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Masonic Lodge presides over dedication ceremony

By Judith Pannebaker

During a special session the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 30, Bandera County Commissioners voted for “final acceptance” of the jail and justice center.

Their unanimous approval paved the way for a formal dedication and traditional leveling of the cornerstone at the new facility later that afternoon.

Reveling in perfect 65º temperatures and a bright blue Lone Star sky, local elected officials and a large portion of the community turned out as members of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas in San Antonio presided over the solemn ceremony.

Earlier, County Judge Richard Evans had explained that since the facade of the facility had been faced in stone, the leveling ritual served a purely ceremonial function. However, this failed to detract from its significance.

As acting Grand Master of the Texas Lodge, Pipe Creek resident TE “Gene” Carnes presided over the ceremony, one of the formal rituals of the “ancient and honorable fraternity,” that, at its culmination, would result in the “commemoration of this beautiful building.”

Noting that cornerstones have been placed in buildings since antiquity, Carnes said, “Cornerstones have been laid in structures found in Babylon and Persia. Ancient carvings have depicted the laying of cornerstones.” Additionally, he noted, contemporary Masons directly echo the powerful crafts guilds formed during the Middle Ages when as “operating masons,” they built the great cathedrals of Europe.

“Today, speculative Masons use tools of the craft - the square, level and plumb - as symbols,” Carnes noted.

Explaining that every public building in America boasts a Masonic cornerstone, he described the various types.
Foundation stones, such as the one Freemason George Washington placed below the ground of the United States Capitol in 1793, become an integral part of any building. That was the first stone laid when construction was initiated. Ground level cornerstones were placed in the northeast corner of a building and also became a part of the structure. “They were the most common type of cornerstone until the 1950s,” Carnes said.

Since that time, however, commemorative cornerstones, such as the one placed at the jail and justice center last week, have become the most prevalent. “Commemorative cornerstones serve to dedicate the building and symbolize completion,” Carnes said. He added that while these cornerstones are not part of the structure, they contain a time capsule for future generations.

As in ancient rites, the cornerstone was consecrated by corn, wine and oil, which symbolize nourishment and plenty, joy and peace and healing and comfort, respectively.

Using square, level and plumb, members of the Masonic Grand Lodge of Texas certified the ceremonial stone as “well formed, true and trusted.”

Explaining the subtext of the ritual, Masonic Grand Orator Gary Dixson, a constable from Wood County, noted, “When properly constructed, the cornerstone provides a firm foundation - both spiritual and intellectual - that enables us to conduct our lives in accordance with the foundation stone set in each of us by the Supreme Architect.”

Almost parenthetically, when the ceremony concluded, contemporary operating masons, Cecil and Tony LeStourgeon, and Jacob Shields, along with Gary Minor, general superintendent from Yates Construction Company, got down to the nitty-gritty of actually sealing the cornerstone in place.