Open Access Dissertation
Date of Award
The Atlantic World as a source of historical inquiry has generated a great deal of scholarly research. Historians have changed how they look at empires, immigration, and networks of exchange. By making the ocean, and not a land mass or political entity the source of study, scholars have asked different questions and looked the past in new ways. In almost all cases, the Atlantic World ends on the Eastern Seaboard.
This dissertation extends the Atlantic World to the westernmost frontier of the Great Lakes region. Freemasons spread throughout the region during the Seven Years’ War. Military units with lodges attached stayed in an area and then deployed elsewhere. Civilians who had come to appreciate masonry would then start their own lodges. These lodges created links in a chain that reached from the frontier to the East Coast and throughout the Atlantic World. For example, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania issued charters for masons to form new lodges in the Caribbean. Masons through their shared initiation rituals and mutual oblations to assist each other established a network of brothers on which a fellow mason could rely. Moreover, masonry was a supranational organization that transcended traditional barriers such as race, class or creed.
Many key officials, military officers, merchants, traders, and Native Americans were masons, and their letters, records and activities provide the documents linking the Great Lakes to the Atlantic World. By examining this material one can see masonic fur traders in Mackinaw shipping and receiving goods from such ports as, Montreal, Quebec, Detroit, Albany, and New York. From these cities, masons had contacts in London, France, and numerous islands in the Caribbean. When one considers the importance of the fur trade to British and French empires in the eighteenth century and the wars fought to control the land, the Great Lakes as demonstrated by this study must be considered when examining the colonial Atlantic World.
Nichols, Kevin H., "Frontier Freemasons: Masonic Networks Linking The Great Lakes To The Atlantic World, 1750-1820" (2020). Wayne State University Dissertations. 2500.