Texas City Masonic Lodge No. 1118

A.F. & A.M.

Texas City, Texas USA

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Cornerstone Leveling
Texas City Disaster
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The painting above by Brother Howard Purkaple, PM, depicts the three buildings in which Texas City Lodge has been housed. They are left to right: the old Tubbs Building - 1916 to 1947, the barracks building - 1949 to 1973, and the present building.

The History of Texas City Lodge

By J. M. Harris, Jr.

Across the bay, six miles as the crow flies, from the famous Galveston Island, Texas City was founded during the middle eighteen nineties on the shore of what was then known as Shoal Point. The early settlers of this community struggled to create a rail terminal and deep water port. The industrial giant that Texas City is today is evidence of their sincerity and determination.

Among the pioneers were many members of the Masonic Fraternity, however, the distinction of being the first person from the Mainland to petition for the mysteries of Freemasonry goes to Brother Henry Marion Coats.

Around the turn of the century Brother Coats was admitted a member of Harmony Lodge No. 6 in Galveston. Then to his dream of civic and industrial greatness was added the dream of a Masonic lodge for the struggling young city. Truly it can be said that Brother Coats is the father of Texas City Lodge, for it was principally through his efforts, his zeal and devotion to the Craft, laboring almost singled handed through many discouraging trials and tribulations, that this Lodge came into being.

His dream came true, when his efforts were rewarded by a charter being granted for Texas City Lodge, by the Grand Lodge of Texas, December 8, 1916.

There were thirty-one charter members, with first Master being Brother W.F. Bookman, publisher of the Texas City Times. Brother Coats, then serving as post- master, was the the first Senior Warden, and Brother L. Piott, in the mercantile business, serving as the first Junior Warden.

The Lodge was set to work by the Grand Master, M.W. Frank C. Jones, December 11, 1916, on the second floor of the old Tubbs Building, located on the corner of Sixth Street and Eight Avenue North until the building was weakened by the "Blast" on April 16, 1947, and later condemned by civil authorities. The Lodge then received dispensation from the Grand Master to meet in League City Lodge, and the first meeting there was on July 26,1948.(Note: The "Blast" to which Brother Harris refers was the explosion of the French freighter, the Grand Camp, which was docked in the Texas City Harbor. The ship was loaded with Ammonium Nitrate fertilizer when it caught fire and exploded. There were over 500 people killed and missing, and over 3000 injured. Texas City Lodge not only lost its building, but eleven of its brethren, and many friends and relatives on that catastrophic day. The eleven members that died that day were B.R. Durst, Emory Fletcher, Burton Goar, F. Hughes, Roy T. Hatfield, E. J. Katzmark,Past Master, Warren Mays, A.L. McAdams, R.D. Southerland, J.H. Tadlock, and C.R. Vestal. Other known Masonic dead or missing were Fred R. Atwood, Sr., P.H. Bima, F. E. Drake, John Dickey, Jr., Mitchel Ellis, John D. Franklin, A.S. Hammerand, Russell Holmsten, Harvey Menge, H.M. Milstead, Frank A. Nichols, and Basil M. Stewart. Many of these were volunteer firemen who were fighting the fire aboard the ship. The above list of dead and missing was taken from Elizabeth Wheaton's book, Texas City Remembers.Before and after pictures.)For more about the Texas City Disaster  

The Lodge continued to meet in League City Lodge until a surplus army barracks was purchased from the U.S. Government and moved to 702 14th Street North, where approximately 1.25 acres was purchased for Lodge expansion. There it was remodeled to suit our purposes, without incurring any indebtedness, due to the generous donations of labor from the brethren and the meritorius work of Brother W.C. Steed, PM, Chairman of the Building Committee. The Lodge held the first meeting in the new building on October 10, 1949. (Note about the author: Brother Harris was a Past Master and served as Secretary of Texas City Lodge for many years. He is now deceased. The remaining part of the History is by Brother James H. Avant, Past Master of Texas City Lodge.)

As the population of the city rapidly grew, so did the membership of our Lodge. This building served our Lodge well for a period of 23 years, and a number of members felt it had served its purpose.

Then in April 1971 ideas and plans began to formulate regarding the building of a new Masonic Temple for Texas City. Under leadership of Brother Frank Moyer, Worshipful Master, and through the diligent and selfless work of Brother Elwood Davlin, Past Master and Chairman of the Building Committee, and the devotion of many, many, other Brethren, an idea became a reality. On August 26, 1972 ground breaking ceremonies were held on the site for the building of the new Temple on our property adjacent to our Lodge Building.

When the new building was near completion the Grand Master was informed and on November 10, 1972, M.W. Jack Hightower, Grand Master of Texas Masons, laid the cornerstone of the new Lodge Building.

And finally on February 24, 1973, M.W. Duncan Howard, Grand Master of Texas Masons, dedicated this new Lodge Building and proclaimed our new Masonic Temple - "ERECTED TO GOD AND DEDICATED TO THE HOLY SAINTS JOHN".

The fortunes of Texas City Lodge have followed closely the prosperity of the town keeping pace with the shipping and industrial might of the city. The Lodge and its members have suffered through hurricanes and other catastrophes, of which much could be written of the work and self sacrifice of the Brethren, but it would only bring a reminder of the grief we wish to forget.

Ever conscious of the legacy bequeathed to us by the founders of the Lodge, we face the future with a determination, and we the membership, pledge ourselves to rededicate our best efforts to perpetuate the principles of Our Order to all mankind, and to the Glory of the Supreme Architect of the Universe.

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