RICHARD I. GIBSON
Freemasonry probably began as a guild of craftsmen for stonemasons in 13th-century Europe, but when the Grand Lodge of England was established in 1717 it grew from workers’ organizations to an organization fraternal more religious and somewhat secret imbued with ritual. Lodges were established in Canada and the United States in the early 1700s.
Montana’s first Masonic lodges were formed in Nevada City, Virginia City, and Helena in the 1860s. Butte’s first lodge, Montana’s 22nd, was chartered on October 3, 1876, when Butte’s population was likely lower. to 2,000 inhabitants, but the money boom was well underway.
As Butte grew, five more lodges were established, including Mt. Moriah Lodge in 1880 and Monitor Lodge in Walkerville in 1887. By 1900 at least 13 lodges, councils, chapters, and female auxiliaries gathered at Butte, including the Silver City Lodge, established for African American Masons. The 1900 Butte Lodge was run by the Venerable Petty Officer James O. Rutledge, an engineer with the Butte Street Electric Railway Company who lived at 128 East Park. The largest Masonic group of women, the Ruth chapter of the Order of the Star of the East, was led by Kate Hogsett, whose husband Osbert also worked on the electric railroad. The Hogsett’s lived in 931 Utah. Samuel Jones, porter at the Silver Bow National Bank, ran the Silver City Lodge and lived at 18 West Copper Street.
By the turn of the 20th century, Masons numbered over 500 members in Butte, but as the population declined with the popularity of fraternal organizations, most of the lodges consolidated into Butte’s main lodge.