Who can be a Freemason?


Nearly 3 million men are Freemasons in the United States today, with another 2 million worldwide, and the numbers are growing. Freemasonry can be found in almost every country of the world and is highly visible in almost every major historical occurrence in the United States from the Revolutionary War to the laying of the Capital cornerstone.

Freemasonry is open to all men regardless of race, religion, nationality, social status or wealth as long as they hold a belief in a supreme being and have good moral character. Thus, Freemasonry welcomes men of any faith or creed, but it is not a religion, nor is it a substitute for religion. It does, however, require of its members a belief in a supreme being as part of the obligation of every responsible adult.

To ensure harmony among all, Freemasonry advocates no particular devotion, practice or expression of Deity. Neither are the doctrines of religion and merits of partisan politics debated, nor even permitted to be discussed at Masonic meetings. In short, Freemasonry does not interfere with duties that a man owes to his God, his country, his neighbors or his family. Rather, it simply helps a good man become a better man, father, husband, brother or son.

Of course, there are additional steps to membership beyond gender and good character. There are nearly 40 Lodges within the jurisdiction of the District of Columbia, of which Justice-Columbia Lodge No. 3 is but one. Like people, each Lodge has its own personality, priorities, and prerequisites upon which it accepts members. Some Lodges focus on local community service and charitable works; others on perfecting the strong bonds of fraternal camaraderie; while still others dedicate their efforts to exploring historical ritual and esoteric teachings.

All offer valuable and important education and awareness of self and service, and you are encouraged to visit other Lodges to find one that is right for you before submitting a petition. To learn the meeting times and locations of Lodges in the District of Columbia, please visit www.dcgrandlodge.org.

Start reading Who can be a Freemason?

What is Freemasonry?

No one knows for sure how or when the Masonic Fraternity was formed. Masonry is speculated to have formed from the stone-masons guilds of the Middle-Ages which traveled across Europe building the grand castles and buildings that are present in many European cities today. Others suggest its roots extend back more than 3,000 years to the times of King Solomon, others claim the roots of Freemasonry existed within man the moment he first looked up to the heavens.


However old or young the fraternity may be, Freemasonry, as it is known today, is officially recognized as originating in London, England in 1717. Records show that in that year, four lodges formed to create the Grand Lodge of England. The Grand Lodge of England still exists today and is now known as the United Grand Lodge of England (UGLE).

George Washington

Shortly after its “grand” formation, Freemasonry traveled rapidly across Europe and to the newly settled American colonies. In fact, many of the founding fathers of the United States were freemasons to include; George Washington “The Father of Our Country”; Benjamin Franklin and Robert Livingston, two of the five men who drafted the Declaration of Independence; Paul Revere who made his famous ride to warn of British approach; John Hancock whose name boldly appears in defiance of King George III; John Paul Jones who helped establish the Continental Navy and traditions which continue to our modern fleet; the French liaison to the Colonies Marquis d’Lafayette, without whose aid the war could not have been won; and Pierre-Charles L’Enfant, designer of the city of Washington, D.C. These are but a few of the men and ideals with whom a Mason becomes associated through his labors. With them he shares an eternal bond of duty, courage, and service to liberate humanity from tyranny, injustice and intolerance.

We the People

Freemasons could be found during this time period in many countries that held the ideals of individual enlightenment, democracy and equality. In fact, Freemasons were prominent as founding fathers in several nations during the late 1700’s to mid 1800’s such as Canada and Mexico.


Freemasonry is also a charitable organization. During the 1800’s and 1900’s, before the Federal government enacted measures ensuring these rights to all Americans, Masons directly provided for the shelter and assistance to its members, widows and orphans through insurance, orphanages, homes for the aging, and other vital social services. Today, Freemasons contribute more than $2.5 million every day to causes ranging from the Shriner’s Hospitals for children suffering from burns or bone diseases; Scottish Rite Centers which provide services to children suffering from hearing, eye, speech and other communicative disorders; medical research funding for childhood illnesses; direct financial contributions to local schools and communities; and providing care to disabled and infirmed Masons and their families at Masonic Homes across the country.

Start reading What is Freemasonry?

History of JC3


By: JOSEPH M. MARZOLF, Secretary on NOVEMBER 8, 1932

Updated by: NICHOLAS V PAPADOPOULOS, W.M. on JUNE 29, 2010

More than 130 years ago a few Masons, imbued with the important part Freemasonry had played in the Revolutionary War and the establishment of what is now a great nation, conceived the desire to form a new Lodge at the Nation’s Capital, which at that time was little more than a country village, as Congress had designated this site for the National Capital in 1790 and the seat of the Government actually was no located in this vicinity until 1800.

Apparently the leader in this undertaking was Brother Charles Jones, because on November 8, 1802 this Brother presented a petition to the Grand Lodge of Maryland, then only nineteen years old, signed by a number of Brethren working under a dispensation iii the City of Washington, praying for a warrant empowering them to convene as a regular Lodge in the jurisdiction. The sponsors and recommenders of our Lodge were the Master, Senior and Junior Wardens of Federal Lodge No. 15, now known as Federal Lodge No. 1 of the District of Columbia.
The petition was granted and a warrant issued on November 8, 1802, designating the Lodge as Columbia Lodge No. 35 of the City of Washington. Brother Charles Jones was installed as Master in open Grand Lodge on the 9th of November 1802. Patrick Kain was the first Senior Warden and John Burns the Junior Warden. The earliest available list of members, most of whom probably signed the petition, is as follows: Brothers Orlando Cook, Bernard Dolar, Niniam Beall, Isaac Wilson, John Heron, Samuel Russ, John Dobbyn, Francis Pick, Nathaniel Segar, Joseph Johnson Robert Spider, James Walker, Thomas Herty, James N. Robertson, Thomas Greeves, Andrew Barth, J. C. Shitidle and Nicholas Whelan (21 in all). Most of these Brethren appear to have been officials or employees of the Treasury Department. The first meeting place of the Lodge was on the north side of Pennsylvania Avenue near 15th Street, in what was known as Lovell’s Hotel.

At the time the new Lodge was chartered, it would appear that the only other active Lodge ID this vicinity was Federal Lodge No. 15. There had been a Lodge in Georgetown under the name of Columbia Lodge No. 19, chartered October 22, 1795. It is understood, however, that this Lodge suspended operations between December 12, 1796 and November 12, 1806 when upon petition of former members a new charter from the Grand Lodge of Maryland was issued on the latter date to Potomac Lodge No. 43.

Two years after its formation, or in 1804 Columbia Lodge No. 35, together with Federal Lodge No. 15, purchased a site on the west side of Eleventh Street just south of Pennsylvania Avenue and erected the two-story structure which was known as Union Lodge. Later this building was used as a meeting place for other lodges, which were subsequently chartered, and this building, though unpretentious in appearance, properly may be termed the first Masonic Temple in the City of Washington. Our founders deserve our praise for their energy, enthusiasm and self-sacrifice for an ideal, which has persisted through the many subsequent years and resulted in the great organization in this city at the present time.
The Lodge continued to work under the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Maryland until 1811. On December 11, 1810, a convention was called for the purpose of considering the right and expediency of establishing a Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. At this convention delegate8 from the following Lodges were present: Federal Lodge No. 15, Columbia Lodge No. 35, and Washington Naval Lodge No. 41 of this city; Potomac Lodge No. 43 of Georgetown, A C., under the jurisdiction of Maryland, and Brook Lodge No. 47 of Alexandria, Virginia, under the jurisdiction of Virginia. The delegates from Columbia Lodge were Brothers Charles Jones, Master; Orlando Cook, Senior Warden, and Ninian Beall, Junior Warden. It may be safely assumed that our representatives played an active and influential part in the deliberations of the convention and were instrumental in the formation of our Grand Lodge.

At an adjourned meeting held on January 8, 1811, the organization was perfected and Grand Lodge Officers were elected. Our Master, Brother Charles Jones, was elected Grand Secretary, an office which he held only for a short time as he died the following October and was interred by the Grand Lodge with Masonic honors. This worthy Brother served our Lodge as Worshipful Master from the time it was chartered in 1802 until his death in 1811 and is deserving of the highest esteem of every member of the Lodge which he served so long and faithfully, as well as the respect of our whole Fraternity in this jurisdiction for the labor he contributed in forming our Grand Lodge.

At the next communication of the Grand Lodge on April 9, 1811, Columbia Lodge No. 35 was chartered as Columbia Lodge No. 3 of the District of Columbia, although it was not until May 6, 1811 that the Grand Lodge of Maryland recognized the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia. The assent of the Grand Lodge of Maryland was presented to our Grand Lodge at its communication on July 9, 1811, at which time the several Lodges were directed to return their warrants to the authority from whom hey had received them. However, permission had been granted by the Grand Lodge of Maryland to the several Lodges of the District of Columbia, working under the authority of that Grand Lodge, to retain their warrants if they so desired. Our Brethren apparently desired to retain their original warrant, which is in the possession of Columbia Lodge at this time, although it was lost for a number of years and later was found in the rubbish of the temple.

The earliest minutes of the Lodge now available are for the communication of May 8, 1815, and they are practically complete from that time until January 9, 1836. During this period no doubt many events occurred of importance to the craft, both within and without the tiled doors of the Lodge, and it is regretted that the records are so meager concerning the steps taken to oppose the efforts of those enemies who attempted to discredit our Fraternity for political and selfish reasons. Et is also probable that many events of Masonic importance occurred which were not recorded. One reason for this fact may be the extreme secrecy with which our elder brethren shrouded all actions, charities and events pertaining to Masonry. In 1826 Federal Lodge No. 1, Columbia Lodge No. 3, Lebanon Lodge No. 7 and New Jerusalem Lodge No. 9 jointly purchased a plot of ground at; the southwest corner of D and 4~ Streets, N.W., now John Marshall Place, and thereon was erected a building first known as Central Masonic Hall and later as Freemason’s Hall. The laying of the cornerstone of this building was a great event, as practically all the heads of Departments, Judicial and City officials, as well as Army and Navy contingents joined in the procession. M.W.G.M. John N. Moulder, a member of Columbia Lodge, placed the cornerstone of this building.

During 1834 and a part of 1835 Lodge communications were infrequent and virtually amounted to suspension. The charter was placed in the custody of Grand Master William W. Billings, who restored it to the members in 1835 when the Lodge was reorganized and James Lawrenson was elected Master. From this time the Lodge does not appear to have been in a very flourishing condition but seems to have feebly continued its existence through the efforts of a few zealous brethren until some time in 1837 when, by the sudden removal from the jurisdiction of a large majority of the members, mostly Germans, who had been admitted since the reorganization in 1835 and who it appears left in a body to migrate to the west, it became embarrassed to such an extent that the Master Brother F. L. Grammer was forced by the financial condition of the Lodge to petition the Grand Lodge to relieve him of the custody of the charter, which request was granted at a meeting of the Grand Lodge in May, 1838. The Grand Lodge, however, anticipating that at some future time an effort would be made to revive the Lodge, passed the following resolution:

“RESOLVED: That this Grand Lodge accept of the warrant tools and other property of Columbia Lodge No. 3 and that the same be laid up for the use of any five members of said Lodge No. 3 and that should they apply, the same shall be given up for their use free of any charge on the part of this Grand Lodge.”

Columbia Lodge met in the building at D and 4th Streets until its charter was surrendered during the Morgan excitement, which swept over the country. The stress of this period may be appreciated from the events, which transpired subsequently because after our Lodge became inactive not only the other Lodges of the District, but also the Grand Lodge, were extremely straightened circumstances. Freemasons’ Hall was lost to the Fraternity by what today would be termed foreclosure proceedings and the Lodges were liable to find places to meet. Some meetings were held in private residences and one Lodge held its meetings over a stable.

No effort was made to recover the charter as provided for in the Grand Lodge resolution until May, 1863, during the Civil War, when a movement was started to obtain five of the original members to petition the Grand Lodge for the return of the charter. On December 28, 1863, a petition signed by William Cooper, Samuel Sherwood, Thomas Donoho, Joseph Bryan and James Lawrenson was presented to the Grand Lodge, but was laid over until the meeting of the Grand Lodge in May 1864. In the meantime, the following additional signatures to the petition were obtained: Charles F. Wood, Joseph S. Wilson, Charles W. Forrest, Charles H. Wiltberger, Michel A. Guista and Abraham Clark.

In November 1864, the matter again was brought to the attention of the Grand Lodge and again was postponed. It is not apparent why the Grand Lodge hesitated to comply with its previous resolution, but; it seems probable that there was some question as to whether the brethren were capable of proceeding as a constituent Lodge. Also, it is understood that; some of the signers of the first petition were not members of the Lodge at the time the charter was surrendered and because others had subsequently joined other Lodges. Brother Joseph S. Wilson had affiliated with Hiram Lodge No. 10, and Brothers Thomas Donoho, James Lawrenson, William Cooper and Charles H. Wiltberger with Lebanon Lodge No. 7.
Thus the matter rested until the meeting of the Grand Lodge on St. John’s Day in December 1864, when the subject again was brought up for consideration and the following resolution was passed:

“RESOLVED: That the M.W.G. Master be authorized to restore the charter to any five Brethren who were bona fide members of No. 3 at the time of the surrender of its charter, and issue his dispensation for them to elect their officers.”

A new petition was therefore prepared, signed by Brothers Joseph Bryan, Charles F. Wood, Abraham Clark, Michel A. Guista, Charles W. Forrest, Samuel Sherwood and Michael Caton, all members of the old Lodge at the time of surrendering the charter who had never joined any other Lodge. This petition was placed in the hands of the M.W.G. Master, George C. Whiting, who on April 12, 1865 returned the charter to the petitioners and granted a dispensation for them to elect their officers. The result of the election was as follows: W.M. Charles F. Wood; S.W. Michel A. Guista; J.W. Abraham Clark; Treas. Joseph Bryan, and subsequently after admitting him to membership under a special dispensation from the Grand Master, James Lawrenson was elected Secretary. The Grand Master installed the Officers on the same evening, and Columbia Lodge, after a dormant period of twenty-seven years, took her place once more among the Lodges of the jurisdiction.

These eight brethren, inspired with the work they had assumed, proceeded with enthusiasm and the returns for the year 1866 reported forty members, a truly commendable achievement indicative of the zeal and Masonic enthusiasm prevailing among our brethren, to carry on the work of their beloved Lodge.

At this time the Lodge met with other Lodges in what was designated as Central Masonic Hall located on the southwest corner of D and 9th Streets N.W. This was the home of our Lodge until the completion of the Masonic Temple at 9th and F Streets, which was erected by the Masonic Hall Association, incorporated by Act of Congress and approved by the President in 1864. The land on which this building is erected was purchased from Gonzaga College for $20,000. Columbia Lodge participated in the laying of the cornerstone of the Temple on May 20, 1868. It is interesting to note that on this occasion members of the Fraternity in the Government Departments were excused and Brother Andrew Johnson, then President of the United States, marched with his brethren in the character of a Master Mason. The procession on this occasion was strictly Masonic, no other civic, judicial or military bodies taking part, and the stone was placed by M.W.G.M. Benjamin B. French. As early as December 17, 1868 the Grand Lodge met in this Temple, but the bodies were not permanently located there until May 1870, in which month the building was appropriately dedicated.

The Lodge continued to hold its meetings at the Temple until 1886. At the 8tated communication on March 17th of that year, upon report of a committee that; the rent charged of $150 per year was excessive, the Lodge decided to move to a room in the Scottish Rite Hall at 1007 G Street, N.W., where a rent of $75 per year was charged. The Lodge held its first communication there on March 31, 1886. This building was the home of the Lodge until July 3, 1896 when it returned to Lodge Room No. 2, Masonic Temple, 9th and F Streets, N.W.

Columbia Lodge took an active part in raising the necessary funds for the purchase of the site and erection of the Masonic Temple at Thirteenth Street and New York Avenue, N.W. Approximately fifty of our members paraded to the site on June 8, 1907 to assist M.W.G.M. Francis J. Woodman in the ceremonies of laying the cornerstone. Brother Theodore Roosevelt, President of the United States delivered an address on this occasion. This building was dedicated on September 19, 1908. On October 9, 1908 Columbia held its first meeting in the new Temple and raised the first Master Mason to be raised in the new building.

In 1911 the Grand Lodge appropriately celebrated its 100th Anniversary. AL this time Brother J. Claude Keiper of our Lodge was M.W.G. Master and presided with dignity upon every occasion in connection with this celebration, reflecting credit upon our Lodge as well as the Grand Lodge over which he had been called to preside.

Columbia Lodge has always taken an active interest in the Washington Masonic Memorial and was one of the first Lodges to subscribe its quota for the erection of this building. On May 12, 1932 with other Masonic bodies, we participated in the dedication ceremonies. Brother J. Claude Keiper, P.G.M. has been Secretary of the Memorial Association for the past wonderful undertaking.

The Lodge was well represented at the ceremonies incident to the relaying of the cornerstone of the United States Capitol on September 17, 1932 as part of the George Washington Bicentennial Celebration. On this occasion there was a very large parade; approximately 1,000 Masons taking part in colonial costume and it has been estimated that a total of 10,000 members were in the procession. A copy of the Lodge bulletin for September was placed in the stone actually deposited under the direction of M.W.G.M. Reuben A. Bogley.

On March 31st, 1941 W.B. Joseph M. Marzolf, the author of Columbia Lodge’s history, submitted his resignation as Secretary to the Officers of Columbia Lodge, No. 3. Homer F. Johnson assumed the duties of the Office of the Secretary and served the Lodge until 1965. On March 14th, 1951, Columbia Lodge No. 3 received a request by the Grand Secretary of Michigan to confer the Fellow Craft and Master Mason Degrees, as a Courtesy to Malta Lodge No. 465 of Michigan, to an Entered Apprentice and a junior member of the US House of Representatives by the name of Gerald R. Ford Jr. Subsequently, the courtesy Degrees were conferred on April 20th and May 18th, 1951 respectively. Gerald R. Ford Jr. spent 25 years in Congress, he served as House Minority Leader, and on August 9th, 1974 he was sworn-in as the 38th President of the United States (1974-1977).

In 1978, Columbia Lodge No.3 consolidated with Justice Lodge No. 46 of Maryland to become Justice-Columbia Lodge No.3 of the District of Columbia. The first W.M. of the consolidated Lodge was W.B. Stewart W. Miner who later (1987) served as Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the District of Columbia until 2004.

Justice Lodge No.46 was Chartered on December 15th, 1926. The Lodge’s Charter members included Brothers J. Edgar Hoover, who was the founder of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and served as its first Director from 1935 until his death in 1972, W. B. Eugene J. Matchett, Chief of the Accounts Branch of the US Department of Justice, who served as the Lodge’s first Worshipful Master while Under Dispensation and later as its Secretary, and Brother Don C. Fees who served as the Lodge’s Senior Warden Under Dispensation, and was the Auditor of the US Department of Justice.

Justice-Columbia Lodge No. 3 celebrated its Bicentennial Anniversary on November 8th, 2002 with an evening banquet gala at the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC. That evening, Justice-Columbia Lodge No. 3 reaffirmed its allegiance to the founding principles of the “American Experiment”, and demonstrated its dedication to educating future generations of Americans by awarding scholarship prizes to three students who were the winners of an essay contest organized by the Lodge on the topic of “The Role of Freemasonry in the American Revolution and the Formation of the United States of America”.

The history of our Lodge is comparable to human life. We have enjoyed prosperity and suffered adversity, but, thanks to the zeal and perseverance of our brethren, we have emerged a better Lodge, conservative always in actions Masonic, careful in admission of new members, judicious in matters financial, ever-sustaining and supporting the Grand Lodge and Grand Master in every laudable undertaking. Today we are justly proud of the honorable achievements of our Lodge and justified in looking forward with confidence to a glorious future, Then let us, as Masons and members of this wonderful old Lodge firmly resolve that no act of ours as individuals shall ever reflect discreditably upon our organization and that; we will persevere as steadily in advancing its interests and promoting its welfare as has been done by our worthy brethren who have gone before us.

Justice-Columbia Lodge No. 3 has furnished four Grand Masters to this jurisdiction:

John N. Moulder, 1826-1827, Thomas F. Gibbs, 1891, J. Claude Keiper, 1911, and Charles B. Gilley 1963.

Furthermore, in addition to the first Grand Secretary, Brother Charles Jones, members of Justice-Columbia Lodge No. 3 who have served that office include:

James Lawrenson, Master in 1835, Grand Secretary from 1836 to 1842, J. Claude Keiper, Master in 1899, Grand Secretary from 1024 to 1944, William H. Minnick, Master 1947, Grand Secretary from 1971 to 1981, and Stewart W. Miner, Master 1979, Grand Secretary from 1987 to 2004.

Start reading History of JC3