Talofa from the South

History of Masonry on the Hawaiian Islands

June 2000


The majority of Masonic Brethren will be surprised to learn that the first Masonic Lodge to be instituted west of the Mississippi River was Lodge Le Progres de I'Oceanie in the Hawaiian Islands in the year 1841.  But such is the case, and the man responsible for it was the captain of a French whaling vessel.  It seems that these islands, then known as the Sandwich Islands and named after an English lord, were the stopping place for many whalers en route home from the Alaskan waters with whale oil and bone.  At different times during the course of a year  as many as 200 ships would stop here, and often their cargoes were sold and their stock of provisions replenished.  Most of these ships were owned by New Bedford, Massachusetts, people, and often were away from their home port for five or six years.  Captain M. Le Tellier was the captain of the bark Ajax which flew the colors of France.  He was not only a captain of high rank, but one of much prominence at home.  He ranked high socially and politically, due, partially, to the fact that he was a 33 degree Mason.  He was duly authorized by the Grand Lodge of France to establish Masonic Lodges in various countries he visited.  He carried with him duly signed papers, seals, commissions, etc., showing his power to do so.  Under the circumstances, not having anyone to assist him in initiating members, he was able to make a man a Mason "on sight" by communicating the degrees. This practice is still in vogue, but seldom used.  It was, occasionally, during wartime as on numerous occasions newly elected men would be called into service before they could be inducted into the Fraternity in the regular manner.    Captain M. Le Tellier was to be extended supreme honors whenever he appeared in a Lodge while in session.   In Honolulu, in 1841, he selected his men from among other seafaring men and others, respecting all nationalities---German, French, Irish, Italian, English, American, Scotch---and thus was born the first Lodge of Masonry, Known as Lodge Le Proges de I'Oceanie, under dispensation, aboard the ship Ajax, in Honolulu harbor.  He  told his Brethren it would be strictly proper that the first three degrees should be under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of France, and that the higher degrees should be under the Scottish Rite Bodies.  He issued the Warrant, and sent for the charter.  For some time the meetings were held aboard ship, or in the home of one of the members.  This Lodge continued under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of California, F.&A.M., and  the number  of the Lodge was changed to No. 371.  I note from the minutes that relief was extended to worthy Brothers, and needless to say this practice still continues in force.  It is quite common now for some organization to sponsor a carnival in order to raise money for some worthy cause.  It has been said that there is nothing new under the sun, which is evidenced by the fact that, as early as January 17, 1861, the Masons of Honolulu sponsored a circus, and the members marched in full regalia to be present at the opening of the event.


Since Freemasonry was organized in the Hawaiian Islands, the Masons have laid the cornerstones of all the public buildings erected here, including one for the Odd Fellows in 1859.  Two of the Kings of Hawaii were installed as  Masters : Kamehameha  IV, in 1858 in 1858, 1860 and 1861: Kalakaua, in 1875.  Co. John O. Dominis, who was Prince Consort of Queen Liliuokalani, was installed Master of the Lodge, in 1862, 1863 and 1867.  In 1852, another group of Masons founded Hawaiian Lodge No. 21 under the Grand Lodge of California.  On the ninth day of April 1895, a group of Masons gathered together at the home of Clinton B. Ripley to discuss the formation of a new lodge in Honolulu.  Brother Henry E, Cooper, the Junior Past Master of Hawaiian Lodge, spearheaded, engineered, organized and obtained the proper documentation needed to  institute a new lodge and laid the cornerstone to erect the new lodge. Pacific Lodge No. 822 (now Honolulu lodge) was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Scotland through the District Grand Lodge of Queensland.  Pitkin Cowles Wright, 33rd Degree Mason, of DeWitt, Iowa, was commissioned, in 1873, by Grand Commander Albert Pike to organize, establish and install Scottish Rite Bodies in the Sandwich Islands for the Supreme Council 33rd Degree of the Southern Jurisdiction, U.S.A.  He arrived in Honolulu in June, 1874, and his stay there was of long duration.  Many of the degrees were conferred in ceremonial regalia.  He reported that, when the 29th Degree was being conferred, he acted as Tyler and was assisted by a uninformed guard of twenty-five men, armed, and he thought that the Lodge was never as securely tiled.  For the uniformed, may I say that the Scottish Rite has jurisdiction over all the degrees from the fourth to the thirty-third, inclusive.  King Kalakaua and John Dominis were the first to be made 33rd Degree Masons in the Hawaiian Islands, and the latter was head of the Scottish Rite until his death in 1891.  Masonry flourished in the Hawaiian Islands, and all the Masonic Bodies are prosperous.  The Lodges of the Hawaiian Islands are the only lodges in the American jurisdiction which has Hawaiian Freemasons of Royal Lineage of the Kingdom of Hawaii and Royal Past Masters.

Alexander Liholiho - Kamehameha IV

Past Master of Lodge Le Progres de I'Oceanie -1859, 1861 and 1862

David Kalakaua Rex

Past Master of Lodge Le Progres de I'Oceanie -1876

Lot Kamehameha - Kamehameha V - 1854

Prince William Pitt Leleiohoko - 1874

Prince David Kawananakoa - 1900

In 1910, Honolulu Lodge transferred to the Grand Lodge of California and became known as Honolulu Lodge No. 409.  On May 20, 1989 the Grand Lodge of Hawaii was founded.  Presently all lodges in the Hawaiian Islands are under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Hawaii.  More information about Masonry in Hawaii is available from the South and will be published in the Trestle Board periodically.

Fraternally Yours,

Randy Su'a

Junior Warden