first Masonic Lodge in Texas was formed in March
of 1835, approximately a year before Texas declared independence from Mexico.
Although there were Masons in Mexico—Santa Anna was a Mason—the Catholic Church
frowned on Freemasonry. The Knights of Columbus was established to counter the
appeal of Freemasonry for Catholic men. |
The first lodge was formed in
secret. Five Master Masons—John H. Wharton, Asa Brigham, James A. E. Phelps, Alexander
Russell, and Anson Jones,
who would be the last President of the Republic—decided to form a lodge in Texas.
In secret they began planning how to do it. They were shortly joined by a sixth
Master Mason, John P. Caldwell. The first meeting was held in a secluded grove
of trees on General John Austin’s place near Brazoria.
A petition was drawn up and sent to New Orleans, requesting that the Grand Lodge
of Louisiana charter Holland Lodge, named for the Grand Master of Louisiana’s
Grand Lodge, J. H. Holland. By this time a seventh Master Mason, W. D. C. Hall,
had joined the group. The officers were to be Anson
Jones, Worshipful Master, Asa Brigham, Senior Warden, and J. P. Caldwell,
Junior Warden. A dispensation to open the lodge, which was to be known as Holland
Lodge No. 36 under the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, arrived. On December 27, 1835,
the lodge was opened at Brazoria.
Meetings were held on the second floor of the old courthouse there.
this point things were getting hot in the disputes with Mexico. The lodge met
in Brazoria for the last
time in February of 1836. The acting Senior Deacon for that meeting was James
Fannin. A month later he would be murdered at Santa Anna’s orders.
March Brazoria was abandoned.
All of the Masonic property, including the dispensation to open the lodge, was
captured and apparently destroyed by Urrea’s army. Wharton, Phelps, and Jones
joined Sam Houston’s army.
In the meantime, the Grand Lodge of Louisiana issued the charter for Holland
Lodge No. 36, which was delivered to Anson
Jones by John A. Allen. It was handed over to Jones
while the army was on the march, between Groce’s Store and San Jacinto. It was
in his saddlebags when the Texas Army camped on Buffalo Bayou, and was still in
his saddlebags on April 21. It may be the only Masonic Lodge charter in history
to be carried into a battle before being presented to the members of the lodge.
Jacinto so many members of Holland Lodge No. 36 had been killed in combat
or scattered by the war that the lodge didn’t assemble again until October of
1837. By then two more lodges in Texas had been chartered
by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana—Milam at Nacogdoches
and McFarlane at San
Augustine. Holland had moved from Brazoria
In the winter of
1837/’38, in Houston, delegates from
the three lodges then existing in Texas met in Houston
to form the Grand Lodge of the Lone Star Republic. Holland Lodge became Holland
Lodge No. 1 of the Grand Lodge of Texas, having been the first lodge established
in Texas. The first Grand Master of the Grand Lodge
of Texas was none other than Anson
If you get the idea Freemasonry was important in the Republic
and later in the State of Texas, you are absolutely right. During the 19th and
much of the first half of the 20th Century, it was virtually impossible to be
elected to a statewide office in Texas without being
a member of a Masonic Lodge.
Whether or not Lorenzo de Zavala, the first Vice President of the Republic, was
a Mason I don’t know, but it is not impossible that he was. There were many Catholic
Masons, who simply said nothing to the priest about being a member of the order.
Ben Milam, a Mason, converted to Catholicism in Kentucky
before coming to Texas. As previously mentioned,
Santa Anna himself was a Mason. Upon being brought before Sam
Houston at San
Jacinto, he recognized Houston
as a fellow Mason and immediately gave the ‘brother in distress’ sign.
C. F. Eckhardt
"Charley Eckhardt's Texas"
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