Lost Sherlock Holmes Society
of Springfield, Illinois
The years immediately following World War II were a boom time for the
Sherlockian scion society. Prior to that war's end, only four offshoots
of the Baker Street Irregulars had been organized, even though the BSI
had been in existence some ten years. After the war, an even dozen scion
societies sprang up in only three years time, according to Baring-Gould's
Annotated. This sudden surge was undoubtedly caused by not only
the end of World War II, but also by the founding of The Baker Street
Journal in 1946. Suddenly, Sherlockians across the country had a publication
through which they could relay their studies in Holmes to one another,
as well as send brief notes on their scions' activities.
But by turning to the "Scion Societies" section of those early
journals, an attentive observer will quickly note one or two scion societies
that Mr. Baring-Gould left off his list. As one of these societies was
the Pondicherry Lodge of Springfield, Illinois, and Springfield is not
far from Peoria, a Peoria Sherlockian is bound to wonder why it is he's
never heard of that group before. Does the Pondicherry Lodge still exist?
If so, why have none of its members been in touch? And for that matter,
why aren't they buying up the Sherlockian treasures that can occasionally
be found in the Prairie Archives, Springfield's antiquarian bookseller?
For answers to those questions, the Sherlockian archaeologist must return,
once more, to The Baker Street Journals of the time. There, on
pages printed before Hansoms, Tiger Cubs, or Occupants ever walked the
earth, one can find all that remains of Central Illinois's first Sherlock
In the second issue of the BSJ for 1947 was printed the contents of a
telegram to the journal which read:
THE UNDERSIGNED HAVE CELEBRATED THE DAY PARENTHESIS CAPS AND PARENTHESIS
ORGANIZING PONDICHERRY LODGE SPRINGFIELD ILLLINOIS TO THE WOMAN STUART
BROWN CHARLES STEPHENS SCOTT HOOVER JAMES MARTIN
Later that year, in the fourth BSJ, a more lengthy report was made, telling
of just what happened at the luncheon on January 11, 1947, at which the
Pondicherry Lodge was organized. There was toasting and a bit of Sherlockian
discussion, but mainly the talk was of the details of organizing their
scion society. As Stuart Brown claimed to be a direct descendant, "thriced
removed," of Silas Brown of SILV notoriety, he was elected to the
Lodge's sole office, the "Noble Bachelor." A constitution was
adopted, and plans were made for the scion's next meeting which was "to
mark the deplorable affair at the Reichenbach Falls." Each member
was assigned to either present a Sherlockian paper or "display an
authenticated item" at that meeting.
Whether or not that meeting ever occurred, there is no record. Over a
year later, in the first issue of the BSJ for 1949, a notice appears from
the Pondicherry Lodge, belatedly saying that they met on January 3, 1948
and May 8, 1948 at "the tack room at Maplehurst." Two associate
members had been recruited -- a Lee M. Kagey of East St. Louis, and a
J.E. Alschuler of Aurora, Illinois. And there the record ends.
None of the members of the Pondicherry Lodge ever went on to become Baker
Street Irregulars. Their only recorded scholarly output consisted of three
articles by Charles B. Stephens which the BSI published from 1947 to 1949.
The "Whodunnit" section of one of those issues reveals that
Stephens was a lawyer and ex-secretary of the Illinois State Bar Association.
The group's only officer, Stuart Brown, apparently worked at the First
National Bank of Springfield, if his mailing address on the scion reports
is any indication. Beyond these snippets, we know nothing more of the
Pondicherry Lodge or its members.
What happened to them? We have no way of knowing. The only theory concerning
their disappearance that has been advanced thus far was put forth by Bill
Cochran, my fellow researcher on this matter. Bill feels that the fate
of the Pondicherry Lodge lies in the last sentence of their final scion
report, wherein they describe their meeting place:
"The view of the moors is excellent, and there is even a Grimpen
Mire at hand."
Perhaps a better name for them might have been "The Rodger Baskervilles
of Springfield, Illinois." For, like the villain of HOUN, they may
have entered their Grimpen Mire, never to be seen again.
(Printed in Plugs & Dottles, January