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Jess Raines ’96 and Fred Dobson ’82 have more in common than graduating from Marietta College — the two men hold leadership positions in the Free & Accepted Masons.

This fall, the two will join about 1,500 fellow Masons on Marietta College’s campus for the fraternity’s annual communication.

“It took me nearly five years to make this happen,” says Raines, who was installed as the 163rd Grand Master of Masons in Ohio in October 2018. “It’s the only place large enough here in Marietta to be able to host us. If we weren’t able to secure getting Dyson Baudo [Recreation Center], we would have had to move the communication out of the area.”

The Grand Lodge of Ohio was formed in 1808.

“The really unique part is that Freemasonry entered the state of Ohio right here in Marietta through Jonathan Hart and Rufus Putnam having a dispensation empowering them to open a lodge from the Grand Lodge of Massachusetts,” Raines says. “And so that was the start of the Masons in the Northwest Territory.”

Dobson is the Senior Grand Warden in Massachusetts, which is the third oldest Masonic lodge in the world and the oldest in the Western Hemisphere. Dobson joined the Masons about 10 years ago, following in his father’s footsteps. They are the only father/son team to serve as Senior Grand Warden in Massachusetts Grand Lodge history. His son and sons-in-law will add to the family’s line of Masons when they join the fraternity in March.

Dobson and Raines became friends through a chance meeting.

“My wife Mari’s uncle is an Ohio Mason,” Dobson says. “Although she never knew that, I saw that he had a ring on one day and asked him about it. He was very excited to have another Mason in the family. I attended his lodge (Elyria #787) on a number of occasions and as fate would have it, it is the home lodge of Jess’s predecessor.” The former Ohio Grand Master was not able to attend the Massachusetts’ installation so he sent Raines in his place. “In the course of conversation, I had to mention my ties to Ohio. Although I grew up in Massachusetts, I went to Marietta College and lived in Ohio for 20 years before moving back to the Boston area. All three of my children were born in Ohio, including the first two being born in Marietta. When I mentioned I went to Marietta, [Raines] let me know that he was an alum and after that, we became fast friends.”

During his yearlong service as Grand Master, Raines will travel to each of the state’s 25 districts with his wife, Kelly, to interact with fellow Masons.

“Freemasonry crosses borders,” Raines says. “Our governance is really what the border respects. I am in charge of all Masons in the state of Ohio. We have 470 lodges, about 75,000 members and there are two lodges in Marietta. Washington County is part of the 17th Masonic District, which includes Washington, Morgan and Athens counties. We have 21 lodges in this vicinity, and 3,000 Masons in the direct area. My dues card welcomes me into any lodge across the world, because every man there has taken a common obligation. We have a mutual understanding even though we’ve never met. That’s one of the neatest aspects of what you as a Freemason can do in travel and building on yourself by meeting others and connecting.”

- Gi Smith