Grand Lodge History


In 1717 in London, England, a group of men organized what was known at the Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of England.  This was formed by representatives from several individual Masonic Lodges in England.  Masonry spread to other parts of the world when persons from this Grand Lodge of England migrated.

When several such persons lived in a locality they asked the Grand Lodge of England for permission to form a Lodge in their area.  After several lodges had been formed in this manner, these new Lodges could then form a Grand Lodge among themselves.  Thus, in the United States, each state has its own Grand Lodge.

Love’s Tavern

When Masons moved across the Appalachian Mountains into Tennessee they asked permission of an existing Grand Lodge for a charter to operate.  When several Lodges were operating, the members then formed the Tennessee Grand Lodge.  This happened in Knoxville in 1813.

Under dispensation from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, Tennessee Lodge #2 was formed in Love’s Tavern on Front Street, near the end of the Gay Street Bridge in Knoxville.  The first recorded meeting was held March 4, 1800.  In attendance was Andrew Jackson, then Justice to the Superior Court and a member of Harmony Lodge #1 in Nashville.  The charter was granted September 30, 1800, with John Sevier, then governor of Tennessee, as Worshipful Master.

Major James Grant, first clerk of Campbell County, was Senior Warden; George W. Campbell, Junior Warden; and George Ralston, Secretary.  The 1803 roster included Thomas Augustine Claiborne, a Knoxville physician, who was a distant cousin of Tennessee’s first Grand Master.

Two men who were initiated in Tennessee Lodge #2 were Archibald Roane, the second Governor of Tennessee, and Judge David Campbell, founder of Campbell Station.


Old Court House Knoxville, Tennessee

On December 27, 1813, in Knoxville, representatives for eight Lodges met and formed the Grand Lodge of Tennessee.

The eight were:
Tennessee #2, Knoxville
Greeneville #3, Greeneville
Newport #4, Newport
Overton #5, Rogersville
Solomon #6, Gallatin
Hiram #7, Franklin
Cumberland #8, Nashville
Western Star #9, Springfield

Grand Lodge Building Nashville, Tennessee

The Tennessee Grand Lodge was organized in the Lodge room of Tennessee #2, located in the old Court House which was at the northwest corner of Main Avenue and Gay Street.

Prior to the formation of the Tennessee Grand Lodge, the Lodges were under the jurisdiction of the North Carolina Grand Lodge, which from 1803 to  1813, was known as the Grand Lodge of North Carolina and Tennessee.  With the formation of the Tennessee Grand Lodge, a charter was issued from the Grand Lodge of North Carolina, thought to be the only instance where one Grand Lodge chartered another.

Grand Masters

Thomas Claiborne

Thomas Claiborne, a Nashville lawyer, represented Hiram Lodge #7 and Cumberland Lodge #8 at the formation of the Grand Lodge.  He affiliated with Cumberland Lodge #8 at Nashville on June 18, 1818, and was a charter member of Cumberland Chapter #1, Royal Arch Masons.

He was born in Petersburg, Virginia, on May 17, 1780, came to Nashville in 1807, engaged in the practice of law, and served under Andrew Jackson in the Creek War of 1813.  Apparently Claiborne’s military service was of rather short duration, because Jackson did not leave the Nashville area with his army until October 7, 1813.  The battles were fought on November 3rd and 9th and Claiborne was in Tennessee in time to attend the Masonic meeting in Knoxville on December 27, at which time the Grand Lodge was formed and he was elected the first Grand Master.

Jackson, the fifth Grand Master, and the first Grand Master formed a life-long friendship.  Claiborne was a Justice of Davidson County in 1818, and a member of the Fifteenth Congress from March 4, 1817 to March 3, 1819.  He was mayor of Nashville in 1818, and served in the General Assembly of Tennessee in 1811-1815 and 1831-1832.  He was a pall bearer at Jackson’s funeral in June 1845.  

Tom Claiborne served as Speaker of the House of Representatives in Tennessee, and, on October 28, 1813 was pleased to sign the bill establishing Tennessee’s first library.  George Wilson, Speaker of the Senate Pro-tem, later in 1813 to be installed as Deputy Grand Master, also signed the bill.  Wilkins Tannehill, seven times the Tennessee Grand Master, was one of the library directors.

The first Grand Master died on January 7, 1856, and is buried in the Old City Cemetery, Nashville.

Tennessee Masonic Presidents

Andrew Jackson              James K. Polk

Andrew Johnson             Sam Houston

Masonic Governors of Tennessee

John Sevier                           
1796-1801 & 1803-1809    Tennessee Lodge #2                                   

Samuel Houston                   
1827-1829    Cumberland Lodge #8   
James K. Polk                        
1839-1841    Columbia Lodge #31
Andrew Johnson                   
1853-1857    Greeneville Lodge #119
Archibald Roane                    
1801-1803    Tennessee Lodge #2
William Hall                          
1829    King Solomon #6
Newton Cannon                    
1835-1839    Hiram #7
Aaron Venable Brown             
1845-1847    LaFayette #51
William Bowen Campbell        
1851-1853    Lebanon #98
sham G. Harris                      
1857-1862    Paris Lodge #108
Robert L. Caruthers                
1863    Lebanon #98
Dewitt Clinton Senter             
1867-1871    Lodge Unknown
General John C. Brown            
1871-1875    Pulaski #101
James D. Porter                       
1875-1877    Paris #108
William B. Bate                        
1883-1887    King Solomon #94
Robert L. Taylor                       
1887-1991 & 1897-1899    Dashiell Lodge #238
John P. Buchanan                      
1891-1893    Mt. Moriah #18
Peter Turney                           
1893-1895    Winchester #158
James B. Frazier                       
1903-1905    Chattanooga #199
Albert H. Roberts                          
1919-1921    Livingston #259
Alfred A. Taylor                       
1921-1923    Johnson City Lodge #486
Gordon Browning                   
1937-1939    Huntingdon #106
Ned Ray McWherter               
1987-1995    Dresden Lodge #90

Other Founders & Distinguished Craftsmen

General James Robertson          William Blount

John Overton                            Colonel John Williams

Felix Grundy                             Colonel Hardy Murfree

John Rhea                                 Oliver Bliss Hayes

Francis McGavock                      John Bell

Willam B. Reese                        Willoughby Williams

Past Grand Masters of Tennessee  1813 to 1870

Past Grand Masters of Tennessee  1871 to 1918

Past Grand Masters of Tennessee  1919 to 1974

Past Grand Masters of Tennessee  1975 to Present

Grand Master Statistics: 
1 - President     3 - Governors     6 - State Representatives     10 - Senators
5 - Congressman     10 - Legislators     8 - Mayors     11 - Judges     12 - Ministers
14 - Physicians     2 - Dentists     44 - Lawyers     9 - Teachers     3 - Pharmacist
6 - Farmers     9 - Merchants

Harry S. Truman, Honorary Past Grand Master

© Unity Lodge #95 F. & A.M. 2014