Volume LIVMay 2007Number 2

Brother George Washington, Alexandria Lodge
No. 22 (39) and The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania
by Cathy Giaimo, Assistant Librarian, The Masonic Library and Museum of Pennsylvania

The Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania has had the privilege of warranting many new lodges in its long history. While most of these lodges were within the state boundaries, some early lodges were located out of state, and in some instances, out of the country. One of these early lodges has a rather interesting history, as we shall see.

At a meeting of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, Feb. 3, 1783, a petition was being considered to warrant a lodge in Alexandria, Va. The petition had been submitted the previous September but the proposed Master, Robert Adam, was found to be a clandestine Mason. He subsequently received his Entered Apprentice and Fellow Craft degrees from Lodge No. 2, Philadelphia, in January 1783. With that obstacle out of the way, the petition was approved and Bro. Adam was presented "with a warrant to hold a lodge of Ancient Masons in Alexandria, in Virginia, to be numbered 39" and he became the first Master of this new lodge.

Up until Sept. 26, 1786, the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania was still under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of England. In August of that year, Alexandria Lodge No. 39 received a circular letter from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania requesting their presence in some form at a Quarterly meeting being held in Philadelphia that September to determine their independence. The brothers of this lodge sent a letter of regrets by way of Bro. Dennis Ramsay, Secretary, owing to the great distance between Alexandria and Philadelphia, but hoped to be informed to their decision. They next received another circular letter dated Feb. 23, 1787, requesting their old warrant back to receive a new one from the now independent Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania. This letter, in turn, made the brothers consider aligning themselves with the Grand Lodge of Virginia (est. 1778) in Richmond that would be much closer, and therefore make it easier to attend Masonic functions. (Though there is no official reason for the original request to the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania, it is thought that the Grand Lodge of Virginia was not meeting at the time since there are no records from that date).

Bro. Col. Michael Ryan is chosen to make an inquiry of James Mercer, Past Grand Master of Virginia, and the Masonic workings of the Grand Lodge of Virginia. Col. Bro. Ryan reports back at the March meeting that the Grand Lodge works within the strictest Masonic guidelines and recommends that they should go forward and come under the leadership of the Grand Lodge in Richmond. Alexandria Lodge then recommends George Washington, Esq., Master; Robert McCrea, Deputy Master; William Hunter, Jr., Senior Warden and John Allison, Junior Warden, as their new lodge officers. The latter three men and lodge member Bro. William H. Powell are given the duty to wait upon Bro. George Washington to see if he would be willing to be named in the charter. In the meantime, Bros. Allison and Hunter also make an application to the Grand Lodge of Virginia requesting a new charter.

Once Bro. Washington agrees, Alexandria Lodge No. 39 sends its official application with a letter dated Oct. 25, 1788, to the Grand Lodge of Virginia seeking a charter under their jurisdiction, "having found it inconvenient to attend the different communications of that honorable society in Philadelphia, and as a Grand Lodge is established in our own State, at Richmond [and] have, at sundry preceding meetings resolved to ask your honorable society for a new warrant, which has already been communicated to by letter, and also by our Bro. Hunter, personally, who hath obtained an entry of the Lodge on your minutes."

"At the next regular Communication [December 1788] of the Grand Lodge, the petition of this lodge was granted and its registry number changed from No. 39 of Pennsylvania to No. 22, Virginia." The new Alexandria Lodge No. 22 received its warrant with the date of April 28, 1788, and had its last meeting as Alexandria Lodge No. 39 on Jan. 20, 1789.Bro. George Washington served his first term as Charter Master from April 28 to Dec. 27, 1788, and was re-elected as Master for a second term on Dec. 20, 1788. Thus it was during these few months of transition from one Grand Lodge to another that Bro. Washington was Master of his lodge while it was still under Pennsylvania jurisdiction.

Not only did he have the privilege of serving as the first Master of Alexandria No. 22, but he also began his term as first President of the United States on April 30, 1789.

Sources: Grand Lodge of Penna. Proceedings, 1730 to 1809, Freemasonry in Pennsylvania 1727-1907, v. 2, Freemasonry in Virginia, (1733-1936) and The Lodge of Washington

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