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The History of the Grand Commandery of Kentucky

The present-day Knights Templar take the name of a military organization active during the Crusades in the Middle Ages, but otherwise have no connection with it.   Rather, the present organization seems to have originated in England in the eighteenth century where the Order of the Temple and the Order of Malta were sometimes conferred in Royal Arch Chapters.


It then came to North America where the first record of the conferral of the Templar "degree" as it was then styled took place in 1769 in Boston.   The first encampment of Knights Templar in the United States was organized in Baltimore in 1790.   Others followed, with three Grand Encampments being organized (Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and New York) by 1814.   The General Grand Encampment, today styled simply the Grand Encampment, was established June 21, 1816, in New York City.  In Kentucky, Webb Encampment in Lexington received a charter January 1, 1820.


By 1847 there were five encampments (now called commanderies) of Knights Templar in Kentucky; Louisville, Webb (Lexington) , Versailles, Frankfort, and Mt. Sterling. September 17 of that year General Grand Recorder Charles Gilman authorized the first three of these to organize a Grand Encampment for Kentucky.   Delegates from the five encampments met October 5, 1847, in Lexington and organized the Grand Encampment of Kentucky, today called the Grand Commandery of the state.


The first officers were:


  • Henry Wingate, Grand Master

  • Nathaniel Hardy, Deputy Grand Master

  • Joseph A. Peters, Grand Generalissimo

  • John F. Leary, Grand Captain General

  • Solomon K. Grant, Grand Prelate

  • James H. Turner, Senior Grand Warden

  • Jacob Owen, Junior Grand Warden

  • Philip Swigert, Grand Recorder

  • Thomas C. O'Rear, Grand Treasurer

  • Isaac Cunningham, Grand Standard Bearer

  • John McCracken, Grand Sword Bearer

  • Thos. U. Kinkead, Grand Warden

Five years later 138 members in five encampments were reported.   The triennial Grand Conclave of the Grand Encampment was held in Louisville in August, 1901.   As of June 30, 1978, the thirty-three Commanderies of the state had 8,910 members.


[Taken from Kentucky Freemasonry 1788-1978, by Charles Snow Guthrie, 32 KCCH, Grand Lodge of Kentucky, 1981]


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