The inception of Freemasonry
In the Middle Ages, the term “freemason” was awarded to highly skilled stonemasons who were hired as free agents to build castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. Because of the inherent danger of their work, stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members as well as the widows and orphans of those who were killed on the job. The first Grand Lodge was established in 1717 in London. In 1718, English Freemasonry spread to France and Spain, and after 1729, to India, Italy, Poland and Sweden. Freemasonry spread to the other parts of Europe and eventually made its way to the American colonies. In 1733, the first American lodge was established in Boston, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England. Of the 39 men who signed the U.S. Constitution, 13 were Masons.
Freemasonry come to California
Freemasonry has been an integral part of California for more than 150 years. During the Gold Rush of 1849, thousands of settlers came to California in search of fortune. Many of these men had been Masons back East and brought with them the tradition of Freemasonry. Not surprisingly, some of California’s first Masonic Lodges were established in the mining towns of the Gold Country. In 1850-the same year California became a state-the Grand Lodge of California was established in Sacramento. Within 10 years, the number of Masonic Lodges had grown from 11 to 130, while membership soared from 258 to more than 5,000. Over the years, the Masons have played a key role in shaping the history of California. To date, 19 California governors have been Masons, and at least four California Masons have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Today, the Grand Lodge of California has almost 90,000 members in about 400 Lodges located throughout the state, making it one of the largest Grand Lodges in the world.
A legacy of philanthropy
Throughout their 150 year history, the California Masons have remained steadfast in their commitment to helping others and serving the community. They have volunteered hundreds of thousands of hours and donated millions of dollars to support a wide range of charitable programs. Among the fraternity’s first charitable activities was helping victims of the great cholera outbreak in Sacramento in 1850. Three Lodges, with a combined membership of 69 men, raised more than $32,000 to help build and maintain a hospital at Sutter’s Fort.