Who Served Under Washington?
William A. Brown
Among the many questions asked in the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, and one which may be of interest to you.
"Who were the officers of Alexandria Lodge No.22 to serve under Washington, the Master?" A second question which ties itself to the first.... "How and when did Washington become a member of Alexandria Lodge No.39?"
Washington had been a mason and a member of Fredericksburg Lodge No.4 since Aug. 1753. However, on moving to Mount Vernon after his marriage to Martha, and setting up his surveying office in Alexandria. Washington on occasions attended Alexandria Lodge no.39.
The date, June 24,1784 was a special occasion in Masonic History. June 24, being St.John's day, George Washington wrote the following letter to William Herbert Esq. Secretary of the Lodge, announcing his intention to attend the St.John's day meeting.
"Mount Vernon, June 19, 1784" "Dear Sir: With pleasure I received the invitation of the Master and Members of Lodge No.39 to dine with them on the anniversary of St John the Baptist. If nothing unforeseen at present interferes, I will have the honor of doing it. For the polite and flattering terms in which you have expressed their wishes, you will please accept my thanks. "Your Servant (who has been detained on account of some business in which I was engaged) brings the bundle you inquired after for my brother. "I heard yesterday of a ship destined for Liverpool, from your port. I pray you, therefore, to give this letter for Sir Edward Newenham, here-with sent, into the particular care of the Captain, to be put into the post-office on his arrival in England"
"With esteem and respect, I am, dear Sir, Your most obedient servant," "George Washington."
"William Herbert Esq. Alexandria."
The records of the lodge show that "His Excellency G.Washington" was among the visitors on that occasion. Following the business of the afternoon, the Lodge consisting of Washington and 28 members moved to Wise's Tavern where they dined, and after a few hours of festivities they returned to the Lodge room where the Worshipful Master Robert Adam, by unanimous consent of the Lodge admitted George Washington an Honorary member of Lodge No. 39
February 23,1787, Alexandria Lodge 39 received a letter from the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania in which they requested the return of the warrant that had been issued February 3, 1783. In the letter it was explained that a new Grand Lodge was being organized, and new warrants and charters were to be issued to all Lodges. Alexandria Lodge No.39, requested Col Michael Ryan, to inquire of James Mercer, late Grand Master, what order of business should be taken to obtain a charter from the Grand Lodge of Virginia. On the 3rd of March 1787, Col Michael Ryan reported to the lodge, and it was decided at that meeting, it would be more convenient to work under the authority of the Grand lodge of Virginia.
Having made the decision to apply to the Grand Lodge of Virginia for a Charter, Messrs. Robert McCrea, William Hunter Jr., John Allison and William H. Powell, waited upon General George Washington to ascertain if he was agreeable to be named as Charter Master of the newly formed Lodge. General Washington gave his consent to use his name, and letters were prepared and the correspondence traveled back and forth between the Grand Lodge of Virginia and the Alexandria Masons. On April 28,1788, the then Grand Master Edmund Randolph signed a charter for Alexandria Lodge No. 22, Naming,
George Washington - Charter Master Robert McCrea - Deputy Master William Hunter Jr. - Senior Warden John Allison - Junior Warden
At the first meeting of the new Lodge, the brethren elected William H. Powell to the office of Secretary, which he held until June 24, 1788, at which time he resigned the office and Joseph Greenway was elected and served through 1795. Benjamin A. Hamp was elected Treasurer. and Michael Gretter was appointed Tiler and served until 1791.
Now that we know the names of those who served as officers of the Lodge during the administration of George Washington, it might be interesting to discover a little more about these men. Just who were they?
ROBERT McCREA - who served as Deputy Master under Washington from April 28, 1788 till December 1788, was reelected as Senior Warden to serve with Washington till December 1789. Robert McCrea had served the first lodge (No.39) as its first Senior Warden in 1783, and as its Master in 1786-87. Robert McCrea was followed in that office by Dr. Elisha Cullen Dick who served until April 1788. Robert McCrea was present at the cornerstone laying of the Alexandria Academy, Sept. 7,1785. There is little known of Robert McCrea's family life, yet he was an active mason and he attended regularly at all meetings and Masonic Functions.
WILLIAM HUNTER JR. - Washington's first Senior Warden, was also very active in masonry. William Hunter Jr. was born Jan. 20, 1731, in Galston Scotland. Making him a year older than Washington. William arrived in the colony of Virginia as a young man and settled in Alexandria. He was engaged in the mercantile business. William developed many friends in London and Liverpool. During the Revolutionary War, William Hunter suffered great losses, like many of his contemporaries. However, he was a prominent citizen and at one time was Mayor of Alexandria. William died November 19, 1792 at the age of 62 and was buried in the graveyard of the First Presbyterian Church on Fairfax street.
JOHN ALLISON - served as Jr. Warden until the election in December of 1788, and then he stepped down, Later again he served as Junior Warden, and although a very active member of the Lodge he never served above that station. Like Robert McCrea there is little known of his family life or civic activities, even his death is a mystery at this time.
WILLIAM H. POWELL - served as Secretary for Washington until June 24, 1788. Powell a lawyer prepared the letters and correspondence to the Grand Lodge and Grand Master during the transition period, and was the brain during the early days of the lodge. William Powell was born in Loudoun County, Va. in 1763, William was the eldest son of Col Leven Powell who won a good reputation as an officer during the Revolutionary War. William studied Law in the Office of Col. Charles Simms, in Alexandria, and distinguished himself before the bar. Both William and his father represented the Loudoun District in Congress. William was involved most strongly in the political movements of his day, and when fierce strife arose between the Federal and Democratic parties, Williams's zeal and quick temper, involved him in a duel with Mr. Abram Mason, in which Abram lost an arm. Due to his activities in Law, William was not an active mason except during the transition period of the newly formed Lodge. William Powell met his death by drowning when he attempted to ford the Shenandoah River at the age of 43, on his way to the court in Winchester, Va. in the year 1806.
JOSEPH GREENWAY - served as Secretary from June 24, 1788 till December 1790. Late in 1786 and 1787 Greenway served as Junior Warden of the Lodge, but never went on to become Master. Greenway was an active member, and was in attendance at the funeral lodge of Washington. There is no record available of the life and death of Joseph Greenway.
BENJAMIN A.HAMP - served as Treasurer under Washington, and like Joseph Greenway was active in his masonic lodge, however, there is little known of Ben. A. Hamp outside the Lodge. He also was at the Funeral Lodge of Washington, and his name appears regularly in the minutes of the early lodge.
MICHAEL GRETTER - served as Tiler for the lodge from 1783 until 1791 a period of eight years, and of course served as Tiler for Washington. During those eight years, Gretter was a God-fearing man and never indulged himself, many times when the members were too deep in their cup to return to the lodge and close, Gretter assisted the few officers in the duty. Often when a brother was unable to travel, Gretter provided transportation or a place to spend the night. Michael Gretter was also in attendance at the Funeral Lodge of George Washington.
This brings us to Edmund Randolph, the Grand Master who issued and signed the Charter of Alexandria Lodge No.22.Edmund Randolph was both Grand Master and Governor of the State of Virginia at that time. (1788). Edmund was born in Williamsburg, Va. in 1753 (The year Washington was made a Master Mason in Fredericksburg Lodge No.4. Edmund was the son of John Randolph a lawyer and Attorney General of the Colony of Virginia. John was a loyalist, and went to England at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, and disinherited his son Edmund because he refused to obey the Crown. Edmund was educated at William and Mary. Edmund was an aid to Washington during the Revolutionary War. Edmund was a member of the committee which framed the Constitution. He served as Attorney General and Secretary of War during Washington's administration as President.
Let me say in closing, we do great Honor to George Washington the Charter Master of Alexandria Lodge No.22 and rightly so, yet we too often forget that a Master must have officers to serve with him, and too often forget those who support a great man. I doubt if you will remember these names we have just mentioned, and in the weeks to come they too will be forgotten. However for a few minutes we have resurrected the forgotten and did them honor.