By Jerry D. Parsons, Grand Historian
The Idaho Territory was created in 1863 when President Abraham Lincoln signed the bill that created it. By then, there were many who had traveled to and through this mountainous and desert area.
Gold was discovered in the Boise Basin in 1862 and in the Owyhee Mountains thereafter. Among the many who ventured to the gold fields were Masons who populated new towns and cities to search for wealth. Boise City became a supply city for the gold towns of Idaho City (originally known as Bannock), Placerville,
Pioneerville, Centerville, Silver City and others that went by the wayside when the gold was depleted.
The Masons in Idaho City petitioned the Grand Lodge of Oregon for a dispensation to hold meetings in the bustling town of Idaho City. That dispensation was granted in 1863 with them becoming the first Masonic Lodge in Idaho still in existence. (There was anearlier Lodge formed in Lewiston but was short lived).
As the towns increased in population, Masonic Lodges were given dispensations to meet from the Grand Lodges of Oregon and Washington. Among them, Boise #37 and Placer #38 began meeting early in 1865.
The Brethren in Placerville saw a need for forming the Grand Lodge of Idaho Territory and corresponded with Idaho Lodge #35 and Boise Lodge #37 in June of 1865 to meet in Idaho City for the consideration of forming a Grand Lodge. With only three Lodges and 88 members, this meeting was not held.
In the next two years, Masonic Lodges were formed in Pioneerville (Boise Basin) and Silver City (Owyhee mountains). That brought together six Lodges that could form and sustain a Grand Lodge of Idaho Territory.
In June of 1867, Placer #38 again corresponded with the Lodges of Idaho Territory and requested them to send committees to Idaho City to meet and consider
the formation of a Grand Lodge of Idaho Territory. Committees were formed by Placer #38, Idaho #35, Pioneerville #12 (Washington), Boise #37 and Owyhee Lodge UD who agreed to meet in Idaho City on December 16, 1867. On December 17, 1867 the Grand Lodge of Idaho Territory was officially formed. They agreed to meet again in June of 1868 as a Grand Lodge and to approve a Constitution and By Laws and charter Lodges. They installed the Grand Lodge officers in July of that year which was led by Worshipful Brother George H. Coe, Idaho’s first Grand Master.
The original Masonic Lodge building in Idaho City was consumed by fire on May 18, 1865, when the city burned. The Masons of Idaho City rebuilt a Masonic
Lodge building and occupied it in September of 1865. It was a block from the original site and that building still stands and functions as a Masonic meeting
place. This building is historically known as the oldest Masonic Hall, where a Grand Lodge was formed and where they met in the years after, that still exists west of the Mississippi River.
The Lodges chartered in June of 1868 were Idaho #1, Boise #2, Placer #3, Pioneerville #4, Owyhee #5 and War Eagle #6. Pioneer #4 had their charter arrested in 1878. Owyhee #5 and War Eagle #6 consolidated in 1881 to form Silver City #13.
Since that time, the Grand Lodge of Idaho has expanded to its current 52 Lodges, Idaho Lodge of Research #1965 and two Historic Lodges; Idaho City Historic Lodge #1863 and Murray Historic Lodge #1886.