This is the second installment in our new bimonthly blog series “Revisiting Old Questions.” You can find the first article here. In reviewing a new box of correspondence files from the depths of IHS history, I stumbled upon another great question. This one came from a man in Mitchell, Indiana almost 50 years ago, written in July 1974.
“I am searching for information on The Order of Good Templers [sic]. It is mentioned in an 1874 Mitchell newspaper. I would like more details about this order.
If you can furnish any information it will be greatly appreciated.
Thanking you in advance, I am – Yours Sincerely, …”
Unfortunately, at the time the question was sent, the Historical Society had not created the robust indexes and cross-references that exist today. There was no way to search the collection guides quickly and efficiently. There was no online catalog, though various card files existed. You couldn’t open a digitized newspaper database and search its contents and context clues.
The staff member who responded did so quickly, sending out a mailed response within days of receiving the letter. Their best guess, due to the lack of materials in the IHS collections, led to a recommendation to consult with masonic bodies in the hopes that the Order of Good Templars was related to the Knights Templar. The responder very kindly provided direct contact information for a person they thought might be able to help. However, based on my modern research, this is unlikely to have borne fruit.
The Independent Order of Good Templars, or I.G.O.T., was founded in New York in 1851 upon the joining of two other groups crusading for the temperance cause. The Indiana branch was founded in 1855. It is a fraternal organization but not a masonic body. Rather, they were an order founded around the idea of temperance. They functioned similarly to other organizations of the day with strict guidelines and rituals. Unlike other groups of their time, the Good Templars allowed both men and women into their main body. They did not discriminate based on race upon their founding either. Their gender equality is partially in evidence with this January 4, 1875 diary entry by Libbie Albright who notes: “The Good Templars met after prayer meeting tonight and talked business over.”
The I.G.O.T., now known as the International Organization of Good Templars, is still in operation today. To find out more about their current day organization and history visit their website. Their present motto is Temperance, Peace and Brotherhood.
The digital age has exponentially increased what we are able to share with researchers today. However, as a reference librarian, I must warn you, MANY RESOURCES ARE STILL NOT ONLINE. Stop by or reach out to your friendly librarian to learn more about your research topic’s available resources. Contact the Indiana Historical Society Reference Services Department if you have an Indiana history question.