THE HISTORY OF MAHI SHRINERS
Mahi Shriners has a colorful and important history. It has always been regarded as one of the premier Temples in the United States and has been very influential in national Shrine matters through the years. More importantly, Mahi has played important role in the history of the Miami area. The “Magic City” and Mahi have grown together, through good times and bad. Many people do not realize the role that Mahi has played in some of the most important events in the city’s history and may be surprised to find out how high the Shrine was held in public opinion in years past. Every Mahi Noble should be proud of the contributions his Shrine Center has made in this community.
Miami’s first permanent residents arrived in the early 1850’s to a wild frontier of jungle and water. The United States Army had operated Fort Dallas near the mouth of the Miami River during the First and Second Seminole Indian Wars, but never kept a permanent force at the camp due to the harsh conditions. The landscape was not very enticing to Miami’s early residents and it would take another forty years before any real settlement of consequence was established. John Sewell, an early resident who would go on to become Mayor, summed up the early conditions in his famous quote, “If I owned Miami and Hell, I’d live in Hell and rent out Miami.” Birds, snakes, alligators, panthers, and mosquitoes roamed the banks of the Miami River, the only means of travel through the dense landscape from the Everglades to the clear blue waters of Biscayne Bay. The locals made friends with the Miccosukee Indians who made their way to the mouth of the river to trade at Brickell’s General Store. On the north side of the river, a determined widow from Cleveland, Ohio named Julia Tuttle had purchased over 100 acres of land, including the former Fort Dallas. An astute entrepreneur, she was willing to subdivide her holdings to the right investor. In the mid 1890’s, she found that investor in Henry B. Flagler, co-founder of the Standard Oil Company along with J.D. Rockefeller. The wealthy oilman had left Standard and moved to Florida for his wife’s health. The ensuing years found him involved in the ownership of several hotels and railways. No other man was as important in the development of the east coast of Florida as Flagler and Tuttle was able to secure his casual interest in Miami. Deals were made, land was swapped, a town site was laid out, and construction started on a resort hotel at the mouth of the river. Most importantly, however, was the arrival of Flagler’s Florida East Coast Railway in 1895. Miami was now connected to the rest of the world and ready to grow.
No one can say for sure when the first Masons arrived, but it is a good guess that some of them worked for the railroad and began holding Masonic communications soon after its arrival. Biscayne Bay Lodge was established in 1898, making it the first chartered Blue Lodge in Miami. At the same time, a new Masonic organization was making a name for itself in the northern United States.