John S. McMillin and his family were prominent figures in the early days of Washington State’s history. McMillin was a lawyer, a mineral magnate, and a politician. He was also a devout Methodist and a powerful member of the Masonic temple. Before he died, he commissioned a massive mausoleum and memorial, rife with strange symbolism, be built to house the remains of himself, his family, and some household servants. Today, the Afterglow Mausoleum can be visited in the midst of a deeply wooded glen in Roche Harbor’s San Juan Island National Historic Park.
Every element of this elaborate and expensive project (in today’s dollars, the monument cost over six hundred thousand dollars to erect) is more pregnant with symbols and spookiness than the last.
First of all is the stone table, surrounded by stone chairs. This was built to be the places at the McMillin family dinner table, and each chair is actually a headstone containing the ashes of the family member interred there. Local legend states that there is an empty space at the table for the one son in the family who turned away from his parents’ belief systems.
The columns shape and size (even the broken one!) and the very steps leading up the memorial all have symbolism according to McMillin’s Masonic creed.
The plaque on the monument contains details as to the Masonic symbols contained within:
“The structure is approached by two sets of stairs, representing the steps within the Masonic Order. The stairs on the east side of the mausoleum stand for the spiritual life of man. The winding in the path symbolizes that the future cannot be seen. The stairs were built in sets of three, five and seven. This represents the three stages of life (youth, manhood, age), the five orders of architecture (Tuscan, Doric, Iconic, Corinthian, Composite), the five senses, and the seven liberal arts and sciences (grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic, geometry, music, astronomy). The columns were created to be the same size as those in King Solomon’s temple. The broken column represents the broken column of life-that man dies before his work is completed. The center of the mausoleum boasts the round table of limestone and concrete surrounded by six stone and concrete chairs. The chair bases are crypts for the ashes of the family, while the whole represents their reunion after death.”