The following account by Tyler County historian J. E. Wheat is not dated, but it is estimated from the account that it was prepared in the mid 1950s. It has been transcribed from a photocopy of a typewritten version, perhaps the original. No changes were made in the facts as they are presented, or in the language used, in an attempt to maintain its authentic presentation.
Mount Hope Lodge 121
By J.E. WHEAT
The history of the Mount Hope Lodge is pretty much a history of Tyler County. The County was created in 1846 and Wm. P. Sansom the first Chief Justice of the County was one of the organizers of the Lodge in 1852. Another of those charter members was Henry West who was later a District Clerk and then County Judge of the County.
There is no information available as to the beginning of the settlement at Mount Hope, but it was located on the only road through this area prior to the coming of the North Americans in the thirties. The old Spanish Road from Nacogdoches to the Spanish Missions at the mouth of the Trinity river passed this way and there is record of its use for a hundred years before the Masonic Lodge was chartered there in 1853.
When the Mexican Government tried to stop further immigration from the U.S. to Texas by the Decree of April 6, 1830, Fort Teran was established on this road at the crossing on the Neches River. One of the Mexicans stationed there was Gavino Araujo under the command of Peter Ellis Bean. Under the provisions of the laws of Mexico he, being a Mexican, was able to secure a Grant of 11 Leagues of land, five leagues being located on this road near the Fort and the other six in Nacogdoches County. This Grant was in march 17, 1834, being the first land Grant in what is now Tyler County.
Needless to say, he left Texas when the troubles started and never was permitted to use his large land holdings and never personally conveyed a foot of the Five League Grant. Peter Ellis Bean purporting to act as the agent and attorney in fact for Gavino Araujo, sold the entire grant to Frost Thorn in 1837 but no deeds were made by Frost Thorn until 1851, doubtless for the reason that no one would recognize his title. Since the original grantee did not show up, however, to dispute his authority the sales made by Bean stood the test of the courts and in the 'fifties many deeds were made to settlers on this Grant.
Mount. Hope was on this Grant and it is likely that there were many settlers here before any deeds were made and recorded.
The first deed of record to the land on which Mount. Hope was located was from H.W. Carter to his wife, Amelia Carter, and was dated October 7, 1852. It conveyed to her "All my right, title, claim and interest in and to the following described property, to-wit:
However, the deed from Frost Thorn to H.W. Carter was not made until December the 10th, 1853, more than a year later.
In the meantime on April 1, 1853, H. W. Carter conveyed two acres to James Barnes, Wm. Barnes, H. Frazier, David Barclay and John J. Pemberton, Trustees, for a residence for the travelling minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church South; on the same day, A. L. Kavanaugh preacher in charge of the Woodville District, had appointed the five men above named as Trustees.
The parsonage lot was described as follows:
From these conveyances it will be seen that in addition to the store and residence of the Carters there was a church building on the land.
Here is where the Lodge comes in, although it is not named in any of the deeds.
At the meeting of the Grand Lodge in Nacogdoches in January 18, 1853, F. B. Sexton, District Deputy Grand Master of the Second Masonic District of Texas, reported that he had granted a dispensation "to several Brethren to open and hold a Lodge at Mount Hope, Polk County, Texas, having first made every practicable inquiry into the moral character and Masonic skill of the applicants."
The Committee on work and Returns of Lodges under dispensation, W. M. Taylor, Chairman reported:
Mount Hope Lodge No. 121, was represented at the Grand Lodge by H. West.
The original charter dated 21st day of January, 1853, names the following officers: Wm. Harrison, W. M.; H.W. Carter, S.W.; H. A. Willson, J.W.; and Henry West, Secretary. The book with a signed copy of the original By Laws of the Lodge is still in the possession of the Lodge.
The minutes of the early meetings of Mount. Hope Lodge are not available but the names of the ten men who paid dues of 30 cents each from November 1852 o January 1, 1853, as shown by an account book, and who signed the original By Laws are as follows: William Harrison, H. W. Carter, H. A. Willson, Henry West, Jefferson Laird, Wm. L. Mann, Benjamin Enloe, Wm. Priest, Israel Sneed and Wm. P. Sansom.
Under the dispensation, a meeting was held on January 1, 1853, and G. W. Payne, Sam H. Barnes and John W. Rotan were initiated.
There is no reference in the minutes to a Lodge building, until July 3, 1875, when a committee consisting of W. W. Whitehead, S. H. Barnes, Stephen Lewis, J. M. Hallmark and E. Sandlin, was appointed to build a new Lodge building. However, no report was ever made by that committee; but in March, 1884, a committee was appointed to see what the Church would pay for the Lodge's interest in the building.
Since the Masons were holding regular meetings in 1853, when the deeds above referred to were made and were continuing to meet until the Committee was appointed to sell the Lodge's interest to the Church, it is evident that the Church and Lodge were using the same building.
The ten men who secured the Dispensation in 1852 were initiated, passed and raised to the sublime degree of a Master Mason in some other Lodge. Three of them, Wm. Harrison, Henry West and William P. Sansom, were members of Unity Lodge No. 102 at the time the Mount. Hope Lodge was organized. It is not known when or where the other seven received their degrees.
But these ten men and the three who were initiated under the Dispensation are typical of pioneer days in Tyler County.
Two of the original officers of the Lodge: William Harrison, the Master, and Hamilton W. Carter, the Senior Warden, were not residents of Tyler County in 1850, when the first census was taken. H. W. Carter resided at Moscow; then known as Greenville, which may account for the fact that the District Deputy's report located Mount. Hope in Polk County. Harrison was a school trustee at Peach Tree Village in 1856. Nothing else is learned of him.
H. W. Carter secured a Post Office at Mount. Hope, May 27, 1851, and was named as the first Postmaster. He ran a general store and established Mount. Hope as a trade center for the area, which continued after his death in 1854, to the coming of the railroads and the death of Dr. Whitehead in 1884.
Martin Buxton succeeded Carter in the ownership of the property and the operation of the business. He became a member of the Lodge in 1854.
The census records give us some data on the other charter members:
William P. Sanson, a minister, age 38 in 1850, and his wife, age 32, were born in Tennessee; so were their first two children, Samuel F., 15, and Eliza J., 13. The other five children were born in Texas, William M., 11, which indicates that they came to Texas between 1837 and 1839. He was the first chief Justice of Tyler County having been elected in 1846. He lived on the H. Frazier League on the head waters of Billums Creek, near the site of "Fenced-in-Village" of the Cherokee Indians. However, he sold his farm to Hilliard Durden on February 1, 1853, and left the country.
Hiram A. Willson was a farmer, age 28. He was born in Georgia and his wife in Tennessee. Their first child, Stephen E., was born in Texas in 1847.
Henry West, a farmer, was born in Tennessee in 1827. He was elected District Clerk of Tyler County in 1866 and later served as County Judge of the County.
No information is available as to Jefferson Laird.
William L. Mann, a farmer, was born in South Carolina in 1811. His wife was born in Alabama. He came to Texas in 1838 and settled on Billums Creek. He established a Post Office, "Billums," on October 21, 1852, and was the first Postmaster there. Their oldest children: David G., William T. and Mary E. were born before coming to Texas. Elender, James M., Robert S., Samuel and Matilda were born in Texas. He was one of the school trustees of the Billums District and was the presiding officer in all of the early elections of that precinct.
Ben Enloe was 55 years of age when the Lodge was organized, a farmer, and one of the leading citizens of the Billums Creek community. He and his wife, Sara, were born in Tennessee. His son, David C. Enloe, was born in Alabama. He was a member of Woodville Lodge No. 62.
William Priest was 24 at that time. He was a native of Tennessee. He was a member of Captain Veatch's Company of Mounted Volunteers in the War with Mexico in 1847. He was living in the home of Benjamin Green when the census of 1850 was taken. Benjamin Green was one of the earliest sealers of the area and his farm was located within two miles of Mount. Hope on the old Spanish Road, heretofore mentioned.
Very little is known of Israel Sneed, except that he received a head-right certificate for 640 acres of land which was located near the Neches River on Billums' Creek, some ten miles from Mount. Hope. He and his family, consisting of his wife and nine children, were living in that vicinity in 1850. He sold his land certificate to William Sturrock in two parts, one in 1854, and the other in 1855, and left this section of the state. The election box in that area was known as "Sneeds," which indicates that the elections were held at this home.
The three Entered Apprentices who were initiated on January 1, 1853, were G. W. Payne, a merchant, who was born in Tennessee in 1819; Sam H. Barnes, a farmer, 40 years of age, from Mississippi; and John W. Rotan, a farmer, 26 years of age, from Alabama.
At the first meeting after the charter was granted, Calvin A. Barnes, a farmer, 26 years of age, was initiated, followed eight months later by his brother, William R. Barnes, a farmer, 39 years of age, both were born in Mississippi and resided in the immediate vicinity of Mount. Hope. It will be noted that William R. Barnes was one of the trustees to whom H. W. Carter conveyed the two acres for a parsonage on April 1, 1853.
Other members were initiated in the early days of the Lodge's existence, as follows:
John T. Kirby
G. P. Keahy
Jno. C. McGee
Martin C. Buxton
Dan R. Smith
A. J. Harrison
Henry S. Kirby
Wm. J. Thigpen
A. T. Nowlin
S. T. Strong
W. D. Maddox
October 1, 1853
March 4, 1853
September 3, 1854
March 4, 1854
February 4, 1854
May 6, 1854
August 5, 1854
September 2, 1854
April 7, 1855
October 6, 1855
February 14, 1857
January 3, 1857
February 14, 1857
March 14, 1857
May 9, 1857
July 9, 1859
September 10, 1859
November __, 1859
December 17, 1859
January 21, 1859
January 21, 1859
May 9, 1860
August 11, 1860
March 9, 1860
March 9, 1860
December 8, 1860
|During this period, two Master Masons were added by affiliation:
Matthew Slater, on February 3, 1855
Inasmuch as we do not find the first minutes, we do not know just when they held their meetings, but at a meeting held in October, 1871, the date was changed from the second Saturday in each month to the first Saturday at 10 o'clock A.M. Then, on August 2, 1879, the meeting date was changed again to Saturday on or before the first full moon at 2 o'clock P.M.
It is interesting to take a glimpse at the list of members and officers after a period of twenty years. In 1872, the Lodge was composed of 23 members:
The officers for that year were publicly installed by Robert W. Hubert, of Unity Lodge No. 102 of Moscow. The officers were:
After the installation "the Lodge then formed in procession and marched to the dinner which was given by the fraternity and after partaking of refreshments, returned to the Lodge room." In numerous instances, an account was allowed for dinner furnished the members by W. W. Whitehead.
In July 3, 1875, a committee was appointed to build a new building consisting of:
Nothing further is shown with reference to the action of this committee. But on March 1, 1884, a committee was appointed to see what the Church would pay for the Lodge's interest in the building.
This item in the minutes is rather interesting as one can imagine what was being said and done at the time, but not recorded in the minutes with reference to a removal of the Lodge to the new town of Chester. This was just about the time the railroad was built through this section and we can imagine the jealousy and rivalry that existed between the communities of Mount Hope and Peach Tree Village on one hand, and the new town of Chester, on the other.
This committee made no report so far as the records show, but on February 7, 1885, W. W. Whitehead, John T. Kirby, Jonathan Peters and Stephen Lewis were granted demits. On March 11th, just 4 days later, the Lodge conducted funeral services at the grave of W. W. Whitehead with J. J. Cannon, D.D.G.M., in charge. A motion was adopted that the previous action granting the demit to W. W. Whitehead be rescinded and that a special dispensation be requested to conduct the funeral services.
The Lodge continued with a membership of between 15 and 25 and held its regular meetings at Mount Hope with the usual troubles of securing attendance and in addition to the regular business, conducted trials of the brethren for sundry violations of their obligations and with suspensions for non-payment of dues, until 1891.
On May 3, 1890, U. H. Shine affiliated with the Lodge at Mount Hope.
On February 7, 1891, a building committee was appointed consisting of:
In June, 1891, J. W. Simmons, I. G. Futch, T. C. Cliburn and W. A. Mahaffey were added to the committee.
No reports were made by the committee, but February 20, 1892, John T. Kirby, G. E. Polk and Lee Weathersby were appointed as a committee on arrangements in connection with the dedication ceremonies of the new building to be held on March 4, 1892. S. B. Cooper, John Henry Kirby and Thomas Scott were named to deliver addresses.
The last meeting at Mount Hope was on February 6, 1892, at 10 o'clock A.M. with the following officers:
The object of the meeting was stated and it was unanimously voted to move the Lodge from Mount Hope to the new building at Chester. "The brethren all gathered around the altar and Brother Davis led in prayer. The Lodge was called from labor to refreshments, formed in procession and marched to the new Lodge building at Chester. The Lodge was called from refreshments to labor."
At two o'clock in the afternoon, the Lodge reconvened in the new building and petitions were received for N. J. Hayes for initiation, and H. B. Lewis, for affiliation. They then conferred the E. A. degree upon D. C. Morgan and G. E. Smith; the F. C. degree on James Mann, and the M. M. degrees on D. M. Marshall, J. M. Wilbourne and W. L. Uzzell.
A reception committee was previously appointed consisting of U. H. Shine, Walter Barclay, G. E. Polk, James T. Priest, Wm. Lowe, W. A. Mahaffey, Lee Weathersby, M. C. Parks, D. M. Marshall, W. L. Uzzel, H. J. Havis and J. S. Moore to meet the R.W.D.D.G.M., H. C. Howell of Jasper, at the two o'clock train. They escorted him "up in our new Lodge building, then down to dinner for refreshments, then back to the Lodge room."
On March 4, 1892, the Lodge met and appointed the following officers to:
The object of the meeting was stated which was to dedicate a new Lodge building and all went down stairs formed a procession, marched around the building and back up into the Lodge room in the usual form around the altar. All knelt and the Chaplain led the prayer. The Lodge closed and all went down stairs "and speaking opened up by T. D. Scott of Colmesneil, followed by S. B. Cooper, of Woodville, and closed by John Henry Kirby of Houston. One member of the committees active in this connection at that time, is now living. He is Lee Weathersby of Silsbee. Mr. Weathersby advises me that he remembers the occasion quite well and that there was a serious disturbance in the Lodge and among the brethren as to whether or not the young people should be permitted to close the proceedings with a dance in the new building. That those in favor of dancing won out, but some of the others never got over it.
Since 1892, the meetings of the Mount Hope Lodge No. 121, have been held in the Lodge building at Chester, and thus it has the distinction of being the oldest lodge in the county.
However, there were two other lodges in existence in 1853, when the Charter was grated; Tyler Lodge No. 50, at Town Bluff, and Woodville Lodge No. 62 at Woodville.
As an interesting coincidence, the District Deputy, F.B. Sexton, who recommended that the Charter be granted to Mount Hope Lodge, reported that he had been instructed by the Resolution of the Grand Lodge at its last annual communication requiring him to visit Tyler Lodge No. 50 and inquire in to the regularity of the initiation of Charles A. Sterne but for various reasons had been unable to do so. At the meeting of the Grand Lodge in 1854, he quoted a resolution passed by Grand Lodge in 1853, and said that in accordance with the resolution he went to Town Bluff on 3 day of December, 1853 and as a result of investigation he recommended that Charter of Tyler Lodge be arrested and revoked, which was done.
It is not known just when Tyler Lodge at Town Bluff started functioning, as N. B. Charlton reported in a letter that has been published several times that he was made a Mason at Tyler Lodge in 1844, by Taylor, author of Taylor's Monitor. There is no record in the proceedings of the Grand Lodge of Tyler Lodge, until January 1849, when the Grand Secretary reported that a Dispensation had been granted during 1848.
The officers of the Woodville Lodge were installed in Tyler Lodge No. 50, in March 18, 1849, by Z. Williams Eddy, D.D.G.M., of the Third Masonic district, with Wyatt Hanks as installing officer. The removal of the County seat from Town Bluff to Woodville, probably cost its life.
The Charter of Woodville Lodge No. 62, was forfeited in 186_. Magnolia Lodge No. 495, which has custody of the minutes of Woodville Lodge No. 62, was chartered in 1878. The animosities of the reconstruction days were too much of a strain for the Woodville Lodge and some of the pioneers who originally organized the Lodge, let the charter be forfeited in order to clear up the atmosphere; at least, that is an assumption that is often made.
But for a century, being almost the entire life of the State of Texas, the Worshipful Master, Wardens and Brethren of Mount. Hope Lodge No. 121, have succeeded in keeping the light of Free Masonry burning in this small corner of the state where so many of the pioneers began their work in bringing the state from darkness to light and establishing here a Christian Democracy.
During this period, 32 members have been installed with appropriate ceremonies as Master of the Lodge. In the order of their service, they are as follows:
Only five of those are now living to rejoice in the centennial celebration. These are Dr. L. R. Cade, Geo. C. Enloe, Vinsons Goolsbee, J. M. Sheffield and C. A. Seamans.
Doubtless the light has grown dim from time to time, and doubtless these leaders who have taken the time to learn the secrets of Masonry and then hand them down from generation to generation, have often wondered if their efforts were worthwhile, but looking back over this period and seeing Masonry stand the test of changing economic conditions and the vicissitudes of War, we can express our admiration for those leaders and say again that with time, patience and perseverance, we can overcome all things.
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