Video Feature: Date Stone Signals Near Completion of New High School

Members of a local Masonic lodge received a large turnout for Saturday’s date stone placement ceremony at the site of Clarke County’s new high school. Citizens and county officials gathered to observe a construction tradition that combined ancient Christian theology with modern building arts.

CCHS Date Stone - photo Edward Leonard

Approximately 50 people gathered at the entrance to the soon-to-be-completed Clarke County High School to observe Masons from White Post, Virginia’s Treadwell Lodge practice a time honored tradition of placing a permanent stone memorializing the completion date of a new building.

The day was particularly meaningful to Shockey Construction’s project superintendent for the new high school, Gordon Williams. Williams, who is a member of Triluminar Masonic Lodge in Middleway, West Virginia, had the honor of placing the date stone in the school’s wall.

“This is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” Williams said once the date stone was in place. “I feel honored to participate in this ceremony.”

Treadwell Masonic Lodge’s donation of the school date stone extends a historic tradition in which local masonic guilds played an important role in overseeing the construction of public buildings in their communities. Treadwell’s leader, Worshipful Master Mark Williams of Stephens City, Virginia, explained that masons traditionally had responsibility for the proper placement and design of a building’s corner stone, a practice which was critical to a building’s successful construction.

“The freemason tradition started with stone mason guilds of medieval Europe,” Williams said. “The cornerstone first had to be perfectly square and true. It then had to be properly placed because all of the other construction was based in relation to the cornerstone.”

Williams pointed out that the stone being placed in the new high school was a “date” stone rather than a cornerstone.

“People don’t use cornerstones anymore because modern construction techniques rely on poured concrete rather than traditional stone masonry,” Williams explained.

Jon Stillman, a Treadwell Lodge member who resides in Warren County, Virginia, said that Masonic traditions are based on a stone mason’s traditional tools; the square, the plumb line, and the level.

“The cornerstone was set true using the mason’s traditional tools,” Stillman said. “In our ceremony, the Worshipful Master holds the square, the Senior Warden holds the level, and the Junior Warden holds the plumb line.”

Mason Matt Locke, Treadwell Lodge Secretary, said that the Treadwell Lodge has 57 current members and was founded in Berryville in 1866 before it was later moved to White Post. Jerry Beydler, a former Treadwell Worshipful Master said that the CCHS date stone was only the third stone placement ceremony conducted in the Treadwell Lodge’s long history.

“The first ceremony was for Enders Fire Hall,” Beydler said. “The second ceremony was for Enders Funeral Home.”

Shockey Construction’s Gordon Williams was not the only member of the CCHS construction team who is a Masonic member. Gannett Fleming’s onsite manager, Mike Castelli, is a third degree Mason at the Hiram Lodge in Winchester, Virginia.

“I joined the Masons because I was intrigued by the values of the organization,” Castelli said. “Every time I heard about the Masons organization it seemed like they were doing something good for others. I decided that this is an organization that I wanted to be part of. I’m very glad that I joined, the camaraderie is wonderful.”

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Today’s date stone placement will provide future generations with more than just a reminder that the new high school was finally completed in 2012. The date stone also contains a time capsule that will be opened in the event that the date stone is ever removed in the future.

Treadwell Lodge secretary Locke said that most of the items stored in the time capsule were collected by Clarke County High School students. Locke said that the time capsule inventory includes:

  • Clarke County Academic Letter
  • U.S. Currency – Penny, Dime, Nickel, Quarter, Dollar and Five
  • County of Clarke Lapel Pin
  • Latin Award Medal
  • FFA Pin
  • CCHS Graduation Tassel
  • Clarke in Motion ID Lanyard
  • Flash drive with Photos taken by Yearbook Staff
  • Junior Class Photo – First Graduating Class of New School
  • 8th Grade Photo – First Class to complete 4 years in the new school
  • Pack of FIVE gum
  • Winchester Star from August 24, 2011, featuring Earthquake and first Day of School in the Last Year of the High School
  • Flash drive with all the construction pictures taken by Ed Novak
  • Photos (5×7) of Student Life
  • Membership list of Treadwell Lodge #213 A.F & A.M.
  • Treadwell Lodge #213 110th Anniversary booklet
  • Treadwell Lodge #213 Masonic Pin
  • Grand Lodge of Virginia Masonic Pin for Most Worshipful William Talbott Ellison Jr., Grand Master of Masons in Virginia

School Board member Robina Bouffault (White Post) who led the school construction effort during her tenure as School Board chairman said that she was delighted with today’s ceremony.

“I think that this is totally great,” Bouffault said. “The ceremony is symbolic of the solid traditions that our school community is built on.”

School Board member Emily Rhodes (Buckmarsh) said that she was very pleased to have the Masons involved in the school’s ceremonial inauguration as well.

“I love it,” Rhodes said. “My father is a member of Craighill Lodge in Elliston, Virginia.”

Saturday’s ceremony was filled with symbolism that the Masons solemnly explained to the audience.  Charles Bennett, Deputy District Grand Master for Virginia’s Third Masonic District, delivered the exordium explaining to the audience the date stone ceremony has roots reaching back to Roman times.

“Today’s ceremony is comparable to ceremonies conducted by craftsmen in the middle ages who built the great cathedrals in Europe and the British Isles,” Bennett said. “Citizens in Rome assisted in positioning cornerstones in public buildings”.

Bennett said that once the stone was set in place it is consecrated with the age old elements of corn, wine and oil – corn representing bounty and plentifulness, wine representing refreshment, and oil symbolizing joy and gladness.

“Taken together they teach the lesson that corn should be used to feed the hungry, a cup of wine should be sent to cheer the sorrowful and the healing oil of consolation should be poured into the wounds of the afflicted,” Bennett said.

While Masonic symbolism was dominant at Saturday’s ceremony, an old fashioned hammer and chisel in the hands of mason Alan Boger saved the day at the ceremony’s end.

As the date stone was lifted to the awaiting gap in the school’s brick wall, it became quickly apparent that although the date stone had been certified as “true, square and plumb” by the Masons, it was also too large to fit into the wall’s hole.

Not to be deterred, Gordon Williams disappeared into the school building and soon returned with brick mason Boger who had hammer and chisel in hand. Sizing up the dilemma, Boger quickly went to work for his boss – chipping away the masonry and then using a trowel to place the mortar used to adhere the date stone to the brick.

As the men were finally able to lift the date stone in place another ancient tradition was practiced – the crowd of onlookers broke into spontaneous applause.

View Dr. Murphy’s opening remarks here:

Watch the date stone being placed here:



  1. Hal Jordan says:

    Great article on a nice event. However, the video of the stone’s installation really needs some work: 1st, the opening text lists it as the “Treadwell Masons Place the CCHA” stone…really? 2nd, I’d really recommend editing it down to just the final, successful installation; the 1st part makes some folks look silly, the builders look like they can’t measure for said stone, and the cackling woman comes across as laughing at the men working hard to save face.

  2. I did attend the ceremony. It was very impressive. I watched as they tried to fit the corner stone and I think that the Masons handled the problem with great respect. I am glad that they finally able to fit the corner stone. My question is could they have done a practice fit first? Would have saved some embarrasment. Also in the YouTube video was the man that was helping fit the stone smoking a cigarette or was that just a tool he was holding in his mouth? Also laughing loudly at an error in such a serious ceremony was not really called for. Anyway great job,glad the stone is in it’s proper place. Stuff happens as “they say”

    CDN Editor: The efforts to place the date stone occurred after the completion of the Masonic ceremony. During the fifteen minutes or so that it took to place the stone people were casually talking to friends and enjoying the social occasion. The person(s) laughing on the video’s audio track were engaged in conversation and were not laughing at the problem with the stone.

  3. ok thanks for clearing that up