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There are a variety of active lodges in Shelby County. Their meetings and fundraisers show up in events listings, and you may know members.
But the groups – unlike circles that support local entities – sometimes appear secret and even mysterious, with that being supported by legend.
But they are hardly new.
For more than two centuries Masons, as the most prominently recognized lodge, have been active in and around the county, and Shelby played a vital role in helping establish the Free & Accepted Masons in what was then considered the west.
But there other lodges, and this might help you have a better understanding of how they operate.
How long have they been in Shelby County?
“The first lodge in Shelby County was the Abraham, U.D.,” said Rick Nation, secretary of Shelby Lodge in Waddy and Grand Senior Warden for the Grand Lodge of Kentucky.
Started by the Grand Lodge of Virginia, Abraham U.D. went on to help create the Grand Lodge of Kentucky in October of 1800.
“Kentucky was the first Grand Lodge west of the Allegheny Mountains, and Shelbyville was one of the formative lodges,” Nation noted. “At that time a charter was issued for Solomon’s Lodge No. 5, and that lodge is still in existence on the ground adjoining the Masonic Home of Shelbyville on U.S. 60.”
The Solomon’s Lodge was the fifth created in Kentucky, and several more sprang up in the Kentucky as the association continued to grow. However, over time many have either dissolved or combined with other groups leaving Shelby County with three lodges, Solomon’s, Wingate No. 161 in Simpsonville, which was created in 1847, and Shelby No. 662, in Waddy, created in 1891.
What about those mysterious theories?
The Masons have inspired conspiracy theories since 1700s, and most involve either the control of government, religion and popular cultural.
Some of that mystery is because for centuries Masons provided public services, but rejected any public recognition.
“Masons avoided any public acknowledgement of their philanthropy, for, literally, centuries,” Nation said. “Only in recent years have we accepted public accolades for our good works.”
The most recognizable work from Masons comes in the form of scholarships and, of course, the Masonic Homes.
“In Kentucky, in 1867, we established a home for widows and orphans in Louisville, and in 1901, a home for aged Masons in Shelbyville. These have since been merged into the Masonic Homes of Kentucky and are now open to the public,” Nation said.
What do lodges contribute?
“Nationally, Masons contribute approximately two million dollars daily to various charities,” he said. “The Shriners Hospitals are possibly the best know of our philanthropies. All Shriners are Masons. Also, other Masonic affiliated groups, such as the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Tall Cedars, Eastern Star, etc., support and fund specific charities.”
Although there are nearly 400 Lodges in Kentucky, each are independent entities governed by the Grand Lodge. Although, Nation said, occasionally one or more lodges may come together to work on a specific project, usually a philanthropic effort.
Where did it start?
No one is quite sure when the organization started, but it is considered the oldest fraternity in the world. In 1717 the first Grand Lodge was formed in England, and it grew to Scotland and Ireland within the next few years. The first Grand Lodge in the United States, the Grand Lodge of Ancient York Masons, was formed in 1778 in Williamsburg, Va.
How do you become a member?
The society does not recruit members, instead relying on the word of mouth of the society and its work in the public.
A potential member can ask for a petition and must meet a few requirements: be a man, be of sound mind and body, believe in God and, in Kentucky, be at least 18 years old. If a man meets those requirements, he can than request a formal petition of his local lodge.