• D.C. Freemason

In the Land of Masonic Romance

In the Fall of 1965, Colonel H. Edmund Bullis, a veteran of the Second World War and Director of the Delaware Mental Health Association, received one of the highest honors in Freemasonry: the Thirty-Third and Last Degree of the Scottish Rite. Bullis received the honor in recognition for his decades-long research on dementia praecox, commonly known as schizophrenia.

While he is justly venerated for his contributions to public health, Freemasons may find his earlier Masonic contribution of particular interest. In 1930, while stationed in DC to begin his health research, Bullis published the first Masonic travel guide of the capital: The Land of Masonic Romance: A Masonic Guide to Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia. (Click the link for a digital copy)

Originally from Virginia, Bullis received the Degrees of Freemasonry in 1912 at Fredericksburg Lodge No. 4. He later moved to the District and began to methodically record and catalogue the Masonic affiliation of the various statues, paintings, and memorials littered across the District. “My aim,” Bullis noted in the guide’s introduction, “was [...] to let other Masons in on a hobby that I developed some years ago, when, as a Washington man, it was often my task to show out-of-town visitors the city. Occasionally, after pointing out a painting or statue of some eminent American, I would be surprised to have my visitor tell me that the man represented had been a very active Mason. [...] The amount of information and misinformation I gather through scattered contact of this kind started me on the hobby of definitely identifying great American Masons. [...] This material I have organized into standard guide form, so that the visitor, no matter what his itinerary might be, can refer to the Masonic significance of each item of interest as he views it.” His hobby turned into a full publication, which guided the many Masonic visitors who flocked to the capital for the dedication of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

While it is an impressive and detailed guide, there are several minor details that Bullis omits or misrepresents; however, he acknowledges these limitations and even provides an address for readers to send corrections. Additionally, it is not known if he ever published a section edition, as he likely left the District; deployed to Europe several years later to fight in the Second World War.

In his introduction, Bullies recognized William L Boyden and Major Hugh J. Tatsch for their assistance in publishing the guide. Boyden was a Masonic historian, charter member of Albert Pike No. 36, and served as the Librarian of the House of the Temple, the headquarters of the Scottish Rite’s Southern Jurisdiction. He previously served as Master of Osiris Lodge No. 26 in 1897 and died in 1939. Major Tatsch was also a Masonic historian and published several studies including his piece on Washington in 1932 called The Fact About George Washington as a Freemason.

Bullis dedicates the second page of the guide to detail the number of Masonic lawmakers in Congress in 1932. It is an impressive figure and one that reminds us of the prominence of the Fraternity at that time:"60 percent of the members of the United States Senate were Masons, i.e. 58 out of 96 Senators. In the House of Representatives there were 291 Masons out of 435 Congressmen, or 67 percent. In both houses there were 349 Masons, or 66 percent of the total roster. Alabama, Delaware, and South Carolina had 100 percent Masonic representation in the Senate and the House. Twenty other states had 100 percent Masonic representation in either the Senate or the House."

President Millard Fillmore helped lay the cornerstone to the extension of the United States Capitol in 1851. According to Boyden, Fillmore received the degrees of Freemasonry but later recanted during the Morgan Affair: ​"Fillmore attended [the cornerstone event] in his official character, on the best of terms with the representatives of a Society that he had denounced as organized treason when an ambitious young politician in northern New York a quarter of a century before."

While we often recognize the Masons who served as President, Bullis provided readers a detailed account of the Masonic affiliation of America's Vice-Presidents:​

  • Aaron Burr: Union Lodge No. 40, Connecticut.

  • Daniel D. Tompkins: First Sovereign Grand Commander of the Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction Served as Grand Master of New York while serving as Vice President.

  • Richard Mentor Johnson: Hiram Lodge No. 4, Kentucky.

  • George Mifflin Dallas: Franklin Lodge No. 134, Philadelphia. Grand Master of Pennsylvania in 1834.

  • William Rufus King: Phoenix Lodge No. 8, North Carolina.

  • John C. Breckinridge: Des Moines Lodge No. 41. Received the 4 - 32 degrees of the Scottish Rite from Albert Pike. Crowned a Sovereign Grand Inspector General in 1860.

  • Schuyler Colfax: Initiated in Lebanon Lodge No. 7 in D.C., passed and raised in St. Joseph Lodge No. 45, Indiana.

  • Adlai Ewing Stevenson: Metamora Lodge No. 82, Illinois. Elected Grand Orator of the Grand Lodge of Illinois.

  • Garret Augustus Hobart: Falls City Lodge No. 82, New Jersey. Affiliated with Washington Commandery No. 1, D.C. His home is now part of the Cosmos Club in D.C.

  • Charles Warren Fairbanks, Oriental Lodge No. 500, Indiana.

  • Thomas Riley Marshall, Columbia City Lodge No. 189, Indiana. Past Grand High Priest and Illustrious Grand Master of the Grand Council of Indiana. Was Honorary and later Active Member of the Supreme Council, Northern Jurisdiction.​

The minute book of Williamsburg Lodge No. 6 of Virginia is preserved in the Library of Congress. Notable members of the lodge included President James Monroe, the second Masonic President, and Charles Fierer, who moved to Georgetown in 1788 and formed Lodge No. 9 of Maryland, predecessor of Potomac Lodge No. 5 of D.C.

Bullis includes a detailed account of the Masonic Signers of the Declaration of Independence. He notes that his colleague William Boyden was the first to compile a complete list: 

  • Benjamin Franklin: St. John’s Lodge, Philadelphia. Past Grand Master of Pennsylvania.

  • Lyman Hall: by tradition a member of Solomon Lodge, Savannah, Georgia.

  • John Hancock: Merchants Lodge No. 277, Quebec, Canada. Affiliated with St. Andrew’s Lodge, Boston, Massachusetts in 1762.

  • Joseph Hewes: mother lodge unknown, record of him visiting Unanimity Lodge, North Carolina.

  • William Hooper: Hanover Lodge, Masonborough, North Carolina.

  • Thomas McKean: mother lodge unknown, visited Perseverance Lodge No. 21, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. 

  • Thomas Nelson, Jr.: mother lodge unknown, by tradition visited Yorktown Lodge No. 9 with Washington and Lafayette after the surrender of Cornwallis.

  • Robert Treat Paine: mother lodge unknown, visited a lodge in Roxbury, Massachusetts.

  • John Penn: mother lodge unknown, proceedings of the Grand Lodge of North Carolina assert his affiliation passed down by word of mouth.

  • Roger Sherman: mother lodge unknown, his masonic apron is preserved in the Yale University library.

  • Richard Stockton: charter Master of St. John’s Lodge, Princeton, New Jersey.

  • Matthew Thornton: initated in Louisburg Military Lodge, 28th Regiment, New Hampshire while a british colonial soldier.

  • George Walton, St. John’s Lodge No. 1, New Hampshire.

  • John Witherspoon, Mother Lodge Unknown, mentioned visiting Masonic meetings in his diary.​