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John Valentine Reintzel, Grand Master, 1811

An old Luther Bible, published at Basel, Germany, in 1839, originally the family Bible of the Reintzels, and now in the custody of the librarian of Georgetown College, contains several leaves of family notes, written in German, and from these we quote the following extract: " John Valentine Reintzel was born and came upon this earth, came into this world in the year Anno 1761, on the 26th day of February, in the sign of the Archer (Sagittarius), and received holy baptism."

He was the son of John Valentine Reintzel, Sr., who came to this country from Hamburg, Germany, in the latter part of the eighteenth century and settled at or near Georgetown. Both father and son seem to have abbreviated the baptismal name, and were known as Valentine Reintzel, Sr. and Jr., respectively.

While only the most meager data concerning the subject of this sketch is available, sufficient evidence is at hand to show that he was an influential citizen and identified with all the progressive movements of his day in the locality of his adoption, the first recorded meeting of the Corporation of Georgetown, held November 28, 1791, at the house of Joseph Semmes, showing him present as a Common Councilman.

That he was a prosperous business man is attested by the land records, which show his large holdings of real estate, and that he was public spirited and philanthropical seems to be established by the alleged donation by him of the site on which the old Bridge (M) Street Presbyterian Church of Georgetown stood for many years and his recorded liberality in all of his lodge's subscription charities.

His Masonic activity commences with the earliest pages of recorded local history, and with the story of the struggles of the Fraternity in the pioneer days his name will always be inseparably linked as that of a forceful leader.

We find him Master of Lodge No. 9, of Georgetown, in 1793, and in that capacity participating with the illustrious Washington in the ceremony of laying the cornerstone of the Capitol building, and being on that occasion signally honored by having placed in his charge by the first President the gavel used in the exercises, a gavel ever since cherished by Potomac Lodge and the jurisdiction as a most precious heritage. Throughout all the trying experiences of the Fraternity during the last decade of the eighteenth and the first of the nineteenth centuries he appears to have been a leading spirit, and as one of the original members helped to place Potomac Lodge, No. 43, chartered November 11, 1806, on a firm footing, acting as Worshipful Master thereof for the years 1807, 1808, 1809, and 1810, and continuing his activity by substituting in the minor offices as late as 1815, when we find him acting as Junior Warden. From its formation until 1810, the Lodge met in the third story of his residence.

Brother Reintzel was prominent in the movement to form the Grand Lodge of the District and was honored by being elected the first Grand Master, his election by the convention called for the purpose of creating a Grand Lodge taking place January 8, 1811, and the installation following at the first meeting of the Grand Lodge, as such, February 19, 1811. He died in the latter part of 1817, and the Grand Lodge, being notified thereof at the stated communication of December 27 of that year,

Resolved, unanimously, that the Past Grand Officers of this Grand Lodge be and they are hereby required to wear crepe on the left arm for the space of one month as a token of the brotherly love and respect entertained by the said Grand Lodge for their deceased Brother and late R. W. Grand Master.

One of the many disappointments which have come to the author of this work is his failure, after the most diligent and far-reaching search, to bring to light a drawing or painting of this good man and Mason for reproduction in these pages.

AHGP District of Columbia

Source: History of the Grand Lodge and Freemasonry in the District of Columbia, compiled by W. Brother Kenton N. Harper, 1911.

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