Thomas Jefferson Papers

Masonic Report on the Central College Cornerstone Laying, 1 December 1817

III. Masonic Report on the Central College Cornerstone Laying

The undersigned a joint committee from the Widow son Lodge No 60. and charlottesville lodge No 90. appointed for the purpose of reporting to the respective lodges, the ceremoney &c used on monday1 the 6th day of October AL 5817 AD. 1817 in laying the corner stone of the Central college, Now report that they have performed that duty, that the two lodges haveing obtained the consent of the Visitors of the Central college to lay the corner stone of that building, addressed a letter to the Grand Secretary of Virginia, soliciting2 the attendance of the Grand Master on the interesting occasion, and in the event that his attendance could not be procured then the attendance of the Grand secretary himself and in case he could not assist the lodges therein, to appoint some brothers authorised to officiate on such occasions, And to provide against all inconveniencies arriseing out of a failure in the attendance of the aid solicited the Lodges proceeded to appoint a Grand Master Pro tem with all other necessary officers for the occasion, when Alex Garrett was appointed G Master P.T. Allen Dawson D. G. M P.T. Revd Wm King Grand Chaplain, John Fagg & David J Lewis S Ws PT. John C. Ragland & Wm Watson J. W. PT. John M Perry G. Architect, Valentine W. Southall Orator & John Fagg his aid Lawrence T. Catlett & John H Craven G. Martials with all other officers necessary, That on monday the 6th day of October AL 5817 AD. 1817 the aid solicited failing in attendance the officers appointed P. Tem as aforesaid proceeded and discharged the duties assigned them by forming the procession at the Stone house in the town of charlottesville from whence they marched to the building of the Central college attended by a numerous concourse of Brethern from the adjacent Lodges and there performed the ceremoney as detailed in the enclosed statement. All of which is respectfully reported to the Widow son Lodge No 60. and Charlottesville lodge No 90. by the undersigned their joint Committee this 1st day of December AL 5817. AD. 1817—

John Fagg
Alex: Garrett
John H Craven
John Harris3

Central College

Agreeably to previous arrangements, the masonic Societies of Charlottesville Nos 60 & 90 convened on Monday the 6th day of October, to aid their fellow citizens at albemarle & the circumjacent counties in laying the corner stone of the Central College; which by the liberality of the public & the generous aid of the State legislature, called for the above ceremony at an earlier day than we contemplated; it being only a month or two anterior to this occasion that the subscription papers were exhibited to the Subscribers—The morning was fair & mild; & tho’ at one period of the day the heavens were partially overclouded, yet, it again broke off, & nothing transpired to interrupt4 the pleasing & gratifying task. The interest which the public seemed to take in this first effort of Va was to every one a high & delightful evidence of the liberal spirit of our people—it was a sure presage, that their aid & support will be never wanting in the advancement of learning & education—that their hearts5 & their purses are open to the great cause of humanity & the amelioration of the condition of man on earth.6 It was the court day of the County & superior court of Albemarle—yet the judges descended from their bench, the people deserted their temple of justice, the houses were shut, business of all kinds suspended, and in one rolling tide the multitude pressed to the spot where this first twig7 of Science was to be planted. It was indeed a scene worthy the best feelings of our nature—not only as to the cause which had summoned so large & respectable a body of citizens together but the further grateful phenomo[no]n of witnessing in the procession [. . .] two ex-presidents & the present [chie]f majistrate of the union, forming three of the six visitors who by law, [are the?] guardians of this institution. The societies having arrived at the [site?] a line was formed before the stone, the W. G. M. directly in front, [the] six visitors inclu[d]ing with the ab[ove gentlemen?] Genl Cocke, Mr Watson & Mr Cabell on his right, & the cornbearers, &c, on his left the P. Archt Orator & aid face G M in front.8 The ceremony opened with an appropriate invocation from the Revd Dr King, to the throne of Almighty God that he would assist & protect the undertaking9


An anthem was then sung, after which the Rt W. G Master addressing [the] Visitors of the central College said “Gent: You have been pleased to grant to us the masonic order, the high and important previlage of laying the corner stone of this building, will you further indulge us with your aid and participation10 [on this] interesting occasion,”11 the Visitors signifying their assent the R. W G M. proceeded. May almightly God, without invocation to whom no work of importance should be begun, bless this undertakeing and enable us to carry it on with success. protect this college the object of which institution is to instill into the minds of Y[o]uth principles of sound knowledge, to inspire them with the love of religion & virtue, and prepare them for filling the various situations in society with credit to themselves and benefit to their country—The Architect assisted by a brother, next placed th[e] stone in its bed, the Secretaries then deposited in the stone a phial containing a piece of parchment on the one side of which was written, “Laid by Lodges Nos 60. and 90 on the 6th day of October AL. 5817. AD. 1817. Alex Garrett R. W. G Master Allen Dawson Deputy Grand Master & substitute Revd12 Wm King Grand chaplain John M Perry Architect”13 on the opposite side, Visitors of the Central College James Monroe [Tho]mas Jefferson James Madison14 John H Cocke Joseph C Cabell David Watson, the differen[t m]edals15 were next deposited, The stone haveing been settled in its bed by the Architect and aid, the architect presented the Deputy Grand Master with the squar[e plum]b and level who in like manner, presented them to the R. W. Grand Master say[in]g “R. W. Grand Master I present you with these implements used by our antient fraternity with which you will please proceed to assertain the fitness of this stone.”16 The R W G M. on recieveing the same presented them to the Visitors of the Central college, saying Gent will you if you please apply this square, plumb & level to this stone and assertain its fitness when James Monroe the President Chief magistrate of the United States recieved the [same and?] applied them severally to the stone after which returned them to the R W G Master who in like manner applied them, and strikeing the stone three times with the mallet17 said May the Grand Architect of the Universe grant a blessing on this foundation stone which w[e] have now laid, and by his providence enable us to finish18 this and every other work undertaken for the benefit19 of the republic and perpetuity of our free institutions: Breth[ern] I pronou[nc]e this stone well formed true and trusty. this was followed by 3 loud huzzas after which the band of music played Hail Columbia—The R. W. G Master then20 recieved severally the vesels containing the corn, wine, & oil, and addressing the Visitors of the Central college said Gent. as the scattering of corn, and the pouring out of wine & oil on such occasions are a part of our antient ceremonies, with your leave I will proceed to perform that duty. the Visitors signifying21 their assent, the R W. G Master scattered the corn & poured out the wine and oil on the stone saying May the all bountifull author of nature bless the Inhabitants of Virginia and particularly the guardians of this our infant institution, with all [the] neces[sar]ies, conveniencies, and comforts of life, increase their love of knowledge & liberty give them energy, to prosicute their present undertakeing, to the credit of themselves, the advancement of our youth and the security of our liberties, Assist [in] the erection & completion of this building, protect the workmen against every accident and long preserve this structur[e from] decay, and grant to us all in needed supply the corn of nourishment the wine of [refreshment & the?] oil of joy, Amen—

[The R] W G Master, then addressed the Revd G. Chaplain saying Right Revd Sir have we here the first and greatest lights of masonry. the G. Chaplain replied I hold it in my hand R. W [G M.] Right W. G Master, what instruction does it give us on this occasion, R. Revd G. Chaplain replied Thus saith the Lord God behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a corner ston[e] A tried stone A precious stone, a sure foundation     Judgment also will I lay to th[e line and] rightiousness to the plummet, for behold the stone which I have laid before Joshua [upon] one st[one] shall be seven eyes,22 behold I will engrave the engraveing thereof saith the Lord of Hosts,23 bless y[e] the Lord all ye servants of the Lord, lift up your hands in the sanctuary and bless the Lord the Lord that made Heaven & earth bless thee24 out of Zion—

Brother Valentine W Southall the orator of the day was then conducted by his aid to an eminence prepared for the occasion and from whence he addressed the audience


The Right Revd Grand chaplain then offered up an appropriate prayer invokein[g] prosperity and perpetuity to the institution. The R W. Grand Master then addres[sing the] Visitors of the Central College said Gent. The masonic societies haveing exerc[ised your] kind [pr]evilage granted them by laying with your aid the corner stone of this structure [beg lea]ve to offer you their best wishes for its prosperity and your individual health & happiness,”25 Thus closed the ceremoney which will long live in the recollection of those who witnessed it, When the soci[et]ies with the Visitors of the Central College, Judges &26 Gent. of the bar repaired to the stone house in charlottesville and set down to a dinner prepared for the occasion where reigned an undisturbed feeling of pl[ea]sure [and harm]oney that welcomed in the approaching evening—

MS (ViU: AG); in the hands of Alexander Garrett and Valentine W. Southall as noted below, signed by Fagg, Garrett, Craven, and Harris; edges chipped and holes in manuscript; endorsed in an unidentified hand: “Ceremony of laying the Corner stone of Central College Oct 6" 1817.”

John Fagg (1774–1846), farmer, was born in Prince Georges County, Maryland, before moving with his family to Albemarle County. TJ payed him for sawing in 1800, for oats in 1816, and for corn in 1818, and he was an inspector at the Milton tobacco warehouses. In 1817 Fagg subscribed $100 to Central College, and three years later he was elected a member of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle. Beginning about 1828 he managed a tavern in Everettsville, Albemarle County, and he was made postmaster there in 1830. In 1836 Fagg moved to a farm in Pike County, Missouri, where he died (Thomas J. C. Fagg’s memoirs [MS in ViU]; MB description begins James A. Bear Jr. and Lucia C. Stanton, eds., Jefferson’s Memorandum Books: Accounts, with Legal Records and Miscellany, 1767–1826, 1997, 2 vols., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Second Series description ends ; Woods, Albemarle description begins Edgar Woods, Albemarle County in Virginia, 1901, repr. 1991 description ends , 58, 190–1; Master List of Subscribers to Central College, [after 7 May 1817], document 5 in a group of documents on The Founding of the University of Virginia: Central College, 1816–1819, 5 May 1817; True, “Agricultural Society,” description begins Rodney H. True, “Minute Book of the Agricultural Society of Albemarle,” Annual Report of the American Historical Association for the Year 1918 (1921), 1:261–349 description ends 290; Axelson, Virginia Postmasters description begins Edith F. Axelson, Virginia Postmasters and Post Offices, 1789–1832, 1991 description ends , 4; The Bench and Bar of St. Louis, Kansas City, Jefferson City, and other Missouri Cities [1884], 491).

American and western European Freemasons use a calendar system based on the Anno Lucis (al), Latin for “year of light,” calculated by adding four thousand years to the common-era date (Albert G. Mackey, An Encyclopædia of Freemasonry [1874], 71, 143–4). s ws: senior wardens. j. w.: junior warden. w. g. m.: worshipful grand master.

1Word interlined in place of “tuesday,” here and below.

2Manuscript: “solicting.”

3Page ends here, with verso blank.

4Manuscript: “inerrupt.”

5Manuscript: “heats.”

6Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

7Word interlined in place of “Scion.”

8Preceding eleven words interlined, with caret mistakenly inserted after the period.

9Paragraph in Southall’s hand, with centered heading in Garrett’s hand. Beneath the paragraph is Southall’s draft, editorially omitted, of the closing of the report as written by Garrett beginning “Thus closed.” The rest of the text is in Garrett’s hand. Above Southall’s draft closing, Garrett used a symbol to key the jump beyond that and a blank verso to the resumption of text after the same symbol.

10Manuscript: “participitation.”

11Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

12Word interlined.

13Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

14Manuscript: “Monroe.”

15Manuscript: “[m]etals.”

16Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

17Preceding three words interlined.

18Word interlined in place of “carry on.”

19Manuscript: “benifit.”

20Manuscript: “the.”

21Manuscript: “signafying.”

22Manuscript: “eys.”

23Manuscript: “Host.”

24Manuscript: “the.”

25Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

26Garrett here canceled “attornies.”

Index Entries

  • Albemarle County Court, Va. search
  • Albemarle County Superior Court of Law, Va. search
  • Bible; Isaiah referenced search
  • Bible; Psalms referenced search
  • Bible; Zechariah referenced search
  • Cabell, Joseph Carrington; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Catlett, Lawrence T.; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Central College; and Freemasons search
  • Central College; cornerstone laying search
  • Central College; subscription for search
  • Central College Board of Visitors; and cornerstone laying search
  • Charlottesville, Va.; Freemasons of search
  • Charlottesville Lodge No. 90 (Masonic); and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Cocke, John Hartwell (1780–1866); and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • corn; ceremonial use of search
  • Craven, John H.; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Dawson, Allen; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • education; in Va. search
  • Fagg, John; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Fagg, John; identified search
  • Freemasonry; and Central College search
  • Garrett, Alexander; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Hail Columbia (song) search
  • Harris, John (d.1832); and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • King, William, Rev.; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Lewis, David Jackson; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Monroe, James; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • music; Hail Columbia (song) search
  • music; Masonic anthem search
  • oil; ceremonial use of search
  • Perry, John M.; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Ragland, John C.; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Southall, Valentine Wood; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Stone House Tavern (Charlottesville) search
  • subscriptions, non-publication; for Central College/ University of Virginia search
  • tools; levels search
  • tools; plumbs search
  • tools; squares search
  • Virginia; and education search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; taverns in search
  • Watson, David (1773–1830); and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • Watson, William; and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • weather; fair search
  • Widow’s Sons’ Lodge No. 60 (Masonic); and Central College cornerstone laying search
  • wine; ceremonial use of search