George Washington’s Bible visits Ephrata Masonic Lodge

By on April 17, 2019

The Bible used by George Washington when he was initiated into Freemasonry in Virginia’s Lodge #4 on November 4, 1752, paid a visit to the Ephrata Masonic Lodge #65 on April 9.
Washington was 20 years old when he took his oath to become a Brother in the Fredericksburg, Virginia lodge. He passed to the second degree on March 3, 1753. Washington was raised to the third degree, and became a Master Mason on Aug. 4, 1753.

The Bible used in these ceremonies, plus all other lodge ceremonies, remains in the care of Virginia’s Lodge #4 to this day. It is in a locked Plexiglas case which is attached to a finished wooden, tray-type bottom. When not on the road for visits to other lodges (which occurs about three times per year), the Bible resides in the Kenmore Foundation’s museum on Ferry Farm–Washington’s boyhood home.

Holding George Washington’s Bible is Jamie Snyder, Worshipful Master from Fredericksburg, Virginia’s Lodge #4. This is the best way to view the bible, since ceiling lights tend to cast a glare on the locked plexiglass container when the bible isplaced on a flat surface. Snyder was one of three handlers who accoompanied the bible on its visit to the Ephrata Masonic Lodge April 9th. Also pictured (front row left to right) Todd Hoak, Worshipful Master of Ephrata Lodge #665; Ron Carson, District Deputy Grand Master and Noble Johnson, Past District Deputy Grand Master; (back l-r) Dennis Berry, Past Master and Dan Goodwin, Past Master. Photo by Alice Hummer.

The Bible, known as a pulpit Bible due to its larger size, was printed in Cambridge, England in 1668. As one might expect, Washington’s Bible is showing signs of age — the perimeter of the pages have turned brown and the entire Bible is fragile.

Efforts to raise restoration monies are currently in progress. There is a restoration donation fee of $2,000 requested when the Bible visits other Masonic Lodges and events. Also needing covered are mileage and expenses for the required, three Masonic ‘handlers’ who travel with the Bible and handle the case in which it resides. The handlers from Fredericksburg stressed that in addition to being a privilege and honor to be custodian of the Washington Bible, it is a great responsibility to have and handle relics correctly.

Photo by Bill Oehme.

Besides the Bible, the lodge is also custodian of a Gilbert Stuart portrait of Washington and a lock of Washington’s hair.

Ledgers available indicate the first recorded Lodge #4 meeting in Fredericksburg occurred in October 1752, about one month prior to Washington’s initiation. No one knows for sure if Lodge #4 held earlier meetings not recorded.

Minute books available recorded Washington’s initiation, passing to second degree and raising to the third degree Mason. Also recorded is the cost of two or three pounds to become initiated.
Supporting the effort to restore the Bible is The Fredericksburg Masonic Museum Association, a 501(c)3 organization. All donations are tax deductible. Proceeds from replica Bibles, available on the lodge website at masoniclodge4.com, also go toward restoration efforts.

Alice Hummer is a correspondent for The Ephrata Review. 

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