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
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.
By: JOSEPH M. MARZOLF, Secretary on NOVEMBER 8, 1932
Updated by: NICHOLAS V PAPADOPOULOS, W.M. on JUNE 29, 2010
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.