HISTORY OF THE AUSTIN VALLEY

Illuminating the Capital City

1839  Selecting a Capitol for Texas

In January, 1839, five commissioners were appointed by the Third Congress of the Republic of Texas to select a permanent site for the capital of the young nation. After much agitation a location was selected which was near the site Stephen F. Austin had once chosen for his home. The site was on the north bank of the Colorado River and the western edge of the Texas frontier. The nearest settlement to the north was located at the Falls of the Brazos, while hostile Indians roamed the lands to the west and southwest. The new town was named Austin, and by October, 1839, building sufficient to house the government were completed and the small town became the capital city of Texas. Soon some 11,500 inhabitants surrounded the governmental complex as continuous growth was virtually assured. By 1885 the town had 18,000 citizens, a number of whom were Master Masons.

1881  Scottish Rite comes to Austin

Building onto the first three Masonic Degrees, Scottish Rite Masonry was introduced into Texas, when San Felipe Lodge of Perfection was opened at Galveston. For the following fourteen years Tucker’s work centered around the Bodies in Houston, Corpus Christi, Waco, Palestine, Fort Worth, and Austin.

In all cases the Lodge of Perfection formed the basis upon which the other Bodies built. Austin received Scottish Rite Masonry on November 26, 1881, when Fidelity Lodge of Perfection No. 4 was activated.

1881  Albert Pike, Philip C Tucker and the first officers of Fidelity Lodge of Perfection

Grand Commander Albert Pike visited Texas in 1881 and he and Tucker arrived in Austin late in November. The Masons in Austin were not enthusiastic about the Scottish Rite. However, on November 26, 1881, several Master Masons were brought together in the Masonic Temple, which was located in Austin on Congress Avenue between Seventh and Eighth Streets, and had conferred upon them the Fourth through the Thirteenth Degrees in “ample” form by Philip C. Tucker. The brethren were Henry Lincoln Carleton, John McDonald, John Wesley Robertson, Frederick Sterzing, John Knox Donnan, Tom Murrah, Dennis Corwin, Frank Wright Glenn, John Rufus Blocker, Joseph Charles Petmecky, James William LaRue, Mortimer Pierson Summerrow, Newell McDonald, Walter Tips, and Nathan Curtis Strong. Pike, in his capacity as Sovereign Grand Master then formed Fidelity Lodge of Perfection No. 4 before conferring the Fourteenth Degree in full form. Other Masons present who were charter members of Fidelity Lodge were John Wright Glenn, 32°, who was serving as Deputy Grand Inspector General for Texas. In the Lodge of Perfection which conferred the Fourteenth Degree and installed the officers, Pike served as Venerable Master, Tucker as Senior Warden, and Adolph Goldman as Junior Warden. Officers elected and installed were:

Venerable Master, John Wright Glenn
Senior Warden, Henry L. Carlton
Junior Warden, John McDonald
Orator, John Wesley Robertson
Almoner, Frederick Sterzing
Secretary, Tom Murrah
Treasurer, John Knox Donnan
Master of Ceremonies, Dennis Corwin
Expert, Frank Wright Glenn
Assistant Expert, John Rufus Blocker
Captain of the Host, Joseph Charles Petmecky
Tiler, James William LaRue.

The event was little noticed in the Austin Daily Statesman, the prominent local newspaper, as the visit of Pike and Tucker was not mentioned in the small article announcing the advent of Scottish rite Masonry in the community. But the ceremonies at Masonic Hall were to have great impact as both the Fraternity and Austin grew, for the same men were involved in both expansive processes. Henry L. Carlton, one of those who promoted the Texas Pharmaceutical Association in 1879, was a bookkeeper for Morley Brothers, Druggists, in 1881. In later years he served as President of the Texas Pharmaceutical Association for five consecutive terms. In 1910 Baylor University conferred a Ph.M. Degree on him, and he became a member of the State Board of Pharmacy after James E. Ferguson became Governor in 1915. He was an active Mason throughout his life.

1881 First Officers of Fidelity Lodge of Perfection

Fidelity Lodge held two meetings during the month of December, 1881. The first gathering was called by Venerable Master John Wright Glenn for four specific purposes: to confirm arrangements for a permanent meeting place, to appoint a committee on by-laws, to set a fee on the Fourth through the Fourteenth Degrees, and to set regular meeting times. Prior to the meeting Glenn had appointed a regular meeting times. Prior to the meeting Glenn had appointed a “Committee on Hall,” and Adolph Goldman reported that arrangements had been made with Lone Star Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, subject to the approval of Austin Lodge No. 12, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, for Fidelity Lodge to use the Masonic Hall for its meetings for $40.00 per year. The Committee on By-Laws appointed by Glenn consisted of Goldman, H.L. Carleton and John MacDonald, and regular meetings were set to be held on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Fees for the Degrees were set at $35.00.

To the post of Junior Warden, Fidelity Lodge chose John McDonald, who was born in New York, December 18, 1834, grew to manhood in Ohio, and came to Texas in 1874. The following year McDonald moved to Austin to go into the building business. Highly successful as a contractor, he was elected Mayor of Austin in November, 1889. A biography of McDonald, published in 1890 while he was Mayor, stated: “Since his election to the office of Mayor he has necessarily been thrown more in public than formerly, and has made some speeches, which, while possessing few or none of the charms of oratory, were replete with good practical sense, and sound logic.” John McDonald must have been a good man and Mason for he was electric Mayor of Democratic Austin in the face of the fact that he was a Republican politically and the Reconstruction era had been over only for about fifteen years.

Another of the founders, Fred Sterzing, was born in Siegene Prussia, on April 9, 1844. He came to Texas with his parents in 1845 as a part of the Fisher-Miller Colony, moving to Austin a decade later. With the coming of the Civil War, Sterzing enlisted and served throughout. Afterwards he returned to Austin, where he became First Sergeant of the local militia unit. He was quite active in the defense of the Texas State Treasury against a bang of bandits on the night of June 11, 1865. The robbers escaped with an estimated $17,000.00 in spite of the efforts of Sterzing. His Captain C.R. Freeman, and Al Musgrove, a fellow soldier. The same qualities which made Sterzing a success as a Mason also made him successful as a man. After the war he purchased photographing equipment to go into Indian Territory to make his fortune. He returned to Austin empty handed, turned to farming, failed again, and finally went into the wholesale and retail grocery business. Here he made his way. In 1872 Sterzing was elected Recorder for the City of Austin, an office he maintained for four years. In 1876 he was elected Tax Assessor and Collector for the City of Austin, a position he held when he took his Lodge of Perfection Degrees in 1881.

Dennis Corwin had served as Sheriff of Travis County from 1876 to 1880, and was in the grocery business in 1881. John Wright Glenn was serving as supervising architect at the United States Custom House on and Post Office: Frank Wright Glenn was bookkeeper and cashier at Foster and Company Bank; John K. Donnan was an exchange dealer and general agent, Joseph C. Petmecky was a gunsmith; and James W. LaRue was a carpenter. James W. Robertson was born in Tennessee on October 26, 1840, moved to Texas in 1867, and was an Austin attorney in 1881.

1881 First Officers continues

One of the most colorful of the men who founded Fidelity Lodge was Jon Rufus Blocker. Born in South Carolina in 1851, young Blocker came to Texas the following year when his parents moved to Travis County. John Blocker was educated at the Swan Coats School and Texas Military Institute. During the Civil War he freighted in Texas and Mexico, preparing himself for the cattleman’s career which lay ahead. In 1871 John R. and his brother, Ab Blocker, went into the business of driving cattle to the northern markets. The Blockers drove the rangy Longhorns over the dusty trails to Kansas, Montana and Wyoming. On one occasion in 1878, John Blocker had a herd at Sidney, Nebraska, when lightning struck the ground, killing four horses instantly. Blocker was nearby but was not affected, so he lived to become a charter member of Fidelity Lodge in 1881. In 1887 he moved to San Antonio to expand his cattle operations. In later years he assisted in founding the Trail Drivers’ Association and became its first President. John Rufus Blocker died in San Antonio on December 8, 1927.

Those were the men who brought Scottish Rite Masonry to Austin. Behind the scene stood Adolph Goldman, Deputy Grand Inspector General for Texas. Of German descent, Goldman had lived in Louisiana prior to his moving to Austin in 1817 to pursue his trade as a druggist and chemist. A report Goldman made to Tucker on September 10, 1882, outlined Goldman’s rather stormy Masonic career in Louisiana. When the Supreme Council made the decision to extend Scottish Rite Masonry in Texas in the German language, Goldman was recommended as the person to do the work. Goldman had taken no advance Masonic Degrees, however, so Tucker sent Charles S. Morse, 33°, from Galveston to Austin to confer upon Goldman the Degree from the Fourth through the Thirty-Second. After the Degrees were conferred, Morse asked Goldman to act as Deputy Inspector General. Goldman accepted, beginning his work with zeal, and no doubt it was largely because of his efforts that Austin opened it Lodge of Perfection in 1881.

1881  First Meetings of Fidelity Lodge of Perfection

Fidelity Lodge held two meetings during the month of December, 1881. The first gathering was called by Venerable Master John Wright Glenn for four specific purposes: to confirm arrangements for a permanent meeting place, to appoint a committee on by-laws, to set a fee on the Fourth through the Fourteenth Degrees, and to set regular meeting times. Prior to the meeting Glenn had appointed a regular meeting times. Prior to the meeting Glenn had appointed a “Committee on Hall,” and Adolph Goldman reported that arrangements had been made with Lone Star Chapter, Royal Arch Masons, subject to the approval of Austin Lodge No. 12, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, for Fidelity Lodge to use the Masonic Hall for its meetings for $40.00 per year. The Committee on By-Laws appointed by Glenn consisted of Goldman, H.L. Carleton and John MacDonald, and regular meetings were set to be held on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Fees for the Degrees were set at $35.00.

Another meeting on December 13, 1881, approved the report of the By-Laws Committee, directed the procurement of stationery for the Lodge, and received a report from the Almoner stating he had $.75 in hand. Alexander Gardner was installed as Assistant Expert, and Venerable Master Glenn reported that he had received the Ritual books for the Lodge and had distributed them among the officers. The meeting was then “closed without ceremony.” The year 1881 ended with Scottish Rite Masonry firmly embedded in the Austin community. The organization thereafter had its ups and downs, but the end result was always the same as the organization sustained itself.

1882  The First Chapter of Rose Croix in Texas which remained

The year 1882 opened a flurry of activity for Fidelity Lodge. Writing in February of 1882, Tom Murrah, the Secretary, reported to General Pike:

As to the present status of the Rite in our section of the State, it is not necessary for me to say anything, as you are, no doubt informed by your worthy representative BB. .Philip C. .Tucker 33°, and active member.

I will say, however, that our lodge is improving in works, and meets twice per month, and the Brothers who can attend regularly are learning the work.

While that work was proceeding, plans were being made by Goldman and Morse to initiate additional Degrees. “In accordance with previous arrangements” a group of seven members of Fidelity Lodge met with Goldman, Morse, and John Wright Glenn, 32°, to open a Chapter of Rose Croix (15°-18°). After the Degrees were communicated the members voted unanimously to name the new organization the Philip C. Tucker Chapter No. 1, Rose Croix, signifying it to be the first Rose Croix Chapter in the State to be permanently established. Galveston had had to Rose Croix Chapters prior to the Austin undertaking, but both Galveston organizations had died, thus leaving the way clear for the Austin group to use the number “1.” Fees were collected in the sum of $20.00 each from five of the candidates, and officers were elected as follows:

John Wright Glenn, Wise Master
Henry L. Carlton, Senior Warden
John McDonald, Junior Warden
M. P. Summerow, Orator
Fred Sterzing, Almoner
Tom Murrah, Secretary
Newell McDonald, Treasurer

The term of office was three years. Installation ceremonies occurred on January 31, 1882, “after which the Chapter and its guests repaired to the Banquet Hall where a handsome supper had been prepared for the occasion by Bro. Newell McDonald.” At a third meeting on February 7, 1882, four additional candidates, John K. Donnan, Joseph C. Petmecky, Dennis Corwin, and Alex Gardner, received the Degrees, thus joining Phillip C. tucker Chapter.

1882  Philip C Tucker Chapter Pronouncement and Tucker’s response

The official pronouncement of the constitution of Philip C. Tucker Chapter was issued on January 31, 1882, but three days prior to that act Tucker addressed a communication to the Austin brethren which warrants inclusion in full:

Orient of Galveston, Texas
January 28, 1882, V.E.

To the Members of Philip C. Tucker Chapter of Knight Rose Croix of Heirdom No. 1, Austin, Texas.

Brothers and Knights: It would have afforded me strong personal gratification to have met with you in person, and officially inaugurated your new Chapter and installed its officers. Much to my disappointment, paramount duties towards those dear to and dependent upon me enforce an unwilling absence. I tender you my congratulations upon the creation of another lawful body of Scottish Freemasonry at the Capital, composed of Masons whose characters insure that the new Chapter will be true to the mission of the Rose Croix taught therein and “Steadfast as Horeb’s Holly Hill.”

You have unanimously determined to adopt the name of Philip C. Tucker for your Chapter; an honor unlooked for on my part, yet gratifying and for which I thank you. It was the name of my father distinguished as a chief among Northern Freemasons, a Grand Master of Masons in Vermont for many years; of whom it was written in the Grand Lodge of New York that he was ever “An active, zealous worker in quarry, hill and temple, with voice and with pen, with counsel, purse, and sword,” and that, when he died, “Vermont lost the chief pillar, and Masonry one of the brightest ornaments that ever beautified and adorned her temple.”

During a Masonic life of more than thirty-three years

“I have gloried in the knowledge
That from sire to son it goes;
That the blood which I inherit
In my veins Masonic flows.”

And have earnestly endeavored to prove myself worthy of such a heritage. I have labored in and out of Masonic Bodies to “fill well whatever niche I was ordained to fill.” The records show that not only subordinate stations have been served by me for years, but that when forty-seven years of age I had served thirty-three years in the East of Masonic Bodies, Grand and Subordinate, of the American Rite. To accomplish the duties incident hereto demanded something more than an idler in the Order, and during all that time I was constantly engaged in business pursuits. Yet I managed to discharge other than merely official duties. How? Let the voice of the Masonic past answer, it is not my right.

Since February, 1867, I have been charged with the government and propagation of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite in Texas. I have patiently and unceasingly labored among the thinking, studious and whole-hearted Masons of Texas to inculcate its doctrines, to teach its Philosophy, religion, and its symbolism, believing that it, “Like the dove of the deluge,” carried a message of love and peace in its wings; and that in no other way could I so much benefit the entire Order, and promote the good of humanity. Your having voluntarily chosen to advance the banner of your chapter, emblazoned with the name I wear, as an evidence that you have appreciated my labors, and their purpose of establishing a Brotherhood in fact as well as in application, a Brotherhood loved and lovable. I would be less than a man if it did not gratify me, and unfit to be called gentlemen if I did not acknowledge it. With the blessing of the Holy One to uphold my steps, I trust that you will never have cause to blush at the name you have chosen, and I salute “Philip C. Tucker of Knights of the Rose Croix of Hierdom: at Austin with all the honors it is due.

Brethren, I greet you individually and collectively with renewed assurances of fraternal esteem.

May our father in Heaven have you always in his Holy keeping.

Philip C. Tucker, 33°
Inspector General, etc.23

1882  The Tucker Letter

Tucker then determined to contribute something he valued highly as a memento to the group which enshrined his name. He made the presentation by letter on March 27, 1882, with a full explanation of the history of the gavel he was contributing. He wrote:

Brethren: Relics of the war of the American Revolution are rare. Those of its armed vessels cannot be procured for money (that great conqueror of difficulties in the present), therefore, a “wee thing” which once was a portion of an armed deck, baptized with the blood of the slain at the altar of Freedom, is of more value to patriots than its weight in precious gems. Of such is the mallet now presented you. It was made from one of the planks of the American galley “Congress,” a twelve-gun vessel, commanded in person by Benedict Arnold, who was the senior officer commanding the American fleet in the battles of Lake Champlain on the 111th and 13th of October, 1776, V.E. with the British fleet commanded by Captain Preble of the Royal Navy. The “Congress,” with sails and rigging torn to pieces by shot, “with seven shot holes between with and water,” and “hulled a dozen times,” was ran into a beautiful bay on the eastern shore of Lake Champlain, where she was blown up and sunk by General Arnold.

Eighty-three years thereafter from the wreck of the “Congress” beneath the water of Lake Champlain was procured a piece of one of her planks of “white oak” by my father, Philip C. Tucker, then Grand Master of Masons of Vermont, from which were made walking canes for himself and son. The latter brought a piece of he plank to Texas afterwards and had it made into this mallet, which he now respectfully presents to “Phillip C. Tucker Chapter of Rose Croix of Hierdom No. l at Austin, Texas,” with the suggestion that he deems it an appropriate gift to Masons devoted to the cause espoused by every “Elu of the fifteen.”

Philip C. Tucker, 33°
Inspector General
Active Member for Texas

Galveston, Texas,
March 17, 1882, V.E.

When the gavel was received a public ceremony was held, to which all Austin Master Masons were invited. The presentation was made by Mrs. John Wright Glenn on behalf of Tucker and its was accepted by Henry L. Carleton on behalf of the Philip C. Tucker Chapter. After the presentation, J.W. Robertson, Orator of Fidelity Lodge of Perfection, made an address on Scottish Rite Masonry. The gavel remained in possession of the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies until May 12, 1956, when it was placed on deposit in the Scottish Rite Museum of the Grand Lodge in Waco.

1882 From Glenn to Carlton & The Tucker Gavel

In May, 1882, while the status of Glenn was still in a state of flux, Carleton penned him a rather full report of the affairs of the Austin bodies. Carleton wrote:

Your communication of the 18th ult duly to hand & should have been noted sooner but an unusual pressure of business presented. The Gavel to which you referred was, as doubtless you have been informed, placed on exhibition. The brethren of the Rose Croix attended the Art-Loan in a body and gazed n the relic at the rate of twenty-five cents per capita. The interest in the well fare of both the Chapter & Lodge of Perfection remains unabated. At the Maundy Thursday meeting we raised money sufficient to pay off the debts of the Chapter & send for the necessary books. The Lodge is nearly out of debt also. We have not yet made application for a permanent charter—as I deemed it best that we should first discharge all of our obligations here. We now have our first aspirant taking the degrees. The brethren have all striven to excel in their several stations & places & have vied with each other as to who should be perform his part. As a consequence the degrees are being conferred in a very creditable manner & a good impression has been produced in the aspirant. I trust that this will have its influence in bringing other good men into the Lodge. The R.A. Chapter of the York Rite is about to erect a Masonic Temple. Owing to the influence of our good Bro McDonald, who is on the building committee, the bodies of the A.& A.S.R. will be afforded better accommodations when this Temple is completed. As soon as the books for the Rose Croix Chapter arrive I shall make the necessary appointments of officers and install them unless you are enabled to be present. The brethren send paternal greetings & unit in expressing a desire that you will soon make it convenient to meet with us again.

1882 Orient Council of Knights Kadosh

Glenn’s departure did not cause hesitation on the part of the Austin Masons, as they continued their planning for expansion. Orient Council of Kadosh was the next Body to be organized. Tucker was quite pleased at Orient’s prospects when he left Galveston on June 28, 1882, to journey to Austin for the inaugural ceremonies of Orient Council. In reporting to Pike he wrote that “in the State at large the Rite occupies a much more dignified position in the eyes of the craft than ever before – the tone has changed for the better, and I feel much encouraged…,”
Tucker’s enthusiasm faded somewhat three days later when time came to install officers for Orient Council. On the night of July 1,1882, only two persons—Goldman and Carlton—were present for the first meeting. Carleton was installed as proxy for the officers, who were: Charles S. Morse, Commander; H.L. Carleton, First Lieutenant Commander; John McDonald, Second Lieutenant Commander; and Tom Murrah, Recorder. As Carleton later recalled the incident, “Brother Tucker was some mad.” Nevertheless, Orient Council of Kadosh had been inaugurated, and the ground was laid for the founding of Austin Consistory Number 3.

1882  Austin Consistory Number 3

As early as September 9, 1882, Goldman was hopeful that the Sovereign Grand Commander would allow the petition the Austin men had already submitted to establish a Consistory, thus permitting the 32° to be conferred. In a letter to Pike, Goldman stated his pride in his success, but did not fail to give ample credit to Philip C. Tucker.

Austin Consistory Number 3 was initiated on October 19, 1882. Information pertaining to its organizational details is lacking, but H. L. Carleton did recall that it was organized “because General Pike wanted a Consistory in Austin.” Carleton wrote: “we boys dug down in our jeans the put the money, how it happened to be named No. 3 is more than I can tell, as it was the first Consistory established in the State as far as I know, the one at Fort Worth was established sometime afterward and the one in Galveston still later.” The ”boys” Carleton wrote of were Adolph Goldman, Charles S. Morse, himself, John McDonald, John K. Donnan, Tom Murrrah, M. P. Summerrow, Newell McDonald, Fred Sterzing, and Joe Petmecky.

The fact that John Wright Glenn was not among the charter members indicates that he had moved permanently to New Orleans by that time. These men may truly be called the fathers of Austin Scottish Rite Bodies, for in eleven months they had planned and brought to reality the four Bodies. Their next battle was to keep them alive land expand if possible. It proved to be a sizable undertaking.

1884  The First Mystic Banquet, the Death of Goldman and the struggle for survival

Since the membership was small, meetings were sometimes not held as stated. At a meeting which was held on October 10, 1882, Fidelity Lodge expressed concern that its temporary charter was to expire on October 16. The Lodge voted unanimously request a permanent charter from the Supreme Council. This charter had not arrived by November 6, 1882, so Goldman addressed a query to Tucker as to whether Fidelity Lodge could hold its stated meeting. In the same letter Goldman stated that none of the Bodies had had any meetings. Not only were meetings scarce, but so was money. When the Austinites wanted to order books for ritual purposes on credit, Tucker interceded for them to Pike, stating, ”if you can indulge the Austin Brethren it would be a kindness at little risk, for they are poor in purse if rich at heart—please give their respect kindly consideration.” Hard times did not prevent the Phillip C. Tucker Chapter from holding their mystic banquet on April 10, 1884, even though their spirits were somewhat dampened by the fact that the Chapter’s namesake could not be present. Tucker expressed his regrets at being unable to attend the banquet, appointing as his representatives Adolph Goldman and Charles Morse. Tucker wrote: “I do not know of any two whom I would more confidently entrust with the duty of representing the Rite and its chiefs in Texas, on this and other occasions, than they; accept their presence as if I were with you; listen to and be guided by them in things Masonic; and you will prosper.” The Austin Bodies continued a normal tenor until tragedy hit toward the end of the year.

On December 29, 1884, Adolph Goldman, considered by at least one of his contemporaries to be the “founder of Scottish Rite Masonry in Austin,” passed to his greater rewards. Goldman had become ill earlier in 1884, and by November he was hopelessly bed fast. Under these circumstances Albert Pike and William M. Ireland, the Secretary General, journeyed from Washington, D. C., to Austin to confer the 33°, Honorarium, on Goldman. The award was well earned for, as events were to prove, Goldman was the backbone of the Rite in Austin.

After his death Scottish Rite Masonry fell into a period of decay so far as Austin, Texas, was concerned. Fidelity Lodge of Perfection claimed twenty-two members in 1883; twenty-four in 1884; fourteen in 1886; and twenty in 1888. The following year, 1889, membership was down to fourteen. The other Bodies were as anemic. Philip C. Tucker Chapter of Rose Croix had sixteen members in 1883; nineteen in 1884; fifteen in 1887; and twelve in 1889 and 1890. Orient Council started with eleven members in 1883, reached its apex with fourteen the following year, and declined to its original number in 1886. Membership figures on Austin Consistory are not available. During these troublesome years Henry Carleton, Charles S. Morse, John McDonald, John K. Donnan and Tom Murrah, secretary, were the persons who held the Rite together.

1884 The Struggle for Scottish Rite in Austin

The returns of the Philip C. Tucker Chapter for the year ending June 30, 1889, noted “no meeting held for about two years,” This is supported by numerous entries in the returns of other Bodies listing “vacant by death” among the slots of the officers. The problem of existence came into focus as early as October of 1887 when Tucker wrote Pike as follows:

The Bodies of the Rite at Austin have not been prosperous for last three years; half dead yet living—composed chiefly of Masons who seldom attend their Lodge—a majority of whom are Knt Templars, and members of many modern so called secret societies—they have neglected their duties as members of the Scottish Rite—now thro’ Bro Morse they ask that the charter of the Kadosh be declared dormant (it is in fact so from non use), and promise to work the Lodge of Perfection & Rose X respectably. I have written Bro. Morse very plainly as to the state of things at Austin—as to the Kadosh matter there I do not think they have ever conferred a degree in the Preceptory—so far as work is concerned the body has been dormant from the day of its birth. I think the idea of the B..B.. at Austin is to have a formal order made that the body is dormant, thereby avoiding the necessity of making returns or paying dues, until such time s they may be in the position to receive it without payment of fees for another Letter of Constitution. I do not know of any such order. And think that the status of the body would not be changed by such order—if in fact dormant and the “Charter” not annulled by an act of the S..C.. thro’ the Insp. Genl—that the effect would be in fact to hibernate, not to die. I send you Bro Morse’s letter enclosed and ask your opinion as to the Kadosh proposition…

Pike immediately answered Tucker’s letter, and issued instructions for the recall of the Charter of Orient Council of Kadosh. In reply Tucker wrote to Pike explaining some of the difficulties some of the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies:

Many thanks for your kind letter of the 24th inst. I have communicated to the B..B.. at Austin what you wrote as to the accounts of the local bodies with the Sup..Council.. I recalled the Charter of Orient Council of Kadosh No. 1 at Austin, giving in my letter to the B..B..the assurance suggested by you. I also gave Bro.. Morse 33°, the benefit of your opinion as to how he could build up the bodies of the Rite at Austin;—I think it will do him good;—he is ambitious, belongs to nearly all the current societies of the day, has official relations in several of them, is Clerk of the Supreme Court, runs a breeding ranch for mules, etc. etc, with all these “irons in the fire,” and his Masonic duties in both Rites – something must be postponed every day, and as it takes close application to do the work of our Rite properly, and study and time to conduct it, and its affairs successfully, as well as continued exertion it is necessary to propagate it—I think the reason why he has been off duty so long is evident—even if he does not realize it. Bro.. M is perfectly honest in his intention of returning to his Masonic official duty as stated in his letter—I hope it may not prove short lived.

Austin Consistory Number 3 struggled on until February, 1893, when Tucker instructed Morse to send its books, a request Morse no doubt complied with.

The history of Scottish Rite Masonry in Austin between 1893 and 1911 is told by the membership figures. It is a tale of a slow progress as the chart will show:

Year Fidelity Lodge Tucker Chapter
1894 19 15
1896 19 15
1899 28 25
1901 34 33
1903 46 41
1907 66 59
1909 122 113
1910 131 111
1911 152 113

Charles S. Morse continued to be as active as he could until his death on May 13, 1902. Another member who began a long and active career was William Gilmer Bell. Bell was born at Warrenburg, Missouri, on July 12, 1869. He moved to Austin in the 1880’s and was made a Master Mason in January, 1892. Bell took the Lodge and Chapter Degrees (4°-16°) on May 11, 1897, and thereafter was closely associated with the Austin Bodies. Being a wealthy person, his money no doubt aided substantially the cause of Scottish Rite Masonry in Austin.

During these years, the secretaryship of the Bodies was usually separated. In 1901, Tom Murrah served as Secretary of the Philip C. Tucker Chapter, while Hugh Arthur Nolan held the comparable post for Fidelity Lodge. H. LL. Carleton was Master of both Bodies, while William G. Bell was Senior Warden of Fidelity Lodge, and John Knox Donnan was Senior Warden of Philip C. Tucker Chapter. Returns for the years are not available.

During the year 1901, both Bodies published the by-laws and membership of their organizations. The Degrees were conferred in the Masonic Temple at Seventh and Colorado Streets. Anyone taking the Degrees from the Nineteenth through the Thirty-Second went to Galveston where a Council and a Consistory were described as “unsatisfactory and moribund.”

1912 The Austin Turn Verein

While the bodies were struggling and slowly rehabilitating themselves, another series of happenings were taking place, and the two courses culminated in 1912 when the Ben Hur Temple Holding Association decided to purchase the Turn Verein property at Eighteenth and Lavaca Streets. The history of the building is given in the following article.

The Austin Turn Verein was organized under a charter granted by the Twelfth Legislature. It was originally located at Scholz Garten, but having outgrown its quarters in 1871 purchased the north half of the block between Colorado and Lavaca Streets on Eighteenth Street and erected the large stone building, which was completed in 1872, the building costing $28,000.00. The architect was a Mr. Theilapape, at that time Mayor of San Antonio, and the completion of the building was celebrated by three days of feasting and dancing and was one of the most noted social functions of the day.

Its President at that time was H. O. Heffter, now living at Leipzig, Germany, and its Secretary was Ed Black, now with the firm of John Bremond, while Henry Bastian, who, during the last twenty-nine years has been an employee of the post office, was the custodian of the building and lived on the premises.

The following persons still living here were among those who were prominently connected with the Austin Turn Verein: Henry Bastian,Ed Bock, C. H. Guenther, J. P. Schneider, A. P. Scheider, F. Dohme, L. N. Goldbeck and Prof. Herzog.

The building was constructed by F. Dohme with stone taken from the Beneke quarries, located between Austin and present dam site. The scenery and stage settings were painted by Mr. Lungwitz, a local artist and also a member of Turn Verein.

The building was the only opera house in Austin at that time, most of the social functions were held there and many merry times were had. One of the memorable events of that day was the Cantata of Queen Esther, in which Miss Ella Carter, who later became Mrs. Dudley Wooten, took the part of Queen Esther.

It was one of the accepted rules of the Turn Verein to observe the German custom of not-treating, each member paying for his own refreshments, while enjoying the companionship of his colleagues and it was the non-observance of this and a certain class distinction that led to the disaffection which finally resulted in the disruption of the society, much to the regret of Austin’s German population, as the moral effect of the gymnastic exercises taught and their healthful effect in the development of the youth of that period was a great benefit.

The large building, 49 x 106 feet, erected by the old Austin Turn Verein for an opera house, originally cost $28,000.00. Some years ago local parties conceived the idea of turning the building into a natatorium and begin drilling a well on the southeast corner of the lot. After drilling and casing some 800 feet dissension arose among the promoters, the well was capped and the project abandoned.

1912 The Ben Hur Temple Holding Association & The Scottish Rite Holding Association

The Ben Hur Temple Holding Association was composed of William G. Bell, H. A. Wroe, M. H. Reed, W. E. Armstrong, and Gus A. Bahn as Trustees, all being members of Ben Hur Temple and of the Scottish Rite Bodies. Ben Hur Temple voted on February 12, 1912, to establish the holding association for the purpose of buying the building. Capital stock amounting to $15,000.00 was issued. The same day the Holding Association purchased the Turn Verein Hall. The Austin newspaper reported the purchase and the proposed plans:

The first real act of the Association was consummated yesterday by the purchase of the quarter block on the southeast corner of Eighteenth and Lavaca Street, known as the old Turn Verein Opera House. The improvements go along with the quarter lot.

The stockholders contemplate remodeling the building, using the Egyptian style of architecture and by the addition of a few Arabic cupolas and turrets expect to create a mosque, which hereafter will be known as the Shriner’s Temple, or the Ben Hur Temple. Such an alteration will be easy, say contractors and builders who have been consulted.

A new hardwood floor is one of the first improvements to be made. The building will be used by the Shriners and the Scottish Rite Masons as a Masonic Club room. When not in use the building will be rented to the general public for social functions, shows and exhibitions of all adaptable sorts.

Many have felt that Austin has long been in need of a medium sized auditorium and the building situated in the physical center of the city near the Capitol, convenient to all car lines, should fill just such a want besides being a valuable addition to the public buildings of the city.

When the sale was finally consummated and the property was turned over the Ben Hur Temple, a ceremony was held. It was given publicity in the Austin Daily Statesman of April 27, 1912:

Ben Hur Ancient Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, is to occupy its new home at Eighteenth and Lavaca Streets in the very near future. Indeed, the furniture of the Order is already being moved into the new quarters, and all meetings hereafter are to be held there.

At the most largely attended “stated” meeting of the year the Temple last night formally took over title to the building – the old Turner Hall – and voted to set aside one-half of the annual dues from now on to pay for it. Also the building is to be fitted up into a modern Shriner’s Temple in the future – as soon as the funds of the organization will warrant such an expenditure.

The old Turner Hall was purchased by a number of Shriners, who formed themselves into an organization known as the Ben Hur Temple Holding Association several months ago. Last night’s proceedings presented merely the transfer of the property from the incorporated Shriners the Temple as a body.

The Shriners paid $15,000.00 for the building. It will cost several thousand dollars more to remodel the structure and fit it up to a modern building for the organization.

The By-Laws of the Order provide that an appropriation of funds on hand may be made for any purpose he organization sees fit at any “stated” meeting, provided ten-day notice is served on he individual members beforehand. It is the plan to set aside enough appropriation in this way during the next few months to remodel the building and fit it up. The building was purchased of the Tallichet estate.

The building purchased by the Ben Hur Temple Holding Association was to be used for the “benefit of the Ben Hur Temple of the Ancient and Arabic Order of Nobles of the Mystic Shrine of the Scottish Rite Bodies of Austin, Texas.” On February 25, 1914, the capital stock of the corporation was increased from $15,000.00 to $40,020.00, and the name was changed to Scottish Rite Holding Association. Thus the Scottish Rite Bodies held ownership of the building and Ben Hur Temple became the tenant. Ben Hur had the right to use the building for its meetings and ceremonial sessions for $150.00 per year for a three-year period, with a five-year option to be effective in 1917.

Another financial problem the Scottish Rite Holding Association had to deal with the 1914 was the acquiring of money to use in improving the building. It was decided to issue fifty bonds valued at $50.00 each and bearing 6% interest. The bonds were sold to the Americana Trust Company of St. Louis, Missouri, and were to be redeemed by May 1, 1924. They were.

In addition to being used by the two Scottish Rite Bodies and Ben Hur Temple, the building was also leased to other institutions on occasion. In January, 1913, the University of Texas signed a lease agreement with the Ben Hur Temple Holding Association for the “use of the hall for five nights, for a series of basketball matches, some of which are to be followed by a dance.” University forces were to practice in the hall for one hour per day, five days each week, and they agreed to replace immediately any “furniture, stoves, fixtures or floor covering upon request.” For these privileges the University of Texas paid $75.00. The Hall was used as a hospital during the flu epidemic of 1918 by the nurses and doctors of Seton Hospital.

1914  First Reunion at the new Austin Scottish Rite CatheDral, building improvements and cornerstone

By October, 1912 Fidelity Lodge and Philip C. tucker Chapter were holding reunions in the new quarters. Frederick Sterzing, a charter member of both Bodies, was serving as Secretary.

Initiation fees for the Fourth through the Fourteenth Degrees totaled $22.00, while the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth Degrees cost $25.00. Dues were one dollar per year for each Body. Committees for the Reunion were: House Committee, William G. Franklin, Chairman; Finance committee, H. A. Wroe, Chairman; Reception Committee, Jewel P. Lightfoot, Chairman; Entertainment committee, Thomas J. Christal, Chairman; Committee of Credentials and Examinations, R. L. Zilller, chairman; Reunion director, William G. Bell.

The year of 1913 and afterwards brought substantial increase in membership to the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies. William G. Bell accurately summed up the situation in August of 1913 when he addressed an optimistic letter to the Dallas Bodies announcing Austin’s Fall Reunion. Bell wrote:

Never before in the history of the Rite have prospects in Central and southwest Texas looked so prosperous as they do at the present time. With the installation of our new scenery and electrical equipment at Austin, much enthusiasm has been created and Master Masons throughout this section of the country are looking forward with great satisfaction to the building up of the Rite in this valley.

So from the dark days came the light. The Spring Reunion of 1914 initiated seventy-five candidates from Austin, Taylor, Kyle, San Marcos, Llano, Marble Falls, Creedmoor, Burnet, Elgin, Del Valle and Bertram.

August 1914, brought the inauguration of a publication entitled The Scottish Rite Messenger, with Joseph J. Atkinson, the Secretary, acting as Editor. The purpose was to keep in touch with the members of the Austin Bodies, notify them of future Reunions, and keep them advised on the current work of the Bodies. A subscription price of fifty cents per twelve issues was named, but it was not mandatory as all members of the Austin Bodies received copies regardless of payment.

The year 1914 brought substantial improvements to the Scottish Rite Cathedral as a renovation was begun on May 24 with an impressive ground breaking ceremony. Even the weather was perfect for the occasion as “the declining sun beamed forth from behind the banks of the clouds that almost filled the western sky.” James W. McClendon presided and introduced the speakers, Austin Mayor A, P. Wooldridge and Jewel P. Lightfoot represented the Scottish Rite Bodies. By August the contractors, James Waterston, Sr., and Charles P. Ledbetter, had made “fair progress” and Austin Lodge No. 12, A.F. & A.M., had been appointed to officiate at the re-laying of the cornerstone of the building. The ceremony took place on September 8, with Jewel P. Lightfoot presiding and Samuel P. Cochran, Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Texas delivering the main address. Inside the cornerstone were placed a list of the Officers and Members of the local Scottish Rite Bodies; copies of The Scottish Rite Messenger, the Scottish Rite Herald, and The New Age; a program of the last reunion; by-laws of the Lodge; a Bible; personal cards of Samuel P. Cochran, Mrs. R. M. Wickline, and other members of the Eastern Star, J. G. Burney, A. F. Bishop, M. R. Worsham, Mr. Sawyer, Frederick C. von Rosenberg, and Harry Jordon; a badge of the late James D. Richardson, a piece of Civil War currency of ten cents denomination; a Jewish shekel; a Columbian half dollar; and other coins and Masonic emblems. From all accounts, the ceremony was a great success and gave the Austin Bodies new prestige.

1914 Expansion, Jewel P Lightfoot & The James D. Richardson Council of Knights Kadosh Number 4

Austin then felt ready and able to expand. At a gathering held at Waco on December 2, 1914, the Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Texas, Samuel P. Cochran, granted Austin a new Council of Kadosh. William G. Bell, William G. Franklin, and Jewell P. Lightfoot represented Austin in the meeting. The Austin brethren returned home and shortly thereafter called an organizational meeting. Approximately one hundred eligible Masons attended, showing “a great deal of enthusiasm” and electing W. G. Bell, Preceptor; James W. McClendon, First Sub-Preceptor; W. G. Franklin, Second Sub-Preceptor; and H. A. Wroe, Chancellor. The organization selected the name of James D. Richardson Council of Knights Kadosh No. 4. Sam P. Cochran came to Austin on February 18, 1915, to constitute the Council. At that time he announced that he would issue “Letters Temporary” to constitute and inaugurate Austin Consistory No. l4 when he delivered the permanent charter for the James D. Richardson Council of Kadosh.
The first Degrees of this group were conferred on May 15 and 16, 1915; on a class of 116 candidates. Cochran was present for the event and presided as Commander in the Thirtieth Degree. In the class were such men as Frederic t. Connerly, R. Niles Graham, George W. Littlefield, George E. Shelley, Ernest O. Thompson, and Dudley K. Woodward, all of whom made outstanding contributions to Austin and to Texas. The permanent charter for the organization was dated October 22, 1915, and was delivered to the Austin group on February 11, 1916.

One man who was important in the promotion of the Scottish Rite in Austin was Jewell P. Lightfoot, who was Attorney General for Texas from 1910 to 1912. Born in Columbia County, Arkansas, on January 21, 1873, Lightfoot moved to Pittsburg, Texas, at an early age. Admitted to the bar in 1898, he became County Attorney of Camp County in the same year. In 1905 Lightfoot moved to Austin to join the Attorney General’s staff. He prosecuted the Waters-Pierce Oil Case successfully and collected the money in cash. After resigning as Attorney General in 1912, Lightfoot entered the private practice of law, living in Austin until 1918 when he moved to Chicago, Illinois. He returned to Texas in 1926 to settle at Forth Worth, where he remained until his death in 1950. Brother Lightfoot was made a Master Mason June 28, 1901, and he was active in all phases of Masonry thereafter. He took the Scottish Rite Degrees in Dallas in March of 1910, was made a Knight Commander of the Court of Honour in 1913, and a 33° Inspector General Honorary in October of 1915. Even though Lightfoot never joined the Austin Bodies, he acted as Degree Master on numerous occasions and presided at official ceremonies.

Another notable brother who began his Masonic career at about this time was James P. McClendon. Born on November 1, 1873, at West Point, Troup County, Georgia, McClendon moved to Austin in 1892. Admitted to the bar in 1897, he entered the private practice of law, and later served as Associate Justice of the Texas Supreme Court Commission of Appeals, and Chief Justice of the Court of Civil Appeals of the Third Judicial District of Texas. He was made a Master Mason on August 5, 1908, and was active in all phases of Masonry. He served as Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1930. He became a Scottish Rite Mason in 1909, taking his Lodge and Chapter Degrees in Austin and his Council and Consistory Degrees in Galveston. He held all top offices in the Austin bodies as his long and productive career has extended to the present day.[1964]

February 11, 1916, was the day Austin once again received the right to confer the Scottish Rite Degrees (4° – 32°). On that day Samuel P. Cochran delivered the permanent charter for the James P. Richardson Council of Kadosh No. 4 and issued “letters temporary” for Austin Consistory No. 4. James W. McClendon was elected the first Master of Kadosh, while other officers were H. A. Wroe, Prior; Wilberforce H. Young, Preceptor; William T. Pfaefflin, Chancellor; and Joseph J. Atkinson, Registrar. The first Degrees were offered two weeks later, on February 24, with Earle B. Mayfield as Degree Master of the Thirty-first Degree, and Jewel P. Lightfoot as Degree Master of the Thirty-Second Degree. At this ceremony the “ladies who assisted in our musical program . . .added much to the beauty of these Degrees.” The number of candidates taking the Consistory Degrees was 143. “The attendance was larger than ever before. The scenery and lighting shoed the results of much practice among the men we don’t see before the footlights.”

This Spring, 1916, Reunion marked the most effective use of scenery and lights in the degree work of the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies. Approximately $15,000.00 had been invested for “some ninety drops,” “some 1,000 lamps . . .of four different colors, with a large switchboard and dimmers,” accessories, and wardrobes.

Reunions, business meetings, and degree presentations were not the only functions of the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies. On December 26, 1915, some three hundred “poor” children gathered in the Cathedral around a large Christmas tree. “A large quantity of toys, fruit, candy, and a pair of socks was distributed to the children present, and as they passed out the door each was given three new buffalo nickels and a streetcar ticket.” Arthur W. Griffith, 30°., was Santa Claus at the occasion, and an “extensive program” was highlighted by an organ recital by Bertram T. Wheatley, the Musical Director and Organist of the Scottish Rite Bodies. The Committee which arranged the affair was composed of James W. McClendon, Allen E. Hancock, Malcolm H. Reed, James W. McLaughlin, R. Niles Graham, and Frank F. Finks. Seemingly, both children and adults had a good time. The event was repeated for many years thereafter.

1916  A change in Secretaryship

A change came in the secretaryship in March, 1916, when Joseph J. Atkinson resigned because the “work of the Bodies . . . now requires constant attention of the Secretary.” Atkinson felt he could not do that, so Joe Henry Muenster was elected to the job. Atkinson actually submitted his resignation on February 8 to be effective on March 1. Since the latter date was the time set for the regular installation of officers, Muenster was installed at the regular time no appointment being necessary.”

April 20, 1916, was the day for Maundy Thursday Services. Jewel P. Lightfoot acted as Wise Master, and four charter members of the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies were present. John Donnan, one of the four, explained the situation and his own sentiments:

Austin, Texas, April 22, 1916

DEAR JUDGE: If I had the ability to speak in public, I should have retrospected a little last Thursday evening at our Maundy Thursday Service.

The first meeting of the Scottish Rite Bodies, if I remember correctly, was held in November, 1881, with Brother Albert Pike presiding and assisted by Brother P. C. Tucker, and at this meeting the Degrees up to the 32nd were communicated to the charter members of our Lodge and Chapter. All of those present on that occasion, with the exception of Brothers Carleton Sterzing, Petmecky and myself have passed away. The Supreme Council has honored three of the living four with the 33rd Degree, and I am sure Brothers Carleton and Sterzing appreciate the honor as I do, and we will try and show appreciation by living clean lives and by our love for the Order.

A feeling of sadness came over us when we, the remaining four were on the stage, in view of the brethren; sadness, because of the missing charter members and the thought that we four would also soon be missed from the meetings, having gone to meet the brethren whom we loved and with whom we worked so many years. The sadness passed away when I remembered the small beginning of Scottish Rite Masonry in Austin and, from the stage, saw the evidence of the phenomenal growth of the membership. It is my prayer, and I know Brothers Carleton, Sterzing and Petmecky join with me, that the good work will continue, and that the Scottish Rite Bodies will ultimately have enrolled among he membership the names of the best men of this community.

I send you this to let you know what I wanted to say, and also to let you know that I appreciate the affection show me on every occasion by my brethren. I am

Yours sincerely,
Jno. K. Donnan

During the early portion of 1917 the Austin Bodies conducted a lecture series, using University of Texas professors as instructors. Charles s. Potts delivered a lecture on January 19 entitled “The Electoral College and the Solid South; “E.P. Schoch gave an oration on practical chemistry on March 16; and George C. Butte talked on “Glimpses of Paris in Wartime” on February 16. Probably there were other lectures in the series.

1916  World War I, Scottish Rite Educational Association, DeMolay, the Hospial for Crippled Children and more

Events of 1917 and 1918 centered around World War I as many of the Austin brethren were called to serve the United States. The Bodies granted relief of dues which were $2.00 for the lodge of Perfection, and $1.00 for the other Bodies, to all members of the Armed Forces. To offset that, military personnel stationed at the School of Military Aeronautics, the Radio School, and the School of Automobile Mechanics at Camp Mabry availed themselves of the opportunity to take the advance Degrees. Membership figures for these years reveal substantial growth so that by 1920 Fidelity Lodge had 2,062 members; Philip C. Tucker Chapter had 1,394; James D. Richardson Council had 1,115 and Austin Consistory carried 1,066. The year 1919 saw Austin with six 33° Masons (William G. Bell, Henry L. Carleton, John K. Donnan, James w. McClendon, Fred Sterzing and Hiram A. Wrote), and fifteen Knights Commander of the Court of Honour (Joseph J. Atkinson, William E. Armstrong, Gustavus A. Bahn, William G. Franklin, Allen E. Hancock, Gustave Johnson, Joe H. Muenster, James W. McLaughlin, Edward E. Mikeska, D. C. Pace, Hugh A. Nolan, William T. Pfaefflin, Malcolm H. Reed, Moritz Silver, and Wilberforce H. Young).

With the basic organization completed, the Austin Bodies turned to service in the decade of the 1920’s. When the Scottish Rite Educational Association was chartered in August, 1920, an Austin Brother, James W. McClendon, served as chairman of the conference. The purpose of the Association was to sponsor a dormitory at the University of Texas for daughters of Masons. Austin pledged fifty percent of all dues for the years 1920, 1921 and 1922, and one-third of the dues for 1923 and 1924 to support the building program. Another project included the sponsorship of a Chapter of the Order of DeMolay. This was undertaken by Austin Consistory. The members who made up the Advisory Board were Lyman J. Bailey, Louis C. Butte, E. C. Munro, A. E. Hancock, D. C. Reed and Joe H. Muenster. The Chapter which was formed became the Stephen F. Austin Chapter of DeMolay. When the youth organization, which was restricted to the “sons of Masons or the chums of such sons” between the age of sixteen and twenty-one hit financial difficulties in February, 1923, Austin Consistory underwrote a note “not to exceed one thousand dollars” to assist.

When the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Crippled Children was instituted in 1926, the Austin Bodies gave approval for its supports. At a meeting on June 4, 1926, a report was made to the bodies, it was adopted, and four men, James W. McClendon, Dudley Woodward, E. C. H. Bantel, and James H. Hart, were appointed a committee “to look into the matter of securing donations and report back” at the next stated meeting. The report did not come in until the December 3 meeting, at which time Fidelity Lodge agreed to the arrangements which called for Dallas to provide most of the votes on the governing body. James W. McClendon became the Trust from Austin.

In 1921 the Sovereign Grand Commander desired to establish a weekly newspaper in Washington, D.C., in order “to furnish the Nation true reports on matters of importance to the Nation and to the Fraternity in general.” He was endeavoring to raise “$25,000.00 for the project by subscription of the Bodies.” The proposal was submitted to Fidelity Lodge at its regular meeting on January 12, 1921, and the Lodge responded by subscribing $2,500.00 to the cause. A three-man committee, of which Beverly Dickinson was a member, looked into the method of how the shares of the newspaper were to be distributed among the brethren. After reporting on March 17, the committee was given complete authority to act in the matter.

1921  Housekeeping, Life membership and Brotherly Love

Routine housekeeping affairs occupied some of the time of the Bodies. They found it necessary in June of 1921 to pass a resolution to the effect that “no costume nor paraphernalia” could be removed from the building for any reason other than the conferring of Masonic Degrees or use in Masonic ceremonies.

Some of the members were giving “bad checks to the Secretary in February of 1921, so he brought the matter before the entire membership. A resolution was passed that the derelict members would be notified when an insufficient check was returned, and if the worthless check was not redeemed, “charges should be preferred.” It was a good resolution and a noble effort, but it went for naught. When the Secretary asked that charges of un-Masonic conduct he brought against two members for “bad” checks, the request was refused.

Early in 1923 the Sovereign Grand Inspector General requested that the Austin Bodies furnish a new set of By-Laws to govern their proceedings. The Secretary received this request and presented it as the March 2, 11923, meeting. A Committee was appointed but it was slow in reporting. New By-Laws were not adopted until February of 1924.

Life membership was another item which called for attention. Proposed in October, 1925, and passed the following month, life membership was granted upon payment of $40.00 to Fidelity Lodge, and $20.00 each to Philip C. Tucker Chapter, James D. Richardson Council, and Austin Consistory. When this matter was presented to the Sovereign Grand Inspector General in 11927, he failed to give his approval, stating that it was questionable whether subordinate lodges had the authority to grant life membership.

Taking care of their own seems to have been a predominate thought among the Austin Bodies. When Mary Barnhart, the Scottish Rite Organist, married in 1921, the Masters of the four lodges agreed to spend $50.00 on a wedding present and the membership unanimously approved the action. When George E. Halliday was “very sick and without funds,” the lodges approved $100.00 for his assistance. When Joseph D. Sayers and his wife were not at peak health in 1926, a resolution was passed sending the brethren’s best wishes “for the years which may yet be allotted to him, that we assembled here tonight cherish the hope that ere long, the good wife may be fully restored to the best of health.”

1924  Joseph D Sayers

Sayers was one of the several Governors of Texas, who have belonged to the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies. Born at Grenada, Mississippi, on September 23, 1841, he moved to Bastrop ten years later, where he attended Bastrop Military Institute. He volunteered at the outbreak of hostilities of the Civil War, and enlisted in the Confederate Army in September of 1861 at San Antonio, as First Lieutenant in Fifth Texas Mounted Volunteers, Sibley’s Brigade, Trans-Mississippi Department, in which he served until 1864. After that he served east of the Mississippi until the surrender in May, 1865. He was shot through the ankle at Camp Bisland, Louisiana, on April 8, 1964. In April of 1862, he was promoted to Captain for gallantry at the Battle of Val Verde, New Mexico, and was made a Major in 1864.

After the War he taught in a country school as a means of his education for the law, and was admitted to practice in 1866. At the age of thirty-two (in 1873), he was elected to the State Senate, where he rose to prominence and became a leader. From 1875 to 1878, he was State Chairman of the Democratic Executive Committee. In 1879-811 he served as Lieutenant Governor under Governor Oran M. Roberts, having received the nomination to that office by acclamation. He was elected to the Forty-Ninth and the Fifty-Fifth Congress (1885-99), resigning on January 19, 1899, to assume the office of Governor, which he filled with distinction for two terms. After leaving the Governor’s office, he held the following official positions: Regent of the University of Texas, 1913; Chairman of the Industrial Accident Board, 1913-1915; member of the Board of Legal Examiners of Texas, 1922-1926; member of the Board of Pardon Advisors, 1927-29.

His Masonic life began in Gamble Lodge No. 244 at Bastrop, where he was initiated September 11, 1863, passed November 28, 11863, and raised to the Sublime Degree of Master Mason on November 28, 1863. He served as Senior Warden of that Lodge in 1863, and as Master in 1867, 1868, and 1869. In the Grand Lodge of Texas, he was elected Grand Junior Warden in 1872, Grand Senior Warden in 1873, Deputy Grand Master in 1874, and Grand Master in 1875. The Capitular Degrees, the Mark Master and the Past Master, he received in St. Andrews Chapter No. 27 at Lockhart on November 13, 1868. He was accepted Most Excellent Master and exalted to Royal Arch on November 14, 1868. He served as High Priest of that Chapter in 1871-1872-1873-1874. He was Knighted a Knight Templar in Colorado Commandery No. 4 at Austin on February 21, 1872.

In April of 1924 he received the Scottish Rite Degree from the Fourth through the Thirty-Second in the Austin Bodies. At the October 1927, meeting of the Supreme Council of the Scottish Rite for the Southern Jurisdiction of the United States, he was voted the Decoration of Knight Commander of the Court of Honour, which was exemplified to him in Austin on December 28, 1927. He was created a Noble of the Mystic Shrine by Ben Hur Temple in Austin on March 3, 1899.

Sayers’ Masonic life of over sixty-five years (1863-1929), was an exemplification of the great moral and ethical teachings of the Order.

1924  University 1190, Hill City 456 and a new location proposed for the Austin Scottish Rite

During the 1920’s several of the Blue Lodges in Austin began meeting in the Scottish Rite Cathedral. In February, 1920, University Lodge No. 1190 requested permission to use the Blue Lodge room as a “temporary” meeting place. The Executive Committee agreed to the request, an act which was approved by the Bodies. If was not until March of 1923 that the question of payment for the use of the Lodge Room arose. At that time a fee of $10.00 per month was set. The following month this resolution was rescinded, as University Lodge was permitted use of the Cathedral free of charge. On May 2, 1924, the following resolution was adopted:

Resolved that these Bodies of the Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite tender and invite Hill City Lodge No. 456, and Lone Star Chapter No. 6, R.A.M., and Colorado Commandery No. 4, K.T. (inasmuch as they are each now meeting in rented quarters) the use of the Scottish Rite Cathedral for such needs as their requirements demand.

That the Secretary be instructed to convey at once this cordial invitation to our Brethren of the other Rite (through the proper officers of each organization) to come and share with us our “Home.”

Two years passed before Hill City Lodge No. 456 made a request to use the cathedral. The use of the building was granted on the ”same terms” as those made with Austin Lodge No. 12 and University Lodge No. 1190. The minute books do not reflect the terms, nor do they state just when Austin Lodge No. 12 began meeting at the Scottish rite Cathedral.

As early as 1921 planning was begun for a new meeting place as “our present Cathedral is rapidly becoming too small for our needs.” A block of land between Sixteenth and Seventeenth Streets and Guadalupe and San Antonio Streets was purchased with plans to “erect a new Cathedral which will serve the needs of our own membership for many years to come.” Funds were not immediately available for development of the property and there the matter rested, but dissatisfaction with the present and planning for the future continued. In August, 1922, the Executive Committee was empowered to “formulate tentative plans for the erection of a new Scottish Rite Cathedral or Masonic Temple and invite all other Masonic bodies in the city to confer with the Executive Committee.” The Scottish Rite Bodies were not to be involved financially before the Executive Committee made a report to the membership. Progress on a united building effort was slow. At a stated meeting on April 4, 1924, a special committee from the Lodge of Perfection consisting of C. M. Bartholomew, E. C. H. Bantel, W. E. Armstrong, W. G. Franklin, R. B. Tyler, George S. Dowell, and M. H. Reed, was appointed to confer with Lone Star Chapter No. 6, R. A. M.

Another approach was taken in July of 1924, when J. W. McLaughlin presented a resolution to request that each of the other Masonic organizations in Austin appoint one member to form a committee to “devise ways and means of financing said proposition and have full power to act.” Each of the four Masters of the Scottish Rite Bodies was to appoint one member of the General Building Committee. The motion was unanimously carried. At that time the American Legion showed an interest in purchasing the Old Turn Verein property, and a valuation of between $45,000.00 and $50,000.00 was set. The Executive Committee was authorized to sell the property, but the notion to sell seemed to have passed and the Bodies had to content themselves with a remodeling job in an amount not to exceed $1,500.00.

With the advent of the depression of 1929, it became necessary for the Bodies to dispose of the property selected for the new building site. This was necessitated by the fact that taxes were more than the Bodies could afford. The seed for transfer had been planted in 1927, but it was not until November of 1933 that the decision was made to transfer ownership to Ben Hur Temple. By September of the following year Ben Hur Temple had settled the outstanding indebtedness of $26,2113.52, and the Scottish Rite Bodies had relinquished control of the property.

1929  The American Economy decline and subsequent effects

The decline of the American economy in 1929 had a depressing effect on fraternal organizations, just as it did on business. This was true because every American had less funds to spend, and as something could not be paid, usually lodge dues were on the list to be omitted. Suspensions ran high in Austin. The Bodies suspended one hundred and fifteen members at the end of 1931, one hundred and forty-five in 1932, one hundred and thirty-seven in 1933, and eighty three in 1935. Even though sixty-six members were reinstated in January, 1936, the membership figures continued to drop and the trend was not checked until 1944 when an upswing began.

The loss of dues and the money derived therefrom had serious implications in the activities of the Lodges. More and more the leaders looked to support from other Masonic groups which met in the Scottish Rite Cathedral. At the stated meeting in August, 1931, a resolution was passed which called for the sharing of the cost of operating the Cathedral. All organizations, Eastern Star, Blue Lodge, or others, except the Order of DeMolay, were to be involved. A representative appointed by the Venerable Master of Fidelity Lodge of Perfection was to coordinate the financial arrangements and meeting nights. Lee S. Thrift, the Venerable Master, performed the task himself and made a report on October 2. The prices set per month were: Eastern Star Chapters, $20.00; University Lodge No. 1190, $15.00; Austin Lodge No.12, $30.00; Ben Hur Temple, $75.00. The Eastern Star Chapters having financial problems of their own, believed their share too high, so a counter proposal of $5.00 per meeting night was put forth, and approved by the Scottish Rite membership.

Another method used to raise money was to rent the vacant log owned by the Scottish Rite and eventually sold to Ben Hur Temple. In April, 1933, R. N. Wickline, Venerable Master of Fidelity Lodge, announced that the Executive Committee had rented the lot to Harley Sadler for us by his traveling Medicine Show. A six-week rental agreement of $100,00 per week was proposed and approved. The engagement was held apparently without difficulty and the money collected..

Even though Scottish Rite activities were hampered by the depression, they were not completely stopped. Two reunions per year, one in the Spring and one in the Fall, continued to be the pattern, and, no doubt, the Degree Teams improved the quality of their work. Fourteenth Degree rings were proposed and approved in 1928, and thereafter were presented to each candidate. When the Supreme Council, 33°, of the Southern Jurisdiction met in Dallas in September, 1930, the entourage was invited to Austin and Joe Muenster was made Chairman of the Entertainment Committee. The Supreme Council accepted the invitation for September 27, and were treated to breakfast by the Austin Bodies. In August, 1935, the Scottish Rite groups entered into an “Old-Fashioned Masonic Picnic” with all other Masonic organizations in the Austin area.

From a benevolent point of view the Bodies steadily granted financial assistance to J.J. Atkinson, the former Secretary, until his death on January 2, 1941. When the Austin Humane Society asked for donation, it was refused.

1935  A Change in Secretaryship and return to prosperity

In the year 1935 a change in the Secretaryship of the Austin Bodies occurred. Joe Henry Muenster, who had been appointed in 1916, tendered his resignation on April 13, 1935. It was accepted and a. H. Swanson was appointed until the next regular election. Swanson held the post until January of 1953 when he was made Secretary Emeritus. Swanson was succeeded by Joseph Clarke Petet, whose tenure lasted until June 1, 1958. The position then fell to Sam M. Saxon, who presently serves the Bodies as Secretary.[1964]

Prosperity returned to the Austin Bodies in the 1940’s to such an extent that the indebtedness was retired and repairs to the Cathedral were made. A decision was made in May, 1941, that it would be cheaper to purchase a new electric organ than to repair the one they owned. The problem of air conditioning came up in April, 1946, with the result that a thirty-ton unit was installed in May. At the same time new kitchen equipment was procured, and the stage scenery and Degree robes were given an overhauling. A new organization, the “Servers,” was begun to assist with the meals at the Reunions. New chairs for the dining hall were acquired in 1947, as was sound equipment for the auditorium.

By 1945 the Bodies were prepared to raise the annual dues of the members, so the By-Laws were amended to effect the change. Fidelity Lodge of Perfection dues became $3.00 per year Philip C. Tucker Chapter dues $2.00; James D. Richardson Council dues $11.50; and Austin Consistory dues $1.50. Reunions were becoming more profitable, too. When the Fall Reunion of 1945 was held October 20, 21, 27 and 28, the total cost was $4,388.00, while the money received amounted to $17,802.75, making an amount cleared of $13,414.75. With amounts like that the Austin Bodies were able to wipe away deficits and prepare for the future.

World War II activities of the Austin Bodies consisted of sending men to the Armed Forces, and helping to make the soldiers stationed near Austin more comfortable. A War Services Committee was appointed with W. L. Darnell as Chairman. In a report on December 2, 1942, Darnell explained that the Committee would direct its efforts toward two purposes: (1) an intensive drive to sell War Bonds, and (2) entertainment for soldiers and make them feel at home while visiting over the weekends. It was also decided that an effort would be made to use all the beds available for soldiers, whether Masons or not.” Most of the military personnel came to Austin from Camp Swift near Bastrop, a distance from Austin of approximately thirty miles, and when the 95th Division, which formed the nucleus of the Camp Swift troops, was transferred away early in 11943, most of the weekend activities for soldiers at the Scottish Rite Cathedral ceased. After the war came a period of adjustment in all phases of American life, and the Austin Scottish Rite Bodies proved no exception to the trend.

1935  Lee Lockwood, the Scottish Rite Choir and the Orient of Texas History Committee

Among those who took the Degrees in the Reunion of April, 1922, was a youngster twenty-two years of age named Lee Lockwood. He had been reared in Waco, Texas, and educated in the Waco Public Schools, Baylor University, and the University of Texas. After leaving the University of Texas, he returned to Waco where he compiled an enviable record in business, being connected in directorship capacities with the Citizens’ National Bank. Waco Savings and Loan Association, Waco Mortgage Company, First Waco Corporation and Hub Life Insurance Company.

Lockwood received his Blue Lodge Degrees in Fidelis Lodge No.1127in 1921 and 1922. He served as Worshipful Master of that Lodge in 1930-31, was a District Deputy Grand Master of the 61st Masonic District in 1934, and Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1938. Brother Lockwood served as Chairman of the Committee responsible for erecting the Grand Lodge memorial Temple Building in Waco. After becoming a Thirty-Second Degree Mason, Lockwood was made a Knight Commander of the Court of Honour by the Supreme Council in 1933, and then in 1941 elected him to receive its highest Degree, 33° Honorary Inspector General.

His service was faithful with the result that when William Stephen Cooke, Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Texas, passed to his greater rewards, Lee Lockwood was appointed to the post on May 11, 1951. The appointment was confirmed by the Supreme Council on October 6, 1952, and he was immediately crowned Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Texas.

So it was that a member of the Austin Bodies went on for higher service in the cause of Masonry.

May, 1954, brought a new addition to the Austin Bodies. At the instigation of Louis Groos, a Scottish Rite Choir was authorized and begun, and from the beginning it performed at Reunions and on special occasions. Conrad Fath has served as Choir Director form its inception.

Minutes of Fidelity Lodge of Perfection for April 5, 1957, reflect that the members were informed that Illustrious Luther a. Smith, Sovereign Grand commander, would be in Austin on Easter Sunday, April 21. Plans for a tea in his and Mrs. Smith’s honor were made and carried out, and in the evening they were guests at a dinner in the Crystal Ballroom of the Driskill Hotel. Among those present for this occasion was Brother Paul Turney, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Texas. Entertainment was provided by the Scottish Rite Choir.

Since April, 1959, the Austin Bodies have served as host on alternate years to a State-wide Scottish Rite Seminar attended by leaders of all the Bodies in Texas. One of the features of this Seminar is a dinner held at the Scottish Rite Dormitory for Officials of the State of Texas who are Master Masons. Governor Price Daniel spoke at the dinner in 1961, and Waggoner Carr, the Attorney General of Texas, addressed the gathering in 1963.

In 1963 the publication of the Austin Scottish Rite Messenger was begun once again. The printing of this periodical had been suspended in the 1920’s, land it was now revived to serve as an information medium among the brethren. J. Carroll Hinsley is serving as the Editor, and Sam M. Saxon is the Assistant Editor. It is presently being issued on a quarterly (four per year) basis.

A History Committee was established in 1959 with Roye A. Mulholland as Chairman; other members being Zollie C. Steakley, Jr., Donald Craft, E. E. Gilbert, and Sam S. Wood. This history is a result of the establishment of such Committee.

This year, 1964, Scottish Rite Masonry in Austin celebrates its eighty-third birthday. The road has been long, with mud holes, rock piles, and narrow mountain passes, but it has in the main been a road to success. With 3,452 members in Fidelity Lodge of Perfection, 3,167 members in Phillip C. Tucker Chapter of Rose Croix, 3,091 members in James D. Richardson Council of Knights Kadosh, and 3,075 members in Austin Consistory, the group is healthy, active, and aggressive. Financially the Bodies are also healthy.

1964  Credits

The History of the Austin Scottish Rite was transcribed from Chapter 5 of the book “The First Century of Scottish Rite Masons in Texas, 1867-1967.”

The men who produced this work came from every Valley in the Orient of Texas to form “The Committee of 100.” James D Carter was chairman of this committee operating under the authority of the then Sovereign Grand Inspector General in Texas, Lee Lockwood.