, and to provide social activities for isolated farm families. Order of the Eastern Star, Odd Fellows and Modern Woodmen of America may remain as some of the more familiar organizations but those such as Mystic Workers of the World and the Mendotas–Montezuma Council, No. 8 or the Scientific and Literary Association of Mazomanie and Black Earth are unheard of today.
The museum is located at 118 Brodhead Street and is open Sundays through September 8, 1- 4pm or by appointment, 795-4355 or 795-2549. The society’s Research Center is located in the Mazomanie Free Library; to contact historian, Virgil Matz for an appointment call 767-2305.
–Rita Frakes, Curator