Freemasonry is a unique institution that has been a major part of community life in America for more than 250 years.
Masonry traces its ancestry to the operative craftsmen, primarily cathedral builders, of the Middle Ages. Because of their special knowledge and skills, these builders were permitted special travel privileges from country to country. As cathedral building came to an end during the 17th and 18th centuries, some Masonic Lodges began to accept men into membership who were not craftsmen.
In 1717, Freemasonry members created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed.
In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several Lodges in the Colonies, and Freemasonry spread rapidly as America expanded west. In addition to Franklin, many of the Founding Fathers - men such as George Washington, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, and John Hancock - were Masons. Freemasonry played an important part in the Revolutionary War and an even more important part in the Constitutional Convention and the debates surrounding the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Many of those debates were held in Masonic Lodges.
The French first brought Freemasonry to the Great Lakes at a time when it was Indian Territory. The earliest documented Lodge was in Detroit in 1764, by George Harison, Provincial Grand Master of the Provincial Grand Lodge of New York, with Lt. John Christie of the 2nd Battalion, 60th Royal American Foot Regiment (British) as Worshipful Master.
Masonry started in Michigan in 1764 when a lodge was chartered in Detroit. This lodge was the first lodge established west of the Allegheny mountains. By 1772 there were at least three Lodges meeting in the Detroit area; Lodge No. 1 and two Irish Military Lodges, warranted to Masons of the 1 0th Regiment, then stationed at Detroit. Zion Lodge #1 was formed in 1794 and continues to work to this day. Zion also has an important part in the history of another Michigan institution; the University of Michigan which was assisted in its formation by Zion Lodge and its members. Today there are over 290 Lodges in Michigan in both the lower and upper peninsulas. These lodges hold a membership of over 32,000 Masons. The history of Michigan is the history of the Masonic Fraternity. As the state was settled and established from the East to the West, so to the craft moved from East to West. However, lodges along the St. Joseph River in southwestern Michigan are also among the oldest in the state. This river was an important trading route during the formative years of the state and was settled earlier than the interior portion.
1717 - While there is evidence that Masonic Lodges existed in Scotland in the late 16th century, the first official Lodge, the Grand Lodge of England, is founded on June 24.
1731 - Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States of America, is initiated into a Pennsylvania Lodge and became a Grand Master in 1734.
1734 - The first Masonic book, Constitutions of the Free-Masons by James Anderson, is edited and published by Benjamin Franklin.
1764 - The first documented Michigan Lodge west of the Allegheny Mountains is warranted in Detroit on April 27 by George Harison, Provincial Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of New York.
1817 - Zion Lodge in Detroit provides much-needed support for the newly created University of Michigan. Two-thirds of the initial money to create the university comes from Zion Lodge.
1826 - The Grand Lodge of the Territory of Michigan is formed and Lewis Cass, Brigadier General in the War of 1812 and Territorial Governor of Michigan from 1813-1831, is the first Grand Master. Cass serves with distinction until 1829.
1863 - Henry Ford, a member of Zion Lodge #1, is born in Dearborn, Michigan.
1891 - The first Michigan Masonic senior living facility, the Home at Reed's Lake, is opened near Grand Rapids. (The current home, Masonic Pathways, is located in Alma, Michigan.)
1926 - The Temple in Detroit was dedicated. This is the largest Masonic Temple in the world with over 1400 rooms in 14 stories.
1959 - The membership peak of more than 200,000 members is reached in the state of Michigan.
1969 - Neil Armstrong, a Mason, and Buzz Aldrin successfully land the Apollo II spacecraft on the moon and spend 2.5 hours exploring the surface.
1973 - Gerald R. Ford, a member of the fraternity from Grand Rapids, becomes President of the United States.
1985 - Michigan Masonic Grant Programs for college scholarships and community charities begin being awarded.
1989 - Sponsorship of juvenile diabetes research and diagnosis begins.
1991 - The Masonic Model Student Assistance Program is founded in Michigan. 1996 - The Michigan Masonic Home Charitable Foundation is formed.
1998 - The Michigan Masonic Museum and Library is relocated to Grand Rapids, a director is hired, and the doors are opened to the public.
2000 - The Beacon Project, a school-based volunteer tutoring program, is launched. 2000 - The Michigan Grand Lodge creates a way to honor donors with the Lewis Cass Society.
2004 - The Conference of Grand Masters of Masons in North America met in Washington, D.C., and launched the Masonic Chip Support Committee (this effort lead to the Michigan Child ID Program).
2005 - The Michigan Child ID Program begins.
2005 - The Beacon volunteers top 200,000 volunteer hours in Michigan elementary schools.
2006 - Public relations programs launch across the state of Michigan to spread awareness and revitalize the organization.