History of Freemasonry in Montana and Bozeman Lodge 18
When American settlers moved into Montana in the early 1860s in pursuit of gold and new opportunities, Freemasons were among their ranks. They would leave their mark on the history of the Treasure State.
Freemasons are members of the world’s oldest known fraternal organization, with obscure origins as a secret society said to range from the time of the building of King Solomon’s temple to the 17th century. Freemasonry exists across the globe, but all Masons share a belief in moral ideals and the existence of a Supreme Being. Masonic ritual uses the architectural symbolism of the tools of medieval stonemasons to teach moral and ethical lessons such as the principles of “Brotherly Love, Relief, and Truth.” Two symbols always found in a Masonic Lodge are the square and the compass.
The first Masonic Lodge in Montana was formed in 1862, but in the winter of 1863 Montana Masons came together to fight against the robbery and murder spree conducted by Bannack Sheriff Henry Plummer’s road agent gang. Many of these Masons helped form the Vigilantes, who made quick work of the road agents, hanging 21 of them within a month.
Bozeman’s first Masonic Lodge, Gallatin Lodge No. 6, was formed on Oct. 4, 1866, but restricted membership to men or their sons with Confederate ties. In the wake of the Civil War, trust was still hard to come by between Unionists and Southerners. In 1870, Nathaniel P. Langford, Grand Master of Montana Masons, learned of these restricted membership practices and arrested Lodge 6’s charter, basically suspending the existence of the Lodge. While the charter was later restored, this laid the foundation for the formation of a second Masonic Lodge.
Another charter was granted to the Unionist-leaning Masons on Oct. 8, 1872, when the Montana Grand Lodge unanimously agreed to the formation of Bozeman Lodge No. 18. The first official meeting took place on Oct. 19. Since then, the ill feelings caused by the Civil War have faded and harmony prevails, with many Gallatin Valley Masons holding dual membership in both Lodges.
Today, both Lodges are active and growing, and continue to attract men, young and old, who already being of good character, seek ways to further improve themselves. Currently, some 3,500 Masons are spread across Montana in the various Lodges within the state and each shares the same common goal -- to make good men better.