History of Utah Freemasons

History of Freemasonry in Utah

Many of the earliest settlers of the Utah Territory had been Masons before coming west.  However, Freemasonry did not become regularly established in the Territory until U.S. Army personnel created the first recognized Lodge at Camp Floyd in 1858. As greater numbers of diverse settlers arrived in the Intermountain West, additional Lodges were formed under the authority of several different Grand Lodge jurisdictions.

On the afternoon of January 16, 1872 a Masonic Convention assembled in Salt Lake City for the purpose of organizing a Grand Lodge for the Territory of Utah. This convention continued in session four days, transacted the business for which it was called, and some time during the afternoon of January 20, “the Grand Lodge of Utah closed its sessions in due form.”

Story Lodge No. 4

On the evening of the day which saw the close of Grand Lodge – January 20, 1872, four Masons met in Benham’s store on West Center Street, Provo, and decided to organize a Masonic Lodge in that City.

Those four men were Ira M. Swartz, a member of Wasatch Lodge No. 1, Salt Lake City, and clerk of the First District Court; Charles S. Benham, of Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 2, Salt Lake City, and a merchant of Provo; Samuel Paul, a member of Covert Lodge No. 11, Omaha, Nebraska, and Deputy U.S. Marshal, and Benjamin Bachman, a member of Mt. Moriah Lodge No. 2, Salt Lake City, and one of the pioneer merchants of Provo.

At that meeting, two committees were designated: Brother Swartz was to draft a petition for dispensation and present it to the Grand Master, and Brothers Bachman, Benham and Paul were to secure a suitable meeting place for the Lodge.

The following week, the four again met at Benham’s store where the Hall Committee reported they had obtained a lease for Cluff’s Hall (a large, two-story, adobe building stood on the northeast corner of 200 North and 200 East Streets) and Brother Swartz reported that a petition for dispensation had been drawn up and signed by nine brethren: Ira M. Swartz, Charles S. Benham, Samuel Paul, Benjamin Bachman, F.H. Simmons, John N. Whitney, Still P. Taft, Samuel Greeley, and J.P. Doolan.  As the proposed Master of the Lodge, Brother Swartz was authorized to proceed to Salt Lake City with the petition, present himself to Wasatch Lodge No. 1, request that he be examined as to his proficiency in the work and his ability to preside over a Masonic Lodge, and apply for the necessary recommendation to establish the Lodge.

All the necessary recommendations and certifications being obtained, a provisional dispensation was granted by the Grand Master, O.F Strickland, and the first regular meeting of Utah Lodge U. D. occurred on February 24, 1872.

“The Lodge was opened in due form in the third degree of Masonry with the following officers present:

                                Ira M. Swartz, Worshipful Master

                               Charles S. Benham, Senior Warden

                                Samuel Paul, Junior Warden

                                Benjamin Bachman, Secretary, P.T.

                                A.A. Noon, Treasurer, P.T.

                                F.H. Simmons, Tyler, P.T.”

The Lodge and its brethren met regularly to transact business and confer the degrees of Masonry. The last meeting of Utah Lodge U.D. was held September 21, 1872 and the last item of business recorded in the minutes of this meeting reads:

“On the motion it was unanimously resolved that the name of the Lodge be changed from Utah  Lodge, to Story Lodge in respect to the memory of the late brother W. R. Story, who was assassinated at Grantsville, Utah, May 2nd, 1870.”

On October 7, 1872, the Grand Lodge of Utah met in its first Annual Communication.  Utah Lodge U.D., having given a good account of itself during its period of probation, and having met all requirements, was a petitioner for a Charter. Upon the recommendation of a Committee of Examination, the following resolution was adopted:

“Ordered, that the Utah Lodge be Chartered, and forever to be known as Story Lodge No. 4.”

On the following day,

“It was ordered that the Dispensation of Utah Lodge U.D. be cancelled and returned to Story Lodge No. 4.”

On the evening of October 21, 1872, all arrangements having been perfected, the members of the newly chartered Lodge met in the upper story of the Octagon House (corner of Fifth West and First North Streets) in Provo, the home of Judge Strickland, P.G.M., for the ceremonies which would give Story Lodge a place in the sisterhood of Lodges.  Brother Strickland’s home had been selected for the ceremonies and Brother Strickland, himself, commissioned as installing officer by the Grand Master and as such, installed the officers, first having “consecrated and instituted” the Lodge.  The officers at this time inducted into their several stations and places were:

Ira M. Swartz, Worshipful Master

Samuel Paul, Senior Warden

Benjamin Bachman, Junior Warden

A.A. Noon, Treasurer

Chas. F. Swartz, Secretary

Chas. P. Lyford, Senior Deacon

F.H. Simmons, Junior Deacon

Samuel R. Bee, Tyler

With the sound of the gavel that marked the close of this meeting in the old Octagon House, Story Lodge entered upon a new period of activity and usefulness, being the first Lodge chartered under the Grand Lodge, Free and Accepted Masons of Utah.


Captain William Rufus Story

William Rufus Story

William Rufus Story

Born in Meigs County, Ohio, March 31, 1839; enlisted at St. Joseph, MO, Second Illinois Light Artillery, February 24, 1862; Commissioned Capitan, November 1, 1864; mustered out March 31, 1866.

Made a Mason in Metamora Military Lodge (Illinois Register) December 12, 1864; came to Utah in 1866; affiliated with Wasatch Lodge No. 8 (Montana Register, now No. 1, Utah Register) June 14, 1867; elected Secretary of his Lodge December, 1869; appointed U.S. Deputy Marshal (date unknown); killed while in act of arresting desperado, Grantsville, Utah, May 2, 1870; buried by Wasatch Lodge May 3, 1870, Ft. Douglas Cemetery.

Ira Martin Swartz

One of the founding members and Worshipful Master of Utah Lodge U.D., February 24 to September 21, 1872 and first Worshipful Master of Story Lodge No. 4, October 21, 1872 -1873.

Born Scranton, PA, January 15, 1842; taught school winter of 1859-60; moved to Michigan and worked on farm and in grocery store, 1860-62; enlisted Co. “K”, First Michigan Cavalry, March 28, 1862 and later served in Co. “B” same Regiment until March 28, 1865, when he was honorably discharged; immediately entered Quartermaster’s Department as clerk, and with exception of his first two years in Provo, as clerk of U.S. District Court, continued in that service to the end of his active career.  Married Myra C. Hatch, Detroit, Michigan, February 16, 1869; eight children born – two surviving sons.

Initiated Wasatch Lodge No. 8 (Montana Register, No. 1 Utah Register), July 15, 1867, passed July 26, and raised August 16, 1867; held membership in all branches of Masonry and in Shrine, as well as in O.E.S; received degrees of A and A.S. Rite by communication in Salt Lake City in 1871; assisted in organizing St. John’s Lodge of Perfection No. 1, Salt Lake City, January 31, 1871, and for some time served as its Secretary; P.H.P.; P.E.C.; P.V.M.; P.G.C.K.T., of Washington.  After leaving Utah he resided until his death at Seattle, Washington.

[Adapted from Freemasonry in Utah — Story Lodge No. 4 – The First Lodge Chartered by the Grand Lodge of Utah; as found in 117 Year History of Story Lodge No. 4 – 1872 to 1989 by Earl Louis Coker, P.M, Harold D. Adams, P.M., Peter Vel.]