Friday, October 16, 2009

Crafting a Commonwealth - Kentucky Freemasons

Freemasonry is generally viewed as a "secret society" involved in conspiracies and, sometimes controversy that formed this country. As one of the oldest fraternal organizations in the world, they actually trace their roots to Medieval Europe and the artisans who made their living from the craft of stonemasonry. Though they do not seek out members, those who attempt to join face high moral and ethical standards, often symbolized by the stonemasons' tools. And although many prominent members of American society were allegedly Freemasons, religion and politics are forbidden in lodge discussion.

Kentucky has its own ties to Freemasonry, going back to the Grand Lodge of Virginia, established in 1778. At this time, Lexington's lodge was numbered 25. However, the masons of Kentucky ultimately broke away, successfully establishing their own Grand Lodge on October 16, 1800; Lexington's lodge was renumbered "1," with many of the original members joining. The Grand Lodge of Kentucky oversaw all Kentucky Freemasons, with William Murray as the first Grand Master.

Many prominent Kentucky politicians and historical figures were freemasons, including Henry Clay. Not only was Clay Grand Master from 1820-21, but he was buried with the organization's symbolic apron on his casket. A number of notable Civil War officers and soldiers, from both sides, were freemasons. But, according with Masonic code, the official fraternal stance took neither side.

Meetings took place on a regular basis, in the Grand Hall, bouncing back and forth between Lexington and Louisville, due to fires and construction. These meetings included a larger convention every year, and smaller "visits" between fraternal officials throughout the year. The meetings included grand meals, for the time. Check out the "menu" below from the Oct. 5, 1900 edition of the Bourbon News. Surprisingly, despite the alleged lack of politics, Kentucky Freemasons showed an apparent support for Prohibition, long before it took a national effect - 12 years, in fact! They may not have been public about it, but at least within their lodges they forbid anyone "engaged in the liquor business," according to this clipping from the Oct. 18, 1907 edition of the Mt. Vernon Signal.

As far as conspiracies & controversy are concerned, Kentucky Freemasons faced an Anti-Masonic movement in the 1820s and 1830s, which severely impacted their membership. Nevertheless, they successfully maintained the Masonic University for nearly 70 years, and sponsored a home for widows & orphans in Louisville, as well as the Old Masons' Home in Shelbyville. They still thrive and contribute to society to this day.

Do you think you could be a Freemason? Maybe even hold a leadership position? Help contribute to society, as well as your fraternal organization? Find out what Kentucky Freemasons were like, and what they were doing on their 101st anniversary from this October 16, 1901 report in the Paducah Sun. Then, find out what made the "Ideal Master" among freemasons, according to the Grandmaster of Utah, in this October 16, 1901 clipping from the Adair County News.

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