No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. The most accepted theory is that the fraternity arose from the stonemasons' guilds during the Middle Ages. Many examples of this era’s language and symbols are still represented in the fraternity's rituals. There are several hints and correlations that suggest the concepts central to Masonry date back much farther, perhaps predating the birth of Christ.
There were many variants of Masonry circulating throughout the western influenced world for the centuries following the Middle Ages. Officially the Grand Lodge of England was founded by several conglomerated lodges in London in 1717. It was in the years following the founding that the Fraternity was refined and reformed into its present form. By the time the American revolution came about, Masonry had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies, often times by seamen who held lodge on their ships whilst sailing and when they had docked.
The fraternity proved to be exceedingly popular in colonial America amongst the influential citizens. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, John Hancock, John Sullivan, Marquis de Lafayette, Baron von Steuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones were all Masons. The concepts that had been passed down and refined over the years were then woven into the laws, precepts, and declarations of the newly formed United States.
Following the revolution, Masons were responsible for dispersing the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education. Many public schools in America and Europe were founded or financed and encouraged by Masonic programs.
Other philanthropic endeavors undertaken by the Masons included, but were not limited to: orphanages, hospitals, housing for widows, and nursing homes for the wounded and elderly. These places often became the only security most people knew.
In the ensuing centuries, Freemasonry has advanced into a global fraternity emphasizing personal reflection, self-improvement, and social betterment through individual volunteering and philanthropy.
Masonry in Montana dates to 1860 when we were part of the Idaho territory. Masonic lore tells us that three Master Masons held the first masonic meeting in Montana at Mullan Pass. There is a meeting held annually to commemorate this event at the outdoor lodge at Mullan Pass. The first masonic lodge held in an actual lodge room took place soon thereafter with seven members in attendance. In 1864, the first Masonic funeral took place in Bannack, with 77 Masons attended the funeral, including William Bell the deceased. Thus, the numbers 3-7-77 hold a special significance to Montana Masons.
Masonry in Missoula was established formally in 1868 with a group of affluent townsfolk applying and then receiving their charter as Missoula Lodge #13. Many influential Missoulians could be counted amongst the ranks of the lodge, including Missoula founder Christopher Higgins and Judge Charles Pomeroy. Over the years, Missoula Lodge #13 furnished the state three Grand Masters.
During its heyday, Masonry in Missoula claimed almost 1500 members. This led to the establishment of two more lodges in Missoula. Harmony 49 and Sentinel 155 are younger lodges (Sentinel Lodge was founded in 1960) but nevertheless have a rich history unto themselves. Sentinel Lodge has produced two Past Grand Masters, Thomas Jordan and Gerald Anderson.
The officers, elected by their brethren or appointed by the Worshipful Master to serve Sentinel Lodge for the 2020-2021 Masonic year are:
Treasurer Bob Hlynosky
Senior Steward and Most Worshipful Past Grand Master of Montana