No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons' guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity's rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.
Freemasonry was brought to North America in the 1700's and became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net". The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew. Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children's hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families.
The fraternity of Free and Accepted Masons has over four million members from every ethnic group and every continent in the world. Brotherhood is a primary teaching of Masonry--that each person must be judged as an individual, on his own merits, and that such factors as race, national origin, religious creed, social status, or wealth are incidental to the person's character.
Freemasonry grew during a time when racial attitudes were very different from today. As happened with many churches and social organizations, these attitudes caused African-American men to develop Freemasonry independently. In 1776 a group of African-American Masons in Boston began meeting as a Lodge; they were formally chartered by England in 1784 as African Lodge #459. African Lodge and its descendants developed a separate Grand Lodge system, known as Prince Hall Masonry (after the first Master of African Lodge). Prince Hall Grand Lodges ascribe to the same beliefs and rituals of Freemasonry as do all regular Masonic Lodges throughout the world.
Since a petition for membership in Masonry does not ask a petitioner's race, statistics on ethnicity are not kept. Collecting such information is considered as inappropriate as information about a Brother's financial standing. A lodge is not permitted to accept or exclude a candidate on the basis of race or national origin. To petition for membership, the petitioner must be "a man of legal age, good reputation, and possess a belief in God." While election to membership is a matter for the local lodge to decide, the qualifications for membership are standard, and all Masons are required to observe them.
**adapted from the Masonic Service Association of North America
Freemasonry In Ohio
Freemasonry came to the area with the original settlers along the Ohio River in the Marietta area. Four Lodges met in Chillicothe to officially create the Grand Lodge of Ohio in 1803. Today there are over 70,000 Freemasons in more than 440 Lodges across the state that continue in our rich traditions and charitable works. For more information about Freemasonry, or joining a lodge in Ohio please talk to any of our members, or Click on the Link below to visit the Grand Lodge of Ohio website for more information.