The term “freemason” once described a member of a building guild in the Middle Ages who was free to travel the land to work on the grand cathedrals of Europe. Those who practiced freemasonry were much admired for their craftsmanship and the difficulty of their trade; indeed, as a freemason toiled from apprentice to journeyman, only with much effort did he claim the title of Fellow of the Craft – a position of great honor.
The first Grand Lodge was established in England in 1717 and admitted members who were not actually working masons building cathedrals. These “accepted masons,” as they were called, practiced “speculative masonry” – a system of self-improvement through the practice of moral principles with an emphasis on charity, justice, truth and humanity. Speculative Masonry pulled much symbolism, teachings and pageantry from the practicing builders of old, evident in many of the allegorical lessons practiced in today’s Masonry.
Many of our country’s founders were members of the Masonic Fraternity; indeed, 14 U.S. presidents were practicing Masons, including George Washington and Teddy Roosevelt. Minnesota Masonry began over 160 years ago with the gathering of members in St. Paul in 1849. Today, the Fraternity includes 150 local Lodges, 62 Order of the Eastern Star Chapters and approximately 20,000 members throughout the state.