Masonic History

Welcome to the World’s Oldest Fraternity

Freemasonry is a unique institution that has been a major part of community life in America for more than 250 years.

Masonry traces its ancestry to the operative craftsmen, primarily cathedral builders, of the Middle Ages. Because of their special knowledge and skills, these builders were permitted special travel privileges from country to country. As cathedral building came to an end during the 17th and 18th centuries, some Masonic Lodges began to accept men into membership who were not craftsmen.

In 1717, Freemasonry members created a formal organization in England when the first Grand Lodge was formed.

In a time when travel was by horseback and sailing ship, Masonry spread with amazing speed. By 1731, when Benjamin Franklin joined the fraternity, there were already several Lodges in the Colonies, and Freemasonry spread rapidly as America expanded west. In addition to Franklin, many of the Founding Fathers – men such as George Washington, Paul Revere, Joseph Warren, and John Hancock – were Masons. Freemasonry played an important part in the Revolutionary War and an even more important part in the Constitutional Convention and the debates surrounding the ratification of the Bill of Rights. Many of those debates were held in Masonic Lodges.

The founding fathers of the Republic of Texas first brought Freemasonry to Texas from 1828 to 1835 and the Grand Lodge of Texas was established in 1837.

At the first meeting of the Grand Lodge of Texas in 1838 and there were 25 lodges represented from across the state.

1717 – While there is evidence that Masonic Lodges existed in Scotland in the late 16th century, the first official Lodge, the Grand Lodge of England, is founded on June 24.

1731 – Benjamin Franklin, a founding father of the United States of America, is initiated into a Pennsylvania Lodge and became a Grand Master in 1734.

1734 – The first Masonic book, Constitutions of the Free-Masons by James Anderson, is edited and published by Benjamin Franklin.

1828 – Stephen F. Austin called a meeting of Masons at San Felipe de Austin for the purpose of petitioning the York Grand Lodge of Mexico for a charter to form a lodge. Although the petition reached Matamoros, and was to be forwarded to Mexico City, nothing more was heard of it. By 1828 the ruling faction in Mexico City feared that the liberal elements in Texas might attempt to gain independence, and being aware of the political philosophies of English-speaking Freemasons, the Mexican government outlawed Freemasonry on 25 October of that year. The following year, Austin called another meeting of Masons who, in an attempt to alleviate the fears of the Mexican government, decided it was “impolitic and imprudent, at this time, to form Masonic lodges in Texas.”

1835 – In March 1835, five Master Masons met “in a little grove of peach or laurel” at the town of Brazoria, “near a place known as General John Austin’s,” and resolved to petition Grand Master John H. Holland of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana asking for a dispensation to form a lodge in Texas. Foremost among these five Masons was Anson Jones who would later serve as Grand Master, and as President of theRepublic of Texas.

1837 – By the end of 1837, three lodges had been chartered in Texas by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana: Holland Lodge No. 36 which had moved to the city of Houston, Milam Lodge No. 40 at Nacogdoches, and McFarland Lodge No. 41 at St. Augustine. On 20 December 1837, Sam Houston, President of the Republic of Texas, presided over a convention meeting in the city of Houston consisting of the representatives of these three lodges. The representatives were: From Holland Lodge: Sam Houston, Anson Jones, Jeff Wright, and Thomas G. Western; from Milam Lodge: Thomas J. RuskI. W. BurtonCharles S. TaylorAdolphus Sterne, and K. H. Douglas; and from McFarland Lodge: G. H. Winchell was delegated to represent McFarland Lodge. The representatives there assembled resolved to form a “Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas,” and to that end they elected Anson Jones as the first Grand Master of Masons in Texas, and other officers.

1838 – As the delegates to the previous convention had agreed, they met again on the third Monday, the 16th of April 1838 in the city of Houston, although only three of the six elective grand officers were in attendance: the Grand Master-elect, the Senior Grand Warden-elect, and the Grand Treasurer-elect. Nevertheless, the minutes state that the “Grand Lodge was opened in ample form,” and, according to Texas historian James D. Carter, “the jurisdiction of the Grand Lodge of Louisiana was ended,” making 16 April 1838 the birthdate of the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas. It may be of some historical interest to note that three and one-half weeks later, on 11 May 1838, the Grand Lodge met again and installed the Grand Master and his officers.

1839 – Austin Lodge #12 was chartered and met on the southwest corner of the capitol grounds.

1876 – Hill City Lodge #456 was charted by members of Austin Lodge #12.

1889 – Masonic Home and School for Widows and Orphans founded in Fort Worth.

1910 – The Scottish Rite Masons and the Ben Hur Shrine purchased Turner Hall and began renovations, restoring historic details as modern improvements were made. The old raked (slanted) stage was replaced, and a maple-planked auditorium floor was installed. The stage was re-rigged with a 19th Century wooden-arbor, cable guided counterweight system designed to reveal scenic drops hand painted in 1882 by M.C. Lilly Company, Ohio. Turner Hall is now the Scottish Rite Theater and home to both Hill City Lodge #456 and Austin Lodge #12 , as well as, theScottish Rite Bodies of the Valley of Austin and the Scottish Rite Children’s Theater


1921 – The Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children in Dallas was founded when a group of Texas Masons recognized a growing need to provide superior medical care regardless of a family’s ability to pay. They approached Dr. W. B. Carrell, Dallas’ first orthopedic surgeon, about providing care for children with polio who would otherwise not receive treatment.

1966 – The first Shriners Burns Hospital for Children opened its doors in 1966 in Galveston, Texas. Shriners Hospitals for Children also have many hospitals that care for children with orthopedic disabilities, and with burn injuries from the time of acute injury through rehabilitation and individual reconstructive needs throughout their childhood.

1989 – The Scottish Rite Learning Center of Austin opened in 1989. The Center was established to provide dyslexia tutoring for children in grades 1-5. The Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas developed a videotape program that was used successfully at the Learning Center for the first 12 years.