188-Year-Old Document Found in Wheeling, W.Va., Returned to Masonic Lodge in Romney, W.Va.

November 3, 2014

While re-arranging papers in a vault in The Scottish Rite Cathedral in Wheeling, WV, Chuck Ryan, 32°, KCCH, the General Secretary of the Valley of Wheeling, found a very interesting document tucked away in a drawer.

Upon closer examination, it was determined it was printed on linen, rather than paper. It measured 8 by 12 inches and the writing was in great detail, and very legible. And after further study, it was found to be a membership document issued by Clinton Lodge No. 139, to Francis Rawdon Armstrong on August 4, 1826 in Hampshire County, Romney, VA. Looking into the Lodge’s history, it turned out that Clinton Lodge No. 139 was chartered by the State of Virginia on December 13, 1825, and was then chartered by the State of West Virginia on November 12, 1890, where it remains very active to this day.

CIWV_188YrDocument

Photo: The W.Va. brethren who travelled to Romney were (l. to r.): Chuck Ryan 32°, KCCH, Secretary, Valley of Wheeling; H. Jackson Yost, 33°, SGIG in West Virginia; Timothy McDougle, Master of Clinton Lodge No. 86; Johnny Bitzer, Jr., 32°, KCCH, Orient Membership Chairman; Randy Martin 32°, KCCH, Valley of Morgantown and PGM in West Virginia.

Bro. Ryan contacted a good friend, Ill. H. Jack Yost 33°, Sovereign Grand Inspector General in West Virginia. (Ill. Yost has the responsibility of overseeing all Scottish Rite Bodies in The State of West Virginia.) Together, they decided that the document should be returned to Clinton Lodge in Romney, West Virginia, where it began its journey 188 years earlier.

So, Bro. Ryan then contacted another good friend, MW Randy Martin, PGM of West Virginia, and the two began six months of research. They wanted to determine how this document found its way to Wheeling, and who Francis R. Armstrong was.

They found that Francis Rawdon Armstrong, the member’s name that appears on the document, was born in Ireland in 1796. He immigrated to New York in 1815, and then moved to Romney, VA, in 1822 where he received his naturalization papers. There, he began working as an attorney, and moved to Wheeling, Virginia in 1826, where he became a member of Ohio Lodge No. 101, now known as Ohio Lodge No. 1. And on February 8, 1835, Bro. Armstrong was married at St. Matthews Episcopal Protestant Church in Wheeling, VA, where he settled to raise his family and continue to practice law as a very prominent attorney until his death in 1868.

The document was taken to a professional where it was properly preserved and framed.

Arrangements were then made with Timothy McDougle, Master of Clinton Lodge No. 86, to present the document back to its lodge on July 12, 2014.

Those making the journey to Romney are pictured left to right, Chuck Ryan 32°, KCCH, General Secretary, Scottish Rite, Valley of Wheeling, H. Jack Yost 33°, Sovereign Grand Inspector in West Virginia; Timothy McDougle, Master of Clinton Lodge No. 86; Johnny Bitzer, Jr., 32°, KCCH, Orient Membership Chairman, Scottish Rite of West Virginia; Randy Martin 32°, KCCH, Scottish Rite, Valley of Morgantown, and Past Grand Master of Masons in West Virginia. Not pictured, Ed Moss, 33°, Treasurer, Scottish Rite, Valley of Morgantown.

All those who attended this event said it was an evening they will never forget.