George Washington, The Mason

George Washington joined the Masonic Lodge in Fredericksburg, Virginia, at the age of twenty in 1752. During the War for Independence, General Washington attended Masonic celebrations and religious observances in several states. He also supported Masonic lodges that formed within army regiments.

At his first inauguration in 1791, President Washington took his oath of office on a Bible from St. John’s Lodge in New York. During his two terms, he visited Masons in North and South Carolina, and presided over the cornerstone-laying ceremony for the U.S. Capitol in 1793.

In retirement, Washington became charter Master of the newly chartered Alexandria Lodge № 22, sat for a portrait in his Masonic regalia, and in death, was buried with Masonic honors.

Such was Washington’s character, that from almost the day he took his Masonic obligations until his death, he became the same man in private that he was in public. In Masonic terms, he remained “a just and upright Mason.” Brother Washington was, in Masonic terms, a “living stone” who became the cornerstone of American civilization.

A Basic Chronology Of George Washington’s Life and Documented Masonic Activities

Although there are many stories of Washington attending Masonic lodge meetings, other events, or supporting the Craft in some way, this chronology contains only those that are documented by letters, lodge minutes, objects, or other artifacts.

1732 — February 22

George Washington is born to Augustine Washington and Mary Ball Washington at Wakefield Farm, Westmoreland County, in the British colony of Virginia. He was the eldest of six children of Augustine and Mary, but younger to the four children Augustine had with his first wife, Jane Butler.

(In 1732 the British Empire used the Julian calendar therefore Washington’s original birth date is February 11, 1732. But the Julian calendar was not in sync with the solar year, so in 1751 England adopted the Gregorian calendar. To re-align the solar year eleven days were skipped. Wednesday September 2, 1751 was followed by Thursday September 14, 1751. This moved Washington’s birthday to the twenty-second day of February.)

1742 — April 12

Augustine Washington, Washington’s father, dies at the age of 49. Washington is eleven years old at his death.

1751 — September 29 – 1752 February 6

Washington and his half-brother Lawrence, who has tuberculosis, sail to Barbados. Washington returns to Virginia alone. Lawrence travels to Bermuda before returning home.

1752 — September 1

First recorded meeting of the Masonic Lodge at Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1752 — November 4

Washington is initiated an Entered Apprentice Freemason (First Degree) in the Lodge at Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Virginia. Records also show he pays 2 pounds, 3 shillings and no pence when he joined.

1752 — December 8

After his half-brother’s death in July, Washington comes into possession of Mount Vernon. He lives in, and manages the plantation until the death of Lawrence’s widow, Anne in 1761. Upon her death, he assumes full ownership.

1753 — February 22

Washington’s twenty-first birthday.

 

1753 — March 3

Washington Passed to the Degree of Fellow Craft Freemason (Second Degree) in the Lodge at Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1753 — August 4

Washington Raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason (Third Degree) in the Lodge at Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1753 — September 1

Washington attends the Lodge at Fredericksburg.

1753 — October 31 – December 30

Maj. Washington travels to western Pennsylvania to deliver a message to the French soldiers that they must vacate the region.

1754 — March 15

Upon the death of Col. Joshua Fry, Maj. Washington promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the Virginia Regiment. The next day he is ordered to deliver another message to the French Army in western Pennsylvania.

1754 — June 28

Letter from Daniel Campbell to Washington; includes mention of Lodge at Fredericksburg; election of officers and meetings.

1754 — July 3

Having been drawn into a fight with the French Army, Washington has his men build a rough stockade, called Fort Necessity, near present day Farmington, Pennsylvania. The French and their Indian allies successfully attacked the fort and forced Lt. Col. Washington and his soldiers to surrender and retreat to Virginia.

1755 — January 4

Washington attends the Lodge at Fredericksburg, Fredericksburg, Virginia.

1755 — July 9

At the Battle of the Monongahela, in what is now Braddock, Pennsylvania, the French and Indian army defeat the vanguard of the British army. Commanding General Braddock is mortally wounded. Washington and remaining forces retreat to Virginia.

1756 — February 4 to March 25

Looking to secure proper recognition for his military services in western Pennsylvania, Washington takes leave from his command and with his friend, George Mercer, travels to Boston to meet with Governor Shirley. Along the way he also visits Philadelphia, New York City and other cities.

1756 — March 28

Back in Virginia, Washington assumes command of militia in western Virginia and spends most of 1756-7 there on active service.

1757 — February 22

Washington celebrates his twenty-fifth birthday.

1758 — October - December

General Forbes’ expedition to expel the French from the forks of the Ohio River. Washington serves as an aide-de-camp. The French burn Fort Duquesne and withdraw north.

1759 — January 6

Washington marries Martha Dandridge Custis. She and her two children, John “Jacky” and Martha “Patsy” move into Mount Vernon.

1759 — January 12

As an elected representative for Fairfax County, Washington attends the House of Burgesses, in Williamsburg, Virginia.

1763 — October 3

Washington becomes a Warden of Pohick Anglican Church, near Mount Vernon.

1765 — July 16

Washington is re-elected to the House of Burgesses for Fairfax County.

1774 — August 1

Washington becomes a member of the First Virginia Provincial Convention at Williamsburg. He is elected the leader of seven delegates to the first Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

1775 — April 19

Colonial militia and citizens fight the British Army at the Battles of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. Washington receives news of the fight several days later at Mount Vernon.

1775 — May 10 – June 15

Washington attends the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia and is elected Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army on June 15, 1775.

1775 — July 3

Gen. Washington arrives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and assumes command of the siege of the British Army in Boston.

1776 — March 17

The siege of Boston ends in victory when the British Army evacuates the port by ship.

1776 — July 9

Gen. Washington orders the Declaration of Independence be read to his army.

1776 — August 27

At the Battle of Long Island, the British Army routs the Continental Army. Gen. Washington and his remaining forces retreat across the East River.

1776 — November 17

With the British Army capturing Ft. Lee and Ft. Washington along the Hudson River, Washington begins moving his army across New Jersey toward Pennsylvania.

1776 — December 26

Gen. Washington and his army re-cross the Delaware River and defeat the British at the Battle of Trenton.

1777 — January 3

Gen. Washington defeats Lord Cornwallis at the Battle of Princeton, New Jersey. The British Army retreats to New York for the winter.

1777 — September 11

British victory at the Battle of Brandywine.

1777 — September 26

The British Army occupies Philadelphia.

1777 — October 4 & 5

Gen. Washington is defeated at the Battle of Germantown.

1777 — December to June 1778

Gen. Washington and his army encamp for the winter at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

1778 — June 18

Under new commander Sir Henry Clinton, the British Army evacuates Philadelphia.

1778 — June 28

The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse is fought without a clear victor, but the British Army withdraws toward New York City the next day.

1778 — December 28

While in Philadelphia to confer with Congress and raise support for the army, Washington attends the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania’s Feast of St. John the Evangelist service at Christ Church (Anglican).

1779 — June 24

Meeting a West Point, New York, American Union Lodge’s minute books record Gen. Washington attending St. John the Baptist celebration.

1779 — December 1

Washington moves into his winter headquarters at Morristown, New Jersey.

1779 — December 27

American Union Lodge’s minute books record Washington attending St. John the Evangelist celebration at Morristown, New Jersey.

1781 — August 19

With news of victories in the southern states and General Cornwallis trapped near Yorktown, Virginia, Washington abandons his plans to attack New York City, and begins marching his army south.

1781 — September 4

Washington arrives at Mount Vernon for the first time in over six years.

1781 — October 19

Gen. Cornwallis formally surrenders his army at Yorktown.

1782 — February 22

Washington celebrates his fiftieth birthday in Philadelphia.

1782 — March 23

Washington receives a letter with an embroidered silk Masonic apron from Elkanah Watson (an American) and Francis Corentin Cossoul (a Frenchman) two commercial agents in Nantes, France.

It is generally accepted that Washington wore this apron at the 1793 U.S. Capitol cornerstone ceremony. In 1812, Lawrence Lewis, Washington’s nephew, gave it to Alexandria-Washington Lodge № 22, Alexandria, Virginia. The apron remains in the lodge’s vault within the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

1782 — August 10

Washington’s reply to Watson and Cossoul, acknowledging the Masonic apron.

1782 — December 27

The minute book of Solomon’s Lodge № 1, Poughkeepsie, New York, record Washington attending the lodge’s St. John the Evangelist celebration.

1783 — September 30

The Treaty of Paris is signed in France formally ending the American War for Independence.

1783 — November 25

The last of the British Army leaves New York City.

1783 — December 4

Washington’s farewell banquet with his officers at Fraunces Tavern, New York City.

1783 — December 23

Gen. Washington returns his military Commission to the Continental Congress sitting at Annapolis, Maryland.

1783 — December 25

Washington arrives home at Mount Vernon.

1783 — December 26

Letter from Alexandria Lodge № 39, Alexandria, Virginia, congratulating Washington on his happy homecoming and inviting him to attend St. John the Evangelist’s Day celebration.

1783 — December 28

Washington replies to the Master and Wardens of Alexandria Lodge № 39, regretfully declining the invitation.

1784 — June 19

Washington replies and accepts invitation from Alexandria Lodge № 39, to attend St. John the Baptist Day celebration.

1784 — June 24

Washington attends Alexandria Lodge № 39 Feast of St. John the Baptist Day and is elected honorary member of the lodge.

1784 — August 17-29

Lafayette visits Mount Vernon. Tradition holds he presented Washington a Masonic Apron.

1785 — January 21

Freemasons in Newport, Rhode Island send a letter and an address to Washington seeking support to regain lodge charter. There is no record or indication that Washington replied.

1785 — February 12

Washington records in his diary that he walked in the Masonic funeral procession of Bro. William Ramsay, Alexandria Lodge № 39, Alexandria, Virginia.

1787 — May 25 – September 17

At the first meeting of the U.S. Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Washington is unanimously elected president of the convention.

1788 — January - March

A committee from Alexandria Lodge № 39 calls on Washington at Mount Vernon. They ask him to serve as “Charter Master” of the lodge as it seeks to move from under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania and be re-chartered by the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Washington agrees.

1788 — April 28

Edmund Randolph, Grand Master of Masons in Virginia, grants a charter to Alexandria Lodge as the twenty-second lodge in Virginia. The charter names George Washington as the lodge’s Worshipful Master. This charter is still in use by Alexandria-Washington Lodge № 22.

1788 — December 20

Washington re-elected Master of Alexandria Lodge № 22 for one year: 27 December 1788 to December 27, 1789.

1789 — January 7

Washington is unanimously elected the First President of the United States of America.

1789 — March 7

The officers and members of Holland Lodge 8, New York, send a letter to Washington informing him of his election as honorary member and enclosing a membership certificate.

1789 — April 30

In New York City, George Washington is inaugurated President of the United States using a Bible from St. John’s Lodge № 1. The oath is administered by Chancellor and Grand Master of New York, Robert R. Livingston. Inaugural Bible owned by St. John’s Lodge № 1, New York, New York.

1789 — August 25

Mary Washington, mother of President Washington, dies at her home in Fredericksburg. She was 80 years old.

1790 — August 17

Washington, sailing up from New York City, arrives in Newport, Rhode Island, to congratulate the people on ratifying the U.S. Constitution and becoming the thirteenth state.

1790 — August 17

The minutes of King David’s Lodge № 1 of Newport, Rhode Island, record a unanimous resolution to present Pres. Washington a Masonic letter and address. Letter and address drafted, approved and delivered to Washington.

1790 — August 22

Washington replies to King David’s Lodge № 1, Newport Rhode Island, stating in part: “. . . I shall always be happy to advance the interests of the Society, and to be considered by them as a deserving brother.”

1790 — August 23

Samuel G. Dorr of New York City, late of Dumfries, Virginia, in poverty and in need of assistance, sends a letter to Washington asking for his “masonic munificence.” There is no record or indication of Washington replying to letter.

1791 — March 30

Proclamation of the official boundary lines of the new Federal District of Columbia.

1791 — April 5 – June 12

Washington tours the southern states of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Traveling south along the Atlantic Coast he returns north via Augusta, Georgia, Columbia, South Carolina, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Richmond, Virginia.

1791 — April 20

Welcome address to Pres. Washington from officers of St. John’s Lodge № 2, New Bern, North Carolina.

1791 — April 20

Washington’s reply to St. John’s Lodge № 2, New Bern, North Carolina.

1791 — April 30

Welcome address to Washington from Georgetown Lodge № 16, Georgetown, South Carolina.

1791 — April 31

Washington’s reply to Prince George Lodge № 19, Georgetown, South Carolina.

1791 — May 2

Washington is greeted by Grand Master of South Carolina, Gen. Mordecai Gist and is given a letter, Charleston, South Carolina.

1791 — May 4

Washington replies to Grand Master Gist and Grand Lodge of South Carolina, Charleston, South Carolina.

1791 — May 14

Washington is greeted by Grand Master of Georgia George Houston and is given a letter, Savannah, Georgia.

1791 — May 14

Washington replies to Grand Master Houston and Grand Lodge of Georgia, Savannah, Georgia.

1791 — July 14

John Brett Kenna, a former officer in the Continental Army, sends a letter to Pres. Washington asking for Masonic charity and mentioning other Freemasons Washington might know. There is no record of Washington replying or contributing to Kenna’s relief.

1792 — January 2

Letter and Address written by the Rev. Dr. William Smith from the “Ancient York Masons” of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, in person to Pres. Washington at his house in Philadelphia. The Rev. Smith had given the sermon at the St. John’s service Washington attended December 28, 1778.

1792 — January 3

Washington replies to the “Ancient York Masons” of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

1792 — December 5

Pres. Washington is unanimously re-elected President of the United States.

1792 — December 27

Grand Master John Cutler and other officers of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts send a letter and enclose copy of its newly published Grand Constitutions to Pres. Washington.

1793 — January 22

Washington replies to Grand Lodge of Massachusetts’ letter and its Grand Constitutions.

1793 — March 13

Samuel Brooks of Philadelphia, sends a letter describing himself as a “poor widow’s son” to Pres. Washington seeking a position as an engraver in the U.S. Mint. There is no record or indication of Washington replying to letter and no evidence Brooks secured a position at the Mint.

1793 — March 4

Washington’s inauguration for his second term as President of the United States in Philadelphia.

1793 — August 29

Letter from the Master and officers of Alexandria Lodge № 22, Alexandria, Virginia to Pres. Washington requesting he sit for portrait artist William Williams. No reply from Washington is known but he did sit for Williams and the portrait was completed in September 1793.

William Williams’ portrait of Washington wearing Masonic jewel, sash and apron is displayed in the Replica Lodge Room of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, Alexandria, Virginia.

 

1793 — September 18

The cornerstone of the U.S. Capitol is laid by three Masonic Lodges, Potomac Lodge № 9 and Federal Lodge № 15, under the Grand Lodge of Maryland, and Alexandria Lodge № 22, under the Grand Lodge of Virginia with Pres. Washington presiding as “Acting Master” of the ceremony.

Items Used at the Cornerstone Ceremony:

  • Silver Trowel with Ivory handle made by John Duffy owned by Alexandria-Washington Lodge № 22, Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Wood T-Square and Level own by Alexandria-Washington Lodge № 22, Alexandria, Virginia.
  • Marble Gavel with wood handle, made by John Duffy owned by Potomac Lodge № 5, Washington D.C.

It is generally accepted that Washington wore the Watson-Cassoul apron sent to him in 1783 to the ceremony. In 1812, Lawrence Lewis, nephew of Washington, gave it to Alexandria-Washington Lodge № 22, Alexandria, Virginia where it remains today.

1793 — October 16

Abraham Forst, passing through Alexandria, sends a letter to Washington asking for Masonic charity and enclosing a list of those brother Masons who have helped him and a certificate for Washington’s review. There is no record of Washington replying or contributing to Forst’s relief.

1794 — October 6

At Bedford, Pennsylvania, Pres. Washington takes the field as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The militia has gathered there to suppress the “Whiskey Rebellion” in western Pennsylvania.

1795 — January 23

Washington receives copies of Sentimental and Masonic Magazine, published in five volumes in Dublin, Ireland, July 1792-December, 1794, from John Jones. Jones requests permission to dedicate a sixth volume to George Washington and to include a portrait. There is no record of Washington replying to Jones.

1795 — August 18

The U.S. Senate ratifies the Jay Treaty with Great Britain. This treaty insures the United States will remain neutral in the war between the Republic of France and the European monarchies.

1796 — September 17

Nearing completion of his second term in office, Pres. Washington delivers his farewell address to the people of the United States.

1796 — December 27

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania delivers a letter and congratulatory address, written by the Rev. Dr. William Smith, to Pres. Washington at his house in Philadelphia.

1796 — December 28

Washington replies to Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania.

1797 — January 23

Letter from Thomas Farrington, Past Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, to Pres. Washington containing the following salutatory “Sentiment, Masonic” composed July 25, 1792: “When we recognize that Starr, which in ancient Times, appeared in the East, to point out a Saviour to Mankind; Let us greatfully remmember a Washington, who, in later Times, appeared in the West, & led the Armies of America, to Victory & Glory.”

1797 — March 4

John Adams is inaugurated as the second President of the United States.

1797 — March 15

After leaving Philadelphia on March 9, Washington and his family arrive back at Mount Vernon.

1797 — March 21

Grand Master Paul Revere and officers of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts send a congratulatory letter to Washington.

1797 — March 28

At Mount Vernon, Washington receives a Masonic delegation of Dennis Ramsay and Phillip G. Marsteller of Alexandria Lodge № 22, with an address and invitation to dine with the lodge.

1797 — April 1

Washington dines with Alexandria Lodge № 22 and presents a reply to the lodge’s address.

1797 — April 24

Washington replies to Grand Lodge of Massachusetts, with cover letter apologizing for the delay.

1797 — September 30

James Asperne sends George Washington a letter and a printed flyer “Masonic Miscellanies” with advertisements for the Masonic Pocketbook. There is no record of Washington replying to Asperne.

1798 — March 14

William Scales of Sutton Town, New Hampshire, sends a letter to Washington stating his concerns for America’s future and fears of “clerical and masonic deceptions and villainy.” There is no record of Washington replying to Scales.

1798 — July 4

With the threat of war with France, Pres. Adams appoints Washington Commander-in-Chief of the Armies.

1798 — August 22

The Rev. G.W. Snyder of the Reformed Church, in Fredericktown, Maryland, sends his first letter to Washington regarding the Illuminati and Freemasonry in the United States. He encloses a copy of John Robison’s Proofs of a Conspiracy against all the Religions and Governments of Europe, carried on in the Secret Meetings of Free-Masons, Illuminati and Reading Societies, etc., Collected From Good Authorities (Edinburgh: 1797).

1798 — September 25

Washington sends his first reply to the Rev. Snyder of the Reformed Church, in Fredericktown, Maryland.

1798 — October 1

The Rev. G.W. Snyder of the Reformed Church, in Fredericktown, Maryland, sends his second letter asking Washington why he does not reply to first letter.

1798 — October 10

Washington sends his second letter to the Rev. Snyder stating he had indeed replied on September 25, 1798.

1798 — October 17

The Rev. Snyder sends his third letter to Washington, explaining that his second letter was mailed the day before he received Washington’s first, along with more questions.

1798 — October 24

Washington sends his third and final letter to the Rev. Snyder of the Reformed Church, in Fredericktown, Maryland.

1798 — November 5

When in Baltimore, Washington receives William Belton, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Maryland, the Deputy Grand Master and other brethren, who hand-deliver a letter and a gift of the Grand Lodge of Maryland’s 1797 edition of George Keatinge’s The Maryland Ahiman Rezon of Free and Accepted Masons, (Grand Constitutions).

1798 — November 8

Washington replies to William Belton, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Maryland.

1799 — December 14

After a more than a day and night of suffering, George Washington dies at 10:20 p.m.

1799 — December 18

Washington is buried at Mount Vernon with Anglican Christian Burial Rite accompanied by a Masonic funeral ceremony conducted by members of Alexandria Lodge № 22. The Bible used at Washington’s funeral is owned by Federal Lodge № 1, Washington, D.C.

1800

Grand Lodge of Virginia Proceeding’s necrology lists Washington as a deceased member of Fredericksburg Lodge № 4.

1800 — January 11

John Warren, Grand Master, and other officers of the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts send a letter conveying the sorrow and sympathy to Martha Washington on the death of her husband, and requesting a lock of his hair as "an invaluable relique of the Hero and Patriot . . . "

1800 — January 27

Washington’s private secretary, Tobias Lear, replies for Martha Washington to the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts thanking them for their sympathy and support and enclosing a lock of Pres. Washington’s hair.

The Grand Lodge of Masons in Massachusetts keeps lock of hair in a gold urn made by Paul Revere in 1800.

1800 — March 15

On January 1, 1800, French Lodge L’Amenite № 71, Philadelphia, conducts a Lodge of Sorrow for Pres. Washington. After the ceremonies, the lodge Orator, Simon Chaudron gives an oration on Washington. This is followed by an address by the lodge Master, Joseph De La Grange. On March 15, 1800, three English translations of the oration with a cover letter are sent to Martha Washington.

1800 — May 15

Washington’s private secretary, Tobias Lear, “in compliance with Mrs. Washington’s request. . . acknowledge the receipt” of the oration and gratefully recognizes the Lodge’s “sympathy in her affliction and irreparable loss.”

1802 — May 22

Martha Washington dies at Mount Vernon.