The history of Freemasonry in Arkansas is closely linked to the history of Arkansas. Many of the founders of the state were the leaders and founders of Freemasonry. The early impact of the fraternity was in education and government. The Grand Lodge established the first institution of higher education; St. John$rsquo;s College, in 1859 and in 1853 established the second public library in Arkansas, both in Little Rock. Freemasons have never sought to influence government for the fraternity, yet many of the early governors, judges, representatives and senators were members. Freemasonry established itself within nine months of Arkansas$rsquo;s birth as a territory. On December 1, 1819, the Grand Lodge of Kentucky granted a charter to the Masons living in the new territorial capitol, Arkansas Post (Arkansas County), to establish Arkansas Lodge, U.D. (under dispensation), with Robert Johnson as the first Master of the lodge.
Two of the most ardent early Masons were Robert Crittenden and Andrew Scott. President James Monroe had appointed them as territorial secretary and judge, respectively, in 1819. The two men would establish the government and laws of the new territory and establish the first lodge. The first person made a Master Mason in Arkansas was Colonel James Scull, territorial treasurer, who received his degree on June 17, 1820. When the legislature moved the capital from Arkansas Post to Little Rock in 1821, Arkansas Lodge № 59 ceased to be a lodge. Lodge № 59 surrendered its charter in 1822, and organized Freemasonry in Arkansas was dormant for the next thirteen years.
As Arkansas moved toward statehood, Freemasonry had a rebirth. On November 5, 1835, the Grand Lodge of Tennessee instituted Washington Lodge Number 82 in Fayetteville. Soon after statehood was granted, three more lodges were established: in 1837, the Grand Lodge of Louisiana instituted Western Star Number 43 in Little Rock and Morning Star Number 42 at Arkansas Post, and the Grand Lodge of Alabama established Mount Horeb in Washington. By 1838, there were about 100 Masons in Arkansas$rsquo; four lodges when representatives from those four lodges met in Little Rock and formed the Grand Lodge of Arkansas electing William Gilchrist of Little Rock as their first Grand Master. By the end of the nineteenth century, there were 12,522 Masons in 442 lodges; the $ldquo;golden age$rdquo; of Masonry had begun. In November 1938, Freemasons from all over the state traveled to the Albert Pike Masonic Memorial Temple in Little Rock to celebrate their centennial. In 1938 there were 23,641 Master Masons in 434 lodges. Today membership is over 15,000 in 288 lodges.