Thursday, January 30, 2014

Masonic Education: What Is A Lewis?

Four generation photo
I know I've told this story before, but not recently.  Shortly after I joined the Scottish Rite Valley of Danville (IL), I decided to go over and check out the Scottish Rite Cathedral in Indianapolis during one of their reunions.  I was a little nervous just showing up like I did.  As a new Scottish Rite Mason, I didn't really know what to expect--I shouldn't have been worried, I was welcomed with open arms.  And I also enjoyed a tour from the foundations to the top of the tower--it is truly one of the most magnificent buildings I've ever seen.  If you are ever in Indianapolis, do stop by and see it. 

While I was there, somebody stopped me in the hall and asked if I would take a photo.  There were four men standing on the staircase, and I was only too happy to take their picture.  As I learned from talking to them after the photo, what I'd just taken was a very special four generation photo.  Not only was it son, father, grandfather, and great-grandfather, but it was four generations of Scottish Rite Masons--the youngest would be receiving his 32nd Degree at that reunion.  So if was a very special weekend for that family.

Later I was talking to one of the members of the Valley of Indianapolis, and told him about the photo I'd taken.  That was the first time I'd heard the term "lewis."  I thought that was the family name at first--we have a number of members in our lodge with that last name.  But the term "lewis" actually means "son of a Mason."  It's not used widespread in the United States but is more commonly used in other parts of the world--the term is not referred to at all in Craft ritual, but it does have a mention in Mark Masonry I was told (I was also told if I was a better York Rite Mason, I would know that). 

This is a stonecutters tool called a lewis used to lift heavy stones.
What I didn't know until recently, is that like many things it Masonry, the term "lewis" has its roots in operative masonry.  It is actually the name of tool used in stonemasonry.  It's a tool used to lift heavy stones by way of a specially cut dove-tail slot in the top of the stones.  The friction and the weight of the stone itself made it possible to lift and place these heavy stones with great precision.

Lewis' are very common in our Fraternity--in many families Freemasonry is a family tradition passed on from generation to generation.  For many Masons, their most prized possessions are the rings or pins of members of their family, and they are worn with a great deal of reverence.  However, for those of us who don't have a long line of Freemasons in the family, we hope our membership in this great Fraternity might begin a family tradition--that one day we'll be able to pass it on to a son or a grandson. 

As I await the birth of my first grandson, I certainly know I do.  He's not even born yet, and already, he's recieved a little blue onesy from his grandfather that reads "Future Freemason." 


Todd E. Creason is an author and novelist whose work includes the award-winning non-fiction historical series Famous American Freemasons and the novels One Last Shot (2011) and A Shot After Midnight (2012). He's currently working on the third novel Shot to Hell which will be released in Spring 2014. You can contact Todd E. Creason at:


  1. The Brother FC I am to be Raised with next month I *believe* is a Grandson of a Mason. Is he a Lewis, Bro. Creason?

    1. I'm not sure. The definition I've been seeing is "son of a Mason." Don't know if that lets you jump a generation or not. :-) I have the same thing. My great-grandfather was a Mason, but neither my grandfather or my dad are Masons. Perhaps we'll get lucky and somebody with the correct answer will inform us.


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