Origins and History of California Lodge No. 1

Freemasonry came to California in the wake of the Gold Rush of 1849. At this point in the History of the Ancient and Honorable Craft, lodges were no longer permitted to charter new lodges. All new lodges had to be chartered from a Grand Lodge. The Grand Lodges typically enjoyed jurisdiction over a state of the United States, and no Grand Lodge was entitled to charter lodges or otherwise enter the jurisdiction of another state.

However, in the case of California and other territories which had no statehood or Grand Lodge of their own, Grand Lodges from other states freely chartered lodges in such places to further the interests of Masonry in general until such time as a Grand Lodge could be formed from the existing constituent lodges.

It was thus that a charter for California Lodge No. 13 was chartered by the Grand Lodge of Washington, D.C., and entrusted to Brother Levi Stowell. The charter was dated November 9, 1848. Stowell traveled by ship down the Atlantic coast, disembarked at the Isthmus of Panama, which, according to tradition, he crossed on mule back. After some weeks of waiting for another ship up the Pacific coast, Levi Stowell again embarked aboard ship to San Francisco, where he, with the assistance of other Masons, founded California Lodge No. 13 under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Washington, D.C.

According to Fifty Years of Freemasonry, Part III (Geo. Spaulding & Co., Publishers, San Francisco), the first meeting of California Lodge No. 13 took place on Thursday, November 17, 1849, on Montgomery Street in San Francisco. The second meeting was held on December 7, 1849, and the location of meeting on Montgomery Street was being called Masonic Hall.

California Lodge joined four other lodges, also chartered from the eastern United States, in forming the Grand Lodge of California in Sacramento on May 6, 1850. At this meeting California Lodge received the number 1 under the new jurisdiction. Its new charter was written on the

Around this same time, the old Masonic Hall on Montgomery Street was replaced by a new, more suitable, Masonic Hall on Kearny Street, near Pine Street. The first meeting of California Lodge No. 1 at the new hall took place on June 6, 1850. Levi Stowell was still serving as Worshipful Master of the lodge. The Senior Warden pro tem was R.E. Cole. The Junior Warden pro tem was Joel Noah. There were twelve other officers and members present, along with thirty-one visiting brethren.