Cornerstones opened; contents displayed
The Mt. Nebo Masonic Lodge was the site for the opening of the cornerstone that had been laid in 1951 at the former Sara Cree Hall on the campus of Shepherd College (now University). Also opened at the ceremony was another cornerstone that was confirmed to be the stone from the former Boteler Hall, a men’s dormitory, constructed on the campus in 1952. That hall, like Sara Cree Hall, have both been demolished.
Sara Cree Hall was the home to the physical education department of the school. Mt. Nebo Lodge No. 91 A.F. & A.M. laid the stone during the construction of the hall and were the leaders of the ceremony to open the cornerstone.
“Cornerstones, unlike time capsules,” said Lodge member Paul Strider, “are only opened when a building is demolished, not at any specific time.”
Past Master of Nebo Lodge George Alwin explained that Masonic lodges specifically lay cornerstones at public buildings, schools and churches. He shared that Jefferson County has many stones laid by Masons, some dating as far back as before statehood was granted.
The purpose, said another member, “was to invoke the blessing of the Grant Architect of the Universe.”
Before the opening of the stone from Sara Cree Hall, Holly Morgan-Frye spoke briefly to the crowd. Morgan-Frye, assistant vice president for Student Affairs and director of community and congressional relations, had a connection to the cornerstone as her father, D. Lee Morgan, was a member of the Masonic Lodge when the stone was laid. Joining Morgan-Frye at the ceremony were her mother, Mary Ann Morgan and son, Donovan Frye.
“We were even able to connect the destruction of the building by allowing firefighters to train there,” Morgan-Frye said as she shared that her father loved the Masons, the fire department, the Rotary Club and his family.
Monica Lingenfelter, executive vice president for the University Foundation, and a friend of Sara Cree, shared some of her memories with the attendees. She shared that Cree, a member of the faculty at Shepherd from 1940-1972, came to the college as head of the Physical Education Department.
“She developed the department and started the women’s collegiate athletic department,” Lingefelter said.
Lingenfelter spoke of Cree’s friendship with Ruth Scarborough, for whom the current library on campus is named. She said that Cree was so much more excited about the building named for Scarborough than for the one named for herself.
“The long-term strategic plan indicated the hall would come down,” Lingenfelter said. When asked how she felt about that, Lingenfelter shared that Cree’s response was “Do with the building whatever is best for the students.”
The former site of the building will now provide parking, a definite need for the students.
When the cornerstone was opened, it revealed many items from the day including multiple editions of newspapers such as the Morning-Herald, the Martinsburg Journal, the Spirit of Jefferson, The Shepherdstown Register and the Picket, Shepherd’s paper.
Also in the box was a Holy Bible, coins, stamps and several letters written by staffers at the time for their counterparts to read whenever the box was opened.
Over 50 items were inside the box and each was handled by Grand Master Richard Nehfer and Coordinator of Archives and Special collections at Shepherd University, Christy Toms. The two removed items from the box with gloved hands and laid them along tables so that attendees could see them more closely following the opening of the box.
In addition to the cornerstone from Sara Cree Hall, a second cornerstone was found inside the building, in a closet. The second box was also opened Saturday and proved to be from the former Boteler Hall, a men’s dormitory, which was constructed in 1952. That box contained similar items including newspapers, a yearbook from Shepherd College, a Bible and coins, stamps and other collectibles.
Everything taken from the boxes will be catalogued and displayed or archived under climate-controlled conditions, Toms said.