Freemasonry was established in Missouri in what was then the Louisiana Territory at St. Genevieve in 1807 when the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania warranted The Louisiana Lodge № 109. In 1808, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania warranted Meriwether Lewis (of the Lewis and Clark Expedition and first governor of the territory), Thomas F. Riddick (the first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Missouri) and Rufus Easton to establish Saint Louis Lodge № 111. The Grand Lodge of Tennessee added to these two Lodges when in 1816 it chartered Missouri Lodge № 12 in St. Louis, and then in 1819, Joachim Lodge № 25 at Herculaneum and St. Charles Lodge № 28 at St. Charles. Lastly, in 1820, the Grand Lodge of Indiana established Unity Lodge at Jackson. From these Lodges the Grand Lodge of Missouri was established on April 21, 1821—five months before Missouri joined the Union.
In 1847 due to rapid growth in Masonic membership, the Grand Lodge created the Missouri Masonic College at Lexington. Open to sons of Freemasons it was a four-year liberal arts college. At its peak it had over 170 students before closing in 1859.
In 1889 Missouri Freemasons built their first home for widows and orphans in St. Louis. Today the home is located in Springfield. The property includes separate housing for men, women, boys and children, a hospital, chapel and employees’ quarters. A second home in Kansas City opened in 1986. It provides residential living for Masons, their wives, widows and female members of the Order of the Eastern Star.
Besides countless local activities, Freemasons raise funds for public television, giving grants to the state Teacher of the Year finalists, establishing an award for professional ethics in law, and offering scholarships, Student of Today Awards, and sponsoring essay contests.
Today, Grand Master Richard L. Smith presides over the Grand Lodge of Missouri comprised of more than 330 Lodges with a membership of more than 45,500 brothers. Missouri Freemasonry has had such prominent members as President Harry S. Truman (Grand Master in 1941–42), Sen. Thomas Hart Benton, aviator Charles Lindbergh, writer Samuel L. Clemens (Mark Twain) and J.C. Penney.