Wednesday, December 29, 2021

‘Masonic relics discovered!’


That’s a little hyperbole. The “relics” are common items, but it is pretty cool that they were recovered yesterday from within a time capsule.

Monument Avenue in Richmond, Virginia has been undergoing a change recently as its statues memorializing Confederate generals are coming down. The largest Confederate statue in America, a Robert E. Lee atop a 20-foot pedestal, has been retired, leading to the discovery of two time capsules dating to October 27, 1887.

One of the boxes was found inside that mammoth stone plinth. It had been secreted therein by the laborers who erected the giant general. The other, which was opened and explored yesterday, was beneath the monument. It contained many items of local historical interest, including books and other artifacts of Virginia Freemasonry’s post-Civil War era.

Royal Arch Masons. (CBS News)

The truth is no Masonic historian deserving of the title would be at all surprised to find Masonic contributions to a time capsule from late nineteenth century Virginia, but it is comforting to know how the fraternity was so significant that this time capsule, which is smaller than a milk crate, would include multiple proofs that Hiram was there. More info here. (Of course, Richmond is home to Masons’ Hall, which already was more than a century old when this box was buried.)

Grand Lodge Book of Proceedings.
(CBS News)

There is a Grand Lodge Book of Proceedings. And a Grand Chapter of Royal Arch book. A small Templar pamphlet from Richmond Commandery 2 looks like a membership roster. (At that time, Richmond 2 met on fourth Tuesdays, and yesterday was the fourth Tuesday, although I doubt the Sir Knights met between Christmas and New Year’s.) Tucked inside this document is a KT calling card from Past Eminent Commander James Hamilton Capers, who would become R.E. Grand Commander in 1897. There also is a Grand Lodge certificate of some kind. And then there’s a palm-size Square and Compasses made of wood.

Knights Templar booklet, possibly a membership roster of Richmond Commandery 2. (CBS News)

The time capsule is made of copper. It was not watertight, so its contents today are waterlogged, but still in good shape it seems. The metal objects (coins, tokens, musket balls) will clean up well, but the organic (books, papers) items? We’ll have to see what the Virginia Department of Historic Resources can manage. Archaeological Conservator Katherine Ridgway said the contents are “more waterlogged than we had hoped, but not as bad as it could have been.”

A Grand Lodge certificate. (CBS News)

All in all, not a bad day for those of us who understand Freemasonry today by knowing its yesterdays.

Calling card of Sir Knight James Hamilton Capers, who would become R.E. Grand Commander in 1897. (CBS News)

CBS News covered the event yesterday and shares several videos of different lengths on YouTube from which I did my best to capture the photos shown here.

The copper capsule. (CBS News)

That two time capsules were embedded within and beneath the Lee colossus indicates to me that the people of Richmond anticipated their hero’s effigy falling one day, and I’d like to think they’d be delighted to know it survived well into the twenty-first century.

UPDATE: Courtesy of Bro. St. Ecker in Virginia, I can share this newspaper clipping. The W.B. Isaacs mentioned in the lede was Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge.

Click to enlarge.


1 comment:

C. F. William Maurer said...

Thank you. Great notes. Great story.