November Trestleboard 2022


Imagine, if you will, the smell of flowing spirits, the conversational-roars of the Colonial patrons in the brew house, and the excitement surrounding what was soon-to-be a profound change in what was to become our “America” in its infancy… the men and women who had the courage and forethought to see freedom as something to be cherished and fought for…even to die for. These were the very men who, with the “Help, Aid, and Assistance” of like-minded men on a Philadelphia waterfront, at the corner of Water Street and Tun Alley leading to Carpenter’s Wharf near what is today known as “Penn’s Landing”… dreamed of this very freedom that heretofore had been nonexistent. This famous brew house which still exists to this day, built by Samuel Carpenter in 1685, would soon be known as Tun Tavern. Its Masonic significance is, as is oftentimes the case, shrouded in “apparent” secrecy, hidden from public view—but, it is very real and absolutely relevant to ALL Freemasons, for it not only gave ‘birth’ to many of our founding fathers seeking freedom from tyranny, but to the United States Marine Corps itself. Hence, in this “next-to-the-last” entry of my From the East, I submit to you my deepest gratitude to our own USMC, who, on November 10th, 1775, was born.
First off, even though I belong to and am proudly serving our beloved Brethren here at John A. Lejeune Lodge No. 350 as the 2021-22 Worshipful Master, just one Brother in an amazing line of predecessors dating back nearly 100 years, I myself am not a Marine. My father served in the Korean War and I cherish his memory every day, as he inspired me to become who I AM as a man and a Mason. I taught biology and coached track and cross-country for 34 years in the Fairfax County Public Schools, not exactly being the target of artillery and bayonets, but, nonetheless, challenged every day to ‘be excellent’—and I am immeasurably proud of my service, as I hope ANY loyal employee should be. The Veterans in my family, as well as many of the Brothers here in JAL, truly understand what’s at stake when they ‘signed up’—they knew that at any moment, their lives could end on or about a battlefield, where their “vocation” was protecting our freedoms from aggressors seeking to take it away. It is precisely this selflessness, bravery, and humility that my hat goes off each and every day to our armed forces—especially, the Brethren here in our Marine Corps. Indeed, our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard veterans, no doubt share my deepest appreciation, but, today, and next week at our Stated Communication— we honor the United States Marine Corps, of whom our namesake, Lt. Gen. John A. Lejeune, had the vision to serve… as did thousands and thousands of others.
What, therefore, IS the connection between Freemasonry and the Marine Corps? What are the obvious and key parallels between them, and why does it matter to ALL freedom-loving men and women?
Historically, the aforementioned tavern that would ultimately form the roots of the Marine Corps, was a ‘who’s who” of patriots. Indeed, the earliest minute book of ANY Masonic Lodge on the North American continent is that for Tun Tavern Lodge No. 3 (of the Moderns) in Philadelphia. The extant records of the Lodge begin on 24 June 1731, but the Lodge may have been much older than that (do you see the pattern? Reference Cleopatra’s Needle, in Lodge several months ago.) It was reported by Brother Benjamin Franklin, who we “met” at last month’s Stated Communication, in his Gazette for 8 December 1730, that there were “several Lodges of Free Masons erected in this Province…Tun Tavern being the first and, most-popular gathering place. Tun Tavern has the unique distinction of being the first “recruitment center” for the United States Marine Corps. Other organizations were formed there, including the St. Georges Society in 1720, and the St. Andrews Society in 1747, among others. In 1720, the St. George’s Society, a charitable initiative to help English settlers arriving in America, selected the tavern as the place for its first-ever meeting. Tun Tavern hosted the inaugural conference of American Freemason order and election of the first “Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Pennsylvania” in 1732. Tun Tavern came to be identified with the vivacious personality of this great leader and his works as an author, politician, diplomat, Masonic scholar, and civil activist. It was also well-known for its ‘food and drink”— The Tavern soon developed a reputation for fine beers in the City of Philadelphia and maintained that reputation for over a century. Its name is derived from the old English word “Tun” meaning measured cask, barrel, or keg of beer. Records indicate that its “Bread Pudding” was ‘to-die-for’.
A 33rd Degree Mason who was Initiated into the fold of Tun Tavern in 1731, Benjamin Franklin became the third Grand Master in 1734 due to his popularity and leadership qualities. His engaging political publications found a way from this Lodge to spread throughout the colonies. It is the very place where Benjamin Franklin initiated the work for unity among various schools of Masons and political groups to drive out King George III’s red coats and inspired them with the idea of a united and great nation. In 1756, “Tun Tavern Freemason Lodge” occupied central position in Brother Franklin’s efforts to create the Pennsylvania Militia.
Thanks to Franklin’s efforts, the Tun Tavern played an important role during the American War of Independence. It hosted “regulars” such as Thomas Jefferson and Bro. George Washington at the Lodge a number of times—that shaped the struggle for freedom and course of a new nation. Prominent leaders and statesmen met at the tavern during the first and second Continental Congress held in Philadelphia. Tun Tavern was witness to the historic efforts by Franklin to bring all colonies under a single entity, steer public opinion on independence, and seek an egalitarian order free from dominance and racial feeling.
On November 10, 1775, Masonic leader Robert Mullan was authorized by the fledgling Congress to raise the FIRST regiment of the Continental Marines, the forerunner of the US Marine Corps. Capt. Samuel Nicholas, another Freemason, led the recruitment drive from the Lodge and established two battalions that played a crucial role in crippling British supplies and boosting military power of the Revolutionary Army during the War for Independence. Mullan, the proprietor of the Tavern and son of Peggy Mullan, was under the leadership of Capt. Samuel Nicholas, the first appointed Commandant of the Continental Marines. Nicholas’s grandfather was also a member of the Tun Tavern Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons and it is this relationship between Mullan, Nicholas and the Tavern which has resulted in Tun Tavern being acknowledged as the “Birthplace of the United States Marine Corps.” There are an estimated three million active and retired U.S. Marines worldwide who have been exposed in their military training to the historical significance of Tun Tavern. So, the Tavern’s Masonic significance and its military importance is unquestionably one of the most-important developments in U. S. military and Masonic history.
The keen relationship between the Marine Corps and Freemasonry pervades us all, whether civilian OR Marine—it might be summed up by Gen. Lejeune’s own words:
“Masonry is essentially democratic. Military or civil rank, riches, place or power do not affect a man’s standing in the order.”
– John a. Lejeune, 1930 ***
His words are eerily reminiscent to our own Tenets, wherein we say:
“Freemasonry unites men of every country, sect, and opinion, and conciliates true friendship among those who might ‘otherwise’ remain at a perpetual distance…”
***in 1919, while serving during World War I, Lejeune became a Mason, joining Overseas Lodge No. 1 in Coblenz, Germany. He retained his membership in the lodge, which moved to Providence, Rhode Island, and was re-named Overseas Lodge No. 40. He went on to join the Scottish Rite and the Shrine in Washington, D.C. in the early 1920s. Recognized as an extraordinary Mason, fellow Freemasons in Quantico, Virginia, formed a lodge named in Lejeune’s honor in 1925. This lodge, Lejeune Lodge No. 350, and Camp Lejeune are tangible reminders of his legacy as “a Marine’s Marine” and a devoted Freemason.
By the time Freemasonry came to the American Colonies, around 1670, it had evolved into a Fraternity, composed of men from every walk of life, every profession, and every social class. In Europe, its membership included not only scientists, philosophers, merchants, farmers, musicians, and men in public life, but especially the great military leaders. It was no different in the Americas. George Washington, the first commander in chief of the American Forces, was a member of the fraternity. Thirty-three of the men Washington picked to serve as general officers under him were Freemasons, as were such Founding Fathers as Alexander Hamilton, Benjamin Franklin, Paul Revere, and John Hancock. Commodore John Paul Jones, the father of the United States Navy, was a Mason. Baron Friedrich von Steuben, a Prussian Freemason who joined Washington at Valley Forge, is considered by many to be the founder of the U. S. Army as an effective and disciplined fighting force. Samuel Nicholas, who founded the U. S. Marine Corps, as I indicated earlier, was a very-active Freemason. Captains Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, were Brother Masons, as well as explorers of the great American Northwest. General Henry “Hap” Arnold, who was with the Air Force from its infancy and developed it into a separate branch of the Armed Services, was a Freemason. William F. Reynolds, the first officer of the U. S. Coast Guard to become an admiral, was a Freemason. Many Masons have had outstanding military records. To list only a few: Gen. Omar Bradley, Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, Admiral Richard Byrd, General Mark Wayne Clark, Gen. Jimmy Doolittle, Gen. George V. Marshall, Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Audie Murphy, the most decorated soldier in World War II, Eddie Rickenbacker, the leading American Ace of the first World War, Gen. John Joseph Pershing, John H. Glenn, Buzz Aldrin (and 11 other astronauts) and General Walter Boomer.
A total of 224 of the men who have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor have been Masons.
We KNOW that Masons truly care about our veterans, too. In 1918, Masonic leaders from across the nation met to form the Masonic Service Association (MSA). The purpose was to create a central clearinghouse for contributions of time and money to help America’s veterans. The MSA Hospital Visitation Program is in more than 157 Veterans Administration Medical Centers, 26 state-operated Veterans Homes, and a number of military hospitals. Hundreds of Masonic volunteers give more than a quarter-million hours each year to help America’s veterans, regardless of whether the veteran is a Mason.
Sir Winston Churchill, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and President Harry S. Truman were all Freemasons. During the height of the Second World War, Truman made a special appearance in the newsreels being shown in movie theatres all over America. He said, in part: “At this very moment, in foxholes and on shipboard, beneath the sea and in the air, countless hands are being clasped in fraternal recognition of each other in the darkness as well as in the daylight. And countless fathers, bravely wishing God-speed to their departing sons, are saying ‘Boy, when your hour of darkness and loneliness comes, find a Freemason, and tell him you are the son of a Freemason, and you’ll find a friend.’”
Gen. Douglas MacArthur once said: “Freemasonry embraces the highest moral laws and will bear the test of any system of ethics or philosophy ever promulgated for the uplift of man.” So many young men wanted to join the Fraternity before going overseas that Lodges in the larger cities often worked 24 hours a day, six days a week Conferring the three Degrees of the Fraternity.
Why was it so important to these men to join before they went into battle? For one thing, they knew if they were killed, there would be help for their widows and children. Masons take care of their wives, widows, and orphans. But they also knew it was just as Brother and 33rd President Harry S. Truman said above; anywhere in the world they might be, even in a hostile country, they would find friends and Brothers. That is still true.
So, to ALL the great Brothers who have served, in all branches, but especially here, in our own “Marine Corps” Lodge, let us all say THANK YOU, and celebrate those founders in Tun Tavern—let us all say, Happy Birthday, Marine Brethren, and Semper Fi.
Our final two months of the Masonic Year promise to be busy ones Ritualistically for our Candidates here in JAL No. 350, as well as our Members and Visitors, as we’re planning another Initiation in either late November or early December; additionally, we have four(4) Entered Apprentices working very hard on their Catechisms, and we anticipate several Examinations thereon as well as imminent Fellowcraft Degrees shortly thereafter. These are the “things that are what Masonry should be all about, the esoteric, the fellowshipping, and the spiritual and human growth that transcends this beautiful, Gentle Craft”—as we immerse ourselves in AND experience these Degrees.
Sincerely and Fraternally,

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