The placement of a cornerstone in churches, schools, public buildings and Masonic lodges has been, and continues to be, a time-honored tradition of the Masonic Order. Inside each cornerstone, the Masons place a “casket” – a small, sealed box containing information and objects pertinent to the year in which the cornerstone was placed.
Last Saturday, Marlinton Lodge No. 127 held a ceremony to open the casket that was placed in the cornerstone of the former Pocahontas County Board of Education building in Marlinton.
West Virginia Grand Lodge AF & AM Past Grand Master Richard Nuhfer explained the tradition of cornerstones and the caskets inside.
“One of the oldest ceremonies of our ancient craft is the laying of the cornerstone,” he said.
“We perform this ceremony only for the erection of churches, schools, public buildings and our own lodge temples. The cornerstone must be laid before the building is constructed. The best time in the construction process for the ceremony is after the site has been prepared and the foundation poured, but before any walls are erected.”
Nuhfer explained that when selecting what to place in the casket, the Masons must take into consideration how well the items can withstand the test of time and be retrievable by future Masons.
“The memorials to be preserved in the casket to be placed in the cavity beneath the stone should be of such to bear witness to the energy, industry and culture of the times,” he said.
“The selection of the memorials should be carefully considered, given the rapid advances occurring in technology. What may be state-of-the-art today – in just a short time – will be a relic of the past and the information contained there-in unable to be retrieved.”
Cornerstones and the caskets within are treated differently than time capsules, which are set to be opened on a certain date. A cornerstone is only opened once the building is demolished or set The cornerstone opened at Saturday’s ceremony was taken out of the former board office when the board of education made plans to demolish the building.
It was placed in the building in October 11, 1948.
The small metal casket, approximately 7 x 4 x 4 inches, contained two copies of The Pocahontas Times, two copies of The Marlinton Journal, a 1948 quarter and a 1948 nickel.
Opened by Grand Master David Holt, the contents were aged, brittle and looked to have suffered some moisture damage. Despite that, the newspapers were carefully unfolded and revealed the top news and ads in October 1948.
The front page of the October 11, 1948 edition of The Pocahontas Times had a bold headline “Fun For You” which was part of a nearly full-page ad for an event hosted by the Lions Club. Throughout the page there were purposeful spelling errors. Under the headline was a message stating, “Free Tickets to the first ten children bringing a correct list of the miss-spelled words on this page to Miss Mary McNeill, Alpine Hotel.”
The top article of the October 21, 1948 edition of The Marlinton Journal was “Nash ‘AIRFLYTE’ Arrives Here.” The Nash Airflyte was a motor vehicle touted as: “Low and wide, with a smooth graceful sweep, the 1949 Nash cars present an artistic application of aerodynamic styling. The front-end features a massive racing-type chrome air-scoop grille.”
It was an election year, and both newspapers contained sample ballots and advertisements for the November Election. Notable county candidates included Frank P. McLaughlin and Elmer Workman for Sheriff, Richard F. Currence and George S. Sharp for Prosecuting Attorney, and Dewey F. Burr and Paul Simons for Assessor. And on the national ticket for president – Harry S. Truman and Thomas F. Dewey.
The Marlinton Lodge plans to preserve the newspapers in plexiglass and display them at the Lodge as part of its history.
Nuhfer shared a list of cornerstones and the dates they were placed in structures in Pocahontas County.
– Methodist Episcopal Church South, July 25, 1896
– Presbyterian Church, September 9, 1915
– Edray District High School, October 21, 1916
– Methodist Episcopal Church South, September 7, 1922
– Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, May 12, 1931
– Public School Building, October 23, 1948 – the cornerstone from this ceremony
– Marlinton Municipal Building, July 21, 1973
– Courthouse addition, August 18, 1973
– Marlinton Lodge, August 24, 1985
– Methodist Episcopal Church South in Hillsboro, August 26, 1899
– Methodist Episcopal Church in Seebert, September 13, 1906
– Oak Grove Presbyterian Church in Academy [now Hillsboro], June 22, 1910
– Presbyterian Church in Cass, August 2, 1919
– Beard Presbyterian Church in Beard, June 21, 1922
– Little Levels District Grade School in Hillsboro, September 18, 1922
– Pocahontas County Consolidated High School, August 23, 1969
– Green Bank School, September 28, 1977
– Marlinton School, September 28, 1977
– Hillsboro School, September 28, 1977 – the former school’s cornerstone set in 1922 was opened at this time
– Pocahontas Memorial Hospital, May 25, 1996
– Public School Building, July 21, 2020