No one knows with certainty how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. A widely accepted theory among Masonic scholars is that it arose from the stonemasons’ guilds during the Middle Ages. The language and symbols used in the fraternity’s rituals come from this era. The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work. In 1717, four lodges in London formed the first Grand Lodge of England, and records from that point on are more complete.
Within thirty years, the fraternity had spread throughout Europe and the American Colonies. Freemasonry became very popular in colonial America. George Washington was a Mason, Benjamin Franklin served as the head of the fraternity in Pennsylvania, as did Paul Revere and Joseph Warren in Massachusetts. Other well-known Masons involved with the founding of America included John Hancock, John Sullivan, Lafayette, Baron Fredrick von Stuben, Nathanael Greene, and John Paul Jones. Another Mason, Chief Justice John Marshall, shaped the Supreme Court into its present form.
Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy. During the late 1700s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading 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. Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.
During the 1800s and early 1900s, Freemasonry grew dramatically. At that time, the government had provided no social "safety net". The Masonic tradition of founding orphanages, homes for widows, and homes for the aged provided the only security many people knew.
Today in North America, the Masonic Fraternity continues this tradition by giving almost $1.5 million each day to causes that range from operating children’s hospitals, providing treatment for childhood language disorders, treating eye diseases, funding medical research, contributing to local community service, and providing care to Masons and their families at Masonic Homes.
The four million Masons worldwide continue to help men and women face the problems of the 21st century by building bridges of brotherhood and instilling in the hearts of men ideals for a better tomorrow.
Brief History of The Onondaga District
Freemasonry in Onondaga County followed the pattern set by our Masonic forefathers across New York State who, as settlers, carved from the wilderness the villages and hamlets. The Grand Lodge of New York traditionally organizes nearby lodges into groupings known as Masonic districts. From 1781-1919, Onondaga County was part of Masonic District 27, until it’s renaming as the Onondaga Masonic District.
In the year 1965, the overwhelming size and number of lodges resulted in the creation of the 1st and 2nd Onondaga districts, but even during this time, a strong spirit of unity prevailed, and the re-emergence of a single Onondaga district in 2004 testifies to the unity of spirit and cohesion of the Masonic lodges in our county.
While the natural focus has traditionally centered on the city of Syracuse, Freemasonry in the Onondaga district maintains strong craft lodges in each corner of the county.
We can be proud of the leaders of the Craft from this area who have been selected to serve the Grand Lodge as Grand Masters: in 1863 - 1864, Most Worshipful Clinton F. Paige served during the closing days of the Civil War. In 1918 - 1919, Most Worshipful William S. Farmer served during World War I. In 1980 - 1981, during the Bicentennial Year of the Grand Lodge of New York, another Brother from this area was elected Grand Master, the Most Worshipful Bruce Widger.