Freemasonry is one of the world's oldest fraternal societies. It is
made up of men who are concerned with moral and spiritual values and
who pursue a way of life that complements their family and community
affiliations. They practice charity and perform voluntary work for
the care of their community, and treat all men as equal regardless
of race, religion or social standing.
Freemasonry requires that Candidates hold a belief in God. While Freemasons hold religious beliefs, they do not promote a particular religion.
According to the legends contained in the rituals of Freemasonry, the origins of the Masonic fraternity date from the construction of the Temple of King Solomon, as described in the Bible. The undertaking was so vast that a new form of organization was required to ensure that the Temple was completed in a timely and correct fashion, and this led to the development of organization of the stonemasons and architects into various grades and classes with responsibilities as described in the rituals.
Many of the characters mentioned in the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Hebrew Scriptures are encountered in the context of various degrees of Masonry; they include King Solomon himself, Hiram (King of Tyre, who supplied many of the materials, especially cedar wood, used to construct the temple) and others.
Some of the degrees of the Scottish Rite and other now-defunct degrees date to even earlier periods and other cultures, such as the times of the Israelites' wanderings in the wilderness (Book of Numbers) and the mythologies of the Ancient Egyptians.
Although some Masonic brothers may take the ritual to be
historical truth, there are no true Masonic authorities who can
establish an actual organization of Masons in ancient times.
The generally accepted origin of Freemasonry, until recently, has
been in the stonemason's guilds of the Middle Ages. The term "free"
in Freemason indicated that the Mason was not bound to the land as a
serf, or otherwise restricted as in villeinage or socage, but was
free to travel about the country, as was necessary for one whose
trade might require construction in many different locations. This
was remarkable in an age when almost no one traveled more than
twenty miles from his home during his entire lifetime.
As the wave of cathedral building ebbed and the Renaissance began, it is supposed that the Freemasons of the time sought to maintain their organizations by accepting into membership for discussion of the philosophical and other knowledge of the Lodge, certain gentlemen and members of the upper classes who were not actual workers in stone. It is this process of acceptance, along with the original freedom, that the term "Free and Accepted Masons" comes from. These lodges are then supposed to have evolved into the modern, purely philosophical (or "speculative," as the Masonic term has it) Lodges.
The first Lodges in the US were chartered directly by Lodges or Grand Lodges in Britain; after awhile, however, Lodges in the colonies would issue warrants to form new Lodges themselves and eventually organized their own (Provincial, during the colonial period, but independent later on) Grand Lodges. The first Grand Lodge in Colonies was the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, chartered in 1769. The first truly independent Grand Lodge in America was organized by four Lodges meeting in Virginia in 1788. As each had been chartered by a different Grand Lodge in other states, the resulting ritual was a mixture of that in use in the other states.
The oldest known Lodge Room in the U.S. is situated in Prentiss House, Marblehead, Massachusetts (1760).The oldest Masonic Lodge Building is the Lodge Hall of Royal White Hart Lodge No. 2, Halltax, Northings, North Carolina(1771).
(This Content Taken From Golden Rule Lodge Site - Wakefield, MA)