Freemasonry was established in Illinois in 1805 at Kaskaskia. Western Star Lodge was charted from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. Shadrach Bond, the first governor of Illinois, was Master of this Lodge in 1815 and 1818, the year Illinois was admitted into the Union as the 21 st state. The first Grand Lodge of Illinois was organized in the southern part of the state in 1822. The founding Lodges in Illinois were chartered from Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky and Missouri. Unfortunately, this Grand Lodge only operated until 1827. As the state grew more populous, a second Grand Lodge was founded in 1840. After the Civil War, Illinois Freemasonry rose rapidly and in 1888 there were over 680 Lodges. The Grand Lodge of Illinois was second only to the Grand Lodge of New York as the largest American Grand Lodge.
Since the 1880s, the Grand Lodge has supported a wide range of charities. In 1886, it opened a children’s home in Chicago and in 1888, it opened a home and hospital at Sullivan. The Chicago children’s home later moved to LaGrange, where in 1931, it cared for over 300 children. In 2004, a second children’s home was opened in southern Illinois at Murphysboro. In addition, Illinois Freemasons support the Illinois High School Academic Bowl, Childhood Identification Program (ChIP) and numerous local activities.
Today, Grand Master Anthony R. Cracco presides over the Grand Lodge of Illinois comprised of more than 475 Lodges with a membership of more than 65,000 brothers. Illinois Freemasonry has had such prominent members as Senators Stephan A. Douglas and Adlai Stevenson, Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfield, heavy-weight boxing champion Jack Dempsey, Charles Hilton, founder of Hilton Hotels, the Rev. Preston Bradley, Marshall Field (founder of the department store) and W. Clement Stone.