Thursday, October 25, 2007

In An Old Virginia Town [Part 8 - Kenmore, Masonic Lodge, Hiram Powers]

In An Old Virginia Town - Part 8
Originally published in Harper's New Monthly Magazine
March 1885, pages 601-612.
Author: Frederick Daniel

(Continued from Part 7)

There are in Fredericksburg and the neighboring counties many families who trace up their blood relationship to the house of Washington. In Westmoreland and Lancaster counties the Ball side of the house is still strongly represented. A grandnephew of the General, bearing his name, resides in Stafford, and though sixty years old, gains a humble livelihood by selling fire wood. Naturally, a relationship to the Father of his Country is proudly claimed by all who can put in a genuine patent; but there are no longer in the vicinity, as of yore, old negro women boasting of having nursed the great man in his infancy, and not a single chair in which he sat is now heard of. "Have you a chair in which the General at any time sat?" was gently queried of one of the burghers. "No," was the reply; "but we have a chair in which he would have sat had he visited at our house." According to a turf authority of high rank, the lineage of many of the horses around Fredericksburg is traced up to Washington's fine stock bred at Mount Vernon. The General truly was a great lover of horses, and raced as well as bread them.

"Kenmore" is the name of the old mansion in which Washington's sister Betty dwelt, not far from his mother's house. Betty was very anxious to be the mistress of a fine house, and so, to satisfy her, her husband had Kenmore constructed. Their son was for a long time mayor of the town. The mansion is large and well preserved outside, though the interior decorations decayed at an early date. The original frescoing of walls and ceilings, which so pleased Madam Betty's ├Žsthetic taste, was the work of an English soldier captured during the Revolution and sent for safe-keeping to Fredericksburg. The tradition in the family was that immediately after finishing his work he accidentally fell from the scaffold and was killed. The old building has recently been purchased by a gentleman from Baltimore, and he has undertaken to restore its former splendor.

"Lodge No. 4" of the Masonic fraternity of Fredericksburg is quite famous from having at various times embraced in its membership many eminent men. It was the fourth lodge established in colonial Virginia, and was organized in 1735. Among its early members was Washington, who received the first degree November 4, 1752, the second degree March 3, 1753, and the third degree August 4, 1753. The Bible used in these ceremonies still in good preservation, is the richest treasure of the lodge; it was printed at Cambridge, by John Field, in 1668. The Bible is always borne "in state" during the grand performances of the Masons. By order of the lodge, and subscriptions raised by its exertions to the amount of $5000, a very beautiful and faithful statue of Washington in white marble was wrought by the sculptor Hiram Powers, and was safely transported from Florence; ere it could be erected the war came on, when it was sent to Richmond for safe-keeping, but was destroyed there in a conflagration.

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