Freemasons are members of the oldest and largest fraternity in the world. It has existed in its present form as a purely fraternal organization since at least the early 1700’s. The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was founded in 1731. Our Masonic fraternity evolved and borrowed from the earlier traditions of working masons. Therefore, Freemasonry has existed in some form for a VERY long time. Artifacts have been found in Egypt dating to 1400 BC bearing symbols, in their appropriate positions, that modern Freemasons would instantly recognize. One of these now resides in Central Park, New York City, NY and is pictured below.


When the practice of agriculture was developed it became possible to grow more food than the farmers themselves required. This in turn allowed cities to exist and freed up labor for other pursuits. Among the first professions to emerge was that of the builders.

  There was only one material available to these early builders that offered lasting permanence - stone. The builder’s arts also included planning and managing projects. Thus we have the architects and master builders of the ancient world.

Building projects require tools and techniques as well. To preserve their livelihood much of the knowledge was restricted to only those who were by birthright or affinity privileged to that knowledge. Testing and certification of workers was important if their was to be any assurance of quality in the finished

product. Hence the practice of recognizing apprentices, journeymen and master craftsmen that are continued in the building trades even to this day. It was also important that there be a means to ascertain who had reached these stages of expertise. Hence the use of various “secret” means of recognition.


   The practices developed by the ancient builders flourished throughout the ancient world, surviving the dark ages into medieval times and the renaissance. The castle builders and the builders of the great cathedrals were Masons. A practice handed down from the ancients was the building of a shelter for the workers adjacent to the project. The ancient equivalent of the construction trailer. It was here designs for upcoming labor were drawn out upon the “trestle board” or drafting table. When the workers were called off from labor this might be employed as a dinner table. This construction shelter, or LODGE, also served as the place where advancement ceremonies were conducted, where visiting workmen were received and examined as to their credentials, and other business was conducted. The term “Freemason” was born, likely as the building stone of choice was ungrained sandstone, referred to as “free stone.” Also, unlike serfs or vassals who were bound to a particular fiefdom many masons were “free” to travel from one project to another.


It is reasonable to assume, at some point and time, that influential patrons and benefactors of working or “operative” Mason lodges began to be invited into those lodges to share in their fellowship. It is also reasonable to assume that these non-working or “speculative” masons recognized the symbolic significance of the practices and tools of their working brothers. When exactly the working brethren had invented much of this symbolism is lost to history. It is clear however, by virtue of a very few preserved writings dating to the late 1300s to the late 1500s that practices existed then that are carried on in Masonic lodges to this day. By the late 1600s there were lodges consisting solely of the non-working “speculative” masons. In 1717 the Grand Lodge of England was constituted, based on the consensus of four speculative lodges - ALL READY EXISTING - in London, England. Explosive growth followed.

  The following pages bring our history lesson up to date:

· The OUR LODGE page documents the establishment of Lowther Manor Lodge.

· The LOWTHER MANOR page describes the founding of Lowther Manor Lodge on the west shore of the Susquehanna at Harrisburg, PA and the connection to Lowther Manor in England.

· ANTIENTS & MODERNS explains why Pennsylvania Masons are… DIFFERENT!