Fact: The Origins of Freemasonry are Lost in Time

While the history of what is sometimes referred to as "Modern Freemasonry" is pretty well documented starting with the establishment of the United Grand Lodge of England in 1717, there is no definitive record of exactly when or where the first lodge of Freemasons was established.

Freemasonry is generally believed to have descended from the guilds of stonemasons in medieval Scotland, whose exclusive knowledge of the science of geometry enabled them to build cathedrals and other elaborate stone buildings... by the 1600s, lodges began admitting men who weren't actually stonemasons, thus beginning the transition from "operative" Masonry to "speculative," or philosophical Masonry. To this day use the working tools of operative Masons are used as symbols during degree ceremonies.

The earliest known document referring to Freemasonry is the Regius Manuscript, which was written in 13901. The oldest surviving Masonic lodge in the world is Kilwinning Lodge 0 in Scotland, which dates its origins back to 11402.

Another popular theory proposes that the Freemasons are actually descended from the medieval Knights Templar, who went underground to escape persecution in the early 1300s and emerged as the Freemasons. It's a romantic idea first proposed by Chevalier de Ramsay in France in the 1700s, but not widely accepted among historians3.

The Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, formed in 1733, is nearly as old as the United Grand Lodge of England and the 3rd oldest Grand Lodge in the world. A number of lodges in Massachusetts were established in the 1700s and continue to meet to this day.

1, 2, 3 Hodapp, Christopher, . Freemasons for Dummies. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Publishing Inc., 2005. Print.