The origins of the Masonic Knights Templar are obscure. According to Goulds History of Freemasonry, the earliest known identification of speculative Freemasonry with the medieval Knights Templar occured in a 1737 speech by Andrew Michael Ramsay to a group of French Masons. Without attribution or evidence, Ramsay asserted that Freemasonry descended from the medieval "Crusaders" by way of a secret uninterrupted succession. In a work published posthumously in 1749, Ramsay baldly asserted, "every Mason is a Knight Templar." The first known Masonic Templar organization emerged shortly thereafter, the Templar Strict Observance, founded in 1751 by a German Mason, Baron von Hund. Gould notes that the first written evidence of the creation of a Masonic Knight Templar took place in Boston in 1769 at the Royal Arch Lodge, probably by Irish soldiers who were stationed there, which means that they would have learned the ritual some time earlier, probably in Ireland or somewhere else in the British Isles. Organized Masonic Templary, it seems, dates from the middle of the eighteenth century, perhaps a little earlier.
Although some today continue to find the origins of Freemasonry among the remnants of the medieval Templars, the Grand Encampment of Knights Templar of the United States of America, of which Dallas Commandery No. 6 is a constituent, agrees with most contemporary historians of the medieval Templars that there is no provable connection between the two. Freemasonrys connection to the crusader knights is moral and commemorative rather than historical. It seeks to emulate the principal values reflected in medieval Templar ideals: integrity, courage, obedience, and devotion to the Christian religion.
Masonic Templars commemorate the military aspects of the medieval Templars in their uniforms, having drill competitions, inspections, and in their use of the language of chivalry in their rituals. Each member is addressed as "Sir Knight" in recognition of having passed through the ceremonies of the Order. Masonic Templars benefit humanity and uphold the Christian virtues by celebrating their devotion to the faith, raising funds to aid the community, supporting Masonically-related youth groups, and contributing to charitable activities.
While Masonic Templary has taken various forms since the mid-eighteenth century, the most common by far is identification with the York Rite of Freemasonry. The York Rite continues the instruction of the Craft Lodges and in the United States consists of three bodies: Royal Arch Masons, Royal & Select Masters, and the Knights Templar. The latter body controls three Masonic degrees, termed the Chivalric Orders. These are: the Order of the Red Cross, the Order of Malta, and the Order of the Temple. The last two of these are specifically Christian in character and are the only degrees of Freemasonry requiring belief in the Christian religion. In addition, candidates must be Master Masons in good standing in a Craft Lodge and be Royal Arch Masons. Many Masons believe that the Order of the Temple is the most beautiful, profound, and moving ceremony in Freemasonry.
In the United States, three levels of Masonic Templary exist. The Grand Encampment of the United States is the governing body of Masonic Templars nationwide. Each state maintains a state-wide governing body, called a Grand Commandery. Local Commanderies are constituent components of their state Commanderies and, through them, of the Grand Encampment. Dallas Commandery, therefore, is a component of the Grand Commandery of Texas, which is a constituent body of the Grand Encampment. Individual membership in Masonic Templary normally involves joining a local Commandery.
Templary in Texas began in the early nineteenth century, probably when Texas was a still part of the Republic of Mexico. Adolphus Sterne, a representative at the founding of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1838 and first Deputy Grand Master of that body, was, according to his daughter, a Knight Templar. The Grand Encampment of Texas was organized in 1855, chartering six Encampments, as they were then called, before the Civil War: San Felipe de Austin No. 1 (Galveston), Ruthven No. 2 (Houston), Palestine No. 3, Colorado No. 4 (Austin), Wheelock No. 5, and Dallas No. 6. Times during the war were difficult and many Masonic bodies suspended operations until after its completion. The Grand Encampment of Texas did not charter another subordinte body until 1867, when it granted a dispensation to San Antonio No. 7, followed in due course by Ivanhoe No. 8 (Bryan), Paris No. 9, and Waco No. 10. The number of Commanderies in the state roughly grew over the ensuing decades in proportion to the growing popularity of Masonry in Texas. By 1960, Commanderies in Texas comprised nearly 30,000 Knights Templar. Today, the state organization consists of seventy Commanderies.
As Christians, Masonic Templars are encouraged by the Order to participate in the acivities of local churches of their choice. As an organization, each Commandery is required to participate in Christmas, Easter, and Ascension services. Commanderies also assist in providing funeral services, when requested, for departed brethren, and prayers for each departed Sir Knight are offered at the next regular meeting of an Asylum.
Patriotism is another hallmark of Masonic Templars. When requested, Commanderies perform flag presentation ceremonies at Masonic and community events, participate in Memorial Day and other community ceremonies, and sponsor Patriotic programs in their communities. Templary extols the virtue of citizenship and encourages its members to be active in their communities.
Masonic Templary in the United States supports a number of charitable activities. In particular, the Knights Templar Eye Foundation, Inc., provides funds for research into vision disorders, particularly those affecting infants and children. To date, the Order has contributed in excess of $100 million dollars toward local surgeries to prevent loss of sight. Such assistance is provided without respect to race, color, creed, age, sex, or national origin. The only requirement is that the individual is unable to pay and not eligible to receive adequate assistance from government agencies or similar sources.
The Knights Templar Educational Foundation was established in 1922 to provide low cost loans and other sources of funding for college education. The Knights Templar Holy Land Pilgrimage sends Christian ministers to the Holy Land free of charge for spirital enrichment and study. Masonic membership is not required and the minister may be male or female. To date, the program has sent more than 1200 ministers to the Holy Land.
As with all Masonic organizations, of course, there is time for relaxation and fun, through breakfasts, dinners, dances, picnics, and other family events.