Today, the District of Columbia Quarter Coin remembers the first boundary stone ceremony of April 15, 1791.
Kenton Neal Harper included a description of the event in his History of the Grand Lodge and of Freemasonry in the District of Columbia, published in 1911.
“Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.” — Isaiah xxviii, 16.
That Freemasonry was a dominating tho unobtrusive force from the very first in this section has striking illustration in the fact that the cornerstone of the District was laid with Masonic ceremonies, and this event, probably without a parallel in the world’s annals, furnishes, perhaps, the most natural, certainly the most interesting, point of departure in the historical journey we are about to undertake.
The word cornerstone is here used in no figurative sense, but refers to a small marker of masonry set up at Jones Point, on Hunting Creek, below Alexandria, Va., from which were run at right angles the lines which formed the first two sides of the ten-mile square constituting the original District of Columbia.
This initial stone was placed according to ancient Masonic usages, April 15, 1791, by the Masonic Lodge of Alexandria, Va., which had been chartered eight years before by the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania as No. 39, and which, in 1788, became Alexandria-Washington Lodge, No. 22, under the jurisdiction of Virginia, with George Washington as Master.
This lodge, with one chartered in Georgetown as No. 9, of Maryland, in 1789, constituted organized Masonry within the limits of the contemplated new Territory, and while there remains to us only the most meager account of this first public recorded Masonic function yet it may be surmised that the latter lodge was also in evidence on that eventful Spring day and took an active part in the exercises.
The following account of the affair, published at the time in a Philadelphia paper, is deemed worthy of reproduction:
Alexandria, April 21, 1791.
On Friday, the 15th inst., the Hon. Daniel Carroll and Hon. David Stuart arrived in this town to superintend the fixing of the first cornerstone of the Federal District.
The Mayor and the Commonalty, together with the members of the different Lodges [ ?] of the town, at three o’clock, waited on the commissioners at Mr. Wise’s, where they dined, and, after drinking a glass of wine to the following sentiment, viz.:
“May the stone which we are about to place in the ground, remain an immovable monument of the wisdom and unanimity of North America,” the company proceeded to Jones Point in the following order:
1st. The Town Sergeant. 2d. Hon. Daniel Carroll and the Mayor. 3d. Mr. Ellicott and the Recorder. 4th. Such of the Common Council and Aldermen as were not Freemasons. 5th. Strangers. 6th. The Master of Lodge, No. 22, with Dr. David Stuart on his right, and the Rev. James Muir [for many years an active Mason] on his left, followed by the rest of the Fraternity, in their usual form of procession. Lastly. The citizens, two by two.
When Mr. Ellicott had ascertained the precise point from which the first line of the District was to proceed, the Master of the Lodge and Dr. Steuart, assisted by others of their brethren, placed the stone.
After which a deposit of corn, wine, and oil was placed upon it, and the following observations were made by the Rev. James Muir:
“Of America it may be said, as of Judea of old, that it is a good land and large — a land of brooks of waters, of fountains, and depths that spring out of the valleys and hills — a land of wheat, and barley, and vines, and fig-trees, and pomegranates — a land of oil, olives, and honey — a land wherein we eat bread without scarceness, and have lack of nothing — a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayst dig brass — a land which the Lord thy God careth for; — the eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it; from the beginning of the year even unto the end of the year.
“May Americans be grateful and virtuous, and they shall insure the indulgence of Providence; may they be unanimous and just, and they shall rise to greatness. May true patriotism actuate every heart; may it be the devout and universal wish.
“Peace be within thy walls, O America, and prosperity within thy palaces! Amiable it is for brethren to dwell together in unity; it is more fragrant than the perfumes on Aaron’s garment; it is more refreshing than the dews on Hermon’s hill.
“May this stone long commemorate the goodness of God in those uncommon events which have given America a name among nations.
“Under this stone may jealousy and selfishness be forever buried. From this stone may a superstructure arise, whose glory, whose magnificence, whose stability, unequalled hitherto, shall astonish the world, and invite even the savage of the wilderness to take shelter under its roof.”
The company partook of some refreshments, and then returned to the place from whence they came, where a number of toasts were drank; and the following was delivered by the Master of the Lodge (Dr. Dick), and was received with every token of approbation:
“Brethren and Gentlemen: May jealousy, that green-eyed monster, be buried deep under the work which we have this day completed, never to rise again within the Federal District.”
The light-house structure now on Jones Point covers the site of these interesting ceremonies.
The District of Columbia Quarter Coin shows with an image of the remains of the Jones Point Lighthouse, circa 1930s.