Home About Union Lodge About Freemasonry Calendar Members Only Link
About Freemasonry

There are numerous accounts and explanations about Freemasonry. We provide this portion of our website to help answer your questions, or clarify misinterpretations you may have about our great fraternity. "Click" on any of the questions to the left to go directly to any of the answers in the text on this page.

What is Masonry?

Masonry (Freemasonry) is the oldest and largest fraternity in the world that encourages good citizenship and political expression, but it is not a political or religious organization.  Its charitable activities are many, yet it's not a welfare or benefit organization.

Masonry is a fraternity that believes in the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, and emphasizes the importance of being faithful to God, family, and country.

Masonry teaches that each person has a responsibility to be a good citizen and to endeavor to make things better in the world.  Most individuals will not be the ones to find a cure for cancer, or eliminate poverty, or help create world peace.  Yet, Freemasons have played a very important part in the world and more particularly in the birth of our nation


How did Masonry begin?

Although no written records exist that would define the true origin of Freemasonry, some claim that Masonry took its form at the construction of the Temple of Solomon and that King Solomon, and the two Hirams, were our first three Most Excellent Masters.

Present day Masonry is believed to have developed from the craft guilds of European stonemasons who built the beautiful abbeys, castles, and cathedrals during the Middle Ages.

The oldest document that makes reference to Masons is the Regius Poem, printed about 1390, which was a copy of an earlier work.  Over the centuries, Freemasonry has developed into a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy.

During the late 1700’s it was one of the organizations most responsible for spreading the ideals of the Enlightenment: the dignity of man and the liberty of the individual, the right of all persons to worship as they choose, the formation of democratic governments, and the importance of public education.  Masons supported the first public schools in both Europe and America.


What is a Lodge?

During the construction of cathedrals and other buildings, temporary buildings, called Lodges, were built next to these structures where the Operative Masons met to receive their pay, plan their work, train new apprentices, and socialize.

Today, the term Lodge means not only the building in which Freemasons meet, but also refers to the body of members who belong to the Lodge.  These are also referred to as "Blue Lodges" although it's unclear how the color blue became associated with them.


How is Masonry organized?

In 1717, Masonry created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed.  In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed.  It soon found its way to the shores of the Colonies in America. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several lodges in the Colonies and Masonry spread rapidly as America expanded west.  In the early years, the Grand Lodges were chartered under the Grand Lodge of England.

In addition to Benjamin Franklin, many of the founding fathers, men such as George Washington, Paul Revere, and John Hancock were Freemasons.  Masons and Masonry played important roles in the Constitution Convention, and the debates surrounding the ratification of the Bill of Rights.  Many of the debates were actually conducted in Masonic Lodges.

However, once the Colonies declared independence from England, the Grand Lodges followed suit and declared their independence and subsequently established their own Grand Lodges.  The Grand Lodge of Maryland was established at Talbot Court House (Easton), April 17, 1787, the same year that America's Constitution came into being.

Today, each Lodge is governed by a Grand Lodge, which serves certain geographical areas.  Each Grand Lodge, such as the Grand Lodge of Maryland in Cockeysville, is the supreme authority in its own jurisdiction or state, and owes no allegiance to any higher authority.


Do modern Masons still construct buildings?

No. The early Masons were "Operative Masons" who actually built the stone structures.  Present day Masons are "Speculative Masons" who fit themselves as "living stones" for that house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Present day Masons conduct Cornerstone laying ceremonies for a wide variety of buildings and structures.  Some of which have included: the Statue of Liberty (NY), the Capital Building and the Washington Monument (DC), and many public buildings, as well as post offices, educational centers, religious buildings, and medical facilities, to name a few.

To Freemasons, the laying of Cornerstones is symbolic of the Operative Masons who actually built masonry buildings.


Is Freemasonry a secret society?

Despite what some people claim, Freemasonry is not a secret society. Freemasonry's so-called secrets are solely a ceremonial manner of demonstrating that one is a Freemason when in Lodge meetings.  There have always been special signs and hand grips by which the initiated might make themselves known to one another, as well as private rituals which are not shared with nonmembers. In this respect, Masonry preserves its centuries-old reputation for secrecy, but the secretiveness is primarily ceremonial.

There are many examples of why Freemasonry is not a secret society. The fraternity does not hide its existence or its membership.  In fact, Masons are proud to be Masons, and often wear rings, hats, lapel pins, or clothing that show the Square and Compasses, the most widely used and recognized symbol of Masonry.

They meet in Masonic Lodges and Masonic Halls, which are familiar sights in thousands of towns and cities. Our nation's telephone directories list Masonic Lodges in every state.  When Freemasons meet, the meetings are public-record. Publications of Masonic literature and Internet entities like our Web Page are readily available to anyone.

Other fraternities, that are possibly more recognizable, have been founded by Brother Masons and, in some cases, use similar symbolisms and internal structure.

Brother Oliver H. Kelly, a Master Mason, founded the National Grange Fraternity, the oldest national agricultural organization. Grange Halls dot rural America and use many of the Masonic rituals.

Another organization with Masonic roots is the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) which was founded by Masonic Brother Thomas Wildey at the at the Seven Stars Tavern on April 16, 1819 in Baltimore, Maryland.


What are Freemasons and what do they do?

A Mason (or Freemason) is a man who has decided that he likes to feel good about himself and others.  He cares about the future as well as the past and does what he can, both alone and with others, to make the future better for everyone.  A Mason is a respectable citizen, taught to conform to the moral laws of society and abide by the laws of the government under which he lives.  He is a man of charity and good works.

Masonry is deeply involved with helping people.  The great majority of that help goes to people who are not Masons.  The Freemasons of America contribute millions of dollars every day to charitable causes which they, alone, have established.  These services to mankind represent an unparalleled example of the humanitarian commitment and concern of this unique and honorable fraternity.

Some of the Masonic charities are vast projects like the twenty-two Children's Hospitals maintained and operated by the Shiners and a nationwide network of over 100 Childhood Language Disorder Clinics, centers, and programs provided by the Scottish Rite Masons. The Knights Templar sponsor the Eye Foundation, the Tall Cedars support the Muscular Dystrophy Foundation, to name a very few.  These services are provided, free of charge, regardless of the patient's race, religion, creed or ability to pay.

Some services are less noticeable, like helping an elderly person pay their electric bill or help buy coats and shoes for disadvantaged children.  The community services provided by Masons fall into a wide range of activities such as sending much needed personal items to our military troops deployed throughout the world.

Another service offered by Maryland lodges, through the Grand Lodge of A.F. & A.M. of Maryland, is the MdCHIP (Maryland Child Identification & Protection) Program which is a program that provides the parents and guardians of dependent children with important identification information which can be provided to the proper authorities should their child become missing.  For more information, visit our MdCHIP Page.


What do Freemasons believe in?

Again, Freemasonry is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion.  The Masonic Lodge opens and closes its meetings with a non-denominational prayer, as we have members who are Protestant, Jewish, Catholic, etc.  Masonry's essential qualification opens the fraternity to men of all religions.  Masons are expected to continue to follow their own faith, although neither politics nor religion is discussed during the Lodge meetings.

Our detractors like to point out that we do not believe in or worship Jesus.  This may well be true of our Jewish brethren, but it certainly is not the case or those members of the Episcopal, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, etc. religions.  We are a fraternity, not a religion - each member is urged to practice his own faith.

Masons believe in kindness in the home, honesty in business, courtesy toward others, dependability in one's work, compassion for the unfortunate, resistance to evil, help for the weak, concern for good government, support for public education, and above all, a life-practicing reverence for God and love of fellow man.

Freemasons also believe in Three Great Principles that to them represent a way of achieving higher standards in life. The Three Great Principles are:

  • Brotherly Love: Every true Freemason will show tolerance and respect for the opinions of others and behave with kindness and understanding to his fellow creatures.
  • Relief: Freemasons are taught to practice charity, and to care, not only for their own, but also for the community as a whole, both by charitable giving and by voluntary efforts and works as individuals.
  • Truth: Freemasons strive for truth, requiring high moral standards and aiming to achieve them in their own lives.


How can I join?

Becoming a Mason is a solemn and sincere undertaking.  Joining Masonry means making a profound life commitment to act and live in certain ways.  To live with honor and integrity, to be willing to share and care about others, to trust each other, and to place ultimate trust in God.  Masons will not ask you to join.  It is a requirement that you join of your own free will and accord.

Should you not know a member of the fraternity, send an email to us at office@unionlodge48.com or call (410) 398-4932 and leave a message.  Someone will contact you and explain how to proceed.

If you decide you want to be a Mason, you need to ask a Mason for a petition (application).  You will need to fill it out and give it back to the member you received if from, who will bring it to the Lodge.

The Master of the Lodge will appoint a committee to visit you and your family, to learn more about you, and why you want to be a Mason.  They will tell you and your family about Masonry and try to answer all your questions.

The committee then reports to our Lodge and the Lodge votes on the petition.  If the vote is affirmative -- and it usually is -- the Lodge will contact you to set the date for you to receive the first degree in Masonry.  Once you have completed all three degrees, you will be a Master Mason and a full member of the Fraternity.

As a Master Mason, you will be welcomed in any of the thousands of Masonic Lodges throughout the world.


How can I learn more about Masonry?

There are hundreds of resources about Masonry on the Internet.  You may wish to visit our Masonic Links page for some of the best of them.

Unfortunately there are many sites out there that take great pleasure in trying to define the fraternity as something it isn't.  Should you become a member of the fraternity, you will find out just how far-fetched and ridiculous these sites are.

To dispel some of the many myths floating about the internet - go to www.masonicinfo.com. This site has a large amount of information about the fraternity.


Maryland Masonic History

Various records and news items indicate that Masonic Lodges existed in Maryland as early as 1750.  Old Annapolis Lodge in Annapolis, Maryland was chartered August 12, 1750 under the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts by Right Worshipful Grand Master Thomas Oxnard, Esquire.  Old Annapolis Town drew its early importance as the seat of government for Maryland.

Early Maryland Lodges chartered under the GL of Massachusetts:

Old Annapolis Town Lodge
Old Leonard Town Lodge
Port Tobacco
Joppa Lodge No. 1
Fells Point No. 15
Military Lodge No. 27
Baltimore Lodge No. 16
Baltimore Lodge No. 35
St. Andrew’s (Georgetown, DC)
no date

Early Maryland lodges chartered under the Provincial GL of Pennsylvania:

Penn. Lodge No. 6  at  Georgetown (Kent County)
Penn. Lodge No. 7  at  Chestertown
Penn. Lodge No. 15 at Fells Point
June 28, 1770
Penn. Lodge No. 16 at Baltimore-Town
? - 1794
Penn. Lodge No. 17 at Queenstown
Sept 16, 1773
Penn. Lodge No. 29 at Cambridge
Penn. Lodge No. 34 at Talbot Court House
Penn. Lodge No. 37 at Princess Ann

It was not until the surrender of Cornwallis in the autumn of 1781 and the signing of the treaty of peace with England in 1783 making each colony a sovereign state, that the formation of a Grand Lodge in Maryland was considered.

On July 31, 1783, representatives of five Eastern Shore Lodges chartered by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania met at Talbot Court House (present day Easton), Maryland for the purpose of forming a Grand Lodge in Maryland.

They declared their intent to form a Grand Lodge and Dr. John Coats, M.D., who was a past Deputy Grand Master of Pennsylvania, was elected to become Grand Master.  He was instructed to seek a Grand Lodge Charter from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.  At that time only the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts and the Grand Lodge of Virginia had declared their independence of the Grand Lodge of England.

The lodges represented were:

  • Lodge No. 6, Georgetown (Kent County)
  • Lodge No. 7, Chestertown (Kent County)
  • Lodge No. 29, Cambridge
  • Lodge No. 34, Talbot Court House
  • Lodge No. 37, Princess Anne

The Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was uncertain of what to do and did not declare its self independent until September 25, 1786.  For this reason no action was taken by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania on the petition to establish a Grand Lodge in Maryland.

On Tuesday April 17, 1787, (the same year America’s Constitution came into being), after four years of inaction on the part of the Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, the five Eastern Shore Lodges again convened and established the Grand Lodge of Maryland.  They elected Brother Dr. John Coats as the first Grand Master of Masons in Maryland.  The first elected Maryland Grand Lodge Officers were:

  • Bro. Dr. John Coats, R.W. Grand Master
  • Bro. Peregrine Lethrbury, Deputy Grand Master
  • Bro. Thomas Bourke, Senior Grand Warden
  • Bro. John Done, Junior Grand Warden
  • Bro. Samuel Earle, Grand Treasurer
  • Bro. Charles Gardiner, Grand Secretary

Once the Grand Lodge of Maryland was formed, the names of the Lodges formerly under the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania or the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts were changed:

  • No. 6 Became Georgetown (No. 1 Ceased 1793)
  • No. 7 Became Chestertown (No. 2 Ceased 1794)
  • No. 15 Became Baltimore (No. 3 Still active as Washington No. 3)
  • No. 17 Became Queenstown (No. 4 Ceased 1792)
  • No. 29 Became Cambridge (No. 5 Ceased 1792)
  • No. 34 Became Talbot Court House (No. 6 Ceased 1794)
  • No. 37 Became Princess Anne (No. 7 Ceased in 1793)

Elk Town Lodge No. 8, chartered in 1787, is believed to be the first Lodge in the area chartered by the newly formed Grand Lodge of Maryland.

Grand Master Coates was re-elected Grand Master in 1788, 1789, 1790, and again in 1793 making a total of five years.

Grand Master Coats’ Lodge, Talbot Court House Lodge No. 6, went inactive in 1794 the same year the Grand Lodge removed its place of meeting from Easton to Baltimore where it continued to meet in Lodge rooms of subordinate Lodges.

Washington Lodge No. 3 (formerly Fells Point No. 15) is Maryland’s oldest Lodge still in existence.

On September 18, 1793, Brother George Washington, acting as Grand Master of Masons in Maryland, assisted by several Maryland Lodges and Alexandria Lodge No. 22 of Virginia, laid the cornerstone of the National Capitol in Washington.

The Grand Lodge of Maryland continued to meet at Talbot Court House (Easton), Maryland until the Annual Communication session in May of 1794 when it moved to Baltimore, Maryland.

Grand Master John Coats died November 30, 1810.  He was buried in a private grave at Easton, Maryland.  On July 28, 1828 his body was removed from his original grave and reinterred to the Episcopal Cemetery at Easton with “full Masonic honors”. 

Nearby Lodges that went inactive and were never revived: 

  • Elk Town No. 8, Elkton, 1787 to 1793
  • Belle Air No. 14, Harford County, 1794 to 1798 (Last meeting June 2, 1798)
  • Zion No. 24, Havre de Grace, 1797 to 1804
  • Harmony No. 29, Elkton, 1799 to 1801 (Chartered October 21, 1799)
  • Clinton No. 83, Chestertown, 1826 to 1833
  • Cecil No. 125, Chesapeake City, 1866 to 2008

Maryland has had seventy-one Grand Masters from Most Worshipful John Coats in 1787 to Most Worshipful Stephen J. Ponzillo, III, 2011-2012.  It would be impossible to give due credit to those devoted and faithful servants of Freemasonry.

However, one of these seventy-one men deserves the title of Mr. Maryland Mason.  For thirty-three years, from 1885 to 1917, Thomas Jacob Shryock, as Grand Master of Masons in Maryland, gave of his time and his talent and handed down to the Masons of today the prosperity and the good repute that is our legacy.

Many relics and souvenirs of this ardent Mason are either in use in Grand Lodge or on display in the Masonic Museum and Library located in Freemasons Hall at the Grand Lodge in Cockeysville, Maryland.  One of the outstanding features of his administration was the Centennial Celebration in May 1887 when over five thousand Masons marched in parade through the streets of Baltimore to celebrate the occasion.

Today, each Grand Master serves for two years before joining the ranks of the Past Grand Masters.  The Grand Master of Maryland is the highest ranking Mason in his jurisdiction (state) and presides over all the 101 Maryland Lodges with a membership totaling more than 17,000 members with the numbers increasing each year.


Maryland Masonic Homes - Bonnie Blink

On May 16, 1862, a committee recommended to the Grand Lodge that a fund be raised to be applied to the “founding of a Masonic Widows’ and Orphans’ Asylum.”  A Masonic Home for Maryland had been talked about for 65 years before it was actually approved in 1921.

In 1927, the Grand Lodge of Maryland purchased Bonnie Blink, a 293 acre working farm with a barn and a mansion.  Bonnie Blink, which means beautiful view in Scottish, received its name from the premier location overlooking the Hunt Valley area.

After its purchase, the mansion was renovated for visitors.  It became a popular place to visit as it was documented that approximately 15,000 people visited within a 2 month period.  The proceeds helped increase the Masonic Endowment Fund that was to be used for building the Masonic Homes.

To contribute to the building funds, Grand Master Seipp announced the first “Corn husking Day” which took place on November 12, 1928. The idea was to have at least 100 men go into the fields and give a day’s work for the cause. It was reported that 1,250 men showed up for that event. After 3 hours, the men had completed 70 acres of husking. The first souvenir penny was furnished and was paid to each brother who took part which provided evidence needed to participate in that afternoon’s barbeque.

The Ground Breaking Ceremony for constructing the Masonic Homes was in May 1931.  There were 6,500 Masons, their families and friends who gathered for this event.  Later, Dedication Services were held in October 1931 to lay the cornerstone of the new Masonic Home.  The great depression hindered the grand opening of the homes for one year postponing the opening until May 1, 1934.

At last, Maryland Masonic Homes was established and continues to be a most desirable retirement community that sits high upon a hill overlooking Hunt Valley.  Bonnie Blink provides the highest level of care for Master Masons and their families.

Although there is no longer corn on the property to husk, this tradition still continues now involving breakfast and fellowship amongst Masons.  The name for the annual event was changed to “Harvest Home Day” and remains one of the most memorable events at Bonnie Blink and is open to Master Masons and their male guests regardless of age.

The Maryland Masonic Homes is a community exclusively for family and relatives of Master Masons in good standing from any jurisdiction recognized by the Grand Lodge of Maryland and members of the Order of Eastern Star in good standing from any jurisdiction recognized by the Grand Chapter of the OES of MD.  Applicants must be 60 years of age or older.

After the Grand Lodge of Maryland moved from Easton to Baltimore in 1794 and occupying three different locations where they suffered two fires, a new facility was built at Bonnie Blink. The Grand Lodge moved its operation in 1994 and still enjoys its present location overlooking Hunt Valley.

Click here for more information about Maryland Masonic Homes.


What does AF&AM and F&AM stand for and what is the difference?

Today, there is no difference.  A.F. & A.M. means "Ancient Free & Accepted Masons" where as F. & A.M. means "Free & Accepted Masons."

IIn 1723, a second Grand Lodge formed in England, which styled itself as ancient.  It issued charters in the Colonies, as did the original Grand Lodge.  By the time the two Grand Lodges united in 1813, many Grand Lodges had been formed in the United States, and each adopted one or the other designations.

Masonic Lodges under The Grand Lodge of Maryland uses the designation, A.F. & A.M. (Ancient Free and Accepted Masons).