A Modern History of Freemasonry

 

Freemasonry is the oldest, largest, and most widely spread fraternity in the world. The earliest date the name "Freemason" appears according to the historian Findel was 1212. In 1375 the name occurs in the history of the Company of Masons in the City of London. In the library of Henry VIII is a document known as the Regius poem dated 1390, consisting of doggerel verse concerning the earliest statement regarding Freemasonry. Since that time there are other recorded references to our institution. It is safe to say, however, that we can definitely trace Freemasonry as we know it today to the establishment of the Grand Lodge of England in 1717, since when there has been an unbroken history.

No one can realize how much the United States of America owes to Freemasonry and how great a part it played in the birth of the nation and the establishment of the landmarks of that civilization which has given to the citizens of this great land the liberty which they enjoy and, by indirection, has guided the development of all civilization of the world in those countries where the accomplishments of war are not the ultimate rule of human endeavor.

Freemasonry came to our country early in the Eighteenth Century under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England delegated to Deputies or Provincial Grand Masters. After the Revolution and the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Grand Lodges were established in different States and today there is one for each State in the Union and the District of Columbia.

Ohio is proud that within its borders is located the most distinguished Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons west of the Allegheny Mountains. American Union Lodge No. 1 of Marietta. No other Lodge of Revolutionary War days has received such favorable attention from American historians, instituted amid the storms of revolution nearly five months before the Declaration of Independence. It was first organized as a military or traveling Lodge. On September 7th, 1807, American Union Lodge unanimously voted that it was in accord with the proposition of forming a Grand Lodge in Ohio and January 4th, 1808, it and several other Lodges held a preliminary session to organize a Grand Lodge. General Putnam was chosen to be the first Grand Master. Today the Grand Lodge of Ohio has 597 subordinate Lodges with a membership of 140,000.

The Origin and Development of AASR

The origin of the Rite is almost as unknown as that of the Craft. As a Rite it is definitely not Scottish, having its beginning as such in this country, and is distinctly American. The degrees which are the basis of this system actually came from France, and its forbear is the Rite of Perfection.

At the time of the establishment of the Grand Lodge in 1717 there were many degrees in existence, usually communicated as "side" degrees by individuals or Lodges. Some of them were fabricated in Scotland and were taken to France, which was fertile soil for the multiplication of degrees, one of them being the Ecossais, or Scotch Master Degree. It seems that, esoterically at least, Scottish Masons were much further advanced than the English. This is possibly the nearest connection Scotland has historically with the Scottish Rite.

These degrees were incorporated in the Rite of Perfection, which flourished in France in the first half of the Eighteenth Century. This Rite, which consisted of twenty five degrees, is actually the fountainhead of our Scottish Rite system and was known as the Ancient Accepted Rite. The activities of this Rite largely centered in Bordeaux, the oldest provincial Masonic center in France. It was the Masonic home of Stephen Morin and the home port of the ship which sailed in 1761 with Morin, carrying his all important Patent empowering him to propagate the Rite in the Western Hemisphere. Morin never landed on the continent, but established himself in the West Indies. He commissioned Henry Andrew Francken as his Deputy, and it was Francken who came to New York in 1767 and established a Lodge of Perfection in Albany. Other Deputies were subsequently commissioned and a number of other bodies instituted.

From the time Stephen Morin landed in the Indies, many appointed Deputy Inspectors General in the New World were thriving on degree peddling and conditions in Sublime Freemasonry were becoming chaotic. The founders of our Rite, long active and zealous workers in symbolic Freemasonry and legitimately having the degrees of Perfection, determined to bring order out of chaos. They selected from several Rites the particular degrees they thought would accomplish this, and on May 31st, 1801, John Mitchell, 33°, and ten associates founded in the City of Charleston, South Carolina, the first Supreme Council, 33°, A.A.S.R., the Mother Supreme Council of the World, controlling a system of thirty-three degrees . their motto was appropriately "Order ab Chaos". From its beginning has grown the tremendous force and influence in the world which today is Scottish Rite Freemasonry.

Twelve years later, on August 5th, 1813, in New York City, a second Supreme Council for the United States of America was established, which afterwards became the Supreme Council for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction to which the Valley of Cleveland owes obedience. It has jurisdiction over fifteen States north of the Mason Dixon Line and east of the Mississippi River, with a membership in 1997 of 323,000. The total number of Scottish Rite Masons in both the Northern and Southern Jurisdictions is approximately 600,000.

Scottish Rite Established in Ohio

     Scottish Rite Masonry came to Ohio in the year 1853. Cincinnati was its birthplace in our state. On April 27th, 1853, Gibulam Lodge of Perfection and Dalcho Council, Princes of Jerusalem received their charters. Cincinnati Chapter of Rose Croix received its charter on December 27th, 1853, and Ohio Consistory on May 14th, 1853. From this beginning the Rite in Ohio has grown to ten Valleys with a membership in 1997 of 67,562.