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  Texas : Features : Columns : All Things Historical

MASONS:
BUILDING TEMPLES IN EAST TEXAS

by Archie P. McDonald
Archie McDonald, PhD

What are Masons and why do they have "secrets?"

You can read all about it in the Bible because Masonry began among what we might call the contractors who built King Solomon's Temple, with the King himself in charge. This is what one would call Operative Freemasonry, which means that only a few men knew the mathematics necessary to construct the temple and they guarded the information and looked after each other's well being to perpetuate their monopoly.

Much later, in England, Operative Masonry passed into Speculative Masonry, meaning that its members no longer necessarily worked in the building trades but still used the same principles for individual and societal improvement. Now they built "temples" with their lives.

Scottish Rite and York Rite Masonry developed separately in England. York Rite Masonry crossed the Atlantic to England's colonies, then accompanied westering Americans across the continent.

Many Anglos who reached Texas early in the 19th century were Masons but they had no lodge to attend. They asked the Grand Lodge of Louisiana for help, and in 1836 Louisiana's Grand Master, John Henry Holland, issued charters for three new lodges in Texas: Holland Lodge No. 36 organized in Houston in January 1837; Milam Lodge No. 40 began in Nacogdoches the following August; and McFarland Lodge No. 41 was established in San Augustine.

Ideas of independence predominated in Texas in the mid-1830s, so within a year a movement began to establish a Grand Lodge of Texas. Since the government of Texas headquartered in Houston where prominent officials and Masons such as Sam Houston and Anson Jones were present, Holland lodge invited representatives from Milam Lodge in Nacogdoches and McFarland Lodge in San Augustine to send delegates to discuss the organization of a Grand Lodge of Texas.

Milam Lodge sent Adolphus Sterne, Isaac Burton, Thomas J. Rusk, Charles Taylor, and Kelsey Douglass to the meeting. Holland Lodge was represented by Houston, Jones, Jefferson Wright, and Thomas Western. McFarland Lodge did not send a delegate but authorized Sterne to act on its behalf.

The delegates created the Grand Lodge of Texas and selected Jones as its first Grand Master and Sterne as Deputy Grand Master. For a while the lodges in Nacogdoches and San Augustine continued to labor under their charter from Louisiana, but the desire to develop Texas proved strong enough by 1839 that both lodges transferred their allegiance to the Grand Lodge of Texas.

Ironically, John Henry Holland, who had chartered them in behalf of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana, moved to Nacogdoches in 1839 and the next year was elected Worshipful Master of Milam Lodge No. 2.

All Things Historical September 24-30, 2000 column
Published by permission.
(Archie P. McDonald is Director of the East Texas Historical Association and author or editor of more than 20 books on Texas)
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