Wednesday, March 6, 2013

An insight into Masonic history in the United States

by Larry Miller

Members of the Spearfish Area Historical Society learned a bit about Masonic history last night (3/5/13), as guest speaker Jim Savaloja wove an intricate story about the origins of Masons and their impact on our society – and in many other parts of the world.

After a few days of a late winter storms, Mother Nature eased up a bit, allowing members to make their way to the Spearfish Senior Citizen’s center for the March program.

A North Dakota native, Savaloja (shown at left) spent a long career as a peace officer after attending the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and the North Dakota State School of Forestry in Bottineau.  Now retired,  he served as a criminal investigator for the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Department at Devil’s lake.

A Mason since 1971, Savaloja was elected Grand Master of North Dakota in 1992.
Savaloja’s program covered the development of the present day Masonic Lodge, which was chartered in the British Isles and brought to the American colonies in the early 1700’s.  He tracked the lodge across the Atlantic to Boston and Philadelphia and told of the involvement in Masons by such early leaders as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, Paul Revere and John Hancock, among others.

Tracing the expansion of citizens into the western United States,,  According to Savaloja, it was a small group including James Monroe and Robert Livingston – both Masons -- who negotiated acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase from France, only to learn that the purchase was not accommodated by federal law.  Congress, he said, was left to approve the unusual arrangement after the fact.

Even the “Corps of Discovery” that explored the newly-purchased western lands had a Masonic involvement, said Savaloja.   Leader Meriwether Lewis was a Mason.  While his partner in leading the group – William Clark was not a Mason, Savaloja says Clark later 
became a member of the group.

Savaloja provided numerous other stories about the Masons, providing an evening of good fun enjoyed by the members.  You can find a bit more information -- along with additional photographs -- in our SAHS History Gallery.

We were delighted to welcome several Boy Scouts from Troop 17 in Spearfish, along with their leader, Bob Evridge.  We understand that the troop is one of the oldest -- perhaps the oldest -- in South Dakota.

The next SAHS meeting is set for April 2nd and will feature Lillian Witt, Geraldine Goes in Center, and Joyce Jefferson with “The Dakota Sisters – A Reenactment.”