No one knows for sure how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. Masonry is speculated to have formed from the stone-masons guilds of the Middle-Ages which traveled across Europe building the grand castles and buildings that are present in many European cities today. Others suggest its roots extend back more than 3,000 years to the times of King Solomon, others claim the roots of Freemasonry existed within man the moment he first looked up to the heavens.
However old or young the fraternity may be, Freemasonry, as it is known today, is officially recognized as originating in London, England in 1717. Records show that in that year, four lodges formed to create the Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Lodge of England still exists today and is now known as the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).
Shortly after its “grand” formation, Freemasonry traveled rapidly across Europe and to the newly settled American colonies. In fact, many of the founding fathers of the United States were freemasons to include; George Washington “The Father of Our Country”; Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livingston, two of the five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence; Paul Revere who made his famous ride to warn of British approach; John Hancock whose name boldly appears in defiance of King George III; John Paul Jones who helped establish the Continental Navy and traditions which continue to our modern fleet; the French liaison to the Colonies Marquis d’Lafayette, without whose aid the war could not have been won; and Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, designer of the city of Washington, D.C. These are but a few of the men and ideals with whom a Mason becomes associated through his labors. With them he shares an eternal bond of duty, courage, and service to liberate humanity from tyranny, injustice and intolerance.
Freemasons could be found during this time period in many countries that held the ideals of individual enlightenment, democracy and equality. In fact, Freemasons were prominent as founding fathers in several nations during the late 1700’s to mid 1800’s such as Canada and Mexico.
Freemasonry is also a charitable organization. During the 1800’s and 1900’s, before the Federal government enacted measures ensuring these rights to all Americans, Masons directly provided for the shelter and assistance to its members, widows and orphans through insurance, orphanages, homes for the aging, and other vital social services. Today, Freemasons contribute more than $2.5 million every day to causes ranging from the Shriner’s Hospitals for children suffering from burns or bone diseases; Scottish Rite Centers which provide services to children suffering from hearing, eye, speech and other communicative disorders; medical research funding for childhood illnesses; direct financial contributions to local schools and communities; and providing care to disabled and infirmed Masons and their families at Masonic Homes across the country.