Carolyn’s Online Magazine (#COMe)
PRES. GEORGE WASHINGTON
LAYS THE CORNERSTONE
FOR THE CAPITOL BUILDING ON 9/18/1793
I didn’t really set out to learn something new.
Well, maybe I did. I was curious. I’d read in a 100 Year History of Louis des Isles that a French woman gave her farm to one of my ancestors. All I really wanted to know was why she’d do that.
In time I learned Louis des Isles wasn’t really given the farm. He actually purchased it. But from finding the answer to my question I discovered a unique woman, Rosalie de Leval. Her story intrigued me. I set out to learn more, and ended up with my novel-under-construction, She Saw Her Promised Land.
Again, I didn’t set out to write a novel. It just evolved, then took over my life.
Unfortunately, it took me on a learning journey. Virtually every chapter, virtually every event, was unknown to me. I’ve spent time learning about the Scioto Associates, Gen. Henry Knox and William Duer’s post Revolutionary War exploits in land speculation, stock market crash effects, religious freedom in the Maine Territory of Massachusetts, Braddock’s Road…well, you get my learning picture.
This week I’m learning about and writing about the 1793 yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, and the September 18, 1793, laying of the cornerstone for the Capitol Building in Washington, D. C.
President George Washington (or General Washington, as he preferred to be called) braved the contagion of the epidemic to lay the cornerstone. What I learned was that the ceremony was a Free Mason event.
Rosalie didn’t attend the ceremony because she was at her farm, Fontaine de Leval, in Trenton (now Lamoine), Maine. Her friend Franco van Berckel, the second Dutch ambassador to the United States, related the story to Rosalie and a neighbor girl, Mary, during a visit to her farm.
Below is the chapter’s first draft.
“Did you attend the ceremony?” Mary asked.
“Yes, and it was a magnificent ceremony. Here’s the report from the Alexandria Gazette. It has a comprehensive report about Gen. Washington laying the cornerstone on September 18. This was the first large public event staged in the federal city, and if future public events are as spectacular Washington will be a star capitol.”
Rosalie pushed the newspaper aside.
“I’ll read this later. II want to hear your rendition of the event.”
“At 10:00 am Gen. Washington and his entourage appeared on the south bank of the Potomac River. A volunteer artillery from Alexandria escorted him across the river, where they were joined by Masonic lodges from Maryland and Virginia.
“Music played, drums beat, colors flew, and spectators cheered as the groups marched, two abreast, the one and a half miles to the site of the Capitol.
“Once they arrived the procession reformed. Gen. Washington, flanked by Joseph Clark (the Grand Master) and Dr. E. C. Dick (the master of the Virginia lodge), stood to the east of a huge stone while the others formed a circle west of it.
“Soon an engraved plate was delivered. Contemporary Masonic practice includes the laying of an inscribed metal Continue reading