Masonry in California
Masonry has been an integral part of California for more than 150 years. During the Gold Rush of 1849, thousands of settlers came to California in search of fortune. Many of these men were Masons and brought with them Masonic values and traditions. Not surprisingly, some of California’s first Masonic lodges were established in the mining towns of the Gold Country. In 1850 –the same year that California became a state –the Grand Lodge of California was established in Sacramento.
Within 10 years, the number of Masonic lodges in the new state had grown from 11 to 130, while membership soared from 258 to more than 5,000. Over the years, the Masons have played a key role in shaping the history of California. To date, 19 California governors have been Masons, and at least four California Masons have been elected to the U.S. Senate. Today there are more than 60,000 members and about 340 lodges, making the Grand Lodge of California one of the largest in the world.
MASONRY IN CALIFORNIA TIMELINE
1717: First Grand Lodge established in London
1733: First American lodge established in Boston
1846: Brother John D. Sloat, U.S. Navy Commandant, landed at Monterey and established the settlement of California
1848: California Gold Rush draws thousands of immigrants and pioneers, many of whom were Masons
1849: At the Constitutional Convention in Monterey, Masons helped establish a system of free public education in California
1850: To provide relief during the cholera epidemic in Sacramento, 69 Masons from three lodges raised more than $32,000 to build and maintain a hospital at Sutter’s Fort
1862: John Swett, Mason and San Francisco school principal, was elected California superintendent of public instruction. He went on to organize teachers’ institutes, established a teacher certification system, won support for school taxes, wrote a revised school law, and provided textbooks for California public schools. Swett is now referred to as the father of the California public school system.
1898: Masonic Widows’ and Orphans’ home of California opened at Decoto in Alameda County
1920: Public Schools Month began when Charles Adams, a San Francisco attorney and grand master who was passionate about California schools, proclaimed Public Schools Week. During that week, Masonic lodges led community meetings to respond to the state’s critical teacher shortage. Each succeeding grand master in California has continued the observance of Public Schools Week, now Public Schools Month.
1958: Masons of California constructed headquarters built at Nob Hill in San Francisco
1969: The California Masonic Foundation was established to further the education of young people, from kindergarten through college. Today, more than $1 million in scholarships is awarded by the Foundation every year, and lodges and other Masonic organizations contribute additional hundreds of thousands of dollars.
1998: Masons launched KIDS ID, a free fingerprinting and photo identification program
2000: Masons of California celebrate 150th anniversary
2011: The California Masonic Foundation launches a statewide initiative to support public education in three critical areas: school-based programs for elementary-age literacy; support for advancing instruction in middle school algebra; and expanding the Foundation scholarship program to include students for whom a college education has not been a choice. The strategic objective is to make a profound difference for California public schools.