No history of Kentucky Masonry would be complete without chronicling the impact of Scottish Rite Masonry upon thousands of Kentuckians. The organization known as “Scottish Rite” consists of Freemasons joined together to extend their Masonic study, association, and activities.
The ceremonies of Freemasonry and its philosophy are contained in the first three degrees. The Scottish Rite has similar basic degrees but they have never been conferred in the United States by the Scottish Rite in recognition of the principle that this is the proper function of the Symbolic or Blue Lodge. Therefore, the Scottish Rite confers the degrees only from the Fourth through the Thirty-Second degree. The Thirty-third Degree is conferred upon Thirty-Second degree Masons who have rendered outstanding service to the community, to society or to Freemasonry. It is called a “Honorary” degree since one can not petition for it in the same manner as one does for the proceeding degrees and because members who receive this Degree become Honorary Members of the Supreme Council.
The Scottish Rite came to Kentucky when the Grand Consistory, Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite was organized in Louisville, August 21, 1852, with eight charter members. Today additional Scottish Rite Bodies are located in Covington, Madisonville and Lexington.
The original eight members trying to diffuse the true, genuine Masonry of the Scottish Rite met with much discouragement and the movement existed for the most part in name only until peace was restored after the Civil War. Very few members were conferred.
Starting in 1866, however, much interest was manifested in Masonry and the Scottish Rite since that time has been an active Masonic body.
Early meetings were held in the old Masonic Temple located at the Southwest corner of Fourth and Jefferson Streets. Later, in August 1876, the Grand Consistory moved to the Courier-Journal Building then located on Jefferson Street between Third and Fourth.
In 1894, the Scottish Rite purchased the St. Paul’s Episcopal Church at Sixth and Walnut Streets; the church had been partially destroyed by fire. Some $41,000 was expended in the remodeling. Renamed the Scottish Rite Cathedral, it served as the home for the fraternity until 1923. Currently, the Grand Consistory, now known as the Louisville Scottish Rite is located in the beautiful Temple of Grecian architecture at Brook and Gray streets.
Many men have contributed much of the success of the Scottish Rite in Kentucky. Space does not permit a detailed biography of each of them. Among the many prominent Kentuckians who held membership in the Scottish Rite was John Cabell Breckinridge, 33°, who served as the first Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Kentucky for the Supreme Council whose headquarters are in Washington D.C. He was elected Vice-President of the United States in 1856, serving from 1857-1861; at the time of his election he was only thirty-five years old, the youngest Vice-President in the nation’s history. As a Presidential candidate in 1860 he received 82 electoral votes.
Seven men have guided the destiny of the Scottish Rite in Kentucky as Sovereign Grand Inspector Generals, Breckinridge was followed by Frederick Webber and John H. Cowles and these two men governed the Rite from 1859 until 1952. Both also held high positions in the Supreme Council, Cowles serving as Grand Commander for 31 years, retiring in 1952. Fourth, Fifth and Sixth respectively were Judge Stephen S. Jones, 33°, Charles J. Weber, 33°, and George R. Effinger, 33°.
The current Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Kentucky of the Supreme Council and the titular head of the Scottish Rite in Kentucky is Terry L. Bowman, 33°, who is also a Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Kentucky, Free and Accepted Masons.
Terry L. Bowman, PGM, 33°
Sovereign Grand Inspector General