Jones Point stone marks corner of original D.C. boundaries
A stoneware pitcher in black with white relief decoration of two clasped hands, cornucopia, and caduceus (Mercury’s staff) echos the same sentiments of PEACE & PLENTY as the Jones Point marker ceremony, although made 25 years later to commemorate the end of the War of 1812. Excavated from the 400 block of King Street, 1967. Illustration by Claire A. Service. Courtesy, Alexandria Archaeology Collection.
April 15th--the date has a meaning for most adults in America. It is the day (for some the last minute of that day) on which we must responsibly discharge our financial obligations for maintaining our nation. In other words, taxes are due. Few of us are excited to pay out our money, much less go through the paper work required. As is often the case in our culture, we make sarcastic jokes about the situation to break the tension and provide some sense of individual power against overwhelming odds.
There was an April 15th, however, which evoked far different sentiments. On April 15, 1791, the first marker was placed at Jones Point designating the starting point for the new Federal District. Alexandrians took part in a ceremony on Jones Point to install and consecrate the stone marker, and symbolically lay the foundation for the nation’s capitol. Of course the occasion was reported in the Alexandria Gazette, as well as in the papers of many major cities.
The mayor and others gathered at Wise’s Tavern (the building still stands today on the northeast corner of Cameron and South Fairfax streets) at 3 p.m. and waited for the Federal District commissioners Daniel Carroll and Dr. David Steward. After their arrival, a toast was offered: "May the stone we are about to place in the ground remain an immoveable monument of the wisdom and unanimity of North America." After drinking a glass of wine, the group walked to Jones Point in this order: Town Sergeant; Daniel Carroll; the Mayor; Andrew Ellicott and the "recorder;" Aldermen and Councilmen who were not free Masons; "strangers;" master of Masonic Lodge 22 with David Steward and Rev. James Muir; "the citizens two by two."
Ellicott determined the exact spot for the marker. Then Steward, the master and other lodge members placed the stone. A "deposit of corn, wine and oil was made upon it" and Rev. Muir delivered these words: "Of America it may be said as it was of Judea of old, that it is a good land and large . . . . May this Stone long commemorate the goodness of God in those uncommon events which have given America a name among the Nations - Under this Stone, may Jealousy and Selfishness be forever buried!"
As was the case with many public events in historic Alexandria, the free Masons officiated. Masonic emblems used in the ceremony included ancient tools, such as the level, the plumb and square. These tools symbolized equality, honesty and virtue. The foods used to consecrate the marker were also symbolic. Corn represented plenty, wine was used for joy and oil was a symbol of peace. Peace, plenty and joy did reign for many people in Alexandria during the last decade of the 18th century. Clubs, race tracks, and taverns all hosted fine parties, such as the 1791 Washington Birthnight Ball at Wise’s Tavern where "Joy beamed in every countenance" and the ladies had "Sparking eyes, dimpled cheeks, all the various graces of female beauty."
And now a question for Alexandria Historical Pursuit: Is the boundary marker encased by the Jones Point seawall the original stone placed on April 15, 1791? Answer next week.