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Washington Lodge History



To record the history of this venerable old Lodge it will be necessary to glance first at previous events and trace the beginnings of Freemasonry in America in order to see clearly how and why it was formed. Freemasonry in the early eighteenth century had reached a static state under the Grand Mastership of the Aged Sir Christopher Wren, under whose aegis the principal structures of England had been erected by the Operative Masons. Some Lodges had “accepted” men of intelligence who were interested only in the symbolic subjects of Freemasonry as contained in the Old Charges, but it was questionable just how far this innovation could be allowed, and because it did not meet with all-around approval, was about stalemated in 1716. On St. John the Baptist’s Day in 1717 four Lodges of Free and Accepted Masons in London assembled in that city and proceeded to form a Grand Lodge and elected as Grand Master, Mr. Anthony Sayer, Gentleman. Brother Sayer thus became the first Master Mason to be elected by the Craft, all others previously having been appointed by the ruler or head of the country. He instructed the new Grand Lodge to meet in quarterly Communications, and later requested all members to deposit with the Grand Lodge all old documents and manuscripts of Freemasonry. From these documents eventually came the Rituals of Modern Masonry - a Speculative Art based on an Ancient Operative Craft - using the Symbols of Architecture to teach higher standards of morality. These teachings were so well received that the institution gathered to itself many new members. Thus began the upsurge of Fraternalism that swelled into a mighty wave which spread in ever widening circles to the shores of the European Continent and Colonial America; gathering strength from recurring swells it swept over and engulfed many neophytes. In the Colonies, men of breeding were quick to recognize the verities taught by the Craft, and were just as quick to avail themselves of these teachings. The cities of first importance in America at that time were Boston and Philadelphia, and to these centers came all who were in search of fashionable and revolutionary ideas. It was only natural that the center of Masonic activity would, therefore, be located in these two cities. Due to faulty records, it is still debatable in which of the two Provinces - Pennsylvania or Massachusetts - Freemasonry was first instituted, and it is not the intent of this writer to enter this debate, nor is it of importance to our history, because through both ports came the Craft to America. Boston anchored it in the North and Philadelphia in the South. The fraternity became deeply moored throughout the Colonies, and Lodges sprang up wherever men of character were wont to meet.


Masonry was introduced into Provincial Maryland in the period 1730 to 1750, as we have evidence of a Masonic Lodge at Annapolis in 1749, and other Lodges are known to have begun their operations in other sections of the Province during this era.


The Provincial Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, under Grand Master; R\W\William Ball, issued a Warrant dated June 28th, 1770, to John Wale, Master; Archibald Phillips, Senior Warden; and Peter Gardner, Junior Warden; empowering them to hold a Lodge at Fells Point, and registered under that Grand Jurisdiction as No. 15. (According to Masonic Tradition, no Brother can be installed as Master of a Lodge unless he has proven his proficiency in conferring the Ancient Craft Degrees. Therefore, we must infer that these Brethren had some Masonic experience prior to this date.) An early list of members of this Lodge leads us to believe that most of them were seafaring men and merchants dealing in goods that were dependent upon maritime commerce. This seems to account for the location at Fells Point, as this was the harbor of Baltimore. The political situation of the Colonies is well known to have been of vital interest to the Brethren of the Fraternity, as our National history records show many of them in the forefront of public activity. Proof of their fraternal ties is found on rosters of Lodges from one end of the Colonies to the other. Public history also records the immense part played by the Colonial Merchant Marine in the formation of the new Nation. Seamen were the couriers between the Committees of Correspondence and the Sons of Liberty, and the confidential nature of these activities could be kept so within the confines of a tiled Lodge Room. This is not to be construed to mean that Masons alone established the new Government, but the men who were to become outstanding leaders in that Government and its contributing activities were the men whose aggressiveness and talents led them to seek the rights and privileges of Masonry.


This curious parallel to the growth of the Fraternity and the growth of the Union is still in evidence as late as the 1950’s. (This note is inserted here because the ebb and flow of the Nation’s fortunes is reflected in the fortunes of the Craft.) After the Declaration of Independence in 1776, and the acceptance of the idea of Sovereign States, the formation of Sovereign Jurisdictions had begun. The first Grand Lodge to establish its independence was the former Provincial Grand Lodge of Ancients at Boston on March 8, 1777. It was followed by the Grand Lodge of Virginia on October 30, 1778. These two were formed during the hostilities between England and America. These hostilities ceased on October 19, 1781, with the surrender at Yorktown. Congress issued a proclamation on April 19, 1783, that a preliminary treaty of peace had been signed at Paris.


Two months after this, June 17, 1783, the deputies of five Lodges on the Eastern Shore of Maryland met at Talbot Courthouse to organize a Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons for the State of Maryland, and elected Grand Officers. Brother John Coats, a former Captain in Washington's Continental Army was chosen Grand Master, and he instituted proceedings to legalize the new organization. It was resolved to meet again on June 17, 1784, at Cambridge, but this meeting did not materialize and none was held until four years later. However, the subordinate Lodges continued to hold allegiance to this Grand Body, and it is considered to be the third Independent Grand Lodge in America, and the first organized after the complete independence of the Colonies. April 17, 1787, saw the Eastern Shore Lodge deputies again in convention, and upon review of their previous action reestablished their Grand Body. Brother John Coats was reelected Grand Master, and Peregrine Lethrbury Deputy Grand Master. In a letter dated August 7, 1787, to the latter, the Master and Officers of No. 15 state that they are sorry that their deputization of him had arrived too late to be of efficacy in the formation of the new organization. They repeated their desire for him to act on their behalf, and asked for a Warrant from the Grand Lodge of Maryland, and promised to return the old one from Pennsylvania. Bro. Lethrbury presented their letter at the next convening on September 18th , and continued to act as deputy until meetings were discontinued at Easton. During the Fall Communication of 1787 on September 19th, a Constitution for the Grand Body was adopted and a Form of Warrant and Grand Lodge Seal authorized. Such a Warrant was not received by us until later, as in another letter, to Brother Lethrbury, dated April 1st, 1788, we were styled as No. 15, and states that "we are happy to learn that our Warrant from the State of Maryland will soon be obtained." The next Communication of the Grand Lodge, September 16, 1788, records our Deputy as representing No. 3; therefore, must we assume that this Warrant was issued since April and we were now "bona fide" members of the Grand Jurisdiction?


At this point, it is only proper and fitting that we mention Past Master David Stodder, who was Worshipful Master of Fells Point Lodge #15 in 1787 and 1788. It was during his term of office, that while acting in our behalf, he journeyed to the Eastern Shore at the forming of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. Bro. Stodder’s signature also appears on the Dispensation granted to a number of Brethren dated January 16, 1793, to hold a branch Lodge in the Town of Baltimore, from which group the present Concordia Lodge #13 traces its beginning. His signature is followed by the word and abbreviations - Master and R.W.G.M.J. - meaning Master of Lodge #15, and Rite Worshipful Grand Master Joshua, a Chapter title historians assume to be that of a Grand Royal Arch Chapter in Maryland. Today, the names of Zerubabel, Joshua, and Haggai are not used in the titles - they have been changed to King, High Priest and Scribe. It is, therefore, assumed that Brother Stodder was Grand High Priest for this locality at that time. In the year 1795, Bro. Stodder was awarded the contract to build the frigate Constellation, which was built in his navel yards located on Harris Creek at Fells Point. She was launched on September 7, 1797, and sailed out of the Potomac commanded by Commodore Truxton. She was rated as a Thirty Six Gun Frigate with 340 men, (many of which were members of the Fraternity) and a tonnage of 1,265 tons.During this period, 1787 - 1788, while Washington Lodge was obtaining recognition and its new number, it was having another experience within the Lodge itself. Several of the members did not approve of the formation of a Maryland Grand Body - perhaps because the majority of Lodges being on the Eastern Shore gave them a preponderance of power. For this, or some equally logical reason, they requested and received a dispensation, dated May 1, 1787, to hold a Branch of No. 15 in the Town of Baltimore or its vicinity. These Brethren thus separated themselves from the old Lodge and began a sequence of history which culminated in a Lodge known as Baltimore Union No.21 under the jurisdiction of Virginia. The old warrant from Pennsylvania was deposited with our Grand Lodge on April 20, 1790, because at this Communication, William Jacob, Master; Alexander Cummins, Senior Warden; and Philip Dorsey, Junior Warden; of No. 3 appeared, and there seems to be no other reason for being personally represented than for the return of so valuable a document; also, in the proceedings of this meeting appeared the names of 26 members “who have paid their Lodge dues and proportion for warrant.”The institution of new Lodges throughout Maryland was constant during this period, and it seems proper to interject notes of interest when they bear on members of our own Lodge, and of interest also the methods used to spread Masonic knowledge through the experience of the proficient ones. We find in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge on September 18, 1792, "Jesse Green, a visiting Brother from No. 3." At this same meeting, a warrant was issued to Lodge No. 10 in Sussex County, State of Delaware, in which Brother Green is named Worshipful Master. In a dispensation granted by Grand Master Lethrbury for the City of Annapolis in December, 1792, Brother David Geddes is named as Senior Warden. This Brother is later recorded as Master of Washington No. 3 in 1802.


A petition for a Warrant to hold a Lodge in the Town of Baltimore is dated January 16, 1793. It asks that the title "Concordia Lodge” be granted and is accompanied by a recommendation signed by the Master, Wardens, Past Masters, and other members of Washington Lodge No. 3. The Petitioners were several members of the before-mentioned Baltimore Union Lodge No. 21, who, seeing our own Grand Lodge firmly established, now desired to come under its jurisdiction. This Warrant was granted, and our Sister Lodge has had a continued existence and remarkable growth. During this year the Grand Communication was moved to Baltimore, and was held in this city until the Grand Lodge moved to its present location in Cockeysville in 1994.


There has been discussion at various times as to when No. 3 attached the name of our Illustrious Brother and first President, Washington. Evidence recently discovered plainly shows that we were known as Washington Lodge No. 3 on September 12, 1794. The death of George Washington occurred on December 14, 1799, but the intelligence of it did not arrive in this city until the 17th, whereupon it was resolved by the members of the Craft to pay him appropriate honor. Accordingly a solemn procession was formed at Washington Lodge Room, Fells Point, on Sunday, December 22nd, at 10:30 A.M. The Grand Lodge was represented, as well as other Sister Lodges, and so to the Masons of Baltimore falls the honor of being the first to respect the Masonic skill and wisdom of our departed Brother. The meeting place of the Lodge was moved at various times to rooms or halls in this old section of Baltimore. However, in a Special Communication of the Grand Lodge, January 13, 1823, Brother William H. Winder, Right Worshipful Grand Master presiding, the following resolution was adopted: "That Washington Lodge No. 3 which now holds its meetings at Fells Point be permitted hereafter to hold its meetings in the Masonic Hall." Records show that we continued to meet in the Masonic Hall until about 1834, which is the last recorded date of our official representation in the Grand Lodge during this era.


The early eighteen hundreds found the Lodge participating in three events, two of which are of national importance. The first was in a procession accompanying the Grand Lodge and Sister Lodges to the plot of ground given to the City by John Eager Howard, and now known as Mt. Vernon Place. Here, on July 4, 1815, the corner stone was laid of the first monument to be erected in honor of George Washington. James Buchanan, President of the United States, delivered the address. The dedication of St. Paul's Church on Charles Street followed on November 29th, 1822; and the new Masonic Temple was erected next to it in 1866 - 1867.


Again in 1828, we joined other Lodges as part of a city-wide celebration. After a parade of bands, floats, the military and other fraternal groups, the corner stone of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was laid the corner stone was laid in Carrolls Field. Present on this occasion was Charles Carroll of Carrollton, the only living signer of the Declaration of Independence. It is necessary to here digress - for a moment we must note an occurrence which, while insignificant at the time, was the cause of much distress to the Craft. It only demonstrates again how far-reaching can be the actions of individuals. This was the incident - now called the Morgan affair - which took place in Batavia, New York in 1826. Purely local in character, the principals involved were Freemasons, and as a consequence the Fraternity was condemned by its enemies. As the teachings of Freemasonry invited clear-thinking men to see entrance, and created many friends, so too, the self-same teachings created prejudice biased in ill-judging bigots. As its popularity increased, the ratio of enmity was increased, and seizing on the subject incident and using it with shrewd cunning these enemies attacked the Fraternity with many false and base accusations. Realizing that the Statesmen of America had always been Masons, they even campaigned to the result of an anti-Mason political party which held its convention in Baltimore in 1831, and nominated a Presidential Candidate. The growth of this movement was due to the political and social conditions of the times rather than to the Morgan episode, which was but the torch to the gunpowder train - never the less, the glaring publicity was so contrary to the quiet dignity of Freemasonry that the members felt it better to “agree with thine adversary” and await the conqueror - Truth. Many Lodges yielded to the pressure but upon the decline of the fury again resumed labor.Washington Lodge succumbed and but for the interest of one man might have been lost. He was Past Master Nicholas Brewer, who we find in attendance at the Grand Lodge Communications of 1835 - 1836 - 1837 and our own minute books show his dues recorded until November, 1835. Colonel Brewer was arguably Washington’s most distinguished member. He was born at Marley, near Annapolis, Anne Arundel County, Maryland on the 21st of March 1789, where was familiarly known as the "Mill boy of Marley": he resided a short time in Annapolis and at the age of sixteen was removed to Baltimore in the year of 1805. In 1806 he joined Capt. Shepard's Co. the "Columbia Blues" of the 6th regiment of the M.M. In 1811 he was promoted Ensign in tenancy and served through the war of that year; participated in the battle of North Point. In 1816 he was commissioned Captain in the 3rd Corps. In 1825 received his commission as Major, and in 1827 was promoted to the Colonelcy of the same.He was initiated in Washington Lodge No. 3 on 8th January, 1818 and was elected W.M. in 1821 (to serve in 1822), had the honor as Master of the oldest lodge in the State, and of carrying the Book of the Constitutions at the dedication of the old Masonic Hall, in 1822. In 1823 was elected Secretary of Washington Lodge, which position he held until elected Treasurer on the 24th Dec. 1827, which position he filled until the late 1870s by the unanimous consent of the brethren. In 1850 he was appointed Grand Sword Bearer, and in 1843, Grand Marshall of the G.L. of Maryland. He presided as Master of the Grand Stewards Lodge for about 30 years. In 1860 he was elected R.W.D.G. Master of the Grand Lodge of Maryland. He died at the ripe age of 92 in 1880, being the oldest survivor of the war of 1812 in Maryland, and the last remaining member of the Old Defenders


At the Grand Lodge Communication in 1844, Brother H. Ohr introduced a resolution which was adopted - that the warrants and jewels of dormant Lodges be returned without cost to those that desired to resume labor. Enough members of our old Lodge did so desire and accordingly on October 17, 1844, elected Bros. Charles H. Ohr, Worshipful Master; S. C. Leaken, Senior Warden; and Danial A. Piper, Junior Warden; and in consequence were returned their Charter, Name and Number, thus being reconstituted Maryland's Oldest Lodge, Numbers 1 and 2 ceasing to exist in 1793 and 1794, respectively.Brother Ohr, was elected Junior Grand Warden on May 22 of 1845 and resigned the Chair in No. 3. Before this, at a Special Meeting on February 13th, he had proposed a Memorial Communication of this Lodge on Washington's Birthday. This met with wide approval, and a meeting was held, attended by Most Worshipful Grand Master Charles Gilman, other officers of the Grand Lodge, and visitors from several Sister Lodges. To this large and attentive audience, Bro. Asa Child of No. 3, delivered an address on the “Origin, Nature and Object of the Masonic Society.” Since this time the Lodge has held some characteristic celebration each year on the appropriate date or at the Communication nearest that date.After the resuscitation of 1845 the Fraternity regained its popularity and increased in size. There followed the formation of many new Lodges, and the consequent growth of the Grand Body, which in turn assumed the natural lead in all public functions.


The most important procession in which No. 3 participated after this date was the laying of the cornerstone of the New Masonic Temple - November 20, 1866. The celebrated occasion was attended by Brother Andrew Johnson, President of the United States, in full Masonic regalia and many representatives of coordinate Masonic Bodies throughout the Nation.In addition to the misfortunes of the Fraternity during the anti-Mason excitement, it has suffered two disastrous fires which destroyed many valuable documents containing the very early history of individual Lodges. Three partly burned books of No. 3 were recovered from the debris after the Temple fire in 1890, a ledger dating from 1817 to 1835, and the minute books from October, 1844 to March 17, 1864. For other information, it was necessary to search Grand Lodge records, and through the courtesy of Brother J. Willis Smith, Secretary of Concordia Lodge No. 13, their records have been opened to us. To this Brother we are also indebted for a most valuable paper which he found in the vault of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. It is a copy of our original warrant, and on the reverse side, the dispensation for Branch of No. 15 is seen. It contains the signatures of several of our Past Masters and their offices in Royal Arch Masonry and is introduced in the pages of the by-laws of old Lodge No. 15 The Governors of the 13 Original Colonies were Masons, and the precepts written into our Constitution can be traced to the virtues inculcated by the Craft. The War of 1812-1815 found many of the Craftsman foremost in the defense of the country. Many of them were active in the battles of North Point, Fort McHenry and Bladensburg and saved Baltimore from the ravishment which was visited on Washington. The war between the States caused Brother to fight Brother and in the awful aftermath and reconstruction period, this Lodge, along with others , was called on time and time again to relieve the distressed.


Two disastrous fires occurred in downtown Baltimore at the site of the Grand Lodge of Maryland destroying many valuable documents containing the very early history of Washington Lodge, among others In World War one, and the following period was one of growth in all Lodges. No. 3 gained many members.


In 1920, the Sesqui-Centennial Celebration was held with very appropriate Ceremonies. Several of the Committee members who planned that occasion were active at the writing of the sketch for the 175th Anniversary Celebration. The Lodge had a period of normal activity until the Depression Era of 1930 to 1936 when, with its Sister Bodies, its economic Scheme was disorganized. A gradual recovery was begun in 1937.


The newly elected Worshipful Master, Michael Struck, instituted a Memorial Service for those who had been called from labor to rest in the previous year. The Ceremony was so inspiring and impressive that in 1941, a permanent form of Memorial Service was drafted and has been continued through the years.


At a Special Communication in celebration of George Washington’s Birthday, the Grand Lodge of Maryland conferred the Master Mason Degree with M\W\G\M\ John Hesse occupying the East.By special request, Fredericksburg Lodge #4 of Fredericksburg, Virginia, attended the meeting, bringing with them, under the usual escort of four Past Masters, the same Bible that was used when George Washington assumed his three Masonic Obligations and during his tenure as Master of his Lodge. This Bible was again upon the Alter in Washington Lodge #3 on February 18, 1999.To add to this eventful evening, an Honor Guard of Master Masons in military service stationed at Fort Holabird presented Old Glory to the East. The Flag was halted at the Alter while Major Bradford, who took part in the presentation and a member of Doric Lodge #124, proclaimed the toast - here’s to the red of it; here’s to the white of it; here’s to the blue of it; and so on. The Flag was then advanced to the East and placed in its place of honor to the right of the Worshipful Master. To the best of our knowledge, it was the first time such a ceremony had been performed in a Masonic Lodge. It was from this presentation that the idea of a Flag ceremony was conceived. In 1941 Worshipful Master Allen Kittrel incorporated the Pledge of Allegiance and the singing of one verse of the National Anthem. The ceremony was brought to the attention of the Grand Lodge, which after modification was adopted in the opening of all Maryland Lodges. 1943: During the War, The Washington Gazette, a Lodge Newspaper was started and was published until 1948. It was the only Masonic Paper of its kind in Maryland. It was started again in 1999 by Worshipful Master R. Frederick Lunn of Washington Lodge No. 3.


The 150th Anniversary Dinner of Washington Lodge was held at the Lyric Theater in 1920 when more than 1000 persons were present. The 175th Anniversary Dinner was held at the Lord Baltimore Hotel on June 30, 1945. Wartime restrictions confined the attendance to 400 guests. It started with Religious Services at St. John’s Church on Huntington Avenue on St. John the Baptist Day, June 24, 1945. It was followed with a Special Communication on June 28, 1945 in the Grand Lodge Room, with M\W\G\M\ Daniel Hope and his Grand Line Officers, Past Grand Masters and heads of the Coordinate Bodies of Maryland Masonry in attendance. M\W\ Carl H. Clancy, Past Grand Master of the District of Columbia, and a noted Masonic author, was the principal speaker of the evening following the banquet at the Lord Baltimore Hotel. There is no record of celebration of our 100th Anniversary in 1870 because of the loss of our Minute books. This was another dark period in the history of Masonry as it was at this time that the Papal Bull was so strictly enforced that many members of the Fraternity withdrew because of their religious affiliation.


On February 6, 1947, Brother Past Master George C. Wareheim examined 23 members in the Sublime Degree of Master Mason.


On September 5th, 1957 the Lodge contributed to the restoration fund of the U.S.S. Constellation. The contribution fund was in memory of P. M. David Stodder of Washington Lodge No. 3, who built the boat. That evening, Bro. Donald Stewart the Skipper of the Frigate at that time, presented Washington Lodge with a Flag that was flown on one of her many voyages.


Washington Lodge celebrated its bi-centennial.


On April 17th, 1976 members of Washington Lodge No. 3 gathered together with other Masons in Easton, Maryland to rededicate Freemasonry in Maryland; on the 189th Anniversary of the founding of The Grand Lodge of Maryland.



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