Early Freemasonry in North America


There is little but tradition regarding Freemasonry in North America prior to 1750. Setting aside an inscribed stone dated 1606 from Goat Island, Nova Scotia; ambiguous Plymouth County records from 1654; and the Rev. Edward Peterson's claims for a Rhode Island lodge in 1658, the first reference to a freemason in North America is Jonathan Belcher, born in Boston in 1681, who was initiated into an “occasional lodge” while traveling in Europe in 1704, making him, upon his return to Boston in 1705, the “Senior Freemason of America”.


“There is some claim that Lord Alexander, Viscount Canada (d. 1638)—who was admitted into the Lodge of Edinburgh on the 3rd of July, 1634—established a lodge in the colony on the banks of the St. Lawrence, but there is no trace.”


“The first Lodge meeting in the western hemisphere, the knowledge of which is supported by something more than pure tradition, was probably held in King’s Chapel, Boston, in 1720.”


From 1721 there are newspaper accounts of Masonic affairs, implying that Freemasonry was of public interest and that there were freemasons in the colonies. A number of members of the lodge meeting in King's Chapel, Boston relocated to Nova Scotia after 1713 and may well have held occasional lodges in their new home.


The first lodge in Boston, St. John's meeting at Tun Tavern, was constituted July 30, 1733 but claimed an older history.5 It's first record book dates from the eleventh meeting of the lodge on December 27, 1738 to July 24, 1754. (Robertson records its constitution 31 August 1733.)


The brethren who met in Philadelphia left an account book, now known as “St. Johns Lodge Libr B”, beginning with June 24, 1731. In the archives of the American Philosophical Society at Philadelphia is a volume entitled “Benjamin Franklins Journal, began July 4, 1730”. It is an account book containing an entry for September 9, 1731 referring to the “Lodge of Masons held at B. Hubbard’s”. Bro. John Hubbard kept Tun Tavern, where the lodge met.


Unfortunately, “...the premier Provincial Grand Lodge of the Western Hemisphere, organized in Boston, Massachusetts, July 30, 1733 [by Henry Price], has no formal and continuous records written in a book at the time of the recorded events, until 1750.”