Ancient ways, modern days. Masonic cornerstone seals, reveals time-honored truths at local school
EAGLE — That dashing young man in the black and white photo resplendent in the bowtie is George McCollum, who has led Masonic Lodges in Eagle and Leadville several times.
On Sept. 22, 1973, McCollum was head of the Masonic Lodge in Eagle, Castle Lodge No. 122, and it fell to him to help run a cornerstone ceremony at the then-new Eagle Valley Elementary School.
The ceremony is steeped in history, putting it right in McCollum’s wheelhouse.
“We did it the same way George Washington did it when he laid the cornerstone in our nation’s capitol,” McCollum said.
Behind Eagle Valley Elementary School’s Masonic cornerstone, local Masons placed a tightly sealed copper box, a time capsule. Masons are a logical lot, and they place their time capsules behind their cornerstones so they can always find them when it’s time to remove them, as it was at EVES in the waning days of the school year.
That building will be demolished this summer and replaced with a new building a few dozen yards away.
In the EVES time capsule, they placed a copy of that week’s Eagle Valley Enterprise newspaper, a complete set of U.S. coins and currency — they were solid copper, nickel and silver in those days — a copy of the EVES rules and regulations, which was a thin tome, and pictures of that Sept. 22, 1973, ceremony.
The state’s top Mason, the Grand Master, performs almost all Colorado cornerstone ceremonies. In 1973, that was Edward A. Martin.
Cornerstones are placed in public buildings — schools, libraries, hospitals, etc., said Kevin Townley, Colorado Grand Lecturer, which means he knows private buildings are perfectly free to have some sort of commemorative plaque, but it won’t be a Masonic cornerstone.
Busy cornerstone seasons
Colorado’s economy has been roaring, so Colorado Masons have been relatively busy with cornerstones the past few years.
Chuck Mills is master of the Glenwood Masonic Lodge No. 65 and has had a few cornerstone ceremonies in that community in the past couple of years. He works with Haselden Construction, the company building and renovating local school buildings, and was at EVES when their cornerstone was removed.
State Masonic leaders performed the 100th anniversary of setting in the courthouse in Breckenridge. Summit County displayed the contents of that time capsule and placed a new time capsule behind its new cornerstone.
Ancient technique, ancient ritual
Cornerstones, or foundation stones, are an ancient building technique. A building’s cornerstone in ancient times was a perfectly squared stone set in the corner of the new building which was plumbed, squared and leveled by the builder.
Without a perfect starting point, it was recognized that the quality of the building would suffer through its construction and lifespan.
As construction evolved from stone to wood and steel, the cornerstone became ceremonial and largely a Masonic function.
“Through the symbolism of the ancient stone masons, their tools and their work, Freemasons today are inspired to live pure, upright lives,” the ceremony says.
Founding fathers were Masons
When McCollum mentioned Washington, he was referring to the earliest Masonic cornerstone in the new world laid by Washington, a Mason, Founding Father and first American president.
On Wednesday, Sept. 18, 1793, Washington placed the Masonic cornerstone during the first large public event staged in the young nation’s new capital city. Benjamin Franklin, also a Mason, laid the cornerstone in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.
At the time, contemporary Masonic practice included the laying of an inscribed metal plate along with a cornerstone.
“Like George Washington, the first president of a new nation founded on the principles of liberty, justice and equality, Freemasons are proud to use the working tools of the ancient stone masons, to lay the cornerstones of public buildings as symbols of the virtues endowed upon man by a supreme being. It is truly an honor for Freemasons to perform this service,” the Masonic ceremony says.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.