The Origins of Freemasonry
In the Middle Ages, the term “freemason” was awarded to highly skilled stonemasons who were hired as free agents to build castles and cathedrals in England and Scotland. Because of the inherent danger of their work, stonemasons formed local organizations, called lodges, to take care of sick and injured members as well as the widows and orphans of those who were killed on the job. Eventually, men who were not skilled stonemasons wanted to join the group for the many advantages it offered. These men were known as "accepted masons." This is how the group began to shift from a craft guild to a fraternity. The first Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons was established in 1717 in London. In 1718, English Freemasonry spread to France and Spain, and after 1729, to India, Italy, Poland, and Sweden. Freemasonry spread to other parts of Europe and eventually made its way to the American colonies. In 1733, the first American lodge was established in Boston, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of England. The United States now has grand lodges in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
THE ORIGINS OF BISCAYNE BAY LODGE No.124 THE FIRST MIAMI LODGE
In the summer of 1896 a small group of Masons had assembled in a loft above a hardware store, which was located in the center of the block on South Miami Avenue between First and Second streets, and proceeded to organize a lodge of Free and Accepted Masons. The leaders in this movement were Rev. W. W. Faris, the late Dr. J. M. Jackson, the late Dr. W. S. Graham and the late George C. Friar. This lodge was operated under dispensation until January 19, 1898, when it received its charter from the Florida grand lodge. Upon the receipt of the charter the late Dr. J. M. Jackson, who acted as Master under the dispensation, was the unanimous choice for Worshipful Master; the late Geo. C. Friar, Senior Warden; the late Dr. W. S. Graham, Junior Warden. The lodge was named Biscayne Bay Lodge, No. 124. This lodge has been functioning continuously until the present day. "Masonic charity," which is the corner stone of the Masonic fraternity, has been exemplified in this city, not only for the benefit of the elect, but for the general community whenever an opportunity presented itself. True to Masonic traditions, Biscayne Bay lodge steered clear from politics and from all other activities not germane to Masonic aspirations. The year 1904 marks the beginning of the transition period of Miami's first Masonic Lodge. In that year Frank B. Stoneman was elected Worshipful Master and served with distinction for six consecutive terms. During his administration the membership had shown a remarkably rapid increase, and the lodge became an important factor in the progress of the city. There appeared a decided improvement in the social relations of its numerous members who had been given frequent opportunity to cultivate mutual friendships at the social sessions which followed the onvocations of the lodge. Mr. Stoneman, through his influence with his brethren, has been instrumental in the rehabilitation of many families and the preservation of the integrity of many individuals.