Hosparaduk’s path into the fraternity is typical; most members have some family connection to the organization. His experience parallels my own; my paternal grandfather was a Mason. I decided to join while a grad student in Ireland. I was initially intrigued by Dublin’s picturesque Freemasons’ Hall (a converted Georgian rowhouse filled with curiously decorated rooms and old oil paintings) and the fraternity’s history. But it was the friendships I made in the organization that have kept me involved over the years.
The Freemasons most likely grew from medieval stonemasons’ guilds, though more colorful theories abound. Fourteen U.S. Presidents, from George Washington to Gerald Ford, have been members. In Michigan, member Augustus Woodward made two especially durable contributions: he laid out Detroit’s street system (including Woodward Avenue) and enlisted local religious leaders to drum up support for a catholepistemiad, or school of “universal science.” Of $3,000 in seed money raised to start the school, $2,100 came from Zion Lodge No. 62 and from individual Freemasons. Opened in Detroit in 1817, the school was renamed the University of Michigan in 1821 and moved to Ann Arbor in 1837.
Masons first met in Ann Arbor in 1824 at Allen’s Tavern, a log cabin at what is now the northwest corner of Main and Huron. The village’s first Masonic lodge, Western Star No. 6, was chartered there three years later. General Lewis Cass, governor of Michigan and grand master of Masons in the territory, attended the celebratory ball.