Kansas is home to some truly historic Freemasonry. The Grand Lodge of Kansas, formed back in 1856 nearly five years before statehood and responsible for regulating all things brotherly within our great jurisdiction – from spiritual practices right down through basic principles like toleration towards those who believe differently than us–was based heavily upon English protocols which had been brought over by English settlers. The Masonic Grand Lodge of Kansas was established in 1856, just a few short years after the state of Kansas was admitted to the Union and right in the heat of Bleeding Kansas. Since then, the organization has played a vital role in the lives of countless men and women across the state.
The story began with three Wyandot Indians and five white settlers from Missouri that petitioned the Grand Lodge of Missouri to establish a Masonic lodge in their community. This is a story that deserves recognition. This dispensation was eventually granted, leading us here today with Kansas’ first-ever Masonic Lodge which would eventually become Wyandotte #3 that still exists to this day.
Here’s a brief look at the history of this important institution.
The Early Years
The record of the Grand Lodge of Missouri, in their case, is as follows: “Work found correct, and Grand Lodge of Kansas recommended to grant a charter.” Three lodges in the Territory having been regularly chartered, constituted and their officers installed, it was competent for them to meet and organize a Grand Lodge, and this· the brethren of the several lodges were not slow in doing. To our esteemed brother,· Richard R. Rees, long since at rest from his earthly labors, belongs the honor of proposing the first meeting which resulted, finally, in our present organization. This action preliminary to the formation of the Grand Lodge we find recorded in the minutes of Leavenworth- Lodge, at a meeting held September 15, 1855, offered by Bro. REF.s, as follows: “On motion: Resolved, That the several chartered lodges in this Territory be requested to send in delegates to Leavenworth on the second Monday in November next, for the purpose of organizing a Grand Lodge in the Territory, and that the Secretary forward to each lodge a copy of this resolution.” The minutes of the lodge show no further action in the matter, except that Bro. REES reported to the lodge November 17th that “the convention met on the day appointed, and for want of a quon1m had adjourned to meet again on the 27th of December, next.” With the foregoing we close our brief history of masonic events prior to the organization of the Grand Lodge, as all subsequent proceedings are matters of record and published with its continuous history.
The Civil War and Beyond
In the bloody 1850s and during wartime, Kansas was continually torn by bitter strife over slavery. Despite being on opposite sides of this dispute at one point in time or another for many residents–both slave owners as well those who opposed them-they put away their guns to create a Masonic altar where enemies met as Brothers at Night.
A New Century
As Kansas entered the 20th century, the Masonic Grand Lodge continued to evolve and adapt to meet the needs of its members. An old Victorian style residence was purchased in Topeka across from the State Capital. The house was renovated to add on a museum and library but eventually the size was no longer meeting the needs to archive the Jurisdictions history and library. On the same plot of land the residence was leveled and a new state of the art facility was constructed in the same location, which served as their headquarters for many years. In recent years, they have worked to expand their charitable offerings and provide additional support to public schools and other important organizations throughout Kansas.
The Masonic Grand Lodge of Kansas has been serving the communities across our state for more than 160 years. Throughout its long history, this important organization has been committed to charity and public service. Today, it continues to adapt and evolve to meet the ever-changing needs of our state’s residents and interests of the members. For all that it has done—and continues to do—we are truly grateful. Thank you, Grand Lodge of Kansas!