As the Memorial Day weekend approaches, the museum recalls the sacrifices of our veterans. The local I.O.O.F. (International Organization of Odd Fellows) cemetery has been a big part of commemorating the memory of loved ones and more recently highlighting local veterans.
Let’s recall the history of the Alexandria and Gilman I.O.O.F., the founding of the Madison County Monroe Township I.O.O.F. cemetery, and the Veterans Memorial located in this cemetery.
The I.O.O.F. is a service organization that was first granted a charter to form the Necessity Lodge No. 222 in Alexandria on November 21, 1860. The book Centennial Alexandria Indiana (1836-1936) lists the charter members as Cyrenius Free (noble grand), John Heagey (vice grand), Robert H. Cree (secretary), S. B. Harriman (treasurer), James Reader, George Nichols, G. G. Horn, Fred Cartwright, and W. B. Makepeace.
The Centennial book also notes that the first I.O.O.F. lodge room was “over Free’s cabinet shop located on the northwest corner of Harrison and Washington Streets.” In 1892, the lodge moved to the then newly constructed three-story building at 114 West Church Street. The lodge consisted of 240 members at that time. This building is still inscribed with an I.O.O.F. sign.
According to The History of Madison County (Forkner, 1914), Gilman in Monroe Township also established lodge No. 745 which at that date consisted of 54 members. William E. Smith (noble grand) and J. M. Morgan (secretary) led this lodge.
According to the mission listed on their website (https://odd-fellows.org/ about/our-mission/), the I.O.O.F. has a command to “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead, and educate the orphan.” To follow the command to “bury the dead,” the local lodge founded the I.O.O.F. cemetery (located just south of the current Beulah Park) in 1860. The Alexandria lodge was the only Madison County lodge to own a cemetery (according to The History of Madison County, Forkner, 1914).
The I.O.O.F. continued to maintain the cemetery until the mid-20th century when lodge membership decreased, and the cemetery required more attention. Around 1950, the Monroe Trustee office of Madison County took over its management.
In 1989, several veterans and their families along with local leaders raised over $26,000 to erect an Alexandria-Monroe Veterans Memorial in the I.O.O.F. cemetery. Mike Owens, chairman of the memorial committee, organized the May 20, 1990, “From a Grateful Community” parade and dedication program. The program was highlighted by a speech from U. S. Senator Richard Lugar and an invocation by Father Phil Haslinger. Others in the program included Mayor Don Lockwood and Monroe Township Trustee William Roesler.
According to the May 23, 1990, article in the Alexandria Times-Tribune, Lugar shared that “…you have decided to make that memory a perpetual one with this beautiful memorial, which will be visited by many thousands of people over the course of time… with special memories of their loved ones and their country.”
In December 2000, the US Congress and President Clinton signed into law the National Moment of Remembrance Act. “The National Moment of Remembrance encourages all Americans to pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time on Memorial Day for a minute of silence to remember and honor those who have died in service to the nation.”
The Veterans’ Memorial is in the I.O.O.F. cemetery in Alexandria just south of the intersection of 4th Street and South Park Avenue (Indiana State Road 9). All are invited to stop by this memorial to honor our veterans.
To further remember our veterans, be sure to attend an upcoming program on Alexandria during WWI on June 29 at 7 p.m. in the Emery Lee Building of Beulah Park. Madison County Historian Stephen Jackson will be presenting this program.
Also, on July 3 at noon in downtown Alexandria Harrison Park, come to the dedication program for the new banners depicting and honoring our Small-Town veterans. This program is organized by Connie and Mike Thomas.
These programs are part of a series of Madison County Bicentennial events. Check out https:// madisoncounty200.com for more historical events.
For more information on the I.O.O.F. cemetery in Alexandria and some of the early settlers buried at this location, visit https://www. cemeteries-madison-co-in. com/ioof_cemetery.htm.