In this blog, we explore the backstories of the former leaders of the free world and their ties to Ohio Freemasonry.
It may be often that we hear about some of the most powerful people in the world and in history being Masons, let alone Ohio Masons, which is why it comes as no surprise that some of them were the leaders of the free world. While many US presidents have been connected to Freemasonry, quite a few of them have Grand Lodge of Ohio ties. In fact, out of our country’s 16 total masonic presidents, one-fourth of them were from Ohio Lodges. From James Garfield to Warren Harding, we take a deep look into the Masonic backstories of the four presidential Ohio Brothers and their contributions to the United States and Freemasonry.
James. A Garfield
As the 20th President of the United States, James Garfield had many Masonic affiliations. In 1864, Garfield was made a Master Mason at Columbus Lodge No. 30 in Columbus, Ohio and lived nearby in Cuyahoga County. He attended Williams College, taught classics at Hiram College, became a brigadier general during the Civil War, and then was elected by Ohioans to Congress in 1862.
During the time he was in Washington as a congressman, Garfield became affiliated with Pentalpha Lodge No. 23, as a charter member in 1869.
Our 25th president William McKinley was inaugurated with a Masonic backstory spawned from the period he served in the Union Army During the Civil War. It was during that time he noticed a doctor handing out money to some Confederate prisoners taken following the Battle of Winchester. In his curiosity, McKinley asked the doctor why he was distributing money to the enemy troops and was told that it was a loan, to fellow Freemasons, who would one day pay it back if and when they could. It was at that point that McKinley decided to become a Freemason.
McKinley entered Freemasonry in Winchester, Virginia just as the Civil War was ending and attributed much of his excitement and interest in the Lodge to the fact that it consisted of members from both the North and South, a result that drew from the war coming to an end. McKinley was raised a Master Mason at the Hiram Lodge #21 in Winchester and remained active in Freemasonry for the rest of his eventful life, which included a long career in the House of Representatives, a term as Governor of Ohio, and election to the Presidency in 1896.
Warren G. Harding
Warren G. Harding, 29th President of the United States, was an Ohio Republican who served in the Ohio Senate and then later on in the United States Senate. On June 28, 1901, Harding was initiated into the Masons, Marion Lodge No. 70, Marion, Ohio. Because of some personal issues within the Lodge, Brother Harding’s advancement was hindered until 1920. It was around that time Harding had been nominated for President. Friends persuaded the opposition to withdraw the objection, and on August 27, 1920, 19 years after his Initiation, Brother Harding achieved the Sublime Degree of Master Mason, in Marion Lodge. At his request, Brother Harding took the Oath of Office of President of the United States upon the same Bible as was used by Brother George Washington for the same purpose on April 30, 1789 (the Altar Bible of St. John’s Lodge No. 1, New York City). National Photo Company, circa 1921-23.
William H. Taft
Our 27th and most recent Ohio Masonic President’s, William Taft, induction into Masonry was anything but traditional. In February 1909, Taft was made a “Mason at Sight”, a process in which a non-Mason is initiated into Freemasonry and raised to the degree of Master Mason by the power of the Grand Master.
Taft’s appointment was made within the Body of Kilwinning Lodge No. 356, Cincinnati, Ohio, by Grand Master Charles S. Hoskinson, in an Emergent Lodge called together for the purpose. His father and two brothers were also Members of this Lodge. Brother and President Taft addressed the Brethren, saying, “I am glad to be here, and to be a Mason. It does me good to feel the thrill that comes from recognizing on all hands the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man.”
Have you read our blog spotlight on Most Worshipful Brother Harry Truman? Visit to learn more about our 33rd President, who lived his life dedicated to the craft and ultimately became the second President to also serve as Grand Master.
Which of these presidents do you admire most and who do you think embodies the essence of being an Ohio Mason? Share your thoughts and please find us on Facebook and Twitter at @GrandLodgeOhio.