George Washington Masonic National Memorial Report


In March 2011, a report was made by Mark Tabbert of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial Association that documented the academic research that had been conducted on the apron.

WashingtonClosingLodge

His report concluded: According to the Lodge’s minute books the first public appearance was May 16, 1844 in Charlestown. It was displayed at a banquet celebrating the 90th anniversary of a legendary Masonic meeting in a local cave. The minutes state: “. . . an apron black silk velvet, presented more than half a century to Gen. Washington by the Grand Lodge of France, through the person of this early friend, brother and companion in arms, Bro. Gilbert M.D. Lafayette.” In 1847 the apron traveled to the District of Columbia. It was worn by Mt. Nebo Lodge brother S. McElroy at the Masonic cornerstone ceremony of the Smithsonian Institution. Three years later the Grand Master of Virginia, James Points, wore the apron in Richmond at the Virginia Statehouse George Washington Monument ceremony. President Zachary Taylor also attended. The Grand Lodge of New Hampshire’s 1867 Proceedings reported the apron, as well as President and Bro. Andrew Johnson, were present at the cornerstone ceremony of Grand Lodge of Maryland’s new temple in 1866. Ten years later, the local newspaper The Shepherdstown Register ran a full story on the apron. The apron’s last major public appearance was in Minnesota. In 1892 Bro. Wynkoop Lemen, a dual member of Mt. Nebo Lodge No. 91 and Warren Lodge No. 150, Warren, Minnesota, gained permission to bring the apron west. It came first to Warren Lodge then appeared at the annual Grand Lodge of Minnesota meeting in St. Paul. Before returning to Shepherdstown, the Grand Lodge commissioned a beautiful hand-carved Masonic framed case. The apron then traveled to Chicago, where it appeared at two lodges. The national publication, Voice of Freemasonry ran an illustrated article of the apron and its case. It is curious that its description of the apron is lifted from the 1877 The Shepherdstown’s Register’s piece. The Voice’s article led to the apron to appear in a well-know 1896 lithograph. The Chicago firm of Kurz & Allen produced a pair of prints “Franklin Opening the Lodge” and “Washington Closing the Lodge.” Both are more Masonic fantasies than historical accuracy and are modeled after Emanuel Leutz’s 1856 portrait “Washington as Master Mason.” Yet, unlike the Leutz painting, Washington is wearing the Mt. Nebo apron. Furthermore, Franklin’s apron has a similar square, compasses and acacia sprig. These prints were quite popular and hung in numerous lodges and are still available through the Internet. Perhaps the last major public appearance was at the 100th commemoration of Washington’s death. On December 14, 1899, under the authority of the Grand Lodge of Virginia more than 300 freemasons representing every grand jurisdiction in the country attended a special service at Washington’s Tomb at Mount Vernon. Afterwards President and brother freemason William McKinley addressed the brethren from the east lawn. According the November 1899 Grand Lodge of West Virginia’s annual communication, Mt. Nebo Lodge planned to have the apron present at the commemoration. After 1900 the apron slipped out of Masonic and public awareness. Mt. Nebo kept the apron in the Minnesota frame and hung it on the north lodge wall. On a few special occasions it was brought out for public view and appreciation. Periodically local newspapers and town histories wrote about the apron, but word of the apron did not spread beyond the mountains. Past Grand Master of Virginia William Mosely Brown in his excellent book, George Washington: Freemason (1952) acknowledged the apron’s existence, but did not follow up with further comment.Until 2009 the apron lived quietly in the Lodge. Now, in celebration of their 200th anniversary, the brethren of Mt. Nebo Lodge have returned the apron to George Washington’s home and to public light for everyone’s benefit and delight.

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