Menomamie Lodge No. 374
Freemasonry in Wisconsin first took organized form on the night of December 27, 1823, when seven army officers and three civilians met at the home of Brother George Johnston on the west bank of the Fox River in what is now Green Bay. The soldiers were attached to the 3rd Regiment and stationed at Fort Howard under the command of Col John McNeil, also a Freemason. Desiring to form a lodge, the men sent a petition to the Grand Lodge of New York for a charter.
Wisconsin was then a part of the territory of Michigan and very lightly settled, Native Americans still roamed freely and played havoc with traders on the Fox. The soldiers were there to maintain order and to protect the settlers in the vast wilderness.
Dispensation for the formation of a lodge was granted, and on September 2, 1824, the interested brethren met again to organize it. Their charter from the Grand Lodge of New York was dated December 3rd. During the following year, Menomanie Lodge #374 ceased to be a military lodge and became a public one, acquiring Henry S. Baird as its Senior Deacon in December of 1825 as membership grew from ten to twenty-one.
Brother Baird was elected Worshipful Master two years later, unaware then that he would become Grand Master of Masons in Wisconsin a score of years later in 1856 and 1857. An 1854 address given by him in Green Bay outlined the lodge's records, including names and dates to 1827 and its cessation as a lodge in 1830. it was, therefore, never chartered as a "Wisconsin" lodge; moreover, its New York charter was destroyed in a fire during 1870 at Washington Lodge #21, Green Bay. Thus, Baird is largely responsible for preserving any records that remain. Having been operational in the Territory (which at the time included all of the present states of Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa. Minnesota, and those portions of North and South Dakota east of the Missouri River), Menomanie stands as the first "chartered" lodge in spite of its early demise. The original dispensation from New York's Menomanie Lodge #374 is housed in the archives of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin.
Melody Lodge No. 1 at
The rich lead mines in the southwestern part of the Wisconsin territory carved out of the original Michigan Territory in 1836 attracted a large influx of settlers including influential men from Missouri and Illinois. These men too, looked forward to organizing lodges of Freemasonry.
Between 1840 and early 1843 there was, however, but one. Melody Lodge No. 49 under the Grand Lodge of Missouri received a dispensation at Mineral Point on Octobers, 1840. Organized on July 27,1841, it was granted a charter in October 1842 under which it began work February 15, 1843. William R. Smith, Adjutant General of the Wisconsin Territory, was its Master Slater to become Grand Master in Wisconsin in (1849 and 1850), The lodge's Wardens were Charles Dunn, Chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, and Moses Meeker, an early settler at Galena (now Illinois) who built the first smelter in the region.
Melody Lodge No. 2 at
Meanwhile on January 10. 1843, a second dispensation came from Missouri to form their Lodge No. 65 in Wisconsin about 20 miles from Mineral Point in Platteville. It, too, was named for George Henry Curzo Melody, who as Grand Lecturer of Missouri, doubtless had much to do with the launching of Wisconsin's lodges, as his previously formed namesake now took the name Mineral Point Lodge; there is also Melody lodge and Chapter in Missouri named for this man, who once took a band of native Americans abroad to show in London and Paris.
Platteville's Melody Lodge contained thirty-five charter members including Benjamin T Kavanaugh, Superintendent of Missions to the Sioux and Chippewa Indians, later elected Wisconsin's first Grand Master, The lodge was organized February 15, 1843, and it was granted its charter October 31, 1843.
Milwaukee, Kilbourn Lodge
This lodge was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Illinois as that Grand jurisdiction's Milwaukee Lodge No. 22. Dispensation was granted on lune 12, 1843; the first meeting was held luly 5th. Brother Lemuel B. Hull, an Episcopal clergyman, was elected the first Worshipful Master, but he died in October of that year; his funeral was said to have been the first Masonic one in Milwaukee. Abram D. Smith, who had been elected Senior Warden under Hull, assumed the duties of Master in an election under the charter held November 1st. Brother Smith further went on to become Wisconsin's Grand Master in 1846,1847, 1848. and 1851.