Who We Are
This page provides a wealth of foundational information on the following items:
What We Do – Learn what Scottish Rite Freemasonry is, understand our fundamental goals, core values and the system of degrees.
Our Vision – A concise vision statement, which we strive to achieve.
Our Leadership – Current bodies, including Valley officers, leaders, and committees.
Our History – Historical information unique to the Valley of Milwaukee, along with the Scottish Rite Masons organization, and Wisconsin Masonry.
Partners – A concise list of all affiliated organizations and their official websites.
Membership – Membership stats and a list of F&AM Lodges within the Valley territory.
What is 32° Scottish Rite Freemasonry, Northern Masonic Jurisdiction?
32° Scottish Rite Freemasonry is a fraternity which expands upon the fundamental principles of Freemasonry introduced to us in Symbolic (Blue) Lodges. Building upon its ethical and philosophical teachings, 32° Freemasonry reveals a wealth of knowledge about Masonry not found in the other degrees. Our mission is simple: enrich the philosophy of the symbolic lodge to help good men become even better.
Originally chartered in France during the mid-1700s, the Scottish Rite was brought to the United States during the 1760s. The Supreme Council, 33°, for the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction (NMJ) was formally established in 1813. Today, the NMJ includes fifteen states in New England, the Mid-Atlantic and the Midwest. As of 2021, the Scottish Rite, NMJ has 9,6662 members spread across 100 Valleys.
A member of 32° Scottish Rite Freemasonry has three fundamental goals:
- Aid mankind’s search for identity and destiny in God’s universe
- Produce wiser men in a wiser world, happier men in a happier world, and therefore better men in a better world
- Promote the dignity of every person and humanity in all activities
Our fraternity is guided by six core values. They are:
- Reverence for God
- Devotion to Country
The Scottish Rite
System of Degrees
As we all know, the Symbolic (Blue) Lodge consists of the first three degrees of Freemasonry: Entered Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Master Mason. Scottish Rite Freemasonry continues these degrees, from the 4° to the 32°. All who wish to become a Scottish Rite Mason must first witness the 4°. To become a 32° Scottish Rite Mason, you must witness the 4°, the 32° and three other degrees of your choosing, in any order.
The Four Degree Bodies
Each Valley has up to four Scottish Rite bodies, each of which confers a set of degrees. In the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction, these bodies are as follows:
- The Lodge of Perfection (4° – 14°)
- Council of Princes of Jerusalem (15° – 16°)
- Chapter of Rose Croix (17° – 18°)
- Consistory (19° – 32°)
Valley Executive Officers
Executive Officers for the Valley of Milwaukee 2023-2024:
Lodge of Perfection
Thrice Potent Master
Robert Helback, 32º, PMWM
Roderick K. LeFlore, 32º
Miguel Rios, 32º
Council of Princes of Jeruselam
Robert E. Lijewski, 32º
Sridhar V. Vasudevan 32º
Timothy L .Meyer, 32º
Chapter of Rose Croix
Most Wise Master
Eric R. Falkner, 32º, HGA, MSA, VS
Wayne A. Budwick, 32º
James McGuigan, 32º
Ill. Michael A. Burnham, 33º, PCIC
1st Lt. Commander
Ill. Gary R. Beier, 33º, MSA, PTPM
2nd Lt. Commander
Napoleon S. Janczak, 32º, PTPM
History of the Valley of Milwaukee
On August 7, 1863 Scottish Rite was brought to Milwaukee by Henry L. Palmer, who arrived at this time to establish the company we now know as Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance. Since this time Scottish Rite has played a major role in the Community and Masonry in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin Scottish Rite, Valley of Milwaukee was the original and only Valley in Wisconsin for many years, hence the “Wisconsin” designation in its title. The Valley has occupied only four sites in its 155-year history. The last was our Van Buren Street location, which we occupied for over 100 years. Many of the Scottish Rite Masons in Wisconsin have played prominent roles in Masonry nationally.
Some of Members of Scottish Rite in Wisconsin include the following: All seven of the Ringling Brothers, Henry Dodge – Territorial Governor, Jeremiah McLain Rusk – 15 th Governor, George W. Peck – Mayor of Milwaukee and 17th Governor, Robert M. LaFollette Sr. – 20th Governor, Julius P. Heil – 30th Governor, Lee Sherman Dreyfus – 40th Governor, Tommy Thompson – 42nd Governor, James Scott McCallum – 43 rd Governor, August Fredrick Pabst – Brewer, Henry L. Palmer – President Northwestern Mutual, Valentine Blatz, and many others. The primary work of each individual Valley is to confer the 29 degrees of the Scottish Rite and to conduct ongoing business functions through monthly stated’ meetings of the general membership and smaller group or committee meetings monthly or as needed depending on the project or program in development.
Another important aspect of the Valley is its charitable work, especially in educating young people and providing relief to the needy. The Valley of Milwaukee operates three scholarship programs open to both members and public applicants. All promote continuing education in both two and four-year institutions throughout north America. We have hundreds of graduates.
We established and actively support the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Milwaukee through operating grants to fund students who attend the center free of charge. Students are taught under the Orton- Gillingham Method and have been known to advance by at least one reading grade level in their first year at the center. The Valley has been involved with this program since 1993, with nearly 1,000 program graduates.
Lodges in Our Territory
Cassia Lodge #167
Day Lite Lodge
Fond du Lac Lodge
Henry L Palmer Lodge
James M Hays Lodge
Laflin-St. James Lodge
Prairie View Lodge
Rock River Lodge
Nathan Hale Lodge
South Shore Lodge
Southern Lakes Lodge
St. John’s Lodge
Union Grove Lodge
West Allis Lodge
West Bend Lodge
George Washington 1776 Lodge
Lake Country Freemasons Lodge
Racine-Belle City Lodge
Silas H Shepherd Lodge
History of Scottish Rite Freemasonry
The Scottish Rite Masonic Order is a branch of Freemasonry. The Freemasons are the oldest fraternal organization in both the United States and Wisconsin. Although the Order traces its origins to the guilds of the medieval era, the modern organization dates from the early eighteenth century. Masonic lodges appeared in America as early as 1730, apparently carried across the Atlantic by Englishmen who had been familiar with the order in Britain. By 1776, the Order was firmly established in the east, and according to the Masons, several heroes of the Revolution, including Washington, Franklin, Revere, and the Adams’ were active members.
As the population grew and expanded beyond the eastern seaboard, settlers carried the order to the west. A secret society with regalia, passwords, mystic rites, seals, ceremonies, degrees, signs, and signals, the Masons had a powerful attraction; membership in the exclusive organization conferred status, privilege, and a certain degree of prestige to its members. Most importantly, the Masons provided an archetype after which hundreds of other fraternal groups modeled themselves. The Scottish Rite is one of two branches available to a Master Mason after he has completed the three stages of the Symbolic or Blue Lodge. The other branch is the York Rite that includes Royal Arch Masons, Royal and Secret Masters and Knights Templar.
The term Scottish Rite evolved when Scots fleeing turmoil in today’s U.K. settled in France and began practicing their Masonic rites in the late 17th century. The first “Ecossais” or Scottish Lodge was established in 1732. Authorization was granted to establish a lodge in the West Indies in 1762. In 1767, the first Scottish Rite Body in the United State was established in Albany, New York and known as a Lodge of Perfection. The first Scottish Rite Supreme Council was established in Charleston, South Carolina in 1801. The early decades can be characterized by various lodges being established but with rites and organizational practices being diverse. Part of the Scottish Rite is its organization into valleys. There are currently valleys in 110 cities in 15 states that fall under the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction. The Southern Masonic Jurisdiction covers 35 states.
Although there are stages that ascend to 33°, these do not indicate a “higher” level of membership. The highest degree is that of Master Mason which is granted or achieved at the Blue Lodges.
Scottish Rite Masonry in Wisconsin dates to August of 1863 when a representative of the Supreme Council, Edmund B. Hayes, journeyed from New York at the request of several prominent Grand Lodge officers to organize a Grand Consistory. First, Hays conferred Scottish
Rite degrees on 29 Wisconsin members who subscribed to the oath of fealty and allegiance. He then proceeded to elevate to the grade of Thirty-Third Degree to Henry L. Palmer who had served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Wisconsin in 1852-1853. At the same time, Hays appointed him Deputy for the State of Wisconsin. In 1879 Henry L. Palmer was elected Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, a position he held for 30 years. In Wisconsin, the five divisions of the Scottish Rite are referred to as “Valleys”. The five valleys are located in Milwaukee, Madison, Green Bay, Eau Claire and LaCrosse.
The Valley of Milwaukee consists of four coordinated Bodies: the Wisconsin Lodge of Perfection, Wisconsin Council of Princes of Jerusalem, Wisconsin Chapter of Rose Croix and the Wisconsin Consistory. Each body is a separate and distinct entity insofar as the fraternal operation of the Rite is concerned and each has its separate staff of officers. The Executive Committee of the Valley consists of the heads of the four coordinated Bodies.
History of Wisconsin Freemasonry
Fraternal activity in Wisconsin began shortly after the establishment of the first permanent white settlements in the territory. The first Masonic Lodge was formed in Green Bay in 1823 by a group of military officers stationed at Fort Howard. Although this Menomonee Lodge lasted only seven years, the Masonic Order grew steadily over the next two decades and in December of 1843 the Wisconsin Masons held their first statewide convention in Madison. By this time there were active lodges in operation at Platteville, Mineral Point and Milwaukee.
Milwaukee’s first lodge had been formed in early 1843 when 40 to 50 Masons united to petition for lodge status from the nearest Masonic authority in Springfield, Illinois. Authorization came from the Grand Master in June, but the charter was not officially signed until January of 1844. Originally called Milwaukee Lodge No. 3, the name was subsequently changed to Kilbourn Lodge in honor of early member Byron Kilbourn. Numerous other Freemason lodges followed: Tracy Lodge (later Wisconsin Lodge #13) in 1847, Aurora Lodge #30 in 1850, Independence Lodge #80 in 1856, Excelsior Lodge in 1869 and Harmony Lodge #142 in 1863, the city’s first exclusively Jewish Lodge.
Other branches of Masonry were soon established: the Royal Arch Masons in 1844; the Commanderies in 1850; and the Scottish Rite with its Wisconsin Grand Consistory in 1863. Generally, the various Masonic bodies would share a common meeting hall, although ritual and pageantry might vary from group to group. Early meetings were held in several locations including the corner of today’s Plankinton and West Wisconsin Avenue and at Ludington’s Block at the northwest corner of North Water and East Wisconsin Avenue. Eventually two main meeting places emerged, the Masonic Temple in the 700 block of Plankinton Avenue (razed) and the Masonic Hall in the Iron Block at 205 East Wisconsin. The latter was first occupied in January of 1862. Described as “one of the most unique and chastely elegant in the city”, the Masonic Hall was decorated by the firm of Faxon and Vaux with Siennese marbleized wallpaper, grained cornices, moldings and a paneled ceiling. The main hall was flanked with anterooms and a smaller hall was located at the west end of the building.
By the late 1870s the Freemasons who occupied the Iron Block began to seek other quarters and a Masonic Union was formed to share the burden of site selection, rental fees and overall maintenance of a headquarters. In 1878 consideration was given to the rental of the two upper floors in Plankinton’s Library Block at the northwest corner of North Fourth and Wisconsin (razed), but this was superseded by a scheme to build a $100,000 temple east of the river. This did not come to fruition. Ultimately, the Masonic Union (consisting of three lodges, two commanderies and the Scottish Rite Masons) contracted with the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company for use of the third floor and part of the second floor in the insurance company’s building at the northwest corner of Broadway and Wisconsin Avenue (razed). The sumptuous High Victorian Gothic building had been designed by Edward Townsend Mix and the new Masonic Hall was especially elaborate. Dubbed Egyptian Hall, the new quarters were decorated with frescoes by Chicago artist P. M. Almini at a cost of over $3,000 and even boasted an organ. Dedication took place on April 7, 1880.
The dream of building a new Masonic temple did not die, however, and throughout the 1880s plans were periodically discussed for a jointly-owned lodge building. At one point a site was selected on East Wisconsin Avenue and Jefferson Street, but the building was eventually constructed at the southeast corner of Jefferson and Wells Streets. Instead of an intimate, homelike clubhouse, the Masons erected a large commercial block. The gabled, six-story Masonic Building was the work of local architects Ferry and Clas and was completed in 1896. Retail and office space was rented to help finance the cost of the running the lodge. The Masons, including the Shriners and other lodges, used this structure until 1923 when the building was sold for use as the county courthouse annex. This building too has been razed and the Shops-on Jefferson and a medical building were constructed on the site.