Who Were They?
Among the thousands of visitors who make their pilgramage to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial, and of the thousands of questions and inquires about the contents of the Memorial, It is not the life of Washington, nor his marriage, lodge, gereralship, or presidency which provides the most interest. To our surprise it is his death which provided many questions. One question which seems to be of particular interest to many. Who were his pall-bearers? It is very easy for us to answer by calling off in order of their position in the procession. SIMMS; RAMSEY; PAYNE; GILPIN; MARSTELLER; and LITTLE. But this is not what they want. What were their first names? Who were these men? Why were they selected for this great honor?
As for their first names, and position in the procession; leading off on the left side of the coffin was Charles Simms, followed by Dennis Ramsay, and William Payne. On the right side was George Gilpin, followed by Philip Marsteller and Charles Little.
CHARLES SIMMS; was born in Prince Williams County Va. in 1755, and was about to conclude his law studies with General Mercer when the Revolutionary War began. Simms was made Lieutenant Colonel of the 6th Reg. of Virginia, and distinguished himself at Red Bank, Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer. While in camp at Valley Forge, he married Miss Nancy Douglas of Trenton, Col. Charles Simms had six children; Nancy, Kitty, Phoebe, Charles, Douglas, and John. Col. Simms wqs a delegate and served in the Convention of Virginia in 1788. He was one of that celebrated committee appointed to recommend amendments to the Constitution of the United States. On that distinguished committee were Geroge Wythe, Patrick Henry, Gov. Randolph, George Mason, James Madison, John Marshall, James Monroe, John Brair,(the first Grand Master of Masons in Virginia.) and many others. For those who might be interested in the political side of Simms there is an intresting account in the "Memoirs of Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson" page 508, from Jefferson's diary of April 25,1798. In reference to a dinner party, Simms was listed as a Federalist, and in his introduction of the guests, Jefferson wrote, "So was Col. Charles Simms of Alexandria, who is here on a lawsuit against General Irvine." Col Simms resided in Alexandria about 35 years, Simms was Mayor of Alexandria when the British occupied the town in 1814, Simms was censured for surrendering the town. Of Course time vindicated his action as the Town was not capable of defending itself. Col Charles Simms died Aug. 29, 1819 at the age of 64 and was buried on the 31st with both Military and Masonic honors. Charles Simms was a member of Alexanria-Washington Lodge 22.
DENNIS RAMSAY; (who walked behind Simms) was born in Alexandria in 1756, He entered the Revolutionary war as Captian of the Virginia Continental Line, and served with distinction. At the close of the War he held rank of Colonel. Ramsay was a zealous Mason and became a member of Alexandria Lodge 39 in 1783 (a charter member) and was an officer of the Lodge for 20 years. Ramsay married Jane Allen Taylor and had nine children, William. Lesse; Eliza, Ann, Anthony, Jane, Robert T., Amelia, and George. Dennis Ransay was the son of William Ramsay a native of Scotland, who became one of the trustees of Alexandria in 1749. He assisted Thomas the 6th Lord Fairfax, George William Fairfax, Lawrence Washington, Richard Osborn, John Carlyle, John Pagan, Hugh West Gerald Alexander and Philip Alexander in laying out and organizing a town in the County of Fairfax by the name of Alexandria.
WILLIAM PAYNE; Who walked behind Ramsay, (from Smith's history of Virginia) is said to be the son of Sir Robert Payne, who came to America from Yorkshire, Englnd on April 18th 1619 with his two brothers, John and William. On the same ship was Sir George Yardley the first colonial Governor of Virginia. Col. Payne was born in Alexandria, and was one of a committee of safety appointed at a meeting held in the Court House in Alexandria, July 13, 1774 when George Washington was in the chair, and Robert Harrison was Secretary. At an election for vestrymen of Fairfax Parish, March 28, 1765, William Payne received 304 votes and George Washington 274 votes. The following account appears in the Alexandria Gazette, Aug. 25, 1874; "In 1754 when Washington, in command of the Virginia Rangers was waiting in Alexandria for the arrival of Braddock's Forces, an exciting election contest occured between Mr. Fairfax and Mr. Payne for the House of Burgesses,Washington supported Mr Fairfax with much zeal, and high words passed between Washington an Payne in the Market-square. Payne struck Washington a blow which brought him to earth, troops rushed in, and would have made short work of Payne had not Washington pacified them, assuring them that he knew the proper course to take. Duels were not then under ban of Public opinion. All supposed that a fight was imminent. Next morning Washington sent for Payne, and when the latter entered the room he saw on the table, not a pair of pistols as he had supposed, but a decanter of wine and two glasses. "Mr Payne" said Washington,"to err is human. I was wrong yesterday, but if you have had sufficient satisfaction, let us be friends." Weems relates "from that day Washington was Payne's idea of true manhood. The Magnanimity of Washington will be better understood and appreciated when it is recollected that at that time there was a cloud upon Washington's Powers, as he had been a few months before compelled by the French to capitulate at Fort Necessity, and had as yet done nothing to redeem his fame." Col. William Payne served in the Continental Army under Washington and on Feb 20, 1784 was admitted a member of Alexandria Lodge #39. William Payne died in 1800 just four months after serving as a pall-bearer for George Washington.
GEORGE GILPIN; (lead off man on the right side of the coffin) Was a revolutionary soldier and officer, and from early in the year 1809 until the 27th of December 1813 was Postmaster of Alexandria, having succeded George Washington Craik Esq. in that office By appointment of the lodge, Col. Gilpin was one of Washington's pall-bearers and was present in the lodge when Washington's death was announced and the arrangements were made for his internment. Col. Gilpin died in Alexandria, December 27, 1813 and was buried with Masonic Honors. Of the six members of the group we find very little written, and nothing of his family.
PHILIP MARSTELLER; Followed Gilpin on the right side. Philip Marsteller was born in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and came to Alexandria after the Revolutonary War, for a number of years was engaged in the auction and commission business under the firm name of Philip G. Marsteller and Son. Marsteller served during the Revolution as Lieutenant Colonel attached to the Pennsylvania Line, He had three sons, Philip, Ferdinand, and Lewis. Lewis died of wounds received in the service of the United States in an engagement during the Whiskey Insurrection in Western Pennsylvania. Col. Marsteller attended the funeral lodge of Washington and though he was selected as a pall-bearer, was the only mason acting in that capacity who was not a member of Alexandria Lodge 22. Although I am unable to discover to what lodge Marsteller belonged, I believe it was a lodge in Pennsylvania. Marsteller died in Alexandria in 1803.
CHARLES LITTLE; Who followed Marsteller and the last member of the celebrated group, he was also the youngest member. Col. Little was of scotch origin, and during the Revolutionary War was an officer in the Virginia Continental Line. Later in 1794 Little commanded a portion of the troops raised in Fairfax County to help suppress the "Whiskey Rebellion" in Western Pennsylvania. The 4th of July 1798 was celebrated with great spirit in Alexandria, and the principal feature of which a review of the Military by Gen. George Washington. Col. Little acting as his aide was also in charge of the military activities. On this occasion the artillery was commanded by Captain William Harper, the cavalry by Captain Robert Young And the Light Infantry by George Deneal. The line was reviewed on King Street, after which the troops attended devine services at Christ Church.
Following the anniversary dinner, which was served at "Spring Garden" His Excellency General George Washington reviewed the troops on the field and expressed his approval of their martial appearance. The celebration was finished off in the evening by the artillery under Captain Harper, which assembled at the top of Shuter's Hill and fired volley after Volley out over the City. Col. Charles Little died at his residence, Denbeigh, Fairfax County in 1813.
WHY WERE THEY SELECTED? Because they were all Colonels and served in some capacity under the General, also they were all residients of Alexandria, and with the exception of one, were all members of Alexandria Lodge 39. Thus these six Colonels who served their country in many ways would have drifted into obscurity. Their only claim to Mortality by which they are remembered is that they were pall-bearers at the funeral of George Washington.