Freemasonry emerged from the craft guilds of stone masons during the Middle Ages. This “secret society” became very popular in Colonial America and many of the founding fathers belonged to Masonic Societies, including George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and John Paul Jones. The Masonic Service Association website defines the organization as “a worldwide fraternity emphasizing personal study, self-improvement, and social betterment via individual involvement and philanthropy.“
Originally, these organizations were limited to men. But in the 19th Century several orders were created for women: The Order of the Eastern Star (1855), the Order of the Amaranth (1873), and the White Shrine of Jerusalem (1894). Often an individual’s membership in these groups was symbolized on their gravestone.
The three symbols commonly used in these motifs include a carpenter’s t-square (for measuring accurate right angles), a compass (for drawing circles, not for navigating), and the letter “G” which is variously interpreted as “God,” “Geometry,” or “Grand Architect of the Universe” (also a reference to a higher power). The second photo illustrates Colonial Era tools used by builders and carpenters.
Here in Amherst a Masonic Lodge is located on Main Street. The Lodge is the Clinton Lodge, No. 73.
If you look closely you will see the triple-symbol of the Masonic order (the t-square, compass, and “G”). There is also a metal eagle to the left of the entrance, possibly associated with the order. One of the ironies of 21st Century life is that “secret societies” now have websites that publicize their events (granted in somewhat cryptic fashion). This beautiful, old building has ornamental, corinthian columns, apropos of the order’s fascination with the classical world. The most well known example of this is the masonic symbol of the all-seeing eye that appears on the dollar bill, above an Egyptian pyramid.