As a leader of the Corp of Discovery, Meriwether Lewis was the first known Freemason to enter what would be come Montana in 1805. The first meeting of Masons in Montana on September 23,1862, when three brethren with the first Fisk expedition camped near the summit of the Rocky Mountains performed the ritual of opening and closing a lodge. They were Nathaniel P. Langford, David Charlton and George Gere, all Minnesota freemasons. The first Masonic funeral in the territory was at Grasshopper Creek gold camp, near Bannack. Seventy-six Masons attended the grave of their departed brother, William H. Bell, the day after his death on November 12, 1862.
The first lodge in Montana was Idaho City in Nevada City. It received its charter from the Grand Lodge of Nebraska in 1863 and raised the first Master Mason in Montana on April 23, 1864. Unfortunately it closed later that year. The second lodge, Virginia City, received its charter from the Grand Lodge of Kansas in 1864. The third and fourth lodges were chartered by the Grand Lodge of Colorado. Montana Lodge in Ennis and Helena Lodge received their charters in 1865. On January 26, 1866, Virginia City, Montana and Helena Lodges meet at Virginia City and formed the Grand Lodge of Ancient Free & Accepted Masons of Montana.
Since its first lodges Montana Freemasons have maintained charities. In 1886 Bro. David Auchard left most of his estate to establish a Masonic home for aged, or distressed Masons, widows and orphans. The home was established in 1909 and by 1936 it cared for 50 men and women. Besides countless local activities, Freemasons support “Reading Achievement” program. Lodges purchase Kindles as prizes to encourage children read books. For each book read the child deposits a slip of paper in a box. The more books read the more deposits made. At the end of a school term, the name drawn from the box wins a Kindle.
Today, Grand Master William Murphy, Jr. presides over the Grand Lodge of Montana comprised of more than 82 Lodges with a membership of more than 3,500 brothers. Montana Freemasonry has had such prominent members including most of the early governors and judges in the territory and state, current US Senator John Tester (Treasure Lodge № 95) US Representative Denny Rehberg (Ashlar Lodge № 29), actor Wallace Kurth (Pryor Mountain Lodge № 151) and singer Mel Tillis (Hiram Lodge № 52).Grand Lodge of Montana, Ancient Free & Accepted Masons