The Grand Lodge of Montana, headquarters for Montana Freemasons, was built in Helena in 1868. Freemasonry affected Montana’s history from its earliest beginnings, as Masonic lodges were among the first social organizations in the first Montana mining camps. The Grand Lodge is a home to this history, acting as a library and museum full of historical artifacts, including, most famously, Meriwether Lewis’s masonic apron.
Lewis considered his masonic apron one of his most prized possessions, a remarkable feeling for a man who had collected so many valuable artifacts during his legendary expedition with William Clark. When Lewis perished from mysterious gunshot wounds while traveling the Natchez Trace in October 1809, his masonic apron may have been in his pocket. Lewis’s masonic apron is an important artifact, as Lewis was likely the first Freemason to travel through the land that became Montana, and the Montana freemasons went to great lengths to acquire it. Grand Master Joseph Hopper of Billings purchased Lewis’ apron in 1960, and it became the crown jewel of the Grand Lodge’s collection.
Another famous masonic artifact housed in the Grand Lodge of Montana is O. C. Seltzer’s painting of the first masonic meeting in Montana at Mullan Pass. The painting depicts three Freemasons camping together high in the Rocky Mountains on September 23, 1862. Those who visit the Grand Lodge of Montana today may view this original freemason meeting painted by Seltzer. From 1868 until the present, Freemasons have actively held meetings in this impressive Art Deco structure.