Fredericksburg Virginia has a long and distinguished history,it has a very important place in the formation of the American experiment. Along with that , Fredericksburg Masonic lodge #4 Free and Accepted Masons contributed more than probably any other Masonic Lodge in America.
It’s first recorded meeting was on September 1, 1752,with 13 members present. The record book still exists today and is in possession of the lodge.
Over the years the lodge has had many homes, beginning in 1756 it met at a tavern on the northeast corner of Amelia and Caroline Streets. This tavern at the time was owned by a member , Charles Julian.
Finally,on April 4, 1757, the Lodge obtained a Charter from the Grand Lodge of Scotland for the sum of seven pounds. Past Master Daniel Campbell presented the petition in Edinburgh, Scotland. On July 21, 1758, the Grand Lodge of Scotland issued a formal Charter for “The Lodge at Fredericksburg.” The Scottish Charter acknowledged the members of the Lodge at Fredericksburg was a Regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and was “constituted, erected and appointed with the … Brethren aforesaid and their Successors … a Just, true and regular Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons.” The Scottish Charter, engrossed on the very best quality parchment, is still in existence and in the possession of the Lodge.
In 1762 the meetings were moved to the Market House which was located on the southwest corner of William and Caroline streets. The brethren were able to make this their home for many years.
The lodge was probably formed by men who had been made Masons somewhere else, it will probably never be known if there was any overriding authority, except loyalty to the craft. At the time there was a large Scottish influence in the area and many of the early members bore Scottish surnames.
Before 1816 , the Masons would normally meet in taverns in what is now called Old Towne. Masons first raised money and built a building for both a school and a Masonic Lodge. The second floor was used as the lodge hall and the first floor would be used as a school.
During the Civil War , the building was turned into a hospital, thus many of the records and artifacts were destroyed. Due to the service of it’s many members more than a few Fredericksburg’s prominent buildings have Masonic cornerstones.
The first independent Grand Lodge of North America was established in 1777-78,when the Lodge at Fredericksburg joined with several other lodges to create the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Brother George Washington of the Lodge at Fredericksburg was asked to serve as its first Grand Master. At this time however he was busy defeating the British army so he declined the honor.
Eventually, in 1786, the Grand Lodge assigned numeric designators to its various subordinate lodges, and the Lodge at Fredericksburg was designated Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4.
Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4 has given more Grand Masters to the Grand Lodge of Virginia than any other lodge. These eight include:
Judge James Mercer (GM 1784-86)
Gov. Robert Brooke (GM 1795-97)
Major Benjamin Day (GM 1797-1800)
Hon. Oscar M. Crutchfield (GM 1841)
Judge Beverley R. Wellford, Jr. (1877-79)
Captain S. J. Quinn (GM 1907-08)
Philip K. Bauman (GM 1914-15)
Edward H. Cann (GM 1958-59)
The Virginia Charter of 1787 written on very thin parchment, pasted on coarse linen still survives. It is in the possession of the Grand Lodge of Virginia, in Richmond.
Fredricksburg Lodge claims many note able men among it’s members, most of the mayors of Fredricksburg have been members, many Revolutionary and Civil War leaders, Grand Masters as well , but probably they are most proud of the fact that General George Washington was one of the early members.
Brother George Washington
Freemasons are proud to claim The Father of His Country as one of their own. George Washington was initiated into Freemasonry in the Fredericksburg Lodge on November 4, 1752. He was passed to the second degree on March 3, 1753; and raised to the third degree on August 4, 1753. The Bible used in those ceremonies remains in the possession of the Lodge, together with several other Washington relics. Washington then left to fight in the French & Indian War, after which he relocated to Northern Virginia. He remained a member in loyal good standing of Fredericksburg No. 4 until his death.
Among the many attributes the Lodge established became what is probably America’s oldest Masonic Cemetery in 1784 and with the help of the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library, maintains it to this day. Buried are many Revolutionary War heroes, generals, diplomats, and millionaires.
After acquiring it’s own building at 803 Princess Anne Street in about 1815, the lodge hosted a grand reception for Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 and made Lafayette an honorary member.
During the Battle of Fredericksburg in December of 1862 Union troops ransacked the building carrying off much of the property,thankfully they left the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington. In true Masonic fashion, many of the items taken, trickled back from veterans during the ensuing years.
Over the years there have been many Masonic cornerstones laid in the Fredericksburg area. Rappahannock Canal Basin, Baptist Church, Confederate Cemetery, Shiloh Baptist Church, Mary Washington Monument, and many others.IN 1848 Fredericksburg Lodge was also represented at the laying of the cornerstone of the Washington Monument in Washington D.C.
As you can see Fredericksburg Lodge is steeped in history, they as well as any lodge can only continue to grow by moving forward through time by remembering the past and building on the time worn traditions.