Category Archives: Texas History Committee

Why We "Remember the Alamo"

1 Alamo 


by Bro. Dwight Stevens,
Chairman, Masonic Education and Service Committee
(printed in The Texas Mason, Spring 1998)

During his year (1998), Grand Master Harry G. Cunningham had as his emblem the Alamo Mission overlaid with the Square and Compasses.  This emblem should hold special meaning to all Texas Masons.  The Alamo should be remembered as the place where the Mexican Army, under command of General Antonio Lopez De Santa Anna, stormed a former Mexican mission defended by a band of Texans fighting for their independence.  Among the defenders were our Masonic Brothers James Bonham, Jim Bowie, David Crockett, Almaron Dickenson and Col. William Barrett Travis.

In rooms where priests had prayed, bayonets clashed with Bowie Knives and swords.  Musket and cannon fire tore into the Texan defenders.  By dawn, all the Texan combatants lay dead.  Their sacrifice, on March 6, 1836, would immortalize them as legends, and turn the Alamo grounds into Sacred Ground.

Each year more than three million Americans visit the Alamo.  For many of the visitors, who gaze with reverence at the paintings and exhibits, the Alamo is more shrine than historic monument.  They have come to the Alamo to honor those whose death gave birth to a Republic.

Brother William Barrett Travis, Commander of the Alamo garrison, is said to have drawn a line in thesand requesting all who would stay and fight to: “step across the line.”  He drew that line not only in the sand, but into the hearts and minds of every Texas Mason.

Many months after the battle, the charred remains of the Alamo defenders were laid to rest not far from the Alamo itself.  Presiding at the ceremony was Brother Juan Sequin.  The words he spoke at the interment speak to us even today:

“The spirit of liberty appears to be looking down from it’s elevated throne saying:  Behold your Brothers: Crockett, Bowie, Travis.  They preferred to die a thousand times rather than submit themselves to the tyrants yoke.  Their sacrifices are worthy of inclusion in the pages of history.  What a brilliant example for others to follow.”

If you have not had the opportunity to visit the Alamo, please do so at your earliest possible convenience.  The Daughter’s of the Republic of Texas have lovingly turned the Alamo Mission into a shrine.  It remains to this day a shrine to the heroes of Texas liberty.  The veneration of the defenders reached a new height in 1939 with the dedication of The Alamo Cenotaph.  Towering sixty feet above the Alamo, the monument’s theme is: “The Spirit of Sacrifice”.  Statues of the principal defenders, and the names of all the Texans who died at the Alamo, are carved into the granite foundation.  During your visit, you will find that the Alamo is a powerful place.  It’s a place filled with legends and memories.  It’s a place we all should go think about our own potential, about what we need to sacrifice so that we can keep the fraternity on the road that those men fought to preserve.

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M. Boyd Patterson, Jr., (Grand Master-2003), receiving the Texas Flag from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas.  Grand Master Patterson flew this flag during the Goliad, San Jacinto and the Charter Oak Observances.

The most famous battle of the Texas Revolution came about in San Antonio at a little mission called the Alamo. On March 6, 1836, one hundred and eighty-seven men under the command of Brother William Barrett Travis were defeated by several thousand Mexican soldiers under Santa Anna.  Americans and Texans alike were so enraged by this massacre that the Alamo, like the United States flag and the Statue of Liberty, became another symbol of courage and freedom.  On July 4, 1976, the Grand Lodge of Texas placed a bronze marker at the Alamo, honoring the Masons who died there:

“Honoring These Masons
James Bonham       James Bowie
David Crockett        Almaron Dickenson
William Barrett Travis
And Those Unidentified Masons
Who Gave Their Lives in the
Battle of the Alamo, March 6, 1836”

One of the few who survived the massacre at the Alamo was Mrs. Almaron Dickenson (Suzanna) who had been advised by her husband to display his Masonic apron over herself and the child during and after the battle.  Santa Anna saw to her needs and even offered to adopt her child.  She declined the offer declaring that she would “crawl and work her fingers to the bone to support the baby, but that she would rather see the child starve than given into the hands of the author of so much horror.”

3 Alamo

Bro. Colin Rankin, Past Master,
The Caledonian Railway Lodge 354, A.F.& A.M.
Glasgow, Scotland

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5 Alamo

Photos courtesy of Bro. Robert Rankin, PM, webmaster
The Caledonian Railway Lodge 354, A.F.&A.M.
Glasgow, Scotland

March 6, 1836 – After fighting for 13 days, 3,000 Mexicans defeated 182 Texans at the Alamo.

A few days earlier, this message was sent:
February 24, 1836,

“Commandancy of the Alamo-

To the people of Texas & all Americans in the world —
Fellow citizens & compatriots —

I am besieged by a thousand or more of the Mexicans under Santa Anna–
I have sustained a continual Bombardment & cannonade for 24 hours and have not lost a man —

The enemy has demanded a surrender at discretion, otherwise, the garrison are to be put to the sword, if the fort is taken.  I have answered the demand with a cannon shot, and our flag still waves proudly from the walls —

I shall never surrender or retreat. Then I call on you in the name of Liberty, of patriotism & everything dear to the American character, to come to our aid, with all dispatch —

The enemy is receiving reinforcements daily & will no doubt increase to three or four thousand in four or five days. If this call is neglected, I am determined to sustain as long as possible & die like a soldier who never forgets what is due to his own honor & that of his country —


William Barrett Travis
Lt. Col. comdt.

P.S. The Lord is on our side —
When the enemy appeared in sight we had not three bushels of corn-
We have since found in deserted houses 80 or 90 bushels and got into the walls 20 or 30 head Beeves —



The Come and Take It Conflict

Please find attached the names and bio. info. on the men involved in the entire conflict called “Come and Take It.”

It is generally divided into two parts, spread over several days, cumulating in the actual “battle” on Oct. 2, 1835.

The first contact was on Sept. 25, 1835 with a demand for the cannon given to Gonzales for defense.  The return of the cannon was stalled and by 29 Sept. the Mexican contingent numbered about 100 and was camped on what is now called Santa Anna’s Mound, directly across the river from the town.  By 30 Sept. Capt. Albert Martin had sent messages for aid from the surrounding colonies.

The men involved in this first encounter are known as “The Old Eighteen”, being only 18 in number prior to reinforcements arriving. 

On 1 Oct. Lt. Castaneda (commander of the Mexican force) moved about 7 miles up the Guadalupe River to a place called William’s Farm where he camped.  (There was a good ford here and there was fear that he would cross the Guadalupe and come back down the north or town side of the river).

The Texans (believed to number about 160 men) under Col. J.H. Moore moved across the river after a rousing speech by Dr. William P. Smith (also a Methodist Minister) and made initial contact with the Castaneda Force at about 3am on 2 Oct. 1835.

The following info. was collected from several sources. 
    The list of Masons was taken from:
James David Carter, Masonry in Texas: Background, History and Influence to 1846 (Waco: Grand Lodge of Texas, 1955)

The Biographical Info. was taken from:
The Sons of DeWitt’s Colony, Wallace L. McKeehan, webmaster.
The Handbook of Texas

Members of the “Old Eighteen” who were Masons

1.    William Arrington, Washington #18

2.    Valentine Bennet

3.    George W. Davis, Chireno #66

4.    Almeron Dickinson

5.    Charles Mason, Temple #4

6.    Winslow Turner, Mount Horab #137

Members of the Approx. 160 men at the firing of the first shot, 26 are identified as Masons.

1.    Col John Moore, Commanding, Lafayette #34

2.    Lt. Col. J.W.E. Wallace,2nd in Command, Caledonia #68

3.    William A. Alley, Caledonia #68

4.    Branch T. Archer, St. Johns #5

5.    Edward Burleson, McFarland #2

6.    Thomas M. Dennis, Gonzales #30

7.    Dr. Thomas J. Gazley, Holland #1

8.    Capt. Michel R. Goheen

9.    Archibald Hodge, Morton #72

10.    Patrick C. Jack, Holland #1

11.    Augustus Jones, Tyro #12

12.    James Kerr, Victoria #40

13.    Eli Mitchell, Gonzales #30 (fired first shot)

14.    Elisha M. Pease, St Johns #5

15.    Joel W. Robinson, Florida #46

16.    Dr. William P. Smith, Florida #46

17.    Noah Smithwick, Valley #175

18.    Robert M. (Three Legged Willie) Williamson, Constantine #36

Other information:
100% of Presidents were Masons
100% of V-presidents were Masons
100% of Presidents Pro Tem of the Senate were Masons
70% of the Speakers of the House were Masons
90% of the Secretaries of State were Masons
Of the “Old Eighteen”, six are identified as Masons.

William Arrington,     Washington #18
William W. Arrington is listed in DeWitt Colony land title records as arriving in the colony as a single man on 15 Feb 1831 where he received a fourth sitio of land on the east bank of the Guadalupe River in southern Guadalupe County. He married Jane E. Morrison and they had at least one daughter, Jennie Elizabeth Arrington who married John Duggan on 11 Dec 1870. The Arringtons owned lots 1 and 6 in block 15 and lot 4 in block 3 southeast of the Fort in the inner town of Gonzales. They had a home at the corner of St. James and St. Michaels in block 15. Arrington was the election judge on 1 Feb 1835 for the Texas consultation to be held in March 1835. He was a member of the Committee for Safety formed in response to dissolution of the legislature of Texas y Coahuila in May 1835. He was elected as one of the two delegates from Gonzales to the consultation of Oct 1835.

Valentine Bennet,     identified as a Mason
Valentine Bennet  is listed in DeWitt Colony land records as having arrived single on 1 April 1831 where he received a fourth league of land on the west bank of the Guadalupe in current DeWitt County above Cuero and is listed on the Gonzales tax rolls of 1838-39. Bennet owned two blocks in the west outer Gonzales town tract. He was born in Massachusetts in 1780 of Puritan background and lived in NY, OH and LA. He fought in the War of 1812 and was promoted at Lundys Lane in 1814 for gallantry. He married Mary Kibbe (daughter of Gaius and Mary Pease from Enfield, CT) 7 Oct 1817 in Buffalo, NY and came to St. Marys Parish, LA with the Kibbe family in 1820. Wife Mary and Mary Jane, one of their twin daughters, died there in 1821. Bennet took surviving children, Sarah Jane and Miles Squier to Ohio and left them with relatives while he went to Texas. Bennet settled at Velasco in 1825 after the death of his wife, was wounded in the Battle of Velasco and moved to the DeWitt Colony in 1831. While on leave from the army, he brought his son Miles Bennet and daughter Sarah Jane (b. 27 Jul 1820; d. 1 Feb 1833 Gonzales) to TX to live with him at his home in Gonzales. He died at the home of his daughter in 1843 and is buried in the old cemetery at Gonzales.

Major and Quartermaster Bennet throughout his life and in history books was known for his answer when asked about the uniform of the Texas forces in Apr 1836:
“Rags were our uniform, sire! Nine out of ten of them was in rags. And it was a fighting uniform.”

George W. Davis,     Chireno #66
George W. Davis arrived with wife Rebecca Warfield Gaston Davis with family of six in the DeWitt Colony from Green Co, Kentucky on 20 Mar 1831 according to DeWitt land titles where he received a sitio of land on the east bank of the Guadalupe River in DeWitt County north of Cuero.
George Washington Davis was deeded four lots in inner Gonzales town, two in block 8 and two in block 12 with a residence in 1836 at the corner of St. Louis and St. John Streets east of the Fort.  George Washington Davis and wife Rebecca Warfield owned 6 lots on the San Marcos River and 3 lots on the Guadalupe in the west outer town. Initially the Gonzales cannon was said to be buried in George W. Davis’ peach orchard prior to its recovery and use in the confrontation.   Stepson John Gaston was said to have served as a lookout on the Guadalupe River reporting movements of Lt. Fra
ncisco Castañeda’s force which was demanding delivery of the Gonzales cannon from the settlers. John Gaston was a Gonzales Ranger, a member of the Gonzales Relief Force to the Alamo and died there in Mar 1836. G.W. Davis served Texas in numerous capacities.  In Feb 1835, he was Secretary of the committee to elect delegates from Gonzales to the 3rd Texian Consultation and ended up as a delegate to the convention in San Felipe which was not held until November.  He was a signer of the Declaration of the People of Texas which arose out of the convention calling for resistance to Santa Anna’s dictatorship and independence of the state of Texas.

Davis was Secretary of the Gonzales Committee of Safety and authored the September appeal for assistance to the Committee in Mina and San Felipe.  After the Battle of Gonzales, he served in Capt. John M. Bradley’s company at the Battle of Bexar and the Battle of Concepcion. On 1 Dec, Davis was commissioned by provisional governor Smith to appoint Andrew Ponton and Byrd Lockhart judges of the Municipality of Gonzales.   On 12 Feb 1836, Davis was discharged from the volunteer army on order of Capt. Mathew Caldwell and on 15 Feb appointed as Capt. Caldwell’s subcontractor. Some records indicate that this G.W. Davis served in the Battle of San Jacinto, but this is uncertain due to multiple individuals with the names George Washington Davis in the DeWitt Colony and who participated in activities of the Texas Republican Army.   Davis was appointed clerk of the first district court organized in Gonzales in 1838 under Judge James W. Robinson.  In 1842, Davis was postmaster of Cuero.   Rebecca Warfield Davis died on 29 Dec 1846 and was buried on a bluff overlooking the Guadalupe River. G.W. Davis died 30 Jan 1853.  The graves are marked with a Texas historical marker on Highway 183 seven miles north of Cuero about two miles east of the gravesite.
Almeron Dickinson,     identified as a Mason
Almeron Dickinson and wife, Susannah Wilkerson Dickinson Hannig, arrived in the DeWitt Colony in 1831 and received a league of land on the San Marcos River below the Old Bexar Road. He acquired two lots in block 16 on St. Matthews St. in inner Gonzales town in 1834 where he set up his blacksmith shop. He went into partnership with George C. Kimble in a hat factory business which was on Water St. in lot 2, block 2 of the inner town. He also owned 6 lots in the west outer town. They had a daughter Angelina Elizabeth (1834-1871) on 14 Dec 1834. Dickinson moved his family to San Antonio after the Battle of Bexar and became a member of the Alamo garrison where he was a captain in charge of artillery. His wife and daughter were among the few survivors and eyewitnesses to the Alamo defeat in which Dickinson was a casualty.

Charles Mason,     Temple #4
Charles Mason was born in Georgia on 15 Jun 1810 and arrived in Texas in 1834. He was an orderly sergeant in Captain T.F.L. Parrott’s Company in the Battle of Bexar having enlisted before 25 Nov 1835. From 4 Apr to 23 Jun 1836 he was on the roster of Capt. Teal’s Company. He fought with Regular Infantry Company A under Capt. Andrew Briscoe at the Battle of San Jacinto. For service to the Republican Army of Texas, he received 640 acres of land on 2 Jun 1838 (Donation Certificate No. 265). He was Chief Clerk for the Secretary of War of the Republic of Texas in 1837 and appointed first auditor of the Republic by President Lamar on 22 Aug 1839 and was also auditor in 1845. In 1838-39, Mason was Acting Secretary of War. Mason married Evaline DeWitt, daughter of Empresario Green DeWitt in Houston, 25 Apr 1838. He was a member of the jury that convicted the notorious Pamela Mann of forgery in Harrisburg County, 21 May 1839. In 1874 he wrote a description of the Battle of Gonzales for Frank Johnson for his History of Texas and Texans. Charles Mason died 21 Nov 1882 in Gonzales. Evaline DeWitt Mason was born in Missouri on 30 Oct 1817 and died 27 Nov 1891. The Masons are both buried in marked graves in the Masonic Cemetery in Gonzales. Children were Charles W. (m. Alvina Matthews; child Charles W. Mason), Isham and DeWitt Mason (m. Maria Pratt; children: Fletcher, Sallie, Eveline, Tate, Pratt and DeWitt Mason.

Winslow Turner,     Mount Horab #137
Winslow Turner Sr. and wife Elizabeth arrived in the DeWitt Colony 4 Dec 1829 with a family of 8 according to land grant records. His league was north of Gonzales on the San Marcos River. Son Winslow Turner Jr. also received a fourth sitio with arrival listed as 18 Nov 1829 on the east bank of the Guadalupe River near the current Gonzales and Guadalupe County line. The Turners first arrived in Austin’s Colony in 1827 and lived on the Colorado River. Turner owned and operated a hotel in inner Gonzales town which was on St. John Street. He was a regidor in the appointed Gonzales Ayuntamiento of 1832. As described above, Winslow Turner Jr. married Sarah Sowell in 1831. Winslow Turner is buried in the State Cemetery in Austin.

Of the approx. 160 men at the firing of the “First Shot”, twenty-six are identified as Masons.

Col. John Moore, Commanding, Lafayette #34
It is said that Colonel Moore first visited Texas about the time the redoubtable Dr. James Long made his unfortunate venture into the province, declaring Texas a free Republic and setting up his ephemeral government at Nacogdoches. That bold stroke occurred back in 1818-1819, and grew out of the Aaron Burr scheme, and was really the first attempt to make Texas a free Republic. The bold gesture forms one of the glamorous chapters of early day Texas history.  We know that Colonel Moore came as one of Austin’s “Original Three Hundred” in 1821, settling permanently at a point on the Colorado River, where he later founded the beautiful town of La Grange. He was born in Tennessee on the first day of the nineteenth century. His father was a son of the “dark and bloody ground,” and his mother was a native of the “Old Dominion,” so it was but natural that the son should become a famous border fighter. He was a staunch patriot, and one of the earliest and most zealous advocates of Texas independence, being one of the proscribed leaders whose arrest was ordered by General Cos in 1835. He was truly one of the “tall” men who helped to make Texas. Dur
ing the years of the Republic be commanded a company of Rangers. His great battle and victory over the Comanches on the Red Fork of the Colorado, and far out on the frontier in October, 1840, virtually broke the backbone of that powerful and warlike tribe in Texas.   After the selection of our commander, we were ordered to our quarters and told to hold ourselves in readiness for action upon a moment’s notice.  It may be in order to state just here that our little army was organized for fighting, but nothing else. We had no commissary, no quartermaster, no medical corps, although there were several physicians present, and this matter was spoken of but as being unimportant, no baggage train and not even a flag, but this latter was provided a few days later, as we shall relate. The ammunition, rifle balls with bullet moulds, an extra flint or two, gun wiper and “bullet patchin” were carried by each man in his “shot pouch” made of leather or dressed skins and worn at the side suspended by a broad strap that went over the shoulder.  Attached to this pouch was the powder horn. Thus, on the morning of October 1, 1835, was accoutred that little army, the hope of a new nation. It was not formidable in numbers and it may not have had a very martial appearance, but it was our army and to all intents and purposes it was as invincible as Caesar’s legions or the “Old Guard” of Napoleon.  (from a Creed Taylor narrative; a member of the 160 at the “first shot”)
    Lt. Col. J. W. E. Wallace, Second in command, Caledonia #68


Joseph Worthington Elliot Wallace, early settler, was born on April 8, 1796, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Some records list his name as Washington rather than Worthington.) After serving in the Seminole War, he lived in Port Gibson, Mississippi, where he was a colonel in the Mississippi militia. He moved to Texas in 1830 as a United States consul. He joined Stephen F. Austin’s colony and received a land grant in Matagorda County. At the outbreak of hostilities he operated stores at Wharton and Beeson’s Crossing on the Colorado River. In the fall of 1835 he led a group of men from Columbus to Gonzales, where he was elected lieutenant colonel; he was in joint command of the forces at the battle of Gonzales. In 1836 he wrote Thomas Jefferson Rusk reporting Indian depredations in the Bay Prairie area. He and William B. DeWees replatted the town of Columbus in 1837. In 1839 he was a delegate to a convention at Richmond to consider the location of a railroad. He was one of the officers in command at the battle of Plum Creek in 1840. Wallace married Harriet Hazelton Hoit, daughter of Samuel Hoit; she died in Mississippi in 1828. They had had one son, William Hazelton, who died during the Civil War in the service of the Confederacy at Sabine Pass. Wallace was a Mason and a member of the Texas Veterans Association. He died at Columbus on August 24, 1877. His body was reinterred in the State Cemetery in 1955.

Alley, William A.        Caledonia #68
ALLEY, WILLIAM A. (ca. 1800-1869). William A. Alley, one of Stephen F. Austin’s Old Three Hundred colonists, the son of Catherine (Baker) and Thomas Alley, was born in Missouri in either 1799 or 1800. He moved to Texas in 1824 to join his brothers John C., Thomas V., Rawson, and Abraham Alley, who lived near the Colorado River. With his brother Thomas, he received title to a league of land now in Brazoria County in July 1824. The 1825 census for the Colorado District listed Alley as a farmer and stockman. He was probably the same William Alley who received bounty lands for service in the Texas army from about April 11 to July 11, 1836, and from June 26 to September 26, 1836. He was one of a nine-member committee of Colorado County citizens who nominated James Pinckney Henderson for governor in 1845. Alley, who never married, died at his home in Alleyton on August 15, 1869.

Archer, Branch T.        St. Johns #5
President of the “Consultation of 1835” that issued a Declaration of Cause to the Mexican Govt.  Preceded the Declaration of Independence.  Produced supplies for Revolutionary Army, active in all aspects of political side of the fight for independence.

Burleson, Edward        McFarland #2
He arrived in Texas on May 1, 1830, and applied for land in March 1831; title was issued on April 4, 1831. On August 11, 1832, at San Felipe de Austin, he was a member of the ayuntamiento governing the counties of Austin, Bexar, Goliad, and Guadalupe. On December 7, 1832, he was elected lieutenant colonel of the militia of Austin Municipality. In 1833 he was elected a delegate to the Second Convention in Mina. From 1830 to 1842 he defended settlers in numerous engagements with hostile Indians. On May 17, 1835, in Bastrop he was elected to the committee of safety and was therefore unable to attend the Consultation of 1835, although he had been elected a delegate. On October 10, 1835, in Gonzales he was elected lieutenant colonel of the infantry in Gen. Stephen F. Austin’s army. On November 24, 1835, Burleson became general of the volunteer army and replaced Austin. On November 26, 1835, he fought in the Grass Fight during the siege of Bexar. His father was active in this battle, which was won by the Texans.

On December 1, 1835, Burleson was commissioned commander in chief of the volunteer army by the provisional government. On December 6 he entered Bexar and, with Benjamin R. Milam, wrote a report to the provisional government. On December 14, 1835, he reported on the success at Bexar to the provisional governor, Henry Smith. The volunteer army disbanded on December 20, 1835, and Burleson raised a company and rode to Gonzales in February 1836. By March 10, in Gonzales, he was officially elected colonel of the infantry, First Regiment. On April 21, 1836, at the battle of San Jacinto, he commanded the First Regiment, which was placed opposite Mexican breastworks and was the first to charge them. Burleson accepted the sword and surrender of Gen. Juan N. Almonte.
From July 12 to December 1836 he was colonel of the frontier rangers. In 1837 he surveyed and laid out roads to Bastrop, La Grange, and other Central Texas places. On June 12, 1837, he became brigadier general of the militia established by the First Congress of the Republic of Texas. As a representative of the Second Congress from September 26, 1837, to May 1838, Burleson served on the Committee on Post Offices and Post Roads, the Committee on Military Affairs, and the Committee of Indian Affairs, of which he was chairman. In 1838 he was colonel of the First Regiment of Infantry in the new regular army and on April 4, 1838, defeated Mexican insurrectionists under Vicente Córdova. In the spring of that year Burleson laid out the town of Waterloo, the original settlement of the city of Austin. He was elected to the Senate of the Third Congress but resigned on January 19, 1839, at President Mirabeau B. Lamar’s request, to take command of the Frontier Regiment. On May 22, 1839, Burleson intercepted a Córdova agent with proof that Mexico had made allies of Cherokees and other Indians. He defeated the Cherokees under Chief Bowl in July 1839.
On October 17, 1839, Burleson was in command of the ceremonies establishing Austin as the capital of the Republic of Texas. He defeated the Cherokees on Christmas Day, 1839, at Pecan Bayou, killing Chief Bowl’s son John and another chief known as the Egg. Burleson sent Chief Bowl’s “hat” to Sam Houston, who was enraged. On August 12, 1840, Burleson defeated the Comanches in the battle of Plum Creek.

In 1841 he was elected vice president of the republic. In the spring of 1842, when the Mexican army under Rafael Vásquez invaded Texas, Burleson met with volunteers at San Antonio, where they elected him to command. Houston sent Alexander Somervell to take over, and Burl
eson handed the command to him. Burleson then made his famous speech before the Alamo: “though Thermopylae had her messenger of defeat, the Alamo had none.” In the fall of 1842 Mexican General Adrián Woll invaded Texas. Burleson raised troops for defense and again yielded the command to General Somervell, sent by Houston. In 1844 Burleson made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency against Anson Jones. In December 1845 he was elected senator from the Fifteenth District to the First Legislature of the state of Texas. He was unanimously elected president pro tem.

Dennis, Thomas M.        Gonzales #30

DENNIS, THOMAS MASON (1807-1877). Thomas Mason Dennis, soldier and legislator, was born in Georgia on March 9, 1807, and moved to Texas in March 1835. He settled in Bastrop and in September joined Capt. Robert M. Coleman’s company of volunteers that marched from Bastrop to the relief of Gonzales (see GONZALES, BATTLE OF). On December 20, 1835, he signed the Goliad Declaration of Independence. He enlisted in the Texas army on February 28, 1836, and at San Jacinto served in Capt. Jesse Billingsley’s Company C-also known as the “Mina Volunteers”-of Col. Edward Burleson’s First Regiment, Texas Volunteers. According to his obituary he was promoted to lieutenant, but no documentary evidence of this promotion has been located. He left the service on June 1.

After his discharge Dennis moved to Matagorda County, where he was elected clerk of the county court in February 1837. He was reelected on February 7, 1839. In 1841 he was elected to represent Matagorda County in the House of Representatives of the Sixth Congress of the republic. There he served on the Naval Affairs Committee. Dennis is said to have been elected captain of several volunteer companies that saw action against the Indians on the western frontier and to have served at the battle of Plum Creek, in the repulse of Rafael Vásquez and Adrián Woll, and on the Somervell expedition. He served as a private in Capt. Albert C. Horton’s company in Col. Clark L. Owen’s regiment of volunteers from March 6 through April 13, 1842. On February 3, 1845, he was elected sheriff of Matagorda County. By 1850, in partnership with surveyor Joshua Threadgill, he was well known as a horse and general stock raiser; his property was valued at $5,000.

After leaving Matagorda County about 1852 he lived for a time in Gonzales County, where, on September 24, 1852, he was appointed to the county Democratic committee. He is said to have resided in Rockport for some twenty years before moving to Karnes and Wilson counties, where he was engaged in stock raising. By 1871 he was drawing a pension as a veteran of the Texas Revolution. In 1876 he was elected to the House of Representatives of the Fifteenth Legislature from the Seventy-eighth District. He resigned during the session but succeeded himself when he was reelected in the special election. He died the following year on October 15 at the Gonzales County community of Rancho. His will was signed on October 12, 1877, and opened for probate on November 6, 1877. Dennis never married. He was a Democrat and a member of the Texas Veterans Association.

Gazley, Dr. Thomas J.        Holland #1
GAZLEY, THOMAS JEFFERSON (1798-1853). Thomas Jefferson Gazley, physician and legislator, was born in 1798 in Duchess County, New York. He established himself as a physician in Louisiana in 1828 but returned shortly to Baltimore, where he had received his medical training, to marry Eliza Boyce. They had four children. The family traveled to Texas from Ohio in November 1828 and settled in what is now Bastrop County. On April 29, 1829, Gazley applied for a license to practice medicine in San Felipe de Austin. On February 1, 1830, he was appointed clerk of the ayuntamiento. The Convention of 1832qv appointed him a member of the subcommittee of safety and vigilance for the District of Bastrop. He was a delegate to the Convention of 1833.qv From September 28 to November 9, 1835; he was surgeon in Michael R. Goheen’s company in the Texas army.
Gazley was one of three representatives from Mina (Bastrop) at the Convention of 1836qv at Washington-on-the-Brazos and there signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. After the Texas Revolution he moved to Houston and on September 4, 1837, was elected from Harrisburg County to the House of the Second Congress of the republic. At that time he was a law partner of John Birdsall. Gazley was senior warden of Holland Lodge No. 36 and a charter member of the Grand Lodge of Texas, organized on December 20, 1837. He moved from Houston to Bastrop County and settled near the site of present Smithville, where he died on October 31, 1853. In 1937 his body was reinterred in the State Cemetery in Austin.

Goheen, Michael R.            Identified as a Mason

A Captain under Moore, later distinguished himself as a scout at the Battle of Conception.

Hodge, Archibald        Morton #72
One of the Hodges of Hodge’s Bend, Fayette County.  Member of Austin’s Old Three Hundred.  No other info.

Jack, Patrick C.        Holland #1
JACK, PATRICK CHURCHILL (1808-1844). Patrick Churchill Jack, attorney and legislator, was born in Wilkes County, Georgia, in 1808, a son of Patrick Jack, who commanded a Georgia regiment in the War of 1812. After practicing law in Jefferson County, Alabama, for three years, Jack moved to Texas in 1830 and on April 6, 1831, was issued title to one-fourth of a league of land in Stephen F. Austin’s second colony in the area of present Grimes County. Jack, one of the men whose imprisonment led to the Anahuac disturbances in the spring of 1832, was a delegate from the district of Liberty to the conventions of 1832 and 1833.qqv He later moved to Brazoria Municipality, which he represented in the House of the Second Congress of the republic from September 29, 1837, to November 13, 1838. Jack married Margaret E. Smith at Houston on October 30, 1838. He was appointed district attorney of the First Judicial District on February 1, 1840, and of the Sixth District on March 15, 1841, by President Mirabeau B. Lamar. Jack died of yellow fever in Houston on August 4, 1844, and was buried in the City Cemetery under the auspices of Holland Masonic Lodge No. 1, of which he was a member. Later his remains were removed to Lake View Cemetery, Galveston. They were again exhumed on February 10, 1942, and reinterred in the State Cemetery, Austin. In the act of the state legislature on August 27, 1856, establishing Jack County from Cooke County, it is not stated for whom the county was named. Homer S. Thrall in 1879 said it was named for the brothers, Patrick C. and William H. Jack, and this statement is generally accepted as correct.

Jones, Augustus        Tyro #12
No biographical info. available.

Kerr, James            Victoria #40
KERR, JAMES (1790-1850). James Kerr, soldier, attorney, surveyor, and physician, was born near Danville, Kentucky, on September 24, 1790. In 1808 his Baptist minister father moved the family to Missouri. Kerr fought in the War of 1812 under Nathaniel Boone and achieved the rank of lieutenant. Thereafter he was sheriff of St. Charles County, Missouri. In 1819 he married Angela Caldwell and moved with his bride to Sainte Genevieve, Missouri. He served two terms in the House and one in the Senate as a representative of the Sainte Genevieve district.

In January 1825 Kerr was appointed surveyor general of the Texas colony of Green DeWitt. In April or May he took his family and about eight slaves to Brazoria, where he joined the colony of his close friend, Stephen F. Austin. Later that year his wife and two of his children died of ch
olera at their camp on the San Bernard River. Leaving his surviving three-year-old daughter with friends in San Felipe, he set out with Erastus (Deaf) Smith and five other men to select a site for the capital of the DeWitt colony. In August 1825 the men built cabins on Kerr’s Creek near the junction of the San Marcos and Guadalupe rivers and made plans for the establishment of Gonzales. The next year the makeshift huts were destroyed by Indian raiders. In January 1827 Kerr acted as attorney and surveyor for Benjamin Rush Milam. The same year Austin dispatched Kerr, James Cummins, and Richard Ellis to Nacogdoches to attempt to persuade Haden Edwards to abandon his Fredonian Rebellion. In May 1827 Kerr signed a treaty with the Karankawa Indians. The same month, as one of the Old Three Hundred, he received title to a league now in Jackson County. He settled this holding and reportedly brought in the first crop in the county. The Kerr cabin became a center where new settlers were routinely greeted and entertained. On December 15, 1830, the ayuntamiento of San Felipe de Austin ordered a favorable report on Kerr’s petition for additional land because of services he had rendered for the public good.

Kerr was the Lavaca delegate at the Convention of 1832.qv The next year, as a member of the Convention of 1833, he made a memorandum of the full list of representatives; he also took enough time from public service to marry Sarah Fulton, a foster daughter of John J. Linn.  In June 1835 Kerr reported the political news in Mexico and the rise of Antonio López de Santa Anna to Gail Borden, Jr. In October 1835 Austin wrote Kerr requesting that he and John Alley sign a letter to the American colonists of Texas confirming the advance of Gen. Martín Perfecto de Cos and his Centralist army. Kerr was elected a delegate to the Consultation of 1835 but did not serve because he was involved in a campaign against the Lipan Apaches. He later won appointment to the Consultation as a member of the General Council, in which capacity he was author of the decree appointing Sam Houston, John Forbes, and John Cameron to negotiate a treaty with the Cherokees. Kerr was elected a delegate to the Convention of 1836, but there is no record of his attendance.

During the period of the republic Kerr represented Jackson County in the House of the Third Congress and introduced antidueling legislation and a bill to make Austin the capital. Though he was admired and respected by his associates, even his family members admitted that he was not much for looks. One day when he was visiting a saloon, a homely stranger approached him and announced, “I’m sorry, but I’m going to have to kill you.” Kerr calmly asked the man why such drastic action was necessary, whereupon the visitor explained, “I have always said if I ever saw a man uglier than I am, that I was going to shoot him.” Kerr invited the man over to the window and, after inspecting the man in the daylight, wryly commented: “Shoot away, stranger, if I’m any uglier than you I don’t care to live!” Kerr spent his last years practicing medicine. On December 25, 1850, he died in his Jackson County home. In 1856 Kerr County was named in his honor.

Mitchell, Eli    Gonzales #30 (also actually fired the cannon for the first shot.)
MITCHELL, ELI (1797-1870). Eli Mitchell, early settler, merchant, and public official, was born on September 15, 1797, the son of Lewis and Rhoda (Abrams) Mitchell, in Turkey Foot (later called Ursina), Somerset County, Pennsylvania. He came to Texas in 1824 as one of the Old Three Hundred. His brothers, William and Asa Mitchell, had arrived in 1822 with Stephen F. Austin. Eli settled in San Felipe and in 1828 moved to Gonzales. He served as Gonzales delegate to the Convention of 1833. In 1835 he was elected first regidor of DeWitt’s colony. He was one of the founders of the Masonic order in Texas. The Gonzales “Come and Take It” cannon was mounted on Mitchell’s wagon, and he fired the first shot of the battle of Gonzales and consequently of the Texas Revolution. He later provided supplies for the Texas army in preparation for the siege of Bexar. His claim for compensation was accepted and passed by the Senate; he finally received payment in 1856.

Mitchell married Sarah Olivet Skinner in Pennsylvania. It is not clear whether or not she died, but Sarah and Mitchell’s son from this marriage did not come to Texas. Mitchell’s second wife was Elizabeth Zumwalt, daughter of Adam and Nancy Caton Zumwalt, original settlers of DeWitt’s colony. They were married on October 5, 1833; they had nine children. On August 5, 1850, Mitchell was elected tax assessor and collector of Gonzales County. He was reelected to that post three times, his tenure ending on October 29, 1860. He died in Gonzales on April 19, 1870. Mitchell County, established on August 21, 1876, was named for both Eli and Asa Mitchell.

Pease,    E. M.            St. Johns #5
PEASE, ELISHA MARSHALL (1812-1883). Elisha Marshall Pease, governor of Texas, son of Lorrain Thompson and Sarah (Marshall) Pease, was born on January 3, 1812, at Enfield, Connecticut. After study at Westfield Academy in Massachusetts he held several minor positions, including a clerkship in the post office at Hartford, Connecticut. In 1834 he sought new opportunity in the West. By early 1835 he had made his way to Texas, where he settled in the Municipality of Mina and continued the law studies he had begun in Connecticut. Almost immediately Pease became embroiled in the developing Texas Revolution. In the spring of 1835 he became secretary of a committee of safety at Mina. Though at first he hoped for conciliation with Mexico, Pease soon changed his position and fought in the battle of Gonzales, the first battle of the revolution, on October 2. He then served as secretary to the General Council of the Provisional Government and, as a member of that body, attended the convention that met at Washington-on-the-Brazos in March 1836. At that meeting he wrote part of the Constitution of the Republic of Texas. He then served the ad interim government as chief clerk, successively, of the navy and treasury departments. During the early months of the republic Pease served as clerk to the judiciary committee of the House of Representatives and took a major part in writing the new nation’s criminal code. In the fall of 1836 he served as acting secretary of the treasury but declined President Sam Houston’s offer of the postmaster generalship in order to return to Brazoria to continue his legal studies. After his admittance to the bar in April 1837 Pease became the republic’s first comptroller of public accounts. He then took up the practice of law at Brazoria and soon became successful and respected in his profession.

After annexation Pease represented Brazoria County in the first three legislatures and authored the Probate Code of 1846. In 1851 he made an unsuccessful run for the governorship. Two years later he won the office and was reelected in 1855. Pease was an outstanding governor. Among his important achievements was his pioneering effort to persuade the legislature to establish a system of public education and a state university. Though this effort proved largely premature, Pease’s administration did establish the permanent school fund, and his vision laid the groundwork for future achievement. He also worked to encourage railroad construction in Texas, to put the state penitentiary on a self-supporting basis, and to establish reservations to civilize and educate the state’s Indian population. In addition, he supervised the building campaign that led to the completion of the Governor’s Mansion, the General Land Office building, the State Orphan’s Home (now the Corsicana State Home), and a new Capitol. Perhaps his most significant accomplishment was the settlement of the public debt of the state, by which he made available funds for the establishment of a hospital for the men
tally ill and schools for the deaf and blind (see AUSTIN STATE HOSPITAL, TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE DEAF, TEXAS SCHOOL FOR THE BLIND), all of which he had recommended to the legislature. Upon his retirement from office in 1857, the state was in excellent financial condition.

In 1859 Pease aligned himself with the Unionist faction in Texas politics. He remained active in this movement into the early months of the Civil War, after which he quietly maintained his loyalty to the Union until the end of the conflict. In 1866 he lost a bid to become governor again in the first election of the Reconstruction era. Early in 1867 he helped organize the Republican Party in Texas. Later that year Gen. Philip H. Sheridan removed Governor James W. Throckmorton from office and appointed Pease in his place. Pease’s subsequent efforts to reorganize the state government and bring accountability to its actions were met by conflict within the Republican ranks and bitterness toward the chief executive by the former Confederate majority in the state. Pease resigned from the governorship in 1869 because of differences with Gen. Joseph J. Reynolds over Reconstruction policies that Pease considered radical and despotic. Throughout the remainder of his life Pease remained actively interested in political affairs in the state. He was president of the non-partisan Tax-payers’ Convention of 1871, which opposed many of the measures of Governor Edmund J. Davis’s administration. In 1872 he was chairman of the Texas delegation to the national Liberal Republican convention. In 1879 President Rutherford B. Hayes appointed Pease to the collectorship of customs at Galveston. In the closing years of his life Pease practiced law in Austin, engaged in various business ventures, and lived a quiet life with his wife, the former Lucadia Christiana Niles, of Poquonock, Connecticut, whom he had married in 1850, and their two daughters. A third daughter had died in childhood. Pease died on August 26, 1883, after an attack of apoplexy and was buried in Austin.

Robison, Joel W.        Florida #46
Joel Walter Robison  (also spelled Robinson in some records) was born in Washington County, GA on 5 Oct 1815 and came to current Brazos Co with his father, John G. Robison, in 1831. The Robison’s moved to current Fayette Co in 1833 where they received a league on the west side of Cummings Creek. Both Robisons participated in the battle of Velasco in Jun 1832. Joel participated in the Grass Fight and Siege of Bexar in 1835. He was at San Jacinto with Capt. Heard’s Company F Infantry, 1st Regiment and was with the group of men who captured Santa Anna.
In Dec 1836, Joel Robison was appointed by Houston to Lieutenant and charged with organizing a mounted ranger company to look after security in the Gonzales area, but it is unclear if the company saw significant action and whether Robison spent a significant time in Gonzales to contribute to the area. Most of his life he resided in Fayette Co near Warrenton where he was active in public service until his death in 4 Aug 1889. He was first buried in Roundtop, but he and wife Emily A. Alexander (b. Kentucky; d. 23 Nov 1886), whom he married in 1837, were re-interred at the State Cemetery in Austin in 1932.

Smith, Dr. William P.        Florida #46
From Weyand and Wade, The History of Fayette County. Now we have come to the story of one of the most remarkable men who ever lived in Fayette County, not only that, but he was also one of our best loved and most influential citizens, and in addition was one of the most energetic men the writer ever heard of. In proof of this last statement we wish to call our readers’ attention to the fact that, according to Dr. Smith’s own admission, he served us in turn as coroner, as Alcalde, as postmaster, as Notary Public, as Post Surgeon of an established army post, as Regimental Surgeon with the army on the march. In addition to all this he was a regularly ordained Methodist preacher, and after working all the week at his many other vocations spent the Holy Sabbath preaching and teaching Sunday school; however, from any or all of his many different jobs he was liable to be called any minute to answer to a call from the “stork” or from some good citizen who was sick or had accidentally got shot, for our good old Dr. Smith was a practicing physician of considerable renown, especially in the line of surgery and operation cases. And we must not loose sight of the fact that Dr. Smith was a great educator of his day, it was he who was one of the prime movers in the organization, founding and chartering of old Rutersville College; a casual inspection of papers relative to this institution will prove this truth beyond a doubt.

It must not be overlooked that Dr. Smith also took a “flyer” at the newspaper game and served as editor of the “Texas Monument,” and he held that position until it was found that he was worth too much to the Monumental Committee to be wasted on editorial work, so he was transferred to the road with instruction to raise money to carry on the work outlined by this organization. During his leisure moments and while time was hanging heavy on his hands, especially during the long winter evenings, we find that our energetic hero occupied his time by visiting almost every Masonic Lodge within a radius of one hundred miles. His companion on these visits seems to have been John Murchison, who was the father of Fayette County Masonry. While Dr. Smith was a member of Florida Lodge No. 46, of Round Top, we find him registered repeatedly as a visitor in the other Masonic bodies of our county. Whatever faults Dr. Smith may have had, he surely possessed one virtue; he was a great believer in “tooting his own horn,” and due to this peculiarity of his, there is left to us today several records of value that otherwise we would not have.

Smithwick, Noah        Valley #175
SMITHWICK, NOAH (1808-1899). Noah Smithwick, pioneer blacksmith, miller, and memoirist, son of Edward Smithwick, was born on January 1, 1808, in Martin County, North Carolina. The family moved to Robertson County, Tennessee, in 1814 where Noah received his education. Hearing glowing reports about Texas, nineteen-year-old Noah left his blacksmith job in Hopkinsville, Christian County, Kentucky, in 1827 and traveled by flatboat to New Orleans and schooner to Matagorda Bay. He worked as an itinerant smith before settling in San Felipe. On July 9, 1830, he applied for a league of land in Stephen F. Austin’s colony, saying he had immigrated from Tennessee in 1827, was twenty-two years old, and a gunsmith, but he sold his headright before locating it.

Smithwick returned to Matagorda in the fall of 1835, after four years in the Redlands of East Texas and Louisiana. He arrived at Gonzales the day of the battle and remained to repair guns. Joining the volunteers marching towards Bexar, Smithwick took part in the battle of Concepción, but like others discouraged by the indecisive command and without winter clothing, he abandoned the siege and went to Bastrop, where he had friends. In January 1836 he joined Capt. John Jackson Tumlinson, Jr.,’s newly formed Ranger Company to defend the Bastrop area from roving bands of Indians. During the Runaway Scrape Bastrop residents fled eastward, while Smithwick and others prepared to guard the river crossing and herd cattle eastward. They gradually retreated southeastward searching for the army, and arrived at San Jacinto after the battle. In May Gen. Thomas J. Rusk ordered gunsmiths to follow the Texas army from the battleground to Victoria. Smithwick did not pursue the Mexican army south of the Rio Grande. Smithwick returned to Bastrop to work as a smith and serve in the volunteer ranger corps fro
m the fall of 1836 through 1838. Understanding Spanish, he occasionally served as interpreter-agent with Plains Indians seeking treaties and trading posts.

Williamson, R. M.        Constantine #36
WILLIAMSON, ROBERT MCALPIN (1806?-1859). Robert McAlpin Williamson, son of Peter B. and Ann (McAlpin) Williamson, was born in Georgia in 1804 or 1806. When he was fifteen years old, his school career was terminated by an illness which confined him to his home for two years and left him a cripple for life. His right leg was drawn back at the knee; the wooden leg which he wore from the knee to the ground resulted in his widely-known title of “Three Legged Willie.” Williamson read much during his illness, was admitted to the bar around the age of nineteen, and may have practiced law in Georgia for over a year. In the late 1820s he migrated to Texas and settled at San Felipe de Austin. In 1829, in association with Godwin B. Cotten, he established a newspaper called the Cotton Plant, which he edited from 1829 to 1831. For a short time Williamson edited the Texas Gazette and the Mexican Citizen.  He made an early appeal for the Texas colonists to resist Mexican tyranny. He was sent as a delegate from Mina (Bastrop) to the Consultation, and the provisional government established there commissioned him major on November 29, 1835, and ordered him to organize a corps of rangers. He participated in the battle of San Jacinto in William H. Smith’s cavalry company, his name appearing on the original muster roll, through error, as W. W. Williamson. He received 640 acres for participating in the battle of San Jacinto. On December 16, 1836, the First Congress of the republic elected Williamson judge of the Third Judicial District, automatically making him a member of the Supreme Court. The town of Columbus had been burned during the Runaway Scrape, and as there was no suitable structure to hold court proceedings, the first term of District Court, Republic of Texas, was convened by the Honorable R. M. Williamson, under a large oak tree next to the lot where the Colorado County Courthouse was later built in April 1837. In 1840 he was elected to represent Washington County in Congress. He served in the House in the Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Congress, in the Senate in the Eighth Congress, and in the House again in the Ninth Congress. His Senate seat in the Eighth Congress was contested, and he eventually lost the seat. After annexation, which he had advocated so strongly that he even named one of his sons Annexus; he served in the Senate of the first two legislatures, retiring in March 1850. As judge and lawmaker Williamson became the subject of numerous legends inspired by his personal characteristics, his unique decisions, his adroitness as a campaigner, his amusing legislative manipulations, and the succinctness of his oratory. Williamson married Mary Jane Edwards, daughter of Gustavus E. Edwards of Austin County, on April 21, 1837. They were parents of seven children. After his defeat in the race for Congress in 1850, he retired to his farm near Independence and devoted himself to the education of his children and preparations of materials for writing a history of events in Texas leading up to the Texas Revolution. He was an unsuccessful candidate for lieutenant governor in 1851. In 1857 an attack of illness affected his mental brilliance, which was further impaired by the death of his wife in 1858. From these combined shocks his mind never entirely recovered. He died at the home of his father-in-law in Wharton on December 22, 1859. Williamson County, established in 1848, was named for R. M. Williamson. In 1930, when his body was reinterred in the State Cemetery, the state of Texas erected a monument at his grave. The Texas Centennial Commission, in 1936, marked the site where he died.

Other interesting info:
While Texas was a Republic, Masons played an unbelievable role in the political system.
100% of the Presidents of Texas were Masons.
100% of the Vice-Presidents were Masons.
100% of the Presidents Pro Tem of the Senate were Masons.
70% of the Speakers of the House were Masons.
90% of the Secretaries of State were Masons.

Sam Houston and Santa Anna

Why Did Sam Houston Spare the Life of Santa Anna at San Jacinto?

by Otho C. Morrow,Past Master Holland Lodge No. 1 Great-Grandson of Sam Houston

Over the years, articles regarding Houston’s treatment of Santa Anna at San Jacinto, reportedly taken from the files of early newspapers, have appeared in our Masonic publications. In the main, these articles have attributed Houston’s refusal to permit the execution of Santa Anna to his having given Houston the Masonic sign of distress. As a result of these articles, it now seems to be the accepted belief of many members of the fraternity that the humane treatment accorded Santa Anna by Houston was in direct response to the giving of the sign.

There is little doubt that if it occurred to him to do so, Santa Anna did give the sign, along with any persuasive promises which he believed might in any possible way contribute toward saving him from execution. His execution was urgently sought by some of the officers and many of the soldiers, some of whom had lost friends and relatives as well as their homes, as a result of Santa Anna’s insane desire to destroy everyone and everything that stood in the way of his subjugating all of Texas to his despotic rule.

While all of the many Houston biographies are replete with detailed accounts of Santa Anna’s capture and appearance before Houston, to the writer’s knowledge, none make reference to Santa Anna’s giving the sign of distress. There is, however, an interesting account of his appearance before Houston in Crane’s Life and Literary Remains of Sam Houston, as reported by Major M. Austin Bryan, who acted as interpreter for Houston and Santa Anna before Almonte appeared on the scene. According to Major Bryan’s report, “Santa Anna, laying his right hand on his heart and extending his left hand, said, `I am General Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna, President of the Mexican Republic, and I claim to be your prisoner of war.'” If the left arm was in the form of a square, members of the fraternity would recognize part of another sign which Santa Anna may have erroneously thought to be the sign of distress.

It is difficult to envision someone of Houston’s disposition responding to the sign of distress given to him by one whose conduct at the Alamo, and the massacre of Fannin and his men at Gollaid were adverted to by Houston on the same occasion on which Santa Anna was supposed to have given the sign. Houston, later characterizing Santa Anna’s conduct on those two occasions, said: “Manliness and generosity would sicken at the recital of the scenes incident to your success, and humanity itself would blush to class you among the chivalric spirits of the age of vandalism.”

Assuming that the sign was given, the question still remains, “Did Houston, who was so keenly aware of and had been so adversely affected by the atrocities so recently visited upon the people of Texas by Santa Anna, accord him recognition as a Mason; and, if so, to what extent, if any, did Houston’s Masonic affiliation influence his treatment of Santa Anna?”

Houston’s decision to keep Santa Anna alive was evidenced by orders given by him the night before Santa Anna’s capture, hours before he was brought before Houston, and before he had any opportunity to give Houston the sign. On learning that Santa Anna was not dead or among the captives, Houston issued orders that search for him be continued the following day. Knowing that his men would kill Santa Anna on sight, and realizing that he was worth far more to Texas alive than dead, he gave strict orders to those who were to continue the search that he was to be brought in alive. He believed, what later proved to be true, that with Santa Anna alive and held hostage, he could force him to issue orders to the generals commanding the other four Mexican armies then in Texas to stop the killing and destruction of property being perpetrated by them, and to withdraw all their troops beyond the Rio Grande.

Turning from conjecture to fact; Houston, though contrary to his general practice of ignoring those who sought to defame him and to discredit his accomplishments, and of declining to explain or justify his actions, did on two occasions give his reasons for the treatment of Santa Anna at San Jacinto and during the period of captivity which followed that event. Accounts of both are to be found in Crane’s Life and Literary Remains of Sam Houston.

The first of these appears in a letter dated March 21, 1842, written by Houston during his second term as President of the Republic of Texas, to Santa Anna, then President of the Republic of Mexico, in reply to derogatory statements about Texas and its people publicized by Santa Anna. In this letter, Houston writes, “You have presumed to arraign the conduct of the then existing Cabinet and to charge it with bad faith; and though you are pleased to commend the conduct of the illustrious Stephen F. Austin, the father of Texas, and myself for acts of generosity exercised toward you, you take care to insinuate that we only were capable of appreciating your proper merits. That you may no longer be induced to misconstrue acts of generosity and appropriate them to the gratification of your self-complacent disposition, I will inform you that they were acts of magnanimity characteristic of the nation to which we belong. They had nothing to do with your merits or demerits. The perfidy and cruelty which had been exercised toward our companions in arms did not enter into our calculation. Your sacrifice would not restore to our gallant companions their lives, nor to our country their services. Although the laws of war would have justified the retaliation of your execution, yet it would have characterized the acts of a nation by passion and revenge; and would have evinced to the world that individuals who had an influence on the destinies of a people were subject to the capricious impulses of vengeance, of which you had so recently set an example.

“So far as I was concerned in preserving your life and subsequent liberation, I was only influenced by considerations of mercy, humanity, and the establishment of a national character.

“Humanity was gratified by your preservation. The magnanimous of all nations would have justified your release, had they known how little its influence was dreaded by the Texans. If, upon your return to Mexico, you should have power, and a disposition to redeem the pledges you had voluntarily made to yourself, as well as this Government, of an earnest disposition to see the independence of Texas recognized by Mexico, I believed it would have a tendency to restore peace to the two nations, diminish the aggregate sufferings of their citizens, and promote the prosperity of both countries. In the event that you were not disposed to redeem the pledges thus given, but urge a prosecution of the war by Mexico against us, I wished to evince to mankind that Texans had magnanimity, resources, and confidence sufficient to sustain them against all your influence in favor of their subjugation.

“Your liberation was induced by such principles as these; and though you tendered pledges, doubtless to facilitate and insure your release, they were received, but not accepted, as a condition. I believe that pledges made in duress are not obligatory upon the individual making them; and if you intended to exercise the influence which you declared you would, the unconditional liberty extended to you would interpose no obstacle to their fulfillment.”

The second account is found in Houston’s farewell address of February 28, 1859, given before the Senate of the United States shortly before his retirement from that body, after serving some thirteen years as Senator from Texas. His speech is devoted almost entirely to “refuting calumnies produced and circulated against his character as Commander-in-chief of the army of Te
xas.” It reviews in detail the political and military history of Texas from December, 1835, the time of his appointment as Major General by the Consultation then in session at San Felipe, until shortly after the Battle of San Jacinto. It is interesting to note that Houston offers as a precedent for his refutation similar actions by both General Washington and General Jackson, adding that, “More humble in my sphere than they were, more circumscribed than they, I feel that it is more necessary for me to vindicate what may justly attach to me, from me to the fact that I leave a posterity, and from that circumstance I feel a superadded obligation.


Neither of those illustrious men left posterity. I shall leave posterity that have to inherit either my good name, based upon truth, or that which necessarily results to a character that is not unspotted in its public relations.” He further acknowledges, “I have been careless in replying to these things for years. I believe no less than ten or fifteen books have been written defamatory of me, and I had hoped, having passed them with very little observation, that, as I approached the close of my political term, and was about to retire to the shades of private life, I should be permitted to enjoy that retirement in tranquility; that my defamers would not pursue me there with the rancor and hatred with which they pursue an aspiring politician whom they wish to sink or depress.”

Houston then relates the following regarding his reception of Santa Anna and his reasons for the courteous treatment accorded him. “He was treated as a guest. No indignity was offered him by the Commander-in-chief. To be sure, there was some turbulence of feeling in camp, but no rude manifestations. Under these circumstances it was that Santa Anna was received. Propositions were made to the Commander-in-chief that he should be executed, but they were repelled in a becoming manner. No one has sought to claim the honor of saving him on that occasion; and did the General feel a disposition to claim any renown, distinction, or fame, for any one act of his life, stripped of all its policy, he might do it for his conduct on that occasion.

“But sir, there was reason as well as humanity for it. While Santa Anna was held prisoner his friends were afraid to invade Texas because they knew not at what moment it would cause his sacrifice. His enemies dared not attempt a combination in Mexico for invasion, for they did not know at what moment he would be turned loose upon them. So that it guaranteed peace to Texas so long as he was kept prisoner; and for that reason, together with reasons of humanity, his life was preserved. It is true, he had forfeited it to the laws of war. Retaliation was just; but was it either wise, or was it humane, that he should perish?”

Enumeration by Houston on these two occasions of the reasons which prompted his action should amply refute the “Masonic sign of distress” version; however, in depth consideration of Houston’s reference to Santa Anna’s “merits or demerits” gives rise to the interesting question of what attributes, either of character or accomplishment, Santa Anna could possibly claim, so soon after his sanction of the barbarous acts committed at the Alamo and Goliad, which Houston would recognize as having any semblance of “merit,” other than his Masonic affiliation. Could Houston have been saying to Santa Anna in a discreet way, “Your Masonic affiliation had nothing to do with my acts of magnanimity; nor were they influenced by your giving the sign of distress?” Houston’s positive statement, appearing shortly after his reference to “merits and demerits,” that “So far as I was concerned in preserving your life and subsequent liberation, I was only influenced by considerations of mercy, humanity, and the establishment of a national character,” lends support to an affirmative answer to the question; and also contradicts any representation that use of the Masonic sign of distress by Santa Anna was the motivating factor for the sparing of his life at San Jacinto.

Brother Morrow is a great-grandson of Sam Houston, and has contributed many Houston items to the Grand Lodge Library and Museum. He is a recognized authority on the life of General Houston.
At the request of the then editor, Past Grand Master Duncan Howard, the article was prepared for The Texas Freemason, former publication of the Grand Lodge.

It is appropriate that Brother Morrow’s Manuscript be the first published by the SAM HOUSTON HALL OF FAME.


Masonry in Texas

Freemasonry is a fraternity.   Its membership is restricted to men, but there is no hazing as is found in some college fraternities.   The Masonic Order is a serious group.   It exists to take good men and help them to become better men.   Thus, it is not a reform society.   It does not exist to reform criminals, nor would such persons benefit from its teachings.

Masonry developed from lodges of operative or stone masons.   The Masonry of today is distinguished from the stone masonry of old by being referred to as “Speculative” Masonry.   Speculative or FREEmasonry does not work with stone but instead works on the lives of men.   Its teachings take the imagery of carpentry and architecture and use that imagery to teach by symbols about building a good character.

The oldest Masonic document, the Regius poem, dates to around 1390 A.D.   We know of no Masonry prior to that date.   Somewhere between 1390 and 1717 lodges of operative masons began to accept as members men who did not work in the building trade.   Eventually whole lodges composed of such persons arose, leading to a transition from lodges being composed of stone masons to lodges being composed of men from other occupations who gathered and shared a ritual replete with allusions to carpentry, architecture, and stone masonry.

In 1717, four of these lodges in England met and formed the first Grand Lodge.   A Grand Lodge is a Masonic body having jurisdiction over the lodges within a certain geographical area.    Each state has its own Grand Lodge.   Also the District of Columbia has its own Grand Lodge.

Symbolic, Craft, or Blue Lodge Masonry has three degrees.   The three degrees are, in order:   Entered Apprentice, Fellow Craft, and Master Mason.   In early Speculative Masonry there was only one degree.   Later a two-degree system developed and finally the three-degree system of today evolved and was firmly in place by around 1760 A.D.

A “degree” is a drama in which a newcomer to Masonry, the candidate, is made to play a key part.   These dramas have several characteristics and are progressive in nature, that is, they build on each other.   These dramas are enacted with only Masons being present and are for the purpose of moral instruction.   A unique characteristic of each Masonic degree is an “obligation” taken by the candidate.   The obligation is an oath taken for the purpose of instructing the candidate in his Masonic duty.

The three degrees have a biblical basis.   Much biblical imagery is used in the ritual of the degrees.   The central biblical image used in Masonic ritual is that of the building of King Solomon’s Temple, as meticulously described for us in the Old Testament books of I Kings and II Chronicles.   Whenever a Masonic lodge is in session, the Holy Bible is open upon the lodge’s altar.

Masonry does require of its adherents a belief in God and in life after death, though it asks no one to expound upon the particulars of his understanding of those two beliefs.   There is some memory work the candidate must learn after each degree is conferred upon him.   He has a set amount of time to learn the catechism, that is, a set of questions and answers, and to recite them before the lodge members at a lodge meeting.

Masonry is not a religion.   There is nothing in Freemasonry to interfere with a man’s religious life.   Persons of all faiths and Christian denominations are a part of the worldwide Masonic fraternity.   Religion and politics are two subjects not allowed to be discussed when a lodge is in session.

Masonry teaches the importance of helping the less fortunate.   It especially stresses care for the widows and orphans of Masons.   Indeed, most Grand Lodges have within their jurisdiction a home for aged Masons, their wives and widows, and also a home for Masonic orphans.   In the U.S.A. alone, all branches of Masonry combined provide over of $1.5 million of charitable aid per DAY!

Masonry asks its candidates not to tell the details of its ritual to non-Masons.   This is not because Masonry is ashamed of anything.   It is because an element of secrecy serves to heighten interest in Masonic teaching.   It is also because most people would not benefit from being introduced to Masonic teachings out of the context of the Masonic degree system.

Why do Masons keep their rituals a secret?   For the same reason that the ancient stonemasons kept their trade secrets.   Their secrecy helped to maintain a better quality of work.   Our secrecy today helps us to make a good man better.   It is difficult to believe that the secrets of Masonry are evil when you consider the heritage of Masonry that includes a long list of influential leaders such as Paul Revere, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, Douglas MacArthur, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston.   It is difficult to believe that the secrets of Masonry are evil when you see so many Masons working as a vital part of every community to provide better churches, better schools and better governments.   It is difficult to look into the eyes of a little child in a Shrine Hospital and say the secrets of Masonry are evil.   If we really believe the biblical teaching, “by their fruits ye shall know them” then we must believe that the secrets of Masonry really do help to make a good man better.

The influence of Masonry is like the influence of the home and the influence of the church.   It does not produce perfect human beings.   Despite the best efforts of the home there has never been a perfect child.   Despite the best efforts of the church there has never been a perfect Christian.   Despite the best efforts of Masonry there has never been a perfect Mason.   Nevertheless there is a place for all these in our society.   Man’s basic nature is such that he needs every good influence he can get.    He needs the powerful influence of a good home.   He needs powerful influence of a dedicated church made up of dedicated believers.   The needs the influence of dedicated teachers in the public schools.   But, when it is all said and done, it doesn’t hurt to have a little extra push that comes from civic organizations, from professional organizations and from fraternal organizations.   Masonry has a proud heritage of 171; years of service to the State of Texas and we hope this discussion has helped you come to a better understanding of the purpose of our fraternal organization.   Texas Masonry now looks to the future with the hope that a better understanding will allow the lodge to take its rightful place in every Texas community, right alongside of the church, the home, the schools, and the civic organizations as a positive force for good.   With this better understanding there is every reason to believe that we can all work together to make our government, our schools and our churches even stronger than before.   The strength of Texas has always been built upon the combined efforts of all these groups, and the Grand Lodge of Texas has contributed valuable service to our churches, our nation, our state and our community.

In March 1835 the first Masonic meeting was held in Texas for the purpose of establishing a lodge in Texas.   Six Masons met under an oak tree near the town of Brazoria.   They applied to the Grand Lodge of Louisiana for a dispensation to form and open a Lodge.   A dispensation was issued and later a charter.   This first Texas lodge was cal
led Holland Lodge No. 36.   It was named after then Grand Master of Masons in Louisiana,  John Henry Holland.   Anson Jones was the first Worshipful Master of Holland Lodge No. 36, now Holland Lodge No. 1.   The charter was brought by John M. Allen and given to Anson Jones just prior to the battle of San Jacinto.

Two more Texas lodges were formed, also given dispensation and charter by the Grand Lodge of Louisiana.   They were:   Milam Lodge No. 40 in Nacogdoches, and McFarland Lodge No. 41 in San Augustine.   Both were formed in 1837.   These two lodges, together with Holland Lodge No. 36, sent representatives to meet in Houston and established the Grand Lodge of the Republic of Texas.   The convention elected Anson Jones the first Grand Master of Masons in Texas.   It should be noted that Anson Jones was the fourth and final President of the Republic of Texas, prior to becoming a state.

There are now over 122,000 Masons in Texas with a total of 914 lodges.   How we have grown in those 171 years!   We look forward optimistically to the future of Masonry in Texas and trust that its proud heritage will be built upon in the years to come in ways that will continue to serve and honor the great State of Texas of which we are a part.

There are nominal one-time fees collected for the conferring of the three degrees.   After that a Mason pays yearly dues to the lodge of which he has become a member.   No Mason is supposed to ask another person to become a Mason.   It is up to the individual man who has an interest in becoming a Mason to ask a Mason he knows for a petition to join the fraternity.