There were many Masons among the vanguard of pioneers that came to the Territory of Iowa in the early 1840’s. They came in wagons and on boats, settled along the Mississippi, and staked their claims. Some of them were farmers, but there were also merchants, teachers, businessmen, miners, lawyers, and politicians, which many of them being anxious and excited about the opportunities that awaited them in the “heartland” Iowa, “the beautiful land” as the Indians called it.
By the time the “Iowa Territory” was two years old, the settlers discovered they had a fraternal kinship. According to records, the first Masonic meeting in the Iowa Territory was held on the evening of November 6, 1840, in the Burlington carpenter shop of Brother Evan Evans. As a result of that meeting, a dispensation was granted on November 20, 1840, by the Grand Lodge of Missouri to form a Masonic Lodge at Burlington, Des Moines Lodge № 41.
Several months later on February 4, 1841, a similar action was taken resulting in the formation of Iowa Lodge № 42 at Bloomington (later to become Muscatine). Dubuque Lodge № 62 was officially formed by the pioneer Masons in Dubuque on October 10, 1842, and on December 9, 1842, nine Masons met in Iowa City to organize the last of the four lodges, Iowa City Lodge № 63 which would form the Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F. & A.M.
A delegation was appointed to attend the next session of the Grand Lodge of Missouri with a petition to form the Grand Lodge of Iowa. The request was granted on January 2, 1844, and, just one week later, delegates from those first four lodges met in a room over Sanxer’s Iron Store in Iowa City and organized the Grand Lodge of Iowa, A.F. & A.M.
The first four lodges were officially designated as Des Moines Lodge № 1, Iowa Lodge № 2, Dubuque Lodge № 3 and Iowa City Lodge № 4. Total membership of the Grand Lodge of Iowa A.F. & A.M. was 101. Oliver Cock was elected Grand Master and T.S. Parvin was elected Grand Secretary, a position he held until 1901.
Today, the 149th Grand Master, Dennis E. “Toby” Williams, presides over 254 local Lodges and more than 15,500 Brothers. Among its many distinguished and honored Brothers are the Honorable Charles E. Grassley, 33rd Degree, United States Senator and the Honorable Terry E. Branstad, Former Governor of Iowa and United States Ambassador to the Peoples Republic of China.