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
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.
At 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.
In 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
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.
21, 2011 column
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