Who are the Masons?

There is a great deal of speculation and even some mystery surrounding the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world: Masonry. And while the actual history of the Masons (also known as “Freemasons”) may not be as provocative as the misconceptions, it still makes for some interesting reading.

A Quick History

Masonry developed from the guilds of stonemasons who built the majestic castles and cathedrals of the Middles Ages. Called “freemasons” because of the traveling liberties they were given as members of an admired craft, these craftsmen formed a fraternal group that later expanded to non-practicing members (or “speculative masons”).

In 1717, four Masonic Lodges joined to create the first Grand Lodge in England. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the Fraternity, there were already several Lodges in the Colonies. Indeed, when the United States was formed, most respectable citizens were associated with the Fraternity. Thirteen signers of the Constitution and 14 U.S. presidents were Masons, including George Washington.

Today there are over two million Freemasons in North America, and Masonic Lodges are found in almost every community throughout the United States.

Practicing Masonry

Masonry is dedicated to the “Brotherhood of Man” and uses the tools and implements of the masonry craft symbolically in a system of instruction designed to build character and moral values in its members. In short, Freemasonry is about making good men better.

One of the most fascinating aspects of Masonry is how so many men, from so many different walks of life, can join together in peace and call each other “Brother.” Freemasonry is an order that encourages its members to practice the faith of their personal acceptance and teaches that, through self-improvement and helping others, members can make the world a better place.

Beyond its focus on individual development and growth, Masonry is deeply involved in helping people. The Freemasons of North America contributes over $2 million a day to charitable causes. Minnesota Masonry, through Minnesota Masonic Charities, alone contributes over $50,000 per day to important philanthropic endeavors.

Bring on the Stars

The Order of the Eastern Star (OES) was founded by Master Mason, Dr. Rob Morris in the late 1800s. Dr. Morris and his wife, Charlotte, developed an organization that offered female relatives of Masons the benefits of knowledge and self-improvement that Freemasonry had made available to men. The Order of the Eastern Star was formed to provide a place in the Masonic Family that would allow men and women to participate together. The tenets of the Order — Fidelity, Love, Constancy, Loyalty and Faith — are practiced through projects and programs that serve others and benefit our communities.

Much like Freemasons, “Stars” welcome petitioners from all faiths who sincerely desire to work for good. The first Grand Chapter of the Order was organized in Michigan in 1867. Minnesota’s Grand Chapter organized in 1873.