No one knows for sure who the first Freemason was to enter what is now the state of Illinois, or when he either arrived or passed through. We do, however, know that the first lodge was established in Kaskaskia, then in Indiana Territory, in 1805.
Seven Freemasons, from 5 Pennsylvania Lodges, 1 Canadian Lodge and 1 New York Lodge, petitioned the “R.W. Grand Master of Masons in and for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Masonic jurisdictions thereunto belonging” for a charter on March 9, 1805, and were rewarded for their actions by the granting of a dispensation on September 24, 1805 for what became Western Star Lodge. Interestingly it was referred to as “a Lodge of York Rite Masons”. The officers were installed and the lodge constituted on September 13, 1806.
Brother Shadrach Bond, of Temple Lodge No. 26 (MD) became a member by affiliation of this lodge on December 27, 1806, his son having already joined the lodge. Brother Bond went on to serve as its presiding officer in 1815 and again in 1818, the year in which Illinois achieved statehood and he became Illinois’ first governor (October 6, 1818 to December 5, 1822).
Worshipful Brother Bond became Most Worshipful Brother Bond when he became the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Masons of Illinois. The Grand Lodge was formed by a small group of Lodges in 1822 and flourished for several years under two Grand Masters, before ceasing operations in 1827, a period that coincided with the short-lived anti-Masonic national political movement.
Though the records are lost, Western Star Lodge was thought to have gone out of existence somewhere between 1829 and 1835. Interestingly it was still operating under the charter from Pennsylvania as late as 1827. How this allowed Most Worshipful Brother Bond to serve two years as Grand Master of Illinois is still a mystery.
However, by 1839, Freemasonry was on the rebound and Illinois’ current Grand Lodge was formed in Jacksonville on April 6, 1840.
Today, the Masonic Fraternity under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Illinois is comprised of more than 500 Lodges and some 70,000 Masons—men of character from every walk of life all working together to build a better world!